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Papasotiriou’s Got a Brand New Country

Maria-Elena Papasotiriou

Greek skater Maria-Elena Papasotiriou made her international debut at the 2007 European Championships, finishing 31st in the short program. Although she missed the cut for the free skate, which was held on her 17th birthday, she was still able to celebrate the occasion at the closing banquet with her fellow skaters. She then placed 38th at her first World Championships in Tokyo, Japan. Papasotiriou had previously competed in the United States, finishing fifth at the Upper Great Lakes Regionals at all levels from novice to seniors, just missing the cut to move upwards to Nationals.

“I’ve always loved Greece,” she noted. “My father was born there and my mother’s parents are Greek. So I checked with the federation and asked if I could compete for Greece. I did tests for them in the summer and they assigned me to Europeans as my first competition. It was awesome. It was so exciting. I wasn’t nervous at all. I just wanted to land all my jumps and I did that, but I learned that after the jumps I have to focus on my other elements and not make stupid mistakes. It was hard not to watch myself on the big video screen during warm-ups.”

Papasotiriou first went public skating when she was eight. “I lived a block from the ice rink,” she recalled, “so I asked my parents for lessons for my birthday. My coach was the coach for my Learn to Skate program. I had tried dance, ballet and gymnastics but only for a little while.” Papasotiriou learned all her triple jumps when she was 14. “I landed a triple salchow first, then a triple lutz,” she said. “The last triple I landed was a triple toe loop, two weeks before my 15th birthday.”

The talented brunette used a triple salchow and a triple lutz-double toe combination in her short program for 2006-07. For her long program, she does double axel-double toe-double loop, triple lutz-double toe, triple salchow-double toe combinations plus triple salchow, flip, lutz and toe loop. She has already been working on triple lutz-triple toe loop combinations. During the summer, she plans to make that combination more consistent and learn a triple toe-triple toe.

Alexander Ouriashev coaches Papasotiriou, who trains in Vernon Hills, Illinois at the Glacier Ice Arena, ten minutes from her home. She skates for three hours a day, six days a week and sometimes seven.

Papasotiriou usually changes one of her programs each year, but kept the music for both programs from last season. Oleg Epstein choreographed her programs. For the short program, she skated to the Overture from “Mack and Mabel”, while for the free skate, she used music from the soundtrack of “The Godfather” by Nino Rota. “For the short, I wanted something fun and upbeat to entertain people,” she said, “not something classical like everybody else. For the long, I wanted something calmer and more classical. I like to skate to fun music and something that goes from slow to fast and back to slow.” Next season, she plans to keep the long program, but use a new short.

Off ice, she likes to hang out with friends and go shopping. Musically, she listens to the top current hits and numbers James Blunt and Justin Timberlake among her favorite performers. She also plays the piano. She is also very involved in her church. She plays center on her church’s basketball team because she said, “I can jump really high even though I’m short.” She works with the church youth group to help homeless families and formed a charitable organization with her sisters and cousins to raise funds for pancreatic cancer. The charity, called I Want to be a Lifesaver raised $30,000 for the Pancreatic Cancer Foundation by selling painted lifesaver candies strung on to necklaces and bracelets.

The teenager is a junior at Libertyville High School, where her favorite subjects are physics and science. She plans to go to the university to study something in science. “I’d like to be a doctor,” she said, “but I don’t like needles.” She would also like to coach skating. “I have one student now,” she said. “I’ve been coaching for the past two years and do Learn to Skate classes at the rink.”

Papasotiriou plans to compete as long as possible. “I just want to skate my best every time,” she stated. “I’m trying to improve my personal bests and move up the ladder. Eventually, she hopes to be able to represent Greece at the Winter Olympics.

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