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Team Fintastic leads after junior short program

Team Braemar fifth; Skyliners sixth

Team Braemar is in fifth place after the short program in Sweden.
Team Braemar is in fifth place after the short program in Sweden. (Paul Harvath)

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By Kelly Hodge, special to icenetwork.com
(03/12/2010) - Finland's Team Fintastic has won the past three World Synchronized Skating Challenge Cup for Juniors. In tonight's short program competition, they made it clear that they had come back with a fourth consecutive championship.

Decked out in bright pink costumes, the team selected a "Shining Revue" as their theme, skating to Pigalle, from Kabaret by Patricia Kaas. The theme suited their skating style extremely well as they danced effortlessly across the ice, hitting every beat of their fun, upbeat, dancy music with unison and precision.

"I'm really happy with their performance," said long time head coach Kaisa Nieminen. "I think they really enjoyed it, and they were really relaxed. They don't really think about the history of the team, or the future, it was just a focus on the future. If anything the team's past championships are an inspiration to the team."

The Finnish champions set themselves apart from the competition by earning 75.40 points for the short program, with the highest marks in both the technical elements score and the program components score.

The Canadian champions, Nexxice, found themselves in a similar spot, finishing a solid second place, the same as last year, in the short program with 70.10 points.

Taking a completely different style than their Finnish competitors, the team chose a Michael Bublé piece "I've Got the World on a String." In classy blue dresses, the team's music brought out their grace, flow and deep edges in all of their turns. The team opened with their block and executed a strong pivot section, to earn a Level 4 for both the block and the step sequence. Their no hold block sequence was executed extremely well, and they held the style of the program from beginning to end.

While Team Fintastic and Nexxice separated themselves from the group, there is only 1.65 points that currently separates the teams sitting in third place all the way down to seventh.

Currently in third place is Musketeers, last year's bronze medalists, and the current Finnish bronze medalists. The team skated a fun, well choreographed program to "Turkey in the Straw." While they earned the second highest program components score of the evening -- 26.06, two falls took them out of contention for the lead in the short program. One skater fell on the approach to their second intersection, a collapsing box, and another went down during the no hold block.

While Team Fintastic and Nexxice separated themselves from the group, the Musketeers earned 66.88 points from their short program, there are four more teams, directly on their heels, with only 1.65 points separating the Musketeers from the seventh place team, Les Supremes of Canada.

In fourth place is Sweden's Team Convivium, with 65.91 points, followed by Team Braemar, the reigning U.S. junior champions, with 65.74.

In Braemar's second appearance at the World Junior Challenge Cup, they were pleased with their performance, although a deduction for a lack of enough holds cost them a point, and consequently a placement.

"Our program went really well," commented skater and DREAM program member, Noelle Pearson. "This year is a little different from last year, as last year it was our first time and we just wanted to do our best and have a great experience. This year the expectations are higher, and we'd really like a podium placement. We really hoping for a good free skate tomorrow, and we're less than two points away. We're relaxed and ready to compete."

Just a hair back in sixth place, with 65.29 points are U.S. junior silver medalists, the Skyliners. The New York City natives, who are making their debut at this competition, skated one of their best performances of the season; showing off their edges and beautiful flow. The team skated with heart and passion to "A tribute to 9/11, 'If I Had My Way," hitting each element with confidence.

"I'm very excited with how we did. Our goal was to put out a program we're happy with and leave with that feeling of excitement, and we did," said team captain Rachel Terry. "We just want to have a great experience and soak everything up. The hardest part of the season was qualifying to get here, and how we want to show off what we have worked so hard for all season."

Tomorrow's free skate is anyone's game. With so many teams within striking distance of the podium, it will be one of the season's most exciting events.