2009 Junior World Championships

By Alexandra Stevenson

Reports are posted as received, in order, Ladies, Men, Pairs and Dance -- most recent segment on top.

Ladies - Free Skate

The New Wonder Cure Ė Chicken Sandwiches and Cream Puffs

Caroline Zhang bounced back after her poor Short Program, which put her in 10th place and near hysteria, winning the Free Skate by a large (5.35) margin to claim silver for the second year running. Since she had won this title in 2007, it was a bittersweet consolation prize. Nevertheless, Zhang is the only skater ever to win this title along with two silvers. Skaters have won three medals before. Miki Ando from Japan won bronze, silver and gold in successive years. Susanne Becher from West Germany and Lisa Ervin from the US both won three silvers. But never gold and two silvers!

So, did Zhang have an evil doppelganger impersonating her in the SP, or what? She answered, "I was so ill yesterday, I couldnít eat and that made me weak. I had no strength. Today, I made sure I ate." And what sort of food transformed her? Her face lit up as she said, "The hotel (Kempinski Zografski) has wonderful chicken sandwiches." Well, mothers around the world have always advocated chicken soup for whatever ails you, but just a sandwich worked this miracle? Zhang confessed there was an extra element. "And cream puffs. I like sweet things."

1. 157.18; 2. FS 101.68 (51.52+50.16) Alena Leonova, who is from St. Petersburg and is trained by Alla Piatova, became the eighth Russian to win this title. The last was Kristina Oblasova, who won in 1991, the first time Sofia hosted this event. "This medal means a lot to me," Leonova, who turned 18 on November 23, said. "It took me a very long time to get here. Two years ago I was 12th. Last year I was 6th, and now I have gold. Iím still in shock. I havenít taken it in yet. I just know Iím very, very happy." She recently placed fourth in the European Championships. "The difference between the two events is very big. In Helsinki, I was more nervous. I try not to get too nervous. I go out in a good mood and I just skate. I do not think about placements. They will take care of themselves. I just wanted to keep the attitude that I had in the warm up. When things go well, I start to smile immediately. The emotions help me and the spectators as well. I really like it when the audience applauds me during the program. I didnít see how the other girls skated, so I didnít know where I would be, but my coach told me that Iím definitely in the top three and I was already very happy." She will be going to the World (Senior) Championships in Los Angeles. "I will work in practice on all the things that werenít perfect here. Probably I will try a triple toe-triple toe combination. I had that combination in the summer, but then I stopped doing it because of injury. I will try to get it back."

Skating 24th, which was third in the final flight, Leonova performed to La Leyenda del Beso by Raul di Blasio, dressed in red. The blonde, who started skating when she was three, has a spontaneous enthusiasm which lights up her face when a move goes well that is delightfully contagious. Although Zhang had by far the greatest technical score (59.43 to Leonovaís second best 51.52) for the FS, Leonova gained the top component marks, 50.16 with Wagner, 48.72, second on this score, and Zhang, 47.60, third. Leonova opened with a triple flip to double toe which was a little shaky and was saddled with -1.0 off the base value. That was countered by a +1.0 triple Lutz. Then came another lapse. She under-rotated the triple loop and ended up with only 1.14 for this move. But her first spin, a flying combination, earned +0.30 over the base value for Level 4. A double Axel gained the base value. At the bonus point, she executed a +0.60 triple flip followed by a triple Salchow to double toe to double loop and a Level 3 flying sit which both earned their base value. A triple toe to double Axel sequence was awarded +0.60 GoE and her Level 3 straight line steps +0.50. She rounded things off with a Level 2 base value change foot combination spin.

2. 154.67; FS 1. 107.03 (59.43+47.60) Caroline Zhang performed to Franz Schubertís immortal Ave Maria (which Barbara Ann Scott, the 1948 Olympic introduced to the skating world). At the end of her routine, the 15 year old, who trains at the Kwan rink in Artesia, CA, looked tired and relieved that the competition was finished. "I made a lot of mistakes (in Fridayís SP)," she said later. "It was kind of like I gave away most chances for the title. But I think I did well in the long program, coming back. So Iím happy with my performance today. I tried to refocus after the Short Program, and tried not to think about it, because all I wanted was to give the best I could today and I think I did it pretty well. Iím still disappointed. It was stupid, all the mistakes in the Short. It was just another competition. I like to compete. I came off Four Continents and I wanted to continue my season so I came to Junior Worlds. I have to rework my technique, increase my speed and work on a lot of things, because it will be very hard to try to make the Olympic team. I will start preparing as soon as I get home. Now is my off season but there are a lot of things that I have to fix and I donít have a lot of time. I just hope I get everything fixed by the time the season starts."

Zhang had enthusiastically been first to take the ice for her groupís six minute warm-up. She skated 19th, the last performer in the second-to-last group. As soon as Sarah Hecken, who had drawn to skate immediately before Zhang, left the ice, Zhang began circling the ice while the audience waited for Heckenís marks. Zhang tried several moves including a successful triple Lutz and a triple loop. Although it is not unusual for skaters to skate around to get the feel of the ice at this time, and sometimes do minor jumps, they generally do not throw off triples. "It was a long wait between the warm-up and when I skated," Zhang explained. Dressed in a gorgeous, one-sleeved lilac outfit tie-dyed to a light pink skirt, she got off to a great start with a triple flip to triple toe combination which earned +0.80 over the base value. Two judges thought the combination was worthy of +2, another two deemed it +1 and rest believed it was worth only the base value. Only Zhang and Sarah Hecken of Germany executed a triple-triple combination and the Germanís was the simpler two toe loops. Zhang has had her combination downgraded in the past, but that was not so here. However, she was given an "e" for wrong take-off edge on the following triple Lutz to double toe and that resulted in a -1.40 GoE. Her double Axel earned the base value and her flying sit spin was Level 3 and +0.20. A triple flip earned the base value. At the point where the bonus marks activate, she did a spread eagle followed by a triple loop which received +0.60. Two of the nine judges punched in -1 while the others all punched in 0 for her triple Salchow. The two minuses must have been selected in the random draw because Zhang was saddled with a -0.20 for this jump. Seven judges deemed her three jump combination of triple loop to double toe to double loop was worthy of the base value and two punched in +1. That resulted in Zhang earning +0.20 in addition to the base value +10%. Her circular steps were executed with a pleasant elegance, gaining Level 3 and +0.70. Zhangís change foot combination spin received Level 3 and +0.80. She concluded with her signature spin, the Pearl in the Oyster which gained the maximum Level 4. Six judges punched in the maximum +3 and the other three "only" +2 which computed to +1.80 added to the base value. Zhang said, "I think the other spins were Level 3 because we only had a 35-minute practice this morning so there wasnít time to work on them."

3. 153.57; FS 3. 96.07 (48.35+48.72 -1.0) Ashley Wagner gained her second bronze medal. She was also third, part of a clean sweep of medal by the US, in 2007. Last year she made her debut in the World Seniors finishing 16th. Wagner said, "Obviously, I came here to win. It was a good program for me. Throughout the whole week, Iíve had a lot going up against me (health issues) so I just wanted to do everything just the way Iíve been practicing it. I wanted to focus on everything just in pieces, not as a whole big thing. Overall, I feel pretty happy, except I fell on a triple Sal. Iím still hitting myself in the head for that. But Iím satisfied with the program. It was good for this week. I feel in this coming season itís definitely going to be whoever has the total package, who has the jumps, the spins, the choreography. Itís going to be someone who has all that. So this year Priscilla (Hill, the coach she began working with last June) and I are still kind of getting settled. Weíre getting a feel for how we work in competition and in practice. I feel next season what we are going to do is take what weíve learned from each other this year and just try to develop on top of that. Hopefully, in the long run itís going to pay off. Iíll take a break, maybe. But, after that, we have to work on a triple-triple. In practice it has been fairly consistent, but in competition, it has gone astray. Itís missing in action. One thing we have to work on, is building confidence for the jump so that I feel comfortable putting it into competition. Definitely, I will work on getting a triple toe combination. And I will keep on building on top of my skating skills that I have right now."

There was a lot of misconception on the internet concerning the podium. Wagner, who is 17, was feeling a little weak as her name was called. She went to shake hands with Leonova, to congratulate her, but Leonova was so over the moon and happy, she wasnít content to shake hands. The Russian put her arms around Wagner, in a bear hug and completely blocked Wagnerís way to get to Zhang. Caroline moved to get ready for her hand-shake, realized the problem and stepped back. In the end, Wagner just got on her step. Zhang and Wagner had previously congratulated each other backstage. Earlier, Wagner had done her best to help Zhang get over her depression after the Short Program, stressing her own disastrous performance in the short program at nationals and how she had been able to rebound well enough to win the free (which was to happen with Zhang). There was absolutely no animosity between the two girls.

Wagner, skating 21st, second on in the last warm-up group, to music from the Khatchaturianís ballet music, Spartacus, began well with a +0.40 triple flip to double toe but then got a warning exclamation mark for a short wrong edge take-off and -1.40 GoE for her triple Lutz. Worse still, she fell on the next jump, a triple Salchow, which was down-graded. She recovered well, executing two Level 4, +0.40 spins, a flying sit and a change foot combination. She did a "hydrant" spiral into her double Axel earning a full point over the base value. At the point where the bonus marks click in, she flew through a triple loop gaining the base value plus 10% and +0.40 GoE. Her triple flip to double Axel sequence was flawed and she had -1.80 subtracted from the base value plus 10%. Her final jumping pass was a triple toe to double toe which received +0.20 GoE. Her straight line steps were Level 2 and +0.40. She wrapped up the routine with a Level 4 flying change foot combination spin which earned an extra +0.20. Had she not fallen and the triple Salchow not been down-graded, she would have earned the silver since the overall difference between her and Zhang was only 1.10.

4. 139.84; FS 6. 84.75 (41.87+42.88) Joshi Helgesson, who turned 15 on June 7, hung on to fourth place, a wide (13.68) margin behind Wagner. Swedish officials were delighted with her finish since it is the best placement for a Swede ever in the World Junior championships. Skating last, in a blue dress with a skirt made of a long silver fringe, to three pieces, from Beethovenís Symphony No. 5, John Barryís Somewhere in Time, and from The Godfather, she opened with a great double Axel which earned +0.80. But then she singled her planned triple loop, which earned a total of only 0.44, and put a hand down on her triple Lutz which resulted in -1.40 being taken off the base value. Her Level 4 flying sit spin had a marginal -0.06 subtracted. Her second double Axel was even better than the first, earning a full point over the base value. Six judges thought her triple toe to double toe to double loop combo was worthy of the base value, but the three others punched in -1 and 0.20 was subtracted. The following triple toe to double toe, executed as the bonus marks for jumps clicked in, earned the base value plus 10%. Her Level 3 change foot combination spin was given the base value. Her triple Salchow to double toe received the base value plus 10%. Her flying change foot sit spin earned the base value for Level 4. She finished the routine with Level 3 straight line steps which earned +0.50 over the base value.

5. 139.68; FS 4. 88.62 (43.98+44.64) With just 0.4 of a point more, Katrina Hacker would have finished fourth. Next season, she will no longer be eligible for junior competition and, since she will be entering Princeton, may not be competing although she is adamant that she will continue to skate every day. Skating first in the final warm-up group, to Rimsky Korsakovís Sheherazade, she began with a triple toe to double toe to double loop which earned +0.20 over the base value. That was followed by a base value triple Salchow to double toe and a triple loop which gained +0.40 over the base value. Her flying sit spin got the base value for Level 3. Hacker executed a spiral into a triple toe but put a hand down and the landing which was penalized with a full point subtracted from the base level. Her triple Salchow was executed at the bonus point but was down-graded. She earned the maximum Level 4 for her flying combination spin which was given +0.20 over its base. Her circular steps were Level 2 and +0.10. She then did a double Axel to double toe. That was followed by another double Axel. Both these jumping passes were given +0.20 over the base value plus 10%. She finished with a +0.60 Level 4 change foot combination spin in which she remained in her final position holding the non-skating blade up in a full split for an amazing number of rotations.

6. 138.32; FS 11. 78.00 (31.76+46.24) Elene Gedevanishvili, who had presented an extremely entertaining, high energy SP to take the lead in that section, earned only the 19th highest technical score for her FS although her 4th place in the components gave her 11th place for this error filled routine set to Donít Let Me Be Misunderstood by Santa Esmeralda and two pieces by Perez Prada, Besame Mucho & Historia de un Amor. She began with a messed up triple Lutz which many felt should have been penalized as a fall. It had a good take-off and height but she couldnít hold the landing. She stepped out and put two hands on the ice but kept moving so the officials didnít classify it as having lost control of the core weight. Then came a single Lutz to under-rotated triple toe. The next jump, a double Axel, was also deemed under-rotated. Her change foot sit spin earned the base value for Level 3. She executed a triple toe to double toe to double toe but that was saddled with -1.20 off the base value. As the bonus marks clicked in, she presented a sequence of two double Axels but the first was deemed under-rotated. Then came a Tano double Lutz which earned an extra +0.30 over the base value plus 10% and a triple Salchow which got the base value plus the bonus. Her flying sit spin was Level 3 with +0.30. Her straight line step sequence got the crowd clapping and earned +0.50 over the base value for a Level 2. She finished with a Level 4 change foot combination spin which received a marginal -0.06 GoE. Sitting in the Kiss & Cry area with her was Elaine Zayak who won this title in 1979 who was acting as the Georgian team leader. Gedevanishvili turned 19 on January 7 and therefore is ineligible for junior competition next season.

7. 135.83; FS 5. 87.69 (47.29+40.40) Sarah Hecken made a huge impact when she won the German senior title last season but was too young (14) to be entered in the world senior championship. She took part in this event and finished 7th. This season she was only 4th nationally. In Sofia, she was the only skater, apart from Zhang, to bring off a successful triple-triple combination, which helped move her up two places to seventh. Her toe loop to toe loop earned +1.20 GoE and she banked 9.20 points for this move. Wearing a flamboyant, long sleeved, high neck scarlet outfit with open back, she interpreted Spanish Caravan. Her double Axel earned +0.60 but her triple Salchow, in which she had a significant lean in the air, received only the base value as did her Level 2 flying camel spin. Her triple Salchow to double toe earned +0.80 over the base value. Her second double Axel, placed when the bonus marks click in, was her only element to receive a negative GoE (-0.16). Her layback spin was a base value Level 2. She then executed a double Axel to double toe to double loop which gained +0.40 over the base value +10% but no extra GoE. That was the same situation for her double flip. She concluded with Level 2 straight line steps and a Level 4 change foot combination spin, both of which received only the base value.

13. 119.09; 15. FS 71.61 (36.17+37.44 -2.0) Diane Szmiett from Watford, Ontario, has certainly had better skates. The Canadian, who was 18 on September 17 and so is eligible to return next year, had two falls, on a triple flip which was given an "e" for wrong edge take-off, and on a downgraded triple Salchow. Although she gained Level 4 for two of her spins, she singled her final double Axel and was given only Level 1 for her straight line steps. This had been a break-through season for her. She got into the Junior Grand Prix Final and was 4th in the Canadian championships. But, performing to La Farrucas Flamenco by R. Romero in a black outfit with burgundy trim, she just seemed to run out of steam. This was her second appearance in this event. In 2006, she finished 21st.

14. 116.20; FS 13. 73.28 (39.56+34.72 -1.0) Miriam Ziegler, the Austrian senior champion, who will turn 15 on March 19, was coming off a win at the Youth Olympics in Poland. Despite a hard fall on her second element, a triple loop, she pulled up from 19th with a 13th place in the FS which included two Level 4 spins. She skated to music by Yann Tiersen, La Boulange along with two pieces from Goodbye Lenin, Motherís Journey and Dishes. She finished 19th last year.

18. 111.71; FS 23. 64.17 (29.29+36.88 -2.0) Bingwa Geng, a 15 year old from China who was 21st last year, plummeted down from 11th after the SP. She looked cute in a black dress with red and yellow flames performing to Saint-Saens Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso. But, between the nice opening triple Lutz to double toe which earned the base value and the final Level 4 layback spin which earned +0.80, there were many errors and two falls.

21. 104.82; FS 20 64.44 (32.96+32.48 -1.0) Kathryn Kang from Vancouver, a 19 year old pupil of Joanne McLeod who was 5th in the Canadian senior championship, skated 4th of the 25 who qualified (24 plus the Bulgarian entry). Performing to Tchaikovsky music from the ballets, Sleeping Beauty and Swan Lake, she fell on her first move, a triple Lutz, got a downgrade on her second triple Salchow which was combined with a double toe, and an "e" for her three-jump combo, double flip to double toe to single toe, and no points at all for her final move, a combination spin, on which she was forced to put both hands on the ice to keep from falling.

The top skater of the 54 girls from 46 countries not to qualify for the FS, was 17 year old Mari Suzuki from Sendai, who was second in the Japanese Junior Championships.

Ladies - Short Program

Shocks were the order of the day as 54 girls from 46 countries executed their Short Program. The proceedings ran from 9:15 am, when the first to skate, Sofia Barakov from Israel stepped on the ice with four other competitors for their warm-up, until 6pm, when Diane Szmiett of Canada received her marks. The happiest competitor was Elene Gedevanishvili, who is in the lead, a complete reversal of form after her recent disaster at the European championships. The favorite, Caroline Zhang, who won this event two years ago, was in tears after falling on her first jump, a triple flip meant to be a combination. Both that and the following triple Lutz were downgraded. Even with the third highest component marks she lies 10th, over 12.68 points behind the leader.

1. 60.32; (TES 35.60 + 24.72 PCS) Elene Gedevanishvili, who turned 19 on January 7, lives and trains in New Jersey, though she still represent the country of her birth, Georgia. Skating 48th, right before the last ice resurfacing, she gave a brilliantly effervescent showing to the title song from the show, Cabaret to take the lead. Her routine began with a -0.20 triple Lutz followed by a combination of two triple toe loops which earned +0.80 over the base value of 8 points. (The only other skaters to accomplish a combination of two triples were the two German competitors, Isabelle Drescher, who lies 8th, and Sarah Hecken, who is 9th despite singling her planned triple Lutz.)

Gedevanishviliís layback spin was Level 2 with +0.50 but her Level 4 spirals were given +1.40 GoE. The double Axel earned +0.20 and the Level 2 flying camel +0.50 over base value. Her Level 2 straight line steps, done with great enthusiasm, earned +0.90 and the Level change foot combination spin gained +0.60. Last month, with high expectations after going to a new coach, Robin Wagner, she had been in despair after a disastrous Short Program put her 25th in the Europeans, which meant she failed to qualify for the Free Skate. "I prefer not to look back at that time," she said, declining to explain why she had performed so badly in Helsinki. "I am so happy now," she said after being presented with the "small" medal for winning this section. "There is less pressure here because it is a junior event but it is still a world championship. Itís never easy. The reason Iím here is that the world (senior) championships are coming in a month. I really had to get up there. I couldnít just go (to Los Angeles) after the thing that had happened at the Europeans Championships. I needed to build back my confidence."

2. 57.50 (32.34+25.16) Ashley Wagner lies second after performing a delightful routine set to music from the romantic Somewhere in Time movie. She was attired in a gossamer pink outfit with a thin, layered, soft design evoking an earlier time. "We worked a lot on getting that impression," the 17 year old Wagner explained. "It was changed several times to keep improving that feeling." She added, "I feel so old. I havenít been a junior for so long." She won bronze in this event two years ago and started competing as a senior in the 2008 season. She won bronze in the 2008 US nationals and was 16th in the World (Senior) championship in Gothenburg. "Iím here because I didnít make this yearís world or Four Continents team," she said candidly when asked about her decision to come back to this contest. At this yearís US nationals she was fourth. She won the Free Skate but had a disastrous Short Program in which she was 12th. "It was really bad and it was very hard to come back from that. Just everything went wrong. The judges gave me credit for a single toe, but they were being generous. I even cheated that. Mentally, this was one of the hardest programs for me because I was coming off a performance like that. Competing the short program again, after such a disaster, is mentally very hard. Coming back to junior level is humbling. I wonít lie. I miss all the cameras and glamour of the senior level but no matter what level of competition, itís still nerve wracking.

"The hardest thing about this event was learning the flying camel. I hadnít done one before but it was required here so I had to get it in a short time. We did it over and over and over again, and then again! Iím so glad I donít have to do another one." Skating 50th, which was second on of the final flight of six skaters, Wagner earned Level 3 and (+0.50) for that element here. She opened with a triple flip to double toe which was given +0.20 over the base value. But her triple Lutz was saddled with an "e" for wrong edge take-off and she lost two full points for that. Her layback and final change foot combination spins were both Level 4 with +0.70 and -0.60. Her straight line steps were Level 3 and +0.70. The spirals were only Level 2 because her head and arms wavered as she changed edge but the GoE was +0.60. Her double Axel earned +0.80. She gained the top component score. Wagner, and her coach, Prill Hill, deliberately arrived late because they had more practice time at home. However, this meant the competition was the first time she had skated on the main rink.

3. 55.50 (32.30+25.16) Alena Leonova, who finished fourth in the recent European Championships, has already been named for the Russian team to the World Championships in Los Angeles. This is her third World Junior Championship. She finished 12th and 6th in the last two years. "I didnít expect to be third. I planned to be in the top five," she admitted. "Iím very happy that it came out that way and Iím pleased to have beaten my personal best. In seniors, there is much more mature skating and it is very different from junior skating. This is my first senior season. I came back to juniors because I wanted to test myself one more time before Los Angeles. Itís nice to be back in juniors. I meet all my friends. I like it here in Sofia and this is lucky ice for me."

Leonova, who turned 18 on November 11, performed 46th, right after the Zhang meltdown. Skating to Al Andaluz by Manolo Carrasco, she began with a triple flip to double toe which earned the base value but her triple Lutz was landed with a pull and skid and was saddled with -1.20 GoE. Her Level 3 layback spin earned +0.50 and the double Axel +1.0. Her Level 3 flying camel got +0.30 and the Level 4 spirals +1.0. The Level 2 straight line steps earned +0.40 over the base value. She brought the routine to an end with a Level 3 change foot combination spin.

4. 55.14 (33.30+21.84) The three-time Swedish Junior champion, Joshi Helgesson, a 15 year old from Tibro, who was 7th in this event last year, lies only 0.36 behind Leonova. Helgesson gained the second highest technical score and was a full point ahead of the Russian in this area. Skating 53rd, which was last but one, Helgesson used music from the soundtrack of the movie Amelie. She began with a triple toe to double toe which earned a full point over the base value. But her double Lutz was given -0.20 GoE. Her base value change foot combination spin, +0.40 spirals, and final +0.10 flying camel were Level 4. Her double Axel earned +1.0 over the base value. Her Level 3 layback spin got the base value and the Level 3 straight line steps got a small +0.10.

5. 51.06 (28.14+22.92) Katrina Hacker, who was the replacement for the injured Mirai Nagasu, earned this trip to Bulgaria by placing 6th for the past two seasons in US championships. She will attend Princeton next year but said, "I will continue to skate every day." Skating 52nd to On Golden Pond by David Grusin, dress in navy, she began with a triple toe to double toe combination which earned +0.60 over the base value but her double Lutz, which she did with both hands over her head, was given an "e" for wrong edge take-off and -0.36 was subtracted from the base value. She gained Level 3s for her + 0.50 flying camel, and her final two elements, +0.60 spirals and +0.60 her change foot combination spin. The 18 year old who trains at the SC of Boston, has a lovely soft style and her split positions in spins and spiral show a balletic flexibility.

10. 47.64 (24.68+23.96 -1.0) Caroline Zhang, who won this title two years ago and was second last year, was in tears after her performance. "Iím sick. I have flu. I have no energy," she explained said Zhang. Her spins and spirals had beautiful positions but her lack of strength showed in her jumps. Even the double Axel looked labored.

12. 47.48 (26.44+21.04) Diane Szmiett from Watford was the last to skate. She began with a triple flip to double toe which was saddled with an exclamation mark which is a warning for a short wrong edge entry. She decided to reduce her planned triple Lutz to a double but it was given a -0.36. She gained only two Level 4s and her final layback spin was only Level 2. Asked whether she had arrived too early in the week, she disagreed saying she liked to get the feel of a place and of the arena. Szmiett skated to Once Upon a December (from "Anastasia" soundtrack) by T. Newman

Men's - Free Skate

Adam Rippon dominated the event, successfully defending his title by a huge 17.12 marks, possibly the largest margin ever. Michael Brezina from the Czech Republic won silver, proving he is back after surgery. Artem Grigoriev of Russia climbed to third while Curren Oi dropped from third after the short to fifth overall but, with only 1.52 points more, he would have won bronze.

1. Overall 222.00; FS 1. 147.70 (TES 77.60 + PCS 70.10) Adam Rippon gave a masterful performance set to Send in the Clowns by Stephen Sondheim & I, Pagliacci from the Opera by Leoncavallo, which had only one negative GoE. His smooth first two elements set the tone, a +0.80 triple flip to triple toe and +0.40 triple Axel to double toe. The one glitch was a wild landing on the triple loop which resulted in -0.80 being taken off the base value. His circular steps and change foot camel spin were both Level 3. The steps got an additional +0.60 added to the base value and the spin +0.10. He executed his second triple Axel at the point when the bonus marks click in and earned +0.80 over the base value plus +10%. His three jump combo of triple Lutz to double toe to double loop was given +0.40 GoE and his "Tano" triple Lutz was awarded a huge +1.80. A +0.60 triple Salchow followed and then came a +1.20 double Axel. He wrapped up the routine with two spins which earned +0.50, a Level 4 change foot combination and a Level 3 flying camel combination. Then he collapsed onto his knees on the ice, punching the air with a fist, overcome with joy. Obviously his new coach, Brian Orser, has been giving him lots of tips on executing the three-and-a-half turn jump.

The first skater credited by the ISU with executing a triple Axel in competition was the Canadian Vern Taylor who did the move in the 1978 world championships in Ottawa. Although that jump was successful, Taylorís landing was held only briefly before he skated out on the other foot. The next skater to execute this maneuver in Worlds was Orser, who presented a superior version and was to win silver in the 1984 and 1988 Olympics. Orser became known as "Mr. Triple Axel".

Rippon said later, "Iím very happy to defend the title. Comparing this title to last yearís Ė itís almost uncomparable. I won last year without a triple Axel. Iím very happy with how I skated today and I can only hope that I can move forward from this. Itís a really good end of the season, especially with the ups and downs Iíve had. Iím in a really good place right now, especially with my coaching arrangement and my environment. At the end, I wasnít sure at all of the result, because, Michal does jumps that are so big you could walk under them. Before I skated I was backstage and Michal was on the ice and I saw on a monitor that he landed two triple Axels. I knew that I made a few little mistakes with the spins and I knew that the loop wasnít perfect, but it was just more of a personal satisfaction of how everything came together. Iím just really happy that I was skating like this in practice and Brian (Orser) told me, just go out there and skate with your heart and just really attack it. So I did. I felt really relaxed. I took it one element at a time and I just kind of went with it. I never thought about taking the second triple Axel out. I knew no matter how I had skated that I needed the experience of trying two in one program, especially if I want to improve my results in the senior level next year. There was no doubt in my mind that I would try two. But after I saw Michal land two, I knew that I had to make sure I landed them, too. Itís kind of my competitive nature to go for it and I just kind of relaxed a little more, stayed relaxed and pushed through it."

This is the first time a singles skater has repeated as Junior champion (although Evan Lysacek is a three-time silver medalist). Rippon skated 22nd of the 25 competitors who were allowed to Free Skate. Normally only 24 get through, but when the host countryís competitor does not qualify, that person is allowed to progress as a reward to the host country and a bonus for the local audience. The addition always skates first. This is the second year running that local boy 17 year old Pavel Petrov Savinov has benefited from this ruling.  In the exhibition Rippon performed to Westlifeís Desparado, with an encore to J.P. Lewisí Make You Feel My Love.

2. 204.88; FS 2. 135.33 (71.23+64.10) Michal Brezina, a 19 year old from Brno, performed a lively routine to Latin music and a selection by the Safri Duo. It was Brezinaís first medal in this event and only the second medal ever for the Czech Republic. The previous one was also silver, claimed in the first ever World Jrs in 1978 by the pair, Jana Blahova & Ludek Feno. (Canadians Barbara Underhill & Paul Martini won that contest.) The referee of this event, Olga Zakova, was thrilled with that result. Due to age, this is her last season as a judge and she said she was delighted to present the honorary bouquet to Brezina.

He said, "I have to thank Adam for this competition. It was a great battle between us. It was a really good end of the season, even for me, because I had surgery in October with my knee. I wasnít really sure how it was going to be. It finished great for me. I hope I will do my best in the next season and I will continue with this performance and maybe be even better. My injury was already healed before the (Grand Prix Junior) Final (in December), but, in my mind, I wasnít really good to go there and skate, because my practice was up and down, something was good and something was bad. The result was I didnít go to the Final and I didnít go to (the Czech) Nationals. I wasnít really sure if I would go to the European Championships, but then the Federation decided to send me there. It was my first competition after two months back practicing. (He finished 10th in Helsinki.) The key point (in Sofia) was my first three jumps. Then I know I can do the rest."  [He received +1.40 GoE for his triple Axel to double toe, +1.20 for the triple Lutz, and +1.40 for the triple flip to triple toe

After the first three moves, he continued with a base value Level 4 change foot sit spin and Level 3 +0.50 straight line steps. As the bonus point clicked in, he executed the second triple Axel, with an easy, flowing landing which was given a +0.80 and he banked a total of 9.82. His triple loop earned also earned a GoE of +0.80 but then he stumbled out of his triple flip and was saddled with -1.60 taken off the base value. His Level 3 flying sit spin got the base value as did the following move, which, with him obviously tiring, was only a double Salchow-double toe-single loop. However, he managed to dig down deep and recovered with a splendid +1.20 double Axel. He finished with a Level 4 change foot combination spin which gained +0.30. His Exhibition on Sunday, to Singing in the Rain complete with hat and umbrella, was one of the highlightís of the Gala.

3. 184.40; FS 3. 119.29 (58.49+60.80) Artem Grigoriev, who was third in the recent Russian Junior championship, competed the day before his 17th birthday. "This medal is a present to myself," the Moscovite said. He advanced from fourth after the SP, performing immediately following Rippon, dressed mainly in black with some white. He presented a Michael Bourne modern, masculine, muscular version of Swan Lake including a cantilever outside spread rarely seen in competition. His two teammates had withdrawn due to illness. "Everything fell on me. I tried, of course, to live up to all the hopes that were laid on me. Basically Iím very happy that I finished third, because when I came here, the idea of being in the top six sounded good. So, Iím very happy with the outcome. My performances were not bad and Iím basically happy with them. It could have been better, of course. Concerning the triple Axel, Iím not really doing it in practice because I have a problem with my left ankle. Thatís why I also didnít do the quad toe here, but in practice I do the quad toe and sometimes the Salchow, but I still have a problem with the Salchow. Itís hard. I get frustrated that I canít catch this jump."

He opened with a triple Lutz to double toe to double loop which earned +0.20 and triple flip to triple toe which was awarded a full point over the base value. Then came a +0.80 triple Salchow. His Level 3 flying sit got +0.30. These elements were succeeded by four jumps, a +1.00 triple toe, +0.20 triple loop, and a +0.40 double Axel, which he had planned to do as a sequence of two Axels but left out the second jump. At the bonus point, he executed a +0.40 double flip instead of the planned triple. That was followed by a Level 4 +0.10 change foot sit spin. He tried to do the sequence of two double Axels at this point and although he was given credit for the two rotations, he stepped out of the second one and was saddled with a negative GoE of -1.44. His final two moves were Level 3. The circular steps earned +0.50 and the change foot combination spin +0.20.

4. 183.77; FS 4. 118.97 (59.17+59.80) At 15 Denis Ten, who was born in Kazahkstan and is trained in Moscow, is already a very experienced competitor who finished 9th in the recent Four Continents Championships, 5th in the JrGP Final and was competing in his third World Jrs. He finished 26th in 2007 and 16th last year. The youngster performed to Rachmaninovís Piano Concerto No. 2. Skating immediately following Grigoriev, Ten stepped out of his first element, the triple Axel, and, although he got credit for the rotation, he was given a -2.80 GoE. He followed that with a more successful triple Axel combined with a down-graded triple toe, which still banked 7.82 points. His triple Lutz was rewarded with an extra +0.60, his Level 3 flying sit spin an extra +0.50, and his triple Lutz to double toe to double loop +0.80. However, at the bonus point, he put a hand down on his triple flip, which was saddled with an "e", and stepped out of his triple loop. Both jumps had -2.0 taken off their base values. His Level 2 change foot camel spin earned +0.40 and the triple Salchow +0.60. A double Axel got the base value. His last two elements were Level 3. The change foot combination spin received +0.20 and the straight line steps +0.50. He was chosen to end the first half of Sundayís Exhibition Program. He started off classically with Saint-Saensí The Swan dressed in a rather tattered, cheap looking imitation tutu which he eventually tore off as the music morphed into Hard Rock which the audience loved. He ended up flat on his back.

5. 182.89; FS 7. 113.49 (57.69+56.80 -1.0) Performing 20th, first on of the top six skaters, Curren Oi performed to Leonard Bernsteinís On the Waterfront. His first two elements, a triple Axel and a combination of triple flip to double toe to double loop, earned the base value. His first spin, a Level 4 flying sit, was given a slight negative (-0.18) but his triple Lutz to double toe gained +0.60. The Level 3 straight line steps received the base value and the Level 4 change foot combination spin +0.10. As the bonus points clicked in, he executed a combination of triple flip to triple toe, but the second jump was downgraded. The base value of that triple-triple combo with the 10% bonus is 10.45 compared to the 7.48 base value for the triple-double at that stage. Oiís GoE meant a full point was subtracted from the lower base value. Had he accomplished the triple-triple combo well enough for base value, he would have won bronze, even with the subsequent bad fall on his second triple Lutz, which came after a +0.20 triple loop. He landed his double Axel a little shakily on his toe and got a -0.80 GoE but the subsequent triple Salchow earned the base value as did his final move, a Level 3 flying combination spin. Coach Mark Mitchell said his performances at nationals, where he finished sixth, were the reverse of what happened here. In Cleveland, he did better as the competition progressed, whereas in Sofia, his SP was Oiís best routine. However, he was still pleased with his pupilís showing.

Oi is planning on studying fusion energy at MIT. He wants to be involved with developing power sources for the future. However, he may defer entry, depending on his skating prospects. "Itís a question of this fall or next. Itís a subject Iím very interested in," Oi said, making sure the listener understood, "Iím a pacifist. I wouldnít work on weapons." He also likes to tell the tale of how his coach at one point appealed to his scientific leanings. "He showed me a painting of a balloon lifting a paper airplane and explained that I was the plane and, if I paid attention to what he said, with that knowledge, I could learn to fly over the ice." The serious, dark-haired 18 year old, has spent his down time in Sofia beating all comers at Scrabble. At Wellesley High School he studies English, AP Calculus BC and Honors Physics plus other on line courses. He told a recent interviewer, "To me, skating is a great challenge. It pushes me physically and mentally. It has been a part of my life since I was 6 and has shaped who I am. School and skating have diversified my perspective in life and introduced me to a variety of people. The challenges in skating have given me real life skills, such as being able to work hard and deal with pressure." The top five are invited Ė actually required since they donít get their prize money if they donít appear Ė to perform in Sundayís exhibition program. Oi did a number in an appropriately aged T-shirt and blue jeans Meatloafís Heaven Can Wait.

6. 177.86; FS 6. 115.61 (61.21+54.40) Skating 16th, Chao Yang, China, performed to Leeloosí Tune by Tonci Huijic performed by Maksim Mrvica and Otonal by Raoul de Blasio. The 19 year old received the 4th highest technical marks but the 8th highest components. Yang, who is from Harbin, began on a high note with a +0.40 triple Lutz to triple toe followed by a +0.20 triple flip, a double Axel which earned the base value, two Level 4 spins, a change foot combination which got +0.10 GoE and a change foot sit which earned 0.50 over the base value. As the bonus clicked in, he showed a double Axel to double toe to double loop which earned the base value +10%. But his next two elements had faults. The triple flip to double toe was given -0.60 and the triple Salchow -0.40. After his Level 3 +0.20 circular steps, he executed a messy double Axel (-0.80) but recovered to do a +0.40 triple Lutz and a base value Level 3 flying sit.

7. 175.44; FS 5. 116.74 (65.54+51.20) Nan Song, an 18 year old from Qiqihar in China, who is competing in his first international season, performed 14th immediately after the ice resurface. His routine was set to Once Upon a Time in America. Song received the third highest technical score but the 13th highest components. He received negative GoEs for three jumps. His first triple Axel got credit for the rotation but had -2.80 taken off the base value; his second triple Lutz lost a full point and -0.80 was subtracted from his final jump, a double Axel. However, he earned the base value for a triple Axel to triple toe loop, a triple Lutz to double toe to double loop and a triple loop. His first double Axel scored +1.0. All three of his spins earned base value for Level 4 and his steps were Level 3 with +0.30.

8. 170.76; FS 8. 110.13 (56.63+53.50) Skating 19th, Elladj Baldť, an 18 year old who finished 10th in the Canadian senior championships, performed to Carl Orffís Carmina Burana in a rather heavy looking outfit. "My routine is half classical and half hip hop and that is reflected with different designs on each of the sleeves. They are very authentic. It was not my greatest performance of the season but compared to last yearís place of 21st, Iíll take it. Iím looking to get a Senior Grand Prix next year. I have a new Short Program in mind. Sasha Zhulin is going to do it, either to Dance Macabre or to a Flamenco," Baldť said. He began with a triple Axel but fell out of the landing and put a hand down which resulted in a -3.64 GoE taken off the base value of 8.20. He got the dreaded "e" for wrong edge take-off on his triple flip to triple toe combo, which was given a -1.20 GoE. However, his triple Lutz earned a full point over the jumpís base value of 6.00. His Level 3 change foot sit spin got a marginal minus (-0.06) and the shaky triple loop, which was executed right by the judges, -0.20. At bonus time, he performed a double Axel to triple toe to double toe but two footed the final jump. His Level 3 flying sit got the base value. He then presented a triple Lutz to double toe, landing with his arm in the air but it wasnít perfect and he was penalized with -0.40. He stepped out of the following triple Salchow which followed was downgraded. His straight line steps were Level 3 and +0.20 and his final jump, a double Axel earned the base value. He finished with a Level 3 change foot combination spin which had a very slight -0.06 GoE.

9. 169.36; FS 10. 105.55 (50.75+56.80 -2.0) Kevin Reynolds, Canadaís fourth ranked senior, skated last. He performed in a flower-y creation to Walpurgis Night from Gounodís opera Faust. He got credit for the four revolutions of his opening move, a quad Salchow, but he stepped out of the landing and the GoE was bad (-3.20). Still that meant he banked 7.10 points for this move. However, he fell twice, on a down-graded triple Axel and a triple Lutz. That was bad enough, but he was absolutely shattered that the Technical Specialist Ricardo Olavarrieta and his assistant, Margus Hernits, down-graded four elements, his second quad, the toe loop, both triple Axels, and the triple toe tagged on to a triple Salchow in his final jumping pass. He received no Level 4s and his final move, a change foot combination spin was only Level 2 with -0.06. He dropped from sixth after the short (which was his placing in Sofia in this event last year) to ninth overall, 1.40 points behind his teammate, Elladj Baldť. As he left the Kiss & Cry area all the 18 year from Vancouver could do was shake his head and say, "How can they do that?"

10. 164.80; FS 9. 105.65 (54.85+53.80 -3.0) Ross Miner didnít have the skate he wanted but he was delighted to finish in the top ten. His inexperience got to him and, possibly trying too hard, he fell three times. He didnít actually sit on the ice on his first move, a triple Axel but he stumbled onto both feet and hands and that was classed as being out-of-control of his core body weight. He did get credit for the rotation, however. The second fall was on the second jump of his second element, triple flip to triple toe. He also fell on his 10th of the 12 elements, a bad slam down on a triple Salchow. However, all three spins earned Level 4. The change foot combination and the sit spin gained +0.20 GoE and the flying sit was deemed worthy of the base value. His serpentine steps were Level 3 and +0.30. He performed to three Gershwin tunes, Iíve Got Rhythm, Someone to Watch Over Me, and Nice Work If You Can Get It.

15. 153.70; FS 12. 103.90 (48.90+56.00 -1.0) Florent Amodio, from France, whose spectacular performance in the Junior Grand Prix Final made him one of the pre-event favorites, gave a poor showing, though not as bad as his spectacular implosion in the Short Program, to climb four places to 15th of the 41 competitors from 36 countries, with a FS that was ranked only 12th best. He singled his first triple Axel and was only able to tag on a single toe loop to his second attempt. He fell on his second triple Lutz and got an "e" for his triple flip.

Men's - Short Program

41 skaters from 34 countries competed. It would have been 42 but the Russian Artur Gachinski of Russia pulled out with flu too late to be replaced.

1. 74.30 (TES 74.30 + PCS 41.90) Defending champion Adam Rippon leads after the Short Program by a very significant 4.75 points, despite a major flaw on one of the eight required elements. "I felt comfortable out there," said the American who turned 19 on November 11, "but I did make a mistake on the Axel." He was given credit for rotating the three-and-a-half turns of this jump but he two-footed the landing and was penalized with 2.80 taken off the base value of 8.20. His first move, triple flip to triple toe jump combination was fluidly executed and he was rewarded with +0.40 added to the base value. His other six moves all had even higher Grades of Execution. His triple Lutz, in which he flung his left arm over his head, elicited +1.80, which was the second highest (by 0.40) GoE of the event. All three spins were Level 4. Two received +0.50, and the change foot combination was awarded +0.70. Both step sequences were given +0.90 GoE. The circular steps were only Level 2 but the straight line gained Level 3.

Skating 37th, dressed in black and red, Rippon performed his last seasonís Short Program set to Toccata & Fugue by J.S. Bach. He got off to a false start at the beginning of this season with a new routine. His old routine, however, has been "refreshed" by David Wilson. "I was very excited to come back to Bulgaria," Rippon confided. "To come back as the reigning champion Ė I havenít really thought about that aspect. If I had thought about it a little bit more, there would have been more pressure that I would have put on myself. I gained a lot of experience during the senior Grand Prix this year. I think itís really helped me and itís brought my skating to a new level. I had done the same competition and I was looking to do it in the same building, so I knew exactly what to expect." The 19-year-old admitted this season had an "awkward" start but said, "Iím happy to be training with Yu-na Kim in Toronto. I think we help each other."

They train under the eagle eyes of Brian Orser, the Canadian twice Olympic silver medalist, who made his first international appearance in this event in 1978 when it was held in Megeve, France. Brian Boitano won the free skate in that competition with Orser second but both had been buried in the figures. Boitano won the overall bronze and Orser was fourth. Orser was asked whether he would have liked the new system had it been in operation back then, Orser said, "I would have loved it. I was always into transition steps even if they didnít get you any marks and I liked spins." It was Canadaís Toller Cranston who took spinning on the "wrong" edge into a new art form. The new system recognizes changing edges while spinning as a significant skill. "We were all influenced by Toller," said Orser. But until the IJS recognized the difficulty and value of such a move, the rest of the world ignored such variations.

Asked about the differences of skating junior and senior, Rippon said, "I do feel I have benefited by take part in my first Senior Grand Prix events. Itís not so much that more stamina is needed for the extra half minute in the Free, itís the difficulty and quality of the moves the seniors do, triple Axels and quads. Thereís just an extra footwork sequence in the Free Skate for Seniors."

2. 69.55 (37.80+31.75) Skating 34th to Sing, Sing, Sing by Louis Prima, Michal Brezina from the Czech Republic presented a choreographically brilliant routine with each step masterfully matching the nature of the jazz music. However, like Rippon, he had a major error. Brezina, who will be 19 on March 30, began his routine with a brilliant triple Axel that was awarded +2.0, the eventís highest GoE. A +0.40 triple Lutz followed. However, shockingly, he accomplished the first jump in his combination but singled the second. "The triple flip felt OK in the air and then when I went to toe for the toe loop things went wrong. I looked down there was a big hole in the ice. That might have been the problem. I donít know why things went wrong." The base level for a triple flip to triple toe loop combination is 9.50, but he earned only 2.90. Those extra marks would have put him into first place. The 19 year old, who trains in his hometown of Brno and in Oberstdorf, Germany gained Level 4 and +0.40 for the change foot sit spin. The other four required elements were all Level 3. The later two spins received +0.40. The straight line steps earned +0.70 and the circular steps were rewarded, deservedly, with +1.0. Several skaters at the top would a lot of effort into their steps, but Brezina added an extra dimension. His steps flowed out of the music instead of just being casually matched to volume and beat and, in the worst case, executed with patently false emotion.

3. 69.40 (42.10+27.30) Curran Oi, who trains at the Skating Club of Boston with Mark Mitchell and Peter Johansson, who also coach Ross Miner, lies a surprise, unheralded third. He received the top technical score but was ranked only fifth on components. Skating 40th, right after Florent Amodioís disaster and before Kevin Reynolds brought this event to an end, Oi made no discernable major mistake. Skating to Phantom of the Opera by A. L. Webber, his first two elements, triple Axel and triple flip to triple toe were performed seemingly effortlessly and both earned +0.60 over the base value. His Level 4 flying camel spin and circular steps gained +0.20 and +0.30, respectively, over their base values. Two judges punched in -1 for his triple Lutz and, although the seven others thought it deserved the base value, the negatives were selected by the computer to count and Oi received a -0.20 GoE. Oi, whose name indicates his fatherís Japanese heritage, received +0.30 for his next two elements, the change foot combination spin and the straight line steps, which were both Level 3. Oi, who was 18 on October 11 and has already received an early acceptance from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, completed his routine with a Level 4 change foot sit spin which earned +0.50. This is Oiís seventh international appearance, although he has not competed in this event before. "But I have been in Sofia," he said. That was in 2006 when he finished sixth in the Junior Grand Prix Final.

4. 65.11 (65.11+35.66) For a Russian, Artem Grigoriev showed remarkable understanding of his jazz music, Touch and Go, Tango in Harlem. Grigoriev, who will free skate on February 27, his 17th birthday, is taught by Viktor Kudriavtsev. His choreography is created by Alla Dubinskaia. He wore very professional looking grey trousers with a lavender shirt and snazzy silver waistcoat which definitely reflected the sleazy flamboyance of the piece. Skating 36th, which was first on of the last warm-up group of six, he began with a super triple flip to triple toe which earned +1.40 over the base value. His triple Lutz was also very good and gained +1.0 and his straight line steps earned +0.70. However, his flying camel was only Level 2, although it was given +0.50. But then he messed up his double Axel. His boot seemed to buckle on landing forcing him to put a hand on the ice to keep from falling. That resulted in -1.28 off the base value. He recovered with +0.50 Level 3 circular steps. His change foot sit spin was Level 4 but earned only the base value and his final move, the change foot combination spin was only Level 1 and received -0.06.

5. 64.80 (36.50+28.30) Denis Ten, who is only 15, is from Kazahkstan but trains in Moscow with Elena Vodorezova in Moscow. He is a descendent of the famed Korean general, Min Keung Ho. Vodorezova was an extremely promising skater with high jumps before rheumatoid arthritis put an end to her competitive career. Skating 32nd to a Flamenco and music from the soundtrack of Once Upon a Time in Mexico, in black with red gloves, Ten soared through a +0.40 triple Axel but he made errors on his combination. The first jump, a triple flip, was saddled with an "e" for wrong edge take-off and the second jump, a triple toe loop was downgraded. Instead of the hoped for 9.50 points, he salvaged only 4.40. But he sprang back from that mishap, with a +0.80 triple Lutz and two Level 4 spins. The change foot combination received +0.90 and the flying camel +0.50. Both sets of steps were Level 2 with +0.50 GoEs. He finished with a Level 3 +0.40 change foot sit spin.

6. 63.81 (37.06+26.75) Kevin Reynolds, Canada, skated last. "I was a bit stiff," the 18 year old from North Vancouver admitted. "I skated last so I had a long wait. Iím not used to that. But I thought I gave a very solid performance." Skating to Armenian folk music, Reynolds stepped out of the second jump of his combination, a triple flip to triple toe loop, which saddled him with -2.0 off the base value of the element. He also got a slight negative, -0.28, on his second element, the triple Axel, but the triple Lutz earned the base value. His +0.10, flying camel spin was, uncharacteristically, merely Level 1His only Level 4 was for the change foot sit spin which gained +0.04. His other elements, the two +0.50 steps sequences and the base value change foot combination spin, were Level 3.

7. 62.25 (37.40+24.85) Chao Yang, China, skated 35th right after Brezina. The 19 year old, who finished 10th in his debut in this event in 2006 but was only 15th in 2008, performed to music from the soundtrack to Devil. He received an exclamation mark which is a warning for a short wrong edge take off on the triple flip which he combined with a triple toe. But his triple Lutz received +0.60 GoE and his double Axel was awarded +1.0. All three of his spins earned Level 4. (The flying camel got the base value, the change foot sit earned +0.20 and the change foot combination +0.10.) His steps were both Level 3 and both received +0.20.

8. 60. 63 (34.18+26.45) Elladj Baldť, Canada, performed 38th, immediately following Rippon, to music called Freedom. His skating always has great energy in a pleasing, rather wild, natural, spontaneous manner, somewhat reminiscent of the great Philippe Canderloro. He received -0.32 GoE for his double Axel and -0.20 for his triple Lutz to triple toe which also got an exclamation warning point for a short wrong edge. His triple Lutz gained +0.40 GoE. His base value change foot combination spin was Level 4. Both footwork sequences were Level 3 with the straight line receiving +0.20 GoE and the circular earning the base level. The change foot sit spin was also Level 3 and earned +0.10, but the flying camel got merely the base value of a Level 2.

9. 59.15 (34.50+24.65) Because he had no ISU world ranking, which is determined by placements in certain designated events, Ross Miner, from Watertown, Massachusetts, had to draw for the early positions. He skated fifth of 41. After he completed his two minute fifty second routine, performed to Bonanza by David Rose and Cotton-Eyed Joe by Rednex, and got his marks at 11:25 am, he remained in the lead while 21 other skaters performed. It wasnít until Denis Ten got his scores at 4:25 Ė five hours later Ė that his name dropped out of first place. There was still a wait for over another hour before the result was determined and he was listed as ninth.

Miner said he had got off the ice "happy". Bonanza was a television program from around sixty years ago, which became popular around the world. The theme song is still recognizable to millions of people. When he decided to use the tune, Miner saw one of the episodes "when they were going to lynch the Little Joeís brother" on Nick at Night. By coincidence, the silver medalist in the recent European championships, Samuel Contesti of Italy, is also competing with this music. Minerís routine also used Cotton-Eyed Joe. His outfit looked very authentic and included a sheriffís badge and a very realistic looking badge. It was a fun routine although he received a warning exclamation mark for a short wrong edge on his triple Lutz and -0.30 GoE for his Level 3 flying camel. All the other GoEs were positive and he got Level 4s for his other two spins. The straight line steps were Level 2 and +0.30 and the circular sequence earned Level 3 and +0.20.

19. 49.80 (23.00+27.80 -1.0) Florent Amodio of France was a heavy favorite to medal based on the strength of his win in the Junior Grand Prix Final in December. But he had a near total meltdown. Skating 39th to The Mask of Zorro; Malaguena; and Baghdad, in black and red, he opened with his combination, triple Salchow to triple toe loop but was unable to hold the landing of the second jump. Then he singled his triple Axel. He doubled his planned triple Lutz, which was not a fault in itself because the competitors could choose to do a double or triple but devastating for someone hoping to be near the top. He was obviously in shock. The following flying camel spin gained only the base value for a Level 2. His straight line steps looked fine. But by this time even the judges were confused. Three judges punched in +2, which is for "very good", but another thought it should be -3 which is for "not executed". Three thought the sequence was worthy of +1 which is for "superior" and two punched in zero which is for a mere "every aspect of the move completed". Then, as he went into his change foot sit spin he spun himself off his foot and sat on the ice. That meant he got no points at all for this move. (The base value for Level 4 for this element is 3.50 points; a Level 1 is 1.90.) He did get the base value for his following move, a Level 4 change foot combination spin. He finished with Level 3 circular steps. In the Kiss Ďn Cry area, he looked ready to cry.

Pairs - Free Skate

Liubov Iliushechkina & Nodari Maisuradze, the pre-event favorites, claimed the gold but were completely outshone in the Free Skate by their teammates, Anastasia Martiusheva & Alexei Rogonov, who rose from 11th after Short Program to claim silver. US national junior bronze medallists, Marissa Castelli & Simon Shnapir, who lay second after the SP, claimed the bronze although they were fourth in the Free behind the Canadians, Page Lawrence & Rudi Swiegers, who remained fourth. Another Canadian pair, Maddison Bird & Raymond Schultz, were solidly sixth while Brynn Carman & Chris Knierim from Colorado Springs stayed ninth in a field of 21 couples from 16 countries. The top four couples (and Carman & Knierim) have aged out and will not be eligible for international competition at junior level next season.

1. Overall 144.32; Free Skate 2. 89.20 (TES 42.92 + PCS 47.28 -1.0) After a really bad warm-up in which she kept missing elements, Iliushechkina & Maisuradze got off to a poor start. She fell on their first jump, a triple toe loop, which was downgraded. They ended up in debt after this move. They were given only 0.04 for the attempt plus they were penalized a point for her fall. They had previously decided to change their double Axel to double Lutzes which they executed very well, landing with one arm above their heads and earning +0.40 over base value. They also intentionally chose to do a double twist instead of the planned triple. They received Level 2 and +0.40. She put two hands on the ice landing their throw triple Lutz for which they were penalized with -1.40 from the base value of 5.50. They received Level 2 for their forward inside death spiral and +0.28 GoE. Their Level 4 Axel Lasso Lift was very good and earned +1.40 which was added to the base value of 6.50. But then she jackknifed and struggled to hold the landing of the throw triple loop which got -0.70 taken off the base value. Their next two moves were awarded Level 3 with the change foot combination spin earning +0.50 over the base value and the straight line steps getting +0.30. Both their final two moves gained the maximum Level 4 with their Group 3 lift earning +0.60 and their pair combination spin getting the base value. Despite their mistakes, they still received the highest component marks. They performed 19th to a medley of music by Edvin Marton.

Adding to their embarrassment, their program was featured, complete with the mistakes, on a large screen while they stood to attention as the extremely long old Soviet Union national anthem (instead of the normal short version) was played seemingly endlessly. When asked about the extraordinary length of anthem, Maisuradze would not answer but Rogonov joked that it was played twice because there were two Russian couples on the rostrum. Last year, Iliushechkina & Maisuradze finished second in this event but won the Free Skate. "Our feelings are ambivalent right now", Maisuradze admitted. "We are happy about the result, but our performance was poor. I was not nervous at all. Iím never nervous. But Liuba, unfortunately, has been struggling with her nerves all season. Iím absolutely not happy with our performance, mostly with the performance of my partner. But a medal is a medal. What happened with Alexei (Rogonov) is a strong example that you should never give up. We are already making the transition to the senior level. We still have Worlds (in Los Angeles) ahead of us and we think the transition to seniors will be smooth for us." They finished fifth in the recent European championships. Although Iliushechkina attended the press conference following their podium presentation, Maisuradze explained she would not answer questions. All the medallists were presented with valuable Citizen Watches.

2. 138.59; FS 1. 93.99 (47.67+46.32) Anastasia Martiusheva & Alexei Rogonov presented a delightful routine to music from Tchaikovskyís The Nutcracker Ballet. There were small mistakes but it was a clearly superior showing. They performed 10th, early in the proceedings, because of their poor performance in the Short Program. She was all in white. He was a toy soldier with white trousers and a rich red jacket. They began with a great throw triple loop which earned +1.12 GoE. That was followed by a base value Level 1 triple twist. Their sequence of double Axels to double loops had a small negative -0.16 GoE but their Group 3 lift earned the maximum Level 4 with her in various positions including a split with her head by one ankle. It had +0.80 added to the base value. She put a hand down on their throw triple Salchow which was penalized with -1.40 off the base value. They followed with arm-over-head double Lutzes which earned +0.50. Their forward inside death spiral got +0.56. Their change foot combination spin was only Level 2 but earned 0.50 over base. Their great Axel Lasso was Level 4 with +1.20. Their final two moves both earned +0.50. The straight line steps were Level 2 and the pair combination spin Level 3.

Martiusheva said, "Yesterday, we had a very bad performance Ė the worst! We never would have expected such a bad showing. Today, though, we were able to pull together our thoughts, our hands and our feet and skated well." Rogonov agreed. "We were completely in shock about our skate, yesterday. Today, we more or less redeemed ourselves. Our coach was as shocked as we were. She put us back on track.

3. 137.47; FS 4. 88.37 (45.77+43.60-1.0) Marissa Castelli & Simon Shnapir from Boxborough, MA, were absolutely delighted to win the bronze, although they did so by a sliver, 0.40. She said, "We skated the best program we could have done. We didnít put in our triple Sals and we didnít have as difficult elements, but everything we did, I think, we did very well." Her partner agreed. "Iíd say we skated our best program of the season. I made a small mistake at the end of the program but Marissa made it, and her throws were beautiful. Weíre very honored to be up here at the Junior Worlds and to be skating with these great skaters."

Skating 17th, first on of the top four pairs, to music from The Gladiator, she in white and he in brown, they began with a great Axel Lasso Level 4 lift which earned a substantial +1.40 over the base value. Their Level 1 triple twist got -0.42 GoE and they did only double Salchows which earned the base value as did their Level 3 pair combination spin. Their Level 3 straight line steps got +0.40 and their Level 4 Group 3 lift earned +0.60. Their back inside death spiral was only Level 1 but was rewarded with +0.42 over the base value. Their throw double Axel earned +0.70. Their flying change foot spin was worthy of the base value for the maximum Level 4. However, on their sequence of two double toe loops, he fell. They bounced back from that with a +0.42 throw triple Salchow. Their score was their seasonís best.

4. 137.07; FS 3. 88.43 (47.39+43.04-2.0) Paige Lawrence & Rudi Swiegers performed last to The Painted Veil by A. Desplat. She was in purple, he in black with silver. They opened their routine with a Level 1 triple twist which was penalized with -0.42 off the base value. Their double Axels gained the base value. A Level 4 flying change foot combination spin earned +0.10 but a sequence of two double toe loops got -0.24. Their Level 4 Axel Lasso lift earned a full point over the base value and their Level 4 forward inside death spiral +0.70. However, he collapsed onto his knees and she fell on their throw triple loop. That saddled them with two full points off the base value, plus the mandatory one point deduction for each fall. Had they not happened, they would have won silver. Their Group 3 lift was Level 4 and received +0.40. She put her hand down on their triple Lutz throw which received -0.70 GoE. They concluded with a Level 4 pair combination spin and Level 3 straight line steps. Both received +0.10 GoE.

Swiegers said, "Itís very uncharacteristic for us to make a mistake on that manoeuvre. Itís one of our most consistent elements. We came in believing we could win a medal but we still set a personal best which is good indicator that we are improving." Lawrence admitted the result was frustrating. "Thereís obviously an initial disappointment to come so close to the podium but itís hard to be upset at being fourth at the world juniors."

5. 134.80; FS 5. 85.96 (42.92+43.04) Skating 18th, to dramatic music Nostradamus dressed in matching red and black unitards, Ekaterina Sheremetieva & Mikhail Kuznetsov from Russia, who were fourth last year, dropped from third to fifth overall. They began well with a +0.42 throw triple flip and a Level 2 twist which earned +0.40. They presented a combination of two double loops which got the base value. Then came double flips with +0.10 GoE. Their forward inside death spiral was Level 3 and 0.56. Their Group 4 lift was Level 4 and +0.20. It included a very nice position in which she appeared to be sitting on his hand. However, she two footed the landing of her throw triple loop which was saddled with -1.12 GoE. Their toe lasso lift gained the base value as did their Level 2 combination spin. Their last element was their straight line step sequence which got a slight minus, -0.14 taken off the base value.

6. 127.63; FS 6. 81.03 (41.27+39.76) Maddison Bird & Raymond Schultz from Ontario were delighted with their placement. "Iím kind of surprised we did this well," said Bird. "Our goal was the top 10. We scored well on our presentation and we were really happy about that because that was a big focus in training." Skating 13th, to Braveheart, they opened with a Level 2 twist which earned +0.30 GoE. Then came a base value throw triple Salchow. Their Axel lasso lift earned a full point over the base value for Level 4. Then came a +0.10 sequence of double flip to double toe and a base value Level 4 flying change foot combination spin. She had a poor landing on the throw triple loop and that was saddled with -1.40 GoE. Their Group 4 lift was Level 4 and gained +0.50. Their step sequence was only Level 2 and +0.10. Their double Lutzes also received +0.10. Their forward inside death spiral was only Level 1 and was saddled with -1.52 after his weight went too far back and the toe lost its anchor. "I nearly couldnít pull Maddison up," Schultz confessed. They finished with a base value Level 4 pair combination spin.

7. 126.64; FS 7. 80.66 (41.34+40.32-1.0) Narumi Takahashi & Mervin Tran, who train in Canada but represent Japan, had a pretty disastrous showing yet still managed to overtake the Chinese who had been ahead of them because of a tie breaker. (Both pairs had the same score for the SP. In that case, the tie is broken for the skaters with the higher technical score.) Skating 15th, to music from Madame Butterfly and from the Chinese opera Butterfly Lovers, they began well with a Level 4 double twist which earned +0.60 over the base value but then lost -1.44 on the GoE for their double Axels. They received +0.14 over the base value for their throw triple loop and +0.50 for their Level 4 Group 3 lift. But then she pulled herself off her edge and fell flat and they got zero points for their flying change foot combination spin. She singled the intended double flip of their sequence to a double toe loop and the second jump was downgraded. Then she two-footed her throw triple loop. The remaining four elements were good. Their pair combination spin earned the base value for Level 4. They earned +1.00 over the base value for their Level 4 Axel lasso lift. The straight line step sequence earn +0.10 over the base value for Level 3 and they concluded with a Level 4 backward inside death spiral which earned an extra +0.70.

8. 125.30; FS 8. 79.32 (39.32+40.00) Yue Zhang & Lei Wang, China

9. 124.93; FS 9. 78.99 (40.79+39.20-1.0) Brynn Carman & Chris Knierim from Colorado Springs performed 11th to the sprightly country music from the movie Cityslickers which they have used throughout their partnership. He got a little dressing down from coach Dalilah Sappenfield. "He singled his double flip," she said. "That is just not acceptable. It would be better to do the jump and fall than to chicken out." He is aging out of juniors and she just turned 14 on November 26 so they must now decide whether to go their separate ways. Sappenfield said, "We must see what our options are." They began their routine with a very high triple twist which earned +0.98 over the base value for Level 2. Their throw double Salchow earned the base value. Their Axel lasso lift gained a whole point over the base value for Level 4 and their throw double loop earned an extra +0.20. However, she fell on her double Lutz. Their forward inside death spiral and Group 3 lift were both Level 4 were awared +0.56 and +0.50 respectively. Their straight line steps were Level 3 and +0.20. The Level 4 flying camel combination spin had a slight -0.06 and then came the single flip. They finished with a Level 3 base value pair combination spin.

10. 123.60; FS 10. 76.32 (38.76+38.56-1.0) Anais Morand & Antoine Dorsaz, Switzerland.

Pairs - Short Program

Lubov Iliushechkina & Nodari Maisuradze took the lead as expected. (See preview for their background story.) Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir, from the Boxborough SC in Massachussetts, made a splendid showing and lie second. Two practically unknown Canadian duos are fourth and sixth in the field of 21 pairs from 16 countries. The Short Programs were preceded, as usual, with an opening ceremony in which local skaters performed. Albena Denkova, 2006 & 2007 world ice dance champion and current President of the Bulgarian Association, welcomed the (very small) crowd with an enthusiastic speech given despite her throat problems, joking that they had hoped to host the event again after their success doing so last year but hadnít expected that honor to materialize so quickly. (They stepped in for Ostrava after the current world financial crisis forced the Czech Association to renege on their commitment.) Two weeks ago, the facility hosted the World Short Track championships.

There is no word yet on Denkovaís partner, Maxim Staviskiís reversals. He had been fined a huge amount but given a suspended jail sentence after an accident, driving when drunk, which killed a young man and left a young woman in a coma. That suspended sentence was revoked on the prosecutorís appeal and Staviski is running out of options trying to get that ruling overturned.

The eight required elements are: double Lutz side by side jumps; a double twist; either a double or triple throw jump; a forward inside death spiral; a Group 3 (hand to hip entry) lift; Spiral Sequence; a pair spin; and solo change foot combination spins. The pairs were divided into six groups, with ice resurfaces after every two groups, which meant the event ran from 7:15pm until almost 11pm.

1. 55.12 (TES 32.28 + PCS 22.84) Lubov Iliushechkina & Nodari Maisuradze, the Russians who won silver last year in this event, skated 18th, first of the final four pairs, performing to Canadian music, Prologue, by Lorena McKennitt. She is 17 and he turned 21 last Wednesday so they will be ineligible to return to junior competition next season. The pair, which is trained in the north of Moscow, took bronze in the recent Russian championships and fifth in Europeans so they are expected to be on the Russian team for Los Angeles. But despite their very good showing here, they werenít perfect.

They began with double Lutzes and although the jumps looked good, she could not check the rotation and had to do a double three turn to hold the landing. Their double Lutz twist with her arms over her head got Level 2 and +0.10. Their next move was a superb +1.12 throw triple loop and the death spiral a very good Level 4 which was rewarded with +0.70 over the base value. Their spirals were only Level 3 and +0.50. Their pair spin, for which they had interestingly difficult entry positions, earned the maximum Level (4) also with a +0.50 GoE. They concluded with their lift which earned Level 4 but only +0.20. Both skaters said they had very good memories of skating on the same ice at this event last year. He added, "We had some small mistakes, but we will do better in tomorrowís free." They denied feeling any pressure because they were the favorites. They said their status only gave them pleasant emotions of support and confidence and they werenít nervous. They were becoming used to appearing in big and important events.

2. 49.10 (28.62+20.48) Marissa Castelli & Simon Shnapir drew the undesirable position of skating right after the favorites but did not let that phase them. The bronze medalists for the recent US Junior title (they were 2nd in the SP & 3rd in the FS), who will also age out of juniors this season because he is 21 (she is 18 Ė they both have the same birthday, August 20), performed to three pieces, Wild Dogs, The Gathering, and Ancient Voices of Guatemala from the Survivor Guatemala series by Russ Landau. Shnapir said, "We picked this music because it is different. Our goal was to sell our program and give out a lot of emotions. This music allowed us to do that." Both said they were very pleased with their showing. She added, "It was a very well done program. It really is unique and we gave it lots of energy. We really tried hard to sell it and we left the ice with a smile on our faces. It is always good to get a seasonís best (score)."

They opened with a very good double flip twist with a nice lateral position which got Level 2 and +0.60 GoE. (Two of the nine judges on the panel thought this move deserved +2.) Their lift was Level 4 with +0.50. In one of the positions she was upside down in a vertical split with her head touching her ankle. They also received Level 4 for their base value pair combo spin and their +0.60 spirals. Their double Lutzes earned +0.40 over the base value. Their flying change foot combination solo spins were Level 3 and had a very marginal minus (-0.06), with two of the nine judges seeing something wrong but the other seven all deeming the move worthy of base value. Their throw double loop earned +0.20. They ended with a Level 1 death spiral with her head in an unusual position in which she looks at the ice. She explained, "I was having pain in my shoulder so we decided to go into it with me holding with my other arm. That solved that problem and allowed me to get into the unusual position." He explained, "We werenít going for a higher Level because that really slows down the rotations. We were going for the component marks." They wore blue and brown outfits patterned to look like something the contestants on the Survivor television series might wear.

3. 48.84 (28.72+20.12) Ekaterina Sheremetieva & Mikhail Kuznetsov, who were fourth in this event last year and earned the silver medals in the recent Russian Junior championship, drew to skate 16th. The unlucky pair, who performed to Wild Dances by Ruslana, teamed up in 2003, but suffered a major set back when she broke a bone in her foot, which caused them to lose most of the 2007 season. They also had bad luck this season when she tore a muscle in her upper right leg which meant she could not jump or do throws from mid-October until mid-December. Asked whether, like the Canadian ice dancer Scott Moir, he practiced with a sand bag while his partner was off the ice, Kuznetsov looked at first as if he did not understand, and then after a second explanation was made, appeared appalled by such an idea, shaking his head. He said he had studied and practiced by himself.

He also admitted, "We made mistakes, big mistakes, today but skating in Sofia feels like skating at home." They began extremely well with a +0.70 throw triple loop and a +0.50 Level 3 double Lutz twist. But then she singled her double Lutz. Their +0.40 flying change foot combination spins and base value spirals were both Level 3. However, their lift was shaky and was saddled with -0.50 GoE. Their Level 3 death spiral got +0.42 and their pair combination spin was Level 4 and +0.10. They are 17 and 20 and eligible for next season, since he was born on August 28, well after the cutoff point of July 1.

4. 48.64 (29.52+19.12) Both Canadian pairs were making their debuts in this event. Paige Lawrence, who turned 19 two days before competing here, and Rudi Swiegers, 21, lie just 0.20 out of third place. Swiegers was skating with a bandaged right hand. He explained, "Itís been fractured twice (causing them to withdraw from the Mexico Cup) but itís healed now. Iím just wearing the brace as a protection till after this event." They drew to skate 12th and performed to Orange Blossom Sorbet by Joe Trio, which incorporated a variation on Zorba, the Greek at the start. "Itís a sort of country hoe-down, with a Prairie flavour," Lawrence said.

They earned +0.40 GoE for both their Level 1 double Lutz twist and spirals, +0.20 for their double Lutzes, but only the base value for their Level 4 flying change foot combination spin. Their throw triple loop gained +0.28 and their Level 4 lift +0.40. Their death spiral was only Level 1 with +0.14. They finished with a Level 3 +0.10 pair combination spin.

He started to skate when his mother, who is a doctor, accepted a position in Brandon, Manitoba, and they moved from Cape Town, South Africa. She has been skating since she was four. They train at the Wawota FSC with Patricia Hole. They gained silver, missing out for the gold in the 2008 Canadian Junior championship by only 0.06 of a point. They were fourth at senior level in their recent nationals. Sheís a farm girl from a tiny community, Kennedy, Saskatchewan, where her father breeds rodeo horses and bulls. This is only their fourth international. They previously skated in Junior Grand Prix events in Germany, Belarus and England.

She said she was thrilled to be in Sofia although the atmosphere was very different than at nationals in Saskatoon where the audience was almost overwhelming. "You have to deal with nerves. You learn to use those nerves to help instead of making it worse. You have to stay focused and do your job. You canít control what goes on around you." Both are university students. She is studying kinesiology with the intention of becoming a physical therapist.

5. 47.28 (29.24+18.04) Anais Morand & Antoine Dorsaz from Switzerland moved to Germany last summer to begin training with Ingo Steuer, which appears to be paying off. They are competing in the World Juniors for the third time. They previously finished 11th and 12th. Skating 20th to Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen, they began with a +0.56 throw triple loop and a base value double Lutz twist. Their solo double Lutzes got a slight negative (-0.06). Their Level 4 death spiral earned the base value as did their Level 4 lift but their next two moves were given minuses. The flying change foot combination spins were saddled with -0.30 and the pair spin a nominal -0.06. They earned +0.10 for their Level 3 spirals. She will be 16 on March 10 and he 20 on March 2, so they are eligible for juniors for another year.

6. 46.60 (28.52+18.08) Maddison Bird, 14, and Raymond Schultz, 18, were the third ranked Canadian Novice pair in 2008 and made their international debut this season coming seventh in Junior Grand Prix in Gomel, Belarus. They recently won bronze in the Canadian Junior championship. This is only their second international. They are trained at the Mariposa Center in Barrie, Ontario, by Jacinthe Lariviere, Lee Barkell and S. Denison. Skating early in the event, seventh, to The Road to Vladivostok, they began with a hands-over-head double Lutz twist, which earned the base value. However, their throw triple loop was saddled with a -1.26. Their Level 4 lift earned an extra +0.50 and the Level 4 spirals +0.40. Their double Lutzes got a dreaded "e" for wrong edge take-off and so -0.36 was taken off the base value. Their flying change foot combination spins earned the base value for Level 4 of 3.50. Their death spiral was given Level 3 and +0.14. They finished with a Level 4 pair combination spins which earned +0.10 over base. They teamed up two and a half years ago. She had not previously done pairs. "This performance was better than our short at nationals, for sure," Bird said with a huge grin. Her partner agreed. "We had a couple of mistakes there."

7. 45.98 (26.74+20.24 -1.0) Yue Zhang & Lei Wang, from China, who teamed up in 2006, debuted in this event last year, finishing 7th. They have made considerable progress since then as demonstrated by their silver in the JrGP Final, but they did not start well here, though they gained the third highest component score behind the top two pairs. Skating 17th, last of the penultimate group, they performed to The Way Old Friends Do by ABBA. Their Level 1 double twist was not particularly high but gained +0.50. Their solo double Lutz jumps were competent but not that high and earned +0.10. Their throw triple loop earned +0.14 over base value. Their lift was Level 3 and +0.40. Their Level 4 spirals also got +0.40. But then he didnít get his toe into the ice to anchor the forward inside death spiral and they earned no points for this move, which, when done at Level 4 has a base value of 3.50 and at Level 1, 2.80. Their final move, the pair combination spin earned the base value for Level 4 of 4.50. (If they had received executed the death spiral and received the base value for Level 1, they would be lying fourth. If they had managed base value for Level 4, they would have been in second place.) Zhang turned 16 on January 27, & Wang was 20 on July 11, which means they are eligible by 11 days to compete next season. They train in Beijing with Bin Yao.

8. 45.98 (26.54+19.44) Narumi Takahashi & Mervin Tran got the exact same marks as Zhang and Wang, but the tie was broken because the Chinese had the better technical score. Takahashi & Tran are the Japanese Senior champions after winning the Junior title last year. Skating 14th, immediately following the second ice resurface, they performed to Din Dea Daa, a Mi Remix by George Kranz and Seventeen Years by Ratatat. They began badly when she singled her double Lutz and then messed up the landing on the throw triple loop. They received only the base value for their Level 2 pair combination spin. However their lift was Level 4 and +0.50. The catch on their Level 3 double twist was flawed and they were penalized with -0.18. Only four of the 21 pairs did a Level 3 twist. For Takahashi & Tran it was a good decision to attempt the extra difficulty because, although they had a minus GoE, that was wiped out by the difference in base values between Level 2 (3.50) and Level 3 (4.0).

Takahashi, who is from Chiba, turned 17 on January 1. She sought out famed Canadian coach Richard Gauthier when he was in the Far East for a competition and asked him to find her a partner. Gauthier came up with Tran, who is from Regina, Saskatchewan, and they now train with him in Montreal. They finished 15th in their first season together in this event last year.

9. 45.94 (27.50+18.44) Brynn Carman & Chris Knierim, skating 8th to Czardas by Monti in very colorful outfits which were very appropriate for this music, paired up in 2006 and were the 2008 US Novice champions. This season they were runners-up for the US Junior title. They train in Colorado Springs with Dalilah Sappenfield. Although Carman is only 14, Knierim is 21 and so this is their last season of junior eligibility. They began with their Level 4 spirals, earning +0.20 GoE. Their double twist was Level 2 got a very small negative 0.08 GoE. Their throw double loop earned +0.30 over the base value. But their low double Lutzes got -0.12 taken off the base value. (This was much better than at nationals where they had synchronized falls on this move.) Their flying change foot combination spin was Level 3 but -0.24. However, their Lift was Level 4 and +0.50, and their level 3 death spiral gained +0.14. They concluded with their Level 4 pair combination spin which earned an extra +0.30. Their marks were a seasonís best (ISU) score.

10. 44.94 (27.74+17.20) Duo Chen & Yu Goa from China are a new partnership. Gao formerly skated with Narumi Takahashi. This is the same girl, who is currently competing with Mervin Tran, a Canadian, in this event. Takahashi is Japanese but moved to China. She and Goa only competed within China. Goa and Chen have only competed at one international before this event, finishing sixth in the Mexico City JrGP this season. Chen turned 14 on January 14. Goa is 16. They had two negative GoEs, -1.40 on the throw triple loop and -0.18 on their flying change foot combination spins. They earned two Level 4s, for their pair combination spin and their spirals. Their other levels were 3 except for the twist which was Level 1.

11. 44.60 (44.60+26.60 -2) Anastasia Martiusheva & Alexei Rogonov are the Russian Junior champions who placed fourth in the JrGP Final. Skating 15th, they performed to Horobushko by Bond. They began well with a Level 4 death spiral but then she fell on a transition step. She quickly got up and continued. He was watching her and slowed down, waiting for her to catch him up. He tried the Lutz when they were supposed to do it but singled it. She did the double Lutz slightly later. They were the only couple to get credit for a Level 4 double twist, which earned +0.10 over the base value. But, on the throw triple loop she fell again. Their change foot combination spins and their spirals were only Level 2. The first earned +0.40 over the base value, the spirals +0.30. Their final move was a Level 4 +0.20 pair combination spin. Martiusheva turns 14 on March 3 but her partner will be 21 on June 6 and therefore is 24 days too old for next season.

12. 44.36 (25.92+18.44) Skating last (21st), Maria Sergejeva & Ilja Glebov, Estonia, who were 14th in the recent European championship, would be lying higher if they had not completely messed up their death spiral gaining no marks for this move. The judges did give them the fourth highest component score. They are competing in their third world junior championship, finishing seventh and sixth in the last two years. This is their last season of eligibility. She is only 16 but he is 21.

Ice Dance - Free Dance

Pupils of Igor Shpilband dominated the event with Madison Chock & Greg Zuerlein running away with gold by 10.40 points and Maia & Alex Shibutani rising to the occasion, an unexpected second. Madison & Keiffer Hubbell dropped from second to fourth but were only 0.46 behind the Russian bronze medalists, Ekaterina Riazanova & Jonathan Guerreiro. Canadians Kharis Ralph & Asher Hill made an excellent impression in fifth place. It was nice to see the 2006 & 2007 world champion Albena Denkova, who is the President of the Bulgarian Association presenting flowers to the medalists.

1. Overall 172.55; 1. FD 82.11 (42.80+39.31) Madison Chock & Greg Zuerlein said they were overwhelmed with the victory, and with the honor of closing the Gala on Sunday where they presented a very professional, sexy number to Aerosmithís Come Together & Cryiní. As an encore they performed part of their OD to Dancing Fool. Chock gushed after they were presented with their gold medals, "It feels so good. Weíve worked so hard. I think it was a very good performance for us. We connected very well with each other starting from actually the beginning of the day. We kind of got our heads together and focused on what we had to do. It came through and it was solid. We just wanted to try to give our best performance to show what this dance can really do. Igor (who won this title in 1983 and silver in 1982) & Marina (Zueva) are wonderful, wonderful coaches and we wouldnít be where we are without them. Theyíre just amazing. They push us to be the very best we can be every day. They are so supportive, no matter what we do. We donít think of the Shibutanis as rivals. Weíre training mates and good friends. Itís just nice to be able to go the rink and have such high caliber skaters all around us. Itís a good environment. We havenít really discussed with our coaches yet whether or not weíre moving up to seniors next season. It would be a big step and lots of even harder training is involved. Obviously, this is junior and senior is a big jump. Itís very different. Weíve very aware of how different it is because we train in Canton (Michigan) alongside Meryl Davis & Charlie White and Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir. But Iíd like to think going into it, no matter what, weíll be ready whenever we choose to move up to senior."

Her partner added, "Itís awesome. The Free Dance (set to Phantom of the Opera)

was definitely our best of all the segments. We just felt we connected well with each other and the audience." They drew to skate first of the top five couples who performed after the second ice resurfacing, beginning with their Level 4 combination spin which earned +0.60. Their diagonal steps were Level 3 and +0.80. The long lift was given +0.70 and both parts, the curve and the rotational, earned Level 4. Both their straight line lift and their twizzles were rewarded with Level 4 and +0.90. Their circular steps got Level 3 and a very good +1.20 GoE. Their final move was a Level 4 rotational lift which had +0.50 added to the base value. It was a very confident, well-rehearsed performance. They were dressed appropriately, she in cream and pink, he in black.

2. 162.15; 2. FD 80.34 (43.40+36.94) Skating 23rd, immediately after the Hubbells, Maia & Alex Shibutani got the highest technical score for their Free Dance (0.60 above Chock and Zuerlein) but the third highest components (1.14 behind the Russians who won bronze). Maia Shibutani said, "We are really very excited, because this is our first year on the international scene. Weíre happy with how we skated all week. Both Marina (Zueva) and Igor (Shpilband) are amazing. Itís a joy to train there, and they are very supportive. We havenít made any future plans because I think Iím actually too young to compete at the senior level. (She turned 14 on July 20.) Her brother added, "I think the both of us are able to take great pride when we go to competition. Marina and Igor always make sure that weíre well prepared and deal in a good way with a competition like this. I think we take as many positives as we can from it. Itís really great to have teams that are at your training rink that are working just as hard as you are. We are all going for the same goals. Itís a great support environment that we have in Canton, not just with Maddie and Greg but with all the other skaters who are at the rink. This year is a big step in itself for us. We had a lot of new experiences here."

They began their Cinema Paradiso free, for which they wore smoky purple outfits, with Level 3 diagonal steps which gained a huge 1.60 GoE. That was followed by three Level 4 elements, the twizzles (+0.90), a serpentine lift (+0.60) and a combination spin (+0.70).

Their circular steps were Level 3 and +0.80. Their last two moves gained Level 4, the straight line lift received +0.60, and the rotational "Shibutani" lift in which he is on one foot executing three turns while swinging her around, +1.0. As in the Original, three judges gave them the maximum +3 for this move. No other couple received even one +3. It was a lovely, beautifully presented routine.

3. 161.15; 3. FS 78.98 (40.90+38.08) Ekaterina Riazanova & Jonathan Guerreiro performed a tongue-in-cheek routine to the James Bond Theme and the title song from Golden Eye. She was dressed appropriately sexily in red with fake knee length boots but he had much too much flashy silver to be really imitating the fictional British spy. His mother, Svelana Liapina and her partner, Georgi Sur won bronze in 1984 and silver in 1985 in this event. She later went to Australia with the Torvill & Dean tour which was where Jonathan was born in 1991. Guerreiro, who moved to Russia in 2005, teamed up with Riazanova in 2006. He said, "We were overall happy with our performance. We went with the same thoughts towards the Free Dance as we did for the Original, just to make sure that we did everything that we had to do which was to skate well. We did have a few minor mistakes but overall we did a good job." They skated last. "As usual, we just tried to think about what we had to do. It was strange going out last, because, usually, we skate first. The last time we skated last was at Russian nationals where we didnít have our best performance. But we threw that out of our head and just made sure that we told ourselves this is a totally different competition, different competitors, everything different. We thought about doing everything just step by step and just showing everything weíve been working on since our last competition. We havenít really thought about next season yet. We definitely have the opportunity to still skate juniors next year. We have to think about that. I think going to the Olympics next year is a bit of a too big step for us, because at the moment we have so many good teams in Russia, and they are all mature skaters. For us even to be thinking about making the Olympics is over the top. Our best goal would be just to make sure that we skate our best at Junior Worlds if that is what we decide to do."

They skate close together but he looked a little bit tight. They began with Level 4 twizzles which earned +0.30 GoE, although one judge gave them -1. That was followed by Level 3, +1.0 serpentine steps. Their straight line lift was only Level 2 but it gained +0.70. Their combination spin (+0.80) and both parts of their long lift were Level 4 (+0.50). Their midline steps were Level 3 and +0.80. Their finishing element was a Level 4, +0.60 rotational lift.

4. 161.34; 4. FD 76.51 (40.40+36.11) Madison & Keiffer Hubbell have now been 6th, 5th & 4th in this event and there was no doubt they were disappointed by this gradual progression. Their technical score was only 0.40 behind the Russians but their component marks were 1.97 points lower. Itís as if the judges are saying, "We donít like brother and sister couples." As Madison says, "Iím not a little girl." It takes a lot more skill to lift and carry a partner of her stature. Skating immediately after Chock & Guerlein, to Sognami (Dream of Me) by A. Safina, they just didnít seem at ease. One spectator said they looked visibly nervous and hesititant. They began with three Level 4 moves. The twizzles earned +0.80 twizzles, the curve lift +0.50, and the straight line lift +0.60. Then came three Level 3 elements. The circular steps earned +0.80 but the serpentine lift, in which he nearly fell, was awarded only the base value. Their midline steps, however, were rewarded with a full point over the base value. They finished with a Level 4 combination spin which got +0.30.

5. 152.76; 5. FD 73.09 (39.90+33.19) Kharis Ralph & Asher Hill skated 20th, just before the last ice resurface. They have beautiful, deep kneebends and the skating was soft and smooth. Their music, St. James Infirmary, is a classic blues number and they did it justice. Ralph, who will turn 17 on April 22, explained, "At first, we were going to portray the five stages of grief but that was really hard to really get that over to the audience. It was a bit too ambitious. Instead, we toned it down a bit and settled for the story in which he treated her badly and leaves her. She dies of a broken heart. By the time he realizes he loves her, itís too late. Sheís dead in the Hospital. We were aiming for an old-fashioned southern look in the costumes." He turns 18 on March 3. They began with a Level 4 rotational lift which earned +0.60. Their Level 3 diagonal steps were given a full point over the base value. The Level 4 reverse rotational lift earned +0.50. The twizzles were Level 3 and 0.20. The Level 3 circular steps got +0.60. Their last two moves were Level 4. The combination spin earned +0.30 and the straight line lift +0.20. They train in Scarborough with Carol & Jon Lane and Juris Razgulajevs. Jon is a former British champion and Carol was a medalist in the British championships. Razgulajevs won this title in 1991 with Alla Stergiadu.

Like his fell Canadian, Paul Poirier, Hill is still doing singles as well as dance. "Iím used to it because Iíve been doing it for at least five years," said Hill. "Ever since my first nationals for menís, Iíve also done both. Itís double the fun, and double the stress." Ralph doesnít complain. "It can only make him stronger. This is our seventh year together." Hill, who began skating when he was three, said, "Sometimes, it can be really tough. When you first start skating, you love it. Then, as you start figure skating more and more, it gets harder and harder. Sometimes, you donít even want to get up in the morning. What keeps you going is your love of the sport. Thatís what has helped me keep going in both disciplines."

6. 150.21; 9. FD 69.47 (34.70+35.77 -1.0) Skating immediately after the Shibutanis, to a modern version of Sheherazade by Opera Babes, Ekaterina Pushkash, who will be 17 on May 27, & Dmitri Kiselev, who will be 20 on April 19, got off to a bad start. Dressed in harem pants, Pushkash fell on their first move, the synchronized twizzles. It was deemed Level 1 and they earned only 1.70 points for the element plus they had a compulsory one point deduction for the fall. That obviously affected them and she skated cautiously from there on. However, their next two elements earned Level 4. The combination spin was given +0.50 and their rotational lift +0.40. Their long lift got Level 2 for the straight line initial part and Level 4 for the curve. The GoE was +0.60. The circular steps were Level 2 and +0.80, the diagonal steps Level 3 and +0.40 and the curve lift Level 2 and +0.40. The Russian junior silver medalists, who train in Moscow, had been third on the compulsory and fifth in the original. While they received the 13th highest technical, they were given the fifth highest component scores. That put them ninth in the FD.

7. 149.50; 6. FD 72.20 (39.80+32.40) Karen Routhier, who turned 18 on February 11, & Eric Saucke-Lacelle, 19, from Sherbrooke, Quebec, skated to Cinema Paradiso sung in French. They are the Canadian Junior Champions. Last year, they finished 10th in this event. They earned +0.40 for both their Level 4 twizzles and Level 3 circular steps. Their straight line lift (+0.30), combination spin (+0.20) and both parts of the long lift (+0.50) received Level 4. The diagonal steps were Level 3 and +0.60 and their final move, the rotation lift Level 4 and +0.20.

8. 146.04; 10. FD 69.06 (36.10+32.96)`Lucy Mysliveckova & Matej Novak train in Prague. Their choreograph to the music End of Game from the show, Chess, was done by Margarita Drobiazko & Povilas Vanagas. Both just turned 19, Mysliveckova on December 12 and Novak on November 6. This was their fourth World Juniors and they have been gradually working their way up. They were 19th in 2006, 18th in 2007 and 12th last year. They have been runners-up for the Czech senior title twice. Their first three elements received Level 4 with the curve lift gaining +0.70, the combination spin +0.50 and the serpentine lift +0.40, but the remaining elements were one Level 3 with +0.40 for their circular steps, and the rest Level 2 with the twizzles, in which she wobbled off-balance, getting a -0.70, the midline steps +0.20 and the straight line lift +0.40.

9. 145.61; 8. FD 70.13 (38.40+31.73) Lorenzo Alessandrini & Simone Vaturi are the Italian Junior Champions. They are from Milan and performed to Schindlerís List. He is following in the tracing of his elder brother, Andrea, was 24th in the 2006 world championships. They gained four Level 4s (for their combination spin and rotational lift, which both received +0.50 GoE, for their serpentine lift (+0.40) and their last element the straight line steps (+0.30). Their circular steps were Level 3 and +0.80 GoE. However, their twizzles were Level 2 (+0.30) as was their diagonal steps (+0.40).

10. 145.17; FD 7. 71.24 (38.90+32.34) Terra Findlay & Benoit Richaud, who performed to music from The Mission, are an international couple. She is Canadian and previously competed in pairs in World Juniors, placing 10th in 2004. She switched to ice dance finishing 8th and then 7th in the Canadian senior championships with Liam Dougherty. She teamed up with Richaud in 2007 and moved to Lyon to train with Muriel Zazoui, the coach who produced the current world champions, Isabelle Delobel & Olivier Schoenfelder. Richaud, who has a very interesting split move in his repertoire, had previously competed in Worlds Juniors, with Elodie Brouiller placing 13th in 2006 and 7th in 2007. In their first season together, Findlay and Richaud gained third place in the French senior championships (in the absence of Delobel & Schoenfelder) and were 19th in the European championships. Five of their elements in the FD in Sofia were Level 4 with the combination spin gaining +0.40, the straight line lift +0.60, the serpentine lift +0.50 and the rotational lift +0.30 but, even though their twizzles got a 4, there was disagreement over their execution. Two judges thought they were fine and worthy of the base value but three thought they made a major error and punched in -2. The resulting GoE was -0.70. The remaining two elements were their diagonal steps, which were only Level 2 but earned +0.80 and the Level 3 +0.60 circular steps.

11. 138.86; 12. FD 65.29 (36.10+29.19) Marina Antipova & Artem Kudashev, who were eighth in the compulsory dance and 13th in the OD, are the third ranked Russians Juniors who from Togliatti in Samara, a city previously unknown to the majority of the skating family. They skated to a selection of soundtracks by Goran Bregovic, earning four Level 4s, a 3 and two 2s (for their circular steps which received their highest GoE of +1.0 and for their twizzles for which they got their only negative GoE of -0.80).

12. 138.38; 11. FD 65.52 (36.20+29.32) Tarrah Harvey & Keith Gagnon are the second ranked Junior Canadians. They performed to Cirque du Soleil. Although they got Level 4 for their twizzles (base value), and for both sections of their long lift, straight line and rotation (0.50) and final curve lift (+0.20), they were given three Level 3s, for their base level diagonal steps, base value combination spin, and for their +0.30 rotation lift. Their Level 2 circular steps also received only the base value.

13. 134.86; 14. FD 65.29 (36.10+29.19) Alisa Agafonova & Dmitri Dun from Kharkov, who have spent time with Igor Shpilband, are the current Ukrainians Junior champions. They skated to music fro Avrova, a Ukrainian movie. Since they were 7th in this event last year, this was a major disappointment for them. They got no marks at all for their final element, the rotational lift and had -0.20 taken off their Level 2 circular steps. They did get Level 4 (+0.10) for their twizzles which was their opening move, and for both parts of their long lift (base value), and for the combination spin (+0.30).

14. 124.32; 13. FD 62.79 (36.10+26.69) Xueting Guan & Meng Wang used Chinese music, Love in Campo by Dalin Liu, with extremely colorful Chinese costumes. This was far more interesting than their presentation last year when they were 19th skating to Carmen. They currently rank 3rd nationally. They are coached by Ge Gau in Shenyang, an important city in north-eastern China which had a history dating back two thousand years. They earned three Level 4s, two 3s and two 2s. Though they had started out in 15th place, they were only 25th in the OD.

15. 121.32; FD 15. 58.59 (34.20+24.39) Nikki Georgiadas & Graham Hockley are Canadians who are representing the country of her parentsí heritage. It was appropriate that they skated to Greek music, Santorini Sunset by Pavlo and two pieces from Aegean Rhapsody, Melancholia and Zorbaís Trance by V. Matoridis. They are trained by the same group of coaches as Crone & Poirier and Ralph & Hill. They opened with Level 2 midline steps which earned the base value. A Level 4 serpentine lift followed which was given an extra +0.20. Their Level 2 circular steps got +0.40. However, both their twizzles and straight line lift, though Level 3, had -0.40 taken off the respective base values. Their last two moves were good, a Level 4, +0.40 rotational lift and a Level 3, +0.30 combination spin which earned +0.30 over the base value.

18. 120.97; 22. FD 52.91 (29.50+25.41 -2.0) In her first ever international, Genevieve Deutch, an American who is the British Junior Champion with Evan Roberts, had one of those nightmare performances, falling twice. "I tried really hard to put the first fall behind me," the 18 year old from Newark, Delaware, said, "and just concentrate on the rest of the routine but it was impossible. My mind wouldnít let me forget. It definitely affected the rest of performance." They had been a respectable 14th in the other two sections but their free, set to Sarah Brightmanís Gothika and Fleur du Mal, was ranked only 22nd best and they dropped four places. It was quite an initiation by fire.

Ice Dancing - Original Dance

1. Combined CD & OD 90.44; OD 57.29 (TES 32.60 + PCS 24.69) The US Junior champions, Madison Chock & Greg Zuerlein, expanded their lead to a very significant 5.61. Skating 28th in outfits that appeared to be lovingly copied from a photo in a history book, they captured the spirit of the Charleston which was a radical, provocative dance executed by girls in shorter skirts than previous worn, who quickly got branded with a reputation of "fast". Most parents forbad their daughters to even try it. The dance became associated with those protesting Prohibition, which had made alcohol illegal. Eventually the dance did acquire the trappings of respectability.

Chock said, "Itís actually a lot of fun to do this era of 20s and 30s because Iíve always loved the Charleston and the outfits they had. Itís a lot of fun to interpret, kind of a crazy era. The feeling of the music is happy and free. They started a new style of dance. They were just messing around. Nothing was right or wrong, like previous dances. You just had fun doing the Charleston. We listened to a lot of music, a lot! And we changed our choice a lot. Weíre basically happy with our performance. It was solid for the most part. We just connected well with each other like we usually do. It really is fun to skate with Greg."

Zuerlein said, "This performance definitely ranks up there with our other best showings. It was definitely one of our top performances this season. But, obviously, there were a few parts that were shaky. I stumbled a little bit on a step, but, fortunately, that wasnít on an element." They began with their twizzles which earned Level 4 and +0.80 GoE. Their circular steps which followed got a huge +1.60 over the base value for Level 3. Both their straight line lift and spin were Level 4. The lift earned +0.90 and the spin +0.50. They finished with their non-touching steps which earned them an incredible 2 full points over the Level 4 base value. They scored two points ahead of their nearest rivals technically and 1.49 ahead on components.

2. 84.83; 3. OD 53.44 (30.50+22.94) Madison & Keiffer Hubbell, the 2008 US Junior champions who rank fourth at senior level, drew to skate relatively early, 24th immediately following Riazanova & Guerreiro who had given a dazzling performance which would eclipse the Americans in this section. The brother and sister were third in the Original, but held on to second place going into the Free. The Hubbells performed a Blues and Swing number to Mininie, the Moocher. He said, "Itís probably my personal favorite program. Itís just a ton of fun to skate. Iím kind of a gangster and she is Minnie, my lady of the night. Weíre happy to skate our best. It was a strong performance for us." His younger sibling explained, "Although itís a lot of fun to skate, this routine has given us some problems in competition. So we were pleased to skate clean tonight. It was a good way to leave the program because it will be our last time competing it. Thereís been a lot of discussion about us being not able to perform this sort of program because weíre brother and sister, but weíre comfortable with it. Weíre performers and we perform. Our coaches (Jaroslava Netchaeva and Juri Tchesnitchenko) do endless research and are always cutting music. Weíve watched a lot of movies from that period, learning how people moved." They began with two Level 4 moves, a +0.80 straight line lift and a +0.40 spin. Their midline, non-touching steps and the circular steps were both Level 3 but both earned an excellent +1.0 GoE. Their twizzles were Level 4 and +0.50.

3. 82.82; 2. OD 53.80 (30.60+23.20) The Russian Junior Champions, Ekaterina Riazanova & Jonathan Guerreiro, skating 21st, gave a very polished showing to a Slow Foxtrot to Louis Armstrong singing the romantic Cíest Si Bon (Itís So Good) and swing to Louis Primaís Sing, Sing, Sing. They began with very good Level 4 twizzles with a +0.80 GoE. Their midline, non-touching steps and the circular steps were Level 3 but earned, respectively, huge +1.0 and +1.20 GoEs. Their spin and rotational lift were Level 4 and got +0.50 and +0.30 over the respective base values. That put them a marginal 0.10 ahead of the Hubbells technically. They were 0.26 ahead on the component marks. However, overall they are 2.1 marks behind the Hubbells.

Riazanova & Guerreiro were asked what happened in the Paso Doble in which they were ranked only seventh. He laughed and said, "You should ask the judges about that. We didnít skate the Paso the best we could. We tried today not to think about that placing. Of course we were a bit unhappy about it, but what can we do? You canít think about placement. We tried just to make sure that today, we skated just as we have in training, the very best that we can. The place will come if do well. You canít focus on placing. That doesnít do any good. And, of course, you always feel when you come off the ice, that you could have done this better, or that better. Thatís how you get better. You learn from each competition. We had a different situation in Russia developing our routine for the Original. Our coach (Elena Kustarova) invited a choreographer to our rink to work with about six couples. She brought pieces of music and we all worked together with them to see what was best for us. Once it had been decided what was best for which couple, she came back and worked with us developing the actual routines. I think we will do that again next season. At first we didnít like the idea of doing the Slow Foxtrot because it was such old dance. But gradually we warmed up to the idea and now we really like it."

4. 81.81; 4. OD 52.10 (30.70+21.40) Maia & Alex Shibutani, who are the second ranked US juniors and are in their first season of international competition, moved up from fifth to fourth overtaking Pushkash & Kiselev. They now lie 1.04 ahead of these Russians. They choose to present Swing, set to a big band selection from Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day by Paul Englishby. Performing 29th, immediately following Chock and Guerlein, they opened with their non-touching midline steps, which received Level 3 and +1.20. Their next three moves were awarded Level 4 by the Technical Specialist. Their spin gained +0.50, their rotational lift +0.90 and their twizzles +0.50. Their diagonal steps were Level 3 and +0.80. The rotational lift was particularly impressive because he lifted her, and did the rotations on one foot. Three of the judges were moved to punch in the maximum GoE of +3. None of the other competitors received even one +3. Three other judges punched in +1 and the remaining three thought the move worthy of +2. In the computerís random draw, two of the +3s must have been discarded because the Shibutaniís GoE was "only" +0.90.

5. 80.74; 5. OD 50.30 (28.50+21.80) Ekaterina Pushkash & Dmitri Kiselev, who are the second ranked Russian Juniors, dropped from third after the compulsory. They drew to skate last of the 30 couples who qualified for this section and presented a Charleston to Unlucky Date by A. Tsfasman followed by Tiger Rag. As did the top skaters, these Russians received three Level 4s and two Level 3s, but their GoEs were lower. Their best elements were their +0.80 circular steps and the +0.60 straight line lift. Their twizzles earned only +0.30 and the midline steps +0.20 while their spin was penalized with a negative -0.20..

6. 79.67; 6. OD 49.58 (28.50+21.08) Skating 23rd, Kharis Ralph & Asher Hill, who were eighth in this event last year, performed a very enjoyable Slow Foxtrot set to George and Ira Gershwinís They Canít Take That Away From Me. They earned Level 4s for their initial move, a +0.50 rotational lift, and their final element, the +0.20 spin. The other three moves were Level 3. The diagonal steps earned the 2008 Canadian Junior champions their highest GoE, +0.80. Their mid-line steps were rewarded with +0.60, and their twizzles +0.30.

7. 77.30; 8. OD 48.06 (27.70+20.36) Karen Routhier & Eric Saucke-Lacelle, the current Canadian Junior champions who placed tenth in this event last year, performed 25th using music sung by Bette Middler, beginning with a Blues, PS I Love You, and then Jive to Stuff Like That There. They were very upset that they dropped a place and were only eighth in this section. She said, "We received more marks for this routine in other events and we skated it much better today. So we really donít understand whatís happened." They earned Level 4 for both their twizzles (+0.20) and their straight line lift (+0.10) and Level 3 for their midline non-touching steps (+1.00), diagonal steps (+0.20) and spin (+0.10).

8. 76.98; 7. OD 49.18 (29.20+19.98) Lucie Mysliveckova & Matej Novak, the Czech Republic

9. 75.48; 9. OD 47.67 (27.40+20.27) Lorenza Alessandrini & Simone Vaturi, Italy

10. 73.93; 10. OD 47.11 (28.00+19.11) Terra Findlay & Benoit Richaud, France

11. 73.57; 13. OD 45.00 (25.70+19.30) Marina Antipova & Artem Kudashev, Russia

12. 73.47; 11. OD 45.55 (25.80+19.75) Alisa Agafonova & Dmitri Dun, Ukraine

13. 72.86; 12. OD 45.33 (27.00+18.33) Tarrah Harvey & Keith Gagnon, Canada

14. 68.06; 14. OD 41.69 (24.60+17.09) Genevieve Deutch & Evan Roberts, GB

Ice Dancing - Compulsory Dance

US couples are lying first, second and fifth, with Russians third and Canadians fourth and sixth after the opening round of the World Junior Ice Dance Championship on Tuesday. It was a marathon event which ran for four hours. 33 couples from 24 countries executed and repeated twice 28 identical steps to a small selection of repeated music in front of extremely few spectators. This championship continues with the Original section on Thursday.

Compulsories are on the way out but 1980 Olympic champion Gennadi Karponosov, a long time US resident who is based in Aston, PA, says that compulsories are the basis of the sport and it will be a great mistake if they are eliminated. "Ask any coach and they will agree with me," he said. Karponosov, who won his gold in Lake Placid with his wife Natalia Linichuk, said even simple compulsories like the European Waltz, teach the very basics and the sport will suffer without them.

1. 33.15 (TES 17.92+PCS 15.23) Madison Chock, 16, & Greg Zuerlein, 20, the current US Junior champions, credited doing the Paso Doble all season, and winning all their events, for their first place after the opening round of the ice dance championship in Sofia, Tuesday. Coach Igor Shpilband interjected that the one exception was a loss in Lake Placid last summer at the beginning of the season, which had inspired them to work much harder on this compulsory. Chock said, "Weíve worked very hard on this dance all season. Weíve played around with the pattern to get more power and ice coverage. Itís all about speed. We go flat out. Itís like a marathon." Zuerlein agreed, "You are totally exhausted at the end." They won both their Junior Grand Prix events, in Italy and in Britain, and got gold in the Final. However, the Assistant Team Leader, who had drawn for them, picked 25th, immediately following an ice surface. "Weíre used to skating on rough ice," said Chock, who looked disappointed as they left the ice. In fact, they had skated better in practice in the early morning. When they left the ice, they had to wait over 40 minutes to discover that they not only had the best marks, it was by a significant 1.76. Since Zuerleinís birthday is in October, they will be eligible for juniors next year.

2. 31.39 (16.90+14.49) Madison Hubbell, who was competing on her 18th birthday, & her brother, Keiffer, who turned 20 on January 15, skated last. In an unusual choice, their outfits blended with each other but didnít match. She was in sexy, black chiffon and he in a straight Matador outfit. "We did my dress first and then we decided the manís outfit that looked best was all red (with gold) and just a bit of black Ė the tie and the boots." They did not appear upset at being eclipsed by their teammates. "Weíve only been doing the Paso for a few weeks," Madison Hubbell confessed. The Paso was drawn for this event over the Starlight Waltz at the European championship in January. Last year they were fifth in this event after placing sixth the year before. They took fourth place in the recent US Senior championship and were second in the Junior Grand Prix Final.

3. 30.44 (16.70+13.74) Ekaterina Pushkash, 16, & Dmitri Kiselev, 19, who are cousins whose mothers are sisters and who train with Alexander Svinin in Moscow, gave a smooth and solid performance to unexpectedly take third place. They are the second ranked Russian juniors and were fifth in the JrGP Final in Goyang City.

4. 30.09 (16.56+13.53) Kharis Ralph, who was born in Washington DC but now lives in Toronto, and Asher Hill were also in the Final finishing sixth. They are the 2008 Canadian Junior champions and were fifth at senior level this season. Ralph will be 17 on April 22 and Hill will turn 18 on March 19. They were pleased with their showing because the compulsory is considered their weakest area. "We like the Original and the Free, but the compulsories are hard," said Ralph, who sported very Spanish looking curls on her forehead. "They were done by Asherís mom. Last year she had my hair in African braids. They stay rigid with lots of gel which is good but I canít wait to wash off all the goo holding it together."

5. 29.71 (16.86+12.85) Maia Shibutani & her brother, Alex, skated 22nd. Maia said, "I thought we skated really well. It was a great start to the week. It was very exciting." Her brother added, "Itís great getting the first event out of the way. We did the best that we possibly could." Their coach, Igor Shpilband said, "Iím very proud of how they skated today. They have a very strong Paso. It was a great dance, very consistent, very correct. They had good intensity, good speed and good attack. As to the marks, they do seem low but the competition isnít finished yet so I canít comment on that." The Shibutanis were runners-up for the US Junior title in Cleveland and finished fourth in the Junior Grand Prix Final in South Korea. She is 14 and he 17. "We watched this event last year on the internet," said Alex Shibutani, "So we had an idea of how many people were in it and how high the standard was." His sister added, "The most weíve ever competed against before was 18." When asked what they would be with the day between compulsories and the original and whether they would go sightseeing, Alex laughed and said he was so exhausted, heíd spend it sleeping!"

6. 29.24 (16.08+13.16) Karen Routhier & Eric Saucke-Lacelle, the Canadian Junior Champions, skated 27th and gave a promising showing. They were 10th in this event last year.

7. 29.02 (15.18+13.84) Ekaterina Riazanova & Jonathan Guerreiro, from Moscow (although he was born in Australia), who were sixth last year and were bronze medalists at the JrGP Final were thoroughly disappointed with their marks. "There are two interpretations for the Paso. One is of a matador and the other is of the passion between a man and a woman. We are a very passionate couple and we were glad the Paso Doble was chosen because we like this dance. We feel we skated well and donít know why the marks were so low."

8. 28.57 (15.70+12.87) Marina Antipova, 16, & Artem Kudashev, 18, who were third in the Russian junior championships, and eighth in the Junior Grand Prix Final, have skated together since they were children. They are from Samara and train in Togliatti. They teamed up in 2001.

9. 27.92 (14.82+13.10) Alisa Agafonova, 18, & Dmitri Dun, 19, Ukraine, also date their partnership back to 2001. They qualified for the JrGP Final where they finished seventh and were seventh in the 2008 world junior championships so this placing is extremely disappointing for them.

10. 27.81 (15.81+12.01) Lorenza Alessandrini, 18, & Simone Vaturi, 20, are the Italian Junior champions, who are making their debut in this event.

11. 27.80 (14.96+12.84) Lucie Mysliveckova & Matej Novak, both 19 from the Czech Republic, are competing in this event for the fourth straight year. They have finished 19th, 18th and 12th.

12. 27.53 (15.58+11.95) Tarrah Harvey & Keith Gagnon, from Vancouver, skated 17th, first after an ice resurface. They were runners-up for the Canadian junior title and are making their debut in this event.

13. 26.82 (14.56+12.26) Terra Findlay, a Canadian now skating for France, & Benoit Richard, who rank third in France and were 19th in the recent European championships, were very disappointed with their marks and placing.

14. 26.37 (15.50+10.87) Genevieve Deutch and Evan Roberts, Great Britain, were making their international debut together, although Roberts had skated in one international representing the United States with Lindsay Cohen. Roberts was born and bred in the United States, as is Deutch, but his father is British, and they decided to skate for that country. After a very slow start, with the British Association taking an excessive time to take advantage of this situation, they seem finally at the beginning of a successful international career.

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