Golden Skate

Kostner leads ladies in Zagreb

Carolina Kostner of Italy performs her short program to Riders on the Storm by The Doors.

Defending champion Carolina Kostner of Italy won the Ladies short program with 59.31 (31.56/27.75) points, despite doubling her planned triple Lutz out of steps. The 2007-08 Grand Prix Final bronze medalist opened her program to a creative arrangement of Riders on the Storm by The Doors with a fluent triple flip-triple toe loop combination, the only triple-triple of the event. While she leaned in the air on her double Axel, the 2007 NHK Trophy champion managed to land the jump cleanly.

Kostner’s non-jumping elements were rather strong, and included a level 4 flying spin and spiral sequence, a level 3 step sequence and final combination spin. The Italian champion’s choreography (done by Lori Nichol) was one of the most creative during the event. In addition to generally strong transitions and interpretation, she was the only skater not to use a typical serpentine pattern for her spiral sequence.

“It’s a new situation as I’m now a defending champion,” said the 20-year-old. “It’s different from last year, but I am having a lot of fun and I am trying to concentrate. The mistake on the Lutz happened so fast, I guess I lost concentration. I will try my best in the free”.

At a post-event press conference, Kostner elaborated on her choice of music: “Actually I came across this music almost by an accident. My choreographer, Lori Nichol, sent me some music from Canada. I found some other tunes on the internet and I was listening to all of them and this one really stood out because it’s so strange.”

Eventually it came down to three choices.

“My coach and choreographer left the final decision to me,” continued Kostner. “I listened to all three in the evening before going to bed, and I decided that whatever music will be playing in my head when I wake up, I’ll take it. And it was this one.”

When asked about how it felt to skate in the warm-up with three Finnish skaters, the 2007 Nebelhorn Trophy champion joked: “I am already accustomed to feeling as if I’m skating at Finnish Nationals. This autumn I competed at 2007 Finlandia Trophy and it was the same there. But it does feel a bit weird.”

Finland’s Kiira Korpi is second after a clean program to Triunfal by Astor Piazzolla. The skater, who was sidelined with an illness in the beginning of the season when she was forced to withdraw from 2007 Skate America, landed a triple Lutz-double toe, a triple loop out of steps, and a double Axel. However, the 19-year-old had some problems meeting technical requirements for non-jumping elements. Her spiral sequence was only given a level 1 and her layback a level 2, but she posted the third highest technical score of the event. She is currently less than a point behind Kostner with 58.60 (32.14/26.46) points.

“I had a great feeling,” said last year’s bronze medalist. “I was relaxed. In the warm-up, I was a bit nervous. There were supporters and noise, but I was prepared for that. I was able to get a determined, but relaxed feeling. Now I’m relieved and glad that I was able to enjoy my skate. I gave 110% in the last step sequence. I have always been a fighter, I don’t give up if there are setbacks.”

The Finnish silver medalist was was annoyed, however, with the level 1 she received on her spiral sequence.

“Maybe I didn’t hold one of the positions long enough,” said Korpi. “Also two spins were a bit slow. I don’t think that my score would be good enough to win the short program, but it gives me a good position for the free skate.”

When asked to comment on the Finnish team taking on the European level, Korpi replied: “We really have a very strong team in Finland, with some very strong young skaters coming up. Like Jenni (Vähämma) here, she is a real talent. It’s a shame that Susanna (Pöykiö) cannot come here. We had a very good internal competition. We have great coaches, great working attitude, and great skaters and we really push each other.”

Teammate and Championship debutante Laura Lepistö is currently third after a nearly clean performance to Legend of 1900. The Finnish Champion planned to open her program with a triple toe loop-triple toe loop combination, but only did a triple-double. The 19-year-old didn’t allow this mistake to affect the rest of the performance, however, and went on to land a triple loop and a double Axel. She also delivered solid spins, most of which were graded level 4, and received 56.96 (32.24/24.72) points.

“Yesterday I thought I would be more nervous,” admitted the 2007 Nebelhorn Trophy bronze medalist, “but actually I was quite relaxed before the program. I’m annoyed about the mistake on my combination, but otherwise it was a good skate. In the warm-up, I noticed that my legs were shaking. I stepped out of jumps and had bad landings. Maybe I was trying too hard. I definitely attempted a triple-triple. In past competitions, I tend to double the second jump even though the first one was good.”

Switzerland’s Sarah Meier finished a close fourth with 56.44 (30.16/25.28) points after an enchanting performance to music from the Patch Adams soundtrack. Her only mistake happened on a solo jump out of steps. The 23-year-old replaced triple flip with a triple salchow, but she opened the rotation in the air and landed the Salchow on both feet half-a-revolution earlier.

“Obviously I am not very happy, because I made a mistake on the Salchow,” said last year’s silver medalist. “We changed my solo jump because I got only 3.5 points for my flip (because of a wrong take-off deduction). I feel more comfortable with the flip, but this mistake could have happened with the flip as well. I still tried to do the rest as good as I could and my points are ok.”

Meier also replaced the flying sit spin with a flying upright spin after she received no credit for the element at 2007 Trophee Eric Bompard (because the sit position wasn’t low enough). The Swiss champion earned levels 3 and 4 on the non-jumping elements, and her soft and lyrical style, as well her charming presentation, allowed her to make up for the technical mistake with high presentation scores.

Julia Sebestyen of Hungary is currently fifth with 55.54 (30.90/24.64) points. The skater, who has been struggling to regain her former level in recent seasons, seemed to be right on track as she opened the program with a solid triple flip and a huge triple Lutz-double toe combination, but then she singled an Axel.

“I rushed a bit and I was a bit ahead in my head,” explained the 26-year-old, of the popped Axel.

However, the 2004 European champion’s spins were strong as usual, and her excellent basic skating skills allowed her to match the flow of the Shubert’s Serenade.

“It wasn’t bad,” said the Hungarian champion. The triple Lutz was perfect. It was a good program. Tomorrow I will do my best and fight.”

Valentina Marchei of Italy rounded up the final flight of skaters for the free program. The 2007 Merano Cup champion gave a powerful and commanding performance to the music from La Traviata, which she opened with a solid triple Lutz-double toe loop combination. She also landed a double Axel and triple Salchow, earning 53.59 (30.86/22.83) points.

The Italian champion, who placed 10th at Skate America and ninth at Trophee Eric Bompard, admitted to having a bad seasonal start.

“Usually all the beginnings are like that for me,” said the 21-year-old. That’s the way I am. I can’t change, but my form grew. My goal was to skate perfect here in Zagreb and I did.”

When asked what it was like to compete alongside teammate Kostner, Marchei replied: “I came here as an Italian Champion and now Carolina is here. It’s not very motivating, but being close to her means that I’m in the top two and that is what matters.”

The highest technical score of evening belongs to Jenna McCorkell of Great Britain. The 21-year-old scored 33.40 for her elements which included a triple flip-double toe combination and a triple Lutz out of steps. Her overall score is 53.68 (33.40/20.28) and she was just 0.01 away from making it to the final group.

“This was the best short program of my life!” exclaimed the British champion. “I’m relieved. It’s something I knew that I could do for so long, and I’ve been trying to push it out. Sometimes I was trying a little bit too much. This time, working with Vera (Vandecaveye, her coach) and Kevin (Van der Perren, her fiance), I pulled it all together. I’ve never had 53 (points) in the short. I know I am capable of placing in the top ten, but if I panic too much about that, I loose the focus in my actual performance.”

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