Zhou dazzles to capture world junior crownAmerican climbs in standings to win gold; Loboda, Drozd hold dance lead
Thanks to a rousing free skate, Vincent Zhou rose from fifth place after the short program to capture the men's gold medal at the 2017 World Junior Figure Skating Championships. In the ice dance competition, Russia's Alla Loboda and Pavel Drozd hold a slim lead over Americans Rachel Parsons and Michael Parsons entering the free dance.
Performing to music from the Casablanca soundtrack, Zhou -- the 16-year-old who claimed silver at the 2017 U.S. Championships -- was stellar from start to finish. By reeling off a quadruple lutz, quad salchow-triple salchow and an additional quad salchow, as well as two triple axels and four triple jumps, the talented American earned a segment score of 179.24 points, a mark that surpassed his previous personal best by 34 points.
With an event total of 258.11, Zhou -- who received Level 4 grading for his footwork -- earned his place atop the podium.
"The gap between first and fifth after the short program wasn't that big, so I knew it wasn't anything I couldn't overcome," Zhou said. "I just took the free skate element by element. It feels great to come from behind and kind of top off the field like that."
Dmitri Aliev's free program -- which was set to Josh Groban's "Broken Vow" -- was highlighted by two triple axels and five clean triples. Though he stumbled badly on the quad toe, the Junior Grand Prix Final champion set a new personal best in the free skate with 163.83 points and placed third in the segment.
"It was a very hard, intense competition," said Aliev, who achieved 247.31 points to grab the silver medal. "I am glad that I was able to overcome my emotions. The last starting number is like torture for me, and today I was able to deal with it. So, I am very positive and very happy right now."
Alexander Samarin produced a quadruple toe-triple toe, quad toe and six triples -- including two axels -- to achieve 163.30 points in the free skate. He finished fourth in the segment, but his overall performance was enough to help him secure the bronze medal with 245.53 points.
"It was my fourth junior worlds and the first time I got onto the podium, but I cannot say that I am satisfied with this result," he said. "I will start from scratch at the senior level."
Alexander Petrov completed a strong showing by the Russian men by placing fourth overall with 243.47 points.
South Korea's Jun Hwan Cha, who stood in second place following the short program, fell on a quadruple salchow and dropped to fifth overall with 242.45 points. Defending champion Daniel Samohin moved up from 16th place after the short program to finish in sixth place with 232.63 points.
American Alex Krasnozhon remained in eighth place after coming in 10th in the free skate.
Loboda and Drozd edged the Parsons by just 0.30 points to take first place. Anastasia Skoptcova and Kirill Aleshin of Russia are third.
Dancing to "St. Louis Blues" and swing music, Loboda and Drozd collected a Level 4 for their twizzles, blues pattern and straight line lift, while their step sequence merited a Level 3. The Junior Grand Prix Final silver medalists improved their previous personal best by 0.01 points and finished with 67.59.
"We are so happy because we worked a lot after the Grand Prix Final, after our national championships, and today we were able to show our work, and we really enjoyed our program," Drozd said. "Today we lived in our music, and I think this is a positive thing."
The Parsons produced a strong performance to "A Little Party Killed Nobody" and "Born To Die," earning the same levels as the Russians. The JGP Final champions scored 67.29 points, just below their personal best.
"This has been a pretty good season for us so far. There has been a lot of improvement, and in the short dance we've been able to show the improvement we've made this season," Rachel Parsons said. "It is just a very good way to end the (junior) short dance competition."
Skoptcova and Aleshin's program to "At Last" and "Swing Baby" featured four Level 4 elements as well. The team from Moscow posted a new personal best of 63.38 points.
"We're happy that we were able to end the short dance on a high note," Aleshin told the press. "We've been working on the technical side and on the components. Everything we've worked on we were able to show, such as the levels and the speed."
Anastasia Shpilevaya and Grigory Smirnov of Russia are within striking distance of the podium after placing fourth in the short dance with 63.26 points. Sitting in fifth are Canada's Majorie Lajoie and Zachary Lagha, who are followed by Americans Christina Carreira and Anthony Ponomarenko.
Defending champions Lorraine McNamara and Quinn Carpenter find themselves in seventh place after making errors on their footwork.