OLYMPIC STARS ON ICE

Duhamel & Rad­ford’s farewell tour

Saskatoon StarPhoenix - - FRONT PAGE - DAN BARNES GANGNEUNG, SOUTH KOREA dbarnes@post­media.com Twit­ter.com/sports­dan­barnes

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.

ARIS MESSINIS/AFP/GETTY IM­AGES

Que­bec’s Ju­lianne Seguin and Char­lie Bilodeau com­pete in pairs free skat­ing at the Gangneung Ice Arena.

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