Duhamel-Radford rally for world championships

It seemed to take a lifetime for both Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford to finally get their Olympic experience – and they’re still barely over it.

But they have to be, to prepare for the world championships in Saitama, Japan, where they hope to finally deliver the “Alice in Wonderland” free skate they had always envisioned. They had their Olympic moment with the “Tribute” short program, particularly in the team event, but in the individual event, Alice didn’t quite come through the looking glass for them. They finished seventh.

So they’ve made changes. They’ve moved a triple Salchow – double toe loop combination from the second half to the first half of the long program. And to even out the bonus points they’d lose with the shift, they’ve decided to add an extra double toe loop to make up for it. It’s going well.

“We’ve been missing it [the two-jump combo] for the last few competitions, so we felt like we were leaving a lot of points on the table,” said Duhamel on a conference call on Monday. “The program is going to breathe better. And we will skate it with more ease and we are going to land that triple Salchow.”

She and Radford feel they haven’t had the opportunity to show everybody the full power of their long program. They haven’t skated it to full potential in competition as they do in practice every day. And that is giving them their motivation: to perform it one last time, nail this Alice and let the marks follow. “And we should be on the podium,” said Duhamel. They are defending world bronze medalists.

Both of them returned home exhausted from their Olympic experience and wondering how to re-motivate themselves for Japan. They took different routes. Radford returned home to his roots in Red Lake, Ont., to pay homage to his long-time supporters and to inspire a generation of young skaters in a small northern town. Indeed, Radford says in the past year, as he and Duhamel trained through their Olympic season, CanSkate memberships quadrupled. Even boys started to sign up. Mothers told Radford that their sons idolized him, and that all they want to do is skate, not play hockey. Another triumph for Radford.

Duhamel won’t return to her hometown of Lively, Ont., until June for a homecoming, because of her utter exhaustion when she returned from Sochi, with only three weeks to train for Japan. “It was like four years of exhaustion had set in,” she said. “I literally slept for five or six days. My body couldn’t function.”

She returned home to find buckets full of sweet mail. Children sent her drawings. One woman told her that her two sons watched her on TV during the Olympics. They drew pictures of Duhamel and Radford against the Olympic rings. It was everything that they had dreamed.

First, they had to get over Olympic jet lag and we’re not talking just about differing time zones. “I just accepted how I feel rather than try to fight how I’m feeling: I’m tired and I don’t want to do anything,” said Radford. He spends his time at home relaxing and saving his energy as much as possible. When they get to the rink, they work as they always do. Over the past week or so, they’ve felt the competitive juices start to boil again. “Now I feel a little bit more free, with my energy,” Radford said. “Going up to Red Lake and being around my family and friends was a great way to decompress from the Olympics.”

He told Duhamel the first week after they returned, that in the two weeks leading up to worlds, they must have as much fun as possible at the rink, and “not worry about skating perfect every day, the way we were before the Olympics, because it’s too much stress to do it.”

They had no choice about resting for the first week they returned. Their bags didn’t return with them. They both returned on the Monday after the closing ceremonies. Radford’s bag (including skates) arrived home on Wednesday. Duhamel’s came back the next day. They hadn’t made it onto the plane in Sochi when the skaters left for home.

They will use the world championships as a kind of redemption, to skate better than they did in Sochi. This team, built on emotion, is infused with gold. For the past year, they’ve been sponsored by Goldcorp, a company that operates the Red Lake gold mine. It enabled the pair to train for Sochi without worry of everyday finances. But the mine in Red Lake is a perfect symbol for a team peddling furiously to get to the top.

The gold at the Red Lake mine contains the world’s richest gold ore (two troy announces of gold per metric ton). For the first time, when Radford went home at the end of February, he went underground into the mine.

He watched the miners pour gold bars. The real deal. A sight for sore muscles.

The mayor made Feb. 8 Eric Radford Day. It’s time for them to seize opportunities during post-Olympic defections and shufflings. They will skate next year, and then assess, but Duhamel says the next Olympics is a possibility. They will take part in the Stars on Ice tour across Canada, and skate in the Elizabeth Manley ice show. It just doesn’t stop.

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