Mirai Nagasu and Adam Rippon winning the short programs on the first day of the Junior Grand Prix (JGP) final Friday in Gdansk, Poland.

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U.S. skaters dominate singles event

Nagasu, Rippon lead after first day

Doug Razzano (right) kept himself in position to still earn a medal.
Doug Razzano (right) kept himself in position to still earn a medal. (Sara Kastner)

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(12/07/2007) - The U.S. skaters put themselves in good position with Mirai Nagasu and Adam Rippon winning the short programs on the first day of the Junior Grand Prix (JGP) final Friday in Gdansk, Poland.

The Men's short program was an exciting competition with all eight men skating well, not one competitor fell. Rippon delivered a strong performance to "Toccata and Fugue" to move into the lead ahead of teammate Brandon Mroz . Rippon hit solid jumps, including a triple flip-triple toe and the required triple loop; he also got high levels on his spins. He posted a new personal best of 68.43 points. Mroz got a new personal best as well with 63.13 points. His jumps were solid as well, but he lost some points on the straight line steps that was graded a level one only.

"All the elements felt ok. The jumps felt a little off, but I practiced them so much that it didn't matter. So I was happy with how everything came out", Rippon said. "It's such an honor to be here, because there are so many skaters doing the Junior Grand Prix and only eight of them make it to the Final."

"It's totally different from any other competition that I've done, because it's so small, but everyone is so good. I didn't see anybody skate before me, but I heard the scores, and everybody's score was very good," Rippon added.

"It was awesome. It's great that I ended the competition like this," Mroz excitedly added. "What I've been aiming for was getting into the 60s. Today I exceeded that and got 63, so I'm pleased. I've been training great, so the long should not be a problem."

"This year I was fine going into the short program, I was relaxed and not too nervous, unlike last year when I was a little jittery about it being in the Junior Grand Prix Final, but this year it seems like the norm", he explained, referring to the fact that he returned to the Final.

China's Jinlin Guan finished third as his jumps were there, but he looked sloppy overall. Armin Mahbanoozadeh, Austin Kanallakan and Doug Razzano all kept their chances for a medal in the Final with solid skates.

Artur Gachinski of Russia was the only skater to risk a triple Axel and landed a triple Axel-double toeloop combination; he finished the day ranked fifth.

In spite of stumbling at the end of the flying sit spin, Mirai Nagasu earned a solid lead in the Ladies short program. The 14-year-old landed a triple Lutz-double toe, triple loop and double Axel, showing her excellent performance skills in her routine to "I Got Rhythm" by Georges Gershwin.

"I was just so excited, and then I forgot to think it through and I kind of stumbled on it", Nagasu said. "My goal is to skate my best, and I don't really care where I am placed. I think I skated my best, but there is always room for improvement, especially in the flying sit spin."

Yuki Nishino of Japan had a clean program and scored a new personal best. Rachael Flatt was the only lady to go for a triple-triple, but the back end of the combo Lutz-toe was downgraded.

"I think I skated really well and I'm really excited to skate in the Final this year. I can't tell you how much of experience this is for me", the 15-year-old commented.

She announced another triple-triple attempt for the free skating, while Kristine Musademba came in fourth with a good program and is less than two points away from a medal in Gdansk.

Chrissy Hughes fell on her triple loop and is ranked 6th. Alexe Gilles finally popped her loop and touched down on the triple Lutz. She also struggled with her flying sit spin and placed 7th.

Russia's Maria Monko/Ilia Tkachenko captured the lead in the Dance event thanks to convincing performances in both Compulsory and Original Dance (Cha Cha Congelado and Russian Dance). Kristina Gorshkova/Vitalij Butikov finished in a close second to their teammates, after performing a Greek Dance.

Emily Samuelson and Evan Bates were third in the Cha Cha, in large part because they appeared to be little stiff. In their typical OD to "Kalinka", the defending Junior Final silver medalists caught up a little. They were second in the OD and third overall.

"We're really happy with the way we skated today in the Compulsory and in the OD", Bates said. "It was a long day for us today, we've been up for a while, and we had to stay sharp to skate tonight," he continued. "We did a Russian dance three years ago for our Free Dance and we competed with it at our first Nationals. It was a great dance and it suited us, so this year for Folk we decided to go with it again, and we definitely enjoyed the program a lot", Samuelson said, referring to their choice of music.

Madison Chock and Greg Zuerlein started well into the Compulsory with a fourth-place, but then she stumbled at the end of the circular footwork and even fell on a transition step, causing them to slip from fourth to fifth. Canada's Vanessa Crone and Paul Poirier finished in fourth place, respectively.

Russia dominated the pairs event with their couples taking up the first three spots after the short program. Vera Bazarova and Juri Larionov gave a very smooth and elegant performance that included a double Axel and a throw triple loop. Ksenia Krasilnikova and Konstantin Bezmaternykh had equally strong jumps and throws, but left a few points on the ice in their side by side spin and in their straight line. Ekaterina Sheremetieva/Mikhail Kuznetsov also hit a throw triple toeloop, but went only for the double loop as their solo jump. Jessica Rose Paetsch and Jon Nuss came in fifth after both struggled with their double Axel, but they are less than three points away from the third-ranked team. Bianca Butler and Joseph Jacobse made no major error, but only risked a throw double toeloop, finishing seventh.