It was a moment. Perhaps the moment of the night. Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford had just finished their short program at Autumn Classic. They sat on the ice, facing each other, triumphant, just looking in each others eyes, seemingly speechless.
“Thank you,” they said to each other.
In the kiss and cry that followed, words didn’t tell the story. Faces did. Coach Bruno Marcotte took one deep exhale, and you knew he had been affected by what he had seen, too.
This, after a troubled season beset by injury, early scrambles and a seventh-place finish at worlds. Radford referred to it as a “tumultuous” season.
“Like there were seriously days…..” he said.
“I know there are a lot of people who questioned if we could do it again and we questioned it too,” said Duhamel, who had won the two previous world titles with Radford. “It has to reach the level we were once at. And we have those moments in training where we’d feel: ‘Wow, we’re better than we ever thought we could be.’ But it was only us and our coaches that would see those moments.
“I just feel like we are back.”
The Canadian titlists scored 77.14, so close to their personal best of 78.39, to win the short program on Friday. Ask Duhamel and she thinks of a raft of ways they could improve, so it bodes well. They won by almost four points over exciting French team Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres.
What a crowd saw on Friday was exactly how they had been training. “I think that we’re just really happy to have the training translate to the competition,” Radford said. “For the last month, we’ve been training so well. So well, I’d think we should be going to the Olympics right now. “
But up to now, it would have been different if they did a run-through in front of somebody, like a judge. Things would fall apart. “We have to figure out why that happens,” Radford said.
“For this to come together, this is a good step. It gives us confidence. It lets us know this is what we’re capable of each time we go out.”
It was easy to see that the performance to “With You, Without You” was emotional and meaningful. “When it got to the footwork sequence, I think we just felt both right where we wanted to be,” Radford said “Right where we always knew we were supposed to be. Sometimes we can’t always get there. This is what we want to feel like all the time.”
Why so different this season? Radford says it’s like one of those days when you wake up and you just feel good. For an extended amount of time. “At the beginning of last season, things started not working,” he said. “We started getting frustrated and then things kept on not working and we got more frustrated.”
Duhamel admitted they had programs last year that didn’t make them feel comfortable. They never started their short program last year feeling settled.
“We had this dance lift at the beginning of our short program [Seal],” she said. “We used to be so nervous for it and it wasn’t even a technical element. So to start with that tension is never fun. We just assumed throughout the season, it would have gone away. It never did. “
From the first time they did this new short program, they felt settled. Everything feels within their reach. Last year, they felt out of reach of what they needed to do.
“It feels like we’re on the right track,” Radford said.
Besides, choreographer Julie Marcotte gave them an important piece of advice: “Skate stupid,” she said.
“She said we needed to stop being so hypersensitive about everything,” Duhamel said. “It’s the exact advice we need at times.”
They know their competitive careers are coming to a close. They know they will not have many more opportunities to compete, and to compete at home. They are savouring these moments. The crowd screamed wildly when Duhamel and Radford landed triple Lutzes –the jump that Radford found so impossible at the world championships when he was suffering from herniated disc.
“It’s the last time we are doing this competition,” Radford said. “So we might as well enjoy the moment.”