Finnish Nationals selection competition, Espoo, November 14-15 | Golden Skate

Finnish Nationals selection competition, Espoo, November 14-15

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YL & JT SM-seniorit, -junioreiden ja JT SM-noviisien 2. valintakilpailu sekä SM-noviisi- ja debytanttipoikien lohkokilpailu, 14.-15.11.2020, Espoo

Comp webpage from Espoon jäätaiturit

Results

The Finnish federation managed to organize a couple of competitions mid-to late fall before the corona situation got so much worse that new restrictions were applied and the end of the year and at least January competitions were cancelled. I managed to attend the nationals selection competition in November in Espoo at the Metro Areena (which is a familiar arena to all those who have watched Finlandia Trophy in recent years). This is a bit late – a month after the fact, but I have been busy with other things. But I wanted to write a memory of this just as an antidote to the state of the world and as encouragement for everyone to go and watch all kinds of skating (at least when it is safe again)!

I had never been to a Finnish national competition before (to my great shame!) even though I had travelled to the other side of Europe to watch the Spanish Nationals in 2017. The bus and underground trip from my home in Vantaa to Espoo seemed a bit like travelling from one end of Europe to another, though, considering the state of the world! I decided to go there basically last minute, but am happy that I went as it was like most of the skating competitions I have been to in that it was great to see many of the skaters live for the first time and to meet friends and even relatives!

The safety protocols were strict – everyone wore a mask and only a limited number of tickets were sold. I think I heard that there were 70 tickets sold for Saturday and some more for Sunday. I had no trouble finding a seat with plenty of distance to my neighbors - Metro Areena is a pretty big rink. The club had managed to persuade the company to keep the cafes open at least for part of the day which was nice – I was being cold even though the rink is heated and all. Hot coffee every now and then was lovely.

The organizing club was Espoon jäätaiturit, one of the bigger skating clubs in the capital region. And as it happens a young relative of mine skates in their senior ranks and her parents participate in the club ‘s activities. Her mother was the assistant competition director which involved everything from opening the gate to ice to announcing one section of the competition. Kudos to anyone volunteering their time in such activities!!

The competition covered debutant and novice boys, juniors and seniors in singles and ice dance. Finland famously has no pairs (and has never really had any). My interests are mostly in the singles categories and so I skipped the rhythm dance on the first day and due to other things I had to do, the first competitions on both mornings.

On Saturday, I was sorry to miss the debutant boys, though, because the winner was one Romulus Peltonen. I heard he had made a good impression on ice and because of his name – Romulus is not a name you see a lot anywhere in the world, let alone in Finland! – I realized that I had met him before. In 2017, at Helsinki Worlds we watched one men’s practice session together with his dad. He was not very keen to chat with a stranger at first, but we did manage to discuss why the guys were so slow to get up from the ice after falls (esp. Shoma Uno) when his coach always told him to get up quickly. And we figured out the countries for all the flags. It was delightful to see that he had continued with the sport and seemed quite good at it based on the results. I hope Romulus will keep on skating and conquer the world like the Romans (named after the original Romulus) did!

I arrived just in time to see the first group of junior ladies skating. The last time I had seen skating live was in the junior Worlds in Tallinn in March, so I did not expect quite the same level. Overall, the girls were pleasant to watch. Technically obviously not at very high level, but good quality skating, some nice programs etc. Everyone looked like they belonged on the ice, that they were already well-formed skaters (which is not always the case even in international competitions). My young relative did not skate her best technically but earned a very nice PCS score which I thought was absolutely justified. Olivia Lisko who won the short is already an international level junior even though she has not participated in the GP series (here her performance from Halloween Cup last year).

After the junior ladies, it was time for the junior boys. They were nowhere near as good as the girls were – I think they were nervous with possibly the first competition of the season for many. The winner of the short, Matias Lindfors, has a familiar family name and, indeed, he is younger brother of Viveca Lindfors. Tiny still (here last year at Halloween Cup), but has some solid triples and a delightfully good performance side.

The senior ladies were one of the competitions which I really wanted to see because of Jenni Saarinen and Laura Karhunen. The competition also featured Fanny Lindfors, the middle sibling in the skating Lindfors family (not much good, though). I was also curious to see Oona Ounasvuori whose name I had seen only in Benoit Richaud’s social media from their choreo sessions… Oona was third but the short was not that hot as a program. I might have given the short to Laura Karhunen (here in Halloween Cup last year – think the program is the same) who skated a good clean program with a tango theme. Technically solid and more than ok performance. I preferred Jenni’s programs from last year and her victory here was based on high PCS. She is pleasant to watch but this time I felt a bit weird watching the Clair de Lune – she was a truly loud skater with the noise from the blades actually drowning the soft music at some points! I wondered whether that was just where I was sitting, some kind of freaky acoustic thing. (Jenni at Nebelhorn Trophy earlier this fall.)

The senior men almost broke my heart – my favourite discipline and its state so low in my country… I have thought (and said so) for many years that Valtter Virtanen could concentrate on working as a doctor and leave skating to the younger guys. But that short was easily one of the best performances all day (here the short from NRW Trophy just a couple of weeks ago). I liked the program a lot as a concept and choreo and he is totally committed to it. I remember some of the first times I saw him skate when he was just a skeleton of a skater, barely holding on the edges. Now, there was a lot of muscle with speed, good quality movement and all. In his case, maturity has certainly brought quality and also maybe depth to the performance. (It is also possible that I was impressed because the others were so bad? Think of a bad competitions and what the judges’ reactions must be to the first decent skate!)

On Sunday, I came in time for the senior ice dance – the debut of Juulia Turkkila and Matthias Versluis after a long absence due to injury interested me despite my general lack of interest to ice dance. This meant that I missed the junior ladies free – my young relative did very well for herself, only the most difficult jump missed. Luckily, her mom could send me a video afterwards… :love2: Olivia Lisko won the free and the whole competition.

The ice dancers then. Only two pairs, Orihara & Pirinen in addition to Juulia and Matthias. Both teams have very fashionable free dances – O & P went for Olafur Arnalds and Dean Lewis (Waves was a minor hit in 2019–2020 music choices). She puffed and huffed afterwards like she had not skated the whole program ever before… Turkkila & Versluis had chosen Ezio Bosso (not Rain in etc. though) and Haevn by Fortitude (here in the spring at Egna). They were exquisite on ice despite some minor hassles with twizzles, but very very pleasant to watch. I just thought that in a competition full of very similar programs how will these stand out in any way? Easy victory for them though.

The junior men and senior singles finished the day and the impressions I got from day one were strengthened by the performances. The guys were pretty horrible in all categories apart from Matias Lindfors and Valtter Virtanen. Matias had a 1970s glam free with feathers on his shoulders and Elton John and The Who’s Pinball Wizard (!) as music. He was delightful to watch! Valtter did his thing and felt again disturbingly good (well, not the jumps but the rest; the free from Nebelhorn Trophy).

The ladies were also a mixed bag in the free – some ok, some much worse than in the short. Laura Karhunen messed up her jumps a bit but still managed to get a higher TES than Jenni Saarinen who popped the first three ones, but managed to get back on track in the second part. Not very impressive from either of them. This time Jenni’s music was louder but I could still hear her blades a lot.

In the end it was so good to get even a bit of figure skating live for this fall. The pandemic was of course present all the time, but I do think the infection rate from this competition was probably very low. The next time watching skating live seems very far away now – who knows? Next fall maybe?

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I dont know what blades Jenni use but i kbow that new John Wilson Phoenix blades makes a different and quite loud voice. Maybe this is the reason?
Could be, I don't know which blades she uses. But she was the only truly loud one. And considering the skating skills of everybody I saw, she is one of the better skaters...

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