The Olympic Games 2010 - Meagan Duhamel comments on Pairs SP

By Meagan Duhamel
Photos © Absolute Skating

After years of sacrifice, injuries, tears of triumph and devastation and love for the sport of figure skating, the World gathered last night as the World’s best pairs took the ice for their short program at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver. My name is Meagan Duhamel and for my entire life I have dreamed of stepping on the ice with the Olympic rings and representing my country, my family and my partner. Unfortunately mine is not a fairy tale story, as my partner Craig and I didn’t qualify to compete in Vancouver. We went to Nationals this January with every intent of qualifying on Canada’s Olympic Team but at the end of the day Canada had two pair’s teams that were better than us. Did I sit at home and cry as the pairs took to the ice in Vancouver, living and breathing what I worked so hard to achieve? No. I sat with pride as I watched my friends and competitors live their Olympic moment. They all worked as hard as Craig and I did, they all paid their dues and they all love figure skating. It’s too bad everyone couldn’t be in Vancouver but this is life and this is sport.

The night started off with so much excitement as Xue Shen and Hongbo Zhao took to the ice first in their last attempt to win the Olympic Gold Medal. I have to admit, they are my all-time skating idols! When I met them this year at Cup of China I was so excited I was shaking when Craig introduced me to them. But they are the nicest, most down to earth people you will find in the figure skating World. They possess courage, determination and passion with every moment they make on the ice and their short was no exception. Every element was perfect and they set a new World record and watched for hours as team after team tried to duplicate or surpass that score.Their main rival started last, from Germany, Savchenko & Szolkowy. The Germans came to the Olympics determined to win and I was not surprised to see them skate a flawless program. The difficultly hidden within their program is something that only the most trained “figure skating eyes” may see. Their coach Ingo always ensures their programs are filled with difficult transitions and that is something that their peers and competitors have come to respect about them. I fully expect that in tonight’s free skate these two teams will both have the skate of the lives and it will be heartbreaking to see one of them fall short of their dream of becoming Olympic Champions.

The Russians, Kavaguti & Smirnov really stepped up their game this year with beautiful elegance and grace and they showed they don’t want to be left out of the gold medal equation. The other Russian team, Mukhortova & Trankov arrived in Vancouver with the grandest of expectations. I have competed with them since I was a teenager on the Junior Grand Prix circuit and in so many years, I had never seen them skate a clean long program. Competition after competition the skating World watched them fall short of their potential and we all wondered if they would one day become part of the Russian dominance in pairs skating, or if they would continue to fall. This season it seemed they had figured it all out. They have skated many clean free skates and in my personal opinion have blossomed into one of the best in the World. On this note I have to admit I was heartbroken to see Trankov fall on the triple toe in the short program and leave the ice in tears. He didn’t need to say anything, the devastation in his eyes said everything and Maria surprised the skating World as she showed support and love to her partner, something we haven’t seen in the past. This is what the Olympics are all about and I was so proud to see Maria hold her head high and comfort her partner.

Wow. I could go on forever with each of these teams!!!

I had yet to see Pang & Tong skate this season but I’ve always been a fan. They didn’t disappoint as they skated as well as they can and are virtually tied with team mates Zhang & Zhang. I have heard all the criticism about the Zhangs over the years but I personally have a soft spot for them. Hao is one of the funniest and friendliest skaters I have competed against. He and Craig have been competing together since their very first junior international competition, so I assume because he loves Craig, Hao took a liking to me. Everytime I see him he is laughing and trying his best to speak the few words he knows of English. Usually this is only “Hello”, “Food!” and “I have many girlfriend!” which I find absolutely hilarious and he just giggles like a school girl. I always hope they skate their best because there is nothing better than seeing great people realize their dreams.

The Canadians fall into the positions directly behind the Chinese. I was pleasantly surprised with Langlois & Hay last night. They skated with speed and charisma that I haven’t seen from them in the past and I think they deserved their personal best score. I have a lot of respect for Anabelle and her perseverance. From starting a new partnership with Hay, to finally winning her first National title, to breaking her foot last season, I think perseverance is what brought Anabelle to where she is and I was a very proud Canadian watching her and Cody skate their best on Olympic ice. Dube & Davison had a lot of pressure on them last night, skating as Canadian Champions at the Olympics in Canada. Jessica has struggled in the short program with the triple salchow for years so I consider their short program here a pretty standard skate for them. One can argue that 65 points for such a skate was a bit overmarked, but remember they did skate in the final warm-up group, which may have given them the edge with their PCS marks and they also did perform the best triple twist I have ever seen from them. Given their history, I am certain they will skate a clean long program and make Canada proud.

Ok, I got a bit carried away. But, I love to talk and there’s nothing I love to talk about more than figure skating.

I find the Germans are setting a new standard in our sport and you will soon see many teams trying to follow in their footsteps. They dare to be different, to try new things and to bring pairs skating to a new level. If you watch the Ukraine team and the Swiss team, whom train alongside the Germans, you will see the influence they have on their skating. The good, such as creativity, expression and transitions as well as the not so good, the outfits! As I listened to the commentators talk about the outfits of the Ukrainian and German team I have to admit I disagree with the criticism. Are they your typical skating outfits? No. They are unique and different. But let’s be serious, if everyone wore the same thing we would be complaining about their lack of creativity. Personally, I applaud the teams that dare to be different and respect their ability to go out of their comfort zone to push the sport.

The saddest point during these short programs for me came from Maria and Maxim. As I mentioned earlier, to see him leave the ice in tears was so heartbreaking because as a fellow pairs skater I understand how much he invested into these Olympic Games and how horrible it feels to fall, particularly when you have a partner skating beside you that landed on their feet. I will cross my fingers that they perform their long program as we have seen all season and they leave the ice excited and proud of everything they accomplished in their Olympic experience.

Now what about Evora & Ladwig!!!! I look up to these two skaters SO MUCH! When I met them at Nebelhorn Trophy in 2007 I had never heard of either of them before but they left a lasting impression on me. Amanda is one of the few pair’s girls that sit in the dressing room and chats! And I ALWAYS want to talk so it was great to find a fellow competitor just as chatty. Craig and I have had to opportunity to travel and compete with Amanda and Mark a lot over the last few years and every time is such a joy. They both speak of highly of everyone else and live life with such positive energy. As I went on facebook to send Amanda a good luck message before the Olympic competition began I was taken aback by her facebook status. “Even though I stand in front of the world BLESSED to be honored as an Olympian, I realize now that I have spent my life living the Olympic Creed life, it "is not the triumph, but the struggle... not to have conquered but to have fought well." With that in mind, I know many who deserve this honor as much as me and I honor thoses who live this way too”. How amazing is that? I don’t know many high level athletes that are as genuine and honest as Amanda and I was crying along with her last night as she and Mark finished their personal best short program.

I can’t wait to see the free skates. To see each of these skaters seize their Olympic moment, have the skate of their lives and leave the ice with happy tears and smiles. That’s what the Olympics is all about!

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