Canada's Meagan Duhamel, Eric Radford finish 5th after pairs short program
Canada's Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford perform their short program during the pairs figure skating competition at the Sochi Winter Olympics on Feb. 11, 2014 in Sochi. (Paul Chiasson/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Lori Ewing, The Canadian Press
Published Tuesday, February 11, 2014 3:29PM EST
SOCHI, Russia -- Skating at the Sochi Olympics was the realization of a dream sparked four years ago out of heartache and frustration.
The music made it all the more magical.
Canada's Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford were fifth in the pairs program Tuesday night at the Sochi Olympics, skating to a piece of music Radford wrote in 2006 after the death of his coach Paul Wirtz.
"It lived up to what I was hoping and more," Radford said afterward. "I've been getting such amazing feedback and to be able to live that moment twice, that wouldn't have normally happened. . . to hear my music at the Olympics twice. Both times it created moments for me that I'll never forget."
Duhamel and Radford skated the program earlier in the Games, as part of the Canadian squad that captured silver medal as part of the new team event.
Radford is a pianist who studied at Toronto's Royal Conservatory of Music, and the piano was where he sought solace when Wirtz died of cancer. The result was "Tribute," an uplifting piece of music that was recorded last summer in Montreal with a 16-piece string section.
The 28-year-old Duhamel, from Lively, Ont., and Radford, 29, who grew up in Balmertown, Ont. -- the farthest north one can drive in Ontario -- teamed up shortly after they both missed out on the Vancouver Olympics. Duhamel very nearly retired, in fact, after she and former partner Craig Buntin missed the team by the narrowest of margins.
Russia's Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov finished first with 84.17 points, a world record for a short program score that was well ahead of Germany's Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy (79.64 points).
Kirsten Moore-Towers of St. Catharines, Ont., and Dylan Moscovitch of Toronto capped the program with 70.92 points to finish sixth. Paige Lawrence of Kennedy, Sask., and Rudi Swiegers of Kipling, Sask. scored 58.97 to finish 13th.
Tuesday's skate wasn't perfect for Duhamel and Radford, obvious when she knocked herself in the head with her hands afterward.
"I just missed a stupid step in my footwork," Duhamel said. "I just had a little stumble there. Maybe we lost one point because of it, it was not that detrimental, I was like, 'Ugh,' silly little step like that."
Mistep aside, Duhamel said she is "living the dream of every athlete" in Sochi. She still hasn't taken the Olympic silver medal out of her purse.
Tuesday's event, though, was a "really tough situation," she said. The 12,000-seat Iceberg Skating Palace was jam-packed with Russian fans -- including the burly man banging his bass drum who has become a fixture at the rink. And they were still cheering Russians Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov when the Canadians took their starting positions.
"It felt like we were stepping on the ice in the middle of a Montreal Canadiens hockey game," Duhamel said.
"Right after they score a goal," Radford added.
"It was insane," Duhamel said.
They were at least prepared for the madness and mayhem after experiencing it during the team event, where they admitted the cheering did throw them off.
"During the team event, we were worried we wouldn't hear the music starting," Radford said.
"I laughed at Eric actually when they started clapping (when they took their starting pose)," Duhamel said. "We kind of gave each other a little smirk, because we talked about it after the team event: 'That was weird that they did that.' Then they did it again, so it we kind of looked at each other and smirked. . . Then we went on and did our job."
Their program was virtually clean, save Duhamel's bobble in the step sequence, and a wobbly landing by Radford on their side-by-side triple Lutzs.
Moore-Towers and Moscovitz, who have been on Duhamel and Radford's heels for the past couple of seasons, skated an entertaining and quirky program to music from the French movie "Micmacs."
They don't mind where they're sitting heading into Wednesday's long program.
"Sixth, we're definitely within striking range, everything is within a few points, and a long program is still a long program, there are a lot of things that can happen," Moscovitch said.
They were loving the Russian fans, Moore-Towers going as far as joining in on the wave when it was going around the arena during the warmup.
"I do a lot of weird stuff like that," said the tiny four-foot-10 skater, whose photo of her posing with 6-9 hockey star Zdeno Chara went viral.
"We like to have fun, we always have," she said. "It doesn't work for some people, it worked for us, so while it maybe looks like we're not focused, it's just our way of keeping it light and keeping it the way it is at home."
Moscovitch praised the Russian fans for their skating knowledge.
"They love their skating," he said. "As much as they were very patriotic as you would expect, they're very supportive of all the skaters and they know what's good and they know what's not, and it's always great to skate in front of a crowd like that."
The Russians, who once owned the Olympic ice but came away from the Vancouver Games without a gold medal, have had plenty to cheer about in Sochi. They won the first-ever team gold, and will have strong medal chances with veteran Evgeni Plushenko in the men's singles and 15-year-old phenom Yulia Lipnitskaya in the women's singles.
Volosozhar and Trankov, the 2013 world champions, had the crowd on its feet Tuesday with their dramatic performance to "Masquerade Waltz," conjuring images of a military ball, he dressed as an officer in navy coat and epaulets, she in an elegant ballgown.
"When all the audience is up on its feet, it gives us great energy," said Trankov, his long hair shaved on the sides in a hipster style you'd see on the streets of Toronto or Vancouver. "We were trying to breathe together with the audience and feel the good wishes from them, and it has helped us through this program."
Russia or the Soviet Union had won gold in pairs in 12 straight Olympics before the streak ended four years ago when the Russians didn't make the pairs podium in Vancouver.
Germans Savchenko and Szolkowy were in stark contrast with their Pink Panther program, Savchenko dressed in a shocking fluorescent pink bodysuit, Szolkowy in the blue of Inspector Clouseau.
"The elements were great and it was fun to skate," Szolkowy said.
The top 16 of the 20 pairs qualified for Tuesday's free program.
Canada had targeted two medals in figure skating in Sochi, and should beat that with three-time world champion Patrick Chan in men's singles and Olympic champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir in ice dance still to come. Duhamel and Radford were also considered potential podium threats.