By LORI EWING
The Canadian Press
Saturday, October 28, 2017
REGINA -- There were days Meagan Duhamel was so sore after practice, she couldn't sit in her car to drive home.
Breaking barriers is painful work.
Duhamel and pairs partner Eric Radford take aim at their fourth consecutive Skate Canada International title this week to kick of their final competitive season, starting with Friday's short program. If their career goal was to push the technical envelope in pairs skating: mission accomplished, regardless of how this season plays out.
"I like to think [young pairs teams] have been inspired by us," Duhamel said.
The summer of 2014, when they perfected the quadruple throw Salchow, will go down as a big career highlight. Duhamel, a 31-year-old from Lively, Ont., and Radford, 32, from Balmertown, Ont., have been upping the technical difficulty ever since they mastered the throw that only a handful of teams on the planet have attempted.
The quad throw - much as it sounds - sees Radford hurl Duhamel four revolutions through the air. He joked that he tosses her, with his best wishes of "Good luck!"
Duhamel lands backward, on one foot.
Canada's two-time world champions gave themselves six weeks to perfect what Radford stressed was no small feat - "We were climbing a mountain." They finally mastered it in five. It took dozens of crashes to get there.
"When I was learning it, I was falling on the same spot, either on my sacrum [a bone in the lower back], or my hip," Duhamel said. "There were many many days I went home and could not sit down, on the couch, in the car, on a chair, because I was in so much pain.
"But I was always so excited to see if it would get closer the next day."
Duhamel would stuff padding down her pants at practice to cushion the blow.
"I didn't use it for long. I knew that it could become a mental safety net, because in competition, where you're wearing a nice dress, you can't wear that," Duhamel said. "I realized that the more I trained with it, I'm going to rely on it, and in competition I'll feel different."
They went on to master the throw quad Lutz and throw triple Axel, but axed both jumps because the points aren't enough to warrant the risks.
Armed with their athleticallytough programs, the Canadians roared to world titles in 2015 and 2016, as well as six national titles.
They dropped off the world podium for the first time since 2012 last spring in Finland. Radford was competing with a herniated disc in his back that left his leg numb, and the two finished seventh.
Radford practises with a back brace and stretches his back nightly, but said he's otherwise 100 per cent.
After the disappointment of last season that also saw them finish third at the Grand Prix Final, Duhamel and Radford fired co-coach Richard Gauthier but kept coach Bruno Marcotte, who's also Duhamel's husband. They added Floridabased coach John Zimmerman as a consultant and enlisted John Kerr and Julie Marcotte to choreograph their programs.
Now the two are intent on claiming the lone title they're missing - Olympic gold. The Canadians were seventh in 2014 in Sochi. Radford said, if their recent training is a good gauge, they're on pace for perhaps their best season yet.
"We're in one of the strongest positions we've ever been in," he said.
"The last three long programs we've done at home have been cleaned. I don't think we even managed one clean run-through last season."
Skate Canada kicks off a sort of farewell season for Duhamel and Radford, along with singles skater Patrick Chan and ice dancers Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, who are also expected to retire after the Pyeongchang Olympics in February.
"I remember my first Skate Canada in 2007, I came last [with former partner Craig Buntin]," Duhamel said. "I was like 'I'm at Skate Canada, I've made it, this is incredible!' I didn't care that I came last. So it's so incredible to imagine the journey from there, it really puts things in perspective, on what we've been able to do with our careers."