By Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber
BEIJING (Reuters) – Canadian pair figure skaters Vanessa James and Eric Radford hung up their skates after the 2018 Pyeongchang Games, thinking they would never experience the thrill of gliding on Olympic ice again.
But in April last year, the two announced they were coming out of retirement to join forces after discovering they could execute intricate elements with only a few days of skating together.
“We have only been skating for 11 months, which nobody has ever done, especially after retirement,” the globe-trotting James, who represented France at the last two Olympics, told Reuters after the team event at the Beijing Olympics.
“I had unfinished business and Eric gave me the opportunity to be back here and believe in myself and prove to myself that I am capable of doing anything,” added the 34-year-old, who had also previously represented Britain.
At Beijing’s Capital Indoor Stadium on Friday, James and Radford finished 12th in the short programme with 63.03 points, their score suffering in part from a mistake on a toeloop that James attributed to a small lapse in concentration.
Their score, however, was enough for them to qualify for Saturday’s free skate.
Despite a disappointing performance, Radford, a two-time world champion and three-time Olympic medallist with former partner Meagan Duhamel, said he had no regrets about pairing up with James.
James, who grew up in Bermuda and the U.S., won a European title and a bronze at the worlds with her former French partner Morgan Cipres.
“We’ve worked really, really hard,” said Radford, 37, after their short programme on Friday. “We’ve overcome large obstacles. We’ve dealt with disappointment.”
The new pair’s 2022 Olympic adventure has not pleased everyone in the figure skating community. Radford’s former partner Duhamel said she could not understand why he had decided to resume competitive skating.
“I was forced to move on with my life in a way that I didn’t think I was ready for,” she told Reuters. “I thought I had a long future skating in shows and working with Eric. But the cards were dealt the way that they were.”
Radford said his partnership with James had opened up a new dimension in his skating and expression on the ice. Their comeback, he said, was absolutely worth it.
“It’s never too late,” Radford said.
(Reporting by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber, editing by Pritha Sarkar)