Meagan Duhamel called it the happiest bronze medal of her life. Eric Radford called it a fantastic anniversary gift for three years of skating with a partner who is helping him realize his dreams.
Making the world podium was the prime goal of the season for Duhamel and Radford, and the Canadian pairs team did just that on Friday, skating to bronze with a total score of 204.56, securing Canada's first medal of the 2013 world figure skating championships.
It was the first trip to the world podium for the duo who has skated together for just three years, joining forces after neither made it onto the 2010 Vancouver Olympic team with different partners. Now they have set themselves up as not only participants at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, but serious contenders.
The powerhouse team of Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov of Russia captured gold with 225.71, finally beating the German duo who forced them to settle for silver the past two years. Germany's four-time world champs, Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy, skated to silver with 205.56 despite a shaky free skate, passing the Canadians, who had been second after the short program. It left some wondering if Duhamel and Radford had deserved silver.
"This bronze medal is golden to us, we don't feel anything but joy about it," said Duhamel.
Duhamel, 27, of Lively, Ont., and Radford, 28, from Balmertown, Ont., improved upon their fifth place finish at last year's worlds. No Canadian pair had been on the world championship podium since Jessica Dube and Bryce Davison earned bronze back in 2008.
"Last year we left the world championships and said 'next year, we're going to be on the podium'," said Duhamel. "We set a goal and had a dream, and I think for a while we were the only ones who believed in it, but we did it, and it's the greatest feeling in the world."
The other Canadian pair, Kirsten Moore-Towers and Dylan Moscovitch of St. Catherines and Toronto respectively, finished fourth with an overall score of 199.50. The combined results for Canada's two pairs at this event secured a spot for a third Canadian pair in Sochi. The last time Canada had two teams in the top five at the world championships was in 1986.
Duhamel and Radford started strong and admitted they got tired toward the end, but were energized by the supportive Canadian crowd. The spunky Duhamel stands just five feet tall and might be the most fit-looking woman in the entire competition, skating Friday in a shimmering purple dress. Her partner, 6-foot-1, was confident and business-like in his sharp grey pinstripe vest and burgundy tie. They brought the Canadian crowd to its feet as they ended in a death spiral. They looked at each other content but serious, saying they pondered in the moment whether they had done enough to hang on to a podium spot. They waited through the final three pairs before learning they had succeeded.
"Our ultimate goal at this year was to be on the podium here, but it plays into our Olympic goal, which was to set us up at this competition to go into Sochi as contenders for a medal," said Radford. "We accomplished that, so that when we get to the Olympics, we know, and the world knows, that we're capable of a medal."
Later on Friday, Canada's Patrick Chan goes into the free skate with a big lead, vying for his third straight world title. Teammate Kevin Reynolds, currently in third place after the short program, will attempt his first world championship medal.