by Tatjana Flade
(11 March 2015) The pairs competition at the World Junior Figure Skating Championships in Tallinn featured only 13 couples from eight countries. Even China that had three teams in the Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final had only one couple – Xiaoyu Yu & Yang Jin who went back to juniors one last time to secure spots for next year and also for the Youth Olympic Games. No Chinese team had competed at the junior circuit, but coach Hongbo Zhao had told Iceskating International earlier this season that they have put together new junior teams that should be ready for next season. You can always count on Russia to have three teams, also the USA and Canada usually have two or three pairs. Japan, Czech Republic, Italy and Ukraine were represented with one couple. But even the Russian have some problems. Their top junior teams of the season, Lina Fedorova & Maxim Miroshkin and Maria Vigalova & Egor Zakroev, don’t have a side by side triple ready. Vigalova & Zakroev had to withdraw shortly before Junior Worlds as she had fallen ill. The replacement, Daria Beklemisheva & Maxim Bobrov, compete in their first season and are still rough around the edges. They finished 11th – next to last – which is rather embarrassing for a Russian pair.
Overall the pairs event was rather predictable. It seemed obvious that the defending champions Yu & Jin and the ISU Junior Grand Prix Final Champions Julianne Seguin & Charlie Bilodeau from Canada would be fighting for the gold medal and the Chinese had the advantage of their senior-level experience. Without a consistent triple, Fedorova & Miroshkin couldn’t really hope for much more than for the bronze, barring any major mistakes by their competitors. And this is exactly what happened and it was also reflected in the scores.
Yu & Jin looked a bit cautious in their “Yulunga Spirit Dance” short program by Dead Can Dance, but the key elements double Lutz, triple twist, throw triple loop were solid. The ISU Grand Prix Finalists took a lead of a little bit more than a point over Seguin & Bilodeau. “We are pleased with our performance today, especially since we haven’t been training this short program a lot”, Jin commented. ”Coming back from seniors to juniors, we don’t think that it is easier to skate in junior competitions, because the competitors here are very strong as well”, he added.
Their long program to the “Creation” soundtrack was once again highlighted by their triple throws, a side by side triple toe and double Axel-double Axel sequence as well as by difficult lifts. Yu & Jin scored 116.23 points and won their second consecutive Junior World title with 178.79 points. This team now has three medals from Junior Worlds. The first was a silver in 2012, while they finished off the podium in 2013. “I think we had a good performance technically, the elements were solid. This was good especially considering that we didn’t have much time to prepare the junior program. We skated in senior competitions all season. So we are pleased that we were able to show a good level today”, Jin said.
Seguin & Bilodeau dominated the junior circuit and looked like the top favorites for the gold medal before the Chinese came back. The Canadians did not give up and delivered two solid performances. Their short program to the “Hotel Budapest” soundtrack was clean and so was their long to “Wallflower” and “In Your Eyes” by Peter Gabriel that included a side by side triple Salchow, double Axel-double toe, throw triple toe and Salchow as well as triple twist. The ISU Junior Grand Prix Final Champions earned a level four for all ”level” elements. “We really felt great on the ice today. We really focused on the performance and all the elements we did clean. We’re really proud of that. We reached our seasons best in the combination of the two programs, so we’re happy about that also. I think it’s a good way to end our last junior competition”, Bilodeau commented.
Fedorova & Miroshkin’s chance to attack was the short program, because the double Lutz is required as a solo jump and no triple is allowed. The Russians have excellent pair elements, notably their triple twist. However, in the short to “Feeling Good” Lina’s Lutz received an edge call and Maxim wobbled on the side by side spin. As a result the team from Moscow was about three points behind already in the short. They decided to go for the triple toe for the first time in an international competition this season, but Fedorova fell and the jump was downgraded. The mistake threw her off and she also missed the double Axel. On top of that the Russian struggled on the exit of the death spiral. Although the throws and lifts in their routine to “Khorobushko” were strong, the 2013 World Junior bronze medalists had no chance to move up and settled for the bronze again with at total of 154.33 points. “The jumps are not consistent yet in practice, and in competition the feeling is different. We just need to work more to get the consistency”, the 17-year-old Fedorova said. “This was another step towards our senior career. We’ll try our best. We’ll take it one thing at a time”, Miroshkin commented.
All three medal winning teams are thinking of trying quads in the future. Yu & Jin had practiced the throw quad Salchow before, but stopped it after Yu hit her head once. They might bring it back, though. Seguin & Bilodeau haven’t tried a quad throw yet, but think of working on a throw quad toe in the off-season. Fedorova & Miroshkin want to go for a quad twist and have worked on it on the floor a bit. The three couples all have aged out of juniors by next season. Seguin & Bilodeau, who won the bronze medal at the Canadian National Championships will get their first international senior experience at the World Championships in Shanghai while Yu & Jin are only substitutes.
Anastasia Gubanova & Alexei Sintsov are a young Russian team that debuted at Junior Worlds. They don’t include yet a solo side by side triple in their free skating and even not a double Axel, but they have good pair elements. The 14-year-old and her 19-year-old partner come from the Perm skating school that has produced many good pair skaters including Maxim Trankov and train with Valentina Tiukova and Valeri Tiukov as well as with Pavel Sliusarenko, like Vigalova & Zakroev. Except for an edge call on her wobbly Lutz their short to “Cotton Club” was good and in the long to music from the “Cirque du Soleil” their only mistake came when she fell on the throw triple flip. (4th & 140.39 points).
Caitlin Fields & Ernie Utah Stevens are a new team this season. She popped the Lutz in their short program to “Nostradamus” by Maksim Mrvica. The U.S. Junior Champions turned in a solid long program to “Don Quixote” and for the first time went for a triple twist in competition. It was messy, but it was there. Ernie also singled the toe in their 2L-2T combo, but they landed a throw triple loop and Salchow. Fields & Stevens, who train in Indianapolis under Sergei Zaitsev, will have to move up to the senior level next year like the medalists (5th & 138.62 points).
Ami Koga is another Japanese girl that went abroad to look for a partner. She found Francis Boudreau Audet in Canada and trains with him in Montreal. The duo has made a lot of progress this season under Richard Gauthier and Bruno Marcotte. They have a triple twist (not clean in the long) and a side by side triple toe (she stumbled in the free skating), but they don’t risk a double Axel. This Japanese-Canadian duo won’t be junior eligible either next season and it has to be seen if Japan can use the two spots they have next year (6th & 134.97 points).
Chelsea Liu & Brian Johnson were the only U.S. juniors that qualified for the ISU Junior Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final, but in Tallinn they made many errors and finished 7th (133.57 points). Anna Duskova, who competed with Martin Bidar for the Czech Republic, last year did both pairs and singles at Junior Worlds. She originally was entered in singles again, but decided to focus on pairs. Nevertheless, there were some errors ( 8th & 128.80 points).
Renata Oganesian & Mark Bardei of Ukraine had to withdraw following the short program as Bardei suffered from a protracted virus infection.