Three years ago this month, Meagan Duhamel stood on the podium at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, having just achieved a lifetime goal. Already a World champion with partner Eric Radford, Duhamel also won two Olympic medals in Pyeongchang (team gold and individual bronze). It was the pinnacle of her figure skating career.
Yet, as much as she savored her Olympic success, Duhamel was already looking ahead and making plans for the future. While still in Pyeongchang, she had already ventured into coaching, helping to teach North Korean pair Ryom/Kim, who also competed at the Games. Duhamel and Radford were planning a professional skating career with Stars on Ice and other shows. And she and her husband/coach Bruno Marcotte were looking to start a family.
Since 2018, many of those plans have come to fruition. Duhamel and Radford performed throughout Canada and Japan with Stars on Ice in 2018 and 2019. Her daughter Zoey Marcotte was born on October 25, 2019. And Duhamel and Marcotte launched a new skating school in Oakville, Ontario. After coaching there for several months, Duhamel switched her focus to teaching online classes during the pandemic. Also, in fall 2020, Duhamel achieved another long-held dream when she competed on the Canadian TV show Battle of the Blades, winning the competition with her partner Wojtek Wolski.
Recently, Duhamel took time to talk with me about her life since Pyeongchang. She also shared her thoughts on how the discipline of pairs has evolved since 2018, which pairs she thinks will contend for medals at 2021 Worlds, and, not least, her true feelings about the triple twist.
Becoming a mom
We began our conversation by discussing Duhamel’s experience with parenthood since her daughter Zoey was born in October 2019.
Q: Obviously, the biggest change in your life since the Olympics is your daughter Zoey. She is now just a little over a year old.
D: Yes, 15 months the other day. She’s growing!
Q: You’ve shared lots of pictures of Zoey online, and it’s so fun seeing her grow up and get bigger. Tell us a little about your experience with motherhood, what it’s been like, and how it’s fit into your life.
D: Well, none of it has really gone exactly as planned. I don’t think anybody’s life has gone as planned in the last year [with the pandemic]. I thought we were going to have so many adventures this last year. I was supposed to go on tour in Japan and across Canada with Stars on Ice last spring. And Eric and I were going to perform in the opening ceremonies at Worlds [2020 Worlds in Montreal]. Zoey was going to come along with me for all of that. And it came crashing down. It’s been an adjustment for me to figure out how to give Zoey the best of everything, even though it’s so limited. Her first year of life wasn’t what I expected it to be. We don’t really go anywhere; we’re stuck at home. Zoey doesn’t see [extended] family very much. Now she is in day care twice a week, which I feel is so important for her socialization and development. Because it’s the only people that she sees, apart from me and her father. It’s a home day care; there’s only five kids. It’s been really good for her to be introduced to other children and activities.
But, I’ve really loved having this time. I call it a delayed maternity leave. I’ve been blessed with this entire year that I’ve been with her, nonstop. And although I’ve been working from home a lot, she’s still with me most of the time. So that’s been really nice. She’s so funny. And incredibly stubborn, just like her mother and her father. (Laughs) She is on the go. She learned how to walk, and then she wanted to run. She talks a lot for fifteen months. She was premature, so she’s actually quite developed in terms of words that she uses, and her ability to run and throw things. And she’s always talking–of course, taking after us. It’s fun to see her personality develop.
Q: She has such a sunny look in pictures. She looks happy.
D: She’s the most easygoing baby. She just adapts to whatever’s going on. I remember I dropped her off for day care the first day, and she just went right in, had no care in the world that I wasn’t staying. She’s very independent and strong-willed.
Q: What’s it been like, seeing Bruno take on the role of dad?
D: He’s been really good with Zoey. He never was exposed to many babies or children in his life [before]. He doesn’t have a younger sibling, and when his nephews were really young, he lived on the other side of the country [from them]. He had never changed a diaper before. Zoey was really his first exposure to babies and children, which is so different from me, as I have a younger brother, and I spent many years babysitting and working as a nanny. It’s been a learning curve for him, but really fun. He’s learning nursery rhymes in English along with her. He does a really great job taking care of her.
Q: I didn’t know that you had worked with kids before.
D: Yes, I actually worked as a nanny for the first four years that I lived in Montreal. When I moved to Montreal to skate pairs with Craig Buntin in 2007, I was incredibly poor, and I worked seven days a week at a bakery. Then I was able to find a job as a nanny for a family from France. They were looking for an English-speaking nanny. In Montreal, it was difficult to find a job as an English speaker. And so I worked with this family for four years, and I’m still in touch with them. I loved it.
Moving to Ontario, coaching, and online teaching
Prior to Zoey’s birth, Duhamel and Marcotte decided to relocate, after many years based in Montreal. The couple considered an offer to move to Tampa, Florida, in the United States, but decided instead to move to the Skate Oakville club in Ontario. There, Duhamel and Marcotte launched a new skating group. After the pandemic closed rinks for a time, Duhamel switched her focus to online teaching.
Q: Before you had Zoey, you were in the process of moving from Quebec to Ontario, where you and Bruno launched a new coaching group at Skate Oakville. That must have been a pretty busy time period.
D: It was. I moved to Montreal in 2007. I’m originally from northern Ontario, but I moved to Montreal for training. And I loved Montreal, but I never felt like it was my home, and I never intended to stay there post-skating career, because I always intended on coming back to Ontario.
As Bruno and I were trying to figure out the next step in our life after the Olympics, we actually considered [an offer] and were extremely close to moving to Florida. We were about to sign the contract when I found out I was pregnant. At that point, it was like, “Oh my goodness, we’ll never be able to afford health care to have a child in America.” Especially when going to relocate for a job where we didn’t know how many students we were going to have. As we were crunching numbers, it didn’t seem like that smart of an idea. So we ended up coming to Ontario. My sister lives about an hour from here, and my parents are about three to four hours away. So I’m a lot closer to my family here, and I feel much happier.
Q: What were some of the challenges of setting up a new coaching group (and specifically, a pairs training center) at Oakville?
D: Scheduling is always difficult. We were trying to have a block of hours that were just for pairs skating–like five sessions in a row. But then you have skaters who are working, skaters who are going to school. So you have to find a time when both [partners] are able to skate together. It didn’t always fit into those five-hour windows that we had created. So that was difficult. Also, finding experts in different fields away from the ice. In Montreal, I had created my whole support team: My strength and conditioning trainer, acupuncturist, massage therapist, osteopath, Essentrics teacher, stretch teacher, Pilates teacher. I had this list. And any skater that came into our school, they would always direct them to the list of experts that I had found. Many of the skaters in Montreal, including the ice dancers, are still using a lot of those resources. But I didn’t know anybody around Oakville or Toronto. I didn’t have this team. So the skaters were like, “Oh, I need a physiotherapist,” or “Where do I go for Pilates?” And I said, “I don’t know. We need to find all those things.” I did find a couple of resources within the past year. But that’s hard, to find that whole team away from the ice.
Q: How has the pandemic affected coaching and training in Canada?
D: Well, right now the challenge is the ice cost and the ice times. Every province is different. In Ontario, if you’re a junior- or senior-level skater, whether Canadian or from another country, you can train. Ice is very expensive, though, because you’re only allowed eight people on at a time. Ice fees are the same, but there’s less people on the ice, so it becomes more difficult for skaters to pay for their regular training sessions. And then there’s different rules in Quebec. In Quebec, you can only skate if you’re part of a sports study program. Out in Alberta, there’s nothing open at all, and skaters are training on outdoor rinks. And then in BC, everything is open. Learn to Skate is running. So it’s very different everywhere. And that’s why Skate Canada really couldn’t run a Nationals, because it’s not a fair playing field for anybody. I work online with Ravi Walia’s group [Kaetlyn Osmond’s former coach]. And they literally go to outdoor rinks and train all day long, and run programs with earbuds in their ears.
Q: You’re now teaching online classes and seminars for skaters. Tell us about that.
D: Yes, I’ve been doing classes through Zoom. A lot of coaches and skaters have asked me to do workout classes for them. I always knew that I loved training, in general. And I’ve found a new passion for off-ice training, and training skaters off the ice. I feel like it’s unleashed this creativity in me, to put together workouts. I’ve really enjoyed it. I’m hoping one day, I’ll be able to see these skaters in real life, and we can all move and train together. Because they’re all so polite, and they mute themselves as soon as they put their Zoom on [for class]. They don’t say anything. I talk to them, during the workout, and I know that they’re listening. But it’s like, “Oh my goodness, I can only listen to myself speak to a screen for so long.” I teach 15 to 20 classes a week, and there’s only one girl who ever unmutes herself to speak. (Laughs)
Q: It’s great that you’ve already built up your business so much.
D: A lot of clubs asked me to do work. I work with Ravi Walia’s skating club every week. I have skaters who work with me in small groups. I just did some work with a club in Scotland, and I worked with skaters in Thailand for a couple of months. They come and go. And for the most part, I can do it at night, after Zoey’s in bed or when Bruno’s back from work. So that works really well.
Q: That’s convenient. What prompted you to start teaching online?
D: I started it just because I wanted to help. I feel like a lot of coaches aren’t comfortable teaching workouts. There are so many coaches who are amazing at what they do on the ice. But they don’t really filter into what the skaters are doing in the gym training, or in the studio doing Pilates or stretch classes. And that’s something that I did so much of in my career. So I offered my help to the skating club in Oakville, and that’s how it all started. Then more people kept asking me. I spend every Sunday researching new things and creating new sequences. It’s become really fun.
Q: I saw one of your exercises that you previewed online, where you were incorporating different spin positions into the workout. I thought that was cool.
D: I feel like I’ve created a Meagan fusion class. I take from my experience with strength training, Essentrics, yoga, Pilates, and skating, and I’m trying to fuse it all together. And keep things creative. Some of these kids were off the ice all spring and summer. Their rinks opened at the end of the summer, then closed again. I just want to keep them engaged and inspired, so that they stay in the sport.
Q: Do you think you’ll return to on-ice coaching in the future?
D: Maybe. It’s not a door I’m closing. I feel like I have unique skills as a coach. I’m not so much of a technical expert. Bruno can break down any element and fix it for anybody in the world–he’s so good at that. I can manage things well. I understand how to train, and the psychological aspect of competing. I feel like these are my strengths. And being able to keep the skaters encouraged and confident to continue working. I’m going to look for opportunities that will blend with what I feel are my strengths.
Doing Battle of the Blades
In fall 2020, Duhamel received an invitation to join the cast of the popular Canadian TV reality show Battle of the Blades for its sixth season. Skating with Canadian hockey player Wojtek Wolski, Duhamel was the season’s winner, and had a blast doing the show, despite having to take extensive precautions due to covid-19. We talked in detail about her time on the show.
Q: In addition to your coaching work and having Zoey, you also did Battle of the Blades last fall. What was that experience like?
D: It was something I really wanted to do. I always wanted to do Battle of the Blades. So I was really happy that they found a way to run the show this year, even during this pandemic. Obviously, there were so many restrictions. And a lot of uncertainty, because at the beginning of our training period, some of the skaters got covid-19. And everything closed down for a week. There was a lot of worry that it was going to be canceled. When the CBC decided they would continue with the show, more rules got put into place. We were skating with masks all the time. There was even talk about performing in the show with a mask. I felt like that would be a huge disconnect, to watch skaters without their facial expressions. In the end, the only time we were allowed not to wear masks was when we performed.
We removed our masks for the first show, and it was the first time I saw my partner’s face. We’re back behind the screen before, asking our choreographer, “What do we do with our faces?” We hadn’t thought about this. We couldn’t train those [expressions], because we were skating with masks all the time.
It was a little scary when this hockey player, who’s now skating in figure skates with toe picks, is lifting me over his head, and he tells me: “I don’t feel very safe, because I can’t see my feet, because the mask is hindering my vision.” And then I broke my nose on a double twist; I smashed my face into his shoulder. So there were a lot of things happening.
But we all pushed through, and I had an amazing time. My partner was so great, and the whole team around us. Our coach was Paul Martini [1984 World pair champion], and our choreographer was Mark Pillay [well-known Canadian skating choreographer]. We were this team of four; we didn’t come into contact with any other team. I could see Eric or Kaitlyn Weaver from a distance, but we could not come close to them. My little group of four, we got along so well. I can’t remember laughing so hard as I did during the training process with those guys. When the show ended, and I went home, I had an emotional crash because I missed the three of them so much. I spent so much time with them every day for months, and then, all of a sudden, they were gone. That was really hard.
But I loved my experience with Battle of the Blades. It was supposed to be Wojtek transforming as a figure skater, but I feel like I transformed a lot myself. It was really the first time in my skating career that I found myself standing in a starting position for a performance, and not overthinking, and not being worried about what was coming next, and just being in the moment. I can honestly say that I was only focused on that first note of music and that first step I was taking. That’s something I worked so hard for in my competitive career. I had moments when I got close to it, like Worlds in Boston, or the 2018 Olympics. But it was always something I had to work really hard for. On Battle of the Blades, it kind of just happened naturally. That was an interesting transformation.
Q: I was wondering how it felt to do the show from a creative standpoint. Watching all the performances in quick succession, it was really interesting how many moods you got to portray, and, obviously, different kinds of music.
D: I loved that. Mark threw a lot of ideas at us, and I’m very open-minded and always say yes to everything. Every week, we had to transform ourselves. We went from country music, to theatrical, to slow and emotional, to rock and roll. We went through everything, and I loved that process. That was really, really fun. I think Mark felt proud that he was able to bring me, as a skater, to all these different places that I just wasn’t able to get to [before], or didn’t have the opportunity to get to as a competitive skater. That was part of our plan with Battle of the Blades. We wanted to be the team that did something totally different every single week. We didn’t want to shoebox ourselves into one theme. And we didn’t want to be the team that only had the big tricks, like the throw and twist and lifts. We wanted to have the creativity and the emotion and the energy from different programs.
The hardest program for me was the theatrical piece to “Bad Things” by Jace Everett [which took its theme from The Little Red Riding Hood fairy tale]. Sandra Bezic [the show’s creator] watched us practice it from the stands, and she kept giving me feedback. She said, “You need to put your hood on a little bit more sultry.” And I said, “I can’t do that. I can’t act like that, Sandra. You’re asking too much of me.” And she was like: “Meagan, you’re going to get there.” I also felt uncomfortable portraying this type of character around Wojtek, who was essentially a stranger to me at this time. I’d only known him a couple weeks. I thought: “I’m not this vulnerable, I can’t open myself up, I can’t allow myself to get here with you, of all people.” But we did. We got there, and it was a really great feeling to push out of my comfort zone.
Q: I really liked that piece. It was totally different than anything I could ever remember you and Eric doing. It was fun, and it was memorable, too.
D: Wojtek was so good. That’s what helped me get into it–the depth of character that he went into. When we would run through that program, he would be the Wolf at 110 percent. He would pretend to bite my neck and make all these sound effects! And then there’s me, underneath my mask, laughing hysterically. I think because he was so open and willing, and he committed himself, it allowed me to strip a layer off myself and be able to commit to the character. Instead of worrying about the throw that was coming. In a run-through one day, in our starting position, I was so worried about the throw. And he said: “Who cares? We’re not even doing the throw for forty-five seconds. Worry about it in forty-five seconds.”
Q: Watching you in this show, you seemed to be enjoying yourself so much, and you were very free and open with your expression. Despite not practicing facial expressions during run-throughs, your face was very alive and expressive during the performances.
D: I had to be so aware, during the performances. It’s not like our programs were trained that much. We got a program and, ten days later, we’d be performing it. It was very fast. And then sometimes, because it wasn’t so overtrained, it was just natural. I just went with what felt right in the moment.
Q: Your costume and hair and makeup looks were great. Did you have professionals working with you on that?
D: Oh, yes. I never wear makeup, in real life, and I never do my hair. (Laughs) I’m not naturally very good at styling myself. As a competitive skater, I couldn’t afford to bring along a hair and makeup stylist everywhere I went. So it was really fun to play around with hair and fake eyelashes and different makeup and stuff like that on the show. The first show, they had hair extensions for me. So I went with it. All of this brand-new style! And the costume designer was Mathieu Caron. He always does amazing work–he works with a lot of figure skaters. Mark Pillay and Mathieu would have a discussion about costumes. Whatever ideas they had, I just went with them. And when the show ended, we had a really nice surprise–they gave us all of our costumes.
Q: Did Mathieu also design Wojtek’s costumes?
D: Yes. Wojtek and I would have a fitting at the same time. He would put on his outfit so quickly, and be like: “Yup, it’s okay. I’m going now!” Mathieu would say, “Wait, I have 5 other options for you to try on!” And Wojtek’s like: “Why? This one is fine.” Costumes were such a different thing for him. But even he loved getting his hair and makeup done.
Q: Having had such a fun experience, would you like to do the show again sometime?
D: I would probably do it again, because the experience was so amazing. But right now, I can’t imagine doing it with anybody other than Wojtek, Mark, and Paul. Working with them was what made the experience so magical and memorable. And it wasn’t winning. It goes beyond that. It’s the experience I had every day going into the rink to work with them. How open-minded Wojtek was, how willing he was to try anything. And Mark’s creativity. We called Paul “Dad.” We’d get to the rink, and he would organize us. I’m inclined to say, yes, I’d do it again. But a part of me doesn’t want my experience to be any different than what it was.
Q: It sounds like you had the perfect team.
D: Sandra Bezic put all the teams together, and she had only met the hockey players on Zoom. Usually she would meet them in person, and watch them skate, and get to know them. They asked me what type of partner I wanted. I said that I wanted a big guy who could lift and throw me and do the tricks I know. I’m not going to go out there and do the Paso Doble, like Asher Hill or Kaitlyn. l want to do the tricks I know. I remember Sandra telling me, “We found you the perfect partner.” She put together every team so perfectly. I don’t know how she did that. She had the vision for each one of us.
Q: It’s amazing that you had enough of a comfort level with Wojtek to actually do such hard elements as a double twist. How did you build up to that?
D: I was terrified every single time we did it. And the throws as well. The throw, he understood a little better than the twist. But at the beginning, on both the twist and throw, he would block me. I would just be stuck in front of him, instead of passing through. I would try so hard to rotate, but it was scary. I would tell him I was nervous, and he said, “Don’t tell me that! You’re supposed to be the expert!” But I knew I needed those things if I wanted to win. That was my ticket; that’s what I could do. Eventually, the timing of the throw came. Once he got it, he got it; he threw it the same every time.
The twist took longer. It just wasn’t working, and I kept popping it into a single. I’m not one to pop jumps, and it was driving me crazy. So we did an emergency FaceTime lesson with Bruno. I knew Bruno would tell Wojtek the same thing that Paul and I had told him. But Bruno has a way to tell people something and to make them understand it. He can say the same thing I’m going to say, but you’ll believe it, and you’ll understand it a little bit more. So he told Wojtek exactly what we were trying to tell him. We did the same exercises as I was telling Wojtek to do. But it clicked. Wojtek got it. From there, he was like: “Oh yeah, I understand how to do a twist. I just need to bring you through and get underneath you and then use all my strength.” It was like the throw: Once he got it, he got it. And then the twist was really safe. But the learning process was scary.
Least favorite element: “I hated the triple twist”
Talking about learning a double twist on Battle of the Blades led us into a discussion of the triple twist, one of the most iconic, but also most challenging, elements in pair skating.
Q: You and Wojtek did an amazing job with the elements on the show. I was impressed.
D: I didn’t think I would ever do a twist again after the Olympics. I hated the triple twist. I was scared every single time I had to do it. So after the Olympics, Eric and I were like, “We’re never doing a twist again.” Then we were training for Stars on Ice last spring, and Jeff Buttle, the choreographer, said, “Do you think you guys can do a double twist in the opening?” And we’re like: “Well, it’s been two years since we tried one.” Eric was here visiting, and we were training, and we did a double twist one day, and we were like: “Okay, it’ll be possible.” So we had done one double twist since the Olympics. And then I’m with a hockey player, trying to learn a double twist. I remember seeing Eric from a distance, and he just laughed. He said, “Of course. You want to win. You know you’re going to do it.” But now, I really hope I’ll never do a twist again. I hope that’s it. (Laughs)
Q: I have watched so many triple twists, and I still have no idea how pairs women start the rotation. I mean, the guy throws you up, but how do you start the spin in the air?
D: A lot of it comes from your push off the guy’s wrists. And from your right leg coming through, to bring you into your rotation. You have your split [in the air]. And then the right side has to come through to your rotation. So it’s a little bit of that right leg coming through. And it’s a little bit of the push off the guy’s wrists. You push yourself into your rotation. For me, the most difficult thing was to trust that I could keep going up and up, and then still expect to rotate. Either I was going to push myself into the rotation too early, or I was going to stay square longer, and continue going up so we’d have a higher twist, but then I’d feel stuck, and couldn’t get to my rotation.
The twist was never comfortable. We tried to re-learn it every single summer. We would break it down, and study the Russians, and try to learn it exactly like them, or like Aliona and Bruno. And we just couldn’t do it. We could do it well enough, but we could not bring it to their level.
Q: It all happens so quickly.
D: It’s like the perfect explosion. When the guy’s arms are about to release, the girl has to push off, at exactly that time. Because that’s when the pressures are together, and then there’s an explosion. If the girl goes too soon, the guy doesn’t reach his full power. And if the guy lets go too soon, he doesn’t reach his full power. Twists are so much about perfect timing. And pure strength from the male. Those two things.
Q: With the rotation part of it, is it helped by the fact that you’re used to rotating in jumps? So, once you start rotating in the twist, does that part feel normal?
D: It never felt normal for me to rotate a twist. Never. I rotated a twist with one arm behind my back, and one in front. And when I rotated my throws and jumps, they’d both be in front. I don’t know if that’s why it felt uncomfortable. And I only learned a triple twist when I was 25 or 26 years old. So I was a little bit late. Maybe that’s why I wasn’t so comfortable. I never felt 100 percent safe when I did a triple twist. And in competition, a lot of what made Eric and mine’s twist so good was just adrenaline. It really helped give it that extra lift.
Q: Most pairs do the twist first thing in the program. Do you think it’s because a lot of them feel uncomfortable with it, like you did? Or is it just because it takes the most strength, or the most technique?
D: I think it’s mostly because of the strength factor. You need 100 percent strength and precision from both the male and the female. And you’re more likely to have that off the top of your program. I’ve talked with Bruno Massot about twists. And for him, it’s not even so much technique. For him, it’s explosive power. And he doesn’t have that [same] explosive power after jumping or doing a couple of lifts. He has it just at the top of a program.
It also took all of Eric and mine’s mental energy to do a twist. He wasn’t comfortable with it either. Both of us didn’t like it. And when it eats up that much mental energy, you’ve got to get that out of the way, right away. You have to.
Pairs today: How has the discipline changed, and who is on top?
Duhamel shared her thoughts on how the pairs scene has evolved and changed since the Pyeongchang Olympics, and which teams she sees contending for medals at 2021 Worlds.
Q: So maybe that brings us into what’s happening with pairs right now. Looking at the pairs scene, so much has changed since Pyeongchang. A lot of people have retired. There were some rules changes, including increasing the span of GOE scores, shortening the pairs free skate, and devaluing quad and ultra-C elements in pairs. What’s your take on pairs today, in 2021? Where has the discipline gone since you guys retired?
D: Well, I think the GOEs have changed pair skating, and the way it’s judged. The fact that we can go from a -5 to a +5, it just differentiates good teams from really great teams. I think that you cannot be a competitive pair team in the world any more without a ginormous, explosive [triple] twist. You cannot be in a short program with an average triple twist. You’ll get lost [in the field]. That’s the technical thing I see now, in 2020-21: Big, massive, explosive twists.
With the shortened free skate, I think it’s hard to say if that’s been better or worse for the skaters. Because they have to cram in almost the same amount of elements; there’s just one element gone [side-by-side spins]. And it’s 30 seconds’ less time. That’s a big, big adjustment as a skater, when you’re managing your breathing as you skate. I know that when our programs were 4 1/2 minutes, we had a hard time fitting our elements into 4 1/2 minutes. And then, thinking about choreography and transitions. When you’re creating a program, the first thing you remove, when you run out of time, is choreography. It’s storytelling. It’s transitions. Because you need to fit the elements in.
We have more creativity in lifts. Everybody’s finding unique positions, unique entrances and exits of lifts, which is really nice and interesting to see. But I still kind of stand by my stance that I wish we saw more variety within the jumps and the throws. We still see throw triple Salchows, which we used to see in the 1980s. In men’s skating, we used to see a lot of double Axels in the 1980s and the early 1990s. Very rarely do you see a top man with a double Axel in his free skate any more. Because the sport just developed, in every facet, not just with the jumps. So it’s a shame that the harder elements have been devalued a bit. It’s not worth it for skaters any more to do these more difficult jumps. But I do think, as I look to some of the younger teams, in Russia, that we’re seeing triple/triple combinations and more unique things–ike triple Salchow/Euler/triple Salchow–more unique jump sequences or jump combinations. So, as those skaters get into the senior ranks, we’re going to see that variety.
But, at the end of the day, it’s about having an impactful performance and having the twist. Those are the two key things right now in pairs skating.
Q: As we look toward Worlds, what are your thoughts on the pairs field? Who do you see as being in contention?
D: Well, I think Sui/Han are just always going to be there. They can miss an entire year with an injury and then come out at one competition a season looking incredible. They have the mileage from all these years that they’ve been competing at the highest level, so of course we can never count them out.
I love Peng and Jin’s long program [to Cloud Atlas]. I watched it from a local competition in China that they did about a month ago. And it’s just an incredible piece, with the choreography and music and skating and flow and ease. If there ever comes a day when they put those jumps down, with that long program, they’re going to score extremely high by combining both of those things.
Q: What about the Russian pairs?
Boikova/Kozlovskii have a commanding presence that separates them from other teams. They’re among the most consistent. They’re combining the big explosive tricks with the interpretation of the music and the skating skills. His skating skills, in particular, have improved in the last year or two. And Boikova landed the throw triple Lutz in their long [program at the Channel One Cup]. She’ll need it in the short program at Worlds.
Tarasova/Morozov have shown now what their potential has been for years. It’s nice to see them so confident and with good programs. Since Pyeongchang, they’ve had better program selections. It was very nice to see programs that are well-suited to them. And of course, if they put it together on the day, they have incredible technical elements to go along with it.
Mishina/Galliamov were the biggest wow factor for me, watching the Channel One Cup. Their free skate was a remarkable display of pairs skating skills. I think they should be on the Russian world team, as they have a real chance to win.
I’m going to predict a Russian sweep of the podium for Worlds.
Q: Where do you see Moore-Towers/Marinaro and the American pairs placing?
D: It still always depends on the day. I mean, Peng and Jin can miss all three [side-by-side] jumping passes in their short and long [programs]. And enter one of those two teams, and they’re possibly in medal contention. It depends on how everybody skates. But I think the two Chinese, the three Russians, Knierim/Frazier, and Moore-Towers/Marinaro round out what would be the top 7 in the world at a World Championships or an Olympic Games. From there, it comes down to the difference in the short program–the range of points between first and seventh place in a short program. That’ll play into how an overall result will happen. And what everyone does on the day.
Knierim/Frazier were very impressive to see at Skate America and the United States’ virtual series [ISP Points Challenge] and U.S. Nationals. I feel that, for them, it’s a shame that this season has kind of been lost. If they had this whole international season to build on, they could have really made a name for themselves going into the Olympics and being medal contenders. Serious medal contenders. Not that they still can’t be. But it would have been an easier road, maybe, to winning a medal at the Olympics if they could have used this whole season internationally to build themselves.
I think it would be exciting to see what they would score [internationally] if they had a performance like they did at U.S. Nationals. It definitely would have been in the 140s. That’s what would make me excited, to see that type of great performance, if repeated at a major event. Then you really know where they’ll stand against everybody else.
The great skating is happening this season. It just hasn’t been on such a big stage, because there’s been no audiences, and not these big competitions where competitors are all against each other.
Note: If you’re enjoying articles on The Divine Sport, please take a moment to “like” the site’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/adivinesport/. You can also follow me on Twitter to get updates of new posts: @ClaireCloutier on https://twitter.com.