Timing is everything, isn’t it?
If not for a chance few moments on the other side of the world a few weeks ago, Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford may not have found the answer to that question that has niggled at their subconscious levels all season: Just why is that Muse routine – so special before – giving them more headaches than they had ever imagined?
They thought they had solved the issues after another long trip overseas, to Italy early in the season and they came back refreshed and delivered a humdinger at Skate Canada International.
That should have put an end to it, right?
When most skaters stayed at home with their heads down, eyeing the Olympics, Duhamel and Radford took a side trip after the Grand Prix Final in Japan – where they finished an okay third – to a skating show in China.
They went to China not at all considering making yet another change to their free skate. But in that show, they were to follow the two-time Olympic champion Ekaterina Gordeeva. And she was skating to Adele’s “Hometown Glory.”
Of course, that music more than rang a bell. It was the music that Duhamel and Radford had used to win the 2016 world championship in Boston. It was an emphatic win. An emotional win. A triumphant comeback from a perilous year.
Duhamel and Radford were in the wings, waiting their turn at a dress rehearsal, when Gordeeva skated to this music. Duhamel was so moved, tears filled her eyes.
“This is how I want to feel when I am skating at the Olympics,” she said to herself.
Strangely enough, Radford was thinking the same thing. He had memories of a great energy. “Maybe we should skate to this,” he thought.
Duhamel and Radford know what it is like to feel uncomfortable with a program. Their “Alice In Wonderland“ number from the Sochi Olympics annoyed them all season. Last year, their Seal short program felt all at odds with them. In fact, they considered changing the music after Four Continents, but thought it too late. Later they discovered that their hesitation had done them no favours.
“I didn’t want to feel like that,” Duhamel said. Four years ago, they had gone to Sochi with programs that put them out of their comfort zones.
“Why would we do that again?” Duhamel said. “Go back to an Olympics to be outside of what I know?”
In the years they have been together, Duhamel and Radford have experimented with all sorts of concepts and music. Because of it, they have discovered – even now – what works the best. And what is best is the passionate, emotional music like Adele’s “Hometown Glory.”
“I feel like this Adele program unites us,” Duhamel said. “It’s the style that we have found through our journey.”
Radford says it’s a style that works equally well for both of them: she the athletic bullet, he the long-limbed artistic one.
Okay, Muse was good. They had some good skates to it. But since they skated to Muse the first time, Duhamel and Radford have changed. Their skating has improved. You can see it in their current short program, (“With or Without You”) almost ghostly, lovely. Muse had a different rhythm. They seemed at sixes and sevens trying to reconcile the magic of Muse to themselves and their new style. They just couldn’t connect to it.
“We just weren’t feeling it,” Radford said. It all became clear at that moment in China. As soon as they started working on Adele again, they found that it resonated more deeply with both of them.
So once again, a leading team has switched back to an old saw in this very tense Olympic year. The theme for everyone this season, Radford says, is the search for comfort. “You want to feel you are giving yourself the best chance to have a good skate,” he said.
The best part, they say, is that they came to this conclusion themselves.
In China, Duhamel and Radford found some ice time and a Youtube video of their Adele routine and started piecing it back together, without telling their coach Bruno Marcotte or choreographer Julie Marcotte what they were doing.
Finally, Duhamel flipped Bruno a text message, saying “Hey, we’re going to go back to ‘Hometown Glory.’
Marcotte replied: “You’ve waited four years to go back to the Olympics. If this is what you feel is right, do it.”
They had only three weeks to work on the program. They kept the change to themselves, just wanting to go to the rink, put their heads down and make it happen. They’ve had to make a few changes to the structure of the program.
They realize the switch does not guarantee that they will skate with wings, never putting a foot wrong and win the Olympics. But Duhamel feels that it will help put the odds in their favour. She believes their component marks will be better with this type of program. They will feel more comfortable, which will also lead to higher components. And they will deliver better elements.
Had they left things the way they were, Duhamel believes they might have won a bronze medal in Pyeongchang. But with this comfortable sofa of a program, and the feeling that they are one together, they believe they can do better than bronze.
“Why not take the chance?” she said.