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Grand Prix Final Junior Pairs

by Klaus-Reinhold Kany





(19 December 2022) The junior pairs competition had a mixed level. Two teams were good, but the four others had a lower level. Anastasia Golubeva & Hektor Giotopoulus Moore from Australia won the event with 181.37 points. Second at Junior Worlds 2022 this year, they had been invited to the senior Grand Prix Skate America and Finland. But they preferred to compete at the two Junior Grand Prix in Poland where they won gold medals twice. It is not allowed to compete in both series in the same season. They are coached in Australia by Russians Galina Pachin and husband Andrei Pachin.

They opened the short program to “Architect of the Mind” by American composer Kerry Muzzey, with a shaky triple twist, a relatively clean double Axel and a step-out on the triple throw toe loop. The other four elements were good, they had components of around 7.0, they collected 60.19 points and sat second. Golubeva, who was born in Moscow, commented, “I can skate better. Today it was not perfect but I tried. I want to show my maximum, to show what I do in training.” Giotopoulos Moore added, “Our feelings are a bit mixed. Overall of course we're happy - we're here and it's incredible. I'm not competing with other people, I'm competing with myself. We've actually been in Poland for the last 2 1/2 months since the Junior Grand Prix. We've been training in a town called Torun with a group of ice dancers and single skaters. We actually had a really good preparation and they treated us very, very well in Poland.”

Their free program to “Sing, Sing, Sing” by Louis Prima, to “Summer Time” by Ella Fitzgerald and to “Mr. Pinstripe Suit” by Big Bad Voodoo Daddy was clean. All ten elements were at least good, including an excellent combination of triple toe loop, another triple toe loop and a double toe loop which no other pair in the world has. The two triple throws (loop and Salchow) were outstanding, the throw Salchow even got one GOE of +5. The two lifts and the triple Salchow were very good as well, only the pair combination spin got the basic level, but GOEs between +1 and +4. Their components had an average of 7.3.

Golubeva stated, “I‘m actually very pleased today as I was able to put out my maximum. My idols are Aliona Savchenko and Bruno Massot. I really like the way they skate. We liked the atmosphere here in Turin, very good organization, people are taking this competition very seriously. I like the scenery and in general, Italy is a very beautiful and interesting country. We have a very long flight back to Australia.”

Giotopoulos Moore added, “We’re very, very happy. Ecstatic you could say. I think a little bit speechless too. This is the first time that we skated a free skating program clean in competition. We were nominated for two senior Grand Prix this season. Considering this is my last season to compete in juniors, we decided we’ll stay in juniors. My idols also are Savchenko and Massot. Our next competition is the Four Continents Championships in Colorado Springs.”

Skaters from the USA won the two other medals. Sophia Baram & Daniel Tioumentsev of Irvine, California took silver with 176.78 points. They are trained by Jenni Meno and Todd Sand on the same ice in Irvine, California, as Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier. The Juniors won the short program with 63.62 points after skating clean. Using the music “Bla, Bla, Bla, Cha, Cha Cha” by the Japanese girl group Petty Booka, their triple twist was excellent, the double Axel very good, the double throw Lutz O.K. and the four other elements - all with level 4 – at least good. Their components were around 6.8.

Tioumentsev explained, “I’m still a little bit speechless. The is our first Junior Grand Prix season. We went out there. We skated our best. We achieved all of our goals and I don’t think I could have asked for a better skate. Our idols are definitely Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier. I look up to them and they give me some inspiration and motivation to go out and do more and try my best. It motivates us every day and they give us some tips and help us through the season.”

Baram added, “I felt very happy after our fourth element just because the first three elements were important to us. We were fighting to get first place, of course. We do sometimes share the ice with Alexa & Brandon and when we do it's a huge motivation and a little bit hard because you need not to get in their way because they are the World Champions.”

In the free program to “Pilgrims on a Long Journey” by Canadian songwriter Coeur de Pirate, they did not make any big mistakes either, but some elements were not completely correct. After a good triple twist, his jump combination of triple Salchow and double Axel was a bit shaky, whereas she skated clean. She landed the triple throw loop a bit wobbly and their triple toe loop was a bit out of sync. The double throw Lutz was a bit shaky as well, but the two lifts were excellent and the other elements good. Their components were around 7.2. Baram said, “It felt really good. We reached our goal to do the throw triple loop in the Grand Prix and we felt good. This week the loop was the most consistent I've ever done.”

But they have a big age problem in the coming seasons. Enforced by the young age of Russian single skater Valieva at the Olympic Games, the ISU decided at its Congress in June 2022 to raise the age limit for female skaters to compete in seniors. Beginning from next season, female skaters have to be at least 16 years old on July 1 (beginning of the season) to be allowed to compete in seniors. And one year later they have to be at least 17. But Baram is 14 now and therefore will not be 16 on the coming July 1. Therefore she has to stay junior for at least two more seasons. But her partner Tioumentsev be will be 21 years old on July 1 next year and therefore will age out of juniors. Therefore the pair cannot compete at all for two seasons – except if the ISU changes the age rules again.

Fabio Bianchetti, head of the ISU single and pair skating committee, said in Turin, normally only the Congress can change such rules, but in an urgent case the Council can do it as well. The ISU will not change the age rules for girls again. This would cause a worldwide shitstorm because the pictures of the girl Valieva coming from the ice in Beijing and crying after a bad free program went around the world. The ISU might raise the age limit for junior men, but then the minimum age would have to be changed as well, Bianchetti said. Theoretically the ISU could change the age limit only for pair girls, but not for single girls, but this would be complicated. There are several pairs in the world who have this age problem. Tioumentsev explained, “It definitely kind of sucks. There’s nothing we can really do about it. We’re not really too focused on what’s ahead. We’re just focused on doing this season and trying our best and performing like it’s our last day. Other than that, it’s out of our hands.”

Cayla Smith & Andy Deng of Fort Wayne in Indiana, won the bronze medal with 150.51 points. They are coached by Alena and Alexander Lunin. Their triple twist in the short program was almost clean, their double Axel was excellent, the spin and the double throw flip soso. The other elements were clean and their components around 6.4. Smith said, “It was the first time we've done the triple twist in a competition, so I think it was not bad for a first time.”

In the free program, Smith had problems with the individual jumps and fell on the triple throw Salchow. The other elements were relatively clean. She commented, “I’m very excited about our placement and our medal. This whole experience is really cool especially since this is our first junior season. There are definitely things to improve on but really a great experience overall. Our idols are Sui Wenjing and Han Cong from China. I really like their style.”

Haruna Murakami & Sumitada Moriguchi from Japan are fourth with 149.03 points. They were alternates for Canadians Ava Rae Kemp & Yohnatan Elizarov who had to withdraw five days before traveling because she had a strained ligament in her foot. The Japanese pairs’ elements in the short were quite small and not perfectly clean. Twist and throw in the short program were double and the death spiral got no points because it was not correctly executed. But they are very good individual jumpers. In the free program, they had a good triple Lutz and a very good combination of triple Salchow, triple toe loop and double Axel.

Violetta Sierova & Ivan Khobta from the Ukraine finished on fifth place with 143.06 points. They left the Ukraine when the war started and now train in Chemnitz, Germany, after being in Sweden first, then in Italy. Their fathers are in the Ukraine, and her mother is with them in Germany. In the short program, their triple twist was excellent (in the free as well), but he aborted the lift. Double loop and double throw flip were good. In the free, they performed the triple throw loop for the first time in competition.

Chloe Panetta & Kieran Thrasher from Oakville, Canada ended up sixth with 130.89 points. They made four mistakes in the short program and two serious ones in the free program.