19-year-old Niina Petrõkina made Estonian sporting history at the weekend when she became the country's first figure skater to finish in the top three at a Grand Prix (GP) Series event.
Petrõkina took bronze in the first GP event of the season, Skate America. Belgium's Loena Hendrickx of Belgium won gold, with silver going to Isabeau Levito of the USA. "I hadn't expected it," Petrõkina admitted to ERR. "Now I realize that I am capable of even more. Hopefully I can do even better. This is just the beginning."
However, an unusual situation occurred at the awarding ceremony when the organizers raised a Japanese flag instead of the Estonian one. "At first I didn't react because I was deep in thought. I thought, wow, now I'm standing on the podium at the GP stage. Afterwards, I realized that the wrong flag was being shown. It was an interesting situation that made me laugh, but still, next time I would like to see the Estonian flag," Petrõkina said.
yesss my favorite skater niina petrokina from JAPAN (?) pic.twitter.com/g2WNxDMEMl— chlo (@xiangyism) October 22, 2023
Petrõkina, who set a new personal best of 194.55 points over the two events in the competition (short program and free skating), believes she still has a lot of room for improvement. "Of course, I can still do better. For example, some jumps and pirouettes I could do better. Every competition gives me something more. This time, for example, I learned a lot about how to pick myself up as quickly as possible after a disappointing warm-up. My form was really good. Not the best, but that will come during the season."
Petrõkina's coach Svetlana Varnavskaja believes she showed great fighting spirit to win a medal. "I'm really proud that I have a student like this and that we were competing for Estonia's first GP medal. I'm very happy that she held herself together. Not everything went to plan in training, but she fought hard and I'm really happy that she was able to maintain concentration at the right moments. The routines were really beautiful and technical, the specialists and judges praised us a lot. However, there is still room for improvement and we want to get 200 points in the ISU (International Skating Union – ed.) competitions," said Varnavskaja.
Petrõkina has been invited to participate in two Grand Prix events this year. In addition to Skate America, she will also compete in the Cup of China, which takes place from November 10-12.
"Right now I'm going to rest a bit and then I'll get back to work. In the short program I did great pirouettes and level four moves, but in the free program I was a bit nervous and couldn't give my best. I need to work on that," she said.
If Petrõkina also manages a top three finish at the Cup of China, she could earn herself an invitation to compete in the Grand Prix Final this December in Beijing.
"At the moment I'm not thinking about the final stage, but if I do well, I could go to China for the third time. I really like it there, but I'm not sure if my body can take so much travelling," Petrõkina said.
The ISU Grand Prix (GP) of Figure Skating is a series of invitational international tournaments. The 2023 GP comprises six events, held between October and November, plus December's final.
Editor: Michael Cole