Ice Network

Duhamel, Radford scale new heights in short

Yu, Zhang show promise, take second; Denney, Frazier sit fourth
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Canada's Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford rocked their short to the Seal song "Killer," landing their throw triple axel on their way to a personal-best score of 78.39. The two-time reigning world champions look to be on their way to a third straight Skate Canada title after taking a lead of almost nine points over the field. -Getty Images

Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford are happy they landed a throw triple axel in their short program at 2016 Skate Canada on Friday, especially since they only landed their first throw single axel in March. They're thrilled with gaining a new personal-best score (78.39) so early in the season, and they feel good about the nearly 10-point lead they take into Saturday's free skate.

They just wish the throw, which has a base value of 7.7 points, was worth more. A lot more.

"We got about 7 1/2 points out of it, mostly zero (Grades of Execution) across the board, and the Chinese team (Xiaoyu Yu and Hao Zhang) got 6.4 points for a throw triple loop, so it just goes to show you it's not that much more for how big a risk it is," Radford said. "The pressure is on. When you do an ultra-difficult element, you have to do it perfectly to get any benefit out of it."

Duhamel landed the throw triple axel -- a move no other pair in the world does -- with a slight brush of her foot, which cost a few tenths of a point; Radford had a tiny bobble on the landing of his triple lutz.

Otherwise, the hard-edged program to "Killer" by Seal bubbled with controlled aggression and excitement. For that, we can partly thank International Skating Union rules.

"It was a little bit of a frustration that they don't let you put quads in the short program. We're not really sure why," Duhamel said. "So we were like, 'How can we increase the base value of the short without a quad?' We already do the hardest jumps (triple lutzes). The only way to do it was to learn the hardest throw triple, the axel."

Still, whatever the point value, the two-time world champions -- who will do a throw quad salchow in their free skate -- admit they are risk-takers by nature.

"Meagan and I have always said we find skating fun, day in and day out, and part of the reason is we push ourselves," Radford said. "If we were just to do the same elements year after year, it would get boring. It's fun to challenge ourselves like this."

Yu and Zhang took on a challenge of a far different sort: After competing with different partners for several seasons -- Yu won two world junior titles with Yang Jin, while Zhang placed eighth at the 2014 Sochi Olympics with Peng Cheng -- they teamed up five months ago.

The reason for the switch became obvious with the first element of their short: Yu landed her triple toe, which Cheng was unable to do consistently last season. The rest of the program, including a big triple twist and throw triple loop, was clean, and they sit second with 69.43 points.

The skaters mostly attributed the move to their coach, 2010 Olympic pairs champion Hongbo Zhao, although Zhang also said he and Jin had a good relationship prior to pairing up.

"I believe our coach could see our body lines matched each other and that we may have potential to improve Chinese pair skating," Yu said through an interpreter, later adding, "The two of us met with the coach and analyzed (the situation) and decided to do this."

Canadian silver medalists Lubov Iliushechkina and Dylan Moscovitch are third with 67.53 points after a charming short to "Tango Jalousie." Moscovitch doubled an intended triple toe loop, but otherwise the team skated clean.

The program was choreographed by David Wilson and Marie-France Dubreuil, with additional help from a ballroom tango instructor.

"It was interesting to have David and Marie really play off of each other," Moscovitch said. "She brought her ice dance experience to the construction of the program. It's been an interesting process, a difficult program to learn, especially the footwork at the end."

"Tango is my favorite kind of music; I even have a playlist on my MP3 player," Iliushechkina said. "It was a good experience to have a female skater help me with patterns and understand the positions better and my role in the program."

Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier, winners of the silver medal at Skate America last week, had another strong outing.

The pair, who missed last season due to Denney's serious knee injury, opened their romantic short to music from the Don Juan musical with a big triple twist and a throw triple loop. Frazier faltered on the landing of a triple salchow, but the rest of the program was solid, and they earned 66.50 points.

"That was probably the worst (salchow) I've done since I've been here, so doing that in competition is not something to be proud of," Frazier said. "It was two-footed, not a good take-off. I take the positive that two seasons ago I would have probably popped it, but I'm starting to get more consistent at getting the job done, no matter what."