Meagan Duhamel: “Now only Trusova can compete with Valieva. But I don’t think we need to change the rules”
Interview with Meagan Duhamel for Russian media. About the difference of Russian and North American cultures, the group of Eteri Tutberidze and judging of Russian skaters.
source: sport-express.ru dd. 1st November, 2021 by Dmitrii Kuznetsov
Megan, sorry, but after the Grand Prix it makes more sense to talk about our women than about other disciplines.
Meagan Duhamel: This is fine. They are the best, and we are talking about the best.
What’s better – women or ladies?
Meagan Duhamel: For me, both options are fine, it doesn’t matter (laughs).
I think for most Russians the main hero of Skate Canada is Kamila Valieva. And for you?
Meagan Duhamel: What she did is phenomenal, of course, with such a set of elements … She received almost the same technical score as Nathan Chen! I’ve never seen anything like this in women’s skating. She set a new standard, and now it is up to others to catch up with her.
More than once I have heard the opinion that Bolero is a too difficult music for Valieva, they say, she does not understand it. With the current rules, do you need to understand music at all? When you have such a content.
Meagan Duhamel: Everyone interprets music differently. If I hear Bolero, I will feel it one way and you will feel it differently. It’s always like this with art, well with many things. I’m not sure she’s taught a lot in terms of this music. Maybe her choreographer said: “Well, this will be your music, you need to skate like this.” I do not know. But I think her main focus was on the execution of three quads and a triple axel. The next step for her will be to add nuance, small details, emotion and choreography. Now she needs to improve in this area.
That is, you do not see the problem of dependence on quads in the rules? Now only Trusova can catch up with Valieva.
Meagan Duhamel: I don’t think we need to change the rules. It’s great to see people in the process of technical development. Now the job of others is to catch up. When you watch speed skating or running, the first to finish wins. Whoever scored more goals in hockey won. She does more than anyone else. So everything like it should be, this is sport. But I agree that with a good skating, only Trusova can compete with her.
You said yesterday that you like Trusova. Because of her love for dogs?
Meagan Duhamel: Yes, including that (laughs). In general, she has a very pleasant energy. I don’t know her personally, but when I see her on the ice, I like how she motivates herself to progress, to do all the quads, like men. Her free program this year is very good – both the music and the choreography. Perhaps this is the best program in her career. When she skates, she attacks! All or nothing. And this is very appealing to me. By the way, she would make a great pair skater. Such personality type is very suitable for pairs.
Listen, but in pair skating the opposite is true. There, quadruple elements cost too low and no one even tries to make them. Are changes need there?
Meagan Duhamel: I would like to see technical progress. When I watch pair skating – yes, there are great programs, creative moments. But we have seen the triple salchow since the 80s. Skaters have been jumping it for almost half a century! It’s time to move on. Many pairs find the opportunity to develop through choreographic details, but I would like to see this happen with jumps and throws. I watched Russian juniors, they do more difficult jumps. It’s interesting when every skater, pair, finds something that makes them special. I did it with a triple lutz and quadruple throw, which few did. And then Tarasova / Morozov started doing a quadruple twist. You need to find your own way to become special. That’s what I love about figure skating, including pair skating.
If we talk about other Russian girls – I think you will praise Tuktamysheva…
Meagan Duhamel: Yes, I liked her very much. I think she scored good points and absolutely deserved her second place.
But don’t you think that Alena Kostornaia has lost the fondness of the judges? They have forgot her over the year and now the score for the components has decreased.
Meagan Duhamel: Reputation is important for components, of course. I like Alena, two years ago she was my favorite among girls. But if you look closely at her performances in Canada, you will see that her programs are completely empty. She does not have such transitions, choreography as Kamila, Elizaveta, Japanese women. She has to show more difficult skating in order to improve her component scores. Fill in the space between jumps, find more connection with the music. She doesn’t have it now. Maybe her fans will hate me for this, but you asked my opinion.
Do you know that her short program returned, because of which she went to Plushenko? Pretty symbolic.
Meagan Duhamel: Yes I know. And it’s interesting that she decided to go back to those programs. She had great programs in the past, sometimes it’s better to go back to something. But no matter what she did, she restored her triple axel. She had already taken a step forward. There is something positive.
Since I’ve asked about the scored, I will continue. When I see very high scores for the girls in Russia, I’m not surprised. But isn’t it surprising that, for example, in USA Usacheva beat a Korean and a Japanese woman without a triple axel?
Meagan Duhamel: In the short program – no. She performed beautifully on the first day at Skate America. But in total, Kaori Sakamoto should have taken the second place in my understanding. Perhaps so. She has full packedge, she has everything, she is very strong, but she does not receive the high points she deserves. Again, my opinion. As for the scores of Russian girls, any skater sometimes gets more than he deserved for his skating, it happens. And it happened with me. And sometimes he gets less. And skaters face both options as their careers go. I do not find any dependence on the country.
Yesterday we talked about how they work in the Tutberidze group. Isn’t it a problem that the skaters of her group leave sport early? Or is it their choice and is it none of our business?
Meagan Duhamel: Of course, this is their choice. But I also find it very beautiful when a skater has a long career. As we see in the case of Tuktamysheva, Kostner and others. But when girls push each other so hard in competitions at the age of 15-16, they are already exhausted. It is very difficult to find a new challenge after a cycle of major competitions. So I understand why this is happening. It is good for sports to have familiar faces. Yuzuru Hanyu, for whom it’s the third Olympic cycle … I cannot say that I have a preference here. I just want to see strong skating. But at the same time, I want to see happy athletes.
It’s just that they often react to criticism of this group – and you have also faced it – very sensitively.
Meagan Duhamel: Yes, I agree. I don’t know Tutberidze very well …
Almost nobody knows. She rarely speaks.
Meagan Duhamel: Yes, she’s probably a big secret! (Laughs.) Of course, she taught many to skate well, she knows the technique. So even if I say something about her skaters, it’s not against her, I don’t know her personally. Everyone just has their own opinion. In Canada, the culture is very different. Two different worlds. I remember my interview at the Grand Prix Final, and a Russian journalist told me: “For you, figure skating is fun. You like to skate. I do not understand this. I’ve never heard such a thing from a Russian skater.” I skated because I’m a skating fan.
If figure skating is fun for Canadians, what word are we going to use for Russians?
Meagan Duhamel: Work. But that’s why they are so successful, that’s why they win. Thanks to this mentality.
Probably I won’t be wrong if I say that in Canada figure skating is in crisis now?
Meagan Duhamel: You’re right. 2018 was a great time for Canada, possibly the best generation. Now we have no recharge from junior skating. Piper and Paul [Gilles and Poirier], Keegan [Messing] – they’re good. But I hope that strong juniors will also start coming. Of course, the coronavirus situation is not helping. It hit the development of all sports. Young guys could not skate for almost two years. The skating rinks were closed and only the elite could skate.
And the state is not helping? In Russia, figure skating is largely a state sport.
Meagan Duhamel: Oh, in Canada it’s not at all like in Russia. When I was competing and was the sixth in the world, I still had to work full time to pay for housing and sports. Sixth in the world – that’s kind of a good result, right? We were two-time champions and never had a sponsor.
Where did you work?
Meagan Duhamel: I worked in a lot of places, but at that time – as a nanny, I took care of children. You will never hear this in big sports – someone is in the top 6 in the world, and he has to work to live. There’s no such thing in Russia, right?
Well, that would sound strange. Let’s finish the topic of scores – you wrote that Jason Brown needs to be given all tens for the components, but in Russia many are unhappy that Evgeni Semenenko lost to a man who did not make a single quad and fell on an axel. Also the difference of cultures?
Meagan Duhamel: Absolutely. My tweet was about the short program, the free program was really weak. He tries to do this quadruple and it distracts him! I’m not sure that he needs a quad. He’s good enough in everything else. The Russians are trying to win technically, in North America there is more emphasis on skating. But Jason takes with other things. He has the best spins in the world, ultra-fast, while remaining at one point. Footwork, transition moments. Nobody else does it like that! We must look at these moments as well. In an ideal world, he would also do quads, and then no one would be able to defeat him. But now he takes with the other things, because he knows that he cannot get a quadruple.
Who else would you highlight at the end of the weekend?
Meagan Duhamel: I think it is worth noting the American pair Ashley Cain-Gribble and Timothy LeDuc, they became the third and showed one of the best performances in the free program, set a personal record. This is good news for the American Olympic team. I liked Mai Mihara. She did not skate at the international level for a long time, but then she came back and showed very strong jump technique and bright, fluid skating. She can still bring surprises, even as part of the Olympic team.
We are also waiting for someone to surprise. It’s already boring to win all the time. The experience of rhythmic gymnastics shows that it is more interesting to have direct competitors.
Meagan Duhamel: The whole world is waiting! Now your girls are in their own league. It’s just will take longer for the skaters from other countries to catch up. But they gradually go to this, Korean women, Japanese women, American women make more and more difficult jumps.
I wish you the Canadians to join. Well, or you go back to single skating.
Meagan Duhamel: Oh, I hope there are young people who will be capable of high results! (Laughs.)