KELOWNA, B.C. – It didn’t take long. As soon as Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford took their final pose, the crowd stood up, cheering, weaving Canadian flags.
Duhamel and Radford won the short program at the Skate Canada International with a season’s best of 72.70 points, about 7 ½ points more than Chinese skaters Sui Wenjing and Han (Mr. Personality) Cong.
(A note to put things in perspective: some elements this year – the lift and the death spiral – are worth less than they were last year. Duhamel and Radford’s previous best score from last year was in the 76-point range so their effort here puts them in the range of that previous lofty score at the end of last season.)
The Canadians skated to “Un peu plus haut” and the wave of feeling that they created in the rink was the real triumph. Their goal, they said, was to feel happy with the way the skated, and hang the score. Mission accomplished.
In third place is the young Russian team of Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov with 64.14 points and a triple twist that defied gravity.
Radford admitted he’d never felt so calm going into a competition. Last year, their first event of the year was Skate Canada. It was indescribably tense. “Last year it felt like a big deal,” he said. “We knew we had to be good. We knew we had to make a splash with our first competition. But this time, it felt more like we want to give a good performance, like with Stars on Ice. When we concentrate on that, our focus is more on ourselves and not what it all means.”
Still, they didn’t take for granted their competition. The Chinese team had finished ahead of them last year. “They are there to give us our push to make sure we give our best,” Duhamel said “At the same time, we had our focus primarily on ourselves.”
On landing the triple Lutz jump, Duhamel almost struck the wall, but it didn’t faze her. Without Patrick Chan and Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir around to take most of the focus at the Skate Canada events, Duhamel and Radford have now stepped forward in prominence. They are taking full responsibility for that position.
“For the last four years, we were always the ones with the outside chance of having a bronze medal somewhere,” Radford said. “And now I think we’ve done a good job of stepping into that limelight, especially with that quad. It’s exciting for us to have a little bit more focus on us and especially on pairs in Canada. “
Speaking of other pairs, there were two other Canadian teams, trying to show off new partnerships with varying success. Kirsten Moore-Towers and Michael Marinaro were making their first appearance in a competition and finished sixth of eight, failing to receive any points for a death spiral. Marinaro said he bobbled when he put his toe pick for the rotation. It was a pity, because they say, it’s their strongest element.
They’ve been together about five months. Moore-Towers’ face fell when she saw their mark: 53.79.
Their training mates, Brittany Jones and Josh Reagan are in seventh place with 49.80 points and say they were pleased with what they did.
In the men’s event, Javier Fernandez of Spain is leading with 86.18 after he doubled a triple Axel, but his Black Betty routine was a crowd pleaser and well received. Takahito Mura of Japan intended to do a quad-triple, but didn’t land the quad strongly enough to tack it onto the end. He had the presence of mind to put the triple toe loop on the end of a triple Lutz and finished with 82.57 points in second.
In third place is Konstantin Menshov, the oldest competitor at age 31. He landed two quads, but doubled his triple Axel for 81.70 points.
Andrei Rogozine heard only last Monday that he had the assignment for Skate Canada. It pumped him up. He took out a quad attempt, juggled his elements around, landed them all and finished ninth with 70.95 points. Canadian bronze medalist Liam Firus fell on a triple Axel and is 10th of 11 with 64.94 points.