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Juniors make their move after JGP Final

Nagasu, Monko and Tkachenko make biggest jumps

Mirai Nagasu dusted the competition in Saint Paul.
Mirai Nagasu dusted the competition in Saint Paul. (Getty Images)

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By Todd Hinckley
(12/10/2007) - With the six events of the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating over, the juniors took center stage last week, as the best young skaters in the world met in Gdansk, Poland, for the Junior Grand Prix Final. Icenetwork.com's World Figure Skating Rankings saw other shifts, thanks to a few national championships that took place, but the big movers came from the JGP Final.

Ladies

There was one flip-flop inside the top ten, but the ladies rankings saw more shake-ups in the second half of the list. American Mirai Nagasu made the biggest move of the whole weekend, jumping up six spots to No. 13 after her gold-medal performance at the JGP Final. She lost the free skate to her teammate, Rachael Flatt, but Nagasu still took home the gold medal from Poland, capping off a dominating start to the 2007-08 season. The reigning U.S. junior champion will definitely be one of the favorites for the world junior championships. If she can improve upon her silver medal from the world juniors last year, the California native will be ready to prove her place among the world's best at the senior level.

The rest of the changes in the ladies rankings came from two national championships. Sarah Meier switched places with Canada's Joannie Rochette, moving up to the seventh spot after winning her fourth consecutive, and seventh overall, Swiss national championship.

There was a slight upset at the Finnish National Championships. Laura Lepistö took the gold medal, surging to the lead with an excellent free skate and moving to the brink of these rankings. Kiira Korpi fell short of this elusive title once again, taking the silver medal, and she remained at No. 16. Susanno Pöykiö dropped to fifteenth in the rankings after her bronze-medal finish. But, more importantly, she did not make Finland's European championship team and could fall further down this list as she will now miss some of the season's biggest events.

Men

There was not a whole lot of moving in the men's rankings this week. But, there was still some very big news at the top of the list. As expected, top-ranked Brian Joubert won the French National Championships in Megève in the French Alps, his sixth national title in a row. His winning score was the bigger news, though.

Joubert not only proved that he had gotten over the virus that kept him out of the Trophee Eric Bompard in November, but also that he still deserved his place atop the standings. His overall score at Skate Canada (213.62) was the lowest gold-medal score of the Grand Prix Series, but in Megève, he silenced any doubters with a 236.55-point total, higher than all the gold medal-winning scores from the Grand Prix season. Scores from national events tend to be inflated in comparison to ISU events, but Joubert's outing last weekend was still very significant.

The performance included an 86.66-point short program, one of the best of his career, in which he performed a flawless quadruple toe loop-triple toe loop combination, a triple Axel and a triple Lutz. The Frenchman may not be competing against his rivals in the Grand Prix Final in Turin, Italy, next week, but he still deserves his spot above them all for the time being.

The silver medalist from French nationals, Yannick Ponsero, crept back into the rankings at No. 20. His finish was just enough to keep American Adam Rippon, the gold medalist from the JPG Final, just out of the top 20. Rippon was very impressive in Gdansk. He won both segments convincingly, hitting seven triples in his free skate.

Rippon's teammate, Brandon Mroz did make a move in the rankings after his silver-medal performance in Poland. The St. Louis native moved up three spots to No. 13, but he missed an opportunity to advance even more. He skated well but was generally not as clean as Rippon. Both skaters will certainly be among the favorites at the world juniors.

Ice Dancing

Isabelle Delobel and Olivier Schoenfelder were the only top dance team to compete last week, and the couple remained at No. 2 after claiming their sixth straight French national title. Further down in the rankings, some juniors were making some noise.

Americans Emily Samuelson and Evan Bates barely broke into the top ten at No. 10. Their week in Poland still had to be a slight disappointment, as they won their second straight JGP Final silver medal.

Samuelson and Bates skated well, but they were simply outdone by Russia's Maria Monko and Ilia Tkachenko. The young couple has been skating together for roughly a year and a half now, and they have gotten better with each performance. They won the silver medal at JGP Austria, just behind Samuelson and Bates, earned the gold at JGP Great Britain, and dominated the field at the JGP Final with outstanding lifts, spins, twizzles and excellent footwork.

These two couples lead a strong crop of young dance teams, including Russia's Kristina Gorshkova and Vitali Butikov and Canada's Vanessa Crone and Paul Poirier, who entered the rankings at No. 19. They are all poised to make a big splash at the senior level soon.

Pairs

Russia's Vera Bazarova and Yuri Larionov again proved that they are the cream of the junior crop. The young couple that won the bronze medal this season at Skate America, their senior-level debut, moved up one spot to No. 7. They have already shown that they belong that high in the rankings and will be very difficult to beat at the world juniors.

Their main competition will come from compatriots Ksenia Krasilnikova and Konstantin Bezmaternikh, who moved up to the eleventh spot after finishing in second last weekend in Poland.

The top of the pairs rankings remained the same, as five of the top six teams prepared to face off at the Grand Prix Final in Turin.