The parents who deserve a gold medal

PROUD mum Maeve Kerr watches her son John and daughter Sinead on television for the first time, gliding effortlessly over the ice whilst performing an array of breathtaking lifts, leaps and spins.

It's 2003, and a clip of the brother and sister ice-dancing duo performing in the European Figure Skating Championships has just been shown on Eurosport.

However, it's not just the siblings' twists and turns on the ice that Maeve is admiring – she's also impressed with her own handiwork. The mother-of-three has painstakingly glued 1,700 crystals on to the dress Sinead is wearing – a flimsy wisp of yellow fabric – using 30 tubes of Super Glue.

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It was the first of scores of outfits that the retired nurse decorated from the conservatory of her home in Livingston.

It's this kind of family dedication and support that has helped Olympic hopefuls John and Sinead – the most successful ice dancers of their generation in the country – to come so far.

The pair will fly the British flag at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, which gets under way tomorrow, hoping to improve on their showing in the 2006 games in Turin when they came tenth.

Maeve laughs: "I go through so much Super Glue, it costs me a fortune. I get it from Homebase and the staff must wonder what I do with it all.

"The last dress I decorated for Sinead was white and I put 5,500 Swarovski stones on it – it took me two-and-a half-months. I have to stop after so many hours of doing it because I get a headache."

Sticking sequins and stones to outfits is just a snippet of the support that has been provided by Maeve and husband Alastair, 54, over the years.

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Sinead, 31, has been ice skating since she was just nine years old, with John, now 29, following in his sister's footsteps shortly after.

The pair trained as solo skaters, travelling to competitions across the country before joining together in January 1999.

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Within six months they won silver in the British Figure Skating Championships, thanks to the endless hours spent practising at Murrayfield Ice Rink.

Maeve, who is originally from Kilkenny, adds: "When Sinead was about 14, they started training with a coach from Ayr twice a week after school, so we would have to drive them to Ayr and back.

"Two years later, they started training at a rink in East Kilbride for five years and that meant picking them up from school and driving them to East Kilbride three times a week.

"John would still train at Murrayfield before school at 6:30am, so we'd be up at half five. It was dreadful – I don't think I could do that now!

Alastair, a GP at Whitburn Surgery, jokes: "If we had known at the beginning that it was going to be a 20-year sentence, it might have given one pause for thought.

"It's all been worthwhile. Luckily there have been more good times than bad!"

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Rushing around from "school to pool" is something Debs and Robert Heatly, parents of diver James Heatly – Scottish junior champion on the three metre board – are familiar with.

James, 12, grandson of triple Commonwealth gold medal winner Sir Peter Heatly, is a member of the Edinburgh Diving Club, which now trains at Newbattle Swimming Pool in Newtongrange following the temporary closure of the Commonwealth Pool.

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Mother-of-three Debs says: "We take it in turns to drive James to Newbattle four nights a week. We will also have to start taking him down south to train on the high board because Newbattle pool doesn't have one."

Debs, 45, a shop assistant in the West End, and Robert, 51, a Lieutenant Colonel in the Marines, have also embarked on a healthy eating programme provided for James by his coach in the Scottish National Elite Squad, along with sons Ross, 17, and Craig, 15, to make it easier for him.

The dedication shown by both sets of parents is nothing short of admirable,

but it's clear neither family would have it any other way, having chosen to go far beyond the call of duty to support their children over the years.

The Kerrs' living room is covered with photographs of John and Sinead performing on the ice, while a selection of their medals hang from a light on the wall. Two large silver trophies adorn the top of the wooden cabinet, with John and Sinead's names inscribed on them no less than seven times.

It marks their seventh straight victory in the British Figure Skating Championships, beating the record set by the legendary Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean, who won the championships seven times but not consecutively.

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Meanwhile, James, who lives with his family in Balerno, also hopes to compete in the Commonwealth Games in 2014.

However, with any sport there is an inevitable financial burden, and Debs and Robert have been supporting James financially since he took up diving in 2007.

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"We pay for all of his coaching fees and we have to meet the costs of the away competitions, which can be in excess of 200 per competition," says Debs.

Maeve and Alastair admit to having spent "thousands and thousands" of pounds to help John and Sinead in their sport, with one pair of skating boots costing 500.

"It is a very expensive sport," Maeve adds. " The outfits cost about 100 each at the time, and they've probably had about 100 of them altogether over the years."

So, is it really all worthwhile? Debs certainly thinks so.

"If you recognise as a parent that your child has that something that makes them tick, then you should support it," she says. "That's the parent's role."


SPORTING stars across the country have counted on the support of their parents over the years to help them achieve success.

Judy Murray previously coached son Andy at Craiglockhart Tennis and Sports Centre, where he won his first Scottish junior title, and can often be seen cheering him on at matches.

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IndyCar champion Dario Franchitti can always count on his dad George and brother Marino to support him at the track during races, not to mention Hollywood actress wife Ashley Judd.

Lewis Hamilton, who became the youngest world champion in Formula 1 history in 2008, was supported hugely by his father Anthony when he started out on the karting circuit.

Anthony was working in IT at the time but took redundancy to spend more time at the track. He did contract work and was sometimes working three jobs at a time.