Kelowna is alive with skating as Skate Canada International comes to Prospera Place

KELOWNA, B.C. – In Kelowna, where the Skate Canada International Grand Prix is being held this week, the hills are alive with music.

The setting is stunning, with purple hills and citrine yellow trees. It all just makes you want to sing, right?

Well, for the first time at Skate Canada, the audience at the Prospera Place will hear vocals although the jury is still out on the effectiveness of them. But for Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford, who are trying to win their first Grand Prix gold medal, the vocals they use this year are appropriate and to them, inspiring.

“I think both of our programs do a really good job of using the lyrics to our benefit, as opposed to us skating to the song,” said Radford, who knows of what he speaks: he is a music composer. “When you have lyrics, sometimes the lyrics become the centre piece. And then you’re skating to them, as opposed to them supporting the skating. It’s kind of risky and there are a lot of teams that are trying it in the world, and there has been mixed response to it.”

However, when he and Duhamel skate to “Un peu plus haut,” by Ginette Reno and to rock band Muse, Radford says he feels lifted by the music. “I don’t feel like Ginette ever drowns out our skating,” he said. And Reno is a powerful vocalist.

Duhamel, who admits that she’s not naturally the most musically gifted skater on the face of the planet, feels it too. “I love the music,” she said. “When the music starts, I just feel so moved because we are more relaxed. With both of our music’s, I feel them in my soul. I feel very connected to our programs this year.”

There are funny moments, things that evoke a smile. When Duhamel takes off for the throw quad Salchow, Reno belts out: “Pas tombe!” (Do not fall.)

“I sometimes think of it,” Duhamel said. “I get distracted sometimes when I’m going in: It’s going to look so stupid if I fall right now.” Actually, the quad Salchow is quite consistent.

And during the twist? Reno sings: “A little higher.” And this year, their twist is a little higher.

And no, they don’t sing in practice. Sometimes the tune gets stuck in Duhamel’s head. It’s sung in French, not their mother tongue. “I don’t even know half the words,” Duhamel said. “There is one word that we think sounds like tiramisu.”

Sometimes, as Radford skates, he hears people singing along with the music: “C’est bon! C’est bon!”

Duhamel and Radford will lead the Canadian team this week as well as the arresting ice dancers Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje, who have made some changes to their free dance (to a spin and a lift) after the Nebelhorn Trophy in Germany earlier this season, but are bolstered by positive feedback.  Having lost a world gold medal by only .02 points last March, their aims are high this season. They are ready to take up where 2010 Olympic champs Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir have left off.

The pair event will also feature new Canadian team Kirsten Moore-Towers and Michael Molinaro, who skipped the Autumn Classic because Moore-Towers said she was suffering from a stress fracture in a foot.

Top Canadian male skater Kevin Reynolds has withdrawn with foot and boot problems and the popular Elladj Balde is out with a concussion. Two-time European champion Javier Fernandez, 2011 world silver medalist Takahiko Kozuka, European bronze medalist Konstantin Menshov and Americans Max Aaron and Adam Rippon will keep it interesting.

All of the short programs will be held Friday, while all of the longs go Saturday. Competing are 55 skaters from 12 countries for total prize money of $180,000 (U.S.).

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