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Junior Grand Prix Wraps Up in Zagreb

 by Klaus-Reinhold Kany






(13 October 2014)  The last Junior Grand Prix in 2014 took place in Croatia’s capital of Zagreb, in the same rink (“Dom Sportova”) as the European Championships in 2008 and 2013. Like in the six events before no U.S. skaters won any gold medal. But like in several other Junior Grand Prix, skaters from the United States won other medals.

15-year-old Karen Chen from Tammy Gambill’s school in Riverside, California, was second in Zagreb with 169.41 points. She had taken the lead in an excellent short program which included a good combination of triple loop and double toe loop and an outstanding layback spin which four of the nine judges rewarded with a GOE of +3. Five triple jumps in her free program (to music of the Godfather Suite) were clean, the spins excellent again, but Chen singled the first axel, fell on the double axel near the end and was only third in this part of the competition. Being third in Ostrava some weeks before and second in Zagreb, she is first substitute for the Junior Final.

Because of her mistakes, Maria Sotskova from Moscow could overtake her in a close decision and win overall with 170.81 points. Her short program combination of triple flip and triple toe loop was good, but she performed the required triple lutz from the wrong edge. After being four points behind Chen in the short program, she won five more points in the free program because six triple jumps and two double axels were good, only the second triple lutz was downgraded. The second Russian Alexandra Proklova won bronze with 159.23 points after falling on her two triple jumps in the short program, but landing five triple jumps in the long.

16-year-old Shoma Uno from Japan won the men’s event with 227.51 points, 19 points ahead of the rest of the field. He stepped out of the triple axel, but the rest of the short program was well performed, technically as well as artistically. In the program, his first quad toe loop was shaky but the second one as well as six triple jumps were clean or better. For his interpretation of the soundtrack of “Don Juan de Marco” the components went up to 8.0.

Nathan Chen, who trains in Artesia, California with Rafael Arutunian, won the silver medal with 208.16 points. After a fall on the triple axel, the rest of his short program to Vivaldi’s Four Seasons was very good, including the three triple jumps in the second half of his program. In the long, seven triple jumps were clean, but he had problems with the axel again, singling the first one and stepping out of the triple axel afterwards. Chen is not in the final because he did not compete at any other Junior Grand Prix this season after being injured in the summer. June Hyoung Lee from South Korea is third after winning 203.92 points and in the final after winning his first Junior Grand Prix in Courchevel, France.

The second U.S. skater Daniel Kulenkamp (19) of Scottsdale, Arizona, 13th in Juniors at U.S Nationals 2014, finished in ninth position with 167.89 points in his first ever international competition. His three jump elements in the short program were all a bit shaky, including a combination of triple loop and double toeloop. In the free program, he did not miss anything and had seven triple jumps in his program, but again half of his elements were not a hundred per cent clean.

Maria Vigalova (15) and Egor Zakroev (20) from Perm in Russia won the pairs event with 167.98 points, more than 24 points ahead of the other teams. The bronze medal winner of last season’s Junior Worlds excelled in the short program with six very good elements, only the required side-by-side double lutz got an edge deduction. In the free program, most elements got GOEs of mainly +2, including the triple throws, the triple twist even a few +3. Their only mistake occurred during the double axel. The silver medal went to their compatriots Daria Beklemisheva and Maxim Bobrov of Moscow who were coached by Olympic Champion Artur Dmitriev. They had big problems with their triple throws, but their jumps, including a triple toe loop in the free, were good. Both Russian pairs are in the final. Renata Oganseian and Mark Bardei from the Ukraine finished third, winning 135.57 points.

The U.S. team of Chelsea Liu (14) and Brian Johnson (18) of Aliso Viejo, California, ended up on a lucky fourth place with 134.97 points, just 0.17 points ahead of the fifth placed team from Russia. In the short program they missed the double lutz and the triple throw loop, the other elements were clean. In the long the students of Jenni Meno and Todd Sand missed the double axel, but the triple twist and all other elements, including two double throws, were relatively clean. In spite of being far away from world class, their trip to Europe was successful because the third place in Germany and the fourth place in Croatia were enough for the Junior Final. They are the only U.S. skaters to qualify this year. As there was a pair competition only in four of the seven Junior Grand Prix, there were less gold and silver medalists than in the three other disciplines. Therefore their results qualified them for Barcelona, whereas a second and a third place were not enough for single skater Karen Chen and the dance couple Rachel and Michael Parsons.

Two more U.S. pairs competed as well: Jessica Lee and Robert Hennings of Lakewood, California, are ninth with 116.24 points. Their double lutz in both programs got an edge call, the other elements (nothing triple) in the short were ok. In the long, Lee fell on the throw triple toeloop, the other elements were more or less clean. Olivia Allan and Austin Hale of Fort Wayne, Texas, finished tenth (114.60 points). They did not fall, but had no triple elements and some double elements were a bit shaky.

In the ice dance event, the levels were generally low, especially in the short dance. 11 of the 15 couples did not master any key points in their two Samba sections and therefore only had levels 1. Anna Yanovskaya and Sergey Mozgov from Russia, second at Junior Worlds half a year ago, won the gold medal with 145.34 points. In the short dance, they also had only Level 1 and 2 in the Samba sections, but their presentation was excellent. Their free dance to Argentine Tangos was also faultless, only the twizzles again a bit easy.

Rachel and Michael Parsons of Rockville, Maryland are second, earning 140.33 points. The brother-and-sister team had level 4 and 3 for the Samba parts, but they had less plus points in their GOEs than the winners. In their flawless free dance again, they had more technical points than Yanovskaya/Mozgov, but the components were lower. They are first alternates for the Junior Final. Carolina Moscheni and Adam Lukacs from Hungary, who train with Igor Shpilband and Barbara Fusar Poli, are third with 135.96 points.

The second U.S. team of Elliana Pogrebinsky and Alex Benoit ended up on eighth position with 106.92 points. In the otherwise good short dance, Benoit fell on the first part of the twizzle sequence. Although he could get up quickly and continue the second and third part, the element got no points. “The error was brief, but costly,” they later announced. Their free dance was faultless, but the levels were not the best.