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Kerrs take .01 lead after short dance

Crone, Poirier in near dead heat with Scottish siblings

Sinead Kerr and John Kerr say this will be their last season on the competitive circuit.
Sinead Kerr and John Kerr say this will be their last season on the competitive circuit. (Paul Harvath)

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By Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(10/29/2010) - After nearly a decade on the senior circuit, Sinead Kerr and John Kerr are on the cusp of winning their first Grand Prix title, but to do so, they will have to fend off a couple a decade their junior.

The popular Scottish siblings, who are 30 and 31 years old, waltzed and quick stepped themselves to a .01 lead over Canadian silver medalists Vanessa Crone and Paul Poirier.

French champions Pernelle Carron and Lloyd Jones are third with 54.43, and Americans Madison Chock and Greg Zuerlein sit fourth with 54.19.

For the Kerrs, Skate Canada marks the start of what they're calling their final season.

"Maxim Staviski always used to say it's harder to win at Skate Canada than at worlds, so the thought of winning, it's exciting, but we're trying not to thing about it too much," John Kerr said.

"This whole season, I think, we're really just skating for ourselves and giving people a last competitive dose of the Kerrs."

The team's short dance, set to Etta James' "At Last" for the Waltz and the Ting Tings "Shut Up and Let Me Go" for the quick step, gained high levels for its Golden Waltz sequences but just Level 2 for the midline steps.

"It's not too surprising, since John said he didn't feel great on the midline," Sinead Kerr said. "We're not worried about it; we know we can improve it. It's the Golden Waltz sequences we're really pleased with."

"The Etta James music is so relaxing, so classy, it just makes the Golden Waltz enjoyable; and the quick step music, that started out as an exhibition, so it's a lot of fun," added John.

The short dance, a hybrid of the compulsory and original dances, was developed by the ISU in part as a response to the International Olympic Committee's suggestion that ice dance limit itself to two events. Senior and junior couples are competing it for the first time this season.

For the 2010-11 season, the Golden Waltz -- created in 1987 by 1992 Olympic champions Marina Klimova and Sergei Ponomarenko and their coach Natalia Dubova -- was selected for inclusion, and may be paired with Waltz, Tango, Fox Trot and Quickstep rhythms.

The judging of the Golden Waltz sequences has caused some consternation. The ISU ice dance technical committee has isolated four difficult key points for each sequence, including a "shoot-the-duck" position from the ladies in both sequence 1 and 2, and open Choctaws in sequence 2, generally considered the more difficult of the two.

This new way of analyzing the Golden Waltz, which was competed as a compulsory last season, resulted in Olympic and world silver medalists Meryl Davis and Charlie White gaining just Level 1 for their sequence 2 at NHK Trophy.

The top teams here had no such trouble, with Crone and Poirier also gaining Levels 3 and 4 on their Golden Waltz sequences, set to Gershwin's "Melody by Strauss." The highlight of their program, though, was a spectacular opening rotational lift, with Crone in an upside-down position.

"They never do the same lifts two seasons in a row, ever; everything is always all new," said the team's coach, Carol Lane.

"It's great to come out here and get such positive feedback," Poirier, who turns 19 on November 6th, said. "We're trying to hopefully get into the top free dance group at worlds this season. I know that's an ambitious goal, but we think we can do it."

Their high scores were a great birthday gift for Crone, who turned 20 today.

"It's the icing on the cake, so to speak," she said.

Carron and Jones, who train in Lyon under Muriel Boucher-Zazoui, opened with fine Level 4 twizzles and had good energy throughout their charming program to a Jacques Brel Waltz.

"This is my first in Canada, and I'm very impressed with the [fan] support for figure skating," said Jones, who hails from Cardiff, Wales. "It's just great to be here."

Chock and Zuerlein were pleased with their performance to Edith Piaf but were confused about getting just Level 1 on their closing rotational lift.

"We've been doing it for two years, and it's always been a strong lift for us," Zuerlein said. "We usually get Level 4."

U.S. junior silver medalists Rachel Tibbetts and Collin Brubaker earned 36.88 points for an entertaining program to an Etta James and Ray Charles medley and are ninth going in to the free dance.