Anthony Paradis, the 2022 Canadian junior champion, is not a well-known name in skating circles outside his homeland, but that will likely change when he makes his international debut at the Junior Grand Prix event in Gdańsk, Poland, this coming week.
Paradis, who hails from Broisband, Québec, was inspired to take up skating after watching the 2014 Olympic Winter Games as a 7-year-old, and though he paid little attention to who was actually skating, he was captivated by what he saw. “I liked it because you could jump and spin on the ice. It was a big hit for me. Then I asked my parents to put me into figure skating,” he recalled.
His parents enrolled him in group classes and a few months later he began working with coach Yvan Desjardins at the École Excellence Rosemère in Montréal.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Paradis trained to compete in the novice ranks, but when all the competitions at that level were cancelled in Canada, he moved up to juniors.
In January 2022, Paradis won the national junior title at age 14 with two solid performances that showcased not only his technical abilities but also his artistic skills.
“It was incredible. I was just looking forward to maybe being on the podium, which was what we were targeting at that point,” he said. “I told my coach before Canadians that I might as well go for the gold, but it was a big surprise for me when I won. I did not believe it.
“I never really thought before then, that one day I would be on the first step of the podium. It was a dream I always had as a kid and the fact that I was able to accomplish it this young did inspire me. I saw many men doing it (winning) and I did not know if I had the level to achieve that. So, it was very inspiring for me and very impressive.”
A couple of weeks after Canadians the bubble burst for Paradis when he fractured his right ankle, an injury that kept him off the ice for more than nine weeks. “I fractured it doing a double flip, which was really dumb,” he said.” I fell, but it was not the foot I landed on it was the other one. At first we thought I had just twisted my ankle.”
When he returned to the ice, Paradis eased back into a training regime at his own pace. “We took it very slowly. When you break or fracture something you are really scared to get back on the ice again and that was one of the things that I did not want to rush,” Paradis explained. “I told my coach I wanted to take it slow and take my time.
“The first two or three weeks I did not jump and then maybe after the fourth week I started jumping again. I started with single jumps on a Monday and then the next day I started doing doubles and did those for the rest of the week. The following week I felt that I could try doing a triple and if I was comfortable then I would do it.”
Now in his second year on the Skate Canada NextGen team, Paradis said he is very grateful to have this opportunity to be among the best in the country. “It is so cool. I am so humble about it because it is not something that everybody has the chance to be part of. It is such a cool feeling to be able to participate in things that I never thought of before.
“This year was my second at a NextGen camp. I think the first year I learned the most because I was like the rookie, super young, and there were other men that were older than me. I was so nervous going there because they were so much better than me and I could not do half the things they were doing and I was just trying to learn what they were doing.
“The one thing I did learn was to take my place because it is a competitive sport and if you don’t take your place someone else will take it.”
When asked how he would describe himself as a competitor, Paradis did not hesitate with his response. “I am super competitive; I have like a killer instinct. There is something that switches in my brain when I am at competitions, which really helps.”
That mindset was obvious at a NextGen competition in July where, after landing in sixth in the short program, Paradis came back to win the free skate and finish second overall, less than a point out of first place. “It was my first competition since recovering from my injury and I was really nervous because I did not even know if I could participate or be at the right level to do it,” he said.
“At my first practice before my short program I did not feel like I was doing enough, and I did not feel like I had my place on the team at that point. So it was really hard. My confidence was really down and it was hard to recover, so that just added to it all. I took that into my short program, which was not the best.
“Also, it was a new short that was different, and I did not know if people would like it or not. All this anxiety and stress and everything was so over the top.
“But because I am a competitive person, I did not want to end up in sixth place. I went there to do something,and I wanted to do it well, so I just pushed myself hard. Even at the practice session before the long program I told my coach it was ‘going to be a good performance — I feel it and I am not going to let this chance pass over me. I am here for a reason, and I know that I can do it.’ That was my mentality for the long.”
His short program music this season — “Ace in the Hole” by Nick Tzios and “Ayrilik” by Cris Taylor (which has been nicknamed the “snake program”) — a collaboration between Paradis and choreographer Vanessa Sauriol, sits on the side of avant-garde.
“Anthony came to me about a year ago and asked about music I had produced for a friend of his who is an artistic swimmer,” recalled Hugo Chouinard of Studio Unisons who mixed the music. “That is where the inspiration for the ‘snake’ program came from. The serpentine moves are the theme of the program. We added sound effects of snakes throughout, and at one point you will hear a rattlesnake.
“It is very different, much faster, but the inspiration for it came from an artistic swimming program I did.”
Paradis’ long program, “Sign of the Times” by Harry Styles, was choreographed by Benjamin Brisebois, a former Canadian ice dancer.
Originally scheduled to make his international debut at the Junior Grand Prix in Yerevan, Armenia, Paradis was disappointed when told the competition had been cancelled. But, a few days later he learned he had been assigned to the second Grand Prix event in Gdańsk, Poland.
“I have never been overseas before. This will be my first time,” he said, adding, “I am really grateful to have a second chance to go. I am not setting goals for ranking or anything. I am going there to learn, and I just want to appreciate the experience.”
Paradis accepts the possibility of making the Junior Grand Prix Final this season is remote, but achieving that is also on his list of future goals. “It would mean the world to me. When I was younger, I saw many people doing it and I have always dreamed of it, so it would be a big thing for me.”
His main goal this season is to claim a step on the podium at the 2023 Canadian Championships, preferably the top one. “This is going to be a very big year because a lot of good skaters are competing in juniors, so it will be interesting. I am ready for the competition. I am here for it,” he said.
When asked who he admires and looks up to in skating, Paradis named just one person. “I love Jason Brown. Not only because of the jumps, but the spins, the choreography and the interpretation that he puts into his programs. That is the best thing. Even when I was younger I looked up to him so much. He would be one of my biggest inspirations.”
That comes as no surprise given that Paradis is himself a very artistic skater. He said he has no idea “where that artistic streak came from, I just came like this. It is just something that came naturally to me. There are a lot of skaters who love to put a lot of emotion into their programs, and I was always inspired by this.
“So, when I grew up, I felt like I needed to tell stories throughout my programs, to enjoy what I am doing and put a lot of emotion into my programs. That has always been one of my biggest priorities.”
Though he gives equal balance to the artistic and technical components he admitted that sometimes his second mark is higher than his first.
One thing that stands out with Paradis is his sense of self. When he takes to the ice, he does so with long manicured fingernails painted in bold colors. Those around him allow him to be himself, and to date he has not encountered any negativity. “Being able to express myself the way I want and not have anyone judge me is really awesome,” he said. “When I am on the ice, I don’t feel anyone thinks I am different because I am wearing nail polish or makeup — or that it changes anything. That also came naturally.
“Everyone is so supportive. It is so awesome to be able to just be myself.”
Paradis is a regular high school student with two years left before he graduates. He attends a school that is specifically geared for elite athletes. “We call it sports study. Basically, we go to school every morning from 7:50 a.m. to 12:10 p.m. and then we take a bus and go to the training center. Then we train from 1 to 5 or 5:30 p.m.,” he explained. “A lot of the people at my school are from hockey, gymnastics and diving. It is amazing with everyone being athletes.”
When asked what his long-term goals are for his skating career, Paradis said that it is a question he has asked himself so many times. “When I was a kid it was going to the Olympic Games – I think I still see that as my biggest goal. That would be so cool.”
His sisters, Marie-Soleyl, 19, and Justine 17, are two of his biggest fans. “They are super supportive and are like my best friends ever.” Paradis is also grateful for the support of his parents who, along with his siblings, attend every competition. “I love them so much. They put so much time, effort and money into skating. I really love them for everything they do.
“I don’t think I say it enough to them, but I am so, so grateful for everything.”