Ice Network

Duhamel, Radford top pairs behind career day

Stolbova, Klimov take silver for Russia; Sui, Han claim bronze medal
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With a career-best free skate -- one that included a cleanly landed throw quad Salchow -- Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford won the gold medal by exactly seven points. They are Canada's first Grand Prix Final pairs champions since Jamie Salé and David Pelletier, who took their second of two consecutive titles in 2001. -Getty Images

Canada's Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford have won two world bronze medals, a Four Continents title and three Canadian crowns. And now, they have finally reached the podium of the Grand Prix Final in the best of ways: with gold medals and a season's best and personal-best score of 146.22 points for the free skate, finishing with 220.70 overall.

Russia's Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov placed second with a stellar performance to music from Notre Dame de Paris by Richard Cocciante, which earned them 141.39 points and 213.72 overall. Three-time world junior champions Wenjing Sui and Cong Han, from China, held on to third place despite finishing fifth in the free with 127.65 points for 194.31 overall.

"One of our major goals here in Barcelona will be to improve our season best on our free program," Duhamel said before the competition started.

They did far more than that.

As soon as she and Radford stepped onto the ice -- and they were the last to skate Saturday afternoon -- it was clear that they were ready to live and share a great moment of skating with the audience. Performing to a Muse medley, they opened with a solid triple twist, followed by their trademark side-by-side triple Lutzes, on which Duhamel put a hand on the ice. They then went on to land a perfect throw quad Salchow, which earned them 8.71 points. They landed their triple toe-double toe-double toe combination in complete sync, and all their spins, spiral and lifts were rated Level 4.

"We've been waiting a long time to deliver a performance like this one in competition," Duhamel said. "It's our fate to skate after great performances like Ksenia and Fedor's was today, and we tend to dry out in competition. That was not the case here."

Their long, melodic part set to "My heart opens to your voice," from Camille Saint-Saëns' Samson and Delilah as rearranged by Muse, was a pure delight -- one of those moments that figure skating was invented for.

Duhamel and Radford did not just skate their program, nor did they simply interpret it: They lived it.

"We have found the right balance between our skating and our lives," Duhamel told icenetwork after their short program.

They may have also found the right formula within their skating itself, between their highly technical program and the way they portray it to their audience.

After delivering such high-quality performances in Barcelona, Duhamel and Radford appear on their way to that world title they have been fighting for these last four seasons.

Stolbova and Klimov delivered another near-perfect rendering of Notre Dame de Paris. They opened with a triple twist and followed with a beautiful throw triple flip, which they landed perfectly to the musical beat. She, however, only completed two elements of their side-by-side triple toe-double toe-double toe combination, while he completed all three. The rest of their program was perfect. The audience erupted in applause as they landed a magnificent throw triple Salchow in the final seconds. Their elements were all rated Level 4.

"Today was almost our best performance this year, except for one mistake," Klimov said. "We got all the levels we planned, so it was good. We understand, however, that we still have to improve some technical elements to gain more points."

Stolbova and Klimov have found a very smart way to play with the lyrics of their free program. The musical they skate to has been a worldwide hit, so multiple versions of it exist everywhere. After skating to it in French while they were in Bordeaux for Trophée Eric Bompard, they chose a Spanish version for the Final in Barcelona.

"I don't understand the version in French and Spanish, but I can understand it in English and in Russian, so I can understand what the story is about," Klimov said. "At this moment, we have not found the Chinese version yet, but we're still trying!" he concluded, laughing.

Sui and Han had a rough evening, and made an unsual mistake in their program, which they skated to "Francesca da Rimini: Symphonic Fantasy after Dante, Op. 32" by Tchaikovksy. They landed their quad twist with ease but completely missed their subsequent planned triple toe-double toe-double toe combination.

"Even though we lost many points in this program, we are still happy," Han said. "That we can get this place after such a program is amazing."

China's Cheng Peng and Hao Zhang, who came in fifth in the short program, skated to Allegretto from "Piano Trio No. 2" by Dmitri Shostakovich, music that was brought to skating by Carolina Kostner some three seasons ago. Peng and Zhang, like Kostner, work with choreographer Lori Nichol. Peng and Zhang produced a quadruple twist, throw triple loop and Salchow as well as three Level 4 lifts. Their side-by-side double Axel eluded her, however, but that was their only mistake. They earned 129.33 points for the free, and 191.79 overall. They ended in third place in the free for fourth place overall.

China's Xiaoyu Yu and Yang Jin landed side-by-side triple toes and a double Axel-double Axel combination. They landed a crystal-clear triple twist and a clean throw triple loop. The 2014 world junior champions seemed to oscillate on the ice over their free to "Humility and Love" music, from the Creation soundtrack. The delicate piano tune emphasized their pure and beautiful lines. They earned 125.08 points for their free skate, a new season's best, finishing with 187.79 overall. They placed sixth in the free, but their result in the short secured them fifth place overall.

Russia's Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov were the first team of the afternoon to take the ice. They entered so tense, after the disastrous showing they experienced in the short program. They managed to hold on to that monumental music their coach Tamara Moskvina has chosen for them, "Manfred Symphony" by Tchaikovsky

Kavaguti and Smirnov completed their side-by-side, triple toe-triple toe combos and double Axels, and almost landed their throw quad Salchow cleanly, as Kavaguti had to put a hand on the ice. Their throw triple loop was perfect, and their lifts and pairs combination spin earned Level 4. They garnered 128.57 points for the free, the fourth-best score of the afternoon, for 184.54 overall.