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Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford win a bronze medal in London

LONDON, Ont. - Canadian champion pairs Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford have started the ball rolling for the Canadian team at the world figure skating championships, winning a bronze medal during a heated competition Friday.

Canadian silver medalists Kirsten Moore-Towers and Dylan Moscovitch finished fourth almost five points behind them, after a powerful skate that brought the crowd to its feet. Last year the team hadn’t qualified for the world championships.

“I think the last time Canada had two pairs in the top five was in 1986,” Moscovitch said. “And this was the first year ever that we had two teams at the Grand Prix Final. We’re very proud to be part of that.”

While the Canadians were exulting, so were Russians Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov, who delivered a stunning victory, winning by 20 points and setting world records for both the freeskate (149.87, breaking the mark of 144.87 set two years ago by Germans Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy) and the total mark (225.71, breaking the German’s record of 217.85 set at the same event.)

Savchenko and Szolkowy took the silver medal.

Duhamel and Radford were celebrating their third anniversary as a partnership. The medal was particularly sweet for Duhamel, who won a bronze medal at the 2010 Canadian championships in the same rink – but it wasn’t enough to get to the Vancouver Olympics, because only two had qualified. . She stayed at home. “It was the lowest point of my life,” she said.

With the third and fourth place finishes, Canada has now qualified three pairs for the Sochi Olympics. “That’s very important,” Duhamel said. “There are so many people at home watching this competition waiting to see the results.”

Duhamel, of Lively, Ont., and Radford, of Balmertown, Ont., lost the silver medal by only one point, leaving the large crowd bewildered. The team wasn’t so concerned. “This bronze medal is golden to us,” Duhamel said. “I don’t think we feel anything but joy about it. “

The Canadians skated directly before three-time world championships Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy of Germany, and when the freeskate marks of the Germans went up (132.09 compared to Duhamel and Radford’s 130.95), the crowed booed. And they booed even more loudly when the final total for the German performance – 205.56 – eclipsed the Canadian’s 204.56.

During the freeskate, the Germans made mistakes on a couple of their triple jumps, Savchenko landing a triple toe loop – double toe loop when she intended a triple-triple. And Szolkowy spun out of a triple Salchow.

Their spins were very slightly off synch, and Savchenko touched down on two feet from a throw triple Axel at the end of their routine. Just before that move, they wandered, almost seemingly forgetting their routine.

They had intended to do a throw triple Salchow at the end, but began considering the idea of inserting the throw triple Axel (an extremely ambitious plan for the final element of their routine), about two days before. Szolkowy said they decided to do the high-risk move after the warmup. It took many by surprise.

The Germans, who had been third after the short program, accomplished many impressive things: a solid throw triple flip, triple twist, and a fascinating pair combination spin with many changes of position. Their lifts were novel, their speed unquestioned. And they had lost the leotards that could have cost them a costume deduction: they wore them at Skate Canada in Windsor, Ont. Not this day.

Duhamel and Radford had their moments as well, but not many of them. They wandered too close to each other during an ambitious triple Salchow-double toe loop –double toe loop at the end of their routine, causing Radford to put a foot down. And a lift near the end of the program didn’t go up easily, nor did it flow easily. But they accomplished it.

“We started off really really strong,” Radford said. “But we stayed very calm. We took everything one step at a time and we didn’t get ahead of ourselves. . And I think that’s what really kept it together for us at the end.”

He admitted that they felt a little tired toward the end, but the energy in the building pushed them through to the very end.

In the midst of all this sturm and drang, the exquisite Russians Volosozhar and Trankov won their first world title after joining forces in 2010, two star-crossed skaters who finally found success together.

They burst ahead of the pack with their impressive marks. But most importantly for them, they had delivered their long program this time without much of a hitch. They’ve been known to stumble on their way to victory, but this time their oops moment cost them little. After Volosozhar landed a throw triple Salchow, Trankov began to stroke forward and tripped to his knees. He hardly missed a beat, scrambling back to his feet again. The fall cost them one point, a moot point because of their impressive lead.

But, with results looking promising for the Canadian team at this world championship, Moscovitch said a gold medal in the new team event at the Olympics is “ours to win.”

“As a whole, I think Canada is becoming well rounded in all disciplines,” said Moore-Towers. “And that’s not something that I’ve seen since I’ve been skating (for 18 years.) I hope for the best.”

“It’s very exciting for us to be part tof this generation of skaters in Canada,” Moscovitch said.