Indepth with Canadian Meagan Duhamel

Part I

by Helga Dobor
& Mireille Geurts
Photos © Meagan Duhamel & Lisa Prenty

Meagan had the day off from skating and took some time to sit down with us to answer a few questions. Unfortunately we had to break up her cookie-bake session for this. She was preparing sugar cookies with sprinkles and icing and chocolate chips cookies, for her uncle because he always wants snacks. "So when he gets home from work he can have some of those". This session got a bit out of hand, took a long time. So sorry Meagans uncle, if there aren't any cookies, it is totally our fault!

You began skating at the age of 3. That is very young, do you remember the first time you put your skates on?
I remember mostly skating on the outdoor rinks as a young child. I do not remember the very first time I skated but I can remember going out with my family in the winter time every year and trying to keep up with all the big kids at the rinks!!

How were you as a kid on the ice?
Oh, I fell alot!! I remember attending summer camps with my sister for skating and the coaches would call me a human zamboni!! I just liked to go fast and try all the difficult things that I saw my sister doing and this usually caused quite a few falls.

Yes your sister, Heather, was also a skater. How much influence had she on you that you started skating?
I followed Heather around everywhere. From her friends houses to following her to the arena. It was easy for my parents because they were already there anyways for my sister. When she qualified for the Nationals and my family went to watch and it really opened our eyes to the great skating in Canada. Coming from such a small town we never experienced seeing so many great skaters. From that point on I knew I one day wanted to compete at that level just like my sister had. She was a huge inspiration to me.

Ah great, but was she next to an inspiration never a rival?
At first I only looked up to her! Then, I wanted to compete a short and long program like she had been doing and suddenly I found myself competing against her. I am a very competitive person and I always wanted to be the best but it never got out of hand.

So it was healthy competition?
Yes! We were the only competitive skaters at our arena so we used our competition to motivate us.

How old is she?
She is 21 now and attending university. She wants to be a pharmacist. She is very smart and works really hard

Does she still skate?
She coaches skating now. She quit shortly after qualifying for the nationals. That was her all time goal and once she achieved it she wanted to focus on school

And does she help you too?
Well, she mostly coaches the younger skaters near our home. I don't think she wants a career out of it she just does it for fun. She doesn't usually help me much because I don't live at home and I don't see her very often.

Ok, now lets get back to you.
What were the first jumps you landed?
I learned my single axel at the age of 10. I remember being so excited because my coach was not there that day and I couldn't wait to tell her. I learned all my double jumps except for the axel in the next month. I mostly learned from watching my sister because I didn't have many lessons because of the expense.

And was this jump the most memorable jump from your first landed jumps? Or other jumps?
I think that landing my single axel was a highlight for me because almost instantly I learned all my doubles. They just came so easily after the axel!! I also remember landing my first double axel!! That was huge for me because no one in my skating club or any club close to it was landing this jump except my sister.

Is there a jump you dislike?
I love all the jumps!! The double axel is not my favourite but people tell me that I have a good one so I guess it's not as bad as it feels....

What is the jump/combination of your dreams, you wanna execute at least once?
A quad jump!! I would love to begin work on this jump this spring.
I also enjoy working on 3\3 combinations. i have completed many in practices, including loop\loop, sal\loop, toe\toe and lutz\loop.

That is great! And which one will you be training for the quad?
Quad loop!! Because the triple loop is my favourite jump and also my easiest jump!

Do you like the other elements in skating as much as the jumps?
I love everything about skating!! But I know I must work hard on my non-jump elements for the new system. I have put alot of work towards them this year and I will continue to in the future.

What is your opinion about the new system?
I think this new system is great!! It has forced so many skaters to work on elements that have been neglected in the past. It also gives credit for what skaters do and not for what they have done in the past.

Does CoP have a great influence on how you train/put a program together?
It has completely changed the way I train!! I now devote more time towards my spins, footwork and basic skating then I ever did in the past...

You said before you don't live at home. Is that because you moved to Barrie?
I moved away from home when I was 14 to come to Mariposa School of Skating to train. I lived with another family for years and now I live with my uncle.
It is great living with my uncle. I feel more comfortable then I did when I was living with other families whom I didn't know very well.

How was your life like there in the first days/weeks/months?
Well.. I spent a summer at Mariposa and decided I wanted to move here.... It took a lot of convincing to my parents but I succeeded. *smiles* At first it was so difficult. I did not know many skaters here and I was not happy where I was living. I spent alot of time on the phone with my mom and I remember one night I called home crying at about midnight or 1 am and when I woke up the next morning my dad was there with me. He drove all night to stay with me for a few hours that morning.
I eventually found a better place to live and made tons of friends and became much happier.

Thats sweet. Your parents seem to support you a lot?
Yes. I am lucky to have such supportive parents. They have put their lives on hold for my skating and I am so lucky!! Both my mother and father work two jobs to support my skating and without them I would never have made it this far.

How often can you visit each other now?
Usually once a month I go home. I drive now but my parents don't like me driving the 3 hours (it is 3 hours from my home in Lively to Barrie where I train) by myself so I usually have to take the bus home. *smiles*

You are being coached in Barrie by Lee Barkell. What is your work like with him?
When I began working with Lee it was totally different then how I was coached before. Lee is very serious and expects for me to work 110% at all times. I was not used to such a "business-like" coach but I have become much more comfortable with that now. When I get hyper or too excited he can calm me down and bring me to the level I need to be at to perform my best. He is also extremely positive and patient with me.

When did he start coaching you?
In the summer of 2000.

When you just moved?
Yes. I had gone to Barrie to do a pairs try-out about a year prior to that and Lee was the one conducting that tryout. Since he was the only coach my mother or I were familiar with at the time we choose to have him as my coach.

Seems like a lot of adjusting, a new place to life and a coach that works so differently then what you are used to?
Yes it was so difficult at the beginning. Lee also had to get used to me as well, and I'm sure that was probably hard for him also!!

Since you mention the pairs tryout, you recently teamed up with Ryan Arnold. How did this happen? Were you still looking for a pairs partner?
Well, I decided not to do pairs after the first try out and that was something I had regretted for a long time. Skating with Ryan kind of happened so unexpectedly. I had gone home for 5 months after nationals last year and I was coming back to Barrie periodically to get new programs choreographed. Ryan was beginning some tryouts and we just fooled around on the ice for fun so he could get used to skating with someone again. I never expected anything about it but one day he wanted to teach me some throws and I did the first throw triple loop and salchow I ever tried!! Then he managed to teach me a throw triple lutz in about 15 minutes and almost instantly my coach decided that we would become a team!

How was it to start training as a pair?
Oh it was a lot harder then I thought!! I never imagined all the work that had to be done. It was like learning to skate all over again. Some things came so easily, like the throws and timing on our side-by-side jumps but the lifts and twist took lots of time!

How was the very first time you tried a lift?
Oh it was alright. Thankfully Ryan knew what he was doing. But we did a lot of off-ice lifts before we began trying them on the ice

How goes a practice? Because you both skate as single skaters, too...
Yes this summer was the longest 2 months of my life!!!! haha...
I was only used to skating 2 hours a day when Iwas just doing singles and now it is 2 hours for pairs and 2 hours for singles. plus this summer we had stroking classes, off-ice lift classes, ballet classes and our regular off-ice work out..... it was LONG days.... and very tiring...

How do you learn to adjust your skating to each other?
Well... Ryan and I had good timing together from the beginning. But, of course, we had to adjust some things. We did a lot of basic stroking exercises to help create unison between our bodies but we still have alot of work to do with the whole "skating as one" factor. I think that only comes with time and we havent had alot of it yet.

Does one of the two play second fiddle? (pairs or single skating)
Well for Ryan he definitely focuses more on pairs skating and for me, I try my best to be equal with both. Since I was competing internationally with both this fall sometimes one would take over the other. Like when Iwas going to Courchevel, I focused more on my singles the week before leaving. And that happened again going to Romania and to Finland for the final. But now, since Canadians, I have not been training my singles and just focusing on pairs for junior worlds.

How long will you skate in both categories and in both junior and senior field?
Junior worlds is my final junior competition because I turned 19 this past december!!
I plan to compete in both for as long as possible!! I would love to compete at the Olympics in 2010 as both a pairs skater and a ladies competitor. I feel that pairs skating helps my singles and vise versa. There is no reason to pick one over the other

You don't prefer one over the other?
No, I think I love them both the same!! *smiles* I love pairs because it is still something new to me and such a challenge to be learning all the difficult elements. I love working with someone else on the ice as well. I don't get as nervous in pairs because it makes me so comfortable going out there with Ryan and knowing whatever happens I am not alone. I can share everything with him that happens out there. I love singles because that was my first love of the sport. And I love challenging myself with the difficult triple jumps and triple combinations.


Are there minuses too with skating in both categories?
Of course there is!! The hours are so long everyday and training 2 short programs and 2 long programs a day gets tiring!! The risk of an injury is also much higher since I am training so often. But that is a chance I am willing to take!!

Go to part 2

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