U.S. men sweep at Junior Grand Prix
Ladies finish 1-2 at Junior Final
|Evan Bates (middle left) and Emily Samuelson (middle right) sit with their coaches after their free skate at the Junior Grand Prix Final. (Sara Kastner)|
Led by Adam Rippon , the U.S men swept the podium, which was a first in the history of the Junior Grand Prix Final. The U.S. swept the ladies podium last year at the Final. Brandon Mroz and Armin Mahbanoozadeh came in second and third. This year, newcomers Mirai Nagasu and Rachael Flatt finished 1-2 in the ladies event, while Emily Samuelson and Evan Bates claimed the ice dancing silver medal, just like they did last year.
Rippon gave an inspiring performance to "Moonlight Sonata" and hit seven triples including a triple flip-triple toe loop, as well as high level spins. The 18-year-old scored 134.77 points and improved his previous personal best of 123.20. He won clearly with 203.20 points overall.
"I think that the biggest thing that has helped me to skate so much better this year is my coach, Nikolai Morozov. I've been training a lot better, I've been working a lot harder and I feel that it's really paying off," Rippon said. "I think I brought my skating to a different level this year. I would say my performances here were a little bit shaky, just because I was nervous that it was my first Final. I know that I can do everything in the programs just a little bit better and not so cautiously."
Mroz had bad luck when the music staff accidentally switched on, of all things, Rippon's "Moonlight Sonata" instead of his "King of the Forest" by Edvin Marton. Maybe this affected his concentration, although he wouldn't blame the technical staff. Mroz put down his hand on the triple Axel and stepped out of his triple Lutz-triple toe loop combination, but he made no other major error. So it was the second silver medal for the 16-year-old in this event, leaving him a little disappointed.
"My performance was good. It's not one of the better ones I've had this year," Mroz said. "Obviously at my other Junior Grand Prix, my programs were a little more solid. My short was a step better for me as it was a personal best, but my long was a little bit of a disappointment today."
Like Rippon, Mahbanoozadeh competed in his first Junior Grand Prix Final and turned in a solid skate to Spartacus. He completed seven clean triple jumps, including a triple Lutz-triple toe loop combination, and got a level four for his three spins and a level three for both step sequences. The 16-year-old moved up from fourth to third at 182.04 with the performance.
"I came into this competition with no expectations other than just to skate my best. Today was a new personal best, and I skated really well, but I plan to work on my program components for nationals", the reigning U.S. novice champion said.
Doug Razzano moved up from seventh to fourth with 174.71 points. He reeled off seven triples, including a triple Axel-triple toe loop combination. Jinlin Guan of China landed five triple jumps but tired in the second half of his performance and doubled a Lutz and a Salchow to slip from third to fifth (174.62 points); Austin Kanallakan finished sixth.
Mirai Nagasu and Rachael Flatt added a gold and a silver to the Americans' medal haul. Japan's only entry, Yuki Nishino, captured the bronze. Nagasu skated to "Coppelia" and interpreted the music and the choreography very well. The world junior silver medalist landed three good triples, including two Lutzes, but struggled with her triple flip today. One was downgraded, and so was a triple toe loop later in the routine. The errors cost her valuable points, and Nagasu fnished second to Flatt in the long program. Her lead after the short program proved to be enough, though, to hold onto the gold medal.
"I was really scared going into the long program, but after my music started, I knew what I had to do," said Flatt. "I really had to fight out there today."
Flatt had the best performance of her career so far, as she said herself. She was the only one to produce a triple Lutz-triple toe loop combination, and this time it was recognized by the Technical Panel.
"I just went out there to skate my best, and that's exactly what I did. I tried to attack it a little bit more, and it really worked out for me today."
Kristine Musademba of the U.S. produced three clean triples to come in fourth at 143.80 points. Jenni Vähämaa of Finland made a few errors and came in fifth (130.50 points). Alexe Gilles finished sixth, while Chrissy Hughes fell five times and dropped to eighth (101.10 points).
Samuelson and Bates had hoped to win the gold after taking the silver medal last year, but it wasn't meant to be this time. The Americans skated really well in their beautiful free dance to "Luna" by Alessandra Safina and got all level fours for their elements. They pulled up from third to second.
"It was a great competition for us. I think we skated really well in all three performances, and we really had a lot of fun out there, which is basically what we come here to do," Samuelson said. "This [program] is a new style for us. It's 'Luna' by Alessandra Safina, and our coaches found it a couple of years ago but waited for us to actually mature to the music. I really enjoy this program," she continued.
Russia's Maria Monko and Ilia Tkachenko were also very strong and won the gold medal. Their lifts, spins, footwork and twizzles were all graded level four as well, and the couple won the free dance thanks to their slightly higher component marks.
The bronze went to Kristina Gorshkova and Vitali Butikov of Russia, who skated to "Total Eclipse of the Heart". Vanessa Crone and Paul Poirier of Canada finished fourth, skating to an expressive Tango named "A Los Amigos". Madison Chock and Greg Zuerlein of the U.S. finished fifth with their West Side Story dance.