Sinead and John Kerr: "For us it's not a motivation that other people quit"


By Nadin Vernon
Photos © 2010 Absolute Skating, EMJO

Sinead KerrSinead and John Kerr came fifth at this year’s European Championships in Tallinn. I caught up with them the morning after their free skate.

How do you feel?
Sinead: A bit tired, but we're ok. We always knew it was going to be difficult to get another medal. Of course we could have done, but it was always going to be hard. And the Olympics is the big one, so we're looking forward to that.

Did you go into these Euros more confidently having won a medal last year and also having been to the Grand Prix Finals or was there more pressure?
John: Yes, we were a little more confident. And there was probably a bit more pressure because there was more expectation, whereas last time there was more pressure because there was an opportunity. But you always try to skate your best and it doesn't always work out that way. So hopefully in a few weeks' time we'll do it there.

Sinead & John KerrYou've really improved your programmes throughout the season and even here you got a personal best despite the mistakes. It must be encouraging to know that you can do even better.
Sinead: Definitely. We know we can do the programmes better and it's quite an exciting thought for us that we're getting personal bests and improving our personal bests every time even with our skating here which wasn't our best. Especially in the original dance we can definitely score higher. This year we're closer to Khokhlova/Novitski and even the winners. So there's a smaller gap than last year from a points point of view. First isn't that far away and that's with the mistakes, so in a way that's quite encouraging.

You had a deduction on one of your lifts, what was that for?
John: I think we probably had timing violation, but we have to sit down and watch it.
Sinead: It might have just been a fraction.

Are you planning any more tweaks to your programmes?
John: We might make adjustments to the order of some of the elements, so they are maybe a little bit better set, so I think that's probably what we'll do next week.

Sinead & John KerrAre you heading straight back to the States from here?
Sinead: Yes, we're flying straight to the States on Monday, so we'll basically start training from about Wednesday and then we'll have a good week and a half or so in our own rink. Then we’ll go to Vancouver and train there for around a week or so before we compete.

In terms of training, what does a normal day look like for you?
Sinead: On a normal day we'll do two 2-hour long sessions. We've got really good ice time where we are in New Jersey. We usually skate at a decent time in the morning from 9 to 11 and then have a 2-hour break and come back for another couple of hours in the afternoon from 1 til 3. And then afterwards we'll either do conditioning or ballet or just stretching, so it's a pretty full on day.
John: We have an apartment that's pretty close to the rink so we can go between the two if we have a longer break and hang out at home for a bit. But where we skate and do off-ice is the same facility.

Is there much time for anything else?
John: Yeah, but I mean obviously with anybody who is a full-time athlete a lot of energy is taken up by doing what you do but any time there is a chance you go and catch a movie or something like that or just rest. Sometimes when you have a weekend day off you make all these plans but then just end up sleeping.
Sinead: Yes, we've had a lot of competitions this season and there's been a lot of flying as well. So we haven't really been in the same place for a full week.

Sinead & John KerrDo back to back competitions really take you out of your training rhythm?
Sinead: They do, but you get used to it. And we're more used to it now than we ever have been before. We did a few back to back competitions this year, with getting the Grand Prix Finals there was an extra one, and actually that was really great. In a way it was more difficult when the rhythm got kind of broken between the Grand Prix Final and Europeans. You get so used to doing competitions and then it feels weird coming back here again after a break, so it's good to come here and use the Europeans to get your mind in the right place for the Olympics so that you're in the competition frame of mind rather than practice.

You've been in the States for a few years now, do you know many people outside the skating world?
John: Most of the people we come in contact with are skaters, just because it's what we're so involved with 24/7. Also, because we've had the opportunity to be involved in some of the pro shows, you get to hang out with people you used to watch when you were a kid, like Kurt Browning, Yuka Sato...
Sinead: ...Brian Boitano
John: It's really interesting because they are kind of like a separate community, so you get the guys who have turned pro and then you have the ones who are eligible still or amateur.
Sinead: I guess in a way it's almost easier for us to be friendly with the pro skaters because it's just an easier atmosphere when you're doing shows. You can sit around and chat til late at night and they're not your competitors, so you can converse a bit more with them and be a bit more free and easy. Also we have friends that we train with. So we have really good training mates, we have a lot of good friends in the pro circuit and then we have the friends we meet at competitions, so it's quite nice. I think the skating world is really nice to be a part of.

Sinead & John KerrSo you train together and you live together.
Sinead: Yeah, and we sleep together.
(laughs all round)

Don't you drive each other crazy?
(more laughs)
John: Well, you do end up spending a lot of time together. But you still have your own space, say if you're out with your respective girlfriend or boyfriend, you go off and have dinner with them. But also you always get used to family. So it’s not such a big deal.
Sinead: It's not as awkward as if you're just partners and maybe are living together because you're not girlfriend and boyfriend and you're not family. You kind of have to bond in a certain way and we already have that bond. So I guess it's more comfortable.

Do you talk much about practice when you get home, or do you leave anything to do with skating at the rink?
John: It depends, sometimes we talk about it but there is no set rule or anything like that. So if you want to bring something up then you bring it up. If you think it's better to leave it, then we just leave it.

And how does it work out at competitions, do you share a hotel room?
Sinead: We'll either share a room or with family since our family is here. It's not like we don't hang out, but sometimes you just prefer your own space a little bit. Actually we have to hang out a bit more now though, because we still have to practice our exhibition here and put a lot of thought into that, we've got a new exhibition.

Sinead & John KerrGreat, what are we going to see?
Sinead: We're doing another song by Muse, it's from their new album. We like the idea that it's almost like the next step from last year's free dance.

And since you've now converted Evgeni Platov into a proper Muse fan...
John: (laughs) Yeah, exactly. We’re actually going to see Muse live together after the Olympics in Philadelphia. So that should be fun.

Your free dance this year is a little bit similar to last season's in terms of the music choice. Was that a conscious decision to do something similar because it worked well?
John: I guess it’s just that this is the sort of music we like to listen to and you get ideas from that. I wouldn't say it was a conscious decision to do something similar though.
Sinead: It was probably a conscious decision to come up with something contemporary, of this time. I don't think we ever wanted to listen to classical pieces of music.
John: And since music in Ice Dance is so limited, by taking something like Linkin Park you're unlimiting yourself.
Sinead: We always like to look outside the boundaries of what people think they're going to get in an ice dance competition. We feel like it's up to us to try and find something open and show that 'you know what, actually you can ice dance to this music as well'.

Have you come across anything so far that you'd like to use but maybe can't realize within competition and have to save for a show?
Sinead: Pretty much nothing is out there enough for us. If we feel like a piece of music enough, then we'll skate to it. I don't think there's been anything yet where we thought 'oh, we'd love to use that but we can't'.

Sinead & John KerrSinead, you mentioned in the press conference that you were nervous going into the free dance. Do you generally get quite nervous?
Sinead: It changes from competition to competition and sometimes you feel more calm than others. I think I felt more nervous going into the free dance than I have done before because I was so ready for the original dance and so calm and so confident and I still made a mistake. So all these thoughts start coming into your head, if you feel really good and still make a mistake, what will you skate like when you don't feel so good and you start doubting yourself. It's like a battle that goes on in your head and then you have to be really disciplined to skate. Actually I felt fine while I was performing but just the whole afternoon before I was nervous.

It was a long day, what did you do during the gap?
Sinead: Tried to sleep a lot and we were speaking with family and friends and trying to chat about things not to do with skating. But I found it really hard, the time between the practice and the competition. And when you've made a mistake it's hard to get that mistake out of your head. So it's a major battle inside yourself. But as soon as I was on the ice I actually felt pretty good. And it was good we skated first, I was ok with skating first because we didn't have to wait backstage or anything.

John KerrWould you say you're quite similar when it comes to how nervous you are before a competition?
John: You can never feel what somebody else feels. I always get a little bit nervous, but I think when I get nervous I probably don't care too much. Everyone gets nervous though and that's just a natural feeling because it's something you practice every day and you always want to show your best. And that's where your nerves come in because you sometimes doubt yourself that you're able to do that.

Obviously you've got Vancouver coming up, then Turin. Are you going to sit down afterwards and think about where to go from there?
Sinead: Yes, it will pretty much depend on how we feel after Worlds. It's not easy to say now what we’re going to do because you feel different feelings all the time. Yesterday before the free dance I was thinking 'This is why I don’t want to do this anymore, I hate this feeling'. And then after you finish and you get the reaction from the crowd and we got a really good reaction, you think 'you know what, actually that was great, they still like us.' So it's very much about what your heart tells you to do. Even when people say 'oh but other people give up after the Olympics and Worlds, so you may have a shot at a medal'. But that's not enough to keep you going. It has to be more than that, you have to want to go into training every day. It's not because other people quit and therefore you have a shot.
John: Yes, it's too hard to go train day in and day out. For us it's not a motivation that other people quit.

Would you consider taking a year out and then coming back for Sheffield?
John: I think it's very difficult to take a year out. I know people who have done it but I think it's very difficult, especially in dance.
Sinead: It moves on so quickly as well, things move on all the time.
John: And the thing is we don't want to ever damage the development of the sport within our own country. We don't want to come back in and take the spot from someone else and then ruin their progression because they can't compete at Europeans and Worlds then. There is an element of that, that you care and it can’t be a purely selfish thing.
Sinead: And I think we're not arrogant enough not to acknowledge young skaters coming up behind us. All over the world there are youngsters coming up who have grown up with the new judging system and are more adaptable. So for us it's a bit like why not leave while we’re going good, but we’ll see after Worlds.

Do you think you might stay in the States beyond your competitive career?
John: I don't know. It's one of those things where you will wait to see what comes up. So we'll probably see what happens, maybe if somebody offers us some shows. So we're not really making too many plans beyond Worlds.

Thanks Sinead and John for taking the time to talk to us and best of luck for the rest of the season.

Sinead & John Kerr Sinead & John Kerr

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