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Kostner captures gold in Nice

by Anna Kondakova
Robin Ritoss

Carolina Kostner

“If you love something, let it go” goes the old proverb. On Saturday evening, it came true for the Italy’s Carolina Kostner at the 2012 World Figure Skating Championship. She claimed on Thursday that her goal at this point of her career was to just enjoy skating rather than to strive to win medals.

On her tenth appearance at this event, the 25-year-old has finally won the title. The two other medalists of this year’s championships are new to the podium: Russia’s Alena Leonova and Japan’s Akiko Suzuki.

Once again, Kostner was in league of her own in Nice. Her choice of music to Mozart’s Concerto No. 23 was hardly the most conventional choice. However, a combination of two talents – that of her choreographer Lori Nichols and of the skater herself – produced something unique. There was hardly any doubt in that the audience was watching something special as the Italian moved from one element to the next through a series of complex connecting moves.

The fact that Kostner still does not attempt a triple Lutz, coupled with doubling her second flip, was secondary to the overall artistic integrity of her routine. She picked up the highest program components score of the evening (65.72), as well as the highest technical score (on the strength of her grades of execution, GOE) to win the free skating (128.94) and the competition overall (189.94).

“I am really really tired,” said the Italian. “The tension is coming off and it was a very long week. I believe that I will realize the fact that I won tomorrow. It was my 10th World Championships. I had won bronze and silver already. It is an indescribable feeling for me to finally win the title.”

It was not exactly a dream come true for the skater, who won the ISU Grand Prix Final and the European Championships this year.

“Usually, when I dream of figure skating, those are not good dreams,” she shared. “I come too late for the warm-up, or my laces break, or something happens”

“I tried to picture how I would react if I stood on the top of the podium,” said the 25-year-old. “I am really, really happy right now. I will celebrate a lot tonight., so we better finished this press conference quickly.”

The skater still maintained that her eyes were on the process of skating well, rather than on medals.

“Deep in my heart I knew that I had a chance, but as soon as this thought reached my mind, I tried to push it away,” she explained. “At each competition you start from zero. I train so hard and I have two beautiful program. I wanted to show everyone, not only the judges, but all who came here to see me how much I love figure skating and how much joy it gives me. I hope it came across today.”

“I had some pain in my leg,” Kostner revealed. “So after the short program, my coach told me not to skate on Friday. I was very surprised and a little bit worried about the fact that I would not be on the ice. I was scared that I would be too nervous, but two good friends took me to Monaco and we spent almost an entire day there. The day flew by for me. It was my day off.”

The skater does not feel that it was any particular change that allowed her to finally capture the title.

“I do not think anything has changed,” she claimed. “It’s just the fact that I am skating at my 10th World Championships, and each of them I have learned something new, something that helped me to improve. I guess I just needed time and now it was my turn.”

A lot of people in the ice rink today were very vocal in their support of the Italian skater.

“The audience was quite loud,” Kostner said. “It reminded me of the Olympic Games in Torino in 2006. I was much younger then, and I felt a lot of pressure. Then I realized that finally I have a chance to change that experience and make a better one instead. I tried to forget about the public and just skate my heart out. I think in parts of my program the audience was silent. I hope it is a good sign.”

Leonova, who won the short program, skated first in the warm-up group and was determined not to let her advantage slip through her fingers. Other than a mistake on a triple Lutz, a problematic jump for the Russian, she succeeded. However, even at the end of the season, the student of Nikolai Morozov still has not fully embraced a medley of Barber’s Adagio for strings and Mansell’s Requiem for a dream.

The program was choreographed to show the more mature and sophisticated sides of the skater, who won the short program largely on the strength of her personal charisma and acting skills. However, matching tragic and slow-pace music still seem to require an effort on the 21-year-old’s part. She was only fourth in the long (119. 67, her new personal best), but earned enough points to finish second (184.28) overall.

“It is a huge and pleasant surprise for me,” said the two-time Russian national silver medalist. “I skated first in the warm-up group and I have spent a lot of time giving interviews in the mixed zone, so I did not know how the other skaters did. I kept looking at the scores, and after Akiko’s performance, I realized that I was in the top three. I could not believe it at first, but when I came out for the awards ceremony and saw the podium, I was relieved and I realized that it was true.”

“I was hoping for bronze,” the 21-year-old admitted, “but I got a silver. It is great, both for me and for Russia.”

True to her word, the skater tried to put her victory in the short program out of her mind.

“All yesterday and today I tried to pretend that the competition had just begun,” Leonova explained. “This is what my coach told me to do. I tried not to think at all about that little gold medal (for winning the short program), because I knew that everything could change in the free skating. As my coach says, the program starts anew with each next element.”

The skater spent her day off much closer to the championships.

“I spent most of yesterday here, on the rink, rooting for our skaters, especially in Pairs,” she said. “I took a walk to distract myself from the competition, however, mostly I have been here.”

The 2012 ISU Grand Prix Final bronze medalist said that she enjoyed the enthusiastic crowd in Nice.

“I love it that many people came to follow the event,” she claimed. “I adore it. I enjoy showing my program to the spectators, especially here in France. Lots of people came here to support us today, and it helped me a lot.”

Suzuki finished second in the long program (121.30), but third overall (180.86) with a slightly flawed performance to Die Fledermaus Overture by Johann Strauss. Much like U.S. dancers Meryl Davis and Charlie White two days ago, the Japanese single skater flew through the program, never falling out of character. However, she singled a planned triple Lutz towards the end of her routine.

“In the short program I missed my triple Lutz,” she recalled. “I turned it into single. Maybe it happened because I was so happy that I landed my first jump, a triple toe loop – triple toe loop combination. Usually, I don’t single my triple Lutzes, so I was really surprised.”

“As for the free skating, the last Lutz has always been something I have been working on for a long time,” said the two-time Japanese national silver medalist. “I really wanted to nail it, but I was not able to do it again, so this is something I still have to work on.”

Suzuki did not have a true day off yesterday.

“It was not much of a day off for me,” she explained. “I did two practice sessions on Friday.”

“I’m very happy to win a medals at Worlds,” she summed up. “Last season, I was frustrated not to be at Worlds, and yet after one year it is the first medal, the first present, I received after turning 27 (on March 28th).”

“Today the audience was really loud and excited,” she said about her experience of skating in Nice. “I could hear their cheers and applause during the performance, and when I was landing jumps, I could feel them getting even more enthusiastic. I skated after Carolina, and I felt that the venue was vibrating with their support for her, so I decided that I really need to skate very good to live up to this level of support.”

“I could feel their enthusiasm, they really gave me support, she continued. “When Carolina skated I could feel the arena was shaking with all these cheers. And I thought, I want to skate well to make the audience as enthusiastic and happy as during Carolina’s performance.”

“I couldn’t believe it in the beginning,” Suzuki said about her reaction to the news that she had won a medal. “I started to feel the joy during the medal ceremony. At first I was a little frustrated about my performance, but now I want to put this medal on my coach’s neck.”

USA’s Ashley Wagner rose from eighth place to finish third in the free skating (120.35) and fourth overall (176.77). The only mistake in her Black Swan routine was an underrotated triple toe loop in combination with a double Axel.

“I was ecstatic with that performance!” she exclaimed. “I was so nervous before I went out, but my coach, Mr. Nicks, told me that I had done this a million times, that I’d been practicing all year. I’m extremely pleased. I skated my heart out and I was solid, which is what you want in a free skate.”

“It was a great way to end the season and it was so much better than my first time at worlds,” the 21-year-old continued, referring to her 16th place finish in 2008.

Japan’s Kanako Murakami slipped from second to sixth (175.41) after she singled two planned double Axels, and the technical panel only marked three triple jumps in her seemingly seven-triple performance.

“I’m not totally satisfied with this performance because I singled both Axels,” said the 2010 ISU Grand Prix Final bronze medalist. “I was confident about this free program because I was training so hard, but of course I was so nervous as it is such a big competition.”

Teammate Mao Asada was once again unable to rise up the challenge. The student of Nobuo Sato was exquisite overall, but the technical content of her program amounted to three triple jumps, two of which were flawed. She slipped to sixth place (164.52) overall.

“I was prepared and trained hard for this competition,” stated the Japanese. “Since I came to Nice, somehow something went very wrong. I don’t really know what it is. I am really, really disappointed.”

Kexin Zhang of China pulled up to seventh place (157.57). The World Championships debutant had rather simplistic choreography and has yet to develop a strong presence on the ice, but she landed six jumping passes in her routine to finish seventh in this part of the event.

“I fell hard on my first triple Lutz but I didn’t feel it too much,” Zhang said, “but I was worried because the very next jump was another triple Lutz. Fortunately, I landed it. It was not my highest free skate score today, but I’m satisfied with the majority of my performance for my first worlds. There’s still room for improvement in the future.”

Italy’s Valentina Marchei finished eighth with a rather flawed performance, followed by Ksenia Makarova from Russia, who had a disastrous outing.

Georgia’s Elene Gedevanishvili slipped from seventh to 10th overall.

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