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Sunday, February 12, 2006

Why I May Not Watch NBC's Olympic Coverage (NBC - Who's Kiira Korpi?) 

[29 Jan 2007 - my Kiira Korpi del.icio.us tags are here.]

Let me tell you about how I hobnob with Olympians in Hollywood.

Or, more accurately, how I once hobnobbed with a single Olympian in Hollywood.

Well, I hobnobbed with a pre-Olympian, I guess.

How did I achieve this? I mean, I did meet a President once (the president - Ford - had already left office and was appearing at a political event), but on the modern popularity scale of things it's way cooler to meet an Olympian than a President. And my regular readers know that I am not trendy. So how did I accomplish this?

Luck, pure luck.

First, let me explain that my second favorite Finnish figure skater is Laura Lepistö (more info here). Even though I've never actually seen her skate, she's still my second favorite Finnish figure skater. (You've probably never heard of my favorite Finnish figure skater, who is Laura's older sister - not internationally ranked, but a hundred times better than yours truly at skating.)

Anyway, Laura has trained at Lake Arrowhead for a couple of summers now, and one day I drove her sister (who was visiting the U.S.) out to meet some other skater-type persons to do skater-type California things (in this case, go out to Malibu and say "kewl" a lot - Finnish people can adjust to California very quickly). While in Hollywood, I briefly met one of the other skaters who was training at Lake Arrowhead, a skater named Kiira Korpi.

Lo and behold, Kiira made the Finnish Olympic team and is in Turin, or Torino, or whatever we're supposed to call it today. The natives call it Torino, but the world has this interesting system in which people in other countries get to choose how they refer to places in your country. Hence "Germany" and "Estados Unidos." But I digress. Back to Kiira:

Kiira has for some time been acknowledged as the brightest young prospect in Finnish figure skating. The European Championships in Lyons in January 2006 marked her grand entry to the international scene. The 17-year-old skated a breathtaking free program to finish sixth, up seven places from the year before. She leaped ahead of her two team-mates in the process and secured for herself one of Finland’s two tickets to the ladies competition at the Olympic Games. Kiira’s hobbies include ballet, yoga and snowboarding. Her father Rauno Korpi is a famous ice hockey coach, who led the Finnish women’s team to Olympic bronze in Nagano 1998.

The biography above is from the Finnish Olympic team's website (which is nice enough to provide English language information to those of us who think that Quito is a South American city). Here's Kiira's biography from the NBC Olympics website:

Yup, NBC is only putting featured athletes on its website. So it has a ton of info on Michelle Kwan, who as it turns out won't even be skating this year, but nothing on Kiira. I really really hope Kiira wins a gold, just so that NBC gets embarrassed over their lack of coverage. Yahoo at least tells us when her events take place:

Feb 21 1:00 pm - Figure Skating - Ladies' Short Program
Feb 23 1:00 pm - Figure Skating - Ladies' Free Skating

Here's a Skate Today article on Kiira from last April:

Finland's Kiira Korpi has captivated skating fans not just with her skating skills, but also with her bubbly personality and classic beauty. The lovely blonde, who reminds many of a young Grace Kelly, is always quick with a smile and greeting for everyone at competitions. In addition, she's a devoted fan, who usually sits in the stands watching and applauding every performance from the qualifying rounds to the gala, not just for singles but also for pairs and dance, whether Finland has an entry or not....

[T]he [then] 16-year-old won the Junior Grand Prix in Chemnitz, Germany and the Nordic Championships in Helsingborg in 2004. She finished fourth at the 2004-2005 ISU Junior Grand Prix Final and tenth at the World Junior Figure Skating Championships. In seniors, Korpi finished 13th at her first senior international, the European Championships in Torino, Italy. She finished second in seniors at the Finnish Championships in 2005 after winning the junior title the previous year....

With figure skating considered a minor sport in Finland, Korpi could have gone into hockey instead. In fact, she hails from Tampere, a hotbed of hockey action. Her father, Rauno, has won the national hockey championship in Finland with the hometown club, Tappara Tampere, and coached Finland's women's hockey team to a bronze medal in the 1998 Olympic Games in Nagano, Japan. That would make his daughter a prime candidate for a place in the hockey world, but it wasn't for Kiira....

Korpi has trained with Maaret Siromaa and Susanna Haarala for the last six or seven years. She practices for about two to three hours a day, six days a week in Tampere for most of the year. In June and July, the ice rink is closed so she must travel to another town to skate. Last summer, Korpi went to Lake Arrowhead in California to train for a few weeks with Anthony Liu and Igor Pashkevitch. She does about six hours a week of off ice training, including ballet and gym work. In the summer, she also adds running, cycling and rollerblading to her schedule.

I figured that it would be a good idea to see if those who don't hobnob in Hollywood were talking about Kiira. Needless to say, several Finnish blogs are talking about her - Kaima. Samuli. Someone else. But there were a few English language posts here and there. For example, this is from Sheep Mimi coverage of the Europeans:

Personally I liked Kiira Korpi very much. Mainly because she is pretty. :) But being beautiful is not enough in sports. So she took the 6th place.

However, I don't think we have an Anna Kournikova here. I suspect that Korpi will be a winner, if not in Torino, then soon. And if you're young, and living in Espoo, you can go to figure skating school. I could certainly use it, although I'd probably have a language problem (anyone know the Suomi for "don't fall on your butt again"?).

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