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Chinese pairs sit one-two after short in Minsk

Sui and Han look strong for hat trick; Denney and Frazier 0.37 out of third

Wenjing Sui and Cong Han can join the Soviet Union's Natalia Krestianinova and Alexei Torchinski as the only pairs teams to win three world junior titles.
Wenjing Sui and Cong Han can join the Soviet Union's Natalia Krestianinova and Alexei Torchinski as the only pairs teams to win three world junior titles. (Getty Images)

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By Klaus-Reinhold Kany, special to icenetwork.com
(02/29/2012) - China's Wenjing Sui and Cong Han took a big step to claiming their third world junior title with a winning performance of their Country Western hoedown short program Wednesday in Minsk, Belarus.

The daring duo did not disappoint the 4,000 spectators, performing a clean routine that featured a high double twist, big throw triple loop and challenging lift. Many judges awarded their elements with +3 grades of execution (GOEs), and they earned 59.29 points.

"It was a pleasant night for us," Cong said. "It is the third time we are at junior worlds, and at each competition there are others who skate very well. We have always learned from other teams and have grown [from the experience]."

Their Chinese teammates, Xiaoyu Yu and Yang Jin, fifth at the Junior Grand Prix Final in December, had a clean skate to music from The Nutcracker. The highlight of their program was the throw triple loop, for which they gained +3 GOEs from five of the nine judges.

They sit second with 54.72 points.

"Today we showed everything we could; it went very well," Jin said. "We hope to skate even better tomorrow."

Russians Ekaterina Petaikina and Maxim Kurdiukov, alternates for the Junior Grand Prix Final, are third. They earned 51.18 points after a strong program, although Petaikina's double Lutz was a bit shaky and got an edge call from the technical panel.

"We are quite happy today; it was one of our best performances of the season," Petaikina said. "We hope to improve tomorrow."

Skating to music from Chicago, U.S. junior champions Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier lead the American contingent after placing fourth, just 0.37 points out of bronze-medal position. Denney got an edge call for her double Lutz, but all their other elements were clean.

"It went really well today, and we are confident," Frazier said. "The fact that we reached our personal best here is great. We are happy to be able to entertain the public here, and the crowd seemed to like it."

Kylie Duarte and Colin Grafton are eighth with 48.24 points. They skated an almost-clean program with a good triple throw loop and an excellent pairs combination spin.

"We really put our soul in the program," Duarte said. "We always can do better, but overall we are happy."

"We had a very decent skate today," Grafton said. "I had a little mistake on the Lutz, but otherwise it was a good warmup for our long program."

U.S. junior silver medalists Britney Simpson and Matthew Blackmer are 11th with 46.83 points after Simpson fell on the landing of the throw triple loop.

Minsk madness: If Sui and Han's history is a guide, the young skaters will include both quad twist and throw quad Salchow in their free skate ... Earlier this month, the indefatigable Sui and Han won the 2012 Four Continents Figure Skating Championships with 66.75 points for their short program. However, junior pairs are required to complete Lutz jumps (no triple toes allowed) and can only do double twists ... All three U.S. pairs competing in Minsk are trained by Dalilah Sappenfield in Colorado Springs.