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Second Junior Grand Prix in Ljubljana

 by Klaus-Reinhold Kany






(1 September 2014)  The second Junior Grand Prix of this season took place in Ljubljana (280,000 citizens), which is the capital of the small country of Slovenia between Austria, Hungary, Italy and Croatia. The rink and the ice were good, with one exception especially during the first days: There was some precipitation from the ceiling which, as U.S. ice dancer Holly Moore said, “has proven to be an unexpected obstacle. The humidity in the rink has a mind of its own, and despite valiant efforts by the organizers to control it, it seems we will just have to cope with the fact that we will be doing our short dance through a bit of a drizzle.”

This problem did not disturb Serafima Sakhanovich from Russia at all, who won the ladies competition with a distance of 27 points and with two absolute world class performances. She is the reigning junior world silver medalist from Sofia wich had a Russian sweep) and moved to coach Eteri Tutberidze in Moscow afterwards. Her 191.96 total points are more than any other lady has ever won in a junior competition. She not only did the maximum possible number of triple jumps (except the axel), but also sparkled in her interpretation of the short program Russian waltz (“My Sweet and Tender Beast”) and the free program musics (Astor Piazzola’s Tango “Oblivion” and Raul di Blasio’s “I Love you, I Hate you”). She will be 15 years old in February, too young for senior competitions, but is a big favorite for the Junior World title this season, after last season’s world champion Elena Radionova moved to seniors.

15-year-old Yuka Nagai from Tokyo won the silver medal with 164.42 points after a faultless short program (with a combination of two triple toe loops). But the Japanese skater had problems with two of her triple jumps in the free program. Californian Leah Keiser (16) left Frank Carroll and Christa Fassi in El Segundo and is now coached by Tammy Gambill in Riverside, CA. She missed her combination in the short (to the music “Clair de Lune” by Debussy), but could move up from eighth to third place (149.24) with a strong free program to Hungarian Dances by Johannes Brahms. This was her first international competition after almost two years with several injuries. Nicole Rajicova on fourth position was 24th at the Olympic Games in Sochi and is the best skater Slovakia has had in years.

Chinese Man Wins

16-year-old Boyang Jin from Harbin in Northern China dominated the men’s competition. After a faultless short program he performed no less than three quad jumps in the free program, two toeloops (no combination) and one Salchow  Therefore he won with 220.17 points although he did not show much between his elements. Last season he had won the Junior Final, but was only  6th at Junior Worlds after several mistakes. 15-year-old Alexander Petrov from St. Petersburg in Russia, a student of Alexei Mishin, had the better style and his elements were mostly cleaner. He has no quad yet and therefore could not beat the Chinese skater, but finished second with 216.33 points. Mishin, by the way, said in an interview that he liked to work with juniors because they are easier to handle. The non-Russian skater he likes most, is Kurt Browning because he was always so well prepared for the events and was one of the first skaters to land a quad. The second Russian skater Dmitri Aliev won the bronze medal with 185.84 points after trying a quad toeloop, but he stepped out of it.

Shotari Omori of Riverside, CA, landed on fourth position with relatively low 165.97 points. He had won a bronze medal at Junior worlds in 2013, but suffered from injuries in the fall of 2013, missed US Nationals and was only 26th at Junior Worlds last season. He still seems not to have regained his good shape from 2013 after having problem with the triple axels in Slovenia. US skaters Daniel Samohin switched to competing for Israel last year and finished 12th at Junior Worlds. In Ljubljana he landed on eighth position (155.61). The second US skater Luke West finished ninth with 153.25 points in his very first junior Grand Prix. Only three of his seven attempts of triple jumps were clean. All Canadian single skaters were far from medals, like the week before in Courchevel.

Close decision in ice dance

The decision in ice dance was quite close because there were only around two points between the three medalists. The winners Daria Mozorova (17) and Mikhail Zhirnov (19) are from the Moscow dance school of Irina Zhuk and Alexander Svinin. They did not qualify for Junior Worlds, but were third in their two Junior Grand prix last year. In Ljubljana they performed the more difficult elements especially in the usual Samba and Rhumba short dance mix than the other teams and therefore took the lead. In the free dance to music of the soundtrack of “Mirrors” they were only third because of the weaker presentation, but it was enough to win overall with 131.54 points, which is not outstanding.

Brianna Delmaestro (18) and Timothy Lum (19), another team of the successful school of Megan Wing and Aaron Lowe in Vancouver, won silver (131.30 points), like their teammates Edwards/Pang the week before in Courchevel in France. Delmaestro, by the way, is the daughter of singles coach Bruno Delmaestro. They collected points especially with their lifts. Winner of the free dance (to the music of “Addams Family”) was the US team of Holly Moore (18) and Daniel Klaber (20). They moved to Igor Shpilband and Greg Zuerlein at the beginning of the summer. But they won only bronze with 129.26 points, because they had stumbled at the twizzle sequence in the short dance. The second US team Julia Biechler (16) and Damian Dodge (20), who train in Aston/Pennsylvania with Natalia Linichuk and Yovanny Durango, finished fifth at their very first Junior Grand Prix.