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2016 World Junior Championships

Two Russian Withdrawals Help Marin Honda to Win Ladies Title

by Klaus Reinhold Kany
Photos by Robin Ritoss


(20 March 2016)  The ladies competition at Junior Worlds 2016 in Debrecen/Hungary had a good but no outstanding level. 48 ladies were entered and 46 finally were drawn, which is much more than the ISU tends to want. Therefore the short program took seven hours, which might be a problem for some members of the jury, because they have to be concentrated in each second of any program. Next year the required technical minimum points, which are only 20 for the short and 35 for the long program this season, might be higher in order to reduce the number of participants. The ladies make less mistakes than the men because their program are less risky. Nobody tried a triple axel, nor any quad jump, and most of the better half have no problem with all other triple jumps.

The competition ended with a surprise. There was no Russian sweep at all because two of the three Russian girls had to withdraw. 15-year-old Polina Tsurskaja, who had been first at the ISU Junior Final and first at Russian Junior Nationals, was the favorite for this competition. But during the on-ice morning practice before the short program she sprained her ankle:Even the experienced Russian team doctor Viktor Anikanov, who had been called back from retirement after the doping disaster of his successor in Bratislava, could not help. Her team mate Maria Sotskova after the short program said: “I know that Polina’s foot already hurt when she came here. Then she had a bad fall this morning in practice. It is sad that she had to withdraw from this event.”

During the off-ice warm-up one hour before the free program, the Russian team had bad luck a second time. Alisa Fedichkina, who had been fourth in the ISU Junior Final, tore an ankle ligament while jumping around a bit. Her team member Maria Sotskova had to explain: “Alisa fell in the warm up in the gym right in front of my eyes and she couldn’t get up. They carried her to the medical room. I was worried for her and I didn’t know whether she would be able to skate or not.”

The day before Fedichkina had been first in a very good short program, earning 66.11 points after performing a combination of triple lutz and triple toe loop and the other required elements, including a world-class layback spin which was rewarded with three GOEs of +3 and six +2. She said: “I’m pleased with my performance. I wanted to skate clean and that’s what I did. I was able to cope with my nerves and I’m happy with my result. It is really a shame that Polina had to withdraw, because she is actually the strongest of the juniors.” One day later she had to give up as well.

So Sotskova was the only Russian lady to finish the competition. According to the rules, the two withdrawals did not cost Russia any spot for next year’s Junior Worlds. Tsurskaya was the third ranked skater who did not count anyway. Fedichkina had finished her short program in the top ten and had to withdraw for medical reasons. This meant that her placement was not relevant either and only Sotskova’s second place counted. If a country has only one skater in a competition and this skater is first or second, the country gets three spots in the following year.

Sotskova, who had won silver at the ISU Junior Final, was third in Debrecen in a good short program to music of “Black Magic Woman” by Santana (which might be a bit strange for a 15-year-old white girl) with 64.78 points. Her combination of triple lutz and triple toe loop was excellent, the other elements good as well, only one spin got only a level 2. In the long program, all her seven triple jumps were clean, only her second double axel near the end was under-rotated . Her components were around 7.5. This was enough to finished second overall with 188.72 points.

She commented: “Coming here I was not in a bad form, you can even say I was well prepared and ready for this event. When I learned that Alisa has to withdraw today I realized that I’m the only Russian left in the competition and that I have to skate for my country. I’ll get home on Monday evening and on Tuesday we’ll leave for the Spartakiade (a national competition) in Saransk. After that I think I’ll do new programs and then I want to go to the USA for summer training. I started well into the season and in my first Junior Grand Prix I had my best performance so far. Then my shape went down a bit, but I pulled myself together for Nationals and skated well. The hardest competition were the Youth Olympic Games. It was difficult to focus. I am certainly capable of winning, but it did not happen this time.”

The winner in Debrecen earned 192.98 points and was Marin Honda from Osaka in Japan who had been third at the Junior Final in Barcelona three months ago. In the flawless and fluent short program to the Asian music of “Spring Sonata Number 5”, the student of Mie Hamada had exactly the same 66.11 points as the winner Fedichkina. But she was only second because the Russian girl had more technical points which prevail in the short program. Honda’s combination of triple loop and triple toe loop was excellent, the required triple flip good and four elements had a level 4. In the free program, which included the usual seven triple jumps, there was no mistake either.

She said: “I was aiming at the podium. After the short program I felt stronger about making the podium. Junior Worlds is the most important competition for us juniors and we work very hard for it. I think overwork caused the different injuries. I aim at the World Juniors next year and I’ll concentrate to make it happen.”

The second Japanese skater Wakaba Higuchi (JPN) from Tokyo won the bronze medal with 183.73 points. In the short program to a Mambo phantasy, she fell on the triple toe loop after the triple Lutz of her combination because she did not land it backwards. The other elements were good. In a faultless free program which included seven triple jumps, she could move up from fifth to third place. Instead of the planned combination of triple Lutz and triple loop, she did triple lutz and triple toe loop.

She commented: “Before the competition my condition was good. Unfortunately I missed an element in the short program and I was very disappointed. I had some concerns in the free skating about the triple Lutz-triple loop thing, but I think I did a good job. This was my last junior event. Next season I want to try the senior level.”

The third Japanese skater Yuna Shiraiwa, who is also coached by Mie Hamada, finished fourth with 171.59 points and underlined the general high level of female skating in Japan. In her short program she could add only a overturned double toe loop instead of a planned triple one after the triple lutz, but everything else was o.k. Her free program was almost faultless with seven triple jumps, only the second triple lutz was under-rotated .

Elizabet Tursynbaeva from Kasakhstan, who trains with Brian Orser in Toronto, finished fifth, winning 170.83 points. After a fall on the triple lutz she could not add the planned triple toe loop of her combination. Next was a spin during which her nose started bleeding. She stopped, looked to Orser and skated to the Polish referee Aniela Hebel-Szmak to ask for a break of two minutes to fix this problem. The rink board doctors put a piece of a paper handkerchief into her nose and therefore she could continue without problems, performing the remaining five elements in good quality.

 Later Orser said that neither he nor the skater knew the rule that she got a deduction of five points for this interruption. This rule was introduced a few years ago in order to discourage skaters with a bad physical condition to be allowed to cheat and skate their program in two parts. Therefore Tursynbaeva was only 14th in the short program.

 With the fourth best free program and seven triple jumps she still could move up to fifth place overall. Without this deduction she would have been fourth. Later she said if the nose bleeding had happened again she would have continued nevertheless because she did not want to risk another deduction of five points. But in the free she had no problems.

Tyler Pierce of Riverside, California, surprising fifth at U.S Nationals in January, had skated excellently and in a very energetic style at the Bavarian Open in Germany in February. But in Debrecen she was not quite as strong again and finished sixth with 161.29 points. After a good triple toe loop - triple toe loop combination in the short to “Voices from the Forest” by Paul Spaeth she fell on the triple flip which was under-rotated . The other elements were good, the combination spin even excellent. In the free, she interpreted the famous “Danse Macabre” by Camille Saint-Saens. Four triple jumps were clean, but two under-rotated and she doubled a toe loop which was planned triple.

The second American Bradie Tennell of Buffalo Grove, Illinois, sixth at U.S.Nationals in seniors, ended up eleventh, earning 147.52 points. After the short program she had been in a surprising fourth position in spite of a fall on the double axel. But her combination of triple lutz and triple toe loop was very good, her spins and steps (all level 4) as well. But in the free program, she fell three times, had only three clean triples and could not keep her excellent position.