BARRIE, ON: It was a magical moment, for sure. The moment of the night, at the finale of the first Autumn Classic International, a senior B event. It’s not just about Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford winning the pairs event with a bold throw quad Salchow, their first in a competition, but it was the way they did it that mattered: with resolve, with lightness, with confidence, enough to make them feel they are in the running to win a world title. They have won two world bronze medals.
They did it with a free skate that is what Radford calls probably the most difficult free skate ever done by pair skaters: the quad throw, two triple Lutzes, one a throw, a three-jump combination (although there was a bobble on the final double toe loop), a big triple twist, some tough lifts, and all done with good speed.
“We just wanted to stand up,” Radford said. “I think we did better than that.” They got a standing ovation.
He said he knew when he released Duhamel in the quad Salchow that it was going to be good. Duhamel grazed the ice with a paw, and then threw her fist – she knew she would – and off they went, not giving it another thought. That was part of the plan.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Duhamel said. Four years ago, they had wanted to try that quad, but it wasn’t time. She took a hard fall on the throw quad at a Quebec competition a couple of weeks ago, but they felt pretty confident they could do it, all the same. They felt that way the first time they rotated one, that it could be done.
Afterward, five-time world champion Robin Szolkowy of Germany, congratulated Duhamel and Radford, saying that although they had made mistakes, it was a top performance for this point in the season. He was here as a coach for a Russian pair team.
What gives them confidence for the future is that they earned personal best scores – 203.16 overall – with a few mistakes. There’s room to grow. They won by almost 36 points over Haven Denny and Brandon Frazier of the United States. Another American team, Jessica Calalang and Zack Sidhu were third with 156.46 points.
Natasha Purich and Drew Wolfe, together only five months, were fourth with 147.95 points, a good start for a promising career. Wolfe had never skated pairs before he met up with Purich. Last year’s Canadian junior champions Vanessa Grenier and Maxime Deschamps were fifth with a rack of tough lifts, their specialty.
There were other highlights. Nam Nguyen landed his first quad Salchow – he’d been landing them consistently only for a week in practice. U.S. skater Ross Miner held onto the overall win with 227.26 points, although he flipped out of his quad Salchow. Nguyen finished second overall with 225.63 (he’d been fifth after the short). Nguyen earned a standing ovation for his La Scala routine.
Some members of the crowd also stood for Jeremy Ten, who finished third overall with 212.64 points for his memorable “Hallelujah” routine. He didn’t attempt a quad because he got a new pair of boots a week ago, but got his triple Axel in. “I can’t put into words what I feel,” he said. “For me, it was more about the emotional performance.”
Kevin Reynolds valiantly attempted to give his heart to his effort but boot problems scuttled his performance. He did land a quad Salchow at the beginning and it gave him heart for the future. He was fifth in the free and sixth overall.
Gabby Daleman won the women’s event with 165.59 points although Angela Wang of the United States edged her in the free skate by 1.09 points. Daleman made mistakes in the free, but her routine was almost a complete overhaul from what she had shown at the Thornhill Skate. She started off with a new jump series: a triple Lutz- half loop – triple Salchow. A double Axel – triple toe loop just sung. She fell on a second triple Lutz, and put a foot down on a triple flip. She fell on a triple loop.
“I’m not going to lie,” Daleman said. “Last Friday was only the third time I had done the long program in the last week. It’s kind of a disadvantage. I’m not making excuses. But I didn’t give up. “
Amazingly, there were fans in the crowd from Tokyo, who endured a 15-hour flight to catch the action. “I was so grateful,” Daleman said.
Julianne Seguin finished third in the free skate, just behind the top two with 104.81 points. She was third overall with 158.99 points. She’d like to finish in the top five at Canadians and make the national team as a singles skater, although she and pair partner Charlie Bilodeau are the top-ranked team among ISU Junior Grand Prix finalists.
Three teams from the dance school of Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon finished within the top five in the dance event. Their team from France, Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron won the dance event with 150.20 after sweeping both the short dance and free skate.
Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier moved up from fourth after the short dance to be second in the free and second overall with 142.52 points. Third was Dubreuil and Lauzon’s Danish team, Laurence Fournier Beaudry and Nikolaj Sorensen, with 131.62 (they were third in the free dance). Beaudry is a Quebecker.
All went wrong for Alexandra Paul and Mitchell Islam in the free skate when they missed an entry into a spin and lost all points for it, even though they attempted it. Islam also slipped while stroking. They dropped from second to fifth in the free and fourth overall.
Dubreuil and Lauzon’s third team, Sara Hurtado and Adria Diaz of Spain finished fifth overall after being third in the short dance.