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Duhamel and Radford tops among Canadian pairs

Dube and Wolfe earn silver, Lawrence and Swiegers take bronze

Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford credit "perseverance and effort" for winning their first Canadian title.
Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford credit "perseverance and effort" for winning their first Canadian title. (Getty Images)

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By Lois Elfman, special to icenetwork.com
(01/22/2012) - They grew up together in skating, but Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford only became partners less than two years ago. On Saturday night, they won the Canadian pairs title with a magical free skate that put them more than 18 points ahead of their nearest competitors.

"It's better than anything either of us has ever dreamt possible. You imagine this moment. We've imagined this for a decade now, but it was better than anything I imagined," Duhamel said in a telephone interview with icenetwork.com just minutes after winning the gold medal.

"It's been many, many years of second-, third-, fourth-, fifth-, seventh- and eighth-place finishes for both of us," she added. "You learn so much, and I think through all of those experiences that Eric and I had in singles and with other partners and with each other, we always believed that we can do it."

Duhamel and Radford, both 26, said they this victory is especially sweet given their many years in the sport.

"It's been a lot of perseverance and effort," Radford said. "After the ups, learning from them, and after the downs, regrouping and taking that next step forward and pushing on through. It's all finally paid off, and that's exactly what you're training for and dreaming of and hoping for. It's all happening for us now."

Although they've competed at the world championships, finishing seventh in 2011, and the Grand Prix Final, Radford said the Canadian title has a sort of mythical quality fueled by his admiration of great Canadian champions like Kurt Browning, Elvis Stojko, and Jamie Salé and David Pelletier.

They opened their free skate with a triple twist and then went into a side-by-side triple Lutz-double toe loop-double toe loop combination. In the past, they've erred on easier elements after nailing the most difficult ones, but this time they kept their focus throughout the program.

"As we checked off the difficult elements, we maintained our composure and kept it going," Duhamel said. "When the final throw was landed, we knew that was it."

They said the biggest step forward they made this season was in their choreography -- pushing themselves technically and artistically.

"We set some very ambitious goals for ourselves," Duhamel said. "One by one, we've been focused on checking them off. That's the type of long program we skate every day, but you just never know how you're going to skate under pressure. It was the very best we've ever skated."

In a long career filled with highs and lows, it's been a consistent upward motion since they teamed up. Duhamel described them as "the perfect fit."

"We train really hard. We have the exact same goals. We have the exact same motivation," she said.

The one thing on which they do diverge is diet. Duhamel became a vegan in December 2008, and she said it changed her life.

"It's the greatest thing I could have done for my life and for my skating," she said. "I feel energized and I feel healthy. I have been so consistent in that part of my life; it's helped bring consistency to everything in my life. It's kept me in great physical shape. I don't have to try and maintain peak physical form. I do maintain it through my vegan diet."

She said studies in holistic/naturopathic health -- she will become a holistic nutritionist this summer -- have also provided a great balance to skating.

Both of them are focused on bringing more emotion to their skating.

"We've worked extremely hard with our choreographer (Julie Marcotte)," Duhamel said. "We've found music we can really relate to (orchestral interpretations of Coldplay music), and we have a partner we can really relate to. I think that's drawn out the best of both of our skating."

Between now and the world championships in Nice, they will pay even greater attention to artistry.

"After finally laying down a clean long program, we're really going to try and go even further into the feeling of the program to get that second mark," Radford said. "We've done it in the short. I think that each time we've gone out in the short, we've brought the second mark to another level. We haven't been able to do that in the long yet because we've been waiting to have that clean skate.

"Now we know that we can do it," he continued. "We know where we need to be in order to make it happen. So the next time we go out, we'll be able to concentrate on the little nuances and get even more into it than we did this time."

The silver medal went to the new team of Jessica Dubé and Sebastien Wolfe. Paige Lawrence and Rudi Swiegers took the bronze. Defending champions Kirsten Moore-Towers and Dylan Moscovitch finished fourth.