Kiira Korpi Finds New Joy In Skating

By Hiro Yoshida

When she competed as part of a golden generation of Finnish female figure skaters, Kiira Korpi struggled through the latter years of her career with injuries. While her name will not be on the entry list at this week’s World Figure Skating Championships in Helsinki, Finland, she will be involved in a number of ways.

Korpi made her Worlds debut in 2006 when she finished tenth in Calgary, Canada. Her highest placing was ninth which she achieved in both 2008 and 2011. She competed in total six times at Worlds, with her last appearance in 2015.

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Her greatest success was at the European Championships and she won bronze in 2007 and 2011 and silver in 2012. She also had the opportunity in 2009 to skate in front of a home crowd when Europeans was held in Helsinki and, despite not making the podium along with teammates Laura Lepistö and Susanna Pöykiö, she has fond memories of the event.

“Overall it was the best competition for Finland because we got first, third and fifth,” Korpi recalled. “My personal result wasn’t the best, but overall it was great. Even though the programme wasn’t great, I still feel like that was one of the most emotional programmes because when I fell on the board I never felt the audience so supportive. Everybody wished that I could skate well. The home crowd feeling you don’t get often, especially in a big championships, so that was unique.”

Following her retirement from competitive skating in August 2015, the five-time Finnish national champion has been quite happy to ease back on her strenuous training schedule. She still enjoys performing in ice shows around the world though and pushing her skating in a new direction.

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“The last part of my career was full of injuries, but now it’s good because I don’t have to compete. It’s easier and my body feels healthier. It’s so nice to be in a sport that you can still skate and perform without having to compete.

“You can make a transformation from an athlete to an artist and entertainer also. It’s interesting.”

While she competed, Korpi had to deal with an enormous amount of attention given by the press to her physical appearance. At times, she felt awkward about it, but now that she is older she is much more comfortable in her own skin.

“At some point in my career, I felt it was a little bit of a burden to be always the pretty face and the pretty girl, but now the older I get I’m just happy.”

Right now, Korpi is looking forward to being a part of Worlds. As well as commentating for the home broadcaster, she will also feature in the opening ceremony.

“I am so excited. I will be there working for Finnish TV and also skating in the opening ceremony with Laura Lepistö. Of course, it will be nice to watch my friends compete and cheer for them. It’s going to be amazing.”

Lepistö was the last Finnish skater to medal at Worlds when she took bronze in Turin, Italy in 2010. The likelihood of there being any places on the podium this year for the home skaters is small to non-existent. Korpi recognises the current situation, but believes this is part of a cycle and that bright days are ahead for Finland in figure skating.

“I think it’s normal that it goes like this and maybe now we don’t have the top top skaters, but there are some juniors that are good. I think the Finnish skaters always come with the style and skating skills. Maybe they are not technically the strongest, but I think we work hard and hopefully some day we will be on the top again. For men, we have a little bit of a sad situation. This year there was only one skater in the men’s event (at Finnish Nationals). Now we have one pair team and two ice dance teams. Ice dance is doing good and then we have synchro of course. Synchronised skating is very popular.”

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Korpi is now based in New York and is enjoying life stateside. She is having fun with her skating in a way she could not when she was competing.

“Manhattan is great. It’s busy and full of opportunity. I think I found a new love for skating also because I don’t have any rules now. I can just play. It’s more joyful now.”

Finland at the World Figure Skating Championships

Helsinki has hosted the World Championships on three previous occasions – in 1914, 1983 and, most recently, 1999. In 1999, Russian skaters swept all four titles.

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Finnish skaters have won a total of three gold, five silver and three bronze medals at previous Worlds with podium finishes in all four disciplines. The most recent medal was a bronze for Laura Lepistö in 2010.

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