When Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford finished their free skate at PyeongChang 2018, they knew they had given themselves the Olympic moment they desired.
It was just a matter of whether they would be going home with a medal to commemorate the moment.
Sitting backstage, they watched the one duo who could possibly stand between them and the podium make a couple of costly errors.
“I was holding Eric’s hand and I said ‘I think we did enough’ and Eric’s like, ‘No, I’m not going to believe it until the marks come up,’” Duhamel recalled after it became official that they were Olympic bronze medallists. “It was just a funny moment of our different personalities, of Eric not wanting to get excited until something was official and me getting my hopes up a little bit earlier than maybe I should have.”
The pair has always been a little ying and yang since teaming up in 2010. Where Duhamel is the extrovert, Radford is the introvert. Where Duhamel was all fire, Radford was all water. But over the last eight years together, they developed into a cohesive pair with a trust and a relentless drive for success that has at last brought them to the Olympic pairs podium.
When they stepped on the ice for what will likely be their last competitive performance, Duhamel says she was “scarily calm”, which is as far from how she thought she would feel skating for an Olympic medal as she could imagine.
“It’s funny because I felt really really calm too but I didn’t say it out loud and then Meagan looked at me and she was like ‘I’m feeling really calm right now’ and I was like ‘Me too!’,” said Radford. “I mean we usually are on the same page, but I mean, it really was right where we needed to be.”
Since they joined forces, Duhamel and Radford have had to overcome the doubters, those who wondered how they could mesh their vastly different styles. In PyeongChang, many questioned the wisdom of choosing to do both programs in the team event. They were the only top contending pair to so. But in the end, it couldn’t have worked out better, as they go home with gold and bronze medals.
“We came to the Olympics and we just delivered four amazing performances. Like four out of four,” said Duhamel.
“And we saved the best for last,” interjected Radford.
“And I can’t believe that we did that,” continued Duhamel. “People thought we were a bit crazy doing that entire team event and who’s crazy now?”
It hasn’t been the easiest 12 months for the pair that won back-to-back world titles in 2015 and 2016. A herniated disc in Radford’s back affected everything at last year’s world championships. They started this season with one free skate before switching back to Adele’s Hometown Glory just ahead of the nationals in January.
“It’s always hard to remember, or it’s easy to forget, the really hard times when you’re in the middle of an incredible time,” said Radford, before recalling a conversation with 2002 Olympic champion David Pelletier after the troubles at worlds. “He was like, ‘you know what, coming seventh at worlds could be the best thing that happened to you guys, because you’re going to go into the Olympics, under the radar, and that’s when you can hit and then surprise everybody’ and that’s exactly what has happened.”
“I don’t know if there’s been happier bronze medallists than we are,” said Duhamel.
Knowing that their careers are coming to an end, they made sure to soak up this experience as best they could.
“This morning at practice Eric said ‘Let’s just be proud. Here we are in the final group at the Olympics. I mean we have to be proud of ourselves,” said Duhamel. “In the warmup I took the time to look around and be like ‘Here I am. This is amazing’ and to enjoy that.”
“I think we’re going to be able to retire and always think back on our skating career feeling complete and happy,” said Radford.
“I can say we landed the last throw quad we tried. That makes me happy,” said Duhamel, who had no idea it was actually the first quad throw ever landed in Olympic competition.
Four years ago, Duhamel had left the ice in Sochi in tears, disappointed with how she had skated. This time, the only tears were of joy.
“I feel like this completes it because I got to have my Olympic moment.”