Two skaters glide across the ice and set-up for a key moment in their routine. Paul Poirier hoists Vanessa Crone into the air until her left skate rests on his upper thigh. All her weight pulls against him.
For the audience it looks effortless, but for Poirier, 18, and Crone, 19, it’s the result of years building utmost trust in one another and facing the largest challenges together.
“We can look at each other and we know exactly what is wrong and how to counter balance it and that has defiantly helped us over the years,” Crone said.
Competing for Canada at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics in mixed ice dance is something they have always wanted, but not a goal so easily attained.
“I think the hard days come more often than people think,” Crone said.
Having skated together since they were nine and 10 years old, Crone and Poirier see each other more as “brother and sister” than as partners.
They said their concern for one another and their mutual goals guide them.
“There are going to be hard days, but that is when your love for what you are doing really carries you through,” Poirier said.
According to their coach, Carol Lane, they have to find ways to break the tension of competition and still have fun.
One technique they use comes from the Pixar movie, Up. A dog in the film has to wear a cone that covers his head. They bought a cone from a local vet; it has the words “cone of shame” written across it.
“We took it to nationals and it was a hit,” Lane said. “The kids all knew that if they messed up they would be wearing the cone of shame.”
Coach Lane said she will carry a smaller version of the cone with her at the Olympics. She said it’s become a good luck charm for the athletes.