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Lichtman, Copely take gold at JGP Austria

Gao captures silver in ladies event

Charlotte Lichtman and Dean Copely topped the dance podium in Austria.
Charlotte Lichtman and Dean Copely topped the dance podium in Austria. (Jennifer Hartley)

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By Renee Felton, special to icenetwork.com
(09/18/2010) - Russia (five total medals) and China (four) claimed all six medals in men's and pairs, while the United States added a pair of medals, including one gold, as the third Junior Grand Prix (JGP) concluded from Graz, Austria.

Representing the U.S., ice dancers Charlotte Lichtman and Dean Copely won the first gold medals of their careers while China's Han Yan took the men's event. Russia's Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov pulled off the upset to win gold in the first pairs competition of the JPG Series, and teammate Adelina Sotnikova prevailed in the ladies event.

American Christina Gao earned the ladies silver medal.

Ladies
Sotnikova and Gao dominated the ladies competition en route to their 1-2 finish.

Sotnikova, a 14-year-old native of Moscow, won gold in the first JGP assignment of her career. She simply had to sustain the momentum from her short program to maintain gold medal standing. Sotnikova opened her "Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso" free skate with triple Lutz-triple loop combination for which she earned 11.40 points before also carrying out five additional jumps and three Level 4 spins.

Gao, following a trio of bronze medal finishes in two qualifying JGP events and the Junior Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final last year, earned the first second-place finish of her international career.

Like Sotnikova, Gao needed a clean free skate to stay in the medals as she stood in second after her short program to Mendelssohn's "Concerto in E Minor." The Cincinnati native earned positive grades of execution (GOEs) on 10 of her 11 free skate elements. Besides faltering on a triple Lutz-double toe-double loop sequence, Gao accomplished six successful jumps including four in the second half of her program.

Over 22 points separated Gao's silver-medal winning score from that of bronze medalist Zijun Li of China.

American Lindsay Davis finished in 12th place in career debut on the JGP circuit.

Men's
Yan skated easily to his second Junior Grand Prix gold medal after winning his event last fall in Turkey. The 14-year-old sat in fifth place after the short place but vaulted to the win after performing a strong "Violin Show" free skate. Yan rebounded after seeing his opening triple flip-triple toe combination downgraded to receive neutral or positive GOEs on his remaining elements. He was awarded GOEs of 0.80 and 0.70, respectively, on a triple Lutz and triple Salchow in the second half of his program.

Russian teammates Artem Grigoriev and Zhan Bush were separated by just 1.48 points as they earned silver and bronze, respectively.

Grigoriev wins the first silver of his JGP career after taking home a pair of bronze medals in 2007. A fifth-place finish in the free skate cost the Moscow native the gold after sitting in first place following the short. Grigoriev was the only skater to score more than 60 points (63.44) for his "Paganini" short program.

Bush's The Rock free skate held up to its name as he successfully executed elements including a triple toe-double toe combination, a triple Salchow and a double Axel. The bronze is the third of Bush's JGP career.

American Richard Dornbush finished just off the podium in fourth place, being edged by 2.50 points for the bronze. Dornbush's shaky "Elena" short program -- he was in seventh place following the stage -- made it difficult for the 19-year-old to rebound and make the podium despite performing an improved free skate.

"In my short program, all my jumps were terrible," Dornbush said. "I'm proud of my free skate overall and tried my hardest in the competition but it wasn't up to my standards. There is definitely room for improvement as the season continues."

Teammate Alexander Zahradnicek finished ninth.

Pairs
The biggest surprise of the competition was the pairs result, as Stolbova and Klimov earned a 14-point win over the reigning JGP Final and World Junior champions, Wenjing Sui and Cong Han of China. It was especially stunning considering that Cong and Han defeated the Russians by 25 points at last year's World Junior Championships.

Stolbova and Klimov took a 2.50-point lead with their "Asturias" short program, in which they landed beautiful side-by-side double Axels and a throw triple toe. That set the stage for their performance in the free skate, in which they beat Cong and Han by more than 13 points. Skating to music from "La Strada" by Nino Rota, they landed two clean throw triples (flip, Salchow) as well as a triple toe-double-toe-double toe combination. By scoring 105.49 in the segment, they beat their previous personal-best free skate score by more than 14 points.

Cong and Han were within striking distance after their country dance-themed short dance, but a disastrous free skate quashed any chances they had of overtaking the Russians. Skating to "City Lights" by Charlie Chaplin, Cong and Han suffered two falls-one on their triple toes, the other on their double Axels-and had their quadruple Lutz twist downgraded. They attempted a quad throw Salchow, but didn't land it cleanly. Their free skate score of 93.80 was 16 points less than the career best they set at last year's World Junior Championships.

Third place went to China's Xiaoyu Yu and Yang Jin, who were making their international debut. Like their teammates, they made a bit of a mess of their free skate, in which they, too, fell twice, but they comfortably took the bronze, finishing almost 14 points ahead of Russians Tatiana Danilova and Andrei Novoselov.

Brynn Carman and A.J. Reiss were the highest-placing American team, coming in fifth.

"We're really happy that we skated two clean programs," said Carman, who's still recovering from a lower back injury she suffered just before the Indy Challenge Pairs and Dance Competition. "We missed a few levels in the long, which was unexpected, but overall we had a good experience."

Making their international debuts, Mandy Garza and Brandon Frazier finished eighth, while Olivia Oltmanns and Joshua Santillan took 11th.

Ice dancing
Lichtman and Copely leapt out to a three-point after the short dance, which they skated to "Amore" and "An Evening in Roma" by Dean Martin, and clinched the gold with their Beetlejuice free dance. In the latter, they earned Level 4s on five of their seven elements and Level 3s on their two step sequences.

This was not only their first gold medal in the JGP Series but their first medal of any color outside of sectionals, and it gives them a good chance at qualifying for the JGP Final in December.

"Having won takes a little pressure off, but at the same time, we both still want to work really hard," Lichtman said. "Now it's up to us to put pressure on ourselves, and not coast but build on this."

Copely said the team has focused on fine tuning the Waltz portion of the short dance, and it showed as they earned Level 3s on both sequences.

"It means a lot to us," he said. "We've put in a lot of hard work, doing double run-throughs and spending a lot of hours training, and it's nice to see it come to something."

In winning the silver, Russia's Victoria Sinitsina and Ruslan Zhiganshin claimed their first medal in four tries in the JGP Series. Like Lichtman and Copely, their earned five Level 4s and two Level 3s for their free dance, which they performed to music from Camille Saint-Saens's Samson and Delilah.

The bronze went to France's Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron, who improved one position from their fourth-place finish at JGP France last month. The team's podium finish represents France's first medal of this year's JGP Series.

The U.S. team of Anastasia Olson and Jordan Cowan placed sixth in their international debut.