“Enough is enough,” said Meagan Duhamel. Both she and her partner Eric Radford had enough of the cloying feelings of frustration this season when they finished a program and looked at each other, regret in the air.
Not this time. After the national championships, Duhamel and Radford sat down with choreographer, light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel skatingmeister Julie Marcotte and they found a way.
She told them to stay quiet on the inside. In the school in which they train in Montreal, there is chaos all around them. It has a lot of top students. But Duhamel and Radford hadn’t been staying calm. They needed to find quietude inside themselves.
Coach Bruno Marcotte said the 2015 world champions had also lost their focus of last year, focusing too much on the comeback of Olympic champions Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov, they of the multiple maximized points. And they thought about the other Russians, Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov, who had apparently taken the remainder of last season off in search of a quad.
Duhamel and Radford had been on a roller coaster all season. The decision came that they must focus on each other, and a personal best routine, and forget about all of the rest.
To find this quiet spot, Duhamel does not use a key word as many athletes use. She touches her stomach to find her inner calmness.
They were ready to slay dragons with this new approach at the Four Continents, but Duhamel fell ill with an apparent case of the flu.
So they used it here. “We’ve been getting sick of finishing that short program feeling frustrated,” Duhamel said.
In Boston, Duhamel said she didn’t care if she “was upside down on the Lutz, I was landing it.”
End of story.
“We were really determined,” she said. “And focused.”
With this approach, Duhamel and Radford finished second in the short with a personal best of 78.18 points, only 2.67 points behind the flawless Chinese Sui Wenjing and Han Cong, who won with 80.85, also a best for them.
The Canadians hadn’t spoken one word about the Russians. And for the first time in their career, they finished ahead of Volosozhar and Trankov by about a point.
Trankov thought he and wife/partner had skated their Bollywood routine well, and is okay at sitting in third place. He knew they had made a big mistake on their throw, with Volosozhar landing the triple flip on two feet and not subtly.
But he was taken aback when the technical folks up on the judges’ stand gave them only a level three on their lofty triple twist. They had always maxed out the levels on this soaring move, at level four.
“It’s the first time we got level three for twist,” he said. “It was a big surprise for us. We are a little disappointed with this.”
However, Trankov said he and Volosozhar aren’t seeking any more medals. They have already won two Olympic gold (team and individual) at home in Sochi. They had teamed up for Sochi. Now, it is all about the process, the skating, the exploring. They are okay with third.
Volosozhar and Trankov earned the highest component score of 37.16, ahead of the Chinese at 36.97. The Chinese worked hard at improving this side of their skate.
Three years ago, they began to train with 2010 Olympic pair champion Zhao Hongbo because they felt they had some shortcomings he could solve.
“We decided to follow whatever he said,” Han said.
“He told us many things about how to cooperate with your partner, so we can improve the unison,” Han said.
He also got them into working on their skating skills, and they do so, more than any other Chinese team, Han said.
“We don’t want to think too much about placement or scores,” Han said.
Asked when they fully began to find chemistry together, Sui and Han comically misunderstood the question. They started talking about their personal relationship.
“There isn’t any chemistry between us,” Sui said.
“That was a joke,” Han said, after a little consultation.
But no, Sui said. Han is like a cousin, a father figure to her. (He is three years older.) “He talks too much every day,” she said.
Asked to direct their thoughts to a more professional relationship or chemistry between them, Han paused to think.
Trankov looked over at Han and said: “Be very careful,” he said.
“First there is chemistry when you skate. Then you get married,” he said., referring to his relationship with Volosozhar.
He said he and Volosozhar might think about having a baby by the next Olympics.
Marcotte let it slip that Duhamel and Radford might work on a throw triple Axel next year.
The other magical moment of the event: the dizzying triple twist delivered by new team Aliona Savchenko (now relaxed and happy looking) and Bruno Massot, who finished fourth with 74.22 points. It’s a happy story indeed.