Sinead Kerr: “Skating is still my passion”
By Barbara Castellaro,
special to World Figure Skating
She is blond and captivating… She has an engaging smile, great charisma and innate class for ice dancing combined with a big passion… With her brother John she conquered the hearts of thousands people around the globe. Their team is called by the skating community respectfully – The Kerrs.
Sinead and John Kerr reached important milestones in ice dance for the Great Britain as well as for the ice dancing in general. They are two-time (2009, 2011) European bronze medalists and the 2004-2010 British national champions. They placed 10th at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin and 8th at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada.
They have brought the Great Britain back on the European podium exactly fifteen years after the success of the legendary Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean.
WFS talked with Sinead Kerr about the career of the splendid Scottish team, and about present and future plans.
Sinead, how and when did you begin to skate?
Sinead Kerr: I started as a Roller Skater when I was 6 (by the way I know how amazing Italians are at that sport!), then turned to ice and preferred it. It started as a hobby then gradually became something more. My parents had never tried before!
In 2000 you began to skate together with John and your ice dance couple finished second at your first British Nationals.
S. Kerr: This is one of my favorite memories. Because when we first got together, people laughed and thought it would never work, because I had already competed a lot internationally for GB in dance and John was known only for singles. So our levels were seen to be very different!
You had one of your best seasons in 2008/2009 when you won a bronze medal at the European Championships in Helsinki, Finland. You were the first British ice dance team to medal at the event since Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean did so 15 years earlier…
S. Kerr: This was a very proud moment for us as we felt finally we had proved ourselves to everyone. Of course for us it was great that we always had the crowd on our side. But now we felt the judges appreciated us too.
In 2006 you were chosen to represent Great Britain at the 2006 Olympics in Turin, which was your first Olympics. What do you remember about that time? Your emotions…
S. Kerr: I was able to enjoy both Olympics and have great memories! It’s every athletes dream just to go to Olympics so I kept telling myself to just absorb everything and enjoy every minute! Of course in the competition – especially the first time in Turin – I was nervous, but I had positive vibes and good training leading up to the event so we skated well.
The atmosphere at an Olympic Games – at the venue, in the teams village, in the city – is very special and really every competitor knows that they are part of an amazing experience. I feel very proud to be an “Olympian”.
Although you had originally planned to retire following the 2010 season, you announced that you would continue to skate competitively in the 2010-2011 season. At that season you finished second at Skate Canada and you won the bronze medal at the 2011 European Championships in Bern. Then you officially announced your retirement from competitive skating in April 2011. British people, as well as your international fans, wanted to see you competing at the 2012 European Championship in Sheffield…
S. Kerr: We always promised ourselves we would stop competing when the time felt right and it just felt right – the Europeans in Sheffield didn’t influence our decision as it is just one event in a long year of training. Because with all the good young teams coming up now, we would have to improve – not just stay the same – and that takes hard work, motivation, good health and good results at other events. With my injury in April 2011 and the fact we wanted to end with good feeling and good results, we decided the risk wasn’t worth it to continue another season. We were very happy with our final competitive performance in Bern and with our 2nd Championship medal.
In December 2011 you began performing with Stars on Ice. Will we see you in others shows in future?
S. Kerr: I really hope so. Skating is still our passion and performing is what we still love to do. I think we can still grow as skaters and performers through shows and we hope to continue for at least a couple more years.
Sinead, you are coaching. Could you tell us about this new experience?
S. Kerr: Strangely enough I have been working mainly with pairs teams and singles skaters and John has been working more with ice dance teams. Mainly I choreograph routines or work on basic skating skills. I enjoy working with kids and passing on what I have learned.
You worked with Evgeni Platov, Christopher Dean, Maya Usova and also Peter Tchernyshev. Could you tell about your work with them?
S. Kerr: Maya Usova is a lovely person and so sweet as a coach. For her, everything is always good! I wish we had been able to work with her more. Evgeni is a technical master! He is still able to skate like the best! A great person and a great coach. Chris Dean and Peter Tchernyshev are similar in that they both had very artistic minds and a lot of energy! Peter especially was a workaholic and stayed on the ice up to 10 hours a day with us working on choreography! He never got tired! And you would think Chris was only 20 years old the way he tossed himself and me around!
Your favourite ice dance couples…
S. Kerr: My all-time favorite ice dance team is Isabelle and Paul Duchesnay. Just their raw energy and connection! Even when we were young and skated singles – before we took up dance or even thought about skating together – we loved watching them! In fact, when we first got together in 2000, we went to train with them in Florida and they choreographed our first routine together!
The Kerrs and Scotland… Your costumes, your music…
S. Kerr: We have always been proud to be Scottish and so it felt right to skate a Scottish routine when the music selection was “country”in the ’07/’08 season. Of course we had to wear traditional costume too which meant John wearing a Kilt! We skated from the heart with this routine – our Scottish OD – and the audience sees that. One thing we always tried to do in our skating was be “real”, show a bit of “ourselves” on the ice. I think that’s one reason why audiences came to like us.
Your opinion about the new judging system… Lots of skaters said that it focuses on technical elements and refuses the charismatic and artistic part.
S. Kerr: I think it has definitely changed the sport. It is something very different now from what it was 10 years ago. In some ways it has made things better – more athletic and daring and not always the same results. But of course it has taken away some of the artistry. The reason things were changed was to make it more of a sport and less of an artistic format. I think couples are now starting to be able to pull everything together. This year as a viewer, the top four at least for me managed daring, athletic, artistic, interesting programs!
The present and the future of ice dance… Virtue/Moir and Davis/White… What do you think about the young Russian and Italian teams?
S. Kerr: I think Virtue/Moir and Davis/White will continue to dominate until Olympics, though I can see others now coming closer. These 2 teams have been the leaders in changing this sport and I only have respect for them. I loved Anna and Luca’s Free Dance from this year and see big improvement in them. They were always very talented (we used to train in the summers with them) but somehow stayed the same for a couple of years. They have a chance to break through now if they can continue to mature in the way they did this season. I like Ilynykh/Katsalapov a lot but was a little disappointed in them this year. They are very young though and hugely talented so have plenty of time. People just want them to be great immediately because of Olympics in Sochi. Perhaps they feel this pressure.
S. Kerr: We hope to continue to skate for the next couple of years in shows while teaching/choreographing also. I am interested too in TV work such as presenting or commentary. At the moment we will stay in the US as that is where most work as a figure skater is. For the future, maybe I will end up back in the UK. As it is, I go back there fairly regularly and always try to help British skaters while there by teaching seminars, working with individual skaters etc.
Penny Coomes and Nicholas Buckland, the students of Evgeni Platov, is the new first ice dance couple of Great Britain. What can you tell us about them?
S. Kerr: Nick and Penny have improved their skating a lot through working hard with Evgeni Platov. Their programs have always been very interesting – they are lucky to work with someone who is great at choreography but is unknown in the international skating world – Philip Askew – and he too has been a big part of their success! Philip also worked with us on our “Matrix” program. It’s great that they actually skate nothing like us. Because then they are not seen as a second Sinead and John but can make their own path.
Assistance: Giorgia Ruggeri