Figure skaters Duhamel, Radford turf coach in bold shakeup
'It was now or never' on making change 8 months before Winter Olympics
Meagan Duhamel pauses for a moment to collect her thoughts.
The question is a simple one: Why would the Canadian figure skater and pairs partner Eric Radford — world champions in both 2015 and 2016 — fire their coach just eight months before the 2018 Olympics?
"At the end of the day," Duhamel begins, choosing her words carefully, "what Eric and I have been doing isn't working anymore and we needed to make some changes."
And that's exactly what they've done, announcing Friday they're parting ways with Richard Gauthier in a both surprising and bold shakeup that will see two new faces added to their backroom staff when preparations for the Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, get underway in earnest over the summer.
"This will be our last competitive season," the 31-year-old Duhamel continued in a phone interview with The Canadian Press. "It was now or never to try something different. We feel like we need to refresh and reinvigorate our skating to have a chance to stand on that podium at the Olympics.
"This was what needed to be done."
Following those back-to-back world golds, Duhamel and Radford, 32, finished seventh this past season after the latter suffered a herniated disc in his back that caused numbness and a loss of control in his right hip.
But Duhamel said the problems ran much deeper than the injury as the pair, which finished seventh at the Sochi Olympics in 2014, struggled most of the year.
"Our poor results and poor skates this season were because we didn't deliver," she said. "It's our own fault. It was not our coaching team's fault, but it is something we thought long and hard about. I think Eric's injury at the world championships was the accumulation of a terrible season that just all shattered right there in that moment.
"I think that if [the injury] hadn't happened we might not have thought so aggressively and seriously about the changes. But it did happen and changes do need to occur."
'Important upcoming season'
Bruno Marcotte, who is Duhamel's husband and worked alongside Gauthier, remains in the fold as head coach.
Duhamel, from Lively, Ont., and Radford, from Balmertown, Ont., are also bringing John Zimmerman on board to support Marcotte, while John Kerr is joining the team alongside fellow choreographer Julie Marcotte.
"Meagan and I thank Richard from the bottom of hearts for all he has done for us," Radford said in a statement. "His influence in our lives will extend far beyond the arena. This was an extremely difficult decision but now we will concentrate and focus on the important upcoming season."
Duhamel said she and Radford would be relocating to work out of Marcotte's singles training facility near Montreal later this month.
The pair will also travel to Florida to see Zimmerman at the end of July and are hoping to connect with Kerr, who recently helped with their short program, while they are down south.
"It's about what is the best-case scenario to get Eric and I to the Olympics and have our best skate," said Duhamel. "We feel like some new sets of eyes will be helpful."
Changing things up so close to the Games gave them pause, Duhamel added, but was necessary in order to avoid any "what ifs?"
Risk worth taking
"If we didn't make these changes we'll probably find ourselves in seventh place at the Olympics," she said. "By going ahead and making these changes, we're giving ourselves a chance to improve and reach the podium.
"We might also end up seventh at the Olympics even though we're making these changes, but it's the risk we needed to take."
Duhamel said the decision to part ways with Gauthier, one of only two coaches she's had over the last 10 years, was tough.
"We wouldn't be where we are without his work," said Duhamel. "It was a very difficult conversation because Eric and I are very close with him.
"He was very supportive, very professional, very respectful and wished us nothing but the best. He supported us on our quest to win an Olympic medal."