Murakami captures Grand Prix Final Junior ladies title

Japan’s Kanako Murakami edged out Russia’s Polina Shelepen to win the gold by just over a point, while USA’s Christina Gao rose from fifth place to capture the bronze.

Murakami landed five strong triple jumps in her routine to Swan Lake, but was called on a triple Lutz for use of the wrong take-off edge and  fell during her straight line footwork. The Japanese Junior bronze medalist earned 101.01 points for first place in the long, and with an overall score of 160.53 points, moved up from second to first place overall.

“I didn’t skate my best in the free,” said the 15-year-old, “but I am happy to win in the Final here in Japan. I wanted to do all the jumps, spins, footwork clean, but I made a few mistakes. I was really nervous before I went out onto the ice, and I thought my heart would pop out of my mouth! But the audience called out my name and cheered me on, so I was able to relax a little bit and skate well.”

“I have to train hard so that I will be able to put together two perfect performances,” Murakami said of the rest of the season. “Now that I’ve won the Grand Prix Final, I have to skate like a champion and also act like one! I want to skate well at our Nationals, because I have nothing on the line. If I get selected to go to Junior Worlds, I hope to put on my best performance and bring home more berths (Japan has only one spot for Junior Worlds this season).”

Shelepen delivered a solid performance to Polovetsian Dances which featured six triple jumps. Though she beat, Murakami on the technical score, she scored lower in the components for a score of 99.75 points. Overall, she earned 159.29 points – a new personal best.

“I wasn’t nervous,” stated the 14-year-old, “but it just didn’t go the way I wanted.

Shelepen did not attempt the triple Salchow-triple toe combination. “I just thought that I have to go on and to skate at my highest level, but unfortunately not everything worked out as I had hoped.”

Gao also gave a solid performance which featured six triple jumps, however, both Lutzes were called for use of the wrong take-off edge. Nevertheless, all three of her spins were graded a level 4 and she scored a new personal best of 98.65 points for third place in the long. With a total of 151.47 points (also a personal best), she rose from fifth to third overall.

“It went really well,” said the U.S. Junior bronze medalist. “I skated clean. I think it was one of my best performances ever. I felt really good. I just tried to do what I do in practice and I took it one step at a time.”

Ksenia Makarova of Russia placed fourth in the long (91.91 points) and overall (147.29 points) – both new personal best scores.

“It wasn’t my best skate, but it was alright overall,” said the 16-year-old. “I was trying to fight myself – not other skaters – and couldn’t beat myself the way I wanted to, but it was alright. The most valuable thing that I learned from this competition was to calm down and relax in a competition.”

USA’s Angela Maxwell, who stood in eighth after the short,  placed fifth in the long and sixth overall.

“I’m shocked what I did today,” said the happy 17-year-old. “I haven’t done a clean program, so I am very happy. I don’t know how to express how happy I am. I was a bit upset after the short program and tried to pull myself together, and actually could pull everything together in the performance today.”

Though this was Maxwell’s second appearance in the Final, she admitted to still being a bit nervous. “But  this time I got a bit nervous because Japan is my mom’s country and I wanted to skate better for her.”

Anna Ovcharova of Russia slipped from fourth to fifth overall (144.96 points) after placing sixth in the long.

“I missed two jumps, but I don’t know really why,” said the 13-year-old. “I just wanted to enjoy skating here, but I didn’t enjoy it so much because of the errors.”

The young skater has never performed in such a large crowed before or high-level event. “It is really inspiring when you can watch the great skaters.”

Ovcharova’s next event is Russian Nationals where she will be competing on the senior level. “I’m working on triple-triple combinations and I already have a double Axel-triple loop combination.”

Of the 24 medals which were awarded at this event, Japan and the USA earned the most (six each). China won five medals, while Russia claimed three.

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