Skaters With Learning Disabilities and ADHD Take the Ice at Winter Olympics

By Tara Drinks on
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Figure skating is one of the most iconic sports of the Winter Olympics. And this year, two skaters who learn and think differently—Gabrielle Daleman and Zach Donohue—are going to be in the spotlight.

Growing up, figure skater Gabrielle Daleman was bullied and struggled with self-esteem. The 20-year-old Canadian has a learning disability that causes her trouble with reading and writing. In an interview with CBC, she said that when she was a young child, “Kids were always making fun of how I couldn’t read properly and couldn’t write.” But Daleman excelled in other areas, like math, gymnastics and of course, ice skating.

Learning disabilities aren’t the only challenges Daleman has faced. She also struggled with body image issues growing up. And in the weeks leading up to this year’s games, she had to undergo major surgery for an abdominal cyst. Obstacles like these have given Daleman the drive to keep competing.

Ice dancer Zach Donohue has a different story to tell.

The 27-year-old and his partner, Madison Hubbell, stunned the skating world by winning the 2018 U.S. National Championships in January. However, few know that his passion for skating may have started with his ADHD. His mom, Dee Eggert, says Donohue struggled with ADHD as a child but found himself on the ice.

“The main reason we got him involved in skating—it was something that he loved,” Eggert told WNPR. “It was something that he was good at, and he really wasn’t good at competitive team sports.”

Daleman and Donohue aren’t the first figure skaters who learn and think differently to compete at the Winter Games. Meryl Davis, who won a gold medal in ice dancing at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, has dyslexia. She and her partner, Charlie White, are the most decorated ice dancers in U.S. history. Though she’s not competing anymore, Davis continues to skate in performances and will be providing Olympic commentary for Team USA.

The 2018 Winter Olympics kick off Friday, February 9, in Pyeongchang, South Korea.


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About the Author

About the Author

Tara Drinks 

is an editorial associate at Understood.

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