As a former professional figure skater, Elladj Baldé has seen his fair share of rinks.
“Especially all over the world, travelling in Japan and touring in Europe, I’d say definitely in the high hundreds,” says Baldé.
The Russian-born athlete who was raised in Montreal has had a post-professional career renaissance on TikTok and Instagram, where his videos have millions of views.
“As an artist, I’ve developed myself in a way that now I can express myself freely on the ice, which is something that I was never able to do when I was competing,” says Baldé.
“It’s just been a really beautiful gift to be able to do that and then also to inspire young black, indigenous and kids of colour to pick up a pair of skates.”
So when Uptown Shopping Centre wanted a special kick-off for their new outdoor rink, the team knew the perfect person to christen the synthetic ice.
“It’s so great to have a superstar here and we’re so excited to welcome him tonight and his performances and tricks,” says Uptown general manager Kristy Lowes.
It’s been a project that’s been a year in the making.
“We did plan on having the rink last year, unfortunately, due to COVID restrictions on events we didn’t have it,” says Lowes.
“But this year we are thrilled to welcome all of the general public and Greater Victoria to Uptown.”
50 percent of the proceeds generated from the rink are going to 1Up Single Parent Resource Centre’s Christmas Hamper program.
“We’ve done over 70 hampers and connected 70 families with people in need,” says vice-chair of the board Bradley Blois.
“Really what we’re focusing now on is just raising for the families that we weren’t able to support with the 70 hampers.”
The Rink at Uptown will run until March of 2022.