History makers, risk takers, champions and humanitarians. All those words can be used to describe seven-time Canadian Pairs Champions, two-time World Champions and three-time Olympic medalists Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford, who thoroughly appreciated the fruits of their labors at the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea, winning gold and bronze medals.
All the more amazing, when Duhamel and Radford teamed up in 2010, both thought their competitive skating careers might be over. Eight years later, they have achieved more than they ever imagined. From a record-setting seven Canadian titles to landing the first-ever throw quadruple Salchow in Olympic competition to Radford being one of the most high profile openly gay athletes in PyeongChang, this duo has left an indelible impression on the sport.
It seemed little could top Duhamel and Radford’s undefeated 2014–15 season. Winning gold at the 2015 World Figure Skating Championships cemented their place in skating history and showed the world how far hard work and dedication can get you.
“For the rest of our career, we will always be able to be introduced as World Champions,” said Radford. “I’d like to be remembered for that quirky balance Meagan and I have between her being so effervescent and extroverted and me being quiet and an introvert. Also, being the team that wasn’t ever given anything and literally hard work paid off and success was achieved.”
Amazingly, the duo entered their first World Championship season with winning far from their minds. Having spent years focused on pleasing the judges and officials, when they decided to continue competing after achieving their Olympic dream in 2014, they said they would put themselves first. Each day they came to the rink intent on enjoying their training. Radford describes it as “a calm focus and calm hard work.”
“Because we’ve been through so much in order to get to this point, it’s even more special,” Duhamel said. “We know the hardships, the failures and the struggles, so it makes success that much sweeter. It is beyond my wildest dreams that I could be World Champion.”
Now in their 30s, Duhamel and Radford balance training, competing and performing with their personal lives. Duhamel is married to the pair’s coach, Bruno Marcotte. They have no trouble balancing their working relationship and personal life. At the rink, Marcotte’s role as a coach takes priority. Away from the ice, they enjoy their lives together—playing on a baseball team, cycling, riding their Vespa, playing tennis and exploring Montreal’s restaurants.
In late 2014, Radford made international news by coming out as gay and sharing his story with OutSports.com, a Web site that covers LGBT issues in sports. For his thoughtful openness, in 2015 Icenetwork.com named Radford its Person of the Year.
“Ever since I told my story I’ve had nothing but positive feedback,” said Radford, who is engaged to Spanish ice dancer Luis Fenero. “I’ve had so many amazing messages. People I don’t even know writing me and saying thank you. Knowing that my story has reached these people and is making a difference, it goes beyond my success as a figure skater. It is me helping to make a difference in somebody’s life.”
Qualifying for the Games in Sochi, Russia provided a sweet payoff for years of hard work and perseverance. Stepping onto Olympic ice for their first practice session was a joyful moment in their lives and proof that not giving up during times of disappointment and frustration is the path to success in life.
As Radford stood rinkside he could see the Olympic rings at center ice. “I jumped up and down like a little kid,” he said. Then they stepped onto the ice and skated across the rings. Radford compares entering Fisht Olympic Stadium for the Opening Ceremony to the exhilaration of a roller coaster. Hearing the roar of the crowd was a rush.
“The Olympics became real,” Duhamel said. “That was the most amazing moment.”
As do most skaters, they dreamed of skating a perfect program at the Olympics, and they did just that in the short program of the team competition. Making it all the sweeter was the historical significance. Their program was skated to “Tribute,” original music composed by Radford, the first time an Olympic skater competed to his own composition.
They earned a silver medal in the team event, but were disappointed by their performances in the pairs competition. After careful thought and discussion, Duhamel and Radford decided to compete through this year’s Olympic Winter Games. They rectified their 2014 disappointments this year in PyeongChang, where within a week’s time they performed two short programs and two free skates—earning gold in the team event and bronze in the pairs.
“What I’m the most proud of is that I’ve achieved what I’ve dreamed of achieving and nobody can take it away from me,” said Radford, who got a tattoo of the Olympic rings in 2014 to commemorate his journey. There may be more ink to mark 2018. “When I am 80, I will still be able to think back on my skating career and feel satisfaction.
“Knowing through all the ups and downs—there were so many times where I could have given up, but I didn’t—I went for it and I made it happen,” he added. “That gives me the greatest sense of accomplishment that I will carry with me regardless of all the ups and downs that are to come in life.”
Each has passionate interests away from skating. For Radford, it is music. He was the kid whose mother never had to remind him to practice piano.
“My piano is like my baby,” he said. “As big as skating is in my life, music, composing and playing music are also a huge part of my life.”
When his competitive days in skating wind down, Radford plans to get a degree in music and pursue composing for film and other media. He wrote “Tribute” in 2006 following the death of his then-coach, Paul Wirtz, from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Together with choreographer Julie Marcotte they chose the theme for the short program—a tribute to everyone who helped them along their path in skating. Renowned arranger Louis Babin orchestrated the composition.
Since the Olympics, “Tribute” helped the fight against cancer. Radford partnered with the Canadian Cancer Society with fifty percent of all net sales for downloads directed to support the work of the Canadian Cancer Society.
Duhamel’s off-ice passion is health and nutrition since becoming a vegan in 2008. She has studied holistic/naturopathic health and become a certified holistic nutritionist.
“I want to increase my work in the nutritional field, particularly with athletes, but other people as well,” said Duhamel. “I understand everybody needs something different in their lives and in their bodies. It’s very individualistic. I love the idea of figuring out nutritionally what’s going to make you feel the best.”
Since she and Marcotte got a dog in 2014, Duhamel has also become interested in opening a doggie day care/dog walking service and running a rescue shelter. She rescued a dog destined for a meat farm during a 2017 visit to PyeongChang.
Duhamel and Radford said the Olympics would be their competitive finale. They head into that future knowing that all the hard work, sacrifice and focus have made their dreams come true.
“Canadian pairs history is filled with so many greats, so to just be included among that list is unbelievable,” said Duhamel.
They treasure their time touring with Stars on Ice Canada, which they will do again this year.
You can follow their journey into the future on Twitter. Duhamel is @mhjd_85 and Radford is @Rad85E.