Ice Network

Weinberg, Fernandez rally for junior pairs gold

Components lift Weinstein, Simon to silver; Findley, Hale win bronze
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Joy Weinberg and Maximiliano Fernandez, who train in Ellenton, Florida, with Jim Peterson and Amanda Evora, rallied from a second-place finish in the short to win the free skate and take the gold by a slim 0.34-point margin. -Jay Adeff

Together less than nine months, Joy Weinberg and Maximiliano Fernandez walked out of the Xcel Energy Center on Wednesday afternoon the new U.S. junior pairs champions.

The Florida-based team, which was second after the short program, rallied with a healthy technical program that featured an opening triple twist and high-level lifts -- as well as an artistic edge -- while performing to the powerful ballet Le Corsaire.

Their score of 139.24 edged that of short program leaders Lindsay Weinstein and Jacob Simon by less than a point.

"We hit some new elements; the triple twist was pretty strong and the throw triple salchow was good," Weinberg said. "We made some little mistakes that lost us some points, but we are happy overall."

The only significant error came when Weinberg fell on a throw double loop halfway through the program.

"She hit me on the way up coming around, and I didn't get out of the way soon enough," Fernandez said. "But we rallied, kept the momentum going. It's a new partnership, and we look forward to better things ahead."

Their coach, Jim Peterson, stressed the importance of including challenging elements in the team's programs.

"Looking at the international scheme of things, we knew we had to have a triple twist because everyone in the world at the high levels is doing a triple twist -- even at the junior level," Peterson said. "It was important to put that in. In both programs, they hit it well. They also have a side-by-side double axel that they are going to be adding if they are selected for junior worlds.

"The goal, ultimately, is that this team needs to be competitive in a month and a half or two months, and that's where we are going to be pushing," Peterson continued. "I think they have what it takes."

Weinstein and Simon, performing their free skate to music from An American Tail, connected with the audience and finished with the event's top component marks.

On the technical side, however, they had trouble with their double axels and throw triple salchow.

"We know we can execute it a little bit better, but coming in first in the short and skating a strong program today was really good for them," coach Dalilah Sappenfield said.

Weinstein said that for this competition, the team stressed the presentation and components side.

"Every competition is something that we can learn from," Weinstein said. "I think we learned from this that we can focus on both our technical and our components. This time we were really focusing on our components, and I think we achieved our goals. Hopefully in the future, we can do everything to the best of our ability."

Another new team, Meiryla Findley and Austin Hale, earned the bronze medal with a score of 129.01. The skaters came together last summer simply by chance.

Hale went on a family vacation in Vancouver and decided to skate one day at a local rink. Findley, who lives nearby in Washington state and trains at the same rink Hale visited, wasn't planning on skating that particular day.

Fortunately, she changed her mind.

"I had my team jacket on from last year, and basically her mom and my dad started talking in the bleachers," said Hale, who won the junior bronze medal last year with Olivia Allan.

"I wasn't even expecting to start pairs," Findley said. "He actually messaged me on social network and asked me, 'Do you want to try out for pairs?' I was like, 'No, I like singles.' But then my coach now, Alexa Lunin, contacted my mom and talked to her. I just decided to come and have a tryout, and now I love pairs skating."

Claiming the pewter medal was the team of Madeleine Gallagher and Justin Highgate-Brutman with a score of 120.91.