Canadians Meagan Duhamel, Eric Radford off to dream start at figure skating worlds
Meagan Duhamel woke up with a rock in her stomach and lead in her legs.
By mid-afternoon Wednesday, she was hopping up and down on the Budweiser Gardens ice, a tiny Easter Bunny on blades who, along with partner Eric Radford, sent a major jolt of electricity through London, Ont., in a dream start to the World Figure Skating Championships.
The Canadian champs' La Boheme short program was The Bomb, earning a stunning 73.61 points, second only to the exquisite Russians Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov (75.84) heading into Friday's free skate.
“We were so nervous this morning,” said Duhamel, the 27-year-old from Lively, near Sudbury, Ont. “We put a lot of pressure on ourselves and our whole lives have been geared to being on the world podium. (After finishing fifth last year), every single day has been put towards being on the podium here in London.
“We had so much pressure and I was feeling so sick. I was saying, ‘What if I go to jump and my legs just don't do it?’ I felt like I was going to collapse.”
They managed the opposite. They are closing in on this country's first world medal in pairs since Jessica Dube and Bryce Davison's bronze in 2008.
While Duhamel danced, Radford looked shocked.
“When we're in the kiss-and-cry and I see these scores, it always takes a couple of seconds to register as reality,” the 28-year-old from Red Lake, Ont., said. “It's almost like it's happening to someone else, not to me so when you initially see my reaction, I don't look that excited and then it kind of builds.”
Then, of course, everything looks a little muted standing beside a smiling, five-foot lightning bolt.
“Eric's excitement,” Duhamel said with a grin, “is more introverted than my extroverted excitement.”
It has put them on top of four-time world champions Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy, the German pair (third with 73.47), who compared their performance to skating with the hand break engaged.
“It wasn't luck,” Radford said.
Getting a leg up on the most decorated team in the field, though, isn't the end game.
“We didn't come in here to beat the Germans,” Duhamel said. “We came here to be on the podium. We're not going to start changing our goals right now. We’re going to be satisfied standing on any step of the podium.”
They could even have a couple of teammates up there. Kirsten Moore-Towers and Dylan Moscovitch, who put up a terrific challenge to Duhamel and Radford at the nationals in Mississauga, Ont., are fifth (69.25) after setting the table splendidly for local fans as the first Canadians to perform here.
“They went nuts,” Moore-Towers, the St. Catharines, Ont., native, said of the crowd, “and so did we.”
“It was probably,” Moscovitch added, “the most memorable skate for me in my career. You can't win it with the short but you could lose it. You want to get a solid score and set yourself up so the long program tells a tale.”
Two quality Canadian pairs will be part of the final chapter. If their final positions add up to 13 or less, they open up a third spot for Sochi.
“I know we have the country behind us,” Radford said, “and it makes us excited but it doesn't quite calm the nerves. We've got to keep the strategy.
“It's not over yet.”
After Moore-Towers and Moscovitch stirred up the crowd their teammates capitalized on the good vibes.
“When we were in our side-by-side spin, I was thinking I hope Eric yells really loud for the change because I didn't think I would hear him,” Duhamel said. “It was really hard to focus for that throw Lutz after landing the triple Lutzes down in the corner. When we stepped forward, everybody's face in the audience (she mimicked the sound by gasping in mock horror) and they were clapping for us.
“It gave us so much energy. We’re loving every moment of this experience.”
This was a perfect start. The top Russians are trying to complete a flawless season – champions in every event they’ve skated.
“We had some mistakes today, in my solo jump, I put down my foot.” Volosozhar said. “But overall, it was a good short program.”
They all tried to feed off the Canadian-created love.
“To skate after (Moore-Towers and Moscovitch), it was perfect,” Szolkowy said. “It was loud, I was thinking about (plugging his ears). It was so much positive energy – just collect it.”
That excitement – a swell tonic for nervous bellies and heavy legs – isn't going anywhere this week.