Sui and Han lead Junior Pairs in Tokyo

The 2009-10 ISU Grand Prix Final of Figure Skating was held Dec. 3 – 6 at the Yoyogi National Stadium in Tokyo, Japan. Approximately 84 skaters from 11 countries competed in the   Junior and Senior divisions of the event.

The first day of the event kicked off on Dec. 3 with  the Junior Pairs.

China’s Wenjing Sui and Cong Han took the lead, followed closely by Japan’s Narumi Takahashi and Mervin Tran. Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov of Russia placed third.

Skating to Barynia – a Russian Folk piece, Sui (14) and Han (17) delivered a sound program which included   good side-by-side double Axels, a throw triple Salchow, and level 4 lift. The couple was awarded   56.80 points, just slightly below their personal best score.

“I think our   performance was lacking in expression today,” said Han. “Our elements were rather solid.”

Takahashi (17) and Tran (19) also gave a good routine to a flamenco despite Takahashi’s struggle with the landing of a double Axel. The Japanese Champions otherwise earned a level 4 on both their spins and executed a solid throw triple Salchow.

“We were a little slow at first going into the double Axel,” noted Takahashi, “but we didn’t give up. At NHK, we were quite nervous because of the large audience, but we tried to relax here and felt very confident going into the competition.”

“It felt good skating here,” added Tran. “We’ve skated here before, so we were familiar with the rink. It was good to skate in front of the home audience and see all the Japanese flags in the   stands because we knew they were cheering just for us. Going into the Free, we just want to do what we usually do.”

Stolbova (17) and Klimov (19) produced a solid program which featured good side-by-side double Axels  and   a throw triple Salchow, but struggled a bit on the double Lutz twist. They score 48.90 points for their routine to Russian Fantasy.

“We are quite happy with that we did today,” said Stolbova, “especially after my injury. I injured ligaments in my right ankle in the off-ice practice in October, and I couldn’t skate for about 3 and half weeks. So considering that we only had two weeks to prepare for this event, it went well.”

“There are always thing that you can improve,” added Klimov. “We compete for the first time in front of such an audience. It is really nice, but also makes us a little nervous.”

Canada’s Kaleigh Hole and  Adam Johnson earned 47.00 points fourth place with their routine to Roxie’s Suite by Danny Elfman.

“It was good overall even though we missed a jump-throw triple Salchow,” said 16-year-old Hole. “It was a great experience for me to skate at the Finals. I did not feel any pressure, but a bit rushed for the Salchow. We will just do what we do in the long program.”

“It was a very strong program and we enjoyed skating,” added Johnson, 21. “We just started skating together from March this year, so this competition was a good experience. We are ready for the long program.”

Yue Zhang and Lei Wang of China placed fifth (46.04 points). The team performed a solid throw triple Salchow, however, Zhang fell on her jump in the side-by-side double Axels.

“I was tired,” said Zhang, 16, of the missed jump. “We just arrived yesterday and also did not have too much time to practice.”

“It didn’t work out too well,” added Wang, 21. “We were able to increase the level of difficulty in the short program and will introduce a new free program. We want to give our best and don’t have any expectations, but we would be glad if we could beat our seasons best.”

Russians Tatiana Novik and Mikhail Kuznetsov and   Alexandra Vasilieva and Yuri Shevchuk placed sixth and eighth respectively, while USA’s Britney Simpson and Nathan Miller were seventh.

“Compared to what we can do, we only showed about 40 percent of our ability today,” shared Kuznetsov, 21. “We were nervous, this is a big competition. Tania is competing in her first GPF. We are well prepared, we have been training at the sports basis in Novogorsk (near Moscow) and we’ve trained really well. We did really good run-throughs of our programs there, and so I’m even shocked a little about how we skated today.”

“It is a great opportunity to compete in this Final,” added 15-year-old Novik. “We’ll stay to watch the senior couples, because we can learn from them. They have a lot of experience and we’re just striving to get there where they are.”

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