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Kostner one step closer to fourth European title

Italian leads Korpi by 1.42 points; triple-triples abound in Sheffield

Carolina Kostner will try to hold off Finland's Kiira Korpi in the free skate.
Carolina Kostner will try to hold off Finland's Kiira Korpi in the free skate. (Getty Images)

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By Klaus-Reinhold Kany, special to icenetwork.com
(01/27/2012) - The ladies short program at the European Figure Skating Championships in Sheffield provided spectators with a far higher level of skating than in previous seasons, as many skaters performed near-clean programs.

As expected, Carolina Kostner, who has won this event three times, took the lead with 63.22 points. The Italian, who won the Grand Prix Final in December, had an excellent triple toe-triple toe combination that gained mainly +2 and even a +3 grade of execution (GOE) from the judges. Her other elements, including a triple loop and a Level 3 step sequence, were very good as well.

"I told myself, 'This is your 10th Europeans, simply enjoy it, who knows if you can still compete at Europeans next year,'" the 24-year-old Kostner said. "And then I just ignored everything, other than my skating."

Kostner admitted feeling fatigued after her efforts last fall, which included three Grand Prix events plus the Final.

"After winning the Final, we decided to have a break," she said. "Four competitions within eight weeks were too much. I spent 10 days with family and friends and recharged my batteries.

"I felt a bit unwell just before flying to Sheffield, but I told myself to stay calm, you've done good practices, you know how to do everything, and so far everything has gone well."

Finland's blonde ice siren, Kiira Korpi, sits second with 61.80 points after an elegant program that also featured a triple toe-triple toe, although her triple loop was not perfect.

"It was absolutely the best for me this season," Korpi said. "I'm so happy that I did it today although I felt quite nervous.

"I have had a rough season. I had some injuries in the beginning of the season and also the preparation for this competition wasn't ideal, so I wanted to come here and not think about any placements but just to do my best performance and try to enjoy the competition."

Ksenia Makarova took third with 57.55 points. The former Russian champion had some problems landing the second triple toe loop of her combination but made no other mistake.

"I'm happy and fought until the end," Makarova said. "For me, my nationals, where I placed fourth, were not a disappointment. It was a step to get to the next level. I'm happy I made it to Europeans. I worked all year to be here. My preparation for this event was very intense, with a lot of program [run-throughs].

Georgia's Elene Gedevanishvili, who trains with Brian Orser in Toronto, is fourth with 57.14 points after a clean performance included a very good triple Lutz-double toe combination, although she only gained only Level 1 on the flying sit spin.

"My performance was good, even though the practices didn't go so well," Gedevanishvili said. "The program flowed very nicely. I couldn't do a triple-triple combination, but that's okay. My preparation back in Canada was really good, but when I got to the practice rink, it was strange. Maybe it was jet lag."

Sweden's Viktoria Helgesson is fifth with 55.68 points, and Russia's Alena Leonova is sixth with 54.50 points after the second jump in her triple toe-triple toe was downgraded by the technical panel.