Meagan Duhamel/Eric Radford: “We have to go out there and deliver”

Reigning World Pairs Champions Meagan Duhamel/Eric Radford of Canada talked at NHK Trophy about their beginning of the season, Meagan’s wedding and quads in pair skating.

Q: You started this season the way you had finished the past one – by winning. How do you rate the beginning of your season?

Meagan: We’ve done four competitions until now. Two of the four have gone really well and two of the four haven’t gone well. Even if we win, we’re not satisfied unless we gave our best performance. At Skate Canada we had a great long, so we felt really proud of that. At NHK Trophy we didn’t do a very good long, so for us it doesn’t feel that special to win when we don’t skate our best.

Eric: Although, when we look at last season, we had a very similar type of skate at NHK Trophy where we didn’t skate so well but we still ended up winning. We kind of went back to the drawing board after that and had a great rest of the season, especially at the Grand Prix Final. It seems like we’re following the same path which could be a good thing.

Q: You entered this season as the World Champions. How different is that and how much pressure does it add?

Meagan: This year we haven’t competed yet against our main competitors. At both our events we didn’t have Sui/Han norStolbova/Klimov. We’re always focused on giving our best performance and we want to improve our scores that we did last year. We know we can do a new personal best, we know that we’re capable of reaching 150 in the long program and we understand that if we skate a clean short and a clean long we’re kind of in control of our own destiny, the way we were last year. But we have to go out there and deliver. So that’s going to be our focus for the rest of the season.

Eric: It doesn’t feel that different (being World Champions). I think last year it was really just about letting go of all our expectation and then we were on the podium. It was kind of a surprise. And now I think the only difference would be just a little bit more of a quiet confidence and knowing that we can do it. We’ve done it before and now we can do it again, whereas last year each time we did it, it was a little bit more of a surprise.

Q: Even though you were considered the favorites?

Meagan: You never know on the day what’s going to happen and we know that our competitors were very strong. We were going to Worlds in China, against three strong Chinese teams. Of course, on the day anything can happen and in particular at these Worlds in the short program everybody skated so well. We couldn’t make a mistake in the short program or we would have put ourselves out of the game. Even if we were considered the favorites we never really thought about that or felt like that. We felt we need to do our job. That was always our main focus.

Q: When you prepared for the season, how did you choose your programs “Your Song” and “Hometown Glory”?

Eric: The short program music was chosen by our choreographer Julie Marcotte and it’s a piece of music that is just naturally suited to us. We like that sort of grand, inspiring type of music. The same goes for the long program. It’s a song that is very close to Meagan. Meagan had seen Adele sing that song way before anybody knew who Adele was. We actually had done a show program to it a few years ago and that type of music is just music that really implicitly resonates with Meagan and I. We just can naturally feel it. It’s not something that we need to learn to skate to. It is something that will come through us very easily. I think that that was naturally the next step in our career and for our skating, to develop that side of our skating, to have it come through more and more, because we always were and still kind of are recognized as a technical team. I think that we we’ve taken another step with the artistic side of your skating and that lends itself to that pretty easily.

Q: How did you discover that song back then?

Meagan: It was played in an episode of “Grayson Academy”. It’s a popular American sitcom about doctors in a hospital. Every episode, they used a kind of unknown songs and that was one of those they used. My friend recognized it and then someone did it on “So you think you can dance”, which is a dancing competition on TV in America. This was back in 2007. And I went and saw her in like a library, maybe a 100 people were there. She was wearing a big blue T-Shirt and nobody knew her. She was a nobody and nobody knew about her. She sang songs from her first albums and one of them was “Hometown Glory”. I really liked that album and that song in particular. Like Eric said we used it for a show and then Julie brought it up that we should use it maybe for our long program.

Q: You got married this summer to your coach Bruno Marcotte. How was the wedding?

Meagan: Everything turned really well. It was really quick. We finished Stars on Ice in Canada, then I had the wedding and then we came directly to Japan to do some shows. It was kind of thrown into the middle of everything. We didn’t do a honeymoon, because we’ve been really busy and now as the season started both of our schedules have become really busy as well. It was a really nice event, but not much has changed in my life since then, everything has kind of rolled on as normal.

Eric: It was so much fun and extremely beautiful. The wedding was picture perfect and Meagan looked amazing. Bruno (Marcotte), Richard (Gauthier) and Mervin Tran all played the ukulele and the guitar and sang as Meagan walked on the aisle. It was very, very great time.

Q: How are you now going to prepare for the second half of the season that is coming up?

Meagan: We have to go back on focusing on doing a clean program. That was our goal at Skate Canada, we took out the quad Lutz at Skate Canada, because we wanted to do a clean program. We didn’t do a perfect program there, but it was pretty close to as good as we can do. Our score reflected how well we skated. Now we have to kind of go back to that mentality. Maybe we’ll re-arrange some things. We’re thinking of putting the triple toe combination a bit earlier into the program. For a three-jump combination it’s coming pretty late and we don’t get a bonus for that. There’s really no point in doing that. Our focus is really going to be on cleaning up technically our long program and executing a smooth and clean short program.

Q: The quad Lutz is a big thing.

Meagan: We wanted to put it into our long program, but now we’re realizing that it was more ambitious than we thought to do a program with two quad throws. In our heads it was like – we did the throw quad Sal all season, we should be ready to put another one in, but I don’t think I throw quad Sal will ever be easy. We have so much technical things in our long program, maybe right now – like at Skate Canada we didn’t do the throw quad Lutz and we didn’t need it to get a high score. So we have to look at strategically what’s the best method.

Q: How difficult is the throw quad Lutz in comparison to the throw quad Salchow? Nobody has done it.

Meagan: We still plan on being the first ones to do it. I’ve not given up on that.

Eric: I think technically when it comes to the actual, physical technique of doing it, it’s not that much different from the throw quad Salchow. It’s just the mental aspect I think is different than the quad throw Salchow, especially when we try to do both. I think if we would do a throw triple Sal and a throw quad Lutz it wouldn’t be such a big deal, because we do that throw quad Sal and if it’s a little off, then the pressure is on the second throw quad, because we don’t want to make two big mistakes in the program. We definitely know we’re capable of doing it, it just takes a little bit more time for the idea of doing the two throw quads to become comfortable in the long program.

Meagan: In the summer, when we started playing around with the idea of the throw quad Lutz, we had been hearing a lot of rumours about all these people that were going to come out with quads this year. So we kind of thought we need a second quad.

Eric: We put a lot of pressure on ourselves.

Meagan: But at Skate Canada we scored 143 with one big mistake in our long, without the triple toe combination. So we understand if we would land that, with one quad, our score still will be high enough for us to have the possibility of winning. Now I think we need two throw quads, but we’d like to. Maybe at one competition this year we’ll do the throw triple Sal and the throw quad Lutz, so we can have that chance to be the first in the world to do the quad Lutz.

Q: What is your wish for the season?

Meagan: I think we would like to be able to repeat the feeling that we got at Skate Canada in the long program and to be able to be consistent not have a competition where it is good and a competition where it is not good. We want to be able to continue on the upswing for the rest of the season and being able to improve our personal best. That’s a big goal. The results will come when we skate our best. We’re confident in that. We can’t just focus on finishing in first place, because we understand that there will be a time that we’re not going to win. We’re human beings, we’re not machines or computers. When we’re going to be at Worlds, there is five or six teams that can all be fighting for the podium it probably will push everybody to skate even better in that moment, because we’re all competitors.

Eric: I think that this season in pairs is very different from last season. Last season was after the Olympics, the field in pairs had changed, some people weren’t there and it was kind of more a free for all where, whoever is going to step up and grab the opportunity. I think we kind of did that. We made it happen for ourselves. This season, you can see, all the teams nobody backed down, everybody is going for the win. It has made the field of pairs extremely strong and very exciting to watch. Maybe we started a movement towards higher degree of difficulty in the technique, but there is so many teams following suit and it’s actually, as much as it put the pressure on us, it’s extremely to see that people are still pushing themselves. It just shows how hungry everybody is to win and be the best.

Q: Therefore you’d like to see a quad in the short allowed.

Meagan: Yes, we’d really like that.

Eric: I think it would be the logical next step for pairs figure skating.

Meagan: When you look at the pairs team that either execute a throw quad or a quad twist or try – out of the top ten in the world there are a lot that are trying it and I think that it’s time to take the step forward. Pairs has had the same required elements in the short program for a long time and I don’t see what’s wrong with doing it. There is no more danger. Yes, it’s more risk, but high risk, high reward and I think it should be put into the short program.

Q: Do you think, if the rules are change, there will be allowed two quads, throw and twist or the option to do one of them as a quad?

Meagan: If they allow both (quad throw and twist) that would be crazy, but cool. I have a feeling that maybe it would be one and then maybe progress to two. If they put two in, then good for the people that can do the quad twist and throw quad and side by side jump in the short program, my hat off to them. That would be really impressive.

Q: However, some people are concerned that including too many quads will take away from pair skating, make it too technical.

Eric: But how? People say that, but we always wonder why. Has doing quads in the Men’s competition taken away from anything? I don’t think so. So I don’t think that doing quads in pairs is takting away from anything. Maybe people are afraid that there is teams out there that don’t do quads that won’t win anymore, because they can’t do them.

Meagan: That’s what happened in Men’s skating too, at one point.

Eric: And now look we had a field here (at NHK Trophy) where every man went for a quad in the short program. And that’s just the way sport is. It was actually Plushenko, we were talking to him this summer, and he said, if Usain Bolt runs the 100 meters faster than everybody else, than he wins. It doesn’t matter how pretty he looks when he’s running. There is that artistic aspect to our sport and it is important and it makes skating so special. But the reason it is a sport is because it has that aspect, of if somebody can something that somebody else can’t, they should win. And that’s what sport is about. I hope that remains clear to people as the sport progresses.

Meagan: I think it really does bother us when people say that the quads take away from pair skating, because the throw is a pair element, first of all. I mean, Kawaguchi/Smirnov have been doing the throw quad Salchow for many, many years and it hasn’t taken away anything from their skating. When Elvis Stojko started doing a quad toe, nobody said like ‘oh, that has to stop, it is too dangerous’. Yes, some people get hurt, but I got hurt when I learned a double Axel. But I didn’t decide to stop learning my double Axel, because it’s dangerous. It’s just part of the process. There is always a danger aspect to anything. To me, a triple twist is dangerous, more than a throw quad, in my opinion. That is just how I feel. But I still have to do a triple twist. So I think the talk about the quad is taking away from pairs and not being necessary in pairs… I think the value of a throw quad is not worth enough in pairs. At Worlds, we did a throw quad with our hand down. So I didn’t fall and about five teams got more points for their throw triple Sal than we got for that throw quad, because it is not worth that much. A man’s quad Sal is worth a lot more than a pairs throw quad Sal. I’d like to see that changed one day.