by Klaus Reinhold Kany
(15 March 2017) For the first time, the ISU Junior World Championships are held in Taiwan’s subtropical capital of Taipei this year. They take place in the huge Taipei Arena, a multi-purpose stadium which was opened in 2005. Although Taiwan has never had any top skaters, the federation is interested in holding big international skating events regularily and is quite experienced. The Four Continents Championships took place in the same rink in 2011, 2014, 2016 and is planned again for 2018. A big hotel with almost 1,000 beds is situated just across the street where all skaters, coaches and officials are staying.
In order to participate, all skaters needed technical minimum points in the short and in the long program which they could win during this or last season at any international junior competition which is on the ISU calendar. For the better skaters and stronger nations, these points are relatively easy. But this rule prevents weaker skaters from competing and limits the number of competitors. 45 men, 45 ladies, 16 pairs and 31 ice dance couples were entered on Monday, March 13, the first day of practice.
Nicolas Nadeau (second in Junior Worlds last year), Conrad Orzel and Roman Sadovsky are the three Canadian men, all of whom hope for a spot on the podium. Nadeau and Orzel recently were first and second at the junior competition at Bavarian Open in Germany. The three Americans Alexei Krasnozhon, Andrew Torgashev and Vincent Zhou (second at U.S. senior Nationals this January) also can hope for a medal. Russia sends with Dmitri Aliev (winner of the ISU Junior Final), Alexander Petrov and Alexander Samarin (second at the Junior Final) also a strong team all of whom have an eye to the podium. Petrov has competed only in Seniors during this and last season, but did not qualify for the ISU championships andtherefore decided to go back to Juniors. It was only after Russian Junior Nationals that someone out of Russia found out that he still needed the junior minimum. He got it at a small competition in Bulgaria in the last minute. The two Japanese skaters Koshiro Shimada and Kazuki Tomono can also be expected at least in the Top Ten. The South Korea skater Jun Hwan Cha, who trains with Brian Orser in Toronto and was third at the Junior Final, also is a medal candidate. Last year’s Junior World Champion Daniel Samohin from Israel tries to defend his title, but at the Cup of Tyrol ten days ago he was not in top shape. His federation had deleted him from the entry list in Taipei by mistake, but he could be re-added. Kevin Aymoz from France and Matteo Rizzo from Italy hope for a top ten position.
The favorite in the ladies competition is Alina Zagitova from Russia who won the ISU Junior Final with outstanding 207.43 points. Her countrywomen Polina Tsurskaya and Stanislava Konstantinova, also are medal candidates. Marin Honda from Japan won Junior Worlds last year and is a hot candidate für the podium again. The two other Japanese skaters Kaori Sakamoto (third at the Junior Final) and Juna Shirawa are strong as well. Other ladies who hope for a top position are Sarah Tamura from Canada, Lea Johanna Dastich from Germany plus the two South Korean skaters So Hyun An and Eunsoo Lim. The U.S. girls Bradie Tennell and Starr Andrews (who replaces Amber Glenn who withdrew „for personal reasons“) are not expected to win a medal, but certainly hope for spots among the best ten.
Only 16 pairs will compete which means that everybody will reach the final. The medal favorites are Russian: Aleksandra Boikova & Dmitrii Kozlovskii from St. Petersburg in Russia, though only 15 and 17 years old, but third at the Junior Final and winner of Russian Junior Nationals some weeks ago. The other two Russian pairs also hope for a medal: Amina Atakhanova & Ilia Spiridonov as well as Alina Ustimkona & Nikita Volodin (fourth at the Junior Final). Other medal candidates are the U.S. team of Chelsea Liu & Brian Johnson who were fifth at Junior Worlds last year and are the most experienced pair of the competition, maybe the second American team of Nica Digerness & Danny Neudecker, the Australians Ekaterina Alexandrovskaya & Harley Windsor and the Chinese pair Yumeng Gao & Zhong Xie.
In ice dance, the two top U.S. teams Rachel Parsons & Michael Parsons (winner of the Junior Final) and Lorraine McNamara & Quinn Carpenter (gold medalists at last year’s Junior Worlds) are hot medal candidates and the third Americans Christina Carreira & Anthony Ponomarenko also hope to finish in the top six. Their main rivals for medals are Alla Loboda and Pavel Drozd from Russia who were second at the Junior Final this season. The two other Russian couples Anastasia Shpilevaya & Grigory Smirnov and Anastasia Skoptcova & Kirill Aleshin are strong as well. Other candidates for a top six or top eight position are Angelique Abachkina & Louis Thauron from France and Marjorie Lajoie & Zachary Lagha from Canada.