Canada's Meagan Duhamel, Eric Radford settle for baffling bronze in pairs at figure skating worlds
Judges bizarrely award higher marks to silver medal-winning German duo
Third-place Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford of Canada celebrate during the pairs victory ceremony at the 2013 World Figure Skating Championships on Friday, March 15, 2013 in London, Ont.
Photograph by: Brendan Smialowski, AFP/Getty Images
LONDON, Ont. — First came the train wreck, followed closely by the travesty.
Defending and four-time world champions Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy of Germany stumbled and backpedalled — she doubled all her triple jumps — and just generally looked lost in space through an uncharacteristically tepid performance in Friday’s pairs free skate at the world figure skating championships.
Then the marks came up, with a set of component scores — the old artistic impression marks of the 6.0 era — so generous, even Salt Lake City’s infamous French judge would have blushed with embarrassment.
Canadian champion Meagan Duhamel, who with her partner Eric Radford had stood in first place and was confident of still being there with only one significant pair left to skate, gaped at the television monitor.
You mean ... passed by the Germans ... after that ...?
Yes, Meagan, there is a Santa Klaus.
“That’s figure skating,” said the 27-year-old from Lively, Ont.
While Russians Tatania Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov provided a strong final passage to the event and deservedly won Russia’s first pairs gold since 2005 by three touchdowns, what transpired immediately behind them was everything that wasn’t supposed to happen under the new judging/scoring system, and yet it happened Friday.
What might have been a silver-bronze finish by Duhamel-Radford and the No. 2 Canadian pair, Kirsten Moore-Towers and Dylan Moscovitch, was derailed by a nearly incomprehensible decision to prop up the marquee skaters with the segment of the total score that can still be fudged.
Szolkowy candidly admitted after the short program that he and Savchenko were marked a lot better than they skated. Friday, he might as well have said: “Just use the quotes from Wednesday.”
He didn’t, though. You don’t throw a silver medal back into the pond. Someone is bound to remember.
“We tried to skate a good program with all the elements we do in our practices,” he said. “Well, we tried. Some mistakes in the jumps, but at the very end we tried the throw triple Axel, and it was for everybody such a surprise, and the performance ... overall, was good.”
And the Canadians were extra gracious in their news conference. Someone might remember that, too.
“This bronze medal is golden to us, I don’t think we feel anything but joy about it,” said Duhamel, “and for Canada to be third and fourth means we’ve qualified a third team for the Olympics next year, and we’re so happy that one of our friends is going to join us in Sochi.”
As for the champions, Trankov finished eighth at the Vancouver Olympics with a former partner, and Volosozhar competed in Turin — for Ukraine — with the man who’s now the pair’s coach, Stanislav Morozov, but they’ll likely head into their first Olympics together as overwhelming favourites, based on the scope of their victory here.
“For sure, it’s very important to win the year before the Olympic Games,” Trankov said, “and we are absolutely happy to skate good because this year we haven’t skated good the free programs. But today we showed all our elements with good quality, and we did amazing throws and good jumps, and it was very easy, like in practice.”
Duhamel didn’t jump up and down in joy Friday, as she had after the short program. It was more a look of relief, and exhaustion, after the Canadians had a couple of minor bobbles — notably a three-jump sequence in which they got out of whack at the last and nearly collided.
Both Canadian teams, though, were eminently more entertaining than the silver medallists. Duhamel didn’t care.
“Last year we left the world championships (they finished fifth) and said next year we’re going to be the podium,” she said. “And for a while, I think we were the only ones who believed it, but we did it, and I think that’s the greatest feeling in the world.”
“Success is the best revenge,” said Radford, noting it was almost exactly three years ago that he and Duhamel teamed up, under the coaching of Richard Gauthier and Bruno Marcotte at Montreal’s St. Leonard skating club. “This is a nice little anniversary present.”
“Three years ago, when I came here (to the Canadian championships) to qualify for the Olympics, I won a bronze medal, didn’t qualify, and it was the lowest point of my life, rock bottom,” Duhamel said. “It’s three years later, and this is the happiest bronze medal I’ve ever had in my life.”
Fourth place doesn’t come with a medal, but it was a triumph, nonetheless, for the Waterloo, Ont., pair of Moore-Towers and Moscovitch, who skated a clean, attractive and robustly cheered program and might easily have ended their week on the podium.
As it was, it’s the first time since 1962 — when Maria and Otto Jelinek won gold and Debbi Wilkes and Guy Revell finished fourth — that Canada has had two pairs in the world’s top four.
“We skated ... almost to the best of our ability, and had a lot of fun,” said Moore-Towers. “I think I usually land my jumps a little bit cleaner than I did in that program, but they were landed.”
“It wasn’t as pristine as we have done it, or can do it,” Moscovitch said. “We fought hard for a couple of the elements — our first throw, and the lift was kind of like we went through a wind-storm — but we earned a lot of those points just through determination.”
And yet, the day’s events, in the opinion of insiders and outsiders alike, left a sour taste.
“I'm on different ice in Quebec City, @Crashed Ice, where Canadians don't get hosed because of judging!” former World Cup skier Brian Stemmle wrote on his Twitter account.
It is certain to come off as Canadians whining. But that’s all right. The skaters didn’t, and good for them.
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