Battle in pair event close with Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford in the lead after short

Meagan Duhamel hopped up and down like a little girl. Eric Radford clutched his heart. When their marks came up, they felt relief. They were in first place after the short program at the Canadian Tire National Skating Championships with 75.80 points. These points are slowly and surely moving ever upwards on their road to Sochi.

Their arch-rivals and friends, Kirsten Moore-Towers and Dylan Moscovitch earned a standing ovation for their flawless routine and finished second with 74.96 points. They glowed.

In third place are Paige Lawrence and Rudi Swiegers, who both doubled their triple toe loops. “We’re trying to focus on the positives,” she said.

Lawrence still skates with a heavy bandage on a thigh from a strained groin that has hobbled her all season. “It’s doing a lot better,” she said. “But it’s one of those things that is pretty finicky and I just didn’t get the preparation and training without the bandage back home.”

Duhamel and Radford, third at the world championships last year, also earned a standing ovation for their emotional performance. Radford noted that the nationals are always a special competition and to bring it on home ice is particularly gratifying. They skated to Radford’s own musical composition called Tribute, which honours his former coach Paul Wirtz, who died some years ago. “I think that the story of this program is understood enough that people understands what it means to us and to me.”

“When I hit the ending position, I just felt a swell of emotions,” Radford said. “It was just an indescribable moment.”

The two-time defending Canadian champions, Duhamel and Radford earned top marks for a triple twist and they executed their difficult triple Lutz and throw triple Lutz. Radford admitted there were a few “sticky” moments but they can be ironed out before Sochi. “This sets us up perfectly for (the long program).”

Duhamel said they did not execute their throw as well as they can, and she feels they left a point or a point and a half on the table. “This is the ballpark we expected we can be in,” she said. They earned 73 points at NHK Trophy in Japan. The trend is going in the right direction.

Only .84 points separate the top two teams. They push each other perfectly.

Beverley Smith

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