Perhaps, in so many ways, it seemed like the most obvious of partnerships.
But little did Canada’s Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford realize — at least until now — that their hopes for a successful future in pairs skating lay right in front of them. Or right around the corner, to be exact.
The duo, best friends since childhood growing up in northern Ontario, now live in the same Montreal neighborhood.
“It never, ever crossed my mind. It’s kind of funny,” said Radford, 26, as he talked about the partnership he formed last year with his lifelong friend.
A year ago, both were searching for a partner and a lifeline to keep them in the sport they both love. Then Richard Gauthier, who coaches the team with Bruno Marcotte, made what seemed a rather audacious suggestion at the time.
“Richard was the one who told us, ‘This is what you should do,’” Radford recalled. “We both thought, ‘Okay, we’ll give it a try.’”
Now their heads are spinning about future possibilities in the wake of silver-medal finishes at both the 2011 Canadian and Four Continents Championships.
“When we started together, exactly one year ago, we kind of knew what our potential could be because we had a lot of big tricks,” said Duhamel, of Lively, Ont. “People thought we could jell really well as a team, even though we’re two very opposite skaters.
“We thought maybe we could make Worlds if we were amazing at nationals, but that was more like a dream.”
After Duhamel and her former partner Craig Buntin fell short of their 2010 Olympic dream, both felt they had drained the tank. Buntin retired and Duhamel — her body wracked by two stress fractures, a bulging disc in her back, and a nerve dysfunction in her leg — felt the end had arrived for her, too.
That feeling was fleeting. “The next day I woke up and wanted to skate,” she said. “That immediate reaction told me that retirement was not the right choice for me, and I’m so lucky that Eric was there.”
Indeed, both skaters say their longtime friendship is the bedrock of their pairs partnership, along with the strong technical skills each brings from a background of singles skating.
“Our greatest strength as a team is our relationship with each other,” said Duhamel. “We have no problems working together. We have the same goals and are on the same path to achieve them.”
While both skaters are excited about the prospects that lie ahead, they are taking the time now to enjoy the ride.
“I’ve dreamt about getting to this level for years,” Radford said. “It is exciting and I’m not putting any pressure on myself. I’m really just taking it all in because it is our first year.”
For her part, Duhamel, 25, feels reborn. “This season was Eric’s first time going to Four Continents and first time going to Worlds, so everything was new to him,” she said. “Even though I’ve been to Worlds twice and to Four Continents three times, I have a fresh energy with Eric that’s really nice.”
Radford agreed. “I haven’t been this excited about skating for a long time; it feels amazing. It was something I always hoped and thought could be possible.”
Originally published in June 2011