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Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford set Canadian record in Kingston

KINGSTON, ONTARIO – No surprise here: Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford won the pair short program at the Canadian Tire National Skating Championships with a wide margin – 14.35 points – something they are not used to.

Their winning score of 79.50 was a Canadian record.

“This relaxed feeling has allowed us to spread our wings and enjoy our skating and if we can keep building it, then we can keep on improving,” Radford said. “For us, as long as we can keep on improving, we’ll keep on going.”

They have learned that it’s not wise to get complacent about a big lead. They had one at NHK, went into the free in a rather nonchalant manner and as soon as the music started, their muscles just did not respond.

The most interesting battle was the one between two new teams formed by Duhamel and Radford’s toughest competitors over the past several years: Kirsten Moore-Towers and Dylan Moscovitch.

Moore-Towers decided she wanted to skate for two more quadrennials and hooked up with Michael Marinaro. Moscovitch went to Russia to find Lubov Ilyushechkina, who had last skated in Canada at the 2010 Skate Canada International ironically in Kingston, Canada. There is a video out there somewhere of Ilyushechkina declaring that she loved Canada and would love to live here.

She had her homecoming on Friday night in Kingston. When Ilyushechkina and Moscovitch took to the ice, the crowd cheered noisily. And every time they landed a throw or a jump, the crowd cheered more. With this wind beneath their wings, they finished second with 65.15 points.

Moore-Towers and Marinaro ended fourth with 61.08 points, saying they felt a bit stiff and nervous. What were they most proud of? Moore-Towers seemed to say it was about the way they handled the “awkward” situation of being on the ice with an old partner. All week, they have been on the same training session together.

“It is difficult to compete against an old partner,” she said. “I think that all four members of us have done a pretty good job of it. I’m happy. They look happy.
“We’re just kind of hoping for people to adapt to that and learn that’s the way it is now. And it’s the way it’s going to be. We can be happy for everybody.”

In third place are new seniors Julianne Seguin and Charlie Bilodeau, the Junior Grand Prix champions, who had to adapt their routine to match the senior requirements. They added a triple Salchow instead of a double Lutz, but the entrance into the new jump was on a different pattern. Seguin put a hand down on the throw, but otherwise they sung, earning 61.47 points.

Bilodeau admitted he felt a responsibility to do well here after such a strong season on the Junior Grand Prix circuit. “It was a good beginning,” he said.

In ice dancing, Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje won the short dance with 76.26 points, 6.23 points ahead of Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier.

The big race was for third spot and Alexandra Paul and Mitchell Islam got it with 64.87 points, 3.37 points ahead of new international sensation Elisabeth Paradis and Francois-Xavier Ouellette.

Duhamel/Radford, Weaver/Poje end Canadian droughts with gold at ISU Grand Prix Final

BARCELONA – Canada enjoyed its biggest success at an ISU Grand Prix Final figure skating competition in 13 years on Saturday.

Meaghan Duhamel of Lively, Ont., and Eric Radford of Balmertown, Ont., broke their Canadian record to win the gold medal in pairs and Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje of Waterloo, Ont., also set a personal best for the victory in ice dancing.

It was Canada’s first gold in the Grand Prix Final since Patrick Chan won the men’s competition in 2011 and the first victory in pairs and ice dance since 2001.  At that Grand Prix Final in Kitchener, Ont., Jamie Sale and David Pelletier took the pairs crown and Shae-Lynn Bourne and Victor Kraatz won the ice dance.

Duhamel and Radford produced 220.72 points which bettered their previous best of 213.62 set at the Canadian championships in January 2014.  It also ranks fourth all-time on the ISU scoring list. Olympic silver medallists Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov of Russia, the top-seeded pair going into the competition, took the silver at 213.72 and Wenjing Sui and Cong Han of China were third at 194.31.

The highlight of Duhamel and Radford’s free skate on Saturday –performed to music by Muse- was landing the throw quadruple Salchow.  That came just after Duhamel touchdown on both hands the side-by-side triple Lutz.

‘’We were so confident in our quad Salchow that it didn’t matter that I touched on the Lutz,’’ said Duhamel.  ‘’It’s (the quad) has been so consistent for us in practice that we were going for it no matter what.’’

Radford was certainly pleased the green light was on.

‘’We’ve been waiting to have a skate like this all season,’’ said Radford, who mentioned he was in the audience when Sale and Pelletier won their gold in 2001.  ‘’This was the first time that we actually hit the quad like we do in practice.  It is so exciting.’’

After placing first in the short program Thursday, Duhamel and Radford were the last skaters to compete in the six-team event.

‘’We knew the Russian would skate a clean program, they have been so consistent all year,’’ said Duhamel.  ‘’But it always seem to be our fate to go on after a great performances.  We’ve surpassed all our goals for the first half of the season and we want to step it up more for the second half.’’

Weaver-Poje-GPF-Gold

In ice dancing, Weaver and Poje bettered their score from last season’s silver medal performance at the world championships with 181.14 points.  Madison Chock and Evan Bates of the U.S. were second at 167.09 and Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron of France third at 162.39.

‘’It’s definitely our strongest performance yet and it’s great to see the program is still growing,’’ said Poje.  ‘’We really brought across the emotion and we were so connected on the ice that the story really came through.’’

The Canadians skated to excerpts from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons.

‘’It’s hard to pick out a moment that really stands out for us from what we did on the ice because we were so focused,’’ said Weaver.  ‘’My best memory was probably our lift because it got such a reaction from the crowd.’’

The audience did not agree with the judges’ scores for Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier of Toronto who took fifth spot.

‘’We had a small bobble on one of the lifts and it probably wasn’t our best skate overall,’’ said Poirier.  ‘’At the same time we didn’t have any big errors and we achieved our goal of producing two strong programs this week.’’

Canada also had a successful showing in the junior competition this week capped by a gold medal for Charlie Bilodeau of Trois-Pistoles, Que., and Julianne Séguin of Longueuil, Que., in pairs on Friday.

NOTE: Skate Canada Communications Director, Barb MacDonald, will be the media contact at the event. To arrange onsite interviews please contact her by email at [email protected]

Full results: http://www.isuresults.com/results/gpf1415/

Duhamel-Radford-GPF-1

Duhamel and Radford lead in Barcelona

BARCELONA – Meaghan Duhamel of Lively, Ont., and Eric Radford of Balmertown, Ont., earned their best-ever component score and are in first place after the pairs short program at the ISU Grand Prix Final in figure skating.

The two-time world championship bronze medallists posted a season best 74.70 points (including 34.49 for components) for their performance to Un peu plus haut (A Little Bit Higher) by Ginette Reno. In the detailed scores, one of the judges gave them a 10 on the choreography component.

Olympic silver medallists Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov of Russia are second at 72.33 and Wenjing Sui and Cong Han of China third at 66.66.

“The component elements have always been considered our weaker side,” said Radford. “To finish ahead of the Russian pair who are extremely strong technically is a big step for us. We were really in the moment tonight. Nothing could stop us.”

Duhamel and Radford have enjoyed a superb season heading into the Final winning their three international competitions this fall including their two Grand Prix assignments. Still the nerves were present.

“I was feeling more nervous than usual,” said Duhamel. “I didn’t know what to expect and I was hoping I would get into the zone. Once the music started and we were very together going into our first element I knew we were going to be alright.”

That first element was a triple twist which was followed by the side-by-side triple Lutz and throw triple Salchow which set the tone for a flawless performance.

Canadian pair also lead Junior Grand Prix Final

Also taking place in Barcelona is the Junior Grand Prix Final. In pairs, Julianne Séguin of Longueuil, Que., and Charles Bilodeau of Trois-Pistoles, Que., are in the lead after the short program with an international best 59.22 points. Four Russian couples follow in the standings including Lina Fedorova and Maxim Miroshkin just 0.18 behind the leaders.

“We couldn’t be happier with our performance,” said Bilodeau, who won his two Grand Prix assignments with his partner this season. “We executed all our elements and achieved level fours even on our twist for the first time. It gives us a lot of confidence for the free program.”

In ice dancing, Mackenzie Bent of Uxbridge, Ont., and Garrett MacKeen of Oshawa, Ont.,are fourth after the short dance while Madeline Edwards of Port Moody, B.C., and ZhaoKai Pang of Burnaby, B.C., are fifth.

Bent and MacKeen are only 1.24 points from third place.

“The footwork has been a big focus for us in training and was really what we were pushing towards,” said Bent. “We took our time, made sure every turn was clean and perfected to exactly how we practiced it. In the free dance we just want to continue in the same direction as today.”

Edwards and Pang are also in medal contention just 2.92 points from third.

“One of our goals this season was just to get here,” said Pang. “Our short dance today wasn’t our best but we are still happy with how we did it. It’s a program we enjoy.”

In men’s competition, Roman Sadovsky of Vaughan, Ont., is sixth after the short.

Competition continues Friday with the short programs for senior ice dancing and men’s and the free programs for all four junior events. All four senior finals are on Saturday.

NOTE: Skate Canada Communications Director, Barb MacDonald, will be the media contact at the event. To arrange onsite interviews please contact her by email at [email protected]

Duhamel and Radford win gold at ISU Grand Prix

OSAKA, Japan – Meaghan Duhamel of Lively, Ont., and Eric Radford of Balmertown, Ont., won the gold medal Saturday in pairs at the NHK Trophy, the last stop on the ISU Grand Prix figure skating circuit before next month’s Final.

The Canadians won their two Grand Prix assignments this season and easily qualify for the Final set for December 11-14 in Barcelona.

Duhamel and Radford totalled 199.78 points for the victory.  Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov of Russia were second at 183.60 and Xiaoyu Yu and Yang Jin of China third at 182.00.

‘’The long program was a lot more challenging for us today after a great short program (on Friday,’’ said Radford.  ‘’We were expecting more of ourselves but we understand it is still relatively early in the season and we don’t want to peak right now.  But we know it’s going to take a lot more than we had today to be on top of the podium in Barcelona and ultimately at the world championships.’’

Duhamel fell on the quad Salchow throw but says the manoeuvre it is an essential part of their program.

‘’We were happy to win today but it is not as fun when you don’t skate your best,’’ said Duhamel. ‘’It’s good for us to get the quad out there at every single competition because we want to be able to land it in the program consistently by the time we get to worlds.’’

In men’s competition, Daisuke Murakami of Japan was the winner with Sergei Voronov of Russia second and Takahito Mura of Japan third. Elladj Balde of Pierrefonds, Que., climbed from seventh to sixth and Jeremy Ten of Vancouver remained eighth.

Baldje produced a clean program which included a quadruple toe loop and triple Axel.  He suffered a concussion last month which left him off the ice for three weeks.

‘’I’m extremely happy with my performances this week,’’ said Baldje.  ‘’Considering the situation that I had only two weeks of full training I did a really satisfying job.’’

Ten also landed a quad, for him a first in competition.

‘’I really patted myself on the back for getting credit for that quad,’’ said Ten.  ‘’Right now I feel I’m in control of my emotions and my nerves and it shows in how much I’ve improved this season. It was a great way for me to end the Grand Prix season.’’

Gracie Gold of the U.S. took the gold in women’s competition with Alena Leonova of Russia second and Satoko Miyahara of Japan third.  Gabrielle Daleman of Newmarket, Ont., gained a spot after the short to finish sixth.

‘’I didn’t put so much pressure on myself for the free skate after a tough short program,’’ said Daleman, a 2014 Olympian.  ‘’I just wanted to have fun with it.’’

In ice dancing, world silver medallists Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje of Waterloo, Ont., are first after the short dance with 67.51 points.  Penny Coomes and Nicholas Buckland of Britain are second at 60.49 and Ksenia Monko and Kirill Khaliavin of Russia third at 59.70.

‘’It was a great program for us today,’’ said Weaver.  ‘’There were a couple of level issues but we felt it was much stronger than at Skate Canada.  Now we just want to build on that momentum for the free dance.’’

The free dance is on Sunday.

Full results: http://www.isuresults.com/results/gpjpn2014/index.htm

Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford win short program in Kelowna

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.”

It works.

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.

A rejuvenated Meagan Duhamel & Eric Radford look towards the 2014-2015 season

The last Olympic season was a year like no other for pair skaters Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford. They lived their lives amidst stress and tension at every corner.

Every minute was so important that Radford found himself looking both ways four times before he crossed a street. Even taking special care when he descended a flight of stairs. Anything to avoid injury and setback in such an important season. They fought for every point. They fought to please the judges. There seemed to be more downs than ups. After Duhamel returned home from her season, she slept for four or five days, exhausted.

Not anymore. “I feel lighter, freer,” said Radford, after a practice session in Montreal. “Skating is not going to control my life the way it did the last four years. I still love to do it, and I will always be grateful and will skate my best. But it won’t define the way I feel and how I see myself.”

They were truly burned out after last season. They needed a break. They took the entire month of June off, Radford taking a holiday in Tel Aviv, Duhamel buying a condo and celebrating an engagement to coach Bruno Marcotte.

“We had our Olympic run and it was great,” Radford said. “We’ve achieved everything we wanted to [two bronze world medals, an Olympic silver team medal]. We have all the hardware we want. But we love it and we are still hungry.”

After the exhaustion of the last four years, it was just too difficult, at first, to commit to another Olympics, so they thought they’d go one more year and assess. But a flurry of national and international pair breakups, and pair formations astonished the world, and even Duhamel and Radford. Radford calls it “the hunger games of pair skating.” But it changed everything for them.

“It was like we were the only ones left in Canada,” Radford said. “And there were just a couple of teams left in the world. We thought maybe we should hang on for another four years. Maybe we can have a really substantial career.”

So on they go. They have some new goals now: to get to the Grand Prix Final, win more world medals. But these goals are different from the goals they had before. “We want to have a season without stress and pressure,” Duhamel said.

For some time, they have admired the poise of Chinese world pair champions Qing Pang and Tong Jian. They would watch them at practices and marvel at their calmness, as if they really didn’t care, didn’t worry about anything. Then come competition time, they would see Pang and Tong skate with beautiful freedom. “I want to know what that feels like,” Duhamel said.

They will now skate for themselves, for each other. They did this at the world championships in Saitama, when the pressure was off. Skating with a sense of liberation, Duhamel and Radford actually skated better than they did at the Olympics, where they finished seventh overall – not what they wanted – and their marks went up. They finished second in the short, ahead of Olympic silver medalists Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov. And they took their second bronze medal with ease, finally presenting their “Alice in Wonderland” program the way they wanted to.

“We will skate as well as we can and whatever happens, happens,” Radford said. “There will be people who like us. And there will be people who don’t like us. It’s liberating.”

“We just want to leave the ice and be happy,” Duhamel said.

And – Radford admits – there is also less pressure on them, now that Kirsten Moore-Towers and Dylan Moscovitch – a team that always pushed them mercilessly – are no longer skating together.  “I couldn’t help but feel a tiny bit of relief when I heard they weren’t skating together,” Radford said. “It was very stressful. They did push us a lot. Some people might think that if they are not there to push us, we will relax [too much], but Meagan and I don’t know how to just coast. We could be stranded on a desert island, but we’d be pushing every day.”

Still, he knows he will be able to relax over Christmas, and not worry so much about the national championships only a couple of weeks later.

Truthfully, Moore-Towers and Moscovitch shook up their rivals last season tremendously. The Canadian silver medalists went out first at Skate America and put up very high scores. Back home, Duhamel and Radford felt they had to do more. At Skate Canada the following week – a competition Duhamel and Radford should have won – they fumbled and ended up third. “We learned half-way through the season that sometimes we were preoccupied with what they were doing and it led us to poor performances,” Duhamel said.

Radford was “heartbroken” for Moscovitch, always one of his closest friends. “He was ready for another four years [with Moore-Towers],” Radford said. “It just wasn’t in the cards.” But, Radford said, it will be very exciting to watch all the new teams that have formed in Canada.

This season, Duhamel and Radford have taken out the complex choreography that they felt they had to use to gain every point – intending their programs to have more flow and speed. And they feel they will perform better when they can skate with ease. “We don’t feel as if we are in a rush now,” Duhamel said.

With all of that in mind, choreographer Julie Marcotte found them music she said they must use for their short program: iconic Quebec songbird Ginette Reno singing “Un Peu Plus Haut,” a signature piece for her. It has the same feel as their “Tribute” routine from last season: deeply inspiring.

Duhamel and Radford are taking full advantage of the ability to use vocals this year and will use them for both programs. For now, they are keeping their long program under wraps, saying only that it is music from a rock band – and this will give them a different look.

And they are working on a mighty big trick, too, (also hush-hush) that they haven’t done before. They hope to unleash their new look at the new Autumn Classic in Barrie, Ontario in October. Stay tuned. It won’t be boring.

Beverley Smith

Duhamel and Radford win bronze at ISU World Figure Skating Championships

SAITAMA, Japan – For the second straight year, Meaghan Duhamel of Lively, Ont., and Eric Radford of Balmertown, Ont., won the bronze medal in pairs on Thursday posting personal best scores at the ISU World Figure Skating Championships.

Olympic bronze medallists Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy of Germany took the gold with 224.88 points. Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov of Russia were second at 215.92 and Duhamel and Radford followed at 210.84.

“In some ways I think that this bronze medal feels even better than the last one,” said Radford, seventh with his partner at the Olympics. “This season was just a lot more difficult and we had a lot more downs. We had to really pull ourselves together after the Olympics.”

Kirsten Moore-Towers of St. Catharines, Ont., and Dylan Moscovitch of Toronto produced the third best long program to climb from sixth to fourth at 205.52.

“That felt awesome,” said Moore-Towers, fifth with Moscovitch in Sochi. “I felt that we really knocked off the elements one by one. We stayed calm. Probably with about four elements left I had to really tell myself not to get ahead. Because I was excited, and all I ever want in skating is that final moment.”

Paige Lawrence of Kennedy, Sask., and Rudi Swiegers of Kipling, Sask., were 12th.

In the women’s short program, Kaetlyn Osmond of Marystown, N.L., stands eighth with Gabrielle Daleman of Newmarket, Ont., 14th

“I was really excited with the program,” said Osmond. “It was really comfortable and to be able to pull off the (triple) flip, (triple) toe and the (triple) Lutz in a short program for the first time (in competition), it meant a lot to me to be able to do that here at worlds. Even with a slip up on the spin, I’m really happy with the program.”

Duhamel/Radford, Moore-Towers/Moscovitch and Osmond helped Canada earn the silver medal in the team event at the Olympics.

Competition continues Friday with the men’s free skate and the short dance.

Full results: http://www.isuresults.com/results/wc2014/index.htm.

Louis Daignault

Duhamel and Radford second after short program at world championships

SAITAMA, Japan – Meaghan Duhamel of Lively, Ont., and Eric Radford of Balmertown, Ont., will chase for gold at the ISU Word Figure Skating Championships after placing second in Wednesday’s pairs short program.

Olympic bronze medallists Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy of Germany hold a slim lead at 79.02 just ahead of the Canadian champions at 77.01 – a season’s best score. Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov of Russia are third at 76.15. Less than eight points separate the top-five.

‘’It was amazing,’’ said Radford, who took world bronze last year with Duhamel. ‘’We wish we could skate like that all the time. Most of this season, we tried so hard to please everyone and fight for every point. Today we were a lot more relaxed and it’s put us in a perfect spot heading into the free skate.’’

At the Games, Duhamel and Radford helped Canada to the silver medal in the team event and were seventh in pairs.

‘’We came back from the Olympics feeling like we had achieved all our goals,’’ said Duhamel. ‘’We feel very settled but from this point on we’re going to be competing for ourselves and not worry about every little point.’’

Kirsten Moore-Towers of St. Catharines, Ont., and Dylan Moscovitch of Toronto are sixth at 69.31 and Paige Lawrence of Kennedy, Sask.,  and Rudi Swiegers of Kipling, Sask.,  12th at 59.84. There were 23 entries. All three Canadian pairs competed at the Winter Olympics last month in Sochi.

Moore-Towers and Moscovitch also contributed to Canada’s team silver at the Olympics and were fifth in pairs. On Wednesday, the highlight was achieving a level three death spiral for the first time.

‘’We’ve worked hard all season to get our death spiral to a level three,’’ said Moore-Towers. ‘’It was nice to skate the program clean one last time. All those run-throughs paid off.’’

‘’I felt great, calm and confident,’’ added Moscovitch. ‘’The skate felt good. Our goal is to skate to clean programs and we are half-way there.’’

For Lawrence and Swiegers it is another valuable international experience.

‘’We’ve never been to the worlds before so it was an exciting prospect for us,’’ said Lawrence. ‘’It’s something we’ve been working towards for a long time now. In the free skate we want to carry the crowd’s interest from beginning to end and take them on a little journey.’’

In men’s competition, Tatsuki Machida of Japan stands first after the short program at 98.21 with Javier Fernandez of Spain second at 96.42 and Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan third at 91.24.

Kevin Reynolds of Coquitlam, B.C., is 15th, world junior champion Nam Nguyen of Toronto 16th and Elladj Balde of Pierrefonds, Que., 22nd.

‘’ I was feeling good going into the opening combination,’’ said Reynolds. ‘’ It was a little bit shaky and I just over-rotated it. I fought through the performance and I was fairly pleased. I’m going to do the best I can in the free and hopefully fight my way back up to the top ten.’’

Competition continues Thursday with the pairs free skate and women’s short program.

Full results: http://www.isuresults.com/results/wc2014/index.htm

Louis Daignault

Olympian Profile: Meagan Duhamel & Eric Radford

Long before Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford started to skate together, they knew each other. They both grew up in small northern communities, she from Lively, Ontario, (population 7,000) and he from Balmertown, Ontario, (population 1,000) which is as far north as you can go by train in northern Ontario.

“Balmertown makes Lively look like New York,” Duhamel would joke. They never dreamed of a partnership. Radford is tall and lean with classical lines, Duhamel tiny and muscular with an athletic style. “If I had ever thought of somebody I could skate with,” she said. “I would never have even thought of skating with Eric because we were so different.”

Both ended up skating in Montreal and when Duhamel’s former partner, Craig Buntin retired, Buntin suggested to them that they try out together. Strangely enough, Duhamel had no intention to continue skating after a disappointing season in which she and Buntin missed a berth to the 2010 Olympics.

“That year was a nightmare all around,” Duhamel said. “I had a stress fracture and a bulging disk in my back for a year and a half. I had nerve damage in my leg. And with the stress of the Olympics and everything, I just didn’t want to live through anything like that again.” She took eight weeks off at the end of the season – and then eventually found herself waking up every morning with no pain. She rediscovered the joy of skating.

Radford, meanwhile, had had a discouraging pair career, and had travelled the world, trying to find his niche, even training for a time with Ingo Steuer. “I feel like I’ve waited a while to get to the level that I felt I could be at,” he said. With Duhamel, he was finally where he wanted to be: a contender on the world stage, not just there to compete. “It’s been a big and exciting change for me,” he said. “It totally changed my entire outlook on skating.”

They had doubts in the beginning. After their first tryout, they were skeptical. Coach Richard Gauthier asked them to give it a week and assured them it would work out. In less than a week, they found that everything was just so easy.

Duhamel found it fun. “When I used to close my eyes and dream about skating, I would envision being able to skate freely, like so light, instead of being so heavy,” she said. “How we skate is how I’ve always dreamed I could do.”

Duhamel and Radford joined forces to get to the Sochi Olympics, but along the way, they’ve become three-time Canadian champions and world bronze medalists, always with a close eye on the points, as indicators of the steps they need to get to the top. Where she was weak, he was strong and vice versa. They filled each other’s holes “and met right in the middle,” Duhamel said. He’s into music, she’s a registered holistic practitioner and a vegan.

Always strong singles skaters, they have powered onto the international scene with some of the toughest tricks in the business. Duhamel was the first to land a throw triple Lutz with an earlier partner and she and Radford adopted it too. It’s still rare. No other skaters attempt side-by-side triple Lutzes, either. That carried them far, and then they started to do acting classes to bring out their relationship on ice.

It hasn’t been clear sailing. Radford found it surreal to defeat four-time world champions Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy of Germany for the first time in the short program at the 2013 world championships, particularly since he had once trained with them and had looked up to them. Then the Canadians narrowly defeated the Germans on the technical mark in the long program. But others had thundered into contention, too, namely Russians Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov, who’s every move is big, spectacular and good for maximum grades of execution.

Duhamel and Radford encountered stiff adversaries at home, too, in Kirsten Moore-Towers and Dylan Moscovitch, who defeated them in the long program at Four Continents last year, and who actually drew a higher technical mark than their fellow Canadians in the long program at the world championships.

Over the past two years, Duhamel and Radford have had to break Canadian-record performances turned in by Moore-Towers and Moscovitch to win their Canadian titles. They came to the table with two outstanding routines this year, the short program to “Tribute” a musical composition created by Radford himself to honour Paul Wirtz, one of his coaches who died some years ago, and their winsome “Alice in Wonderland” routine for the long. They finished both programs with a great deal of emotion – their best efforts of the season. They tend to hit their peak at nationals, not early in the season.

“I think it was the best long we’ve ever skated,” Duhamel said. Those efforts were especially gratifying after a rocky early season. Duhamel and Radford were first after the short at Skate Canada International in Saint John, N.B., then were taken aback to finish third after making several mistakes and getting a standing ovation in the long. Their Grand Prix in France had mistakes too, but they took the silver medal and got to the Grand Prix Final, which didn’t go as they hoped. There, they finished fifth in the short and sixth in the long.

“Being successful at skating is kind of like a puzzle,” Duhamel once said. “If we have one piece missing, we have such a great coaching staff, and great choreography and we have each other. I think all of the pieces will fall into place.”

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Beverley Smith

Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford take third consecutive Canadian pair title

For the second consecutive year, Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford had to break a Canadian record set in the previous skate to win a Canadian title.

This time, there was more on the line: taking a third Canadian title into the Sochi Olympics.

Duhamel and Radford rose to the challenge and beat the Canadian record. Kirsten Moore-Towers and Dylan Moscovitch had just set the record of 209.44 for their stirring free skate, but Duhamel and Radford, with their high-flying technical content, broke the mark again with a score of 213.62.

Duhamel threw her head back in utter joy while Radford buried his head in his hands. “I think this is the most emotional I’ve ever felt,” he said afterward. “This was even better than last year and even better than our first.”

Moore-Towers and Moscovitch took the silver medal while long-suffering Paige Lawrence and Rudi Swiegers won the bronze medal and their first chance at an Olympic berth with 176.31 points.

“I don’t have words to express what I’m feeling right now,” Lawrence said. “I’m so happy and so relieved. It’s been a dream of mine for a really long time.”

“We’ve been working on this for 10-plus years.”

Lawrence has been suffering from a groin strain all season and skated this week with her left thigh bandaged.

In their free skate, Moscovitch fell on a triple toe loop that was supposed to be the first part of a triple-triple series. The fall cost them dearly. They lost not only a point for the fall, but earned only 1.98 for the entire move. Although Moore-Towers and Moscovitch showed off powerful speed, incredibly difficult lifts and an array of tough elements in the second half of their program, Duhamel and Radford won on the strength of their technical mark. Indeed, they have some of the toughest technical content in the world, with a triple Lutz jump and a throw triple Lutz. (Moore-Towers and Moscovitch battle back with the triple-triple combo and a loop and Salchow throws.).

The pair were almost equal in component (performance marks) while Duhamel and Radford won with 69.02 technical marks, compared to their opponents’ 65.62.

Duhamel and Radford weren’t perfect either: she fell on a triple Salchow while he continued on to do the jump in combination with a double toe loop.

Moore-Towers’ and Moscovitch’s faces showed disappointed after their opponents defeated them. “Of course, we wanted it to be gold,” Moore-Towers said. “We had a bit of a mistake in the long program. It was quite uncharacteristic and we don’t intend to let it happen again.

“It led us to second place. Meagan and Eric give us a run for our money every time. They’re tough competitors every time. I think all of us agree that it’s good for the sport and it’s good to have tough race.

However, Moore-Towers noted that she’d like to keep the Canadian record one of these times.

Moscovitch said their efforts and hard work and a ticket to Sochi will allow them to keep the ball rolling.

Duhamel’s legs were shaking long after the program was over. They had already dealt with accepting defeat, if it was handed them. They would have been okay with it. They had gone out onto the ice, having heard the announcement that Moore-Towers had set a Canadian record. They blocked it out and focused on themselves.

“I think it was the best long that we have ever skated,” she said.

Beverley Smith

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

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