TORONTO - After leaving the spotlight to do some soul searching in Mexico, figure skater Elvis Stojko has officially returned to the rink with what he says is a different perspective on the sport and himself.
"This is the first time I've been back in front of an audience in about three years," Stojko, 37, said Wednesday of his recent performances at the Canadian National Exhibition.
"It feels really good."
The two-time Olympic silver medallist, who hails from Newmarket, Ont., has been lacing up twice a day since last Friday for the CNE's Aerial Acrobatics and Ice Skating Show.
"In the very first jump in the very first show, I was nervous," Stojko, a seven-time Canadian figure skating champion and three-time world champion, said in a telephone interview.
"I was going in thinking: 'Um, this is the first time I've done anything in three years.' Then I'm like: 'Ah, I've got to focus,' and I did the first jump and I was fine."
Stojko also plans to skate in shows in the U.S. this fall and in Europe over the winter but said he's not putting pressure on himself.
"I really enjoy that quiet time and I need that and I have to sometimes say 'no' to a lot of things in order to get that time to recharge and before, I didn't do that," he said.
It was last winter that Stojko decided to make a return to the sport he largely retired from after the 2002 Olympics.
To prepare for his comeback, he's been practising axels and spins at a rink close to his home near Guadalajara.
Stojko said he moved south about eight years ago to "find out who I am and what I want to do" outside of the "Elvis persona" that has always preceded him.
"People see me a certain way as a skater," he said. "Some people call me 'The Terminator,' 'The Machine,' or whatnot ... because I was very focused."
That focus has helped him perform amazing feats on ice.
In 1991, he became the first man to ever perform a quadruple toe loop, double toe loop combination jump in competition. Six years later, he again made history by becoming the first man to perform a quadruple toe loop, triple toe loop combination jump in competition.
But these days, he says: "skating is not who I am, it's something that I do and something that I express who I am through."
"It's clearer to me," he said. "It's like skating when I was a kid because you look at the purity of it."
Stojko said he also feels he now has more control over his career and is less "caught up in all the politics."
"When I went through skating, it was a rough road because I wasn't supported that much by even my federation," he said, adding he was often told to soften up his skating style and was seen as a bit of a "rebel" by purists.
"I just stayed true to myself and it was a hard run and you can get kind of annoyed after awhile no matter how strong you are when you're constantly being beaten down."
Stojko's biggest interest outside of skating is martial arts, something he's been doing since age 10. Fans will get to see that side of him on the Sept. 12 debut of the Bravo TV series "Star Portraits."