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Weir, Kerrs celebrate medals with show

Local competitors join in at Princeton Sports Center

Powered by pomegranates, Weir says his coaching team will be hauling the healing red juice to Japan.
Powered by pomegranates, Weir says his coaching team will be hauling the healing red juice to Japan. (Lynn Rutherford)

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By Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(11/03/2008) - Sinead Kerr and John Kerr hope they have finally broken through the ice dance glass ceiling.

The Scottish siblings have been fan favorites for years. Now after eight attempts the duo has won its first Grand Prix medal, a bronze at Skate America. Even more important, their marks were encouraging.

"We did come in with the aim to medal at Skate America," Sinead, 30, said. "What was great for us was coming so close to the top two teams [Isabelle Delobel and Olivier Schoenfelder, and Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto]. To push two of the top, top teams in the world so early in the season gives us a big boost of confidence. That was the main thing actually."

The team celebrated at a show Saturday night at their training home, the Princeton Sports Center in Monmouth Junction, N.J., where a congratulatory banner hung in the lobby.

Johnny Weir, who won the silver medal at Skate America, was also on hand.

"[The Kerrs] asked me to come and help support their rink, and certainly they come and help support my rink in Wayne at our Christmas show," he said.

The world bronze medalist performed an elegant rendition of "Ave Maria."

"People like this program and it's not too hard, jump-wise," he said. "It gives me a chance to do the things I like out there."

The Kerrs, who reprised their competitive routines in the show, were particularly buoyed by their original dance at Skate America. They placed second, just a hair behind world champions Delobel and Schoenfelder, and earned higher technical marks than the top two teams.

In keeping with this season's theme of music from the '20s, '30s and '40s, the siblings performed a Lindy Hop, which they feel suits them far better than many other styles. For help with the genre, they turned to Robert Royston, a U.S. open swing dance champion who performed on Broadway in Swing!.

"Both my personal trainer in Scotland and our coach, Evgeni Platov, had worked with Robert before and said he was amazing," John Kerr, 28, said. "He's been such a great influence not only on the OD, but also the free dance -- the way we interact with each other, with partnering skills with attachment to the music. He's been a great, great addition."

Missteps on twizzles cost the Kerrs points in their free dance at Skate America, but they were still encouraged by judges' comments.

"Their free dance music is by Muse; it's called "Ruled by Secrecy," but we're changing the name," Platov said. "We call it "Brother and Sister: Journey from Perdition." After some sort of catastrophe, like 9/11 or the London bombing, they are two people working together to survive."

The Kerrs' next event is Trophée Eric Bompard, where they will again face off against Delobel and Schoenfelder.

Weir, who lost Skate America by less than a point to Japanese up-and-comer Takahiko Kozuka, was philosophical about his silver medal.

"It was a good first competition of the season," he reasoned. "I have so many things to fix; we want to change some spins to get Level 4. Plus, my coaches and I watched the free skate, and we're going to make some changes to the costume to make it a little more interesting."

The world bronze medalist will next compete at Japan's NHK Trophy, the final event in the Grand Prix Series. He expressed sympathy for Evan Lysacek, who won bronze medals at Skate America and Skate Canada.

"I can't imagine doing two Grand Prix back-to-back. As an athlete, you train to peak, then you come down a little until the next competition. With Evan's schedule, he had to peak and then stay on top for another week. That's hard to do."

The skater swears by healing powers of his pomegranate juice, which coach Galina Zmievskaya provides each morning and stocks to take to competitions.

"I'm sure we'll be hauling it to Japan," he laughed.

Danielle and Alexander Gamelin, 15-year-old twins from Long Island, performed a free dance to music from King Arthur. Coached by Alex Esman and Marina Koulbitskaya, the team won the U.S. juvenile bronze medal last season.

"We're definitely gearing up for junior nationals in Lake Placid in December," Alexander said. "It was great having the chance to perform in front of an audience here."

Other local regional and sectional competitors - including Felicia Zhang, Elise Eng and Lawrence Lung, the juvenile boy's champion at the recent North Atlantic Regional Championships -- also performed to the packed audience.