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Variety seen at top of podium in Estonia

Four different countries win gold in Tallinn

Blake Rosenthal finished second at the JGP Estonia behind Japan's Yuki Nishino.
Blake Rosenthal finished second at the JGP Estonia behind Japan's Yuki Nishino. (Michelle Harvath)

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(09/22/2007) - A different country was represented at the top of each of the four podiums at the Junior Grand Prix (JGP) Series event this week in Tallinn, Estonia. Jinlin Guan of China topped the men's field after finishing second last week in Vienna, Japan's Yuki Nishino (ladies) and the United States' Madison Chock and Greg Zuerlein (ice dancing) won their respective disciplines in their JGP debuts, while Russians Ekaterina Sheremetieva and Mikhail Kuznetsov made a triumphant return to the JGP circuit by winning the gold in pairs, their first JGP medal since they claimed the silver in Montreal in 2005.

Men

Guan finished runner-up in Austria to American Brandon Mroz, but he could not be denied in Estonia, winning both the short program and free skate en route to his fourth straight JGP medal and his first gold. Before this week, he had come in second in his three previous JGP appearances and fourth at the two before those. Guan's performance assured him a spot in the JGP Final, Dec. 6-9 in Gdansk, Poland.

He took a lead of more than seven points in the short program thanks in large part to a triple Lutz-triple toe combination and a triple loop, the Grades of Executions (GOEs) for which ranged from zero to two, and for which he garnered a combined 16.75 points. His free skate was almost as textbook, as he hit his triple Lutz-triple toe combo again (this time without a GOE less than one); his only slip-up was on his triple Salchow, which received all negative GOEs.

Russia's Artur Gachanski and China's Chao Yang took the silver and bronze, respectively. They finished 2-3 in the short program and reversed those finishes in the free skate.

Ladies

The ladies competition was the only one to conclude Friday. The outcome was very much in doubt following Thursday's short program, after which Nishino led the U.S.'s Blake Rosenthal by a little more than two points, but Nishino unleashed a hellacious free skate to win the gold going away.

Skating to a series of Tchaikovsky pieces, Nichino, who turned 14 on Sept. 10, attempted six triples and landed most of them (though not all cleanly). Though her protocol sheet is littered with negative GOEs, she did receive credit for a triple Salchow-double loop-double loop combination late in the program, an element that netted her 7.75 points. She also had two spins graded as level fours, including a layback that received plus-two GOEs from all but one judge.

Nishino's overall margin of victory over silver medalist Rosenthal was more than 16 points. Rosenthal finished just fourth in the free skate, in which she performed to "Rondo Capriccioso" by Camille Saint-Saens. She missed her opening combination jump, received all negative GOEs for her triple Salchow-double toe combination and failed to receive credit for a double Lutz-double toe-double loop combo. Still, Rosenthal did wind up on the podium in just the second JGP event of her career.

Hometown favorite Svetlana Issakova, a native of Tallinn, rebounded from placing sixth in the short program with the competition's second-best free skate and earned the bronze.

Ice Dancing

Observers would have thought that the American ice dancing team to reckon with in Estonia was Shannon Wingle and Ryan Devereaux, they of the two JGP appearances last season. It was Chock and Zuerlein, however, who stole the show, winning all three segments on their way to the gold in their first-ever international competition. Their margin of victory grew in each segment, from .68 in the compulsory dance to 2.28 in the original dance to 2.51 in the free dance.

For their "Dark Eyes" original dance, all of their elements were deemed either level three or four, the only team to accomplish that feat in that segment. They made themselves stand out again in the free dance, which was skated to "West Side Story", receiving just a single negative GOE. Only the Russian team of Tatiana Baturintseva and Ivan Volobuiev had that few negative GOEs, and they finished back in seventh.

Ukranians Alisa Agafonova and Dmitri Dun took the silver, and Canadians Joanna Lenko and Mitchell Islam edged the Czech Republic's Lucie Mysliveckova and Matej Novak for the bronze despite not finishing better than fourth in any one segment. This is Mitchell and Islam's second JGP medal this season, after a second-place finish in Lake Placid, N.Y.

Pairs

Sheremetieva and Kuznetsov were ahead of Canadians Amanda Velenosi and Mark Fernandez by the slimmest of margins after the short program, leading 47.47-47.36, but Velenosi and Fernandez had a tough time with their "Concerto En Fa" free skate. A fall on their opening combo set the tone for the rest of their program. Despite their difficulties, they still came away with the silver.

Sheremetieva and Kuznetsov hit a rough patch in the middle of their free skate, having their side-by-side triple loops downgraded to doubles and not receiving credit for the ensuing lift. Everything else around those elements was good, giving them their first-ever JGP gold medal.

The big movers were China's Yue Zhang and Lei Wang. Sitting seventh after the short program, Zhang & Wang won the free skate with a score of 81.85, a mark that was aided by a throw triple toe late in the program. Zhang and Wang moved all the way up to third to grab the bronze.