Sui and Han take second consecutive gold at Junior Worlds
China’s Wenjing Sui and Cong Han repeated as World Junior Pairs Champions. Last year’s bronze medalists Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov of Russia took the silver this time, while defending silver medalists Narumi Takahashi and Mervin Tran of Japan earned the bronze on Thursday.
Sui and Han impressed with speed and powerful throws in their program to City Lights. Of course, the throw quad Salchow was a highlight that earned them 7.57 points although Sui two-footed it. The throw triple flip and triple twist were very strong, and the death spiral and spins garnered a level four.
The solo jumps didn’t work for Sui, however. She crashed on the double Axel (while he did a double Axel-double Axel sequence), and also stumbled badly on an underrotated triple toe. The Chinese team scored 107.85 points, well below their season’s best, but still won the free skating and overall with 167.01 points.
“Today we didn’t skate so well,” said Han. “My partner fell and we lost some points. I asked my partner, and she said that she doesn’t know why she missed the jumps. We talked about it and we think that we need to train harder.”
Some people felt that Stolbova and Klimov should at least have won the free skating, if not the competition. The Russians put out an excellent program to La Strada. Not only did they hit their key elements such as a triple toe-double toe-double toe combination and a beautiful throw triple flip and Salchow, they also earned a level-four for all their non-jump elements.
The only glitch came when Stolbova stepped out of the double Axel at the end. The team also don’t include a triple twist – only a double. Their program was very well constructed and contained difficult transitions and they were expressive. The Russian junior champions scored 105.39 points and racked up a total of 154.52 points to move up one spot from the short program.
“We are very pleased,” Stolbova commented. “We did our job today. We skated clean and we are very happy with that. Now we want to develop further, to work on more difficult elements, on our programs and on everything.”
When asked about what or who inspires them, Klimov answered: “I don’t have any special idols I look up to. I am inspired by our programs, our music, and our choreography.”
Takahashi and Tran had won the Junior Final and had high ambitions coming to Korea. The Japanese-Canadian duo didn’t skate their best. Their romantic program to The Day You’ll Love Me included a high double twist, a throw triple toe, and level four elements like the lifts, the death spiral and the pair combination spin. However, Takahashi struggled with the solo jumps. She fell on the double Axel (and so they lost the sequence) and she two-footed the triple Salchow. They too, have excellent choreography and transitions and look very smooth. Their free skating was worth 96.67 points, and the Junior Grand Prix Final Champions dropped to third at 154.52 points.
“Today wasn’t our best performance,” Tran noted, “so we are disappointed with that. But it was a step up from our last competition, and we are happy with that. As long as we’re going up, we’ll see what happens next.”
“I don’t have that many problems with the jumps,” Takahashi explained, “but when it comes to side by side jumps, I missed my timing. When I miss my timing, I miss my jumps. I don’t worry so much about it. I don’t like the Axel, and since Four Continents, my Axel has been a little bit off. But in senior competition we maybe will do two triples and that will be no problem. I have confidence in myself and we can do perfect programs. We are not going to miss jumps anymore.”
USA’s Ashley Cain and Joshua Reagan turned in a strong performance to Romeo and Juliet Overture by Peter Tchaikovsky to pull up from eighth to fourth place. The Americans landed a side by side triple Salchow, a throw triple flip and Salchow, as well as a double Axel-double Axel sequence, however, their double twist was messy. The U.S. Junior Champions accumulated 135.40 points overall.
“We felt great about it,” said Cain. “We’re just happy that we moved up to fourth, because we are fourth in the World and that feels really great right now.”
“After the short program we talked to our coaches and we realized that we need to put this behind us,” she continued, referring to his fall in the short on the double Axel and the shoe laces becoming undone. “We need to not think about it and we knew that we can do a clean long program, and we did it.”
Canadians Natasha Purich and Raymond Schultz slipped from fourth to fifth at 129.97 points. Schultz stumbled and underrotated the triple toe, and in general they looked a little rough around the edges.
Teammates Brittany Jones and Kurtis Gaskell completed a triple twist, throw triple loop and Salchow, but Jones missed the double Axel.
The American and Canadian teams were able to secure three spots in the Pairs event for their respective countries for next year.
The two other Russian teams had rough performances. Kristina Astakhova and Nikita Bochkov finished seventh and Alexandra Vasilieva and Yuri Shevchuk even slipped to 11th after a disastrous outing with two falls from Vasilieva and an aborted lift.