Viewers had some strong reactions to a now-viral clip of Finland showcasing a “gender-neutral” figure skater’s disastrous results.
The theme for the ISU European Figure Skating Championships was “just be you.”
“With the diverse group of performers, we want to show that the ice has space for everyone,” synchronized skating coach Helena Tienhaara said in the program’s description.
“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 is Figure Skater Minna-Maaria Antikainen, who defines herself as a gender-neutral woman.”
Antikainen, a 59-year-old aspiring skater, only took up the sport a few years ago and was a farmer before that. The competitor previously performed while dressed as a geisha at a 2019 skating show.
While it’s not uncommon to see skaters at varying levels of skills during certain segments of these events, fans were still surprised at what happened when Antikainen fell and wasn’t able to get up without assistance. The show participant ended the appearance by waving the flag of Finland.
BREAKING: Finland has introduced the world’s first transgender national figure skater
They fall down in the first 45 seconds and no one is allowed to act like anything at all happened pic.twitter.com/12n8ubKZ1c
— Jack Posobiec 🇺🇸 (@JackPosobiec) January 29, 2023
“There are men who are incredible figure skaters. This guy doesn’t even know how to ice skate. I’m so confused how this even happens,” Christina Pushaw, an official with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ 2022 re-election campaign, tweeted.
Outi Wuorenheimo, executive director of the Finnish Figure Skating Association and Secretary General of the ISU European Figure Skating Championships, explained why the organization decided to include Antikainen in the flag ceremony.
“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 said.
“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,” the skating official continued.
She said they’re working to “change the world” by creating 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 concluded.
The program description also touted how they were the first to host the Special Olympics category for disabled skaters at the ISU CS Finlandia Trophy Espoo competition in 2019.