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Takahashi returns to competition at Finlandia Trophy

Japanese skater is the favorite in the men's event

Daisuke Takahashi hopes for a successful return from injury at the Finlandia Trophy.
Daisuke Takahashi hopes for a successful return from injury at the Finlandia Trophy. (Getty Images)

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By Tatiana Flade, special to icenetwork.com
(10/07/2009) - The 2009 Finlandia Trophy in Vantaa, Finland, promises to be an exciting competition with high-level skating in this Olympic season.

Almost exactly one year after suffering a severe knee injury, Japan's Daisuke Takahashi will come back to competition in Finland this weekend. The 2007 world silver medalist missed the entire 2008-2009 season as he underwent knee surgery to repair ligament damage suffered in a practice fall end of October 2008.

While Takahashi, if back in form, is the top contender, he faces strong challengers, such as two-time and reigning European bronze medalist Kevin van der Perren of Belgium, up and coming world junior silver medalist Michal Brezina of the Czech Republic, Russian champion Sergei Voronov and 2007 world junior champion Stephen Carriere(USA).

Carriere will compete in his first international event since switching coaches to Priscilla Hill. U.S. skater Alexander Johnson, a Junior Grand Prix finalist last year, is entering his first senior-level international event. Twenty men have been entered for the competition. Olympic champion Evgeni Plushenko said earlier this year that he was planning to compete at Finlandia Trophy, but he is now going to a national competition in Perm, Russia, this weekend.

With European champion Laura Lepistö, bronze medalist Susanna Pöykiö and former European bronze medalist Kiira Korpi competing, the Finnish team is looking to keep the top prize in the country.

However, Russia's world junior champion Alena Leonova, the experienced Fumie Suguri of Japan and Nana Takeda of Japan would like to spoil the Finnish party. Suguri recently changed coaches and is now training not far away from Helsinki in St. Petersburg, Russia, under Alexei Mishin. ISU Junior Grand Prix Final champion Becky Bereswill from the U.S. debuts in international senior competition this weekend. The second U.S. entry is Molly Oberstar. There are 18 ladies competing in Vantaa.

Sinead Kerr and John Kerr kicked off their most successful season up to date one year ago at Finlandia Trophy and are back this weekend. The brother-and-sister team is looking forward to present their Country OD and their free dance set to "KwrIng" by Linkin Park for the first time in competition. The reigning European bronze medalists are the heavy favorites in the field of 11 dance teams. Also hoping for a good start into the Olympic season are Anastasia Platonova and Alexander Gratchev of Russia, Jane Summersett and Todd Gilles (USA) and the reunited German brother-and sister-team of Christina Beier and William Beier. Nora Hoffmann and Maxim Zavozin of Hungary were disappointed with their performances that netted them seventh place two weeks ago at the Nebelhorn Trophy, although they qualified for a spot in the 2010 Olympic Games. The couple wants to do better this weekend in Vantaa.

There will be no pairs competition at Finlandia Trophy.