With an Olympic medal to her credit, the Lively native sets her sights on what's next
The innovative tandem has been pushing the boundaries of the pairs discipline since they first united at a tryout in 2010 at the urging of their respective coaches.
While it might seem to observers that Radford and Duhamel were meant for each other, on the ice, it certainly hasn't always been that way.
A junior Canadian ladies champion in 2004, Duhamel wandered into pairs skating with an open mind, but no long-term expectations.
"Until I decided to skate pairs only, I could still visualize myself going to the Olympics and winning medals as a singles skater," said the talkative Lively native during a stop in Sudbury earlier this summer.
"(But) at the end of 2006, I knew that I wasn't going to reach my full potential in either event unless I gave a full commitment, so I chose singles."
In fact, the decision made perfect sense. Finishing fourth in singles and sixth in pairs (with partner Ryan Arnold), Duhamel had qualified to receive government funding on her own.
Unfortunately, the following season was pretty much a disaster from start to finish.
Battling injuries and sickness, Duhamel skated in only one competition in 2007 — that at the Canadian championships — and finished sixth. It was the last time that she would ever skate solo at an elite event.
"Maybe I should just stop skating," she remembers wondering.
But as fate would have it, pairs skating veteran Craig Buntin was dealing with the retirement of partner Valerie Marcoux as Duhamel was considering her future. With her previous pairs experience, she got the call that summer.
The Buntin-Duhamel combination had some success, finishing third at nationals in 2010, but missing a Vancouver Olympics berth by one placing. That's when Buntin hung up his skates.
By that summer, Duhamel and Radford were matched. If she and Arnold made history by landing the first side-by-side triple lutz in pairs competition, Duhamel has continued to break new ground with Radford.
"As far as the jumps go, nobody has really followed in our path yet," said Duhamel.
As the team has improved, so too has Duhamel, individually.
"When I started skating pairs, I became a better competitor, more consistent," she said. "I've landed more triple lutzes with Eric than I landed in my whole career in singles."
And the team has continued its tradition of breaking new ground on the ice. For their short program at the Sochi Olympics, they danced to music Radford composed. For their long program, they selected a theatrical, character-driven piece.
"In the end, we didn't reap the rewards that we had hoped that would bring us,” Duhamel said. “Perhaps it was the wrong decision, but we can't go back in time and change that."
Modesty aside, their performance was far from a colossal failure. Olympic silver is nothing to sneeze at.
Perhaps because of that silver medal, the diminutive 28-year-old exhibits a clear peace of mind.
"I've achieved every goal that I have ever had in skating," explained Duhamel. "It would be nice to become a world champion, but I don't need it … and I know that Eric agrees with me. Now, we skate for ourselves.
"We want to be more relaxed, more carefree, and I think it has the potential to bring out our best skating."
With choreography nearly complete on new short and long programs — and a secret new technical element thrown in — the pair are on the hunt for a fourth consecutive Canadian crown.
Having achieved so much, it's only natural now for Duhamel to enjoy each new step she takes, until the time comes to finally hang up her skates.
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