Canadian figure skating pair James, Radford make international debut

PIERREFONDS, Que. — Canadian figure skating pair Eric Radford and Vanessa James made their international debut Thursday and sit second after the short program in the Autumn Classic International.

Radford, a two-time world champion and three-time Olympic medallist, announced in April he was coming out of retirement to partner with James, who was born in Toronto but previously competed for France.

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The Japanese duo of Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara led after the short program with 72.32 points, ahead of James and Radford at 68.29.

Ashley Cain Gribble and Timothy Leduc of the U.S. ranked third at 59.58.

Radford of Balmertown, Ont., won back-to-back world titles in 2015 and 2016 and an Olympic bronze medal in 2018 with Meagan Duhamel.

They also helped Canada win Olympic figure skating team gold in 2018 and silver in 2014.

James was fifth in 2018 and also won six French titles with Morgan Cipres. She also retired following the Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

She and Radford met on the set of the television show "Battle of the Blades" in 2019. After a few laps around the rink together, the two realized they had figure skating chemistry.

Skating to "First Time", James, 33, and Radford, 36, made one mistake Thursday when James fell on a side-by-side jump.

‘’When we get out there, we’re waiting to find how we feel exactly,’’ Radford said. "’We need a little bit more time to figure that out.

"I think by the end of the season with a bit more comfort we are really going to be able to be able to bring the joy of our skating which is where we connect.’’

James feels she and Radford have made progress in a short time together.

‘’In six months, to put two programs together, learning and still mastering all of our elements, we are doing a really good job,’' she said.

‘’For today we felt like we had a really great time and performed it."

Deanna Stellato-Dudek and Maxime Deschamps of Vaudreuil, Que., were fourth after the short program. Lori-Ann Matte and Thierry Ferland of Levis, Que., ranked seventh.

Marilena Kitromilis of Cyprus led after the women's short program Thursday followed by South Koreans Seoyeon Ji and Young You in second and third respectively.

Two-time Olympian Gabrielle Daleman of Newmarket, Ont., ranked eighth, Vancouver's Emily Bausback ninth and Alison Schumacher of Tecumseh, Ont., 10th.

‘’I’m happy to be back competing internationally,’’ said the 23-year-old Daleman said. ‘’But from a skating perspective, that was awful.’’

The Autumn Classic International is part of the International Skating Union's Challenger Series which gives skaters the chance to compete internationally and earn world-ranking points.

The event continues until Saturday at the Sportplexe Pierrefonds.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 16, 2021.

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