It was likely the last competitive skate of their outstanding careers, and when Canada's Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford struck their final pose over the Olympic rings at centre ice, Duhamel collapsed on one knee and cried.
It was sense of fulfillment eight years in the making.
Duhamel and Eric Radford captured the bronze medal in pairs figure skating at the Pyeongchang Olympics on Thursday, in their Olympic finale.
"It's the sweetest (ending) it could possibly be right now," Radford said. "I don't think that there's any better way."
"I don't think there's been happier bronze medallists than we are," Duhamel said through a wide smile.
"We couldn't have asked for more from this competition and from ourselves," added Radford. "I think we're going to be able to retire and always look back on our skating career feeling complete and happy."
Skating to Adele's "Hometown Glory," an old favourite program they decided to resurrect just weeks ago, the two-time world champions scored 153.33 points, for a total 230.15, becoming Canada's first Olympic pairs medallists since Jamie Sale and David Pelletier won gold in 2002 in Salt Lake City.
Germany's Aliona Savchenko and Bruno Massot, who started the day in fourth, laid down a world-record long program score of 159.31, to win gold with 235.90, while reigning world champions Sui Wenging and Han Cong of China took silver with 235.47.
Duhamel, from Lively, Ont., and Radford, from Balmertown, Ont., were third after the short program, but six teams were all less than three points behind them. They executed a beautiful throw quadruple Salchow — becoming the only team to ever land one at an Olympics — in an almost flawless program. The one blip was when Duhamel touched her hands down on their side-by-side triple Lutzes.
I don't think there's been happier bronze medallists than we are.
Her emotions at centre ice, Duhamel said, were about "Just enjoying the moment. I couldn't have dreamt it that much better. We came to the Olympics and we just delivered four amazing performances. Four out of four."
"And we saved the best for last," Radford added.
They were skating just a few days after helping Canada to gold in the team event.
"People thought we were a bit crazy doing that entire team event. Who's crazy now?" Duhamel laughed.
The 32-year-old Duhamel, and Radford, 33, teamed up soon after Duhamel and former partner Craig Buntin narrowly missed making the 2010 Olympic team. They both seriously pondered retirement, before someone suggested they try skating together. They'd joked about their ugly, early days, when an Olympic medal must have seemed a million miles away. In their first world championships together in 2011, Duhamel broke Radford's nose with her elbow during a triple twist lift.
But the four-foot-10 Duhamel, and Radford, a 6-2 gentle giant, went on to win seven Canadian and two world titles, and pushed the sport to new places with their impressive athleticism.
Thursday, Duhamel and Radford, who were seventh at last year's world championships after he injured his back, took the ice right after the Germans' stunning performance, but remained unrattled.
People thought we were a bit crazy doing that entire team event. Who's crazy now?Meagan Duhamel
Then in the green room backstage, where the three leaders sit, the Canadians watched Sui and Han pass them, leaving Olympic Athletes from Russia Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov as the only team who could knock them off the podium.
"It was really funny, while we were waiting and watching the Russian team skate, after they finishing skated I was holding Eric's hand and I said 'I think we did enough,"' Duhamel said. "And Eric said: 'No, I'm not going to believe it until the marks come up.' I was like 'Eric! I need hope! I need to feel hope!'
"So that was just a funny moment of our different personalities _ Eric not wanting to get excited until something official and me getting my hopes up a little bit earlier than maybe I should have."
Moments later, arriving in the interview area and spotting Canadian reporters, Radford smiled and hollered "Holy crap!"
"Wooo!" Duhamel screamed.
Today, another dream came true. We skated a season best, I can argue it's even a personal best, to win an Olympic 🥉 in the toughest pairs event in history. My life feels perfectly complete right now. #dreamcometrue #pyeongchang2018 #olympics #figureskating #bronze pic.twitter.com/NHDizN7Rme— Meagan Duhamel (@mhjd_85) February 15, 2018
She rejoiced about never having to land another quad Salchow, a jump so treacherous it's left her with a permanent indent in one hip from falling so many time.
"We landed the last throw quad we tried," she said. "That makes me happy."
The Canadians were gracious in congratulating the Germany's medallists — Duhamel wrapped Savchenko in a huge hug, telling her "You did it. I'm so proud of you."
"We have so much respect for them, she's my idol, and they deserve it and they delivered a great performance, and we're so so happy," Duhamel said.
The 34-year-old Savchenko, who's worked with three different partners and represented two countries, finally captured gold in her fifth Olympics.
"We did New Year's together," the Ukraine-born Savchenko said, "and we said, '2018 will be our year,' and it is. It's just an amazing story, and I'm unbelievably happy."
An amazing ending to the Canadians' story as well, Duhamel said.
"I remember leaving Sochi (where they finished seventh) so disappointed, I remember going outside and seeing my parents and my husband and crying out of disappointment," she said. "Today I thought 'I don't care what I do, I refuse to cry because I'm disappointed when I get off the ice.' That was really the mission.
"This completes it because I got to have my Olympic moment. That was the only thing I felt was missing in my career."
Her husband Bruno Marcotte, who's also their coach, called their finale both "happy and sad."
"Extremely happy because they've worked so hard. I see the sacrifice, and she wanted that so badly," Marcotte said. "She was realistic coming here that she was going to have to have the skate of her life to have a chance to be on the podium. She knew that. And she did.
"This is the end of an incredible journey, this is the end of something special."
Canada's Patrick Chan begins his quest for a men's singles medal in the short program on Friday.
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