Duhamel and Radford battle through fires for the perfect season

Canada’s world bronze pair medalists, Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford, had every intention of setting the world on fire this season on the road to the Olympics. They had no intention of doing it literally.

Condo fires are following in their wake. Hopefully, these things don’t come in threes. Not only did their coach Richard Gauthier escape from a fire that gutted his condo late last summer, but Duhamel’s short program costume burned up in a house belonging to their dress designer, Marie Codeiro, in Montreal. This, only a couple of weeks before Skate Canada in Saint John, N.B. They skated in beautiful costumes at the event, and that in itself was a miracle.

Gauthier was entertaining a friend on a Sunday afternoon after the major summer competition in Quebec in August, when something just didn’t seem right. “What’s that noise?” he asked. When he walked onto his deck, he saw that it had caught fire.

He escaped before the condo burned to a crisp and the roof fell in. All 10 units in the building suffered fire damage. He’s currently living elsewhere until repairs are done, and he’s only just discovered that he may not get back into his home until March, well after the Olympics. For the moment, he’s a nomad, moving from place to place.

About three weeks ago, Duhamel and Radford headed to the home of Madame Codeiro for a costume fitting, but when they got close, they found the road blocked by fire trucks. “How are we going to get to Mme. Codeiro’s?” they thought. On foot, they walked past a truck and saw a woman sitting inside, her head swathed in bandages. It was their costume designer.

Mme. Codeiro had just stuck her head in the dryer, only to discover it was on fire, and the flames leapt onto her head. Duhamel’s pink short program dress was in her home. The designer had also started working on their new long program costumes, because Duhamel hadn’t been happy with the cartoonish one she’d worn for the team training camp in Mississauga in early September.

“I’m so sorry,” Mme. Codeiro told them. “I can’t do your costumes.”

“Your health is more important than the costume,” they told her.

But Mme. Codeiro was safely relocated to another abode, got her hands on a new sewing machine and with the speed of light, stitched up all necessary costumes, pink froth for the short and royal purple for the haunting Alice in Wonderland free skate. Duhamel and Radford got them only a couple of days before they left for Saint John. They did a local competition in Quebec two weeks before Skate Canada, and had to wear something else.

The time was too tight to do any adjustments on costumes for Skate Canada, but after getting feedback that Duhamel’s dress was a bit too stiff and wide – fine for a dancer, not for a pair skater – the dress has been altered for their next competition, Trophée Eric Bompard in Paris. They’ll be ready for this one, all things having calmed down.

Indeed, the preparation for Skate Canada was a bit of a scramble. Duhamel injured a shoulder about three weeks before the Grand Prix event, so they had to alter the entry into a difficult Axel lasso lift. That lift came back to haunt them in the free skate, when they had to abort it and Duhamel slid (safely) down Radford’s back. That miscue alone cost them about eight points. They lost the gold medal by 3.30.

Although the audience in Saint John gave them a standing ovation, other errors that weren’t readily apparent in the Alice in Wonderland routine proved costly. Even Eurosport announcers enthused over the routine, commenting on a “beautiful combination spin” (for which they received only a level one).

They felt they’d made a breakthrough by getting a level three for their triple twist in the short.

In the free, officials gave it only a level two. A death spiral got a level two. A final combination spin got a level two. Radford slightly under-rotated a triple Lutz, landing it on two feet.

Gauthier checked with the technical specialists after the event. Though there were some positives, this was a wakeup call to ensure that every move is clear. “The nice thing was that those specialists are the ones that are going to be at the Games,” Gauthier said. “We know what their standards are.”

“It’s kind of good at this time of year to learn that you have to be careful with some of these rotations on spins, or death spirals,” he said.

The two Olympic pair specialists are Troy Goldstein, a Los Angeles lawyer who used to skate pairs with his sister Dawn, also now a lawyer. They were part of the U.S. team from 1987 to 1994. He also once played the role of Hercules on Disney on Ice’s Happily Ever After ice show.

The other is Peter Cain, a former Australian pair skater with sister Elizabeth Cain. Together, they won the 1976 world junior bronze medal and were four-time Australian champions. They made it to the 1980 Olympics, coached by John Nicks and in the same stable as the iconic U.S. pair Tai Babilonia and Randy Gardner.

Still, Duhamel and Radford are intent on making their own history with routines that are spellbinding, memorable and Olympic.

Beverley Smith

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