SPORTS

Duhamel and Radford roar to fourth national figure skating pairs title

01/24/2015 04:23 EST | Updated 03/26/2015 05:59 EDT
KINGSTON, Ont. - When Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford captured their first national figure skating title, an emotional Radford called his parents in disbelief. They cried.

Three years and another three national titles later, Duhamel and Radford utterly dominate the discipline in Canada. They roared to Canadian championship record scores for both the short and long programs, and the overall score on Saturday, to win national title No. 4.

"Winning our first one was such a self-realization when it came to our belief in ourselves," Radford said. "(Now) we know we're capable of a skate like that, so when we do it there's more satisfaction in achieving something that we were under a lot of pressure to go out there and do.

"Whereas that first one was you never know you're going to become a Canadian champion when it happens for the first time. It's literally a dream come true."

Duhamel and Radford were the only repeat winners in a changing-of-the-guard national championship.

Nam Nguyen, a 16-year-old from Toronto, won the men's singles title in a field that was missing Patrick Chan. Kaetlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje of Waterloo, Ont., perennial runners-up to Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, claimed their first ice dance title after winning four silver and three bronze. And Gabrielle Daleman of Newmarket, Ont., won her first women's crown.

Duhamel, from Lively, Ont., and Radford, from Balmertown, Ont., skated a nearly flawless performance to a medley by Muse, Radford holding Duhamel over his head in their dramatic final lift to the English rock band singing "We will be victorious."

The duo that have swept the gold medals in their competitions this season, including the Grand Prix Final in December, scored 150.69 for the long program, for a total 230.19. The lofty score came despite Duhamel singling a planned double toe loop.

"After the (Grand Prix) Final, getting 146 while making a mistake, we were joking with each other, like 'Are we really going to be able to 150? That would be so crazy, it's impossible, we'll never do it.'

"And now we have, but with room to grow. So at worlds, we're going to be aiming for higher than 150 now."

Lubov Ilyushechkina and Dylan Moscovitch of Toronto were second with 187.85, while Julianne Seguin of Longueuil, Que., and Charlie Bilodeau of Notre-Dame-du-Portage, Que., winners of this season's junior Grand Prix Final, were third with 181.43.

Weaver burst into tears after she and Poje finally claimed top spot in ice dance. It comes during a breakthrough season that saw them win both their Grand Prix events, plus the Grand Prix Final.

"I don't think I can describe this," said Weaver, who won silver with Poje at last year's world championships.

"It's definitely a lot of emotions right now," Poje added. "We've worked ever since the beginning of our partnership, even ever since we were little kids, on being national champions, and being able to be the top of your country is an amazing thing. All the ups and downs we've been through over our career, this is one thing that we've always really wanted."

"And we finally made it," Weaver said. "(Grand Prix Final) was an accomplishment in itself, but we'll be Canadian champions for the rest of our lives. It's really cool."

Piper Gilles of Toronto and Paul Poirier of Unionville, Ont., scored 174.70 for second, while Alexandra Paul of Midhurst, Ont., and Mitchell Islam of Barrie, Ont., were third (160.67).

Nguyen, meanwhile, opened with a beautiful quad Salchow and then reeled off eight triple jumps to score 256.88 overall points.

Chan had dominated men's singles skating for years, winning the past seven national titles, and when Nguyen was speaking to reporters after his victory, the three-time world champion popped over briefly to shake Nguyen's hand.

"That was the best buddy," Chan told him. "Good job."

Asked what it felt like to succeed Chan as champion, Nguyen said: "I think it's a huge honour that people say that, 'The next Patrick Chan.' But I don't know if I would call myself that anymore, because we're at the same level now, right? I'm his competitor."

Nguyen's victory completed a sweep of national crowns — he previously won juvenile, pre-novice, novice and junior titles.

"I was dreaming of this since I was eight years old, after I won the juvenile title," Nguyen said. "And it's really cool because I won every national title starting from juvenile up to senior, and I don't know if anyone has ever done that before."

Jeremy Ten of Vancouver was second with 222.58, edging Liam Firus of North Vancouver by a mere 0.18 of a point.

The two-day event at the Rogers K-Rock Centre determined the team for the world championships in March in Shanghai. Skate Canada, which will announce the team Sunday, can send two men's singles and two women's singles skaters, and three teams in both ice dance and pairs.

Nguyen was 12th at last year's world championships and said having some experience under his belt will help.

"Oh yeah. But to be honest, I feel like going to nationals here was a lot more pressure than for worlds," he said. "So I'm really excited and I'm not really nervous at all going into worlds."

Ten, meanwhile, was overwhelmed by emotion when his scores were shown on the screen. He called this a "bonus season," only deciding in June that he would compete one final year and then call it quits on a career that has been marred by injuries and disappointment.

"My whole world just went like. . . I thought I had misheard it, and then I saw the screen, I just dropped everything. I think I threw my water bottle at one point, and I forgot I was on TV, and then I completely lost all bodily function," Ten said, laughing. "At least I didn't pee myself, that was good."

The 17-year-old Daleman had a near-flawless performance to win gold with 186.02 points and beat a field that was missing defending champion Kaetlyn Osmond.

Daleman landed five triple jumps in her skate to "En Aranjuez Con Tu Amor," to finish ahead of Alaine Chartrand of Prescott, Ont. Chartrand scored 184.24 and then burst into tears of joy while speaking with reporters afterwards.

Veronik Mallet of Sept-Iles, Que., was third with 172.43.

Osmond is taking this season off to recover from a broken fibula suffered last fall.

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