by KlausReinhold Kany
(3 March 2019)The World Junior Championships this year takes place in the "Dom Sportova" arena in Croatia’s capital of Zagreb. This rink has been used for several European championships (and will again in 2021), for Junior Worlds in 1999, for some Junior Grand Prix, for some synchronized skating competitions and for the Golden Spin competition every December, for about 50 years. It is a bit old-fashioned, but still OK for such an event.
Croatia is a small country in south-eastern Europe with only four million people. The ISU Congress was held in its Mediterranean city of Dubrovnik in 2016. The country was founded in 1990 when the former Republic of Yugoslavia was divided into eight little countries after the end of communism. Croatia has hardly any skaters of international level, but the federation is willing to hold several events every year. The medal winners in ladies and men will get a prize money of 10,000, 7,000 and 5,000 US-Dollars. In ice dance and pairs each couple will win 15,000, 10,000 and 7,000 US-Dollars.
In the ladies competition, the favorites are the Russian teenagers who show consistent success in ISU ocmpetition. Alexandra Trusova, 14 years old, second at the ISU Junior Final in December 2018 and second at Russian senior nationals in the same month, won Junior Worlds last year. She will try to repeat her success with several quad jumps including the Lutz. Anna Shcherbakova is also 14 years old, can also perform a quad Lutz and is the reigning Russian senior champion, but too young to compete internationally at the senior level. The third Russian girl in Zagreb is not Alena Kostornaya as planned, because she withdrew on the first practice day on Monday due to an injury at home. Instead, it will be Ksenia Sinitsyna who was third at her only Junior Grand Prix in the fall of 2018, not good enough to get a second one. It would nevertheless not be a surprise if there is a Russian sweep on the podium of Junior Worlds this year.
Other strong competitors who may hope for a medal in Zagreb are the three Japanese ladies Yuna Shiraiwa, who was fourth and fifth in two Senior Grand Prix in 2018, Tomoe Kawabata, and Yukana Yokoi. Yelim Kim from South Korea was sixth in the Junior Final and may be a rival of the three Russians, as well as the second South Korean skater Young You. The new U.S. senior champion Alysa Liu is even too young to compete in Zagreb, otherwise she would have a chance to win a medal. The two U.S. skaters in Zagreb are Hanna Harrell of Plano, Texas, fourth at senior Nationals, and Ting Cui of Colorado Springs, fifth at Senior Nationals in January. They would be happy to place in the top eight and not too far from the medals.
In the men’s competition, the chances of a medal for the three U.S. skaters are bigger. Tomoki Hiwatashi of Colorado Springs was sixth at the Junior Final and fourth at U.S. Senior Nationals. Alexei Krasnozhon of Plano, Texas was fifth at U.S. Senior Nationals, and Camden Pulkinen of Colorado Springs, fifth at the Junior Final. All three may finish among the top skaters with two excellent programs. Two medal candidates from Canada are Stephen Gogolev, gold medal winner of the ISU Junior Final three months ago, and Joseph Phan.
The three Russian skaters are certainly good for top positions: Petr Gumennik was second at the Junior Final and Roman Savosin third at Russian Junior Nationals. The reigning Junior World Champion Alexei Erokhov from Russia, however, cannot defend his title because he re-injured his ankle during the Russian trials for Junior Worlds in February. Alternate is Artur Danielian who had been second at Junior Worlds in 2018. Other top contenders are quad Lutz jumper Daniel Grassl from Italy, Koshiro Shimada from Japan and Brian Joubert‘s student Adam Sioa Him Fa from France.
In the ice dance competition, the best teams of the Junior Grand Prix Final will probably be among the best teams again. Therefore another medal sweep for Russia seems possible because three Russian dance teams won all medals at the Junior Final in Vancouver, Sofia Shevchenko & Igor Eremenko had just 0.01 points more than Arina Ushakova & Maxim Nekrasov and Elizaveta Khudaiberdieva & Nikita Nazarov were third and hope at least for the same result.
Some other excellent dance teams from other countries, however, wouldn’t like a medal sweep, but a medal themselves, especially Canadians Marjorie Lajoie & Zachary Lagha, fourth at the Junior Final. Lajoie‘s luggage with her skates had not arrived in Zagreb on Sunday afternoon with the skater because of a late arrival of her plane on the way from Montreal to Frankfurt. But as there are four daily flights from Europe’s leading airport to Zagreb, her suitcase arrived with the next flight on Sunday evening, early enough for the first practice on Monday. Other top couples are the two U.S. teams of Avonley Nyuyen & Vadym Kolesnik as well as Caroline Green & Gordon Green and the Georgian team of Maria Kazakova & Georgy Reviya.
A third medal sweep for Russia seems possible in the pair competition because the top five pairs at the Junior Final came from this country, but it was a relatively close decision as well. The favorites are Anastasia Mishina (not related to coach Alexei Mishin) & Aleksandr Galliamov, followed by Polina Kostiukovich & Dmitri Ialin, all from St. Petersburg. Apollinariia Panfilova & Dmitri Rylov were third in Vancouver. A pair with medal ambitions are also Feivao Tang & Yongchao Yang from China. The U.S. teams of Laiken Lockley & Keenan Prochnow as well as Sarah Feng & T. J. Nyman hope to improve the not-so-good-reputation of U.S. pair skating with good programs and very good results.