Interview Meagan Duhamel/Eric Radford
Four Continents, Osaka, February 2013

Q: When you teamed up, what was the hardest and what was the easiest thing for you?

Meagan: The first day we skated together, everything was hard. Death spirals were very easy for us, we could do a level four death spiral right away. But the basic things – we couldn’t do a lift, we couldn’t do a throw. Timing issues and my partner was a lot smaller than Eric. So I was prepared to be on top of the lift at Eric’s chest. But we had this one really bad day and then once we had our try out our coaches were like, it’s good, it’s going to work. Eric and I were like, oh my God, you guys are crazy. Once we started training the jumps, the throws all came very easily. We could to our throw triples the first try. Death spirals, like I said, were very easy. The hardest thing for us to learn was the triple twist. We did a double twist at the beginning for a long time. Once we started practicing the triple it was good. You know with the timing issues and I hadn’t done a triple twist for like six years, so it was tricky for us.

Eric: That very first try out it was funny, because she was so small, but for some reason she felt so heavy, I couldn’t even get her above my head. It came together really quickly. I remember our coach Bruno saying, give it a week, because we were like are we doing this for the right reason, is it going to work. One week later it all came together really quickly. It was so … especially for me. Meagan competed at a higher level than I had. In those first couple of weeks I was so exuberant and happy, because I would throw her and she would land.

Meagan: Yes, I remember we landed our first throw triple and Eric was like “oh my God, you could do it. It’s been a struggle for him in the past.

Eric: My partners struggled with the throws all the time and I thought it was me, I was a bad thrower or something. But it was when I look back I think all the way through from day one it’s been fun. Like every time I go and work very hard but there is always this feeling of having fun and we enjoy what we do. I think it’s that sort of working hard but easy going attitude that has really helped accelerate our success.

Q: You seem to get along very well.

Meagan: I think throughout the years not just with ourselves but by training with other pair teams you get to see what a struggle it is for some teams that just aren’t happy. They are just really unhappy with the situation they are in. That is so unfortunate.

Eric: It causes them to get stuck.

Meagan: In the past I didn’t have the best working relationship with Craig either. That was something that when I decided I was going keep skating, well I’m not going to cry anymore about skating. If I’m going to keep skating I’m not spending every day unhappy and crying. It is not worth it. That was a decision that I decided, I was going to have a more positive outlook on every day of training. We didn’t have any problems we needed to get over anyway. It was just fun. You want to say easy, but it is not easy. Our rink is a good environment and we create a good energy for the younger kids to experience and get to skate in, I think.

Q: When you ever have arguments, about what?

Meagan: We got into one argument once over who is going to die first. Eric was like, I’m going to live to be 115 and I said, I’m going to be 116.

Eric: I think we are both very competitive. If we are in separate teams we are competitive against one another. For the most part sometimes we’ll have days when it is frustrating because it is not working. You know, in pairs, sometimes you can’t tell, it’s just maybe Meagan feels a little off or maybe I feel a little off, but you can’t really tell. You’re just trying your best, but if something doesn’t work, then it is not going to work. We’re really good at being like, ok we just leave it and it will be better tomorrow. I think that’s where our age and our life experience comes in, is being able to say, ok, it is not working, we just leave it and it is not going to affect us the way I can remember when I was 18 or 19. It was the end of the world if I didn’t land a triple Lutz that day, it was like I had lost it forever.

Meagan: We’re just wiser. That’s the way I would sum it up. After all these years we spent in the sport by ourselves and with partners and with each other we’re wise. Sometimes we see the way younger kids are training and I just want to shake them, no, when you’re old you’re going to say, if I had only knew then what I know now. I wouldn’t listen when I was 16 either. It’s just the way it is. We’re old and wise (laughs).

Q: You’re always challenging yourselves technically a lot. You’re the only senior level team that does a side by side triple Lutz. Why do you challenge yourself so much?

Meagan: It is not even so much of a challenge. My Lutz is just as easy as my triple toe.

Eric: We both can do the jump as easily as we can do the other jumps, so we may as well put it in. It was more mentally challenging and even now it is a little bit more mentally challenging.

Meagan: Technically I think that we can do at home nine out of ten just like we would do nine out of ten any other jump. It is just in your head you perceive a triple Lutz being much more difficult so sometimes it becomes overwhelming mentally, not physically.

Eric: In a way we kind of need to do it, because we’re playing a little bit of catch up with the top, top teams that have been together for eight, nine years, aside from Tatiana and Max who have been together short but went straight to the top. It’s kind of our trademark.

Meagan: In a short program, we’re not going to get the components that Aliona and Robin or Tatiana and Max are going to get. They’re going to be about four points, three points ahead of us in components, but we can be two or three points ahead of them in the jump. We can close a big gap with a lot of teams.

Eric: We have to use your strength to get as far ahead as possible.

Meagan: Actually this year when we were choreographing our program we put our Lutz into the second half of our short program, because read the rules and we thought that we’re going to get a bonus. When we found out that it was only for single skaters we were slightly disappointed.

Eric: It should be for the pairs, though. It would kind of change up the program, because all the pairs go, twist-jump.

Meagan: We put a throw triple Lutz and a side by side triple Lutz in the second half hoping we would get bonuses for them. So we were disappointed when we weren’t able to get that. We’re still hoping that maybe one day they’ll put in this rule for pair teams even for a triple toe in the second half. It is a big risk. It is harder to do when you are tired.

Q: You also have a jump in the second half of the long program.

Meagan: I think we’re the only ones that do a combination in the second half. I haven’t seen.

Eric: I can’t think of any other team.

Meagan: Aliona and Robin do their jump, but they’re not doing their combo. It is hard to do our triple Sal-toe-toe in the second half. In our long program our goal is we have achieved it a few time to get eight points for this combo in the second half and almost seven points for the Lutz in the beginning. So we have the potential of 15 points on jumps alone. And no one is even close to that. On top of it we put a throw triple Lutz and throw triple loop both in the second half. We try to maximize each little point we have.

Q: But you’ve been also working hard on your components. How do you do that?

Eric: I think it is a combination of first of all time together. You start to just to feel each other’s rhythm. You know where the arm is going to be and where the leg is going to be and how to match it. We started working with an acting coach, Catherine Pinard. Some people may think how does acting and skating connect, but you’re performing and performing is a type of acting. It’s just helped us when you’re in the middle of the program you put yourself into a space of rather than trying to execute a movement you’re creating an emotion, creating an intention and that translates a lot more strongly to an audience and to the judges rather than just trying to look pretty all the time.

Meagan: We work with our choreographer twice a week. She is only 15 to 20 minutes away from us, so it’s very easy to go and see her. I think this is really convenient to us and I don’t know how many people have their choreographer so close that they can see them on a regular basis. So this definitely helps with our program progression. Like this year we’ve changed around both our programs a lot since we debuted them at Skate Canada. When we decided to choreograph our short program we decided to make the hardest short program possible. We jam-packed it with transitions everywhere and we put all these jumps in the second half. We were like we’re going to do this and make it so obvious that our score is going to improve. Actually we feel like we didn’t get the credit for how difficult it was. So we actually simplified it to give it a little bit more flow. But we’ve been able to do all these little changes, because our choreographer is so close to us. I think that helps the program.

Q: How did you choose your music for this year, La Boheme and Angel.

Eric: Firstly we like to use music that hasn’t been used before and I find it surprising that more skaters don’t feel that way.

Meagan: I find it funny, on the internet people always like oh my God this person is skating to Swan Lake again but when you have something new they are like why would the skate to that music, it’s never been done before. What do you want? You can’t please everybody. We did once some thing that hasn’t been done often, even La Boheme hasn’t been done.

Eric: I kind of happened upon the music the long program music just listening to different music on i-Tunes. If you buy a piece a recommendation list comes up and I listened to that one. It kind of just follows this string of music. I kind of heard it and right away it popped out as having a bit of character. I could see a story in my head when I listened to the music. It was powerful and colorful and I thought it would be good. We all listened to it and chose it.

Q: What is your story for the long program?

Meagan: The music comes from a movie called Angel which is set in the 50s. Apparently the movie wasn’t very good and so it didn’t get released outside France and Belgium I think. Maybe in England. But we read some reviews and they were really bad and we decided not to watch the music.

Eric: What we kind of created is our little own story. I think in the movie she is a struggling writer, and so at the beginning the music is quite tumultuous and I think a lot of the choreography is dark, we are not really looking at each other, Meagan is behind me. Then we kind of find each other throughout the program. Near the end there is that waltzing part that’s where we come together, dance, fall in love and then it ends with like the big climax. It’s kind of a love story, a kind of classic man and woman meeting each other, finding each other in life.

Meagan: It starts off so dark and mysterious almost, then it becomes a little bit angsty and then at the halfway point in calms down and becomes romantic until the end. So it’s got a little different flavor in the first half and the second half.

Q: What about the short program, La Boheme?

Meagan: It’s about free spirit, and wild.

Eric: Enjoy de vie.

Q: Does it suit your character?

Meagan: It suits my character perfectly.

Eric: The short program has been more challenging for me to kind of come out and smile, because I can’t.. . Sometimes I say I could never be a dancer, because I don’t know how to fake smile. But it was easy to do this weekend because we had such a great short. It’s natural. I think it’s something that we’ve been working on. Our acting coach would have do our footwork and laugh, like just pretend to laugh through the whole thing. She has these different exercises that kind of open my mind, a different way to think about it than just trying to be happy. I can’t just be happy, I need to have a reason and that’s what our acting coach really worked on.

Meagan: This program is kind of inhibited it’s not structured small, it’s big in everything, a bit wild, free spirited and building liked that all the way to the end when it gets like party time and drinking wine that’s what we say at the end of our footwork. It’s like we had a party, throw everything away, then we go into the side by side spin and the music is really building, really fast and it’s supposed to be a little bit wild. It’s a good word.

Q: You mentioned yesterday that you love music and play the piano and compose music. What kind of music do you compose? Maybe one day you’ll skate to music that you have created?

Eric: Well, that’s the plan for next year actually. I’ve written a song and I’m going to have it recorded and produced with an orchestra. Hopefully we’re going to use it for the short program next season. I mean our goal has to be to choose the best music. So I’m going to record this piece and if it is the best piece, we’re going to use it. I wrote it when my old coach Paul Wirtz passed away. I’ve always wanted to write a piece of music. It is dedicated to him. It’s in the middle of being produced right now and I’m hoping that it all comes together. I really, really hope it all works.

Meagan: Especially for the Olympics, meaningful.

Eric: I’m composing and writing music all the time and I’d eventually love to go back and finish my degree in music and really pursue it with the same amount of energy I pursue skating, because music is my other passion.

Q: So you see yourself working with music in the future.

Eric: Yes. (I’d like) either composing for film, composing for video games or producing music with specific artists, everything. I just like to create when I’m at the piano.

Q: Meagan, where do you see yourself in maybe ten years from now?

Meagan: Being married, and babies… I finished a degree in holistic nutrition, so I want to work in nutrition; I want to get my personal training to do like pilates instructing, cycling classes, bike spin classes, all this wellness type of lifestyle. I’m also interested in getting my massage therapist certification. It all ties into wellness, healthy lifestyle and that’s the path I would like to take in the future as well as having a family

Q: That leads to my question. You are a vegan. How did you become a vegan and how tough it is to maintain that lifestyle as you are travelling so much?

Meagan: I chose to become a vegan four about four and half years ago. I was reading a book and I found it really interesting. I finished the entire book in one sitting at night because I was so enthralled in all this information and I’d never actually heard of vegan. I’ve heard of people being vegetarian before. It felt like a new challenge for me and I like to push myself and to see how … like self improvement, to improve myself, push myself I think that’s a process I’m really passionate about doing. I thought this seems like something that could improve my life by doing this. So I cleaned up my fridge the next morning, immediately decided to become a vegan. Richard our coach told me I was crazy and I was going to be malnourished and this is so silly. The more people told me that the more I wanted to do it to prove them wrong. This was December 1 and it was Christmas coming up. It was very difficult that Christmas I had to bring little Tupperware containers of food everywhere I went because no one had food that I could eat. I read every book I could on it, I researched on the internet and then I started studying holistic nutrition, because I was so interested in it. That’s how I got my holistic nutrition degree. It is hard when I travel. I bring a lot of my own food. I try not to eat too much processed food. At home, I make my own cereal, I make my own bread. I’ve tried to make my own almond milk, but it doesn’t work very well. You soak you almonds and put them in a processer with water. I haven’t gotten it down quite yet. It’s an ongoing process. Coming to Japan there was a lot that I could eat. They offered a lot of vegetables, a lot of potatoes. That was really nice. It’s a little bit harder in Europe. I think that is where I struggle the most. I try to bring as much as I can and then when I go home I go to a vegan restaurant in Montreal, the first day I’m home, and have a huge feast of hearty food that I was missing while I was gone.

Q: Have you tried that diet?

Eric: I have actually. I’ve been to the vegan restaurant in Montreal and it’s actually really, really good. I’ve considered maybe becoming a vegetarian at some point. I don’t think it would be that difficult. It would be too difficult for me to give up milk and cheese and all that type of stuff. It is a big part of my life. Maybe eventually I could see myself being a vegetarian. It would just have to be like… it would involve a change in my whole life and I don’t know, I’m just waiting for a sign I guess to make it happen.

Meagan: I enjoy being a vegan. I like to find things that I can eat that don’t have animal products in it. It’s not for everybody, I understand that. I don’t go around preaching to people. I’d sit at a table while other people are eating steak. I’m not separating myself. I make my boyfriend dinner sometimes. I end up burning his bacon half the time, I’m so bad. You know, I’m not totally against it. I go to a steakhouse and just ask them to give me vegetables and rice. It’s a personal decision that I made and understand if not everybody feels the same way about it as I do. But I’ve seen a positive change in my life. I didn’t decide to do it because I was for animal rights purposes. I did it for my own self, but now I think I’ finding myself much more compassionate towards animals. I’m discovering this other side.

Q: What positive effect do you feel?

Meagan: I just feel I’m more energized all the time. Everything I’m putting into my body is nutrients. I’m not eating any empty type of calories. I make a lot of treats, like I make cakes, cupcakes and cookies that are all vegan based. I don’t eat a whole cake at once. Just because it is vegan it doesn’t mean it is healthy. I feel way more energized, I sleep better, I’ve become a lot calmer in my personality, less high-strung. My skin is better. I rarely have any problems with my complexion. All around I just feel stronger. It seems to be more popular now. When I first became vegan I didn’t hear of many people, but now it seems like it’s becoming more well-known and people seem to be trying it a lot. You hear about Hollywood stars trying all these crazy diets. But now a lot of them seem to be going into the approach of natural food and being vegan. I like it and when I have kids maybe I’ll try to raise them this way, but it’s going to be their choice, it can’t be me enforcing it.

Eric: There is two teams and there is a line in the middle. There are four balls. And you try and throw and hit the person.

Meagan: It is a rubber type of ball.

Q: It’s not too hard, I hope.

Meagan: A girl on our team last week before we came here got whipped in the face.

Eric: I’m always kind of aware, getting ready to protect ourselves.

Meagan: It depends. We are playing against this team with three big guys, they’re obviously throwing it really hard. I can’t throw it that hard. There are five (players) on each side.

Eric: Three boys and two girls.

Meagan: It starts with two (balls) on each side. You say ‘go’, and then you pick up the ball and you just start throwing it at people. As children, we played it in gym class in school.

Q: How can you describe Eric in three words?

Meagan: I want to pick the three most creative words I can. Understanding, competitive and stable. He is very stable.

Eric: Vivacious, determined, compassionate.

Q: Thank you very much for the interview!