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First Junior Grand Prix in Courchevel

 by Klaus-Reinhold Kany






(25 August 2014)  Every two years the ISU Junior Grand Prix season begins in Courchevel, an expensive winter sport resort in the French Alps in an altitude of 1,850 meters (6,000 feet) and in a beautiful landscape. This season, the ISU is live streaming the whole Junior Grand Prix Series in a better quality than in the years before, with four cameras, slow motion, names and ages of the skaters and a camera also in the kiss and cry area. Ted Barton of Vancouver, one of the fathers of the judging system, sometimes commentates a bit. For the first time, vocal music is allowed in every discipline and not only in ice dancing, but only around 10 per cent of all juniors used it.

Evgenia Medvedeva from Russia’s capital of Moscow, third at last season’s Junior Worlds, ran away with the first place in the ladies competition (179.55 points) and continued to show the domination of Russian teenage girls in the world. She is still five months too young for senior competitions, because she will be 15 years old only in November. But she could get top results in the senior ranks as well. Her special tricks are the jumps with one arm over her head in almost all of her jumps. It motivates the judges to give her higher GOE, but as she does it so often, it is a bit boring. She is one of very few ladies to get a level 4 for her step sequence and has a good chance to medal in the Junior Final and at Junior Worlds again.

Silver medalist Rin Nitaya (158.76 points) of Nagoya in Japan performed a flawless short program and also a relatively good free program, whereas the second Japanese skater Miyu Nakashio (147.78) had some problems with her triple jumps and finished fourth. Both Japanese girls are 17 years old and skated their first Junior Grand Prix. Amber Glenn from Texas, seventh at Juniors Worlds six months ago, had won the senior competition at Skate Detroit with three triple-triple combinations and had often made double run-throughs at home to have enough stamina for the altitude. In Courchevel she had unusual problems with her triple lutzes, but skated with a lot of energy and finished third with 148.08 points. “My goal for the season is to qualify for the Junior Grand Prix Final and to win a medal at Junior Worlds,” she said. For the first time in ISU history there was a skater representing Marocco, but she could do only single jumps and got only 20 overall points. There was a funny incident during the award ceremony on the ice: The 7-year-old boy from the local club who was supposed to hold the cushion with the medals for the officials (who were still waiting at the border) did not wait. He put the cushion on the floor, took the gold medal himself, asked the winner Medvedeva to bow down and hang the medal around her neck himself. Everybody laughed, even the ISU event managers.

Victory for Korean Man

June Hyoung Lee (19) from South Korean, 16th at last season Junior World championship and 14th of the last Four Continents Championships, won the men’s event with 203.81 points. He did not try any quad, but his triple axel in the short program was excellent. In the long to music of the “Phantom of the Opera” seven triples were clean, but he stepped out of the triple axel. This is the first time ever that a South Korean man won an ISU competition. The silver medalist Sota Yamamoto (195.80 points) from Japan is only 14 years old and fifth of the Japanese Junior National championships. He fell on his triple axles, but is already a spin specialist and got even +3 from a few judges. Bronze medalist Alexander Samarin (18) from Moscow skated to a medley of love songs of the Beatles.

The 15-year-old Latvian Deniss Vasilievs, who trains and lives mainly in France, had the best style and deepest edges of all skaters, but he missed some jumps. If he learns to become a stable jumper, he might have a great future. Paolo Borromeo (16) of California is coached by former Bulgarian champion Ivan Dinev and was novice champion at US Nationals this January in Boston. He was the most successful of the four North American skaters, all of who competed in their first Junior Grand Prix, and ended up seventh with 158.90 points. Chase Belmontes of Colorado Springs had no problems with the altitude because he trains in the same height as Courchevel, but ended up only ninth (152.61). Some of his jumps were not clean and he commented: “This competition was such a wonderful opportunity, and I'm gaining so much experience and knowledge here. My long program was nothing near what I'm capable of. I made some silly errors, but I did a triple-triple. I was happy about that since I wasn't able to complete one in the short program. The small errors added up, though.”

The two Canadian skaters Bennet Toman and Daniel-Olivier Boulanger-Trottier had huge problems with the altitude, left out several jumps and therefore finished only 12th and 13th. Nobody tried a quad. Vanessa Gusmeroli, the technical specialist from France and former top French skater, had won the adult ice dance inline roller skating world championships with her husband and former top ice dancer Matthieu Jost.

Russians Win Dance

The two compulsory Samba sections in the junior short dance require almost 80 seconds. Therefore there is not much time for choreography because the dancers also have to perform the three other elements. Nobody had a level 4 for the samba key points. World Junior Bronze medalists Madeline Edwards and Zhao Kai Pang of Vancouver won the short dance because they had the best elements, but in the free dance they dropped to second place (129.62 points), because their step sequences again had only level 1. They plan to compete in seniors nationally and therefore need two completely different short dances. The winners were Alla Loboda and Pavel Drozd (132.44 points) because they had the more demanding step sequences to music of the ballet Giselle. They had not qualified for Junior Worlds in 2014 after a weaker performance at Russian Nationals. They and the second Russian couple Anastasia Shpilevaya and Grigory Smirnov who skated to American rythms in the free dance, were the only couple to get a level 2 in the short dance step sequence, all other couples got only level1 by the jury with the British technical specialist Marika Humphries-Baranova who is known to be very strict.

The first Ukrainian couple Alexandra Nazarova and Maxim Nikitin, who train in Moscow under Alexander Zhulin and are fourth, could convince especially in the free dance. The second Ukrainian couple trains in Charkov in Eastern Ukraine and had big problems because of the civil war in their area because their rink is often closed because of power failures. The very talented US team Chloe Lewis and Logan Bye on fifth position moved fulltime to Igor Shpilband in the summer, but their former coach Judy Blumberg still was with them in France. Skating to Chopin, they had especially deep edges. The second US team Emily Day and Kevin Leahy ended up on eighth position.