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Kerrs, Leonova start season with wins at Finlandia

Team USA fails to make podium in ladies, dance

The ladies podium at the 2009 Finlandia Trophy in Vantaa, Finland.
The ladies podium at the 2009 Finlandia Trophy in Vantaa, Finland. (Tatiana Flade)

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By Tatiana Flade, special to icenetwork.com
(10/11/2009) - Like last year, Sinead Kerr and John Kerr (Great Britain) kicked their season off with a win at Finlandia Trophy. Alena Leonova of Russia won the ladies event Sunday, on the third and last day of the competition in Vantaa.

There were quite a few errors and falls in the ladies competition. Skating to Chicago, Leonova crashed on her opening triple toe-triple toe, but got credit for both jumps. Her triple Lutz and loop had shaky landings, but she landed two solid triple flips and was awarded a Level 4 for the spiral sequence and her flying combination spin. The reining world junior champion scored 105.93 points, and defended her overnight lead with a total of 162.17 points ahead of two Finns.

The other standings shuffled quite a bit. European champion Laura Lepistö pulled up from sixth to second with 154.33 points but singled an Axel, Lutz and toe loop, and doubled another loop. But, Lepistö picked up points for her Level 4 spins and spirals in her Tango medley. Kiira Korpi started strongly with a triple Lutz-double toe and a triple Salchow-double toe, in her program to modern Finnish jazz music. But, then, she seemed distracted -- loosing her hairband during a spin and later on doubled a Salchow and a loop -- she slipped from second to third at 152.84 points.

"I'm very happy that I almost landed my triple-triple combination. The Salchow wasn't good, but overall I'm pleased with what I did today," commented Leonova.

"I'm not satisfied," admitted Lepistö. "It wasn't my week. I feel confident with this new program already and I wanted to give a better performance. Maybe to do the competition in Japan (Japan Open last week) was hard," she added.

"The beginning was good with the two jump combinations, but after loosing my hairband, I lost concentration and I was watching out for it to avoid falling over it. I wasn't quite sure what to do, but the referee didn't stop me, and so I just continued," Korpi explained.

Myriane Samson of Canada hit four clean triples but fell on a cheated triple flip. She moved up to fourth. It was a disappointing day for Japan's Fumie Suguri and Finland's Susanna Pöykiö who finished seventh and 10th. Becky Bereswill and Molly Oberstar from the U.S. couldn't improve their standings after the short program. Both had three jumps downgraded and fell twice. They finished in 12th and 15th, respectively.

Dancing to "Krwlng" by Linkin Park, the Kerrs looked smoother and more confident than in the original dance. The brother and sister team showed interesting new lifts such as a curve lift with her balancing on his leg. They crowd was especially impressed with a so called 'inverse lift' when Sinead lifted her brother. However, the footwork was graded only a Level 2. The Kerrs earned 86.31 points, winning with 173.14 points.

"Certainly for me I didn't feel good yesterday when I skated, but today I felt a lot better. I was really pleased with how we skated today. For this early in the season I was happy with the free dance," Sinead Kerr told the press.

"I think Finland is always a special place for us to skate, especially with the Europeans last season," John Kerr said. "We always love to skate here, we always manage to skate close to our best. I think we'll have to look at the video for the levels to see what we can improve for Paris. We hope we have enough time to get an even better score next week," he continued.

Anastasia Platonova and Alexander Grachev were second. They performed to soft piano music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Grachev wore a disguise to cover his eyes at the beginning of the routine, and Platonova took it off only after their second element -- the set of twizzles.

The referee, however, didn't like the eye mask and deducted a point for a costume violation. The couple skated smoothly but looked a little slow overall. They scored 78.83 points for their free dance and totaled 158.20 points to move up from third to second place.

"We skated really well today and enjoyed being here. We got a deduction for the mask and we will think about what to do with it for our next competition," Grachev told the post-event press conference.

Alla Beknazarova and Vladimir Zuev's dance to music from the movie Babylon earned them the third sport, and featured two Level 4 lifts and a Level 3 despite some wobbles and missteps.

"My partner has a knee injury and we tried our best just to skate through this competition," Beknazarova said.

Zuev explained that he is suffering from a meniscus injury in the right knee.

Christina Beier and William Beier of Germany, a brother and sister team that had split up in 2008 and reunited in April 2009, performed well to a medley of music by Ludwig van Beethoven. They were ranked third in the free dance but remained in fourth place at 147.38 points overall.

Jane Summersett and Todd Gilles from the U.S., produced difficult lifts, twizzles and a combination spin that all were graded a Level 4, but the footwork got only a Level 1 and they looked cautious. They finished fifth.