Meagan Duhamel, 19, and Ryan Arnold, 20, were the surprise of the senior pairs event at the 2005 Canadian Championships, when the finished fourth in the short program, The new team, together less than a year, landed side-by-side triple lutzes, the first in Canadian history. Their performance earned the duo the BMO Financial Group Possibilities Award. Although they eventually finished eighth, the couple served notice that they are a force to be reckoned with in coming years.
A few weeks later, Duhamel and Arnold also placed eighth at the World Junior Figure Skating Championships in Kitchener-Waterloo, just a short trip down the road from London. This was the second appearance for both skaters at Junior Worlds. Arnold finished sixth in pairs with former partner Carla Montgomery in 2003, the same year Duhamel placed 13th in ladies.
Last season, the skaters knew they weren’t at the level of the top Canadian pairs. “We wanted to just have fun and enjoy the competitions,” Duhamel said. “I love to compete and doing pairs gave me more motivation to train hard every day. We wanted to make the National Team and Juniors Worlds.”
They think the new judging system will be helpful. “It’s good for the athletes because you’re judged on what you do,” Arnold said, “but it needs a couple of tweaks.” Duhamel agreed, “I really like it. It gives you credit for what you do, not who you are. That’s the best part.”
For next season, the couple hopes to reach the top five at Canadians and get some Grand Prix assignments. “I plan to continue in both pairs and ladies,” Duhamel said. “I want to prove I can do both and show people I can handle it. I’d like to be the first Canadian champion in both ladies and pairs.”
Both skaters also competed in singles during the 2004-05 season. Arnold was 19th in senior men at Canadian Nationals while Duhamel was fourth in the short and seventh overall in senior ladies. Duhamel, the 2003 Canadian junior ladies champion, also won the ISU Junior Grand Prix in Courchevel, France last season and finished fifth at the Junior Grand Prix Final.
Duhamel’s sister, Heather, got her interested in the sport. “I followed her around,” she stated, “but I could only take CanSkate classes because Heather was taking private lessons and my parents said I didn’t need any. I was ten before I convinced them to let me have private lessons.” Once she got serious, Duhamel progressed rapidly, landing a single axel that first year and all her doubles except the axel within a few months. She had a triple salchow by the time she was 13. She has already landed triple toe/triple toe, triple loop/triple loop, triple salchow/triple loop, and triple lutz/triple loop in practice. The loop is her favorite jump and she hopes to land a quad loop someday.
For Arnold, skating was a family affair. He started when he was three. “My mom’s a skating coach and my uncle is Robert Tebby,” he said. “My mom taught me how to skate. My dad was a hockey coach so I basically lived at the rink. I played competitive hockey up until last year. I got as high as tier 2 Junior A. Usually I played center.” He still plays for fun with his father’s old-timers team. Arnold landed his first triple salchow when he was 13 and has all his triples up to the lutz. He has started working on a triple axel.
Last season, Arnold cut back on his singles training to concentrate on pairs and doubts he will compete at Canadians in singles in 2006. “The singles helped my pair skating,” he said. “It’s difficult to do two events but I was mentally prepared. But there’s no off day to rest.” He actually started in pairs when he was eleven and skated with Carla Montgomery for two years, winning the Canadian junior pairs title in 2002. After she retired, he took a year off to just skate singles because he couldn’t find a partner. “I had already been at Junior Worlds twice and was skating at the senior pairs level, so I didn’t want to just skate with any girl,” he said.
Duhamel and Arnold got together in the spring of 2004. “Meagan and I were just kind of playing around, trying throws and stuff, when Lee Barkell came over and told us to try some more,” Arnold said. “We had one tryout, then I did a couple with other girls, then we had a second tryout. We got the throws really quick and our lines looked good, so Meagan and I started in mid-June. We had a lot of work to do, especially learning to skate as one, but that comes with time. Twists were the hardest to learn, but we’re now doing triple twists.”
“I always thought pairs was the easy way out,” Duhamel said. “But it’s so much harder. Getting used to skating with someone else and getting the right timing is really hard. Fortunately, we have similar skating styles. But we need to do a lot of work on spins. Throws were easy. We landed our first throw triple loop and triple salchow.” The couple is already doing a throw triple loop in the short and throw triple lutz in the long. They have already worked on the throw triple axel. “I love the throws and twists and being up in the air,” Duhamel added. “It’s such a big challenge. I’m learning something new every day. I love it all.”
Barkell coaches the couple at the Mariposa School of Skating in Barrie, Ontario. They train for about three hours a day, five days a week. They run through their short one session, the long in a second session, and work on elements in the third session. Arnold has one singles session a day while Duhamel usually does two singles sessions.
Kelly Johnson choreographed the couple’s 2004-05 programs. For the short, they used Albinoni’s “Adagio” while for the long, they skated to “Concerto de Aranjuez” by Rodrigo and “Leyenda” by Andy Hill performed by Vanessa Mae. “I picked the music and Kelly picked the versions,” Arnold said. “I like variety. I don’t want to skate to the same music every year, but we had to come up with the music pretty fast. I had used the short with Carla in 2003 and the long program was Lenny (Faustino) and Jazz’s (Lariviere) music.” For the 2005-06 season, the couple will use “Quixote” by Bond for the short and “Un Homme et Son Peche” by Michel Cussen for the long.
Duhamel’s singles programs were also choreographed by Johnson. They included “Passacaglia” for the short and “Rondo Capricioso” for the long. For the 2005-06 season, Duhamel is keeping the long but using a new short, “Croatian Rhapsody”, which she plans to debut in competition at the Minto Summer Skate in late July in Ottawa.
Arnold used “Clubbed to Death” from “The Matrix” soundtrack for his short and Nina Rota’s “Love Theme” for the free skate. Johnson, Caroline Masse and Steven Cousins, choreographed the programs. “I used the same programs as last season,” Arnold noted. Off ice, Arnold said, “I listen to everything, including a lot of alternative.” Duhamel likes all kinds of music except rap. She also likes to dance and takes some jazz and modern dance classes.
As for the future, Duhamel is just concentrating on getting to the Olympics. “I’ll definitely try for 2006, then we’ll see,” she said. “I don’t plan to stop skating until I quit enjoying it.” A recent graduate from Innisdale High School, Duhamel plans on going to university to become a schoolteacher, perhaps in English. She works 15-20 hours a week in the summer as a sales clerk to help pay for her skating.
Arnold plans to skate at least until 2010. After that, he said, “It depends on how long my body can handle it. I’ve already started on my coaching levels and I plan to coach both singles and pairs. I’m sort of mentoring other skaters now. I listen in on lessons with the other Mariposa coaches. I’m picking up lots of tips and pointers for when I’m coaching.”
Both skaters like to play lots of other sports. Arnold plays basketball, soccer, golf, beach ball and volleyball. He did the pole vault and ran on the 4×100 meter relay team in high school. In the summer, Arnold likes to go to his family’s cottage to go tubing, water ski, and ride a jet ski. Duhamel plays center field on a local baseball team, swims and runs.
To relax, Duhamel most enjoys hanging out with her friends from Mariposa. She’s a frequent computer user and has her own website. She also enjoys creative writing. Duhamel collects credentials and other souvenirs from competitions plus all the stuffed animals she receives. She keeps them and her pet cat at her family’s home, while she lives with her uncle in Barrie.
Duhamel usually gets home to see her family about once a month. Arnold tries to go home every weekend to see his family and friends away from skating. The only things he collects are DVDs. He gives his younger sister any toys he receives on ice.