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By Lindsay Briscoe Northern Sun News
Former Balmertown resident Eric Radford and figure skating partner Meagan Duhamel were celebrating a record-breaking score that secured them their third straight national title in Ottawa last month. Now, a mere three weeks later, they’re about to step on the ice at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.
Radford grew up watching his figure skating idols, like Kurt Browning, and says it feels so good to finally be living his dream. Browning himself has said Radford and Duhamel are a team to watch out for at the Olympics, since they’re both strong and consistent.
Brother weighs in
Together, Radford and Duhamel will have a team of family and friends 11-strong rooting for them in the stands in Sochi. Radford’s brother Richard, who lives in Red Lake, says he “wouldn’t miss it for the world.”
He recalls the moment he found out his little brother had made the Olympic team:
“We had been anticipating this for some time. Knowing the competition in Canada and that there were three spots available on the team for pairs we were almost sure they were going to make the team but when they finished 1st and punched their ticket with a win, it was really a feeling of pride and the realization that Eric was going to fulfill a dream of his from his childhood.”
Richard says his brother has struggled over the years but his love of the sport and determination has been the key to his success.
“There were times when I wondered if he would continue because of a number of challenges/issues. Bullying, living away from home, financial burden and the struggle to find the right skating partner were a few that made the road bumpy along the way,” explains Richard. “But through it all, to his credit, Eric continued to focus on improving and becoming the best he could be. It’s that determination in the face of difficult challenges, that tell me he has the stuff Olympians are made of.”
New to the Olympics this year is the figure skating team event. Canada, China, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Japan, Russia, Ukraine, and The United States have all qualified for this event.
In the opening round, one skater per country will perform a short program or short dance in each of the four disciplines: men’s, women’s, pairs and ice dance. The top five countries then move on to the medal round, where skaters do a free program or free dance in each of the four disciplines. Up to two roster changes per country are allowed between rounds.
The team event has received criticism, as some say figure skating will get too much Olympic airtime and that the event might fatigue skaters before they have to do their individual performances. But Skate Canada Director, Mike Slipchuck, as well as the skaters themselves, seem positive about the event.
“We’re definitely a favourite there,” said Skate Canada Director, Mike Slipchuk. “But it’s not going to be easy. There’s a lot of depth across the road. Russia’s going to have a strong team, also the U.S. But it’s a one-off competition and anything can happen. But what gives us some confidence is that we have strength right across all four disciplines and you’re going to need that. You can’t rely on just three disciplines to get through this.”
The team event began Feb. 6, one day before the Olympics officially begin.
Following a figure skating scoring controversy during the 2002 Winter Olympics, the International Skating Union (ISU) developed a new scoring system, which involves two panels.
The technical panel calls the elements as well as their level of difficulty for the judging panel. The judges then give two sets of marks: one set for the grade of execution (GOE) of each element and one set for program components (which can include footwork and transitions, performance and execution, choreography, interpretation, timing, etc).
For GOE on any given element, the judges give a grade between -3 and +3, which is either subtracted or added to the base value of the element. The GOE mark is then translated into a value by using an official table of values. The GOE value from the nine judges is then averaged by randomly selecting seven judges, discarding the highest and lowest value, and averaging the remaining seven.
In some cases, the GOE value can actually be higher than the base value of the element. That means skaters are sometimes better off to plan a jump they can perform at a high GOE rather than trying one with a high base value that they don’t perform well.
It also means it’s sometimes better to attempt a triple jump which is fully rotated and fall than land a double jump.
In the four years they’ve been skating together, Radford and Duhamel have worked with an acting coach to help them improve on artistic interpretation. They’ve also added technically challenging entries and exits to all their elements, which has helped catapult them to one of the top pairs spots in the world.
They’re also the only pairs team in the world to attempt side by side triple lutzes in competition – jumps that earn them major points.
Radford and Duhamel’s free skate program will air Feb. 12 between 12:15 p.m. and 1:45 p.m. (CBC) and between 10:45 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. (TSN).