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2019 World Junior Championships

U.S. Man Tomoki Hiwatashi Wins Junior World Title

 by Klaus Reinhold Kany


(12 March 2019 The general level of the men’s competition World Junior Championships 2019 in Zagreb, Croatia, was mixed. The short program was excellent because none of the top 17 fell and only few made serious mistakes. The main reason, Juniors are not allowed to do quads in the short program, but all can master clean triples including the triple Axel. Between first and eleventh place, there was only a difference of five points, so everything was possible in the free. In this long program with several quads from many skaters, the spectators saw more mistakes and nobody was really excellent.

Huge success for the USA nevertheless, Tomoki Hiwatashi of Colorado Springs won the gold medal with 230.32 points, although he was second in both parts of the competition. In the short program to „Cry me a River“ by Arthur Hamilton, his triple Axel was good, the triple flip as well and his combination of triple Lutz and triple toe loop in the second half very clean. The spins and steps of the student of Christine Krall and Damon Allen also got many plus points and his components were around 7.3 (in both programs).

He commented, ”I think I was able to do my best today as I got my personal best. There are some elements I can do better like the step sequence. I knew all the skaters this year were really good. Stephen Gogolev has all the quads and in free skate there are a lot of things he can do and where he can beat me in. But being 19 and the oldest competitor at the event, I am really excited and scared of all the little, younger kids coming over trying to beat me.”

In the long program he skated to “Fate of the Gods” by Steven Reineke. He started with a good combination of quad toe loop and triple toe loop, followed by a combination of triple Axel and double toe loop. His second planned quad toe loop was only double, his second triple Axel a bit shaky, but four more triples good. At the end he performed a good Biellmann spin.

In the press conference, he could not stop talking, “When I saw the free program score of 148 and second place in free and since I was second in the short, too, it all added up as two. But when I saw 230 points in total I could not believe it because I did not think I could win. I wanted to do a second quad toe loop and get ready for the next season, but it did not work. When I heard the national anthem in the beginning I thought I would cry but I didn't. Throughout my career I have only heard the anthem once in The Hague at Challenge Cup in 2015.“

“Concerning the Biellmann spin, my first coach told me this was the spin I could probably do. I was always flexible as a kid. Biellmann is just this one thing that not many men can do and I want people to think that it is my thing now. I want when people see other men skater do Biellmann to think ‘Tomoki can do it better!’ I want everyone to think I have the best one. I have been doing it since I started skating, since I was 5,. I‘ve never had an international competition in the same place. So since I skated here already once I felt really confident about how the ice felt and how everything would go. It was a 2015 Junior Grand Prix and this was my first Junior Grand Prix medal that I got here. I felt like this was a good place to return for competition. I love a lot of skaters. The most I guess for now is Alexei Yagudin. I loved his skating and at the Olympics it was the best program that I have ever seen. There are also Yuzuru Hanyu, Nathen Chen, Shoma Uno - they are all going for new things, getting records and it is amazing how they can keep up the great work. Vincent Zhou is a skater who inspires me. Mao Asada has been an inspiration since I was little.“

Roman Savosin from Russia won the silver medal with 229.28 points after being sixth in the short and winning the free program. In the short, his triple Axel was clean, his triple flip nearly clean and his combination of triple Lutz and triple toe loop O.K., but nothing extraordinary. In the free to Rakhmaninov’s second Piano Concerto, he was the only top skater without real mistakes. His quad toe loop was very good, his quad Salchow a bit shaky. The two triple Axels were under-rotated, the triple loop as well, but three other triples clean. His components had an average of 7.4.

He said, “I was aiming to move up in the standings, I was hoping for it. I am very glad it worked out, but mostly I was thinking of skating a clean program, I am very pleased with my performance today because throughout this season I never really managed to skate such a good program. This competition was so important. I also prepared in a different way mentally and I am very glad it has worked out. It would be nice if we could have a little bit more time for choreography. I have always liked Javier Fernandez, I have always rooted for him. I was inspired the way he worked his way up.“

Italy’s men make a phenomenal career this season. Young Matteo Rizzo won a surprising bronze medal at Europeans and gold at the University Games which took place at the same time as Junior Worlds. 16-year-old Daniel Grassl from Merano took the bronze medal at Junior Worlds, earning 224.67 points. His triple Axel was soso, the triple flip and the combination of triple Lutz and triple toe loop very good. He interpretad "Rain, in your Black Eyes“, by Ezio Bosso in an innovative way, choreographed by Benoit Richaud who also has worked with Bradie Tennell since 2018.

“I am really happy about the result today”, Grassl explained, “because this is my first Junior World Championships and obviously I was really excited and nervous and I made a little mistake on triple Axel. Everybody in the top 10 did really good.”

In the free program to dance pieces by Philipp Glass, he fell on the quad Lutz, but landed a quad loop which was under-rotated. Five more triples jumps were good, but the loop under-rotated. His innovative spins which demand high flexibility got a lot of applause. His unusual interpretation of the heavy music brought him components of around 7.1.

He explained, “I did make mistakes, but it is okay. My goal was to get into top five and being third is great. I love competing in Zagreb because I always do new things here. Like I did my first double Axel, my first triple Lutz, my first quad Lutz, my first [quad] loop. When I fell on the quad Lutz I knew I had to go forward and do the quad loop. It turned out good. My inspiration is Patrick Chan, because he has good skating skills, good jumps and spins. He has always been my inspiration since I was young.“

Artur Danielian from Russia finished on fourth position with 220.68 points after being ninth in the short program. There, he began with an excellent triple Axel, followed by a very good triple flip and the usual combination of triple Lutz and triple toe loop, but his components were relatively low. In the free, he stepped out of a quad Salchow but could add six more triple jumps, including two Axels.

Stephen Gogolev from Canada, only 14 years since December, but already second at Canadian Nationals 2019, is fifth with 220.66 points after moving up from tenth place in the short. In the short, his combination of triple Lutz and triple toe loop was OK, his triple flip a bit shaky and his triple Axel very good. In the free he doubled the Lutz which was planned quadruple, but performed a good quad toe loop and a very good quad Salchow. He fell hard and painful on the first triple Axel, but continued with four good triple jumps. Adam Siao Him Fa from France, student of Brian Joubert, was sixth, winning 219.91 points. Irakli Maysuradze from Georgia finished seventh with 217.78 points.

Camden Pulkinen of Colorado Springs had been in the lead after the short program, but ended up only eighth with 216.68 points. He began his short with the same very good combination as everybody and performed the best triple Axel of all skaters. Highlight was his step sequence which reminded of the stellar step sequences which Patrick Chan did at the same age. Claire Shepherd from Great Britain even gave a +5, which was justified.

Pulkinen commented, “Of course I am very happy about the result and how I skated. The competition was fantastic, so many skated a clean program and am very happy I was able to end up at the top today. Having competed at Junior Worlds before, I knew what to expect with a lot of great, clean skates with fantastic choreography. What helped me was knowing that I trusted my ability with the work that me and Stephane Lambiel have done with the short program over the summer.”

In the free program, however, his triple Axel from a straight-line and no round take-off, was shaky and he fell on the triple Lutz and doubled three jumps which were planned triple. Moreover, he skated eight seconds too long because he had not shortened his senior program from Nationals enough. Coach Tom Zakrajsek afterwards said it always makes him very nervous to be first in the short program, but he will work on this problem mentally. At least he helped the USA team to get three spots in 2020.

Koshiro Shimada from Japan is ninth, earning 212.78 points. Alexei Krasnozhon of Texas finished on eleventh position with 211.47 points after being fifth in the short. There he had six very good elements and a so-so combination with triple Lutz and triple loop. In the free, he fell on a downgraded quad toe loop and stepped out of a triple Axel. Later could perform six clean triple jumps.