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Keiser, Brown make JGP Turkey success for U.S.

Americans sweep singles events; Stepanova, Bukin come away with dance gold

Jason Brown and Leah Keiser won gold medals for the U.S.
Jason Brown and Leah Keiser won gold medals for the U.S. (courtesy of Jason Brown/Tamie Campbell)

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By Josh Ellis, special to icenetwork.com
(09/22/2012) - Leah Keiser and Jason Brown made it a gold medal sweep for the United States in the singles events at the Junior Grand Prix event in Istanbul, Turkey, while Alexandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin of Russia claimed gold in ice dancing.

In the ladies event, Keiser made a splash in her JGP debut. She finished third in a short program that included a triple Lutz-triple toe combination, but she won the gold medal with a sublime free skate.

The 12th-place finisher at the 2012 U.S. Championships and gold medalist in her international debut at the 2012 International Challenge Cup, Keiser earned nearly nine points more than the second-best skater with 105.63 points in her free skate. The performance was more than enough to bridge the less-than-one-point gap to first, as she finished with a total of 156.33 points overall.

"I feel very happy to win my first JGP," Keiser said. "Going into the competition, I just wanted to be able to skate as well as I had been training and deliver two solid programs. Mr Nicks and I went through my protocols yesterday and we know what we need to work on."

Keiser skated to "The Seasons" by Alexander Glazunov on Friday in a performance that included six triple jumps without a fall. In addition to the highest program components score, Keiser had four elements which earned 7.30 points or more, two more than anyone else.

In first place after the short program, So Youn Park of Korea finished in second overall with 144.77 points. Skating to a pantoum, Park earned the highest elements score in the short program, as she opened with a triple Salchow-double toe and performed two Level 4 spins. Park finished third in the free skate, but improved four places from her finish at JGP Lake Placid with her silver medal.

The champion at JGP Lake Placid with 161.65 points, Satoko Miyahara earned the bronze medal with 143.36 points. Sixth after the short program, Miyahara earned the second-most points in the free skate to propel herself onto the podium.

American Nina Jiang finished in 11th place.

Brown, the 2011 JGP Final champion, has likely earned the chance to defend his title with the gold medal in Istanbul to accompany his silver from JGP France. He earned the title by a margin of nearly 24 points with a final total of 198.16, nearly 13 more points than his total from France.

Brown opened with 65.95 points for his short program, but cemented his position at the top with a season-best free skate score. During his "Liebestraum" free skate, Brown earned 132.21 points, aided by a triple Lutz-triple toe that achieved a competition-high 10.61 points. Brown, known for his ability to rack up a high program components score, did so with 68.86 points in his free skate, more than 12 more than Alexander Petrov's second-best score.

"So excited and honored to bring home the gold for Team USA!" Brown said. "It's been such a privilege representing the USA throughout this event. Can't wait to go home and keep on training ... always tons to be done!"

After a fifth place finish at JGP France earlier this year, Petrov of Russia landed on the podium in silver medal position with the second-best score in both segments. He finished with 174.45 points, an improvement of nearly 14 points from France.

Skating to Bach in his short program, Petrov broke the 60-point barrier on the strength of an opening triple Lutz-triple toe, which earned 10.40 points, and elements no lower than Level 3. His free skate also included eight attempted triple jumps, the most in the competition.

In third, earning the bronze medal was Nam Nguyen of Canada, who finished third in both segments. Nguyen, who finished ninth at JGP France, earned more than 23 points more in this event than his last with 171.56 points.

American Shotaro Omori finished in fourth with 166.09 points, tying for his best finish on the series.

The bronze medalists from the 2011 JGP Final, Stepanova and Bukin are well on their way to making a repeat appearance at the 2012 JGP Final, and the Russians have extra motivation with the event taking place in Sochi, Russia. Stepanova and Bukin won both segments of the dance competition and earned the gold medal with 147.73 points, more than 10 points ahead of second. They posted the second-most points for their elements in the short dance and narrowly the most in the free dance, but they out-paced the competition with 11.72 more points from their components than anyone else over the competition.

Earning the silver medal by a margin of 1.20 points, Shari Koch and Christian Nuechtern of Germany improved upon their placement at JGP Austria by two spots, earning their first medal on the JGP Series. The two-time reigning German junior champions finished second in the short dance and third in the free dance to wind up with a total of 136.21 points. Throughout the competition, the duo had nine Level 4 elements, and they did not have a negative grade of execution.

Earning the bronze, and their first JGP medal, were Madeline Edwards and Zhao Kai Pang of Canada. The 2012 Canadian junior silver medalists were fourth after the short dance but earned the second-most points in the free dance to finish with 135.01 points.

Americans Lorraine McNamara and Quinn Carpenter finished in fourth, two spots higher than their JGP debut this season in France, while their teammates Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker, landed in fifth in their JGP debut.