Crone and Poirier looking to step it up in Paris

Once back home, ice dancers will transform into singles competitors

Vanessa Crone and Paul Poirier will face a tough field at Trophée Eric Bompard.
Vanessa Crone and Paul Poirier will face a tough field at Trophée Eric Bompard. (Katie Weigel/IDC)


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By Laurie Nealin, special to
(11/11/2008) - Vanessa Crone and Paul Poirier surprised pretty much everyone, including themselves, by winning the silver ice dance medal at Skate Canada earlier this month.

Tuesday, they were on their way to their second ISU Grand Prix event in Paris, where landing on the podium will be a much tougher assignment.

Fresh off the junior circuit with a world silver medal to their credit, the Toronto-based teens arrived in Ottawa with few expectations -- other than to deliver the best performances possible in their senior international debut.

Crone, 18, and Poirier, 17, did just that, and, thanks in part to major miscues by the world's seventh-ranked couple Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat, the young Canadians glided into second place behind Meryl Davis and Charlie White, of the U.S. The Americans had finished sixth at the 2008 World Championships.

At Trophée Eric Bompard, the field will include the home-country's world champion couple, Isabelle Delobel and Olivier Schoenfelder, who won gold at Skate America in October. Also on the roster are Federica Faiella and Massimo Scali, of Italy, and Sinead Kerr and John Kerr, of Great Britain, the bronze medalists in Everett, Wash. The Italians and the Brits ranked fifth and eighth, respectively, at the 2008 worlds.

"The dance event [in Paris] is a strong one," said Mike Slipchuk, Skate Canada's high performance director. "It will be good for them [Crone and Poirier] to see where they fit in. There's always new people to gauge yourself against."

Not to take anything away from the standing ovation-worthy free dance with which Crone and Poirier excited the fans at Skate Canada, but the reality their total score (162.13) would not have been medal material at either Skate America or last week's Cup of China.

To their credit, they immediately recognized they had to up the points ante before heading to France.

"For sure we need to do some more refinements and get our levels up," Crone said at Skate Canada's conclusion. "We want to put finishing touches on, polish our edges, polish our speed and our flow, and just add even more maturity because we're the youngest dance team here.

"It's really a big step from last year to get to the maturity level of the 20- and 22-year-olds, so that's our main focus," added Crone, who finished atop the podium at their two junior Grand Prix competitions last season and ranked fourth nationally in senior company.

When they return from France, Crone and Poirier will shift their focus to qualifying for the Canadian championships as singles competitors -- she among the junior women and he in senior men's.

Because she is competing in France this week, Crone was allowed to skip her sectionals qualifying event last weekend and was handed a pass to the final stage of qualifying in Mississauga, Ontario, Dec. 5-7. The challenge events, as they are called, are equivalent to sectionals in the U.S. system. Skaters at the senior level are only required to compete at the challenge to earn one of the 18 singles spots for Canadians.

At the 2008 Canadian championships, Crone finished 13th and Poirier an impressive second at the junior level.

His goal as a senior men's competitor is to perform two solid programs.

"The last two years, I've really been working on the consistency of my jumps in my programs in competition, which is usually what I've been lacking," said Poirier, who does all the triple jumps except the Axel and has a triple flip-triple toe jump combination in his short program.

Asked why singles skaters would not have become pairs skaters rather than ice dancers, Crone laughed and said, "One year at sectionals, we did all three. It wasn't easy. It was very, very hard.

"Maybe in the future, we'll do pairs," she joked.

Poirier downplayed the extent of their pair skating experience, explaining that they competed pairs at the juvenile level about three years ago and finished second in their section. At that level -- the entry category for national competition - only the sectional winners advance to the junior Canadians, he noted.

"We only trained pairs once a week, just for fun. As we were moving up [in singles and dance], we really didn't have time to fit pairs in our schedules any more," said Poirier, who speaks English, French and Spanish.

"The ice dancing is going so well and something we really enjoy doing together. I don't think I'll be leaving it anytime soon. It's something I love to do so much," said Poirier, noting he also loves competing in singles, too.

Crone, who has been friends with Poirier for almost a decade, pointed out that doing both singles and ice dance can be mutually beneficial.

"Free skating gives us the strength for our dance, and dance gives us the edges and everything else we need for the free skate," she said.

The two train for both singles and dance throughout the year.

"Of course, you have to find a balance between not overexerting yourself and getting exhausted because that becomes unproductive. It's finding the perfect balance between them, doing both," Poirier said.