A MISSED OPPORTUNITY SPARKED GOLDEN MOMENT
Silver didn’t sit so well four years ago, so organizers and athletes hatched a plan
They are the team that didn’t need to be led, but led they were, by pride and drive, adversity and a shared common goal — that of world domination — and, oh yes, love.
Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, Patrick Chan, Eric Radford and Meagan Duhamel, Gabby Daleman, Kaetlyn Osmond, all on stage in a single room on the day they won the team figure-skating gold: They look like skaters, but they sounded like hockey players, grateful and cerebral.
Radford spoke of “little small moments,” the way Moir met his eyes and gave a nod just after the announcer had called his and Duhamel’s names and they went off to compete, or how he took his roomie Chan aside, after he’d had a couple of tough practices, and told him, “You don’t owe anybody anything. You go out there for yourself. We love you, we’re gonna support you.”
After the team event made its debut four years ago at Sochi, and the Canadians finished second, Moir and Duhamel, in particular, felt a nagging sense of something having slipped between their fingers.
Mike Slipchuck, the former skater who is now the highperformance director for Skate Canada, was feeling the same way. The three of them hatched the plot for world supremacy.
As Duhamel put it, “This was the plan. We made this plan … maybe we didn’t plan our team properly four years ago. I mean, silver was great but we missed the opportunity for gold. And there’s nothing worse than that little bit of disappointment.
“And it was decided we were going to put the best team forward for this gold medal, which meant that Eric and I had to compete four times in one week (in the regular pairs), and Patrick had to compete four times in a week and a half (in the coming singles event). We didn’t want to take any chances.
“Everyone was on the same page. We were taking this seriously.”
Never before have Duhamel and Radford had to compete so much in such a short time.
But, as she said, “you come to the Olympics in the best shape of your life — mentally, physically and emotionally. You’re on top of your game, and when you’re given the opportunity to compete at the Olympics, you compete as much as possible, because it won’t happen again, for me.”
She and Radford, like Virtue and Moir and Chan, are retiring after these Games.
Duhamel and Radford nailed first. Chan struggled through a tough short program, but turned in a superb long one to grab another first place and the big points which go with it. Osmond, in the short, and Daleman, in the long, got a third, and before Virtue and Moir even got on the ice, the team had enough points that the reigning world dance couple practically could have stayed on the couch eating bonbons and Canada still would have got the gold.
Instead, of course, they put on the usual magnificent show.
Skating is usually a sport of individuals, at most two individuals working as a couple. With the kiss-and-cry, glittery costumes and makeup, the stuffed toys fans throw on the ice, it can also appear a little flaky.
Yet skaters are as tough as any athlete, and as capable of selflessness. Now, it’s just easier to recognize.
From their disparate little towns and with their different stories and challenges, these seven became a gold medal team.
Radford’s journey from Balmertown — a dot of about 1,000 people on the map of northwestern Ontario and a huge drive from Thunder Bay in one direction and Winnipeg in another — is not a bad metaphor.
He stayed there until he was 13, whereupon he moved, for his skating, to Kenora, which blew him away with its wondrous size and bright lights.
“I was like, ‘There’s so many more people,’ ” he said. The next year, he was off to Winnipeg. “I remember looking out the window
at the skyscrapers there,” he said. Now, when he goes back, he recognizes how small the Manitoba capital really is. Then it was onto Montreal, and the year after that, Toronto.
Now he’s 33, he’s seen the world, he’s engaged (to a man, Spanish skater Luis Fenero, he adores), and he knows what counts, what “transcends” he said, are the strong relationships.
“Who gets to go to the Olympics and stand on an Olympic podium with this group of people? It’s like one in a billion odds. I think we really appreciate one another. … There’s just such a lot of love, between all of us.”
Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir celebrate Canada’s gold medal in the team event in the Gangneung Ice Arena on Monday. Virtue and Moir, as well as Meagan Duhamel, Eric Radford and Patrick Chan, are retiring from competitive figure skating after the Games.