For Meagan Duhamel in particular, this year’s edition of Finlandia Trophy – the first one having a pairs section since 2007 – must have been a roller coaster of emotions. First of all, her Finnish roots, that everyone seemed to know about during the actual event; and then the competition itself: the two-time World Champions took the gold in Espoo, almost 30 points separating them from Russia’s Kristina Astakhova and Alexei Rogonov, but their programs were far from perfect, leaving them with bits of sadness, and some important lessons to be learned before their next competitions; and before coming back for the World Championships in Helsinki, next Spring.
by Florentina Tone
With Meagan’s grandparents from her mother side emigrating from Finland to Canada in the 1950’s, this trip to Espoo had all ingredients to be a memorable one. And it was exactly that, as Eric stated smilingly during the press conference after the short program: “We really like Finland. I think everybody knows now that Meagan has a lot of heritage here, so it’s a lot like coming home in some small way for her… and I was really happy with the audience’s reaction to our music”. For their short program, they chose to skate to “Killer” by Seal, a routine choreographed by Julie Marcotte.
With lots of potential in it, the program lacked their usual spark, and they did seem cautious and somehow lost in the ice rink – she singled their trademark side-by-side triple Lutz, he put a hand down, followed by an unsuccessful attempt to land the throw triple Axel –, an impression later confirmed by the skaters themselves: they just couldn’t adjust in time with the size of the competition rink in Espoo. Meagan talked about it in the press conference after the SP: “I think it’s just lessons learned going forwards – this ice is of different size than the ice we train on, this is a much bigger ice surface, so I think before our next competitions, before the Grand Prix in Japan, where we will be on the same size ice surface, we need to do some training at home, in Montreal, on Olympic size ice. Because having a 30 minute-practice this morning was not enough for us to adjust – so this is something that we’re going to look for as we move further into our season”.
Later on, Meagan extensively shared the experience of Finlandia Trophy on her blog, Lutz of Greens – putting their performance into context and adding all the emotions surrounding it: “The morning of the short program we changed from the practice rink to the main arena. The main arena is an Olympic Sized Ice rink, typical for Europe and Japan. But the problem was, the practice rink was NHL sized, the same as we train on at home. So we were left with the 30-minute practice the day of the short to figure out all of our patterns and make the required adjustments to the program. This is a pathetic excuse, we have skated and performed well on Olympic Sized Ice in the past, but for some reason, it really rattled me. […] The panic started creeping in and I lost my timing completely. I felt like I couldn’t control my feelings or my patterns on the ice, and it shook up my confidence. During the short program competition, I did a very uncharacteristic single lutz and I felt completely devastated as I tried to finish the program with energy and strength. I was so sad afterwards. There’s no other word to describe it but sadness. I wasn’t proud of myself and that is one of the worst feelings in the world”.
A day later, the long program, to “Non, je ne regrette rien”, performed by Patricia Kaas, went a little smoother and, leaving aside the inconsistencies, it gave the impression it might become one of the it routines of the season in the pairs event – building the crescendo and having all aces to give goosebumps to those watching it. They felt it too, and Meagan looked rather relieved in the press conference: “We’re more pleased with today’s performance than with yesterday’s performance, more proud that we kept on fighting all throughout the program, even though we didn’t feel perfectly comfortable. It’s gonna help us for the rest of the season, that we started like this, and we’re looking forward to seeing and showing everybody the growth of our programs, from this competition till we come back to Finland for the World Championships”. For now, this set of programs brought them 197.78 points – and the gold in Espoo.
“I have strong Finnish blood in my body, and my Sisu (Finlanders are often described as having Sisu, which means guts, determination, perseverance and will-power) will carry me through this experience and forward as my season goes on” (Meagan Duhamel on her blog)
For Russia’s Kristina Astakhova and Alexei Rogonov, Finlandia Trophy was too a competition where they could test their programs; especially when, two weeks prior, they had changed their short program altogether: initially set to the soundtrack of the musical “Onegin”, it is now skated to music from the movie “The Devil’s Violinist”. And there’s more to it than that, as Alexei explained in the press conference in Espoo – this season, they changed their side-by-side triple jump, from Salchow and Toeloop, to Rittberger (Loop), and it might take them some time to adjust.
The long program seemed almost a combination of four different programs – set to four different musical pieces (“The storm” by Havasi, “Comment vivre sans toi” by Caroline Costa, “Le bien qui fait mal” from the musical “Mozart l’Opera Rock” and “Crystallize” by Lindsey Stirling”), and hinting at the mechanical-doll free program they had last season. “Today we competed against ourselves, this was our first competition of the season”, summarized Alexei in the press conference after the FS. With 169.10 points, they ended the event on the second place.
For Mari Vartmann, this was the second bronze at Finlandia Trophy – in 2007, the last time the pairs category was a part of the event, she won the medal with Florian Just; this time, she won it alongside Ruben Blommaert, her current partner. Their short program this season is set to Michael Jackson’s “They Don’t Care About Us”…
…while their free skate is to “Second Law” by Muse. Both programs have been choreographed by Mark Pillay and in Espoo they were rewarded with 164.91 points.
A brand new-formed team, America’s Ashley Cain and Timothy LeDuc, was 4th in Espoo, with 158.63 points; they skate to “I Put a Spell on You” by Annie Lennox in their SP, and to “The Prayer” by Celine Dion and Andrea Bocelli in the free – both programs choreographed by Sergei Onik.
2016 US National Champions, Tarah Kayne and Daniel O’Shea finished the pairs event in Espoo on the 5th place, with 158.11 points. In their short program this season they’re accompanied by Hozier’s “Take Me To Church”…
…while their free is skated to “A Song of India” by Rimski-Korsakov and “Marche Slave” by Tchaikovsky; both programs have been choreographed by Judy Blumberg.