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Ice dancing duo going out in blades of glory

She was 21 and tipped as one to watch. A rising star in the country's ice skating scene with dreams of taking her talent to the British, European and World Championships - not to mention the Olympics.

&#149 John and Sinead

He was her little brother and shared her passion for figure skating, happy to shake off any teasing from his friends who mocked him for his graceful flamboyance on the ice.

When she agreed to become his skating partner, the 19-year-old could not believe his luck.

Today, after more than ten years of touring the world together and bringing some of the most sought-after titles in the sport back to their family home in Livingston, Sinead and John Kerr are calling it a day, retiring from the competitive world of figure skating in which they have become two of the biggest names in the industry.

"We're ready for this now," explains Sinead, 32, "And it's nice to come out while we are still at the top of the sport."

At their parents' home in Livingston, Sinead is recovering from surgery for a painful shoulder injury that has cut short the final year the duo had planned to share in the sport. While she undergoes weeks of physiotherapy, John, 30, is in the US, where the siblings spend most of their time in New Jersey having moved there for coaching early on in their career. He is enjoying some time off with his girlfriend before he and Sinead embark on the next chapter of their lives, which may still involve elaborate costumes and the limelight, if they have their way.

"Originally we thought after the 2010 Vancouver Olympics would be an ideal time to stop competitive skating," Sinead says. "But then we felt we could carry on for another year, and we wanted more medals, so we decided to have one more year."

Having taken home third place in the European Championships in Switzerland in January, the pair were set for the World Figure Skating Championships in Japan - later relocated to Moscow owing to the earthquake - when Sinead injured her shoulder in training, requiring intricate surgery to mend a painful dislocation. They knew their time was up and decided to go out on a high.

"It was disappointing not to make the World Championships," says John, speaking from his US home. "We have been really lucky with injuries throughout our career though, and Europe was a great way to go out."

For John, the highlight of their career was their first Winter Olympics in 2006 when they took tenth place in Turin, Italy, before going on to come eighth in their second Games in Vancouver last year.

"Nothing really beats the Olympics," he says. "It was so special to be there. Yet coming third in the European Championships also meant a lot to us, as did the first time we won the British Championships."

Their list of achievements is certainly long, and more than a dream come true for the West Lothian pair who began skating after a family day out to the Capital's Murrayfield Ice Rink when they were just children.

They were both pretty much hooked after that first shot on the ice and Sinead quickly swapped roller skating, which she had loved from the age of seven, for shiny blades as the ice became the focus of all her goals.

From then on she took classes at Murrayfield, sported elaborate costumes and layers and layers of make-up as she set about making a name for herself.

John was quick to follow, admitting he is a "natural show off", desperate to perfect the moves of the skating professionals he and his sister would admire on the television screen day after day.

"When we were children, we were not the most talented - there were children who were much better than us," he says. "We were probably the most driven though and would sit and watch videos of all the stars. We never thought just about Scotland and the UK either, we wanted to be the best we could be in the world.

"When I was at school, I think a lot of people thought figure skating was the gayest thing ever and I can see why people think it's quite effeminate. I suppose it was quite unusual at the time.

"When Sinead and I started training together, she was a lot more experienced than I was and she was really doing me a favour. So many people would have loved to have danced with her then, she was the best person I could have skated with."

He and Sinead have no intention of breaking up their successful partnership, revealing they will continue to skate together across the world to entertain their thousands of fans, just not competitively.

They also have ambitions to return to the Lothians one day to set up a skating academy, to help budding ice hopefuls achieve their dreams of turning professional. And they will not rule out a television career either.

"We'll still skate," says Sinead. "I think it would be a little too final just to stop completely. It is hard for any athlete to retire, especially for us as we have pretty much been doing this since we left school.

"At some point in the future I would love to put on a show at Murrayfield, as well as set up a skating school to help people who want to skate stay here in Scotland. We had to leave to get the best coaching we could, but Edinburgh has always been our home.

"As for television? Well, I am really interested in getting involved with that more. People have asked us about whether we would consider something like Dancing on Ice, maybe as judges. If the opportunity came up, I would certainly look into it."

Although both Sinead and John have partners in the US - both of whom are also into skating - the pair have spent countless hours together over the last decade in intensive training and travelling the world, not to mention dancing so intimately. For some siblings, it would be the stuff of nightmares.

But what do they think of spending so much time together?

"We get on very well," Sinead explains. "We also got together when we were a little older. I was 21 and John was 19. Most skating couples have been together since they were eight or nine.

"Most people who know us will say I am the bossy one.

"I really felt I had let him down when I had my shoulder injury, but I think it helped that we were brother and sister."

John believes it has been easier for him to have a dance partner who is a relative. "I think it would have been harder to spend all that time with someone I was not related to," he says. "It's definitely got better as we have grown older too. I am sure it is a bit like a marriage - I know when to shut up now.

"We both also know not to take things personally if we're ever a bit grumpy."

Ranking on the rinks

With countless national and international titles under their belts, here are just some of the highlights:

2011: European Championships, Bern, Switzerland (3rd)

2010: Skate Canada, Kingston, Canada (2nd)

2010: World Championships, Torino, Italy (5th)

2010: Winter Olympics, Vancouver, Canada (8th)

2009: British Championships, Sheffield (1st)

2009: European Championships, Helsinki, Finland (3rd)

2009: British Championships, Nottingham (1st)

2008: World Championships, Goteburg, Sweden (8th)

2008: British Championships, Sheffield (1st)

2006: Nebelhorn Trophy, Oberstdorf, Germany (1st)

2006: Winter Olympics, Torino, Italy (10th)

2006: European Championships, Lyon, France (8th)

2005: Scottish Festival of Skating, Dumfries (1st)

2004: Cup of Russia (5th)

2003: Karl Schfer Memorial, Vienna, Austria (2nd)

2002: British Championships (2nd)

2001: Scottish Senior Ice Dance Championships (1st)

2001: British Championships (3rd)

2000: British Championships (2nd)

 
 
 

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