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Reflecting on Worlds: Duhamel & Radford's Joyful Free

  • Reflecting on Worlds: Duhamel & Radford's Joyful Free

    BOSTON, MA - APRIL 02: Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford of Canada skate in the Pairs Free Skate on Day 6 of the ISU World Figure Skating Championships 2016 at TD Garden on April 2, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Let's be honest here - Boston is just as close to Canada as it is to anywhere in the USA. So it was really no surprise that there were almost as many maple leaves flying in the TD Garden as there were stars and stripes. (At least one fan had a maple leaf flag with the leaf patterned with stars and stripes, which was...unique.)

And when all was said and done in the pairs event, those flags were flying high and the fans were raucous in their delight, because, to the surprise of some, Canadian pair Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford had repeated as World Champions.

It was a feisty, tough event. The Chinese pair of Wenjing Sui and Cong Han had broken the world record in the short program. The much talked-about German pair of Aliona Savchenko and Bruno Massot had wowed the crowds with their twist height. And the Russian pairs, particularly reigning Olympic champions Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov, were heavily favoured to do well.

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Yet Meagan and Eric never once looked rattled. They skated well in the short program, set to Ewan McGregor's cover of Your Song, and slotted themselves in nicely behind Sui and Han. And when the Chinese pair stumbled in the free skate, and with the Russian pairs underperforming and the Germans not quite soup yet, they found themselves perfectly positioned to take advantage.

And take advantage they did!

Their free skate, to Adele's Hometown Glory, started slowly enough, with a clean triple twist, but really exploded into action when the side-by-side triple Lutzes were landed. Meagan and Eric were the only pair at this event to attempt the triple Lutz as a side-by-side jump, and after group after group of triple toes and triple Salchows, it immediately felt like the technical bar had been raised.

Almost directly afterwards, they began the setup for one of the hardest and most spectacular elements of the night: a throw quadruple Salchow. The grin of sheer delight that lit up Meagan's face when she landed it was visible even from the topmost rows. It was followed by the side-by-side combinations - an excellent triple toe-double toe-double toe, a little off-centre but still cleanly landed.

The side-by-side combination spins showed both partners to the best advantage, making use of positions that they could each do well - it is surprising how some pairs can get this wrong. After some speed was built, it was time for the first lift, really showcasing Eric's strength as he held Meagan aloft with one hand - and then put her down with one hand in a smooth, controlled dismount. He and Bruno Massot were the only two male partners that night to achieve that really casual-looking one-handed dismount.

The magnificent thing, at this point in the program, was how well everything simply flowed together. Before you'd finished processing the lift dismount, they were readying for the throw triple Lutz. And when Meagan landed it - there is no other description, she absolutely radiated joy. She knew they were skating well, she knew they were hitting, and she knew the crowd was excited. She was clearly feeding off that excitement.

When Eric lifted Meagan into the second lift, it created a great picture of Meagan's smile from that high vantage point, a smile to spread the happiness she was obviously feeling. They made quite the stunning pair - Meagan, obviously delighted and wearing her heart on her (metaphorical, since her dress was sleeveless) sleeve, and Eric, calm and stoic, showing the drama of the program on his face but giving little else away.

For me, their pair spin is one of my ultimate favourites. It includes a unique moment were Meagan moves from a camel position to a sit and Eric, still in flawless basic camel position, effectively spins over her head. I'd been taken by it on video all season, and it was no less spectacular live.

And then came the third and final lift, where Meagan could not stop smiling, and the crowd cheered because they knew what she knew: they were going clean, and they were going to win. Below her Eric was rock-steady, never flinching or stumbling or hestitating, turning first in one direction then the other, before hitting an Ina Bauer with his feet, while still holding his partner aloft. The crowd's approval was loud and long.

All it took to finish it off was the death spiral, and it was so flawless that the crowd did not stop cheering from the start of it until the end. And then it was over, and Meagan was jumping up and down, and Eric's cool composure slipped into a beam of joy. They knew they had won, and it was not long after that that the numbers made it official.

Pairs is the most frightening discipline to watch live, for me - but that night, I was too entranced to be scared. By chance I had an emoticon stuffed cushion with me to throw - I had intended on giving it to whoever had a "moment" that night, and I don't think it was any coincidence that that cushion I threw to Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford had hearts for eyes.

You can watch this infectiously joyful performance here.

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