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Flaxen-haired Korpi delights Finn crowd with win

Finland skater outshines Lipnitskaia, Nagasu at Finlandia Trophy

Kiira Korpi of Finland's "Girl with the Flaxen Hair" program was the best short at Finlandia.
Kiira Korpi of Finland's "Girl with the Flaxen Hair" program was the best short at Finlandia. (Getty Images)

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By Jyrki Pirkkalainen, special to icenetwork.com
(10/06/2012) - To the delight of the home crowd, Finland's Kiira Korpi skated her best ever short program at Finlandia Trophy. Younger challengers Julia Lipnitskaia (Russia) and Mirai Nagasu (USA) missed their triple-triple combinations and may have some catching up to do in the free skate to be able to win.

Korpi got positive grades of execution (GOE) points for all seven elements. Both the triple toe-triple toe combination and the solo triple toe looked effortless, and while she doesn't have the same fireworks of acrobatic spin positions like Lipnitskaia and Nagasu, the three-time European medalist was able to deliver a clean performance where every movement flowed seamlessly into the next.

Korpi surpassed her previous personal best from two years ago by more than five points, scoring 69.27 points.

"I was nervous, but my practices have been going well and my body knows what to do, so that helped me overcome the anxiousness," Korpi said after her skate.

The music "Girl with Flaxen Hair" obviously suits the blonde Finn to a tee.

"One might think it would be easy to skate to, but actually I think it is challenging," she said. "There aren't any obvious points [to hit] in the music; it rather just flows there, and you only have to trust your movement to carry and create the mood and performance.

"Maybe it's a bit naive to say this, but I think this is a grown-up woman's music. The younger skaters have their own strengths, but I know that five years ago, I wouldn't have been able to interpret this music."

Just 14 years old, Lipnitskaia indeed does have her own strengths to play with. The world junior champion is incredibly flexible and spins like no other in the world. Her only fault was a fall on the latter half of the triple Lutz-triple toe combination, but the rest was exquisite.

"I'm quite satisfied with my performance. After doing all the jumps, I felt more relaxed. My goal for tomorrow is to skate clean," Lipinitskaia said through an interpreter.

"There was a little error on the jump combination, but it was the first time for me to try this particular combination, so I was nervous. I plan to try it again tomorrow in the free skate."

Lipnitskaia's coach, Eteri Tutberidze, said that an injury in Lipnitskaya's left foot and new rule changes for this season had forced them to change some spins. They have been experimenting with different versions and only decided on the foot change combination spin a couple of weeks ago.

Nagasu is already more than 11 points behind Lipnitskaia after a cautious performance. She under-rotated and fell on the second triple toe loop of her combination and only got a Level 1 for one of her spins.

"I was too stiff and nervous today," Nagasu said. "I had a strong warmup and I felt good [going on the ice], but I was slow throughout the performance.

"It was just not my day. I was skating very well at home, so I guess this was just bound to happen at some point. I look forward to tomorrow because I have nothing to lose."

Nagasu changed coaches after last season and trains with Amy Evidente and Wendy Olson, close to her home in Arcadia, Calif.

"Changing to a new coach has been a good thing for me this year," she said. "Now I no longer have to drive two hours to practice every day. I'm also feeling my independence and just feeling adult. I've also been building strong relationships with fellow skaters. It has been a lot of fun."

Isabelle Olsson from Sweden was a positive surprise and finished fourth, only 1.57 points behind Nagasu, but her program component scores don't exactly bode too well for podium finish hopes Sunday.