Northern Ontario stars Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford’s Skate Canada International bronze medal in pairs Saturday afternoon at the Hershey Centre is encouraging.
They’re in their second year together and they’ve already made a name for themselves. They were seventh at the last worlds and a good start to the Grand Prix circuit might mean the momentum and confidence they need to bust into the upper stratosphere.
“It’s awesome for us to get a bronze medal in our first Grand Prix of the year,” the 26-year-old Radford said.
Where they go from here, it’s worth watching.
Their short program was a team-best. In their long, they saved themselves from disaster on one wonky lift.
“The first rule for boys is, ‘Save the girl,” Radford quipped.
They head to Paris in a couple of weeks for their second stop. Maybe by next year’s Skate Canada in Windsor, they will be expected to be podium-bound.
Plenty of Canadian pairs have flirted with top spot on home ice, but no one has sealed the deal in a decade since Jamie Sale and David Pelletier did it in their 2001 lead-up to their Olympic win.
It doesn’t take a duo that long to get to the top once they forge some chemistry. Duhamel and Radford appear to have that comfortable feeling with each other.
There are some sensational teams to topple, including relatively new Russian partnership of Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov, the Skate Canada champs and 2011 world silver medallists.
Trankov, who once lived in a soldier’s quarters, sees pairs skating as sneaky business.
He and Volosozhar held back on debuting their new lifts earlier this season because they found other teams were simply watching them, then going back and imitating them.
There are no copyright laws on figure-skating lifts.
“We didn’t want to create lifts for other teams,” he said.
It’s hard to blame him.
There is little question the Russian figure skating team is aiming at being a powerhouse at home in Sochi. They were shut out of gold in Vancouver and it was hard to swallow.
If Duhamel and Radford can keep improving and catch up to Volosozhar-Trankov and Evgeni Plushenko returns to battle Chan, it could create a figure-skating version of the Canada-Russia Summit Series in Sochi.
That would be something.
Of course, the Canadian women once again have to step up their game.
The Russians just had a little 14-year-old named Elizaveta Tuktamisheva win Skate Canada, the first senior Grand Prix event of her young life.
There are a group of young skaters like her back home.
She didn’t seem at all surprised by what she was able to accomplish this week.
“I try to forget about the pressure,” she said. “I want to approach every event the same, big or small.”
She came to Canada for the experience of competing against older international women.
After what she did here, there’s a chance she could win the Grand Prix final in Quebec City later this year.
“I am taking it one step at a time,” she said. “My goal is to qualify for the Grand Prix final and if I do that, then I can think about winning.”
She beat veteran Japanese skater Akiko Suzuki, who jumped her way into second place and American Ashley Wagner, who said she was pooped by the end of her free skate.
“I don’t want to lose sight of the long-term goal and that’s our nationals,” Wagner said. “That’s my focus this year. If I do well (internationally), that’s great.”
Amelie Lacoste finished sixth and was disappointed in her effort. Notorious slow season starter Cynthia Phaneuf was seventh, but landed her triple Lutz which had been giving her problems.
“Our women are doing the same things everyone else is doing,” Thompson said. “They just need to pull it all together at the right time.”
They’re on the clock.