Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani." />

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Shibutanis skate away with gold in France

Musademba also wins gold, Mahbanoozadeh grabs silver

Coach Igor Shpilband poses with Alex Shibutani (left) and Maia Shibutani (right).
Coach Igor Shpilband poses with Alex Shibutani (left) and Maia Shibutani (right). (Kitty DeLio)

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By Mickey Brown, special to icenetwork.com
(08/30/2008) - The Washington Figure Skating Club had a very good week at the Junior Grand Prix Series event in Courchevel, France, as did the brother-and-sister ice dancing team of Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani.

Kristine Musademba and Armin Mahbanoozadeh, both members of the Washington FSC, won gold and silver in their respective events, while the Shibutanis skated away with the gold medal in their first international competition. The men's gold medal went to the Czech Republic's Michal Brezina.

Ladies

Leading by about 1.5 points after the short program, Musademba easily won the free skate, scoring 89.84 points to runner-up Becky Bereswill's 83.24. Skating to Handel's "The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba," Musademba opened with a triple Lutz-double toe combination and punctuated her program with a superb triple toe-double toe-double loop that netted her 7.98 points.

"It's an exciting experience because it's the first [Junior Grand prix event] I've ever won," Musademba said. "It gave me a really uplifting feeling."

This is Musademba's first career JGP gold medal. She won a silver last year in Vienna and had fourth-place finishes in Great Britain and at the JGP Final in Poland.

Bereswill's "Nessun Dorma" free skate didn't go quite as smoothly. She opened with a double Axel and then a triple Lutz-double loop, but midway through she fell on her triple flip and later performed a shaky double Axel-triple toe. While her program components score bested that of Musademba, 44.95-43.91, her jump miscues cost her dearly in the elements mark.

This is Bereswill's second international medal. She won the bronze as a senior last spring at the AEGON Challenge Cup in The Hague, Netherlands.

Canadian Diane Szmiett finished third in both segments to win the bronze, her first JGP medal in four tries. Her previous best placement came in 2006 when she finished sixth, also in Courchevel. Szmiett revealed some gorgeous spins but lacked consistency on her jumps.

The big surprise in ladies was the performance of Japan's Yuki Nishino, the prohibitive favorite heading into the competition. Nishino, who won the bronze medal at last year's JGP Final and finished fifth at the 2008 ISU World Junior Figure Skating Championships, came in 13th in both segments and placed 15th overall.

Men

Brezina, the 2007 Nebelhorn Trophy champion, took an almost three-point lead in the short program, an advantage he widened in the free skate. Skating to a Latin dance mix and a piece of music by the Danish percussion group Safri Duo, Brezina landed six triples, including an opening triple Axel-triple toe combination, for which he received a whopping 13.95 points. His spins and step sequence were all graded level three or higher.

This is Brezina's second JGP medal and his first gold. He won the silver last season at the JGP stop in Germany.

Mahbanoozadeh skated his "Dark Forest" short program solidly and methodically and followed it up with a similar performance of his The Mummy free skate. In fact, in the entire competition, he received a Grade of Execution other than +1, 0 and -1 from just one judge on one element. Save for a wobbly triple Lutz, Mahbanoozadeh landed all his jumps in the free skate, including a triple flip-triple toe combo. Two of his spins were graded Level 4 while the other was deemed Level 3. His free skate score of 112.18 was good for third behind Brezina's 119.59 and bronze medalist Florent Amodio's 113.39.

Mahbanoozadeh claimed his fourth JGP medal in as many tries and his first silver. He won gold last year in Lake Placid and bronze in Great Britain and at the JGP Final in Poland.

The Frenchman Amodio claimed his first JGP medal. His previous best finish was a fourth-place showing in 2006, also in Courchevel. He struggled a bit with his free skate, which includes music from The Mission and the songs "Rockin' Gypsies" by Willie and Lobo and "Bullfighter's Dream" by Ottmar Liebert, receiving negative GOEs on four jump elements. He made up for it in his presentation score, which was 55.42, second only to Brezina's 57.72.

The United States' other entrant in the men's event, Eliot Halverson, placed eighth.

Ice Dancing

Making their (some would say "long-awaited") international debut, the Shibutanis took command of the dance competition in the original dance portion, in which they scored 50.46 points, almost three more than runners-up Kharis Ralph and Asher Hill. The Shibutanis, the 2008 U.S. junior pewter medalists, raised the energy level in the Courchevel 1850 rink with the performance of their big band medley program.

"This is a new experience for us," Maia said. "It's our second event of the season [the Lake Placid Ice Dance Championships were the first], and we're having a lot of fun."

At Lake Placid, the Shibutanis won their original dance group and finished second by less than a point in their free dance group to reigning U.S. junior champions Madison Hubbell and Keiffer Hubbell.

That showing combined with this one have the Shibutanis feeling pretty good about themselves.

"Today's performance (in the original dance) gives us a big confidence boost," Alex said.

The Shibutanis continued to impress in the free dance, a segment in which they outscored Asher and Hill by nearly eight points. Five of the seven elements in their Cinema Paradiso program earned a level four, while their two step sequences garnered level threes. The Shibutanis were the only team to not receive a negative GOE from a single judge in both the original dance and free dance.

Ralph and Hill, the 2008 Canadian junior champions, earned their first JGP medal in Courchevel. They stood in fourth after the compulsories but finished second in each of the next two segments to take the silver.

The Czech Republic's Lucie Mysliveckova and Matej Novak had an even larger deficit to overcome, as they found themselves in sixth after the initial segment. A third-place finish in the original dance and a fourth-place showing in the free dance put them on the podium for the second time in their career. They took the silver last year in Sheffield.

Leaders after the compulsories, the French team of Terra Findlay and Benoit Richaud had two falls in the original dance and finished 11th in the segment. They came back with a third-place free dance but finished just off the podium in fourth.

The American team of Chloe Wolf and Rhys Ainsworth placed ninth in their first career international competition.