Canada’s Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford won gold in their fourth appearance at the 2014-15 ISU Grand Prix Final on Saturday afternoon in Barcelona, Spain. The team, who has always been at the bottom when qualifying in the past, were ranked second going into the event.
“Our goal coming into this was to stand on the podium,” said Duhamel. “I think we are also very proud to have a personal best score for our long program.”
The two-time and current World bronze medalists put out a solid short program which included side-by-side triple Lutzes, a throw triple Lutz, and a triple twist. In addition to being awarded positive grades of execution (GOE) in all elements, they earned a level four on their side-by-spin, the lift, footwork and death spiral to score 74.50 points.
Duhamel and Radford, both 29, had a successful long program which featured a triple twist, a good triple toe-double toe-double toe combination, as well as solid throw triple Lutz and throw quadruple Salchow. They also earned level fours on both lifts and spins, and scored a new personal best of 146.22 points for a total score of 220.72.
The only flaw in their long program was a hand down on the landing from Duhamel on the side-by-side triple Lutzes.
“We’ve been waiting a long time to do a performance like that in competition as we do every day at home,” said Duhamel.
“I think we really thrive under pressure, and it’s our fate to skate after a great performance,” she added, regarding Russia’s Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov, who skated before Duhamel and Radford and placed second overall. “They really put the pressure on.”
The skaters feel that the much-discussed throw quad Salchow is an important element as it pushes them, as well as the sport.
“Adding the throw quad to our skating has kept us really motivated,” said Duhamel. “It’s encouraged us. It’s not just for us. We’ve been seeing the throw triple Salchow for 30 or 40 years now, so I think it’s time that people try to push it and try harder things.”
Radford doesn’t feel it’s such a big risk as they practice the element day in and day out, however, he acknowledges that doing it in competition is much different than doing it in practice.
“We can only learn to do it in competition by doing it in competition,” he pointed out, “and also by making mistakes in competition. Then we know for next time what we need to change. I think result-wise, it could be the difference between first and second at Worlds.”
The 2013 Four Continents champions missed the element at their last event in Osaka, Japan, and learned that they needed to make a few adjustments—make it a bit smaller.
“With adrenalin in competition, I think we give too much to the throw than we do on a regular practice,” explained Duhamel. “So we’re learning how to control our adrenalin when we’re going into it. In Japan, I had a lot of expectation to land it perfectly, and in turn, it made me try too hard. It sometimes overrotates a little bit.”
The three-time and current Canadian national champions started out this season wanting to skate for themselves, however, with so much success, there is now some extra pressure that they didn’t expect.
“I think that we do need to be careful where we put our focus,” admitted Radford. “We have kind of made a statement. We’re going to face different competition as the season goes on, but this is how we’re learning.”
When the season started, one of their main goals was just to win one of their Grand Prix assignments for the first time. Once they qualified for the Final, they simply wanted to have a solid skate and improve from NHK Trophy.
The main difference between this season and the last is that the skaters, who are coached by Richard Gauthier, Bruno Marcotte and Sylvie Fullum, felt a lot of pressure last season due to the Olympics.
“We don’t have any fear when we’re skating anymore,” said Duhamel. “I think last year, I was always scared to lose, scared to skate bad, and scared that the other Canadian team would score higher. So I focused on Eric and I improving, and I focused on everything around me that I could control.”
Radford agreed, adding that they put too much pressure on themselves and were always comparing themselves with other teams.
“I think that we’ve just sort of learned to let all of that go,” he said. “Now it’s just us out there, doing the best we can. All we can control is our skating, and then wherever the cards fall, that’s what’s going to happen. There’s no point in worrying about what the judges are going to do, what the technical specialists are going to do, and that’s a big lesson that we learned last season. It’s sort of just shifted the way we feel at the very basic level of our skating.”
The Canadians, who finished seventh at the Olympics, were overall satisfied with their experience in Sochi.
“We had two out of three amazing performances,” recalled Duhamel. “Then we went to the World Championships, and we were able to have two great skates and win another medal, and then all of a sudden, we were on tour with Stars on Ice. When Stars on Ice finished, it was like we just took a deep breath and exhaled.”
Feeling it was important to hit the reset button, the skaters took the whole month off in June and then came back motivated to train the throw quad and work with Julie Marcotte on their new choreography for the season.
This season, the skaters are using Ginette Reno’s “Un peu plus haut, un peu plus loin” for the short program, and selections from Muse for their long.
“I think that we kind of mentioned at the beginning of the season that we were going to sort of simplify the choreography,” said Radford.
In the past, the skaters tried to fill their programs with transitions and make it obvious to the judges that they were trying unique moves, and trying to make the routine difficult as possible overall.
“I think that it ended up looking difficult, trying to do all those difficult moves,” explained Radford. “I think just sort of simplifying our choreography has shown a smoother side of our skating. It’s made our basic skating smoother.”
While both skaters have only been together as a team for four years, they are still regarded as veteran skaters.
“I think we feel so grateful that we decided to continue skating, because I think that we’re so much wiser than we were,” said Duhamel. “We’re wiser than we were last year, and we’re applying all these lessons that we’ve learned every single year to our skating. I’m so happy that I know what I know now, and that I didn’t decide to quit last year, because I would never know what it feels like to skate with this freedom and relaxation that we’ve found.”