The Olympic Games 2010 - Meagan Duhamel comments on Pairs Free

By Meagan Duhamel
Photos © Absolute Skating

The Olympics Games are riddled with stories of triumph, tragedy, joy and tears, and last night’s pairs free skate was no exception! I settled down last night with my mom and dad to enjoy every single pair’s team skate their Olympic free skate. I would have preferred to be competing but I guess this was the next best thing!

The contenders weren’t slotted to skate until the end but there were many fantastic moments before any Chinese pair’s teams even entered the building. Caydee Denney & Jeremy Barrett did what they do best. They skated with energy, enthusiasm and pride and showed the World they are the real deal. I’m looking forward to seeing them grow over the next Olympic cycle and I hope she never loses the fire that is clearly burning inside her. And how about Vanessa James & Yannick Bonheur?! Ever since seeing them at the Paris Grand Prix last season I was almost certain this is a team of the future. A precise long program puts them in good standing along with Caydee and Jeremy as the next Olympic cycle will begin.

The enjoyable Amanda Evora & Mark Ladwig did not disappoint either. They were able to put early jump mistakes out of their minds and skate with the passion and love I have come to adore from them. The look on Amanda’s face during their carry lift half way through their free skate said it all, “I love doing this and I hope you all love watching”! It was such an incredible moment and to see them achieve a HUGE personal best score was just the icing on the cake for their Olympic experience.

Unfortunately the Canadian teams were not able to perform to their potential. I was fully expecting Jessica Dube & Bryce Davison to skate the skate of their lives. I have competed with these two for years and as a skater you learn a lot about your competitors and one thing I have learned about Jessica and Bryce is that their long program is usually their strength, no matter what happened the day before in the short. They have proved this at the past 3 Canadian National Championships and numerous international competitions, so as I watched them struggle through the long program I was very surprised. Jessica is a strong jumper, she can perform one of the best triple Lutz’sin the world, so I can assure you that her triple Salchow troubles this week were purely mental errors. Although they didn’t have the skate they were looking for, I think Jessica and Bryce are probably very proud to have finished 6th, an improvement from their World ranking result last season and their Olympic result in 2006.

As the final group took the ice I was hoping that every team would skate the best free program of their careers. What else do you want at the Olympics? If all 4 teams had skated their best it would have made for a very exciting hour of competition!! First up was the Russians, Yuko Kavaguti & Alexander Smirnov. I was sure they were going for the quad because in my honest opinion- they needed it if they wanted any chance at winning the gold. Their programs are filled with acrobatic lifts and light beautiful stroking, but I think their coach cluttered their program with a lot of useless movements and it was so busy they didn’t have time to regain their composure after their opening error on the throw. I think their score was a huge gift, but then again the judges were scoring everyone extremely high so I guess the later you skated in the event the higher the score become.

Next up were the Germans and I thought this was it; finally a top team was going to skate cleanly. Her dress was so beautiful and their new long program much better than what we saw at the beginning of the season. The beginning mistake was not a big deal (Her doubling a planned triple toe) because I knew the Chinese weren’t planning any jumps that difficult- and they followed it up with a PERFECT throw triple Lutz, again more difficult than any throw the Chinese would attempt. They removed the side by side triple Salchow from their long this year and replaced it with an easier double Axel, which I think was smart because I don’t remember them ever cleanly landing the triple Salchow anyways. Sadly, Robin had troubles with the axel and that one mistake cost them the gold medal. I feel so horrible for Robin because Im sure for the rest of his life he will regret that one jump that he has been landing since he was a teenager. Watching the medals I was so heartbroken for them as they fought back tears. It’s easy for people to say “But they won an Olympic Bronze medal they should be thrilled”, but as an athlete when you are working towards gold, dreaming about gold and sacrificing everything for gold, a bronze will feel like failure. I hope that one day they will look at their bronze medal and be proud.

THE CHINESE!!!! Wow!!! I was hoping we’d see Bin Yao cry tears of joy tonight and I think he did, secretly, away from the cameras! Zhang & Zhang were the first of the Chinese pairs to skate and they did a very good job. It was surprising to see Hao fall on the side by side jump but everything else was done about as good as they could do. Just as we saw Maria comforting Maxim after the short program, it was cute to see Dan try to cheer Hao up after their free skate. I know Dan looks “uninterested” while they skate sometimes; I have seen them practice and laugh together on the ice so I’m not too sure she completely hates skating like some might assume. I am sure they didn’t expect a medal here after their season started on such a low note but surely Hao isn’t happy with his fall. Pang & Tong were AMAZING!!! I couldn’t believe it as I was watching. First of all, the music. There is a montage video on YouTube that that I always watch for inspiration and it is of Bin Yao and his Chinese pairs, and the video is set to the music “The Impossible Dream”. I couldn’t help but wonder if their choice of music was inspired by this video. Regardless, it was a perfect choice and they had the skate of their lives! It was wonderful to see them so excited as they finished a flawless free skate and he kissed the ice with pride. They have been among the world’s best pairs teams for many years and I don’t think I would have been able to bear seeing them finish 4th at the Olympics for a second time. As Bin Yao stood by the boards shaking as the score of Pang and Tong was announced my heart went out to him and all the work he did for Chinese pairs skating. I will never forget when I met Bin Yao. At World’s in 2008 Craig and I were practicing with the Chinese teams and I just wanted to do big throws to impress Bin Yao!!! At the closing banquet I got my picture taken with him and told him how much I loved him and his pair teams. He doesn’t speak much, if any English, and he didn’t smile, but I stood next to him with exuberance.

Shen & Zhao knew they couldn’t afford to put a foot wrong after hearing their team mate’s scores. Pang and Tong had set a new world record and I can assure you there is nothing worse than stepping on the ice and hearing that your main competitors just scored higher than you ever have before. That’s a lot of pressure and only the world’s best can step up to the plate and perform in situations like this and that’s exactly what Xue and Hongbo did. They weren’t prefect but they were magical. I don’t think the smile left Xue’s face the entire program. Each time they took off for an element I held my breath that they floated down safely. The lift error was minor, and only caused them to lose about 2 points because they had completed enough of the lift before the mistake. I was sure they had done enough to win the gold but apparently they weren’t too certain. Seeing the excitement on their faces when it officially announced that they were the OLYMPIC GOLD MEDALISTS was priceless. I remember at World’s in 2001, in Vancouver, as they sat hopeful of becoming World champions. They both crossed their fingers, and couldn’t sit down because of the anticipation. When it was announced they had only finished 3rd in that competition they were so devastated. They deserved this gold medal as a lifetime achievement award from the Figure Skating world and I’m sure pairs skaters everywhere found a new hero in Xue Shen and Hongbo Zhao.

And that concludes the pairs competition at the 2010 Winter Olympics. For some, this was it, their final moment to leave a lasting impression on the figure skating world, and for some it was only the beginning as they embark on their path towards Russia in 2014. Next up- the men!


Thank you Meagan for doing this for us, we appreciate it very much. For more information on Meagan, visit her & Craigs Facebook here!
In case you missed it, Meagan also commented on the Pairs Short Programs. Read that here.

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