Ice Network

Backloaded short propels Medvedeva to big lead

Top three ladies in Tallin identical to Junior Grand Prix Final medalists
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The leading ladies after the short program (L-R): Serafima Sakhanovich (second), Evgenia Medvedeva (first) and Wakaba Higuchi (third). -Tanja Flade

With the ladies short program in the books at the 2015 World Junior Figure Skating Championships in Tallinn, Estonia, the top three spots are a carbon copy of the results from the Junior Grand Prix (JGP) Final in December.

Russia's Evgenia Medvedeva, who won bronze at this event last season, earned 68.48 points and leads by 5.39 points. The 15-year-old pupil of Eteri Tutberidze began her Umbrellas of Cherbourg short program with an excellent Level 4 camel combination spin, followed by a very long step sequence that also gained Level 4. The judges rewarded both elements with several +2 Grades of Execution (GOEs).

Her three jumps were all in the second half, so each of the elements received a bonus of 10 percent. The double Axel was high and clean, triple flip-triple toe loop combination (with one arm above her head) was also good, but the triple Lutz out of steps looked a bit tight. Her closing layback spin was outstanding and, like her two other spins, gained Level 4.

Medvedeva's program component scores (PCS) averaged 7.3, reflecting her elegant style and beautiful arm movements.

"I am pleased with my performance for today," she said. "There were a few small errors that I have to work on and then everything will be as it should be. Overall, I am in a very positive mood now and I got the maximum from this performance."

As usual, reporters asked about the extraordinary number of high-level Russian ladies, and the competition between Medvedeva and Serafima Sakhanovich, who share the same coach.

"I am a good friend of Serafima because for us, [life on] the ice and life off the ice are very different," Medvedeva said. "Obviously, we are competitors on the ice, and I wouldn't say that we are weak. But off the ice, we spend time together and we relax together in between the practices."

Sakhanovich sits second with 63.09 points. She changed the sequence of her elements after she had some problems in practice. In her combination, she raised both arms over her head on the triple flip, but then stepped out of the triple toe loop. The triple Lutz was a bit wobbly, but everything else was solid.

She interpreted the Russian waltz My Sweet and Tender Beast quite convincingly, gaining an average PCS of 6.9. She did not, however, skate with the same elegance as Medvedeva.

"I am not very pleased with my performance as there was a serious mistake," Sakhanovich said. "Everything else I did well for myself -- all spins. But this error on the combination has been following me the whole season in the short program. I like to skate clean, but it doesn't always happen."

Despite skating relatively early in the competition, Wakaba Higuchi was the best of the three Japanese ladies in the short program and sits third. Her double Axel and triple Lutz were good, but she over-rotated the triple toe in her triple flip-triple toe combination. Her spins and steps gained Level 4, and she earned a personal-best 61.27 points.

"I am very happy that I am in third place now," she said. "I am glad that I have the same placement as in the [JGP] Final, and I'll try my best to be in the top three in the free skating as well."

The second Japanese skater, Kaori Sakamoto, is fourth with 58.72 points after performing a clean triple flip-triple toe combination. She did have an incorrect inside-edge take off during her triple Lutz.

Nicole Rajičová of Slovakia, 11th at the 2015 European Figure Skating Championships and 24th at the Sochi Olympic Winter Games, sits fifth after earning 57.15 points for a clean program. Another Japanese skater, Yuka Nagai, is sixth with 56.93 points.  

U.S. bronze medalist Karen Chen sits 12th with 51.64 points. She had planned to perform a triple loop-triple toe loop combination, but after a shaky loop, she could not add the toe loop. That cost her six or seven points. She landed her triple Lutz on one foot, but the element was under-rotated and a bit tight. Her spins were good, but her closing layback gained just Level 2.

Chen performed in an elegant style, and her interpretation of " Requiem for a Tower" by Clint Mansell was convincing. As a result, her components averaged about 6.4 points, which was good for the fifth-highest average of the event.

"I felt I was very nervous today, so not all my jumps happened as they were planned and went in practice," Chen, 15, said. "I am just hoping that I can attack in the free skate. My combination is new and I have not done it in competition, so the jump just did not happen the way I wanted. But I enjoyed myself and really tried to focus on the presentation."    

Tyler Pierce, who trains in Monument, Colorado, under Kori Ade and Rohene Ward, is 19th with 46.77 points. Skating to "Voices from the Forest" by Paul Spaeth, Pierce began her short with a combination of two triple toe loops, but she was unable to land the second jumps of the combination, which was also downgraded. Her double Axel was landed on one foot, but not perfectly clean, and her triple Lutz out of steps was passable. The spins and step sequence were good, and her components averaged around 5.6 points.

"It was not a very good short program today, but I am happy that I was able to fight for it," Pierce said. "I am also happy that I could return to this competition (she placed 14th last season.) I was out at the beginning of the season because of a hip injury.

"For the combination, I landed the first jump very slowly and did not have enough power to land the second jump," she continued. "I could have done better with my components and spins, something I will pay attention to for the long program. I will fight as hard as I can."

Tallinn tidbits: The two Canadian ladies, Selena Zhao (a former U.S. competitor) and Kim DeGuise Léveillée, placed 26th and 29th, respectively, after each missed several jumps. They did not qualify for the free skate, which includes only the top 24 skaters. As a result, Canada will have just four JGP ladies slots next season ... Forty-three ladies competed, which is more than the ISU had planned. Therefore, the technical minimum points which are required for entry at the World Junior Figure Skating Championships may be raised next season. For Tallinn, the required technical element score was 20 points in the short program and 35 in the free skate ... Rajičová, who was born in Garden City, New York, on Long Island, trains at Hackensack, New Jersey, under Nikoli Morozov and Igor Krokavec. Due to her many senior "B" competitions this season, she entered world juniors as the top-ranked lady in terms of ISU points. Prior to skating for Slovakia, she competed at the U.S. championships at the intermediate, novice and junior levels.