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2016 World Junior Preview

Juniors Compete in Debrecen, Hungary for World Junior Titles

by Klaus Reinhold Kany


(15 March 2016)  The 2016 ISU Junior World Championships will take place in Hungaryís second largest city of Debrecen with 200,000 inhabitants. It is situated about 150 miles east of the countryís capital of Budapest where most skaters, coaches and officials arrive by plane. Shuttle buses transport them from there to Debrecen. The event is held in the Foenix Arena which has a capacity of about 6.000 seats, plus a practice rink in another part of the city. Budapest has held many international skating competitions and championships, but it is the first time Debrecen will hold one. One of the reasons for this choice may be because the president of the Hungarian federation is the mayor of Debrecen in his main job.

The schedule is the same as for ISU senior championships. This means that there are two competitions on each day from Wednesday to Saturday and a gala exhibition on Sunday.

In order to be eligible for this championships, the ISU required minimum technical points which each skater or couple had to win once at any other international junior competition which is or was in the ISU calendar this or last season. The minimum for the short and the long program could be obtained at two different competitions. Ladies need at least 20 technical points in any short and 35 in any long program, men need 20 and 42 points, pairs 20 and 30 points and ice dance couples 18 and 28 points. These relatively mild points are no problem for stronger countries and skaters, but they avoid the participation of really weak skaters. A few days before the first practice on Monday, 177 skaters had been entered, 14 more than last year. The top 24 single skaters, top 16 Pairs and top 20 Ice Dance teams after the short program or short dance proceed to the Free Skating/Free Dance.

Men

Thirty-nine men were entered on Sunday. Dmitri Aliev of St. Petersburg in Russia was second at the Junior Final and therefore is one of the favorites. His countryman Alexander Samarin of Moscow was fourth and first in his two Junior Grand Prix and therefore is a medal candidate as well. The same is true for Daniel Samohin from Israel, who trains in San Diego California and placed fifth at the Junior Final and seventh at Europeans in January.

Three North Americans also aim for a top position: Vincent Zhou (15) of Colorado Springs was fourth in the Junior Final in December with 204 points and eighth at U.S. senior Nationals two months ago. Tomoki Hiwatashi from the Chicago area is the second U.S. skater in Debrecen. He had been third and fifth at his Junior Grand Prix, won the Junior competition at U.S. Nationals and his international personal best is 197 points. Nicolas Nadeau from the Montreal area in Canada had been 25th at Junior Worlds last year. But the 18-year-old skater seems much stronger this season after being second (with 223 points) and fifth at his two Junior Grand Prix and fifth at Canadian senior Nationals.

He Zhang from China takes part in Junior Worlds for the fifth time and should not be excluded from the medal race this year after being third and fourth at his two Junior Grand Prix some months ago. Deniss Vasiljevs from Latvia, another medal candidate, had been second at both of his Junior Grand Prix and also recently second at the Youth Olympic Games. He trains with Alexei Urmanov in Sochi, Russia and is an excellent stylist. Kevin Aymoz is a promising French skater.

Sota Yamamoto from Japan had been third at the ISU Junior Final had just won the Youth Olympic Games in Norway in February. He would be a hot medal candidate, but broke his ankle in practice afterwards and had to withdraw. He is replaced by Kozuki Tomono who was 13th at his only Junior Grand Prix in Latvia in September 2015, second at Japanese Junior Nationals this season and is no medal candidate for Debrecen. Originally Californian Nathan Chen was nominated and would have had a very good chance even to win the competition after being first at the ISU Junior Final in December in Barcelona. But during the Skating spectacular at U.S. Nationals he severely injured his hip and had to undergo a serious surgery which keeps him out of competitions for months.

Ladies

Forty-six ladies in Debrecen are more than the ISU expected. Therefore the minimum scores might be higher next year. Russia dominated all ladies competitions recently and it would be a big surprise if they donít win at least two if not three medals in Hungary. Polina Tsurskaja won her Junior Grand Prix, the Junior Final and the Youth Olympic Games and therefore is the favorite. Maria Sotskova was second in Barcelona and might take the same place at Junior Worlds. The third Russian Alisa Fedichkina, fourth at the Junior Final, also hopes for a medal.

Tyler Pierce, who has trained with Tammy Gambill in California as well as in Colorado Springs, was a surprising fifth at senior U.S. Nationals and gave an excellent performance at the Bavarian Open three weeks ago. If she can confirm this, she might win a medal again as well. The second U.S. skater Bradie Tennell from the Chicago area was sixth at Nationals, but a medal is much more than she and U.S. figure skating would expect from her. The three Japanese girls Wakaba Higuichi (third at last yearís Junior Worlds and first at Junior Nationals),Marin Honda (third at the Junior Final in December) and Yuna Shiraiwa (fifth at the Junior Final) are certainly good enough as well for a medal in Debrecen. Elizabet Tursynbaeva from Kazakhstan, who trains with Brian Orser, and Angelina Kuchvalska from Latvia, fourth at Europeans, also should not be neglected for top positions in Debrecen.

Pairs

Ekaterina Borisova and Dmitry Sopot from Russia are the favorites among the 15 pairs after winning the Junior Final and the Youth Olympic Games recently. But close competition can be expected by Anna Duskova and Martin Bidar from the Czech Republic who have the more elegant style and were second both times. Amina Atakhanova and Ilia Spiridonov from Russia, third at the Junior Final three months ago, recently withdrew due to injury. Therefore Anastasia Gubanova and Alexei Sintsov, Borisova and Sopotís training mates in Perm and fourth at the Junior Final, have a good medal chance as well. The new third Russian pair of Anastasia Mishina and Vladislav Mirzoev gave an excellent impression at their test event at the Bavarian Open in February. Other medal candidates are the Ukrainians Renata Oganesian and Mark Bardei. They were fifth at the Junior Final, but gave very good performances at their two Junior Grand Prix where they finished first and third.

Canada and the USA send three pairs each, but it would be a surprise if any of them wins a medal. Joy Weinberg and Maximiliano Fernandez won the junior competition at U.S. Nationals and train in Jim Petersonís school in Ellenton/Florida. Lindsay Weinstein and Jacob Simon from Delilah Sappenfieldís school in Colorado Springs were second there. Chelsea Liu and Briaqn Johnson from Todd Sandís school in Aliso Viejo, California, were in the Junior Final last season. The top Canadians are Justin Brasseur (she is the niece of former world champion Isabelle Brasseur) and Mathieu Ostiguy from Montreal. But in the junior competition at Nationals, they were beaten by the winners Hope McLean and Trennt Michaud of London/Ontario and the second placed Bryan Hoffman and Bryce Chudak of Calgary, who all are also at Junior Worlds.

Ice Dance

Like almost always in the last few years, ice dancing is the most successful category for US figure skating. This might be the case again in Debrecen because two teams from Alexei Kiliakovís ice dance academy in Rockville, Maryland are top medal candidates among the 31 ice dance teams. Lorraine McNamara and Quinn Carpenter won their two Junior Grand Prix, the Junior Final and the junior competition at U.S. Nationals. Their teammates Rachel Parsons and Michael Parsons also were first at their Junior Grand Prix, third at the Junior Final and nationally second. The third U.S. team of Elliana Pogrebinsky and Alex Benoit, third nationally, comes from Igor Shpilbandís school in Novi, Michigan.

Alla Loboda and Pavel Drozd from Russia are the best non-U.S team, were first and second at their Junior Grand Prix, second at the Junior Final and can also hope for a medal. The second Russian couple of Bettina Popova and Yuri Vlasenko were fourth at the Junior Final. The third Russian couple of Anastasia Shpilevaya and Grigory Smirnov just won the Youth Olympic Games in Norway. France also has two strong junior dance teams. They both live in North America. Marie-Jade Lauriault and Romain le Gac train together with the world champions Papadakis and Cizeron in Montreal and recently got married with each other. Angelique Abachkina and Louis Thauron come from the Shpilband school in Michigan.