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Rippon takes men's gold at world juniors

American avenges last loss, at Bulgarian JGP in October 2007

Adam Rippon stole the show, finishing first in the free skate and overall.
Adam Rippon stole the show, finishing first in the free skate and overall. (Michelle Harvarth)

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By Klaus-Reinhold Kany, special to icenetwork.com
(02/28/2008) - The huge progress which Adam Rippon made this season was dramatically confirmed with a gold medal at the 2008 World Junior Figure Skating Championships in Sofia, Bulgaria.

The 18-year-old Rippon found himself in a familiar situation before Thursday's Men's free skate: leading an event in Sofia, with Artem Borodulin on his heels. In October 2007, Rippon led the Junior Grand Prix event in Bulgaria after the short program, only to lose out to the 18-year-old Russian after the free skate. Rippon avenged that loss on Thursday and continued his impressive winning streak -- the Hackensack, N.J., native hasn't lost since Borodulin out-skated him last October.

Clearly, Rippon's work with coach Nikolai Morozov has paid off. His presentation and step sequences have become classes better. So good, in fact, Rippon won the world juniors title without attempting a triple Axel or quad, jumps a few other skaters performed.

Rippon's free program, set to the classical music of Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata," wasn't perfect. Five of his triples were clean but a bit scratchy, and his triple toeloop in combination with the Lutz a bit shaky. Rippon received no points for landing a Salchow in sequence with a double Axel, because there were more than two steps in between the two jumps. But his three spins were graded L 4 and he received mostly +1 Grades of Execution from the judges. In the end, Rippon credited work done Morozov for his success.

"March 1 is my first anniversary with Nikolai," Rippon said. "I am very thankful for him. I turned my training around completely since."

Ripon also received a confidence boost from training with Morozov's other star pupils.

"Before, I had trained mainly with low-level skaters on the ice," he said. "[Under Nikolai's coaching], I skated with the world champion, Miki Ando, who even came to Sofia with me, and Daisuke Takahashi, who is second in the world. When I started, I felt inferior to them. Now I feel I belong in the same crowd of skaters."

Unlike the last time Rippon and Borodulin faced off in Sofia, the Russian came away with silver. He started his program with an excellent triple Axel, followed by six clean triples and a shaky toeloop. Borodulin scored 0.90 more points than Rippon for his elements, but he received 2.84 fewer points for the components.

"I am very happy that I did all my elements," Borodulin said afterward, "[especially] the triple Axel. I started to skate in Perm but then moved to Moscow. Tatiana Tarassova and my main coach, Elena Buianova, helped me to progress."

The bronze medal went to Jinlin Guan from China, who competed at the World Juniors for the fourth time. He was happy to have shown all 13 elements without mistake, including seven triples.

"This was the most important thing for me," he said, following a run where he scored 127.13 points.

Colorado Springs native Brandon Mroz finished fourth, missing a medal by 3.40 points, although he was the only skater to show two good triple Axels (plus five more clean triples and a step-out on the flip). But Mroz's components scored much lower and he suffered from a lack of sparkle and contact with the public.

Canadian Kevin Reynolds, the sixth-place finisher, was the only skater to land a clean quad (Salchow), but he fell on his attempted quad toeloop. Tommy Steenberg, of Fairfax, Va., ended up ninth. He fell on his triple Axel at the beginning and singled the first Lutz. But he pulled together and performed five clean triples, before a sloppy last combination.