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Team Fintastic wins fourth straight world junior title

U.S. puts two teams in the top five

Team Fintastic won their fourth consecutive world junior title.
Team Fintastic won their fourth consecutive world junior title. (Kelly Hodge)

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By Kelly Hodge, special to icenetwork.com
(03/13/2010) - The 2010 World Synchronized Skating Challenge Cup for Juniors ended on Saturday very close to the way it started, and with each of last year's medalists repeating their placement.

Finland's Team Fintastic became the second Finnish team to win four straight world junior titles, having won their first gold in the 2007 event that was held in Nottingham, England. With an average age of 16 and a half, these athletes are training for an eventual spot on the club's Rockettes senior team, the 2008 World Synchronized Skating Champions, who will be competing next month in Colorado Springs.

The team selected a theme of "Psychic and Spiritual Magic," for their free skate, and decked out in colorful black, orange and white dresses, they were the clear champions of the evening. The team had power, flow, deep edges and told their story to the audience and judges as they easily checked off each element in the free skate.

Their only error was a barely noticeable fall in the circle element. The team earned the highest scores for both technical elements and program components, with a solid 117.23 in the free skate, and 192.63 overall -- more than 10 points ahead of their nearest competitors.

Despite some mistakes, Nexxice was able to hang onto the silver medal. With 111.89 in the free skate, the team finished just a hair behind the Musketeers in this event segment, but their four point lead from the short program held them up.

The Canadian champions started out with a solid, passionate program to the musical Les Miserables, displaying grace, sophistication and power. On the second to last element, the moves in the field, one skater fell during her spread eagle, and had a difficult time getting back into the program in time for their next move, outside ina bauers. The team lost a point for the fall, and another point for an interruption in excess -- the deduction given when it takes a team more than 10 seconds to recover from a fall. However, the overall strength of the program, including the highest base value for their technical elements score possible (51.90) and a strong 53.36 in program components kept them solidly in the second spot.

The Musketeers of Finland held onto their bronze medal despite two minor falls, as well. Skating a theatrical program to music from the soundtrack "Kiss of the Spider Woman," the team had two minor falls near the end of the program, with one skater going down during the no hold block element, and another at the very end of the program, after all well balanced program elements had been completed. The team matched Nexxice's program components score of 53.36, and edged them out by .05 in the technical elements score to earn 111.94 points for their free skate, and 178.82 overall.

While Team USA finished just shy of the podium, both Team Braemar and the Skyliners were thrilled to move up one placement each, and to be the only country other than Finland, the synchronized skating powerhouse, to have both teams in the top five.

Team Braemar skated nearly as well as they could finishing fourth in the free skate, and fourth overall with 107.43 for their segment score and 173.17 overall. A few small technical errors, including a call of Level 3, instead of Level 4 for their line, and two step sequences (no hold block and circle) being downgraded from Level 4 to Level 3 cost the team a few points. Still, they were very proud of their performance at this competition.

"I'm really happy to be fourth in the world, and the team is thrilled that we skated two clean programs," said Team Braemar veteran, Noelle Pearson, who just completed her seventh season on the Edina, Minn., based junior team. "We had a wonderful time here with the Skyliners. Our teams are so close, and it was so much fun spending time with them as Team USA."

The Skyliners were equally happy with their performance, which landed them in fifth place. The team has struggled all season with minor falls in the free skate, and this time, they saved the best for last, putting out everything they had and skating a clean program. The team finished just behind Braemar, with 102.23 points for the free skate and an overall score of 167.52.

Team member Ashley Mulhern, a high school junior, was excited to take part in her first world junior level competition.

"It was just amazing to be here. It was probably the best experience of my whole life to participate in this competition, and I'm so happy that we skated our two best performances of the year at this competition."

She continued, "The best parts of the evening were standing alongside the boards, waiting for our turn and hearing 'representing the United States of America...,' and then at the end of the program, when we were so happy we skated as well as we did."