Ice Network

Canada shoulders the load in pairs, dance at TCC

Team North America takes 20-point lead into Saturday evening session
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Two-time world champions Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford were the class of the pairs event in Spokane, defeating their closest rivals by almost 17 points. -Getty Images

SPOKANE, Wash. -- It wasn't as if Meagan Duhamel had to persuade Eric Radford into going through with the team's signature move in the middle of their winning skate at the 2016 KOSÉ Team Challenge Cup.

With mere seconds between their triple lutz and their big throw quad salchow, there was hardly time. So in the brief moment they came face to face, Duhamel made sure her signal was clear.

"I just said, 'Go for it,'" she said.

When she landed the throw, the two-time world pairs champions were on their way to the highlight performance of the early session at Spokane Arena on Saturday afternoon -- and a fulfilling end to a long season.

Encore and redemption proved to be a formidable combination for Team North America, which took a big lead over its rivals from Europe and Asia heading into the deciding singles session Saturday evening.

Though, really, this was an all-Canada afternoon.

Besides Duhamel and Radford's decisive season bow in the pairs competition, Canadians Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje bounced back from disappointment at the World Figure Skating Championships in Boston three weeks ago to edge world bronze medalists -- and North American teammates -- Madison Chock and Evan Bates for the top ice dance prize.

The two Canadian teams combined for a total score of 259.04 -- nearly 20 points ahead of Team Europe (239.42) and far out in front of Team Asia (201.96) -- and split $20,000 in bonus money.

That head start figures to be significant in the evening session, when each team will be able to count two of its three entrants in men's and ladies toward the final total.

"We helped out our team exactly the way we wanted to," Radford said.

Though their convincing win was by no means unexpected, Duhamel and Radford admitted their approach to this last competition required some scaling back.

"We're at the very end of our adrenaline reserves," Radford acknowledged. "We had to take things a little more methodically and keep things closer to us than we would at, say, a world championships or another competition."

In this case, that meant keeping an eye on the score posted by Russian rivals Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov -- 130.46 -- and assessing their needs, especially when Duhamel stumbled a bit out of the triple lutz.

"We had talked before and we knew how the other team had skated, and said if we don't feel good going into the throw, we'd do a triple. We still knew we could win with a triple," Duhamel said. "But even when I missed my jump, I felt confident that I could still manage a decent quad."

It was that, and a little more -- though when the score was first posted, the element had been scored as a triple. Once corrected, the 147.48-point total became a huge boost for Team North America.

"This is the hardest long (program) we've had to do all season in terms of mental approach," Duhamel said. "It was our first full long since worlds, and that's not how we train; we usually do run-throughs every day at home. But it's one of our highest scores ever."

Said Radford, "It's a great sense of accomplishment not only here but for the entire season."

Weaver and Poje settled for half that feeling.

Medalists at each of the previous two world championships, the Canadian dancers wound up fifth in Boston. If Duhamel and Radford felt spent, Weaver and Poje came to Spokane "really looking forward to this competition and going out and doing a performance we could be proud of."

Skating in the afternoon's final group, the Canadians posted a score of 111.56 -- just 0.26 ahead of Chock and Bates.

And winning the bonus money was, according to Weaver, "kind of beside the point, really."

"We work so hard, and it's sad when you feel unfulfilled," she said. "After nine or 10 months of training day in and day out, now we can lay our heads on the pillow at night and feel peace."

Added Poje, "It was so much [redemption] on the world stage, but just for ourselves, knowing that we don't have to go into next season doubting."

Another couple in search of redemption was Alexa Scimeca and Chris Knierim, who were a lackluster ninth at Boston -- but they weren't going to pull out all the stops to get it. In fact, they scaled back their quad twist to a triple in hopes of a cleaner performance.

They got it, scoring 122.15 -- the third-best mark of the afternoon.

"We didn't need [the quad]," Knierim insisted. "If we were going to try to get the highest technical mark, we would have kept it in. But we just wanted to have a good finish."