by Tatjana Flade
China’s Yu & Jin claim Junior Pairs gold
Xiaoyu Yu & Yang Jin continued the success of Chinese pairs by claiming the title at the ISU World Junior Championships in Sofia on Thursday. Like in the short program, they were followed by three Russian teams. Evgenia Tarasova & Vladimir Morozov took the silver medal and Maria Vigalova & Egor Zakroev pulled up one spot to earn the bronze.
Performing to “The Phantom of the Opera”, Yu & Jin produced a side by side triple toe, double Axel-double Axel, a triple twist, throw triple Salchow and two level-four lifts, but she crashed on the throw triple loop. The ISU Junior Grand Prix Final Champions scored 111.19 points which added up to 173.77 points overall. Yu & Jin had won the silver medal at Junior Worlds in 2012, but they finished off the podium in 2013. “Today we made a mistake, we missed one element. But overall we are pleased that we performed up to our level”, Jin said. “This was our last year in juniors and we are moving up to the senior level and hopefully will give good performances”, he added. His partner said that they are planning to add a triple Salchow as a new side by side jump next season.
Tarasova & Morozov skated to “Air” and “Four Seasons” and completed a big triple twist, throw triple loop and Salchow as well as level-four lifts and spins, but they struggled with the solo jump. She stumbled on the side by side triple Salchow while he stepped of the triple toe. The Russian Junior Champions earned a seasons best of 108.74 points and totaled 168.20 points. The couple from Moscow was ranked fifth in their debut at Junior Worlds in 2013. “We are happy with the result, but there are things we need to work on, things that were lacking today and that we can improve”, Morozov told the press. “We cannot skate in juniors next season as we are aging out. So our goal is to be a factor in the senior National team for Europeans and Worlds”, he explained. “This year it was easier for us to compete here, to perform and to deal with our emotions. We’ve skated at the World Junior Championship before, we knew what to expect and we prepared very well. Yes, there were mistakes, maybe the fourth starting number (last in the group) affected us”, Tarasova noted.
Vigalova & Zakroev started out with a nice triple twist, followed by a double Axel-double toe loop and a double flip in their balletic program to “Giselle”. The team from Perm also produced difficult lifts and a throw triple loop. But Maria missed the throw triple flip and Egor fell on a transition move. The ISU Junior Grand Prix Final silver medalists received 97.16 points, well below their seasons best, but they still moved up to take the bronze in their debut at the Junior World Championship with 152.48 points. “Today our free skating did not go so well, we made many mistakes. A lot of people are used to seeing us skating clean. Maybe it was not enough today. We are happy that we were able to reach the podium and morally this third place might help us in the future to improve”, Zakroev commented.
The skaters do not know yet whether they continue in seniors or juniors. “We will have to wait for the (ISU) congress and their decision on the age limitations for juniors. After that we can make plans for the season”, he said.
Vasilisa Davankova & Andrei Deputat , also from Russia, who stood in third place following the short program, dropped to fourth. Davankova doubled the toe loop and the throw triple flip and loop in their routine to “Notre Dame de Paris”. The 2012 World Junior bronze medalists accumulated 150.67 points. “There is a reason (for this kind of performance)”, Deputat explained. “One and a half weeks ago we skated at the Cup of Russia Final that took place in Veliki Novgorod. When we returned home, we both fell sick. I caught a cold and Vasia’s arm was hurting. We didn’t skate for a week after the competition and just started to do something here on Monday. We skated our short program on enthusiasm, but it wasn’t enough for the long program”, he continued. Davankova & Deputat will move up to the senior level next season.
Madeline Aaron & Max Settlage (USA) remained in fifth place with 144.91 points. Their program to “Spartacus” featured a triple twist, throw triple loop and double Axel-double loop sequence, but Madeline, the younger sister of 2013 US Champion Max Aaron, under-rotated the triple Salchow and fell on the throw triple Salchow.
Canadians Mary Orr & Phelan Simpson finished sixth (132.02 points). They completed a triple twist, throw triple flip and throw triple toe. Like most Canadian pairs, they have good lifts. Their teammates Tara Hancherow & Wesley Killing showed good pair elements as well, but they both crashed on the double Axel and she also touched down on the triple Salchow. They placed seventh with 128.68 points. Alessandra Cernuschi & Filippo Ambrosini of Italy turned in a decent performance as well, finishing eighth at 123.95 points.
If the new age restrictions apply next season, most of the couples here in Sofia would not be eligible for juniors anymore, in addition to those who are aging out anyway.
Nguyen skates to narrow lead in Men’s short
Canada’s Nam Nguyen skated to a narrow lead in the Men’s short program at the ISU World Junior Figure Skating Championships in Sofia, Bulgaria, on Thursday. The Canadian edged out Boyang Jin of China by just 1.36 points. Shoma Uno of Japan follows in third and is not far behind either.
Nguyen’s upbeat performance to “Unsquare Dance” by Dave Brubeck featured a triple Axel, a triple loop, triple Lutz-triple toe loop and two level-four spins. The Toronto teen earned a new seasons best of 72.87 points. “I think that was the best short that I’ve ever done in competition. I was able to do my triple Axel internationally and I’m very pleased with how I’ve done today. I hope to continue that for the long program on Saturday”, the 15-year-old said. “One spin is supposed to be a level three, the other two are supposed to be level four. For the footwork, it was planned to be a level three. That would be the highest I could achieve for a short program”, he explained. Nguyen is training under Brian Orser alongside Olympic Champion Yuzuru Hanyu and European Champion Javier Fernandez. “Training with Yuzuru Hanyu and Javier Fernandez, they have inspired me a lot. Their performances have motivated myself to work even harder for my run throughs”, he added.
Jin over-rotated the triple Axel in his program to “La Bayadere” by Leon Minkus but it was smooth sailing from then on with a triple Lutz-triple toe and triple loop as well as two level-four spins. The ISU Junior Grand Prix Final Champion scored 71.51 points, which was a new seasons best. “Today my first jump, the triple Axel, wasn’t perfect, but after that the jumps, the triple Lutz-triple toe and the triple loop were okay”, the 16-year-old noted. “I didn’t perform these elements (spins and footwork) perfectly yet in my program. After the competition I will work on this to make sure that next time I get a level four for everything”, he noted.
Uno skated last. The third place finish for the tiny 16-year-old came as a surprise, because he didn’t even try a triple Axel. But the quality of his jumps triple flip-triple toe, triple loop and double Axel as well the quality of his spins and footwork in his program to “The Blessed Spirits” was so good that he collected a lot of points on the GOE. He was also the only competitor to achieve a level four for all spins and the footwork. The 16-year-old picked up 70.67 points, a new seasons best as well. “I felt a lot of pressure and I was worried before my short program, but I am very glad that I was able to perform to a level I am content with”, the Japanese skater said. „In our daily work my coach follows closely everything what I am doing and she is checking everything and she is always with me in competition, I guess that’s maybe the secret”, he answered when asked about getting a level four for all non-jumps elements.
Uno’s teammate Keiji Tanaka is within striking distance of the podium at 70.57 points in fourth. He touched down with his hand on the triple Axel but completed a triple flip-triple toe combo and a triple loop. He lost some precious points on his level-one flying sit spin.
Russia’s Alexander Petrov finished fifth with 69.72 points. Like Tanaka, he had his hand on the ice on the triple Axel, but the combination, triple Lutz-triple toe in his case, and a triple loop were good and got a level four for the flying sit spin and the combo spin. However, he had a lot of courage to use this disco version of “Godfather” for his music. “It was good for me, but I could have done better. I touched down on the triple Axel”, the student of Alexei Mishin said.
Nathan Chen (USA) missed his triple Axel to come sixth with 69.65 points. At least the Axel was not under-rotated. The Californian recovered to land a triple Lutz-triple toe and triple loop in the second half of the program to “Four Seasons”. His spins were graded a level four, the footwork was a level three.
Adian Pitkeev from Russia opened with a beautiful triple Axel and followed up with a triple Lutz-triple toe, but then popped the loop. He was close to tears and had no explanation what had happened. But with 68.76 points, the Muscovite is ranked 7th and remains in contention. He Zhang of China placed eighth with a solid performance without a triple Axel (67.72 points). Jordan Moeller (USA) skated clean and landed a triple Axel, but low components held him back and he sits in ninth place with 66.38 points. Petr Coufal of the Czech Republic rounds up the top ten. He gave a clean performance that included a triple Lutz-triple toe, triple loop and double Axel (63.92 points).
The Junior World Championship is always a perfect competition to spot new talent. Some future top skaters stand out at a very young age in their first appearance at Junior Worlds, like Denis Ten did in his debut at the 2007 World Junior Championship (although he didn’t even reach the final). A discovery at this Junior Worlds in Sofia is certainly Deniss Vassiljevs of Latvia. The 14-year-old is just 1.53 m tall, but he has a lot of energy on the ice and unlike many other boys of his age puts on a show. His technique is solid as well, he nailed a double Axel, triple Lutz-triple toe (stumbled on the back end, though), triple loop and picked up level threes and fours for his non-jump elements. He earned 62.50 points and finished 11th in the short program.
38 men competed in the short program and the top 24 advanced to the free skating on Saturday. One that didn’t make it was surprisingly 2013 World Junior bronze medalist Shotaro Omori (USA). He fell on the triple Axel and triple Lutz and both jumps were under-rotated. 11 skaters went for a triple Axel. A quad is not allowed in the junior men’s short program, but at last the top three skaters would like to change that. “I would say yes, give us a challenge for the short program. It would make us even more motivated to take the sport even further for juniors to try the quad in the short program”, Nguyen commented. “Because no quad is allowed the triple Axel is even more important. But I would do a quad if it was allowed”, Jin said. “I haven’t performed one (a quad) yet, so I am not sure whether I would be able to do it, but still I agree with the other two and think it would be good to have it in the short program as well”, Uno agreed. This year, the double or triple loop is the required solo jump in the junior men’s short program.