Interview

Elsa Paananen: "Skating will always be a part of my life"


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Elsa skating with her team earlier this season. (Credits: Ville Vairinen - 2020)

Member of the junior team Dream Edges, Elsa Paananen received the "Young Athlete Prize" in her hometown of Kaarina. At Jura Synchro, Elsa explains her passion for synchronized skating, talks about her team and her plans for the future.

Hi Elsa, can you introduce yourself?

I’m 17 years old and I live in Kaarina, Finland. I was born in Turku and am currently in my second year of studying in the city’s sports-oriented high school. Music has always been important for me and as a child, I played guitar for a few years. However, skating took my heart.

How did you become a skater?

I’ve been skating since I was only three years old. That’s when I started skating in Kaarina skating school with my older sister. My mom took us to skating school with the thought that we would only learn the basic skating skills, but the interest in skating just grew with every passing year. As a result of that, I continued along the path, continuing all the way up to Dream Edges juniors. This is now my fourth season in juniors. My parents and my older sister are very encouraging. My older sister, Matilda also skated for a total of 12 years and for the last few years she skated in Dream Edges junior team at the same time with me.


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Elsa (in the center) has skated her whole life in Kaarina. (Credits: Ville Vairinen - 2020)

Your team won the first Finnish qualifications in 2020. Dream Edges seems to be a very talented team!

Dream Edges is very unique, cheerful and united. The best thing about this team is that most of us have always skated in Kaarina, which means that we are already familiar with each other. Our team has always had a very good team spirit. Everyone encourages each other and we push each other forward every day.

What makes this team unique in your opinion?

We all are very ambitious, goal-oriented and hardworking athletes. Our coaches are extremely skilled, creative and courageous. They do the coaching work with their hearts and that is reflected in the great development of the team. Most of the girls on our team study in the sports-oriented high school in Turku and some study in the sports-oriented secondary school. This has made having a few early morning practices a week possible.

How are you coping with the pandemic this winter?

This pandemic time is special and exceptional for everyone for sure. While uncertainty exists everywhere I have noticed how the pandemic period has made our team more coherent and even closer. Luckily our coaches have a very good imagination, and they came up with really good workouts for the special period of time during spring when we had two and a half months of remote training.

What are you doing during your virtual training?

Remote training includes a lot of ballet which helps us increase the body’s profitability, posture and endurance. The training also includes muscle workouts, running exercises, and other basic fitness stuff. We always meet with the team through Zoom calls.

During the summer we got to train on the ice in small groups. A couple of weeks after that, we got permission to train as a whole team. We have followed the pandemic regulations of the authorities very closely for instance compulsory use of mask and hand disinfection. However, according to the current information, all of the competitions in Finland have now been postponed.


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Elsa is skating her fourth season in juniors. (Credits: Ville Vairinen - 2020)

Can you speak a little bit more about your short program this season?

After the unusual spring, we as a whole got to learn our great and fast-paced short program called the Rubik’s cube. The Rubik’s cube was invented by a Hungarian sculptor and professor of architecture Erno Rubik in 1974 and the game reached its full popularity in the ’80s.

Rubik wanted to build a structure with pieces that move independently without falling apart. The music is a Hungarian Dance with an 80’s rock concert vibe! The program itself is very outgoing and very different from what our short programs of previous seasons have been.


What about your free program this year?

Our free program, on the other hand, is called "Dove – the symbol of peace". Stylistically the program is really different from our short program. Our free skate program itself is very impressive, beautiful, fast-paced but with a calm atmosphere. It goes through big feelings about what life has been like without peace, how it feels when the peace and freedom descend into the body and how it feels when it’s too late to help those in need.


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Dream Edges in its new free program. (Credits: Ville Vairinen - 2020)

You won the athlete of the year award in your city thanks to synchronized skating. What does this mean to you?

I’m very grateful for the prize. The city of Kaarina distributes the "Young Athlete Prize" every year since 1973. This year synchronized skating was added as a new sport and I was chosen. 

The team is like another family to me and it seems to be the most wonderful thing of the sport. My teammates have become very important to me over the years. Trough skating I have made many lifelong friends.

The best thing about synchronized skating is when everyone pushes each other forward everyday and as a result, it’s wonderful to see how we have developed and matured year after year both as people and as athletes. In synchronized skating, it’s nice when each workout brings enough challenge and a lot of feelings of success.

Competitions have always been so-called "pay days" and "seasonal highlights" for me when skating can be enjoyed in front of a large audience. Hopefully later this season we will still be able to compete in front of the audience or even compete at all but it will remain to be seen!

Finally, as a 17-year-old junior synchro skater, what are your plans for the future?

I can’t say yet about other plans such as studies and working life; I will finish high school in peace first! But in the future, I plan to continue skating to senior level. I would prefer to continue in the club where I’m now in Kaarina. The future will show if it’s possible… Skating will always be a part of my life at least in some form.


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