2002 World Junior Figure Skating Championships: Highlights
The 2002 World Junior Figure Skating Championships in Hamar, Norway provided much more drama than did the Olympic Games held just a few days earlier. There were new champions in every discipline and history was made in the men’s event. Andorra made its international debut at an ISU championships when Melissandre Fuentes and Marc Casal competed in singles.
Three teams won their first Junior Worlds medals in pairs. Russia’s Elena Riabchuk and Stanislav Zakharov edged out teammates Julia Karbovskaya and Sergei Slavnov for the gold by winning the free skate 5-4 after Karbovskaya and Slavnov had won the technical.
Riabchuk and Zakharov skated to “Conquest of Paradise” while their compatriots used “Romeo and Juliet.” Both teams had a throw triple loop and triple salchow, side by side triple toe loops and double Axels, but Karbovskaya and Slavnov performed only a double twist rather than the triple of their countrymen. They missed the side by side triple toes while Riabchuk and Slavnov missed the side by side double Axels.
China’s Yang Ding and Zhongfei Ren took the bronze. The Chinese opened with a throw quad toe loop in their performance to “The Golden Age” with only a slight touch down with the free foot on the landing. They showed a high triple twist and side by side triple toes, but failed to complete their side by side double Axels and had weak spins.
The three U. S. pairs fared poorly, with the veteran pair of Tiffany and Johnnie Stiegler faltering badly in the short, missing element after element, and finishing next to the last of the 14 pairs. They recovered with a sixth in the free skate to finish seventh overall, but their teammates weren’t much better with Tiffany Vise and Laureano Ibarra finishing sixth and Colette Appel and Lee Harris in 12th.
History was made in the men’s event as Japan’s Daisuke Takahashi became the first Japanese to win the World Junior Championship. Kevin van der Perren also made history by winning the highest international medal ever for Belgium when he took the silver, surpassing a bronze won in the Europeans by Fernand Leemans in 1947.
Van der Perren actually won the long program with eight triples including triple Axel/triple toe and triple lutz/triple toe combinations to “Trouble Man”, but with wins in the qualifiers and the short, Takahashi took the top prize.
Russia’s Stanislav Timchenko fought back from a fifth in qualifying to finish third.
All of the winners were from Qualifying Round A. The top three men in the Group A qualifier finished out of the medals with pre-event favorite Xiadong Ma of China dropping to 4th and Jean-Michel Debay and Yannik Ponsero falling to 17th and 8th respectively.
In the long, Takahashi landed seven triples including triple lutz/triple toe in a program to a Max Bruch violin concerto, while Timchenko landed five clean triples in his “Jesus Christ Superstar” program.
“I’m so glad to have won the title”, stated Takahashi. “Next year I want to come back and be first in each phase of the competition.”
Overall, the men showed much more artistry than in past years with several demonstrating Biellmann spins and good spirals. Canada’s Shawn Sawyer Switzerland’s Jamal Othman, and Russia’s Andrei Griazev all had a good spiral and a good Biellmann although Azerbaijan’s Andrei Dobrokhodov had the best Biellmann.
The top U. S. finisher was Nicholas Laroche in tenth, while Ryan Bradley finished 15th and Shaun Rogers 16th.
In the dance, there was no real competition for American veterans Tanith Belbin and Benjamin Agosto, who took their third straight medal at the World Junior Championships.
The team, which has been competing in seniors for the last two years in the U. S., and internationally all season, had marks substantially above every other couple. They were third at Junior Worlds in 2000 and second last year. The couple’s free dance was a tribute to Sarajevo and the resiliency of its people.
Russia’s Elena Khaliavina and Maxim Shabalin took the silver, followed by teammates Elena Romanovskaya and Alexander Grachev. The two couples had earlier finished in the top two spots at the Junior Grand Prix Final.
Khaliavina persevered despite recovering from a badly cut leg in a practice injury during practice.
There was substantial movement throughout the rest of the field, with Canada’s Lauren Flynn and Leif Gislason making the biggest move from 20th in the first compulsory to 16th overall.
U. S. junior dance champions Loren Galler-Rabinowitz and David Mitchell, who missed the JGP season due to the U. S. withdrawal after September 11, made an impressive debut to finish 12th, losing 4-5 splits to both teams above them.
Last year’s ladies champion Kristina Oblasova of Russia was the only defending champion entered in the event, but the chances of a repeat were dashed within five minutes of the start of the competition.
Proving that you can’t win from the qualifiers but you can lose, Oblasova opened the weaker qualifying round A by staggering to 11th after missing almost all of her jumps and never recovered, failing to reach the top ten.
Last year’s silver medalist, U. S. skater Ann Patrice McDonough, took advantage by winning the other qualifying round, the short and the long to take the gold. Although McDonough actually skipped the morning practice because of a sore throat, she landed six triples in her “Cinderella” and “Romeo and Juliet” free skate.
Japan’s Yukari Nakano and Miki Ando took the silver and the bronze, while the other two U. S. skaters, Beatrice Liang and Louann Donovan, finished 4th and 6th.
Nakano, competing in her third Junior Worlds won her first medal by landing five clean triple jumps in her program to “Carnival Overture” while
Ando, the JGP Final winner in her Junior Worlds debut, landed six in her “Swan Lake” free skate.
“Next year I really, really, really want to come back and I hope to win,” stated Ando, the only one of the three who may return in 2003.
Canada’s two ladies also finished well with Joannie Rochette taking fifth and Lauren Wilson eighth after landing seven clean triples in the free skate.
Australia’s Stephanie Zhang was in good position after a second in the technical but took a bad fall in the morning practice before the free skate which bruised and bloodied her landing leg and she finished seventh overall.
See full results of the 2002 World Junior Figure Skating Championships.