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Figure skater Laura Lepistö. "All of Finland is holding its breath to see who will take home a medal." and athletics. That said, jumps have always been my favourite," she says, adding that she never feels scared just before flying into the air with the help of her razor-sharp blades. For Lepistö, skating started at a young age ­ just shy of four years old. "I went to skating lessons with my older sister and was hooked right from the start. No one had to ask me twice if I wanted to go practice," she recalls. EXTREME FLEXIBILITY COMES EARLY Skating also started at a young age for Jenni Vähämaa, 16. "I was ten years old when I was first noticed at a skating camp," says Vähämaa. During competition, what the onlookers witness is extreme flexibility that makes doing spirals, pirouettes and jumps look easy. "At just two pushes, Jenni achieves solid speed," explains Kajas. "Watch for her interpretations of performances to deepen as she grows older." The figure skating prodigy grew about five centimetres last year and experienced some growing pains that slightly slowed down her skill levels. She stands at just 158 centimetres (5 ft. 2 in.) ­ or, more precisely: "158 and a half, got to add the extra bit as I am often talked about as short," corrects Vähämaa, who says that her childhood hero is another diminutive skater. "I was six when Tara Lipinski won the gold medal at the Winter Olympics in Nagano. The tape of her performance has been watched many times," chuckles Vähämaa, who also aspires to Olympic glory ­ Lipinski is even shorter than Vähämaa, at just 155 centimetres (5 ft. 1 in.) and won Olympic gold at the recordbreaking age of 15. "Making the Winter Olympics team in 2010 would be a dream, but we have to see what happens," says Vähämaa, in typically modest Finnish fashion. THAT THING CALLED PRESENCE A fellow skater who understands Olympic competition is Kiira Korpi, who competed in the 2006 Winter Olympics, finishing in sixteenth place. A consummate performer who knows how to capture the audience's attention, Korpi is a long-time media darling, thanks in no small part to her beauty. But more than just Barbie-doll good looks, Korpi conveys so much positive energy that it's hard not to be captivated. 42 BLUE WINGS JANUARY 2009

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