Press Release

208 skaters head to Bulgaria for World Juniors

Competition kicks off Tuesday

Madison Chock and Greg Zuerlein put an exclamation point on a career-defining junior season in Sofia.
Madison Chock and Greg Zuerlein put an exclamation point on a career-defining junior season in Sofia. (Paul Harvath)

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(02/22/2009) - The 2009 ISU World Junior Figure Skating Championships will open in Sofia, Bulgaria, on February 24. The World Junior Figure Skating Championships exist since 1978. In 1976 and 1977, the ISU held "Junior Figure Skating Championships." Sofia has hosted ISU World Junior Figure Skating Championships before in 2001 and 2008.

208 skaters from 50 ISU members have been entered for the Championships, which is a new record number of entries. No Qualifying Rounds will be skated. All skaters/couples will compete in the short program/compulsory/original dance, and the top 24 (20 in pairs) will proceed to the free skating.

Overview over the top contenders
The men's event promises a tough battle between several strong contenders. 2008 World Junior Champion Adam Rippon (USA) is back to defend his title. The American comes with a seasons best of 207.93 points from the Cup of Russia to Sofia. The strongest challenge should come from Florent Amodio (FRA) and Michal Brezina (CZE). Amodio won the SBS ISU Junior Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final in December, where he posted his seasons best of 199.58 points. Brezina took the gold medal in two Junior Grand Prix events earlier this season and then came in 10th at the 2009 European Figure Skating Championships (seasons best 192.48 points). Kevin Reynolds (CAN) will compete in his fourth consecutive ISU Junior World Championships and after finishing seventh, fifth and sixth in the past three years would like step on to the podium this time. With a seasons best of 204.89 points, this seems possible. However, these four top contenders also should watch out for strong competitors such as Denis Ten (KAZ/seasons best 188.07 points), Elladj Balde (CAN/seasons best 184.89) and Chao Yang (CHN/seasons best 183.47 points).

2007 World Junior Champion and 2008 World Junior silver medalist Caroline Zhang (USA) headlines the ladies field and is aiming for her third consecutive medal in the event. Zhang scored a seasons best of 171.22 points at the Four Continents Championships earlier this month. Ashley Wagner (USA), the 2007 World Junior bronze medalist, comes back to Junior Worlds after not competing in the event in 2008. She has a seasons best of 161.10 points from the NHK Trophy in December. Another member of the traditionally strong American team is Katrina Hacker (seasons best 139.46 points). The U.S. ladies swept the podium in 2007 and 2008, but some other contenders would like to end the successful streak. Alena Leonova (RUS) comes fresh from a strong debut at the European Championships, where she was ranked fourth. She achieved a seasons best of 145.93 points earlier this season at the Cup of Russia. Japan sends their new Junior Champion Haruka Imai (seasons best 145.00 points). Elene Gedevanishvili (GEO) wants to improve on her disappointing finish from the European Championships (seasons best 121.78 points). Other two watch include Oksana Gozeva (RUS/seasons best 142.24 points), Diane Szmiett (CAN/seasons best 131.46 points), Sarah Hecken (GER/seasons best 127.14 points) and Ivana Reitmayerova (SVK/seasons best 130.20 points). Singapore is represented for the first time at an ISU Championship with Anja Chong.

Reigning World Junior silver medalists and Junior Grand Prix Final Champions Lubov Iliushechkina and Nodari Maisuradze (RUS) are aiming to take home the top prize from Sofia. The Muscovites also finished fifth in their debut at the European Championships in January and travel with a seasons best of 153.43 points to Bulgaria. Iliushechkina and Maisuradze will be challenged by their teammates Anastasia Martiusheva and Alexei Rogonov (RUS/seasons best 151.10 points) and Junior Grand Prix Final silver medalists Yue Zhang and Lei Wang (CHN/seasons best 142.10 points). Other contenders include Ekaterina Sheremetieva and Mikhail Kuznetsov (RUS/seasons best 131.94 points), Narumi Takahashi and Mervin Tran (JPN/sesaons best 131.10 points), Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir (USA/seasons best 128.39 points) and Maria Sergejeva and Ilja Glebov (EST/seasons best 127.70 points).

The ice dance podium will consist of newcomers as no defending or former World Junior medalists are competing this time. Only couples from Russia and the USA have won the title since 1995, with one exception when Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir took the gold in 2006. Couples from Russia (the Soviet Union) dominated from 1978 to 1995. The top contenders 2009 come yet again from the USA and Russia: Madison Chock and Greg Zuerlein (USA) won the SBS ISU Junior Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final this season and are headed with a seasons best of 168.08 points to their first Junior World Championship. Their teammates Madison Hubbell and Keiffer Hubbell will compete in their third junior worlds. They captured the silver medal at the junior final and have a seasons best of 167.56 points. Ekaterina Riazanova and Jonathan Guerreiro (RUS) posted a seasons best of 167.80 points in the Junior Grand Prix Series and earned the bronze medal at the Junior Grand Prix Final in December. Other to watch are Alisa Agafonova and Dmitri Dun (UKR/seasons best 153.83 points), Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani (USA/seasons best 163.56 points), Karen Routhier and Eric Saucke-Lacelle (CAN/seasons best 152.29 points), Terra Findlay and Benoit Richaud (FRA/seasons best 150.14 points) and Ekaterina Pushkash and Dmitri Kiselev (RUS/seasons best 151.42 points).

Please note that for the seasonal best total scores only the ISU Championships and Grand Prix competitions (senior and junior) have been taken into consideration, not other international competitions or national Championships.