Duhamel, Radford bring home third Canadian titlePair's Olympic dreams fulfilled after fending off fierce challenge
Most national championships end in tears -- some of sorrow, some of joy. For Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford, winning their third consecutive Canadian pairs title with a record-setting score brought the most joyful of tears, as a long-awaited dream became reality.
The duo, both 28, had been on the verge of quitting the sport before teaming up in 2010. Duhamel was devastated after she and previous partner Craig Buntin did not make the team for the Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver. Coaches convinced her and Radford to team up, and as they've learned since then, good things do come to those who wait and, of course, persevere.
"It's incredibly emotional," Radford said.
"It's absolutely unbelievable," said Duhamel, who over the last two weeks had flashbacks to the disappointment of 2010. "Every time I would close my eyes and visualize this competition, it made me cry because I remember how devastating my experience was in 2010.
"I'm a completely different person now," she added. "I'm really proud of the person that I've become. For me, it was a really personal journey to come to nationals. ... I've been waiting four years to get to do it again. It couldn't have been any better this time."
As they did last year, Duhamel and Radford faced fierce competition from Kirsten Moore-Towers and Dylan Moscovitch, who finished a close second with a stunning free skate.
"It was a déjà vu of last year, and we knew that we can go out and skate after that type of energy before us," Radford said. "Meagan and I were just so ready. We've been training great, really working on staying in the moment and not worrying about anything else, which I think was a challenge for us throughout the Grand Prix season."
"We were prepared for that," Duhamel said. "We knew they were in the best shape of their lives for this competition. They're great competitors. We were prepared they would put up a high score, and we were confident we would put up a higher score."
Duhamel and Radford's performances last fall were not at the level they'd come to expect after winning bronze at the 2013 World Championships. Duhamel said during the Grand Prix season they became too focused on medals. After the Grand Prix Final, they changed their mentality and remembered to skate for pride in themselves.
"It made us less nervous," she said.
"We always seem to hit our stride at this competition," Radford said. "It's always our second half of the season that's really strong. I think we're right on track."
Duhamel and Radford had numerous friends and family in attendance. Duhamel said she stopped reading her Facebook page early in the week because so many people said they were coming to Ottawa to watch them earn a place on the Canadian Olympic team.
"I've never felt so much support as I have in the last week," Duhamel said.
The intense rivalry between the top two teams helps push both to be better. While it is stressful for the skaters, the crowds showed their appreciation for the way both teams brought it when it counted.
"This puts us into a high category," Duhamel said. "We didn't just win one title. It wasn't an accident. We've gone out there and we've repeated it again and again. To be part of Canadian skating, like Jamie [Salé] and David [Pelletier] and Isabelle [Brasseur] and Lloyd [Eisler], it's so surreal."
"It's a moment I've dreamt of since I was 8, and it's happening," Radford said of earning a trip to the Olympics. "We worked so hard for it, and we made it happen. To have it pay off and to know that it's all come together in this amazing moment, it's what dreams are made of."
Paige Lawrence and Rudi Swiegers finished a very satisfying third and will also likely be named to the Canadian Olympic team.