The opening ceremony of the European Figure Skating Championships in Espoo, Finland went viral this week after stunning videos of a 59-year-old man who late in life came out as a gender-neutral trans women’s figure skater were posted of him/her being the featured skater.
The skater, Minna-Maaria Antikainen, formerly known as Markku-Pekka Antikainen, left the opening ceremony audience speechless with his/her performance.
Another version with commentary.
Taitoluistelun EM-avajaiset, mitä ihmettä 😳
Piti varmistaa Areenasta, kyllä se aito video on.#Espoo2023 pic.twitter.com/lhlFNnhXGr
— Make Kulmahuoneesta (@kulmahuoneesta) January 26, 2023
Minna-Maaria Antikainen has performed before. Here he/she is skating while dressed as a Geisha. Watch at 4:30 for reaction to the score by the judges.
Taking the ice in 2019:
Taitoluistelija Minna-Maaria Antikainen, 56, on vahva mies ja upea nainen samassa kehossa. Tänään maailmanlaajuisesti vietettävän transihmisten muistopäivän kunniaksi erikoisartikkeli on nyt vapaasti kaikkien luettavissa. https://t.co/0nlOOUn0dd#TransDayofRemembrance #joensuu pic.twitter.com/E9Uj8ySVcE
— Sanomalehti Karjalainen (@KarjalainenFi) November 20, 2019
Down on the farm:
59-year-old farmer Markku-Pekka Antikainen took up figure skating at age 50 and is now performing under the female name "Minna-Maaria" at the opening ceremony of the European Figure Skating Championships #Espoo2023, to mixed effect.https://t.co/BP4tkfL5UO https://t.co/3qgDdIMsW3 pic.twitter.com/blQjSPwoRr
— ystrïya (we/us) (@yatakalam) January 28, 2023
Ballet class with the ladies:
A keynote speaker bio from a University of Jyväskylä event in 2020:
Minna-Maaria Antikainen: “The Rise like a Phoenix”
Minna-Maaria Antikainen, a lifelong trans person, came out of the closet at the age of 43. (S)he was the chair of the Finnish transvestite association Dreamwear Club in 2009 – 2015. Since 2014 (s)he has been an adult figure skater and an adult ballet dancer. In 2016, (s)he was the first competitor in the unofficial Adult Figure Skating World Championships who performed in female outfit in men’s series. Currently, Minna-Maaria practices figure skating and ballet in several sport clubs and groups six times per week.
The press release for the opening ceremony of the European Figure Skating Championships made clear the event was focused on equality and diversity to include people who can’t skate very well in the ceremony.
THE SPECTACULAR OPENING CEREMONY PRAISES EQUALITY AND DIVERSITY
The ISU European Figure Skating Championships® at Espoo Metro Areena will begin on Wednesday, 25 January, with a spectacular opening ceremony drawing its inspiration from the event’s theme, “Just be you”. The Finnish Figure Skating Association promotes the importance of equality and diversity and develops skating according to its values.
The theme, “Just be you”, will be a visible part of the opening ceremony with performers from various backgrounds. The half-hour opening ceremony was designed by synchronized skating coach Helena Tienhaara together with choreographer and coach Beata Leppilampi.
“With the diverse group of performers, we want to show that the ice has space for everyone.”
“The opening ceremony will present skaters at various levels from non-professionals to top athletes. On the ice, we will see Single Skaters, Synchronized Skaters, and Pairs. Included among the performers are Figure Skater Minna-Maaria Antikainen, who defines herself as a gender-neutral woman, adaptive skating performers, and a male synchronized skating team”, Tienhaara said.
“Often, only the top skaters in the country are seen in figure skating shows. With this diverse group of performers, we want to show that the ice has space for everyone. Especially in uncertain and difficult times like these, it is meaningful to create an accepting and positive experience for all”, Leppilampi said.
Tienhaara promises that skating spectators will see an impressive opening ceremony. It will include various lighting elements as well as nostalgic and legendary Finnish music that will surely uplift the audience. On the ice, we will see Finland’s most successful single skater, Laura Lepistö, who recently starred in the Snow Queen ice ballet in Tampere, along with the Pairs Milania Väänänen and Filippo Clerici, competing in their first season together. The show will include charming circus artists, meaning that diversity will be highlighted also in the stands and up in the air.
“When single skating and synchronized skating join forces, a magnificent show is created. Many of the performers probably could not have imagined performing in the European Championships opening ceremony. The energy bursting from the ice will be thrilling”, Leppilampi enthused.
Equality and diversity
According to Outi Wuorenheimo, Executive Director of the Finnish Figure Skating Association and Secretary General of the ISU European Figure Skating Championships®, the championships’ main slogan, “Just be you”, is a welcome message for both the audience and the skaters. Wuorenheimo said that the figure skating audience and skaters may often be assumed as elitist. That is why she considers it important that everyone can arrive at the arena as they are.
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“Figure skating is a very conservative sport with various strict rules. In international competitions, same-sex skating pairs are not allowed, and there is no category for non-binary skaters. I hope that every country will start working for equality and diversity in the field”, Wuorenheimo stated.
“We want to change the figure skating world by showing that talking about a skater’s weight is not the top priority, but muscular, healthy athletes may also succeed at the top level. It is important that we have different-looking skaters of various sizes in the competitions”, Wuorenheimo continued.
The Finnish Figure Skating Association is a pioneer: beginning in 2019, it is the first to host the Special Olympics category for disabled skaters at the ISU CS Finlandia Trophy Espoo -competition. According to the Executive Director, the Finnish Figure Skating Association will continue with the “Just be you” theme after the European Championships.
“If we want to change the world, we have to actively and visibly work for it and create rules that match our values. This is just the beginning of the journey, but we have the possibility to go on and lead the way”, Wuorenheimo summarised.