Ice Network

Yu, Jin take control in short, in position to repeat

Séguin, Bilodeau close behind in second; Fedorova, Miroshkin sit third
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The pairs leaders after the short program (L-R): Julianne Séguin and Charlie Bilodeau (second), Xiaoyu Yu and Yang Jin (first), and Lina Fedorova and Maxim Miroshkin (third). -Klaus-Reinhold Kany

Reigning world junior pairs champions Xiaoyu Yu and Yang Jin of China stepped out to a 1.26-point lead after skating a clean short program at the 2015 World Junior Figure Skating Championships in Tallinn, Estonia, Wednesday.

The students of Olympic pairs champion Hongbo Zhao opened their program with the required side-by-side double Lutzes, followed by an excellent triple twist and a good throw triple loop. They skated with style and elegance, gaining high program component scores that ranged up to 7.2. The duo takes 62.58 points into the free skate.

This is Yu and Jin's first junior event of the season. They won two medals on the Grand Prix circuit and placed fifth at the 2014 Grand Prix Final in December.

"We are pleased with our performance today, especially since we haven't been training this short program and the double Lutzes," Jin said. "So, we think we skated well and we are satisfied."

"Coming back to junior from senior, we don't think that it is easier to skate in junior competitions, because the competitors here are very strong as well," he added.

Yu spoke about the team's music, the Aboriginal "Yulunga (Spirit Dance)" by Dead Can Dance.

"This short program music and choreography were given to us by David Wilson," she said. "I really like his choreography. I feel that this music is very interesting and suits us very well. It is the first time for us skating in this style and we really enjoy it."

Canadians Julianne Séguin and Charlie Bilodeau sit a bit more than a point behind the Chinese team with 61.32 points.

The students of Josée Picard, who train in the Montreal area, performed to the soundtrack of The Grand Budapest Hotel, which recently won the Oscar for best film soundtrack. They skated with relatively high speed but maintained their elegance. 

The opening triple twist was a bit shaky, with Séguin almost landing on Bilodeau's shoulders, but the other six elements were strong, and the lift was outstanding.

"We are very proud that we now use Oscar-winning music," Bilodeau said. "We reached 60 points, which was our goal, so we are happy about that.

"The music [selections] are very interesting for us, because they are completely different," he continued. "The short program is funnier, with my moustache. The long program (set to a Peter Gabriel medley) is for sure more romantic with the [emphasis on the] relationship between us."

Like the Chinese duo, the Canadian team competed as both juniors and seniors this season. They placed third at the Canadian championships and were nominated for the 2015 World Figure Skating Championships.

"Since the beginning of the season, we knew that we will compete in seniors at our nationals," Bilodeau said. "We prepared for this and put a third lift into our long program, which is required for seniors. It was more difficult to change the side-by-side jumps in the short program, because we needed to change the entry."

Russian silver medalists Lina Fedorova and Maxim Miroshkin sit third with 58.27 points. The skaters train in the school of Nina Mozer but mainly work with Vladislav Zhovnirsky.

Skating to Michael Bublé's "Feeling Good," they started with an outstanding triple twist, followed by a huge throw triple loop. Then, they had a bit of trouble.

Their side-by-side double Lutzes got an edge call from the technical panel. They are the only pair in the world to perform side-by-side spins, including the Biellmann positions, which are usually solid. This time, Miroshkin's entry into the spin was wobbly, although he performed the foot change. They did not perform with the same ease and elegance of the top two teams, and their program component score was a bit lower.

"It wasn't bad, but there were some small errors we need to work on," Fedorova said. "We'll skate better tomorrow."

Miroshkin discussed their music choice, and traveling to Canton, Michigan, for choreography.

"We were sitting together with Marina Zoueva and listened to music for three hours," he said. "At one point, she told us, 'You go back to the hotel and you have one hour to decide which music you want,' and she gave us a stack of CDs. By chance, I started to listen to music on Lina's phone, and I found 'Feeling Good,' and we both liked it right away."

Another Russian team, Anastasia Gubanova and Alexei Sintsov, sit fourth with 50.36 points. Gubanova's double Lutz was shaky and got an edge call, but otherwise their elements were clean.  

U.S. junior silver medalists Chelsea Liu and Brian Johnson of Alisa Viejo, California, placed fifth, earning 49.96 points for their Mary Poppins short. They were the only U.S. pair to qualify for the 2014 Junior Grand Prix Final.

After a good death spiral, the students of Jenni Meno and Todd Sand performed an excellent triple twist and a lift with difficult changes of position. Liu, however, had deep landings on both the double Lutz and throw triple loop, although she managed to land both elements on one foot.

"We are really happy with our performance today," Liu said. "We had a few little mistakes, but overall, it went well. This has been the best short program we did this season. It is our last competition of the season and it is good to end on a good program."

"We are happy that we did not have any major deductions or faults this time," Johnson said.  

U.S. junior champions Caitlin Fields and Ernie Utah Stevens sit seventh with 46.84 points. The students of Serguei Zaitsev opened with a good double twist, followed by an excellent triple throw loop. Fields singled the required double Lutz, and their side-by-side spins were a bit out of sync, but the other elements were good. Their good speed and strong style helped them earn the event's fourth-highest program components score.

"Obviously, today was not our best, but we have been skating so well in other competitions," Stevens said. "We had a good chemistry together."

"The Lutz was unfortunate, but we had good components," Fields said.