Ice Network

Duhamel, Radford aim to take their skating higher

Pair stresses importance of finding balance: 'We need to live our lives'
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By putting less emphasis on the throw quad, Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford have alleviated a lot of the pressure that came with attempting to land the difficult element. -Getty Images

Seldom have Canada's Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford skated a short program like the one they did Thursday night at the 2014 Grand Prix Final in Barcelona, Spain. They skated to a song called "Un peu plus haut" (which translates to "A little higher") by French-Canadian singer Ginette Ren. That title also reflects Duhamel's and Radford's skating, as they stand in first place before the free program Saturday night. The team agreed to answer icenetwork's questions after the press conference following their program. Some parts of the post-event press conference were also added to this interview.

Icenetwork: So, how do you feel?

Radford: We feel really, really good. We came to this Final to stand for the first time on a Grand Prix Final podium, and we've taken the first step toward that.

Duhamel: And also we wanted to beat our season's best in our free program. We'll enjoy tonight and focus on our free program. Now, we'd love to finish our free program as happy as we finished our short program!

Icenetwork: It seems that we are seeing a new "Duhamel and Radford" this season. What happened?

Duhamel: That's because last season was so different. It was the Olympic season, and even without realizing it, we put too much pressure on ourselves.

Radford: We did put too much pressure on ourselves. At the end of last year, we thought we would do one more year and then retire. Skating started to feel too heavy, but when we came back after the summer break and started to work on the throw quad, we felt a new lightness and freedom. We did not have to even try that quad! And it brought us freedom. We didn't work at it; it just happened.

Duhamel: We used to train with that feeling of freedom before, but when we reached competition, pressure and stress would just weigh us down. You could see it even on our faces -- we had that look of fear at competitions.

Our coaches were like, how do we get them to perform in competition the way they do in practice? It seems that we found that same balance and formula in competition -- that feeling and energy -- that we bring every morning at practice.

Radford: That was our biggest goal: Feel more freedom and less tension. We did not feel that nervous this week, actually, and that's a great step forward for us.

Icenetwork: You look as if you really wanted to make this season special. Did you train more for it?

Radford (talking as if it were a secret): No. ... We've even been training less, actually. I think we found the perfect balance between on ice and off ice but also with how skating fits in our lives.

Duhamel: We're adults. We don't want skating to take over our lives. We have many things going on in our lives at the moment, and we want to be able to live them as well. We need to live our lives.

Radford made the decision to come out as a gay athlete a few days ago, saying that he wanted to be a role model for other young gay athletes. Asked how the response to his announcement had been, his answer was clear cut.

Radford: The response I have received was phenomenal, almost overwhelming. Of course, you always hope that what you've done is going to reach people and make a difference, but you're never sure. I've received numerous messages. Many young people have come to me and thanked me for that. I was killed for that when I was younger, so it's very fulfilling now to see such a response.

Icenetwork: You are making the news on several occasions this year, as if you wanted to become more visible. Is there a specific reason?

Radford: You know, I think I've always welcomed opening myself to the public. We have been chasing the top five of this sport for a few years. Now we are there. People start to listen to us more. It seems that we are at that point where people start to pay attention.

Duhamel: We feel very settled in our lives now -- not just with skating, but with our lives. It kind of changes our approach to the sport and the way we skate. We've been around for so many years. We feel so much more wise from all the experience we've had. We're able to apply what we were not able to do four years ago, when we first started skating together.

Icenetwork: So now you're talking of going for another quadrennial cycle?

Radford: Our goal has slowly evolved with time. At the beginning of the season, it was clearly to do one more year and then retire. The more it goes, and the more we think that we can manage four more years, [the more it comes down to] enjoying our skating.

Duhamel: The 2018 Olympics are far away. They are a long-term goal, and we have so many short-term goals and life events that will happen along the way before that long-term goal. So we're not getting carried away with 2018. We'll enjoy the time as it comes. We'll work hard, and all of a sudden it's going to be there!

Icenetwork: Coming back to your short program, it was so intense. How did you manage to connect with it so well?

Duhamel: It's been a process throughout the season. At the beginning of the season, we actually had a different piece of music already planned for our short program, but our choreographer found this music. She felt that what Ginette Ren was singing about, the message and the inspiration in this music, would be perfect for Eric and me. It's the style of music we really enjoy skating to. We connected with it right away. At each competition we get more confident in the technical elements, and that leaves us freer to feel the emotion of the program more and more.

Ginette Ren, who sings that song, is a singer from Montréal, where we live and train. She was with the Montreal Canadians, the hockey team, and she sang "O Canada" (the Canadian national anthem) every night they were playing. She became the team's lucky charm. Maybe she will become ours, too? We hope we'll be able to connect with her at some point in the season.

Icenetwork: Have you modified your programs since the Grand Prix Series?

Radford: The short program has remained the same, but we had to change some parts of our free program. We had too much of a relaxed approach. We wanted to fight more in this program, so we had to rework our mental goals. Also, even though our throw quad was very consistent, we put too much emphasis on it and we wanted to give ourselves a better chance to land it. So we changed that, too.

The song "Un peu plus haut" ("A little higher") concludes with the lyrics "C'est beau!" which means "This is beautiful." High and beautiful -- both are reflected perfectly in Duhamel and Radford's skating.