BEIJING (Reuters) – Finland’s Jenni Saarinen earned a surprise place in Thursday evening’s Olympic free skate thanks to a last-minute rule change following Kamila Valieva’s positive drug test.
Although Valieva has been cleared to take part in the women’s individual event, her case is unresolved and Games organisers decided on Tuesday to allow the top 25 skaters, rather than 24, to move to the next stage “for reasons of fairness”.
It was the entry card Saarinen never expected after a disappointing short programme in which she scored well below her personal best.
“I’m so happy,” the 22-year-old told Reuters on Wednesday after a practice session. “I really thought (the score) was not going to be enough for the free but I’m very happy that I will continue my competition here.”
Being on the Olympic stage has been a dream come true for Saarinen, who won her first national title this season and conceded it was difficult to get major sponsors in her home country.
“I’m hoping that it gets easier and I also know that I need to get better at the competitions to get more sponsors,” she said, wearing a bright-red dress.
Saarinen, who called Italian Carolina Kostner her figure skating hero, said she would continue competing next season but hopes to move into a career in costume designing and coaching.
“I love to design figure skating dresses,” said Saarinen, who will be donning her own creation for the finals again on Thursday – a plain black, classical outfit to match her score of to a Rachmaninov piano concerto.
“I would randomly put some music on that I would imagine myself skating in and then to start drawing the dresses.
“I would love to learn how to sew so I could maybe try to do something for myself first.”
(Reporting by Chang-Ran Kim, editing by Ed Osmond)