Russia wins five medals in first two junior events

Youthful dominance points toward Sochi success

Russia's Adelina Sotnikova was so superior to the rest of the field, she ended up winning by nine points.
Russia's Adelina Sotnikova was so superior to the rest of the field, she ended up winning by nine points. (Getty Images)


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By Klaus-Reinhold Kany, special to
(12/10/2010) - With gold and silver in junior ladies -- plus a sweep in junior ice dance -- Russian skating looks to be in promising shape for the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

Former Russian champion Adelina Sotnikova outpaced her competition with a 112.54-point free skate, although she fell on a triple Salchow, planned as the first jump of a combination. Her other jumps -- including a combination of triple Lutz and triple loop -- were so superior she ended up nine points ahead of the field. Overall, she earned 169.81 points.

Silver medalist Elizaveta Tuktamisheva also showed six solid triples, with her only fall coming on a triple toe loop done in a combination with a triple Lutz. She took the silver medal with 160.87.

China's Zijun Li, a substitute for the injured U.S. novice champion Kiri Baga, won a surprising but well-merited bronze medal after an excellent program with seven clean triple jumps. At 13, she is China's youngest hope for the 2014 Olympics. Her overall score, 149.82, was the same as Japan's Risa Shoji's, but the Chinese skater was ahead in the free skate so she took the medal.

The third Russian entrant, Polina Shelepen, dropped from third after the short to fifth place after missing her two triple Lutzes.

Christina Gao, fifth at the 2010 U.S. Figure Skating Championships, ended up sixth. The skater, who trains under Brian Orser in Toronto, was third in the free but could not overcome her deficit after the short program.

Gao landed five clean triples, including an impressive triple flip-triple toe loop combination, but stepped out of a double Axel and had a shaky lading on another flip.

"It wasn't my best program, but I'm really happy I landed my triple flip- triple toe loop," Gao said. "This week my skating hasn't been that great. My short program yesterday wasn't great but I came back today and did a decent free skate.

"My double Axel this week has been a little bit off. I'm just really glad I didn't fall. That's something I'll definitely work on when I get home."

Boston-based Yasmin Siraj began her free skate well, performing four triple jumps and a double Axel. But in the last minute she fell on the triple toe loop and the third jump of a combination of three doubles.

"I was very strong on the harder elements," Siraj said. "At the end I lost my focus a little and fell on my two easiest jumps. I was so happy that I had completed all my other jumps I just lost my focus."

Kristiene Gong, who trains in Lake Arrowhead, showed three clean if small triple jumps, but singled her flip and doubled the second Lutz and the first toe loop.

"It didn't feel like I was over my feet," Gong, who placed eighth, said. "It definitely could have been a lot better. My warm-up this morning felt good. I'm not sure why it felt different for my program. To be here was a great experience."

The top two Russian ice dance teams maintained the dominance they had shown in the short dance, with the expected change at the top: Ksenia Monko and Kirill Khaliavin, third at last season's World Junior Figure Skating Championships in the Netherlands, moved up from second to first place.

Despite Khaliavin's stumble during their circular step sequence, the team earned 80.72 points for their free dance to music from the soundtrack of Frida. With their superior elements and mature style, the finished with 136.22 overall.

Surprise overnight leaders Victoria Sinitsina and Ruslan Zhiganshin dropped to second place after a speedy dance to almost the same music pieces of Saint-Saens' "Samson and Delilah" that Olympic silver medalists Meryl Davis and Charlie White used two years ago. Sinitsina and Zhiganshin's style is more junior than their teammates Monko and Khaliavin's, and they scored 134.62 points overall.

Alexandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin remained in third position with a humorous dance to a modern version of Pink Panther. Bukin is the 17-year-old son of Andrei Bukin, who won the Olympic ice dance gold medal in 1988 with Natalia Bestemianova.

Charlotte Lichtman and Dean Copely, who train under Marina Zoueva and Igor Shpilband in Canton, Mich., remained in fifth after an entertaining and nearly flawless routine to the soundtrack of Beetlejuice.

The Americans defeated Ekaterina Pushkash and Jonathan Guerreiro in the free dance, but the Russians' lead after the short dance relegated them to fifth place. Pushkush and Guerreiro ended up fourth.

The Michigan team's step sequences and lifts were strong, and they have made remarkable progress compared to last season, when they placed ninth in U.S. juniors.

"We wanted to put a lot of energy and personality into the free dance," Lichtman said. "Our coach told us to go out there and really attack the program. I think we gave it our all, because we were really tired at the end. To us, that means that we did the best we could."

"I got a little ahead of myself on the rotational lift at the end," Copely added. "Usually, I'm concerned with getting it done on time. It seemed like I did so many turns in such a short amount of time, I thought maybe I counted wrong. This first Junior Final means a lot to us. We didn't get here on our first try last season - so it means a lot to both of us to be here."