Juvenile Girls: Tamnhi Huynh, Madison Nguyen, Haley Scott, Elise Freezer
Juvenile Boys: Robert Yampolsky, William Annis, Kai Kovar, Liam Kapeikis
Juvenile Pair: Josephine Hagan & Evan Whitlow, Sydney Flaum & Chase Finster, Jasmine Wong & Danylo Siianytsia, Ashley Fletcher & Cayden McKenzie-Cook
Juveneile Dance: Alice Serbin & Kenan Slevira, Nastia Efimova & Jonathan Zhao, Elliana Peal & Ethan Peal, Sarah Dutton & Emmett King
(16 January 2017) The best of U.S. Juvenile and Intermediate skaters displayed their talents the opening weekend of the 2017 U.S. National Figure Skating Championships.
Weather forecasts the end of last weeks predicted an apocalyptic ice storm this weekend through Missouri and some travelers to the competition came a day earlier to avoid the possibility of getting their trips to the competition delayed. The storms coated the area with a light layer of ice Saturday and Sunday, making travel dangerous. Most competitors, however, stayed in hotels close to the secondary arena and Saturday night the many judge for the Juvenile and Intermediate events moved into nearby hotels for the night, instead of staying in downtown Kansas City. Ultimately, the storm had no negative impact on the competition other than to make thing (inside and out) bitter cold - not unlike the 1985 Championships in Kansas City which were also memorably frigid.
The secondary arena is the Silverstein Eye Centers Arena (eyes on the skaters, hints of silver, get it now?) in Independence, Missouri, a 5800 seat arena far grander than the Juvenile and Intermediate skaters have previously been afforded, and far larger than for the 75-150 spectators that attended each event. This year the Novice events are also being held in the secondary arena, on Monday through Wednesday. Next door to the arena (actually connected) is the practice arena. The facility is about a 30 minute trip from downtown Kansas City.
Perhaps the only thing wanting in this venue, is the decision to place the spectators on the side opposite the judges, where they got to enjoy the back sides of the performances, even though there where four perfectly good (empty) sections away from the judges' on the judges side to accommodate the no more than 150 friends and family (and a few hard-core fans) that were present at any time.
The Juvenile Girls were a tough group, with the top four skaters finishing within 0.46 points. Ten of the twelve skaters attempted one or more double Axels and most were successful. The institution of bonus points for double Axels in this category seems to be having a positive impact.
The Juvenile Boys' event has also seen an increase in the number of double Axels, though not as great as the Girls. In addition, the Technical marks for the Boys were distinctly lower than for the Girls, with the Juvenile Boys Champion slightly outscored by the top four Juvenile Girls.
Intermediate Men's Champion Ilia Malinin
In the Intermediate singles events, the skaters earn bonus points for successful triple jumps, and the number of successful triples by both the ladies and the men has increased. These were mostly toe loops and Salchows, with a few loops and flips as well. The technical standard for Intermediate for both the ladies and the men has thus moved up a notch and is now where the Novices were a about five years ago.
The Juvenile and Intermediate dance events also displayed a high level of skill with the top skaters showing both technical and artistic maturity. Many of the teams achieved levels three and four in their elements in both the Juvenile and Intermediate categories. The success the U.S. juniors and seniors have had internationally in recent years looks to have a solid foundation in the lower level dance categories.
The glimmers of hope for the future seen in singles and dance are, unfortunately sorely lacking in pairs. The pairs medalist were, of course deserving of their success, but overall, compared to their contemporaries in singles and dance, they trail in element points, component points, and artistic/presentation skills. Recent domestic rules changes for pairs do not appear to be having a positive impact on the discipline.
Often when I meet up with friends in the U.S. pairs community after a long absence, I greet them with the question 'so, when are you going to fix pairs?' After watching the Juvenile and Intermediate events here, that question is as relevant as ever.