Zhang leads ladies at Junior Worlds

USA's Caroline Zhang, 13, performs a Biellmann spin her routine to Olga from the Ladies in Lavender soundtrack.

The 2007 ISU World Junior Figure Skating Championships continued Friday with the Ladies Short Program.

The 52 skaters were divided into two groups and a draw was made according to the ISU World Standings.

The required elements in the Junior Men Short Program for the 2006-07 season are: a triple or double flip out of footwork and the flying camel spin.

Performing to Olga from the Ladies in Lavender soundtrack, USA’s Caroline Zhang skated with power and speed, yet with a soft and gentle quality. The 2007 US Junior silver medalist landed all her jumps: a triple Lutz-double toe loop, a triple flip from footwork, and a double Axel.

Zhang’s layback spin, with it’s beautiful positions, was one of the highlights of her routine, as was her level four spiral sequence and combination spin, and the 13-year-old placed first with a new personal best of 58.93 points.

“I think it was a pretty good performance,” said the 2006-07 JGP Final Champion. “I think I could have earned a higher level on my layback (spin) – I just didn’t hold it enough. I’d rather add a level to my footwork.”

Zhang felt her performance was a lot better compared to that of US Nationals in January and hoped that her spins would reflect higher levels this time around.

“I added a layover to my flying camel. I got a level two [at US Nationals] and I am aiming at getting a level three on it,” she said.

And she did.

Teammate Mirai Nagasu’s energetic performance to the lively music of Benny Goodman’s Shout and Feel It put smiles on the faces of the audience. The 2007 US Junior Champion received a level 4 on her spiral sequence, layback spin and combination spin. Her triple Lutz-double toe loop combination and double Axel were good, but she had to fight for the landing of a triple flip.

Nagasu placed a close second with 57.22 points.

“I think I did my best,” said the 13-year-old. “I’d like to continue what I have been doing for the long. I guess the thing I could have improved was my triple flip – I wish I could have checked out a little sooner so I wouldn’t have had that little wobble there.”

“It is a privilege to be here,” Nagasu continued. “I just wanted to do what I do in practice. I’ve been practicing at home really hard and it’s showing up here, I think.”

Ironically, Nagasu didn’t qualify for the US National Championships last season as she didn’t make it past the regional level.

“Now I’m glad I fell at novice [regionals] last year,” she admitted, “because it made rethink myself and start over.”

Ashley Wagner, also from the U.S., placed third with a new personal best of 51.67 points.

The 2007 US Junior silver medalist executed playful choreography to music to the Cotton Club soundtrack with enthusiasm, which was especially evident in the opening moves of the program and her straight line footwork sequence. The 15-year-old’s spiral sequence, which had a change of edge in a Biellmann position, received a level 4. Despite a bad ‘wrap’ on the second jump of her triple Lutz-double loop combination, her double Axle and footwork into a triple flip were good.

Wagner felt that her performance was strong – that her jumps were a lot better than usual.

“I was really happy with that,” she said. “I wasn’t so pleased with [the quality of my spins, but overall it was a good performance."

Elena Glebova of Estonia put out a strong performance to Tango De Los Exilados by Vanessa Mae which exhibited an excellent tango expression, as well as good speed. The 2006 JGP Liberec bronze medalist executed a nice triple flip from footwork, as well as a triple toe loop-triple toe loop combination, and a double Axel. Her spiral sequence and combination spin were both graded a level 4.

The Estonian Champion placed fourth with a new personal best of 51.22 points.

Glebova only found out Monday that she would be competing. Teammate Svetlana Issakova, who was slated to compete, had fallen ill. The 17-year-old had to modify her short program to a junior format which meant doing a flip instead of a Lutz and a flying came spin instead of a flying sit spin.

"I wasn't really ready," said Glebova. "I was preparing for Worlds in March, and I wasn't in competitive form. [However], once I was sent here, I wanted to give a hundred percent because my federation trusts me.”

Skating to Lieberstraum with lyrical power and speed, Rumi Suizu of Japan was the first skater of the competition to complete a triple-triple combination (triple toe loop-triple toe loop), but she fell on her triple flip. Despite the mistake, the 16-year-old earned a new personal best 49.31, placing fifth after the short.

Jenni Vahamaa of Finland was the last skater of the event.

The 2007 Nordics Champion skated with good speed and flow to the lyrical music of O Mio Babbino Caro by James Galway. Despite falling on the triple flip, her triple Salchow-double toe loop combination and double Axel were clean. The 14-year-old also received a level 4 for her spiral sequence and combination spin, earning a new personal best of 47.50 for a sixth place finish.

Myriane Samson (CAN), Stefania Berton (ITA) and Alena Leonova (RUS), placed seventh, eighth, and ninth respectively, and are only two points behind Vahamaa.

The competition continues Saturday with the Ladies Free Skate.

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