Not every elite athlete enjoys the opportunity to leave his or her sport on their own terms.
For Walden native and Olympic gold and bronze medal winner Meagan Duhamel, there is absolutely no doubt that she is doing just that.
One caveat here. Duhamel is not actually leaving her sport (more on that later), but from a purely competitive basis, she is, in effect, hanging up her skates.
A podium finish in South Korea for Duhamel and partner Eric Radford, reigning seven time Canadian pairs champions, was anything but a given. "It had been a while, at a high level, that we had performed really well," Duhamel said recently, back in Canada after completing a whirlwind array of workshops in Australia shortly after the conclusion of the 2018 Winter Olympics.
"The Canadian team was very vocal about wanting to win that team gold medal – that was expected," Duhamel added. "But for Eric and I, in the pairs event, we really didn't have a lot of expectations from people."
"There was just so much going on heading into the Olympics. Our throw quad had been inconsistent for two years. Even Eric and I, we knew that we could be anywhere from the podium to tenth place."
"We knew we had a chance at a medal, but we focused mostly on having that amazing Olympic moment. When the German team skated right before us and set a world record, we weren't distracted by that. We were happy they had their moment, but we were focused on having our moment."
"We weren't focused on beating them or trying to win a medal – all we wanted to do was have that great Olympic moment of our dreams." Nailed that one pretty good, they did.
"That week, we competed four times, and it kind of went exactly how we envisioned it would go," said Duhamel. "That's exactly how we dreamed it would happen. Nowadays, that sometimes gets lost, just to step off the ice and be happy and proud of what we did."
It sure made the long-term game-plan easier to follow, when things played out according to script. "We had planned, all along, that the end of our career would be the Olympics," acknowledged Duhamel. "We wanted to go out with a bang and have no regrets, and I think that is exactly what we were able to do. I feel very good and very content with that decision."
And if one envisions that Meagan Duhamel is now about to prop up her feet, perhaps lounge around on some beach, then one really doesn't know this very driven young 32 year old very well.
"I have so many things," said Duhamel. "For the short term, Eric and I are performing in a lot of shows. We're going to Japan for Stars on Ice, then across Canada, then back to Korea to perform in shows in Seoul. I see the next year or two of my life being busy in this regard."
That, however, is just the tip of the iceberg. "Down the road, my ultimate dream is to create a wellness program for athletes," Duhamel explained. "I studied holistic nutrition and am still studying some sport and fitness related nutrition."
"I would like to study yoga. I want to be involved in taking care of a young athletes' needs, away from their field of play, to be able to prevent injuries and create longevity in their career. That's something I definitely have my eyes on."
"I would also like to become a technical specialist in figure skating, in Canada or the ISU (International Skating Union). I've always dreamt of working in broadcasting as well. I want to stay involved in skating. Skating has given me the opportunity to have such an amazing life – I want to give back so that other people can experience the beauty of skating as I did."
"We are so lucky in skating that we get to continue performing, continue working together, just in a different environment than a competitive environment." Lucky to step away, on her own terms.