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Team USA scores four medals at JGP opener

Russia also garners four medals in Courchevel

Anastasia Cannuscio and Colin McManus won the silver in ice dancing.
Anastasia Cannuscio and Colin McManus won the silver in ice dancing. (Rick Perez)

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By Mickey Brown, special to icenetwork.com
(08/28/2010) - Skaters from the United States and Russia won four medals apiece this week at the first ISU Junior Grand Prix of Figure Skating Series event of the season in Courchevel, France.

Russians Polina Shelepen and the team of Alexandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin won the gold in ladies and ice dancing, respectively, while Canadian Andrei Rogozine bested the mens's field. Americans took silver in ladies, silver and bronze in men's, and silver in ice dancing.

Ladies
Shelepen, the 2009 Junior Grand Prix Final silver medalist, landed everything cleanly in her Russian folk free skate except her triple Lutz. She opened her program with a barrage of high-scoring jump elements -- double Axel-triple toe, double Axel-triple toe-double toe, triple Lutz-double toe, triple flip -- and she added two more clean triples later on. Her free skate score of 103.31 points was a career best. This was Shelepen's third JGP win in as many tries.

Yasmin Siraj pulled up from sixth after the short program to win the silver. She received positive or neutral Grades of Execution (GOE) on five of her seven jump elements in her "Misa Tango" free skate, including a 0.57 on her double Axel-double toe-double loop combination. She posted the highest program components score (44.81) in the segment.

"I had a rough short, but I was determined to come back strong for the long, and the result was a nice bonus," Siraj said. "This was a great experience, and I've learned a lot from it."

Finishing just 1.1 points behind Siraj, Russia's Rosa Sheveleva broke through for her first JGP medal -- a bronze -- after fifth- and sixth-place finishes in last year's series. She fell on the opening triple Salchow in her The Umbrellas of Cherbourg program but landed her five other triples cleanly. Her triple Lutz-double toe-double loop earned her 9.30 points, the most of any element in the segment.

Short program leader of Yretha Silete of France dropped to fourth overall, while American Nina Jiang, third after the short program, finished fifth.

Men
Competing in his seventh JGP event since 2007, Rogozine picked up his first medal of any color in the series. (His previous best finish was sixth at last year's JGP Germany.) He led Max Aaron by a scant .21 points after the short program, in which both skaters landed four triples. Jason Brown sat six points behind the leaders after the short, having fallen on his triple loop.

Despite not employing a triple Axel (as both of his main competitors do), Brown won the free skate with a rousing performance to "Nessun Dorma." He landed seven triples, including a triple Lutz-triple toe, and his PCS was the best in the segment by more than 5.5 points.

"I feel good about my long -- that's my strong part," Brown said. "I need more work on my short. I was more jumpy and tense. It's quicker, and I'm just trying to keep up."

Skating to music from The Rock, Rogozine started his free skate great, landing four triples, including a triple Axel-triple toe that earned a 1.0 GOE and garnered him 13.60 points. He lost some steam in the second half of the program, receiving negative GOEs on three jump elements, including a -1.4 on his triple loop, but his short program lead over Brown was enough to earn him the gold.

Aaron had some stumbles in the first half of his free skate, which he performs to Vivaldi's "Winter" and "Summer" by David Garrett, but he finished the program strong to claim the bronze. Though he managed to stay upright, he got negative GOEs on his first six jump elements. He regrouped to land a clean triple Salchow-double toe-double loop combination and a double Axel near the end of the program.

"It's the first time I've landed two triple Axels. They were a little rough -- I put my hand down on both, but I rotated them," Aaron said. "Everything else was pretty strong. My spins were fast and centered, and the footwork went with the music."

Ice Dancing
Stepanova and Bukin won both segments of the competition to earn the top prize. Their "Faust Waltz" short dance was highlighted by their twizzle sequence, which received GOEs of mostly +2 and even a +3, the only such mark given for an element in the dance competition. They led country mates Evgenia Kosigina and Nikolai Moroshkin by a point and a half and U.S. ice dancers Anastasia Cannuscio and Colin McManus by two points going into the free dance.

Cannuscio and McManus made some history, performing the first-ever short dance at an ISU competition.

"Nobody likes skating first, but we knew it was a really important skate," McManus said. "We were happy to start the event on a good note."

Stepanova and Bukin's Pink Panther free dance was easily the class of the field. Their twizzles again were superior (.90 GOE), and their two step sequences both earned 1.0 GOEs from the judges.

Cannuscio and McManus, who finished seventh at both of the JGP assignments last season, showed marked improvement in claiming the silver in France. They impressed with their lifts in their "Carmen Fantasie" free dance, and their twizzles were spot on as well.

"It was pretty surreal. I couldn't stop shaking [when we got our medals]," McManus said. "I couldn't comprehend it all."

Kosogina and Moroshkin, skating to "Waltz No. 7" by Frederic Chopin, dropped to third overall after experiencing a fall on their diagonal step sequence.

Despite placing second in the free dance, France's Gabrielle Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron missed out on the podium, finishing just .64 points behind the bronze medalists.

U.S. ice dancers Alexandra Aldridge and Daniel Eaton came in sixth in their JGP debut.