Published On: Wed, Feb 14th, 2018

Rosie DiManno: Superb start to pairs competition sees Canada’s Duhamel and Radford in third

PYEONGCHANG, SOUTH KOREA—There were oohs. There were aahs.

Doubtless with Vancouver Olympics gold medallist Yuna Kim a national heroine, Koreans have become keenly appreciative of and knowledgeable about figure skating, although the sport doesn’t have the gong show kick of, say, short-track speed skating.

But pairs, at least in recent decades, hasn’t got quite the love extended to ladies and men and ice dancers. Maybe, in part, because the pairs event has been noticeably sloppy at recent Olympiads and never quite recovered from the scoring hissy-scandal of Salt Lake City—belated co-gold awarded to Canadians Jamie Sale and David Pelletier.

So it was heartening to see the exquisite quality that skaters brought to the pairs short program competition here Wednesday morning.

Out of 22 teams in the field — 16 advancing to Thursday’s free skate — eight drew scores in the 70s. Canada’s Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford, two-time world champions, were at the top end of that bracket at 76.82. But the Chinese duo of Sui Wenjing and Han Cong, reigning world titlists, pulled down 82.39 with their flawless rendition of “Hallelujah”, with Russians Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morzov sitting second.

Article Continued Below

An eyelash behind the Canadians were Germany’s Aljona Savchenko and Bruno Massot, penalized heavily because Massot doubled out on side-by-side triple Salchows. Still, they pulled down a score of 76.50, with the second Chinese duo hot on their heels.

One heck of a superb competition so far.

Eric Radford said he was “content” with how he and partner Meagan Duhamel performed in the short program but saw room for improvement heading into Thursday's free skate.
Eric Radford said he was “content” with how he and partner Meagan Duhamel performed in the short program but saw room for improvement heading into Thursday’s free skate.  (Steve Russell/Toronto Star)  

“When I saw people getting 70s, even in the second group’’ — the early skaters, ranked lower — “I thought, ‘Oh my God. This is insane,’” said Duhamel afterwards.

Radford couldn’t recall any previous occasion where pairs teams racked up those kinds of scores — and Olympic judges are not a generous bunch. Further, some of the required elements in the short, such as the death spiral, have been given a lower base value — the starting point for evaluation — this season.

“Seventy used to be the benchmark. Now we have two skaters over 80. It’s so exciting,” Radford said. “I love how each team has their own individual story and style, its strengths and weaknesses.”

Top score for the seven-time Canadian champions this past season was 77.14 for their “With or Without You” routine.

They were, of course, a critical part of the Canadian squad that copped team event gold earlier in the week, contributing both a short and a long, second in the former, first in the latter. But that competition was limited to 10 teams, pruned to five in the medal round.

In Tuesday’s version of “With or Without You”, Duhamel and Radford executed much more cleanly following the two-footed landing from Radford with the individual triple Lutzes last Friday.

“You know what?” said a relieved Radford. “It was on one foot. I’ve you’ve noticed, this whole season I’ve kind of been tapping my left toe (on the landing), so this was a great step.”

The element looked a tad awkward, however, as Radford went into the jump a split second before Duhamel, as if he just couldn’t wait to get it landed and done.

“Sometimes we have a mindset that we’re going to do our own job when we go into that Lutz,” he said. “If I go a little faster and she needs to take more time, that’s fine, we’ll hit that landing position together.”

Germany’s Aljona Savchenko and Bruno Massot, penalized heavily because Massot doubled out on side-by-side triple Salchows, sit fourth after the short program, closely behind Canada's Eric Radford and Meagan Duhamel.
Germany’s Aljona Savchenko and Bruno Massot, penalized heavily because Massot doubled out on side-by-side triple Salchows, sit fourth after the short program, closely behind Canada’s Eric Radford and Meagan Duhamel.  (Steve Russell/Toronto Star)  

Duhamel admitted her heart skipped a beat when she noticed, as they were moving into the Lutzes, that Radford was already in upward thrust.

“I saw Eric reach and I had a moment where I was: I’m not ready! Then I was, like, it doesn’t matter, take your time. Because I was calm, was able to take my time. If I was feeling anxious or nervous, I would have rushed myself and gone with him and I probably would have popped it.

“We both landed them so that’s better than not landing them.”

A teensy -0.30 on the grade of execution. But Level 3s on triple twist, death spiral, lift and combination spin.

Bits to improve on, heading into the free skate, said Radford, who pronounced himself “content” with the short performance. “It wasn’t crazy perfect. But we’re definitely satisfied. We felt right where we wanted to be when the music started. We did some good elements — not great. There’s room for improvement.”

The throw Lutz, he assessed, was a shade “hesitant”. Usually their throws are commanding and nail-it confident. Still, they’re in third place and the scores are tightly bunched.

“Especially in a field this deep, we could have taken ourselves completely out of contention missing a major element, and we didn’t do that,” said Duhamel. “We kept ourselves in the mix. And that makes us feel good going forward.”

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

TORONTO STAR

Leave a comment

Rosie DiManno: Superb start to pairs competition sees Canada’s Duhamel and Radford in third