HELSINKI — The week began with dreams of a gold medal before taking a disastrous turn. And by Thursday morning, Canada's Eric Radford was in so much pain he considered withdrawing from the world championships.
But Radford decided to persevere through a hip injury, and he and partner Meagan Duhamel held on to finish seventh in the pairs competition Thursday.
Skating to the French song "Non, je ne regrette rien" (No, I regret nothing), Canada's two-time world champions scored 206.06 points.
"That was so difficult," Radford said moments later, wearing a look of relief. "I thought after the short program it was going to be more smooth sailing, but my hip felt a little bit worse this morning and after the practice this morning, I've never felt more afraid and unsure.
"We sat down and it was our team around us, and especially Meagan, gave me the confidence to go out there and really just try to do this. I think our effort was beyond what I could have expected."
Canada's Lubov Ilyushechkina and Dylan Moscovitch was Canada's top team in sixth, while Julianne Seguin and Charlie Bilodeau were 11th.
China's Sui Wenjing and Han Cong won gold with 232.06, while Germany's Aliona Savchenko and Bruno Massot were second (230.30), and Russia's Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov took the bronze (219.03).
Radford revealed earlier that he had a hip injury which began as a muscle spasm last week and left him feeling like he had a "wooden leg." They swapped up the triple Lutz, after Radford fell repeatedly on it in practice. They subbed in a triple toe loop, which became problematic for Duhamel. They'd originally removed that jump because of her foot injury earlier in the year.
"I have some nerve damage, tendinitis, and a possible stress fracture in my left foot," Duhamel said. "When we took out the triple toe, the pain just went away, so I never got a proper MRI to see, but putting a toe pick in sends a shooting pain up my leg.
"But I came to the world championships to do whatever it takes, there's no way I was letting that energy affect me negatively, so I blocked it out. I said 'it's not there,' and your mind is a powerful thing."
Duhamel, from Lively, Ont., and Radford, from Balmertown, Ont., hope they can build this experience into preparation for next year's Pyeongchang Olympics, where they hope to contest for gold.
"Every competition is a learning experience, and this one I think we got to learn five times the amount we normally do," Radford said. "So many unexpected things happened at this competition that don't usually happen for anybody, I don't think. I think we're going to look back at it, we're disappointed in the result, the scores, but we're going to be so proud of the performance."
Canada's combined results guaranteed the country will have three pairs teams at next year's Pyeongchang Olympics. If the combined results of a country's top two finishers at the world championships equal 13 or less, that guarantees a full three berths.
"It was always a goal, we have four very very strong teams internationally this season, so regardless it's going to be a dog fight at nationals and that's a great sign for pairs in our country," Moscovitch said. "We're very proud that we're able to help a potential other team, whoever goes, there's another spot, another person who gets to live their Olympic dream."
Ilyushechkina, who's Russian, needs to receive her Canadian citizenship before she can represent Canada at the Olympics.
"We will be good to go, yes. We're working on it," Moscovitch said, then added: "Come on Trudeau government!"
He said it was a "huge honour" to record Canada's top finish Thursday.
"Eric and Meagan are two-time world champions, they're incredible skaters, and great friends, and I know Eric pushed through a lot of pain this week," Moscovitch said. "I was rooming with him so I saw it first hand and I'm really proud of how well he did."
Lori Ewing, The Canadian Press