Exhausted by the heat wave, Toronto expects the Celsius degrees to rise exceptionally high, but Kiira Korpi is wearing mittens. The temperature on the rink of Toronton Cricket Skating and Curling Club is approximately 10 Celsius degrees. A variety of European and South American skaters are skating around the track stretching their limbs. The coaches are watching over their proteges on the side of the rink wearing scarves and gloves.The rhythmic disco music is loud, but the Finnish figure skater glides around concentrated on her own thing. Korpi skates around the rink whishing
by again and again.
This is what the summer of a figure skater is like: endless practice of glides and steps, jumping and falling down time and again.Korpi’s day has begun with a gym exercise which is usually followed by three
training sessions on the ice. The program might also include some pilates, yoga or pulse exercises. The days are so long that experiencing the beach life of Toronto is merely a dream. – Well, I’m here to practice, Korpi says and shrugs carelessly.Korpi who at the age of 23 is one of the most promising Finnish figure skaters is practicing in Toronto for fourth time already within a year. The reason for this is the Canadian choreographer Shae-Lynn Bourne, who made Korpi’s last season’s short program Over the Rainbow. Korpi and the former world champion in ice dance are working on yet another project together,
Korpi’s next short program, which this time is a Gershwin jazz standard I Got Rhythm.
The playfulness and the technical challenging of the previous program are still there, but the intention is to increase the difficulty of the parts between the jumps and to make the transition moves even smoother. Virtually, this means skating through the program dozens and dozens times again.– It takes several months to get used to a new program. At first, I practice the program without the jumps. Then when I don’t have to think all the time what the next move was, I start to practice the program as a whole, Kiira describes.
Even though the actual season starts in late fall, the summer practicing is intense.In only a few months the skater is supposed to recover from the stress of the previous season, learn the new program and train their physical shape to the level the first contests require.This year, the recovery time is even shorter than usually. The catastrophe forced Japan to give up hosting the world championships, and the world
championships of figure skating that were moved to Moscow finally ended in May. – Last spring, I was physically very fit and when the season got extended, the focus of my life started to be a bit too much in skating. All the time I thought about all the things I would do after the season is over. At the same time, the easiness of skating disappeared, Korpi recalls.
Korpi had the best score of her whole season in Moscow, but over-charging caused her to stumble and even fall once. – Life needs to have other content than just skating, Korpi states in Toronto, looking clearly relaxed.
One Contest at a Time
– Here we see again how difficult the situation is when you’re leading and everything is possible. All you need is a standard performance, but in that situation even the standard is impossible!The confusion can be clearly heard in the voice of YLE’s skating commentator Anuliisa Uotila. The place is the European championships in Bern,
Switzerland and Kiira Korpi has just skated to the top of the contest the previous day, with a program that is possibly the best on her career. But now everything is different. The beginning is hesitant and Korpi does not seem to get enough speed for her jumps. And then one of the bravura jumps of the Finnish skater ends into a painful falling.The professional skater manages to get hold of herself and she finishes her program and still is able to reach the third place. During her performance nothing on Korpi’s face shows her disappointment, but afterwards the smile quickly turns into a grin. How did this happen again?
Korpi is undoubtedly one of the most successful Finnish figure skaters at the moment, but her ability to handle pressure has evoked some questions is the audiences. When everything was supposed to go smoothly, Korpi’s self-confidence has dropped to zero.
It is partly a question mark for the skater herself too, why fretting is sometimes too much. – It all depends on the day and how I feel: sometimes I might panic in small contests and not at all in some bigger ones, Korpi says.
Korpi’s training program has for some time now included also some psychological practicing, where the right mood for competing is sought by mental images and relaxing exercises. Korpi says that it has helped but the most important thing is that she can trust on her own physics. If there are periods of being sick or getting hurt on the background, it is difficult to go to the ice with a calm mind.
This summer, Korpi has learned how to live in the moment and not to think
about the future season too much. – Of course, it is good to go through the performance in your mind before the season, but I try not to live in the future too much. I take one contest at a time.
Even though Korpi’s last season is remembered because of the falls, the skater also managed to get her career’s best points during it. The international top places of the figure skaters are not that far away anymore. The highlight of Korpi’s career could be the Winter Olympics in Sochi in 2014. – Of course I dream about success and Olympic medals, but I wish that afterwards I would be remembered because of my great programs and beautiful skating, Korpi says. – During the Olympics, I will be 25, so not that old. But then my body might be so exhausted that we just have to wait and see how long I will be competing after Sochi.
Yes, the retirement age of a professional skater is very low. One of the first successes in Finnish female skating, Susanna Pöykiö, quit competing at 28. The landings – the successful and the not so successful ones – put the body on great ordeal.Korpi has also tried to get used to the idea that she cannot skate forever.
– I feel privileged that my passion and my hobby has become my profession. So far I haven’t been able to figure out another field I would get my daily doze of adrenalin. But I have faith in that life guides me to the right direction.
Korpi got to taste what a non-skating life would feel a few years ago, when she was sick for a long period of time and could not go on the ice. The skater accustomed to strict self-discipline for once had a chance to do whatever she wanted but the taste of the freedom was not that sweet. – It was then when I actually realized how much I love skating. In figure skating I get to improve myself all the time. Every day there are experiences of succeeding when I manage to get some little move exactly right.
Korpi says that her studies at the university of Tampere and meeting new people have brought welcomed balance for her athlete career. Still, studying for exams has turned out to be not so self-rewarding as skating. That is why Korpi still packs her training bags and heads to the ice hall when her peers are going out. – Even though I have to say no to some things, I don’t feel that I am forced to make sacrifices because of skating. Skating has given me so much: I have learned to deal with huge failures and to challenge myself constantly. In addition to that I have been able to travel and participate events I had never even thought I would get into.