Ice Network

China's Yu, Jin repeat as world junior champs

Séguin, Bilodeau claim silver medal; Fedorova, Miroshkin place third
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The pairs medalists pose in the press area (L-R): Silver medalists Julianne Séguin and Charlie Bilodeau of Canada, gold medalists Xiaoyu Yu and Yang Jin of China and bronze medalists Lina Fedorova and Maxim Miroshkin of Russia. -Klaus-Reinhold Kany

Returning to the junior ranks proved worthwhile for Chinese pair Xiaoyu Yu and Yang Jin, who defended their title at the 2015 World Junior Figure Skating Championships in a close decision over Canadians Julianne Séguin and Charlie Bilodeau.

Skating to the romantic music of "Humility and Love" from soundtrack of the Chinese film Creation, almost all of Yu and Jin's elements worked well. Their triple twist was safely landed, their side-by-side triple toe loops were clean and landed in good unison, and their sequence of two double Axels was excellent.

Their best element was a huge throw triple loop, which three of the nine judges rewarded with a Grade of Execution (GOE) of +3. The two lifts were fast and difficult. Their components had an average level of 7.3, and they earned 178.79 points.

"I think we had a good performance technically; the elements were solid," Jin said. "This was good, especially considering that we didn't have much time to prepare the junior program. We skated in senior competitions all season, so we are pleased we were able to show a good level today."

Asked if they plan quad elements in the future, Jin replied: "We worked on the throw quad Salchow in 2013 and we landed it three times, but during the training my partner got injured and we stopped training it. Maybe in the future we will work on it again."

Séguin and Bilodeau also gave a very strong performance, but had to settle for silver with 176.32 points. They used two music pieces by Peter Gabriel -- "Wallflower" and "In Your Eyes" -- and skated with more speed than the Chinese, but with a bit less elegance. Their components averaged about 7.2.

The Canadians' side-by-side triple Salchows were dynamic and done in perfect unison, but the triple twist was shaky, with Séguin nearly landing on Bilodeau's shoulder. The two lifts and two throw triples were excellent.  

"We really felt great on the ice today," Bilodeau said. "We really focused on the performance and we did all the elements clean. We're really proud of that. We reached our season's best in the combination of the two programs, so we're happy about that as well. I think it's a good way to end our last junior competition."

About quads, he said: "We don't have time to start working on quads at the moment because we still have (senior) worlds coming in two weeks. After worlds, we'll start thinking about new tricks like throw quads -- probably the quad throw toe loop."

The remaining pairs lagged far behind the top two teams.

Russians Lina Fedorova and Maxim Miroshkin took the bronze medal with 154.33 points. Fedorova, not known as a strong jumper, fell on a downgraded triple toe loop as well as a double Axel. She also stumbled on a death spiral.

They also had excellent elements, including a high triple twist and side-by-side spins in the Biellmann position. The lifts and throw were very good as well.

"This was another step toward our senior career," Miroshkin said. "We'll try our best. We'll take it one thing at a time."

Like the top two pairs, they were asked if they planned quad elements in the future.

"We planned to work on the quad twist and tried it on the floor, but after a certain time it affected our triple twist, because the technique is a bit different," Miroshkin said. "I hope that one day we'll master it. Lina is light and I can throw her high."

Another Russian pair, Anastasia Gubanova and Alexei Sintsov, placed fourth with 140.39 points.

U.S. junior champions Caitlin Fields and Ernie Utah Stevens, who train in Carmel, Indiana, under Serguei Zaitsev, moved up from seventh after the short program to place fifth with 138.62 points. They performed the fourth-best free skate.

Fields landed the triple twist a bit off-kilter, resulting in negative GOEs. Their throw triple loop was a bit shaky, and Stevens singled the second jump of an intended double Lutz-double toe loop. The two lifts, and the throw triple Salchow, were solid.

Fields and Stevens were teamed by Zaitsev in late August, after Stevens' former partner, Christina Zaitsev, suffered an injury. Their training was interrupted in December due to Fields' appendectomy.

"This was everything we have worked for the past six months," Fields said. "The placement is just a number; it does not matter. We skate for ourselves. At the end, we looked at each other and we knew that together we were finally home."   

"The throws were our best elements; my partner has such confidence," Stevens said. "It was the first time we did a triple twist (in competition). We did not try the side-by-side triple Salchows, because they are not ready yet for competition, but we definitely plan them for the next season, when we will age out of juniors and compete in seniors."

Chelsea Liu and Brian Johnson, who train in Aliso Viejo, California, under Jenni Meno and Todd Sand, dropped from fifth position after the short program to seventh overall with 133.97 points.

Skating to "Yellow River Concerto," Liu was off balance on the landing of the opening double Axel, but their second element, the triple twist, was very good. Liu fell on the triple throw loop and they had problems with two other elements, but the lifts were strong.   

"It was not our best, nor our worst, program of the season, but we can learn from it," Liu said. "It was our first junior worlds and we plan to stay in juniors next season and do better. The lifts and the twist are our highlights. We are certainly a bit disappointed, but mistakes happen."

The combined finish of Fields and Stevens, and Liu and Johnson, earned three spots for U.S. pairs at the 2016 World Junior Figure Skating Championships. China, Canada and Russia also earned three spots.