Gold for Korpi, silver for Gold
Finland’s Kiira Korpi won the Ladies figure skating event at 2012 Cup of Russia, making good on yesterday’s promise to fight in the long program in order to earn a trip to the ISU Grand Prix Final. USA’s Gracie Gold had to settle for silver, while teammate Agnes Zawadzki remained in third place.
Korpi, who struggled with jumps during the warm up, managed to pull herself together for the performance. The first half of her elegant program set to Once Upon a Time in America was particularly impressive: she reeled off a triple toe-triple-toe, a triple Lutz, and a triple flip (edge call) – a jump that has eluded her in competition for the last couple of seasons. However, she faltered a bit in the second half when she failed to land both of her triple loop attempts.
“I am really happy about my performance today,” said the Finn. “There were a few little mistakes of course, on my easiest jump of all things, a triple loop. It was a tough couple of weeks for me, competing first at Cup of China and then here. In practices, I have started to feel tired and the six-minute warm up was not so good. However, I always kept Sochi in my mind. I have decided that I really want to go there and it helped me to skate like I did.”
The 2012 European silver medalist earned the highest scores for both technical elements (TES) and presentation (PCS), and improved her personal best by five points with 115.64 (56.12/60.52). With 177.19 points in total, another personal record, she finished first overall, and will now make her first trip to the ISU Grand Prix Final after a rather long career. She debuted at the Senior Grand Prix series in the 2006-07 season.
“I think that making the Final is a really important step for me,” she said. “Last year was a very difficult one. I was injured and I was at a turning point of my career.”
“I had to sit down and think really hard about it,” the 24-years-old explained. “By skating standards, I am pretty old, so I had to think if I really want to do it – if I still have the physical strength and motivation to continue. I decided that I had not yet shown my best, so I took care of my injuries and slowly started to regain my physical condition and train again.”
“In training, everything was fine, and now I feel that I have taken a huge step forward,” Korpi summed up. “I have shown myself that I deserve to be here and that I am able to succeed and to challenge the best skaters in the World.”
Gold started strong by nailing a triple Lutz-triple toe, which once again, was by far the most ambitious combination attempted by any competitor. However, she received an edge call on both of her triple flip attempts, popped her triple loop and second triple Lutz into doubles, and ended up with only two clean triple jumps. She scored 112.87 (54.77/58.10) points for her smooth and charming performance to music from the Life is Beautiful soundtrack.
Despite her mistakes, Gold still managed to pull off her personal best total score with 175.03 points.
“I am ‘Ok’ with how I skated,” said the 17-year-old. “The performance has a lot of flaws, but it is normal. It is something to work on for the start of next year and the rest of the season. I am looking forward to do doing it, and I am quite happy overall.”
The silver she won in Moscow is the first medal at a Senior level for the 2012 World Junior silver medalist.
“Getting my first Grand Prix medal is a huge confidence boost for me,” the U.S. Junior champion stated. “I was a bit insecure after Skate Canada, and I am very happy that I was able to turn around and win a medal here. I am looking forward to skating even better, to competing against the best skaters of the world who really push me to improve.”
“Maybe I will come to Moscow again in the future,” she added.
Zawadzki received credit for three fully rotated triple jumps, but her triple flip received an edge call and the second half of her triple toe-triple toe was underrotated.
“There were a couple of flaws,” admitted the U.S. bronze medalist. “I think it was a great skate skate for me. Of course, there was room for improvement and I will certainly work on it for my next Grand Prix event in Japan in a couple of weeks, but I am happy with what I did today.”
The 18-year-old earned 106.43 (51.10/55.33) points for her free program, and with a new personal best total of 166.61 points, edged out Japan’s Kanako Murakami for the bronze. It is the first Grand Prix medal for the American.
“I have been at this venue before and I always like it,” Zawadzki told the press, “but coming here this time and skating so well… winning my first Grand Prix medal… it is something truly special. I cannot even describe what I feel right now. It’s surreal. I am very happy.”
Both American skaters are proud to represent their country internationally, and feel that the strong tradition in U.S. Ladies figure skating is more of a boost to their morale than extra pressure.
“Yes, there is a bit of pressure since you do not want to let your country down,” said Gold, “but it is such an honor to represent the USA. In any sport, in fact, but especially in figure skating. It really motivates you to try to skate your best.”
“It definitely helps us,” agreed Zawadzki. “Of course there are certain expectations for us to skate well and to live up to the tradition, but it only pushes us forward.”
Murakami delivered a powerful and passionate routine set to a medley of Astor Piazzolla’s tangos, however, the student of Machiko Yamada and Mihoko Higuchi ran into trouble with the rules. She received no credit for her final jumping pass, a triple toe loop, as she did not perform any Axel-jumps (a required element) in her program. Still, she picked up 109.56 points and moved up from sixth to fourth place overall (166.34).
Russia’s Adelina Sotnikova had a disastrous outing in which she fell three times during the program. The three-time and current Russian champion only finished eighth in the long program (100.87), but remained in fifth place overall (157.98).
Teammate Alena Leonova, who skated after Sotnikova, only made a few non-disruptive mistakes. The World silver medalist only received full credit for three out of five triple jumps due to flawed execution, and placed eighth in the long (98.42) and slipped to sixth overall (157.27).
Polina Korobeynikova of Russia earned the fourth highest TES for her performance to Swan Lake, which was an uphill battle for the student of Viktoria Butsaeva. She landed five triple jumps, including a double Axel-triple toe, but ran out of steam towards the end of the routine and missed the last two jumping passes. With 153.32 points in total, the 16-year-old was able to pull one spot up to the seventh place overall in her Senior Grand Prix debut.