OLYMPIC STARS ON ICE
Duhamel & Radford’s farewell tour
Even in what might be the deepest pairs figure-skating field in Olympic history, there is separation at the top. Canadians Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford went into the evening’s final poised to be that much better one last time.
They were just good enough for third place in the short program on Wednesday. Good, but not great, as Radford put it so succinctly, after he and Duhamel lost synchronization on their side-by-side triple Lutzes. He was anxious to land the bothersome jump cleanly that he took off early. But they both landed on one foot, which is an improvement, given his previous two-foot troubles.
“Content is a really good word,” Radford said when asked to sum up the performance. “It wasn’t like crazy perfect. But we’re definitely really satisfied, really happy. … We did some good elements, not great. … I think we can take those little things that were off and give ourselves a target.”
On a great day of skating, the truly great scores were reserved for the Chinese pair of Wenjing Sui and Cong Han who earned 82.39 points, and Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov, Olympic Athletes from Russia, who were second with 81.68.
That seems almost an insurmountable advantage over the rest of the field. But the Canadians, who earned 76.82 and sit atop the second cohort, certainly weren’t relegated to the bronze. Nor were they guaranteed a medal.
“I think especially in a field this deep, we could have taken ourselves completely out of contention with missing a major element, and we didn’t do that,” Duhamel said. “We kept ourselves in the mix, and that makes us feel good going forward.”
The other Canadian pairs both advanced as well, despite some hiccups with their programs. Kirsten Moore-Towers’ partner Michael Marinaro doubled a planned sideby-side triple toe and the score of 65.68 reflected that downgrade. Even so, they finished 13th.
“It was an uncharacteristic mistake,” Marinaro said. “We haven’t been doing that at home or in training, so it was a little bit disappointing.”
Charlie Bilodeau’s partner, Julianne Séguin, put her hand down on the landing of a throw triple Lutz, and they earned 67.52 to finish 12th. That put the podium out of reach for them, but Germans Aliona Savchenko and Bruno Massot were set to take a run at it. Their short program put them at fourth, just .23 points behind Duhamel and Radford.
In all, 10 of the 16 teams advancing to the long programs scored 70 points or higher.
“I can’t remember this many skaters scoring over 70,” Radford said. “That used to be the benchmark. Now we have two (pairs) over 80. I think it’s so exciting and I love how each team has their own individual story and style, and strengths and weaknesses.
“The level is incredibly high and we felt privileged to be part of it.”
The long program promised more of the same. Tarasova and Morozov were scheduled to skate last, just ahead of Sui and Han, the only contenders who didn’t skate in the team event to kick off the Olympics. Sui revealed why.
In training prior to coming to South Korea, she suffered a cut to her left leg that required several stitches and plenty of time to heal. They then decided to delay their arrival to train more at home.
“I cried immediately,” she said, of her reaction to the cut from her partner’s skate blade. “I am afraid I can’t skate. Luckily my leader, my coaches, my doctors, they comfort me and help me a lot. That’s why I can sit here.”
And Sui showed no ill effects on the ice. They were as close to perfect as you’ll see in a short program, and it’s hardly a surprise to see them at the top of the standings. They are defending world champs, after all.
No, the major surprise of a surprising event had to be the sparkling performance of North Korean skaters Tae Ok Ryom and Ju Sik Kim. Skating 10th, they sailed through their required elements — triple twist lift, side-by-side triple toes and a throw triple loop — with precision, wowed the crowd, elicited a rousing, flag-waving chorus from the North Korean cheer team and impressed the judges to the tune of 69.40 points, good for second place at the time. They wound up 11th.
Duhamel was cheering them on. Her husband Bruno Marcotte, who is her coach, has also coached the North Koreans in Montreal. And Duhamel gave them some tips.
“I enjoy watching their short program because I worked with them a little bit on the energy of their footwork and their death spiral. So when she starts rolling her head and getting more emotional, yeah, that’s what I asked her to do. I take just a little bit of credit for it, obviously not much.
“They ’re so impressive. The fact they keep coming out and nailing their performances is very respectable.”
The level is incredibly high and we felt privileged to be part of it.
Quebec’s Julianne Seguin and Charlie Bilodeau compete in pairs free skating at the Gangneung Ice Arena.