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U.S., Russia and Italy take gold in Bulgaria

Americans only ones to medal in all three disciplines

Chrissy Hughes smiles with her coach, Darin Hosier, after her gold medal-winning free skate.
Chrissy Hughes smiles with her coach, Darin Hosier, after her gold medal-winning free skate. (Karen Terry)

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(10/06/2007) - The United States was the only country to medal in all three disciplines at the Junior Grand Prix Series event in Sofia, Bulgaria, taking home a gold and two silvers from the competition. Chrissy Hughes won the ladies gold for the second time in as many JGP starts this season, while Russian Artem Borodulin won the men's event and Italy's Isabella Pajardi and Stefano Caruso took top honors in ice dancing.

Ladies

Just as she did in her win at the JGP Romania, Hughes had to come from behind in the free skate to pull out the victory. In Miercurea Cuic, she sat third after the first segment, but a second-place free skate vaulted her to the top of the standings. In Sofia, she went from second in the short program to first in the free skate and, subsequently, first overall.

Hughes was more than six and a half points behind (50.72-44.04) the short program leader, Russia's Jana Smekhnova. Smekhnova was the only lady not to have a single negative Grade of Execution (GOE) in her short program. Her triple loop and triple Salchow-double toe loop combination netted her 5.63 and 5.80 points, respectively.

Skating first in the last group, Hughes whipped through her free skate, set to the popular "Concerto for Violin and Orchestra in D major" by E.W. Korngold, without a misstep, except for a fall on her triple loop. Her spiral sequence was graded a level four and received a whopping 1.5 GOE. Hughes also mixed in four triple jumps and came out with a segment score of 86.74.

With the win, Hughes clinched a spot in the Junior Grand Prix Final in Gdansk, Poland, on Dec. 6-9.

Satsuki Muramoto's free skate included a triple Salchow-double toe-double toe combination that earned the Japanese skater 6.97 points, making that element the high point-earner in the ladies free skate. Muramoto, third following the short program, looked like she might pull out the win, but popped an Axel late in her program. She finished second in the free skate and wound up with the silver.

Smekhnova didn't fare as well. Her triple toe, double Salchow and triple toe-double toe combination all received negative GOEs across the board. Her total segment score of 71.99 was fourth best, dropping her to third overall.

Men

The men's competition was a two-horse race between Borodulin and American Adam Rippon, who held a 64.41-62.83 lead after the short program. Both skaters had medaled at a JGP earlier this season; Rippon won gold in Romania and Borodulin took the bronze in Austria.

Skating first in the last group, Borodulin set the standard that none of the other skaters could match. He executed a completely clean program, receiving GOEs ranging from 0.0-0.88 and all level threes and fours on his spins. His free skate featured seven triple jumps, including a triple Lutz-triple toe combination and a triple flip-double toe-double loop combo. Borodulin's score of 127.84 was more than nine points better than his previous best (118.61 in Vienna last month).

Rippon was sailing along in his "Moonlight Sonata" free skate until he got to his triple Lutz-double toe-double loop combination, for which he received a negative GOE. After nailing his triple flip, he attempted a double Axel-triple Salchow combo, but his GOE for that element suffered when he struggled on the Salchow, sealing the title for Borodulin.

Rippon scored 123.26 for the free skate and 187.67 for the competition (exactly three points fewer than Borodulin) en route to the silver medal. Both men will compete at the JGP Final.

Canada's Jeremy Ten earned the bronze with a score of 170.38.

Ice Dancing

The ice dancing competition also came down to just two teams -- Pajardi and Caruso and the U.S.'s Shannon Wingle and Ryan Devereaux. In their other JGP appearances this season, the Italians came in third in Austria, while the Americans placed fifth in Estonia.

Wingle and Devereaux held a slim lead of just over half a point over the Italians after the compulsory dance. Pajardi and Caruso pulled almost even after the original dance, in which they edged the Americans, 50.15-49.65. Wingle and Devereaux's lead heading into the final segment was a mere .08 points.

Both teams performed their free dances expertly. The only element that differentiated the two teams was the circular step sequence. Both received level threes for that element, but the Italians were given a GOE of 0.86 while the Americans earned a 0.0. The 0.86 additional points, plus the slight advantage in the program component scores (34.30-33.74), gave Pajardi and Caruso the margin they needed to pull out the hard-fought win.

Coupled with their bronze in Austria, Pajardi and Caruso earned a spot at the JGP Final.

With a score of 142.56, Ukranians Anastasia Vykhodtseva and Alexei Shumski captured the bronze.