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Lake Placid Junior Grand Prix Draws Premiere Juniors From All Over Globe

by Liz Leamy

Japan, Canada and the U.S. Wind up One, Two and Three in Junior Men’s Short

The 2019 International Skating Union Junior Grand Prix series kicked off with the men’s event at the famed Herb Brooks Arena in Lake Placid, New York.

In this exciting showdown, it was Shun Sato of Japan, Stephen Gogalev of Canada and Ilia Malinin of the U.S. who wound up claiming the number one, two and three positions among the formidable 20-member field due to their outstanding technical acumen.

Facing off against a host of premier junior men from all over the globe, including Russia, China, France, New Zealand and Australia, among other countries who ranged in approximate age from 14 to 18, these three skaters racked up high points due to the fact that they landed triple Axels, triple lutz-triple toe combinations and also performed fast, well-formed spins with great power, speed and command.

Sato, 15, of Saitama, who has been knocking out quads in practice and is slated to do one or two in the free skate event, executed all of his required elements to Michael Legrand’s ‘Arrives de Comionneurs’ with visible ease, putting him at the top of the leaderboard with a 79.19.

Gogalev, 14, the blonde wunderkind from Toronto who’s generated buzz a lot on the junior international circuit over the last few seasons due to his terrific edgework, power, lightning-quick rotation and compelling artistry, edged out second with a 78.85.

Ilia Malinin, the talented 14 year-old who trains in Reston, Virginia, came up for with his arresting interpretation of Ed Sheeran’s ‘Make it Rain, for which he scored a 66.27. In his jumps, he displayed nice and fluid edges on the takeoffs and landings, terrific air positions and quick rotation.

Joseph Klein, 14, who hails from the Chicago area, placed fourth for his dramatic adaptation of ‘Paint it Black, for which he was awarded a 63.89. He executed a nice triple loop, triple toe-triple toe and double Axel, among other impressive elements.

Ryan Dunk, a powerhouse skater from the Boston area, was sixth with a 63.89. 

Nguyen and Kolesnik of the U.S. Take First in Rhythm Dance

Avonley Nguyen and Vadym Kolesnik, a top-seeded junior dance team that trains with Igor Shpilband and Pasquale Camerlengo in Novi, Michigan knocked out top honors in the rhythm dance competition at the ISU Junior Grand Prix in Lake Placid with a 66.17.

This fast and agile duo dominated the 14-entry junior dance roster a dynamic interpretation to selections from the ‘Aladdin’ soundtrack, executing their lifts, twizzles, turns and steps with the authority, unison, expression and command of seasoned global contenders.

“The patterns felt good and for the beginning of the season, this is really [good],” said Nguyen, a 17 year-old Cleveland native. “If we could keep going with this [this season], that would be great.”

The two have been working harder than ever this past year to help make this goal become a reality.

“Our schedule is more strict and [Igor] is putting extra pressure on us [to help us get better],” said Kolesnik, 18.

Diana Davis and Gleb Smolkin of Russia were second with a 62.12.

This duo, who, like Nguyen and Kolesnik, train with Shpilband and Camerlengo in Novi, Michigan, skated to selections from the iconic Disney film the ‘Aristocrats’ and performed their elements with strength, speed and visible ease.   

Miku Makita and Tyler Gunara of Canada placed third with a 61.32.

Skating to selections from the production ‘Hairspray,’ this team, who train in Burnaby, British Columbia with Aaron Lowe and Megan Wing, earned high points for their fluidity, technical skills and energetic artistic execution.

Ella Ales and Daniel Tsarik of the U.S., who also train in Novi, Michigan with Shpilband and Camerlengo, were fifth.

Liu Takes Two-Point Lead in Junior Ladies Competition

Alysa Liu, the electric 14 year-old Richmond, California native who made worldwide news last year for knocking out three triple Axels at the 2019 U.S. Championships where she claimed the ladies crown, electrified onlookers yet again at the ISU Junior Grand Prix in Lake Placid with a stellar performance.

Competing amongst a formidable contingent of 32 total junior ladies from all around the globe, Liu, in her theatrical interpretation of ‘Don’t Rain on my Parade’ executed a triple Lutz-triple toe, triple loop and double Axel with quickness, beautiful posture and assuredness.

This, along with numerous breathtaking spins, including a statuesque Biellmann, put Liu at the top of the leaderboard with a 69.30.

“It felt really good to be out there and I had a lot of fun,” said Liu. “It’s very inspiring to be here [in Lake Placid].”

Seoyeon Ji of Korea, 14, racked up the second-highest points of the event, a 67.23, for her compelling program to ‘Dance of the Dead’ in which she exeuted a high triple lutz-triple toe, triple loop and double Axel, among other elements.

Yeonjeong Park of Korea, 13, was third with 64.35 for her interpretation to ‘I’ll Never Love Again.’ She knocked out a big triple lutz-triple toe, triple loop and double Axel, for which she earned high grade of execution marks from the official panel.

Sato Tops Leaderboard in Junior Men’s Free Skate

Shun Sato, the 15 year-old technical wizard from Saitama clinched top honors in the junior men’s free skate with a thrilling performance to the dramatic ‘Romeo and Juliet’ film score in which he knocked terrific jumps with strength and ownership, including a quad toe, to earn a 217.12 total.

Sato, in particular, delivered the tragic Romeo and Juliet narrative with great interpretation and artistic execution.

He did, however, lose an edge on the landing of a triple Lutz and turned out on the landing of a quad Salchow.

Stephen Gogolev, the arresting 14 year-old Toronto native who trains with Rafael Arutunian and Lee Barkell and who was the 2018/19 ISU Junior Grand Prix champion, scored second with a 203.70 total for his compelling free skate to ‘Darkness’ and ‘Red Rain’ by Peter Gabriel.

He executed a superb series of jumps, including a triple Axel, triple Lutz-triple toe, triple flip, triple loop and triple Salchow, all done with interesting, fluid and intricate entries and exits. (Gogalev missed his quad Salchow and triple Axel, however.)

Gogalev, notably, earned big program component scores for skating every edge, step, jump, move and spin with laser-like focus, which also designated this whole presentation as electric.

Gleb Lutfullin, the powerful Russian who placed fifth in the short, catapulted to third overall with a stunning free skate in which he knocked out a quad and two triple Axels, one in combination with a triple toe, as well as a collection of other triples.

Wearing black, his take of Moonlight Sonata was an edge-of-your-seat performance from start to finish, as he kept launching into his big, solid triples and quads with the confidence and attack of a world-class championship-level men’s contender.

Ilia Malanin, the agile 14 year-old Virginia native with breathtakingly quick rotation took wound up fourth overall with a lively performance to the score from the James Bond film ‘Spectre.’

He did two triple Axels, one in combination with a triple toe as well as a triple lutz-triple toe, triple flip and triple Salchow, among other elements, but singled a planned triple loop, however.

This skater, whose parents both were decorated world-class competitors, kept the entire audience engaged with his performance from start to finish and is a contender to keep an eye on in coming seasons.

Ryan Dunk of Boston was an impressive fifth overall after skating a stellar free skate chock full of triples for a 182.88 total.

He trains with Mark Mitchell and Peter Johansson, who also had Emilia Murdock in the junior ladies division at this competition.

Lake Placid Junior Grand Prix Day 2

Russia Finishes One, Two and Three in Junior Pairs Competition

Russia dominated the junior pairs event, claiming the first, second and third positions, respectively, among the 10-entry field due to their superb collection of gigantic throw triple jumps, electric split triple twists and powerful and fluid lifts, among other things.

Apollinariia Panifilova, 18, and Dmitry Rylov, 17, who won the short program, locked in the top final position with a whopping 186.92, putting them more than 15 points ahead of Ksenia Akhanteva and Valerii Kolesov, who were second with a 171.19.

Skating to the compelling piece ‘No One Ever Called Me That’ from the Third Person film soundtrack, Panifilova and Rylov flew around the ice with the ease, strength and fluidity of premiere championship-level contenders. They executed soaring lifts in which they covered a rink and a half ice length along with a stunning throw triple flip that was nearly 17 to 20 feet long, among other memorable elements.

Wearing white costumes with light-blue ombre embellishments, their artistry was also particularly exquisite as they performed all of their moves with extension and lines reminiscent of dancers from the legendary Ballet Russe organization, much to the delight of the crowd.

The only minor glitch, however, was when Rylov doubled a planned side-by-side triple Salchow.

Still, the team, who train with Pavel Sliusarenko and Valentina Tiukova in Perm, were on point, which is the reason why they racked up such high points.

Akhanteva, 16, and Kolesov, 18, who train with Liudmila, Nikolai and Vasilli Velikov in St. Petersburg, scored podium-worthy marks due to their arresting interpretation of the 1970s Pink Floyd classic, ‘Shine on You Crazy Diamond.’

This high-energy team, who were second in the short program, opened up with an electric split triple twist and then followed it up with a solid throw triple flip, throw triple loop and side-by-side triple toes.

Although Kolesov doubled a planned triple Salchow during the team’s side-by-side triple Salchow-half loop-triple Salchow jump sequence, the overall quality of the program was exceptional.

Alina Pepeleva and Roman Pleshkov, who placed third in the short, held onto their high position due to their engaging rendition of ‘Romeo and Juliet,’ racking up a 159.29 total.

Their score also put this team more than 10 points ahead of the fourth-place finishers, Huidi Wang and Ziqi Jia of China, who finished with a 148.70.

Pepeleva and Pleshkov, were ranked fourth among the junior pairs at Russian Nationals last year, train in Moscow with Vladislav Zhovnirski and several other coaches.

Nguyen & Kolesnik of the U.S. Score Gold in Junior Ice Dance

Avonley Nguyen & Vadym Kolesnik, the agile and apt dance duo who train with the esteemed Olympic and World coaches, Igor Shpilband and Pasquale Camerlengo in Novi, Michigan, dominated the formidable 13-entry junior dance field at the Junior Grand Prix in Lake Placid, clinching first with a 170.80 total.

This talented and determined team, who appears to be as primed as ever for a memorable season on both the domestic and international junior circuit, performed an engaging free dance to Sergei Rachmaninov’s  ‘Piano Concerto Number 2’ that kept the audience at the edge of their seats at the famed Herb Brooks Arena from start to finish.

The two, who executed a host of impressive elements, including twizzles, rockers, counters and Choctaws with the expertise and command of premiere ice dance contenders, said they just wanted to get out on the ice and do their best.

“Overall I’m happy with our skating,” said Kolesnik. “I don’t know how it looked on the outside, but it felt good.”

Evidently, others seemed to feel the same, including the panel of officials, who awarded the duo high grade of execution marks and scores ranging from plus threes to plus fours, something that the team was visibly happy about.

“[A favorite moment was] when I saw the scores,” said a smiling Kolesnik at the event’s conclusion.

Diana Davis & Gleb Smolkin, who also train in Novi, Michigan with Shpilband and Camerlengo, clinched silver with a 160.17 total.

Skating to music by Peter Cincotti, Davis and Smolkin earned high grade of execution marks ranging from plus twos to plus fours for their excellent series of lifts, footwork sequences and other elements.

Natalie Taschlerova & Filip Taschler of Czechoslavakia clinched bronze, pulling up one spot from fourth place in the Rhythm Dance to pass the Canadian team, Miku Makita and Tyler Gunara, who were originally third and then fourth in the final tally.

Taschlerova & Taschler train with Matteo Zanni, Collin Brubaker and Oleg Epstein.

Ella Ales & Daniel Tsarik, who, like the gold and silver medalists, also train with Shpilband and Camerlengo in Novi, were fifth with a 140.51.

This team, who flew around the ice executing their elements with grace and strength, were happy with how things turned out in this event, especially considering this was their Junior Grand Prix debut.

Tsarik said for the team, it’s all about continuing to work on their overall presentation of skating so that their levels go up.

“In general, our levels were good so I think it’s about making everything smoother, so our GOEs go up,” he said.

Liu Triumphs in Lake Placid with Glorious Free Skate Makes History with Quad Lutz

Alysa Liu, the 14 year-old Californian who captured worldwide attention when she clinched the 2019 U.S. title in Detroit last year (where she landed several triple Axels), turned on the star switch and made history yet again by being the first U.S. lady to land a quad in competition at this event.

Racking up a whopping 208.10 total to take gold among the 32-member roster of contenders, Liu’s free skate to ‘Illumination’ by Jennifer Thomas was exceptional in every way.

She opened up with a lightning-quick triple Axel-double toe and followed it up with a quad Lutz, triple loop and various other triples. (She did, however, miss a second triple Axel.)

Meanwhile, Liu’s spins, flow and edges were as strong as ever, which further added to the overall superior standard of her program.

“It’s been a good learning experience. It’s really inspiring to be here,” said Liu about being at this Junior Grand Prix competition in Lake Placid. “It’s been pretty cool but I feel like I could always do better.”

Liu, who said her goals for the coming season are to land all of her jumps in her programs and increase the speed going into her jumps, said she really likes her free skate program this season.

“I love my free skate [program] a lot],” said Liu, who landed her first Axel at age six. “I need to get used to it and [keep practicing] it more.”

Yeonjeong Park, 13, of Seoul, Korea clinched silver, pulling up to second from third in the short program.

Park racked up high points for her free skate to Lost Girls and the Arena in which she did a solid triple Lutz-triple toe, triple Lutz-double toe-double loop, triple flip and triple loop and other impressive elements.

Anastasia Tarakanova, 15, of Moscow, pulled up to third from fourth in the short program due to her powerful program to the Frida film soundtrack.

Earning a 179.29 total, Tarakanova skated this program with veritable ease and confidence and knocked out a host of rock-solid and fluid triples, including a flip, Lutz and loop along with fast, well-extended spins.

The rest of the American ladies contingent also did had a successful outing at this event.

Emilia Murdock of Fairfield County, Connecticut and who trains in Revere, Massachusetts with Mark Mitchell and Peter Johansson, pulled up to seventh overall from 13th in the short with a first-rate program to ‘Tangosain’ by Luis Bacalov and Hector Ullses Passarella, for which she achieved a 148.95 total.

She performed a fluid and high triple flip-double toe, triple Lutz and several other triples along with some fast and beautifully formed spins, among other things.

As a young girl, Murdock had competed in Lake Placid at its renowned annual summer non-qualifying event, so skating at this showdown for the U.S. marked a particularly poignant moment for her.

“It was really special [being here] representing the U.S. and skating in Lake Placid,” said Murdock. “I’ve grown up competing here and I love everything about it.”

Murdock said in regard to her goals this season, she plans to keep developing everything in regard to her skating, especially her technical acumen.

“My goal is to add a triple-triple in my program. Skating is going places and is rapidly changing [and it’s all about growing],” said Murdock. “I think it’s very cool what Alysa [Liu]’s done to the sport and we all need to [keep] working on motivating each other.”

Jessica Lin, the talented 13-year old Plano, Texas native who works with Darlene and Peter Cain made a memorable debut with a 148.35 to finish eighth overall.

Skating to ‘View of Silence’ and ‘Asian Dream Song’ by Joe Hisaishi, Lin, who was eighth in the short, executed a beautiful double Axel-triple toe, triple toe-double toe-double loop and triple loop along with high-velocity spins.

This competition was particularly special for Lin, as it represented the first Junior Grand Prix event that she had ever skated in.

“It was a lot of fun being here and for my first international [competition], it was so exciting to represent the U.S.,” said Lin. “I liked the big arena and the crowd was really supportive.”