Ice Network

Duhamel, Radford win historic sixth national title

Pairs team made several changes to its programs since Grand Prix Final
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Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford surpassed several Canadian pairs legends in winning their sixth national title. -Getty Images

When they won their first Canadian pairs title in 2012, it was a life-changing experience for Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford, who had both been on the verge of quitting skating before teaming up in 2010. It was an emotional victory that launched them on a path to being leaders in the sport.

Saturday night in Ottawa, at the 2017 Canadian Figure Skating Championships, Duhamel and Radford won their sixth national pairs title, surpassing some of the most iconic names in the sport: Barbara Wagner and Robert Paul, Barbara Underhill and Paul Martini, and Isabelle Brasseur and Lloyd Eisler.

"This was never on our to-do list in our career," Duhamel said. "It's definitely beyond our wildest dreams. Canadian pairs history is filled with so many greats, so to just be included among that list is unbelievable. I think Eric and I won the most because we keep on skating; we're just not stopping. It's the timing, but it does feel amazing."

"I feel more surprised by it than I was anticipating," Radford said. "Before the competition, I was so concentrated on the job that I had to do that it's really just kind of hitting me now what Meagan and I have accomplished and what type of legacy we're going to leave when we leave this sport. It feels so nice that we're getting that out of our skating career."

While they've won both the short program and the free skate in all their title runs, Duhamel and Radford, both 31, have faced stiff challenges in years past from the other teams at the Canadian championships. This year, however, they were substantially ahead of the pack, winning by a nearly 20-point margin over silver medalists Lubov Iliushechkina and Dylan Moscovitch. The bronze went to Kirsten Moore-Towers and Michael Marinaro.

"With everything that happened on the Grand Prix, we simply demanded ourselves to have a good skate," Radford said. "We were tired with feeling disappointed with our performances. … The motivation for nationals was really internal."

Following a disappointing third-place finish at the Grand Prix Final, Duhamel and Radford took the throw triple axel out of the short program, changing it for a throw triple lutz. They also made several changes to the free skate, including adding a new jump combination.

"It's the first time we've tried the side-by-side triple salchows since the season of Sochi (2014)," Duhamel said. "Whatever was wrong with it the year of the Olympics is old news."

Duhamel said she loves the edginess of the short program and its contrast with the team's elegant free skate.

"I think Eric and I are showing a different quality to our skating with this long program that's softer, slower and more lyrical. In the short program, we're showing a really modern, out there, edgy program that you don't normally see in pair skating," she said.

"We get to show two different sides of our skating," Radford said. "The style of the long is definitely closer to home for me and my style of skating, and the short was more of a departure and more challenging. To do those quick steps with my long legs is not that easy. It's really fun; it's high energy and something the crowd can get into. This was the perfect season for us to try something a little bit out of our comfort zone."

There was still another element of excitement for Radford, who watched Patrick Chan win the men's title skating to music Radford composed.

"It was a great night not only for us but also for Patrick," Radford said. "When I watch Patrick skate now, I feel even more connected to what he does. I had chills from beginning to end. It was a really brilliant skate from him. To have it set to my music, it's really special. I feel like the energy and the emotion in the arena was palpable."