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Dornbush, Hochstein shine at JGP Hungary

American men finish 1-2 in Budapest

Richard Dornbush is among the favorites to take men's gold at the JGP Austria.
Richard Dornbush is among the favorites to take men's gold at the JGP Austria. (Michelle Harvath)

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By Mickey Brown, special to icenetwork.com
(08/29/2009) - U.S. and Russian skaters won three medals apiece at this week's Junior Grand Prix of Figure Skating Series event in Budapest, Hungary. Russian Polina Shelepen took the ladies gold while teammates Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov earned the ice dancing title. American Richard Dornbush topped the men's field.

Ladies

Shelepen, the 2008 Russian junior bronze medalist, took a six-point lead in the short program and smashed the field in the free skate, winning that segment by more than 12 points. She was credited with landing seven triples in the latter, five of which received either a neutral or positive Grade of Execution (GOE). Her competition score of 157.57 was 21 points more than that of American Angela Maxwell, who took home silver.

Maxwell fell on both her triple flip and her triple toe-triple toe combination in her short program, which she skated to "Santa Maria (Del Buen Ayre)" by Gotan Project and Astor Piazzolla's "Libertango."

"I was a bit nervous about trying the flip and the triple-triple, but I'm glad I did them," Maxwell said.

She regrouped in her "Nostradamus" free skate, landing five triples (including a triple toe-triple toe combination) and posting the highest program components score (45.49) in the segment.

Although Maxwell claimed her fourth Junior Grand Prix medal in four events (two silvers, two bronzes), she was none too pleased with her effort.

"My nerves got the better of me. I was trying to pull myself together the whole program," Maxwell said. "I'm just happy I attempted all my jumps."

The bronze went to Japan's Haruka Imai, the 2009 Japanese junior champion. Fourth after the short program, Imai struggled in the free skate, falling twice and receiving a one-point deduction for a time violation. Still, she was able to pull up to win her second career JGP medal in two tries.

Reigning U.S. junior silver medalist Ellie Kawamura was second after the short program, but she had a difficult time in her Tango-themed free skate, in which she landed only one clean triple. She finished fourth.

Men

The men's competition was a two-horse race from the outset, as Dornbush and Grant Hochstein distanced themselves from the field in the short program and poured it on during the free skate. The gap between first place and the cluster of skaters fighting for third was more than 30 points, and the difference between second place and that grouping was greater than 20 points.

Dornbush won his third consecutive JGP event (not counting his third-place finish at the 2008 Junior Grand Prix Final), pulling up from second to first. He trailed Hochstein by less than a point after the short program, in which he fell on his opening triple Lutz-triple toe but executed the rest of the elements well in his "Paint It Black" program.

"You don't want to put out your best now and not do as well later," Dornbush said. "I'm happy with how I did, but I have room to improve."

Dornbush posted a career-best free skate score of 125.28 points, out-pacing his next-closest competitor in that segment, Hochstein, by nearly 10 points. Skating to Rachmaninoff's "Piano Concerto No. 1," Dornbush landed six triples (three in combination) and received a positive or neutral GOE on 11 of his 12 elements.

"It's got a classical look. It's a very clean program," Dornbush of his Cindy Stuart-choreographed free skate program. "The idea is to perform it as smoothly, cleanly and classically as possible."

Hochstein, making his JGP debut, took a slim lead over Dornbush in the short program. Skating to Sleeping Beauty, Hochstein, the 2009 U.S. junior pewter medalist, landed a shaky triple Lutz-triple toe (-1.57 GOE), and he also earned a negative GOE on his triple flip (-0.43), but his skating skills shone through, placing him at the top of the standings.

"I was a little surprised to be ahead of [Dornbush], but I'm not surprised with how well I skated," Hochstein said. "I've been skating clean shorts for the last two weeks. I need to expect that all the time now."

His Romeo and Juliet free skate was more troublesome, as he landed only four clean triples and singled his loop. All three of his spins, however, were graded level four, making him the only skater in the competition to earn that distinction.

"I haven't been known as an artistic skater. My choreographer Jodi Tasich and I have been working really hard, and I've been taking stroking lessons with Sergei Magerovski," Hochstein said. "My hard work's been paying off, and it's nice that people recognized it."

Russia's Zhan Bush took the bronze, edging teammate Alexander Nikolaev by .25 points and Japan's Takuya Kondoh by .74 points. Bush, ninth at the JGP event last season in France, finished fourth in each segment, but it was enough to slip past Nikolaev, who placed seventh in the short program and third in the free skate, and Kondoh, who sat third after the short program but fell to fifth in the free skate.

Ice Dancing

Ilinykh and Katsalapov, the fourth-place finishers at the 2009 Russian Junior Championships, won all three phases and cruised to a 16-point victory in their international debut. They were especially dominant in the free dance, which they won by 10 points. In that segment, they earned level threes and fours for all their elements, and their GOEs ranged from .29 to 1.29.

Canadian junior champions Karen Routhier and Eric Saucke-Lacelle added to their two bronze medals in last year's JGP Series with a silver in Budapest. Routhier and Saucke-Lacelle placed second in all three segments, particularly impressing with their lifts, for which got GOEs of .50, .50 and .71.

Lorenza Alessandrini and Simone Vaturi, the 2009 Italian junior champs and bronze medalists at the 2008 JGP event in Merano, Italy, placed fourth in all three phases but still managed to jump over Americans Piper Gilles and Zach Donohue in the free dance to grab the bronze.

Gilles and Donohue, the reigning U.S. junior bronze medalists, placed fourth, missing out on the bronze by less than a point. After taking gold and silver at their two JGP assignments in 2008, the Colorado Springs-based duo finished off the podium for the first time in their short time together.

Donohue said the team's energy was a little low at the end of its Flamenco-themed original dance. Additionally, they didn't get their intended level on their spin or midline step sequence in its Alfred Hitchcock free dance, and he put his foot down on the synchronized twizzles.

"It's still a much higher-level program that it was given credit for," a frustrated Donohue said.

Americans Charlotte Lichtman and Dean Copely had a roller coaster of a competition, placing eighth in the compulsory dance, 12th in the original dance and third in the free dance, all of which added up to an eighth-place finish.