The U.S. sweeps the golds in Vienna
Flatt, Mroz, Samuelson and Bates come from behind for victory
|Brandon Mroz smiles for the camera here, but he was all business during his gold medal-winning free skate that he described as "phenomenal." (Kim Heim)|
The three U.S. winners had to rally in the final segment to earn their respective victories. Rachael Flatt was five points back of teammate Kristine Musademba -- both of whom were making their JGP debuts -- before she blew away the field in the free skate. Ice dancers Emily Samuelson and Evan Bates trailed Russians Maria Monko and Ilia Tkachenko by a slim margin before coming through with a title-clinching free dance. Not to be outdone, Brandon Mroz leapt over three competitors to win his second career JGP gold medal.
The only other country to have more than one medalist in Vienna was Russia. In addition to Monko and Tkachenko, who settled for the silver, Artem Borodulin secured the bronze in the men's competition after taking the lead after the short program.
Musademba had all base value or positive GOEs in her "Exodus" short program, and she received level fours for all but one of her spins. Flatt, meanwhile, had trouble with her triple Lutz-double toe combination, and two of her spins were marked level two.
The tide turned, however, in the free skate as Flatt skated her "Romantic Rhapsody" program cleanly. While her program component score (44.82) was only slightly better than that of Finland's Jenni Vahamaa (43.05) and Musademba (42.59), her technical element mark distinguished her from the field, as it was almost 17 points greater than that of any of her competitors. Despite falling on her triple flip, triple Salchow and double Axel, Musademba managed to hang on for the silver. Vahamaa, the 2007 World Junior Championships fourth-place finisher, took the bronze.
After a session of mostly sloppy short programs, Mroz was looking up at Borodulin, Sweden's Adrian Schultheiss and Jinlin Guan of China. Heading into the free skate, the top seven competitors were separated by less than four points. While Borodulin and Schultheiss faltered, Mroz and Guan rose to the occasion.
Skating first in the last group, Guan landed seven triples in his "Silk Road Journeys" free skate, including a triple Lutz-triple toe that netted him 10.38 points. He scored 127.96 points in the free skate and 183.64 overall.
Mroz, skating second to last, then went out and tore through his "King of the Forest" free skate, which featured a triple Lutz-triple toe (10.75 points), a triple flip-double toe-double loop combination (8.93 points) and level fours on all three spins.
"This was the toughest field I have ever competed against at a Junior Grand Prix," Mroz said following his victory. "It was a fluke that I missed my double Axel in the short, so I knew I had to focus all the way through my long program. I felt like I skated a phenomenal program."
Mroz bested Guan in the free skate, 130.64-127.96, and in the overall score, 185.33-183.64. Guan, who placed sixth at the 2007 World Junior Championships, took silver in Vienna, the third time in a row he has finished second at a JGP.
The ice dancing competition was a two-team race throughout, with each team winning one of the first two segments. Samuelson and Bates edged Monko and Tkachenko in the compulsory dance while the Russians snagged the lead after the original dance, in which the Americans suffered a fall during the serpentine step sequence.
Both teams skated impressively in the free dance, the difference lying in the total element scores, with the Americans amassing 44.15 points and the Russians 41.67. That nearly 2.5-point margin mirrored the gap in the overall standings, which showed the Americans winning, 171.84-169.23.
For Samuelson and Bates, it was their fourth straight gold medal at a JGP stop, not including their silver medal at the 2006 JGP Final. Monko and Tkachenko wound up second in their first JGP assignment together; both previously competed with other partners, with Tkachenko claiming the bronze medal at the junior worlds in 2005 with Anastasia Gorshkova.
Italy's Isabella Pajardi and Stefano Caruso finished a distant third.