No one expected it. It was an overwhelming moment for Canadian teenage ice dancers Vanessa Crone and Paul Poirier. They could barely believe they were standing on the second step of the Skate Canada International podium at their first senior international event. And it happened on home soil. It was all too much to digest in the moment.
Heading into the competition the dancing duo had high personal expectations but winning the silver medal was never part of the plan.
“Really, we weren’t sure what would happen at this competition with it being our first competition on the senior Grand Prix circuit,” Crone admitted. “We new that we were well trained and well prepared and everything that we did in practice was on, bang, bang, bang – so we were hoping we could pull off three good performances and hope for the best.”
It has been an exciting year. After placing fourth at the 2008 Canadian Championships the team earned a berth on the senior national team. Skate Canada officials assigned the duo to the World Junior Figure Skating Championships. Crone and Poirier claimed the silver medal.
Moving to the big leagues full-time was a major step for the team Poirier admitted. “We were definitely very excited when we learned we had been assigned to Skate Canada,” he said. “Over the summer we decided that we wanted to make a really good impression in Ottawa.
“Especially – not with it just being our first senior Grand Prix event but being in our home country, with the home crowd to support us, it was an amazing feeling,” he added. “A lot of the other skaters who have done the senior Grand Prix’s before told us how exciting it is to skate at Skate Canada.”
Crone donned her first pair of skates at age 3. “My mother was a skater when she was younger and then she went into synchro,” Crone said. “I always loved ballet when I was younger and all the movements and I did gymnastics. For some reason, my mom put me on skates, I am not really sure why, but I just fell in love with the sport.”
Poirier said his father, a hockey player, got him into skating at age 6. “He originally put me into hockey but instead of playing hockey I would stand on the dot and start spinning,” he said. “My parents thought I might enjoy figure skating more so they enrolled me in lessons.”
Crone and Poirier teamed up in the spring of 2001. Like their teammates Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, Crone and Poirier said their early partnership was one of virtual silence. “We were shy,” Poirier said. “At that age girls are scared of guys and guys are scared of girls, but as we got to know each other things got better.
“We were just doing the same dance tests by ourselves. Vanessa and I were skating at the same club under the same dance coach,” Poirier continued. “She had the idea to put us together just to try out dance for fun and then she brought us to Scarborough FSC to work with Jon and Carol Lane and choreographer Juris Razgulajeva. From there we just continued on and on.”
The duo made the ice dance world take notice during the 2007 season when they were victorious at both their junior Grand Prix events and placed fourth at the Junior Grand Prix Final.
Born in Ottawa, Poirier now lives on the outskirts of Toronto. He attends the same high school as teammate Patrick Chan.
When asked what his peers think about him being an ice dancer, Poirier laughed. “I think it was harder when I was younger,” he said. “It helps that Patrick and I go to the same school so there are two figure skaters. I think it helps people understand it more.”
Winning the silver medal was an unexpected birthday gift for Crone and Poirier. Crone celebrated her 18th birthday on October 29 and Poirier turned 17 on November 6.
“It took a couple of minutes to get it through my head that we had won the silver medal,” Crone said. “It was the best feeling I have had in a long time. Just seeing the Canadian crowd and watching our flag go up, it was amazing.”
The duo skated into fourth place at their second Grand Prix event, Trophée Eric Bompard.
Impressive results for a debut season in the major ice dance leagues.