Former Canadian star Stojko back on the ice and coaching in Mexico

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VANCOUVER - There's just one tiny rink in Guadalajara, Mexico, a city packed with nearly six million people. The ice heaves at the centre and droops at the edges. There's one ancient Zamboni.
It's there in the most unlikely of places that former Canadian figure skating star Elvis Stojko is staging his comeback.
Shaken by the divorce of his parents, and disillusioned as his career wound down, Stojko moved to Guadalajara after he retired from competition in August 2006, leaving the spotlight and skating behind.
But the 36-year-old is back at the rink, preparing to launch a pro touring career. He's also coaching Mexican skater Humberto Contreras, who is competing at the ISU Four Continents figure skating championships this week at the Pacific Coliseum.
"I'm getting myself back in shape and getting on the ice," Stojko said. "It's been really nice, a purity of skating, a change in the way I approach it and the style - a new vision.
"I had to end it completely because if you sort of take a half step away, everyone still wants a piece of you because you're half in, half out. So that's why I ended it, I didn't know if I was going to come back. I'm back now."
The skater from Richmond Hill, Ont., won three world championships and a pair of Olympic silver medals, in 1994 in Lillehammer and '98 in Nagano. He skated his last show in August 2006 at the Mariposa skating club in Barrie, Ont.
"It seems like a lifetime because I've gone through a lot since then," Stojko said.
He largely remained out of the public eye - the three-time world champion did play himself in an episode of "The Simpsons" in December 2006. And last summer, he spoke at a rally outside the Ontario legislature protesting China's human rights record. He suggested athletes boycott the Beijing Games, prompting harsh words from Canadian kayaker Adam van Koeverden among others. Those remarks, Stojko says now, earned him as many enemies as supporters.
The skater recently posted a candid account of his return to the rink on his website - - where he talked about losing himself somewhere in all the training, travelling and rigours of competition.
"Stepping onto the ice sent a jolt through my body that could power a city," he wrote about the first time back on the ice. "The tingle was everywhere, not just in me, but in the blades, the ice, the air, the boards, the infrastructure, this was the religious experience I wanted."
He met Contreras two months ago at the Guadalajara rink when he went to inquire about ice time to teach his friend's child how to skate.
"I work at the rink, and when I found out he was Elvis Stojko, it was like `whoa,"' said Contreras, who's part of a club of 300 skaters. "He just wanted to see the ice, see the kids and see what he could do for us. I told him I didn't have a coach and asked if there was a way he could work with me, and he accepted it, and we're here."
Stojko wasn't looking to coach anybody when he happened across Contreras.
"I was there to help out with the ice and find ice time for myself, and Humberto was such a great guy and wanted to work so badly, and he was so hungry for it, I thought, you know this is the right kid, I'd like to work with him and help him along the way," Stojko said. "I told him at the beginning, `You've got to trust me, there are going to be days where you're going to train harder than you've done before.' But every day there's no complaints, he does his thing, we laugh all the time, we're always joking and having a good time. It's been awesome."
The slender 25-year-old finished 20th in a field of 26 in the short program Thursday night, won in stunning fashion by Toronto's Patrick Chan.
But when you consider what he has to work with, Stojko said, that's a remarkable result. Contreras gets just four hours of ice time a week, less than what other international skaters can get in a day.

Organizations: Pacific Coliseum, Beijing Games

Geographic location: Mexico, Guadalajara, VANCOUVER Richmond Hill Lillehammer Nagano Barrie Ontario China Toronto

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