It had been a long and sometimes uncertain road for Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford the past four years.
But weathering the lows that came with the highs and sticking with it paid off in the end for the Canadian duo, who closed out an eight-year competitive pairs partnership on the highest note of their career in PyeongChang.
A gold medal in the Team Event and bronze in the pairs competition — it was more than either dared to dream about in the seasons leading up to the 2018 Olympic Winter Games. “You get to a low point when you don’t know if you’re ever going to get back to where you were,” Radford said. “But last summer, we started dreaming those big dreams again.”
Though they medaled at every event they competed at last season, the duo placed behind the other top teams at all but one (Skate Canada). After winning two World titles in 2015 and 2016, Duhamel and Radford found themselves a distant seventh the following season, which gave them cause for reflection.
“About a year ago, we had almost started accepting that top five or six at the Olympics would be an accomplishment,” Duhamel admitted. “All of last season was disappointment after disappointment and it’s not fun to live your life feeling disappointed and lost. That’s how we were for the entire season and although we had ups and downs this season, I don’t think we ever felt disappointed. We can thank all our achievements to our struggles because that’s what defined us and made us who we are today.”
The seven-time national champions have been trailblazers and role models for the Canadian pairs teams that have come up behind them and both feel they are leaving the discipline in great shape. “I think we changed pairs skating. We pushed the technical side beyond what it had been for two decades,” Radford said. “I think it’s the greatest generation of figure skaters that Canada has ever produced.
“What a great time to be part of it,” Duhamel added. “I think that Canada is always in a position to win medals, maybe not in every discipline, but the future is looking bright.”
Radford said he is grateful that his success has also enabled him to be a role model for gay athletes around the world and feels proud “and very lucky that my success in my sport has given me a platform and a voice that is going to be heard. Part of the reason I didn’t want to come out in 2014 was because I wanted to establish myself as an athlete first. I didn’t want my sexuality to be the main story.”
The decorated team is leaving the sport with no regrets and both are looking forward to starting a new era. While they plan to tour and perform in shows in the immediate future, each has their own separate agenda.
Duhamel and her husband, Bruno Marcotte, plan to start a family. She also intends to become a technical specialist.
Radford plans to venture into coaching and choreography at some point and “is looking forward to travelling and existing in the world outside of figure skating” with his fiancée, Luis Fenero. The duo is currently planning their wedding.
“Meagan’s and my lives are intertwined and will be for the rest of time,” Radford said. “We’re definitely keeping our foot in the door when it comes to skating. We just feel fortunate that we’ll have these incredible memories for the rest of our lives.”
“I feel so settled when I think about everything we’ve done in the last eight years together as a team,” Duhamel added. “We did everything and more than we could possibly have dreamed of.
“Everything feels so complete. I feel so complete right now that I can just be happy for the rest of my life. We both look forward to staying in skating and doing other things, but we will keep this feeling of the four performances that we did at the Olympic Games as the lasting impression of our skating careers.
“I don’t think we could have dreamt for it to end much better.”
Duhamel and Radford officially announced their retirement on April 25. In a statement released by Skate Canada the duo had this to say:
“I am extremely thankful and grateful for the incredible journey that the sport of figure skating gave me. I’m thankful to my family, who were my first supporters and first fans; they instilled a work ethic in me that became the base of my success and they encouraged me to dream big. Thank you to all my coaches over the years at the Walden Skating Club: Lana, Becky and Nancy.
“Thank you to Lee Barkell and his team at the Mariposa School of Skating from 2000-2007 and to Bruno Marcotte, Richard Gauthier, Sylvie Fullum, Julie Marcotte and Ian Connolly, my team in Montreal since 2007, who took a chance on me and believed in me during times I couldn’t find faith.
“Most importantly, thank you to my skating partners: Ryan Arnold, Craig Buntin and Eric Radford. Ryan and Craig both gave me the fundamentals of pairs skating and the tools of how to work as a pair team so that I could eventually thrive with Eric. I cherish all the moments, both good and bad, with all three of my partners. Thanks to Eric for being the best partner anyone could ask for.
“One more big thank you goes to all the amazing fans of figure skating in Canada. It’s been a true pleasure to share my love of skating with you all. Thank you for supporting me over the years, I truly appreciate it. Although I’m leaving the competitive world of figure skating, I will never leave the sport completely. Figure skating was my first love and I want to spend the rest of my life with this sport, in many different capacities.”
“I could never have imagined that my skating career would be filled with so many incredible and unforgettable moments. From the outdoor rink in Balmertown to the Olympic podium, there were many people whose unwavering support made it all possible and gave the journey so much more meaning. Thank you to my parents and family for believing in me and my dream from day one, to my fiancé Luis for inspiring me and giving perspective to the most difficult times, to my friends for cheering for me no matter where I was in the world and to the team of coaches, Bruno, Julie, Ian, Richard and Sylvie that made Meagan and I the best pair team we could be.
“Finally, I want to thank Meagan. Her incredible drive and determination always pushed and inspired me to be my best and I’m so happy we got to share all those amazing moments together. I couldn’t feel prouder that we got to represent Canada around the world throughout our career. Your love of our sport and the support you show all the athletes have given me some of the best and most special moments in my career.”