Ice Network

Torgashev sets new U.S. standard for junior men

Super Shum snags silver; Borromeo bags bronze; Krasnozhon medals
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In taking the title by almost 32 points, Andrew Torgashev set new U.S. championships junior men's scoring records for the free skate (149.63) and total score (225.24). -Jay Adeff

Andrew Torgashev had just set a new overall scoring record for a junior man at the U.S. championships, but he didn't know it until this reporter asked him about it.

"Well, I was not aware of that until now," the self-possessed 13-year-old said. "Setting a new standard is just incredible. I don't even have the words to explain it."

That's probably because of what his parents and coaches, former Soviet competitors Ilona Melnichenko and Artem Torgashev, have long told him: Don't worry about the score or what you're competitors are doing. That's our job.

"We don't think about setting records, or any other skaters," said Melnichenko, the 1987 world junior ice dance champion. "We focus on ourselves, and we just try to make him better, at his own pace."

Torgashev, who led the field by more than 10 points after the short program Wednesday at the 2015 U.S. Figure Skating Championships, hit two triple Lutzes and two triple flips in his free skate, set to Rodrigo's "Concierto de Aranjuez." He also hit an impressive double Axel-loop-triple Salchow sequence.

The young Floridian's skating skills were as impressive as his jumps. He delivered intricate choreography, done by Melnichenko and Scott Brown, with seeming ease. A Level 4 step sequence that included twizzles, leaps and kicks looked smooth, not flailing. His spins, too, impressed the judges and technical panel alike, and he earned 149.63 points for the free. When added to his short program score, Torgashev's 225.24 points eclipsed the standard set by Nathan Chen a year ago.

After placing fourth in novice last season, Andrew told his parents he wanted to compete as a junior in 2014-15. They said fine, with one condition: You have to work on your basic skating and speed, not just your jumps.

"We decided he needed to look like a junior man," Melnichenko said. "So, we worked a lot on his skating skills -- everything to make him big and strong -- to be competitive with the junior boys, because he is the youngest in the group (born May 29, 2001) and we want him to look big."

Torgashev's win here, along with his monster score, will likely make him part of the conversation when U.S. Figure Skating's International Committee Management Subcommittee sits down to decide the U.S. world junior team, to compete in Tallinn, Estonia, in early March.

The skater, who hit a triple flip-triple toe in his short program here, won't have a triple Axel by then, although it is planned for next season.

"If I go to junior worlds, that would be a great, great goal for me. That was my goal at the beginning of the season," Torgashev said. "But I probably won't have any time to learn any new jumps. After this season, I will be going full out learning the triple Axel and see what happens."

Torgashev was not the only junior man to skate lights out. Many others put out clean, or near-clean, free skates.

Californian Kevin Shum, third after the short, moved up to claim the silver medal with an impressive free skate that showed off his big, airy jumps. He opened with a triple flip-triple toe combination and a triple Lutz, and hit four other triples, including a triple Lutz combination. He ended the event with 193.36 points.

"There was just that one fall, on my last double Axel, that was kind of unfortunate," Shum said. "Aside from that, it was pretty strong. I'm glad I was able to complete all of my elements."

Shum's coach, Justin Dillon, and Karen Kwan-Oppegard choreographed his free skate to the soundtrack of Thor: The Dark World.

"I wanted to portray a kind of superhero -- masculine and strong," Shum said. "It's been a work in progress."

Dillon said no decision has been made on whether Shum will compete as a junior next season.

"Next season, we will work toward making Kevin an even stronger and more efficient athlete," Dillon said. "Our key words are: 'Be expressive, and aggressive.' I think he did that here, especially in the short program, and also during the free skate."

The bronze medal went to Paolo Borromeo, who stood second after the short. Skating to music from Don Juan, the 16-year-old Southern Californian landed five clean triples, including a double Axel-triple toe and triple Lutz-double toe combinations. His jump landings are notable for their impressive posture and flow, and he ended the event with 190.30 points.

"I'm so glad this was such a great competition," Borromeo said. "You really want to see everyone go out and skate their best, and for the most part, everyone did. We are all friends off the ice and competitors on the ice."

Borromeo, who is coached by a group including Rafael Arutunian, Derrick Delmore and Nadia Kanaeva, trains in Artesia, California. There, he shares the ice with two-time U.S. champion Ashley Wagner, two-time U.S. junior champion Nathan Chen and many other fine skaters.

"It's cool to train with skaters who are better than you," Borromeo said. "You can compare yourself (to them) and at the same time learn from what they are doing."

Texas-based Aleksei Krasnozhon, who placed fourth, was the only man in the event to execute a triple Axel, and he did two, the first in sequence with a triple flip. He also hit two triple Lutzes, the second in combination with an (under-rotated) triple toe. He placed second in the free skate with 129.70 points, and gained 190.22 points overall.

Krasnozhon, who was born in Moscow, competed for Russia internationally in 2013. His coach, Peter Cain, said he will be released by the Russian Skating Federation on July 1, and will then be available to compete for the U.S. on the Junior Grand Prix, should he be selected.

The youngster's Edvin Marton music -- and triple Axel-loop-triple flip sequence -- are reminiscent of 2006 Olympic champion Evgeni Plushenko, but the 14-year-old says he is his own man.

"I want to be myself," Krasnozhon said. "I just kind of stole Plushenko's music."

The skater and his mom moved to Texas a little over a year ago, and Krasnozhon feels right at home.

"I really like it in the U.S. I like to practice and train here, with my coaches," he said. "I really hope I can compete for the U.S. next season."

Cain said that Krasnozhon lands two different quads, loop and Salchow, in practice, but the youngster has other goals in mind, too.

"I think I also need to work on my skating skills," he said. "It's really stupid to just do jumps."