Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford win bronze at Skate Canada International

SAINT JOHN, N.B. – With their enchanting Alice in Wonderland routine, Meagan  Duhamel and Eric Radford peered through a looking glass and found themselves with a bronze medal, with scores they didn’t expect. Their tally? 190.62.

Duhamel and Radford feel their exquisite Alice in Wonderful routine is Olympic medal potential, but errors in Saint John left them with a much lower score than usual. “Despite the mistakes, we could feel the energy in the building,” Radford said.

One of the toughest things to take was an aborted lift in the second half of their program. They lost about eight points with that element alone. Radford revealed that Duhamel had suffered a shoulder injury three weeks ago and during rehab, they had to change the technique on the lift. Perhaps that had a bearing on it. But they lost plenty of points elsewhere too, on just about every element in fact except a lift near the very end of their program. They got a standing ovation.

And coming when the lift did, they were depending on muscle memory to carry them through and it didn’t work. “It’s hard to put a finger on it,” Radford said.

That left the improving Italians, Stefania Berton and Ondrej Hotarek, the winners of their first Grand Prix gold medal. They were third last year at Skate Canada, their previous highest finish. Canada has been good to them. Hey, they came armed with Dracula, their long program choreographed by noted Canadian designer David Wilson.

Berton and Hotarek finished with 193.92 points, but they didn’t actually win the long program. That honour fell to the pocket Chinese pair, Sui Wenjing and Han Cong, who fired off a quadruple twist – the first one they’d done since they won junior world championship in 2012. Injured for much of last year, they came back with an exclamation point.

Berton and Hotarek actually finished second in both the short and the long program.

Paige Lawrence and Rudi Swiegers finished fourth, despite injury, but it was a good step up from the short program, in which they finished sixth. They got their moxie back for the long, what Lawrence calls their “wild animal thing,” the urge to do battle. And they did land a throw triple Lutz near the end of the routine and they showed off a mighty never-ending lift.

A third Canadian team, Margaret Purdy and Michael Marinaro, finished eighth, accomplishing some elements that they missed last week at Skate America but finding new elements to make mistakes on. It’s been a learning experience for this team competing in their first senior Grand Prix. They’ll take the lessons they’ve learned to the Canadian championships in Ottawa in January.

Duhamel and Radford actually earned their second highest component marks ever (66.34), despite the mistakes. It was an odd position for them to be in, with their technical marks down low (54.71) and their program component marks high. The Chinese team that won drew technical marks of 65.76 and the Italians finished with 63.41, whose best finish at a world championship in the past was a 10th last year.

Beverley Smith

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