Ice Network

Duhamel, Radford win, leave room for improvement

Event marked by uneven performances; U.S. teams finish fourth, fifth
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Despite winning easily, Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford were not in their two-time world champion form at the Finlandia Trophy. -Getty Images

It may have been an easy win for Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford, but it wasn't an easy competition by any means.

The reigning two-time world champions traveled to the Finlandia Trophy to get a feel for what it will be like at the 2017 World Championships in Helsinki next March, and while they took the gold medal by a comfortable margin, they did not skate the way they would have hoped.

In the free skate, Duhamel stepped out of a triple lutz and took a fall on the throw quad salchow; the team also had mishaps on the throw triple lutz and the jump sequence. Even with the mistakes, the Canadians were in a class of their own, as the overall quality of the pairs competition in Espoo was not very high.

Duhamel and Radford scored 131.29 points in the free, 22 points less than they did a couple of weeks ago at the Souvenir Georges-Éthier competition, but it was more than enough to win.

"We are proud that we kept fighting throughout the program, even though we didn't feel perfectly comfortable. It's going to help us for the rest of the season, that we started like this," Duhamel said in the press conference. "We are looking forward to showing everyone the growth of these programs from this competition to when we come back to Finland for the world championships."

The pairs free skate followed the same pattern as the short. When it came to jumps and throws, all of the teams had about a 50 percent success rate. In the end, it was the overall quality of skating and non-jumping elements that made the difference. The top three teams remained in the same order in both the short and the free.

If only they could start over

Kristina Astakhova and Alexei Rogonov of Russia edged out Germany's Mari Vartmann and Ruben Blommaert for second place, mostly thanks to their stronger basics and program components.

Their first element, side-by-side triple loops, is a new jump for them, and it resulted in a perfectly synchronized hop-out of the landing and fall on her part. Their program was a sequel of the doll theme they introduced last season.

"Today, we mainly competed against ourselves," Rogonov said. "This is our first serious competition of the season, and it's a preparation for us for Skate America."

The Germans opened with an unexpected mistake, a fall on their triple twist. Vartmann said she would have preferred to start the program over at that point, but they had no choice but to continue.

"It never, ever happens," Vartmann said of the fall. "I didn't know if I wanted to cry or laugh, but I'm really happy that we did our jumps right after that."

"We have to work on the throws. We had problems with them in Nebelhorn Trophy and again here, but this one was better," Blommaert said. "The fall on the the twist was surprising and shocking, but overall it was better than two weeks ago."

Close battle between Americans  

Both U.S. teams remained within one point of each other, both in the short and the free. In the end, Ashley Cain and Tim DeLuc were able to overtake Tarah Kayne and Danny O'Shea and finish fourth in the final standings.

"We gained our personal best here score-wise, so we are happy about that. Every competition we've done, our score has been going up," Cain said. "Honestly, I felt I was very in the moment in this and that we were connected throughout the program. That was the best performance we've put out, and this was our fourth competition together. I'm really happy about the progress we've made so far." 

"I didn't compete for two years, so coming back to pairs was an adjustment," said LeDuc, who skated in shows during his time off. "But we are both such committed and passionate skaters that everything just came together very quickly and all those muscles I didn't torment woke up again very quickly."

Kayne and O'Shea didn't go for full difficulty in their program, but they executed some of the finest lifts of the competition.

In their free skate to "Song of India," she plays the role of a queen, while he is a slave servant.

"The role of the queen suits me better when I skate better," Kayne said with a laugh. "I like it a little bit more when I skate better, but I really enjoy it."

"We both connect a lot with the program," O'Shea said. "We are working very hard this season to make the feel of the program go through every element. It's something that we hope came across.

"But I also I feel that if you perform better, you get to feel even more of it," O'Shea said.