History was made in the pairs competition at the World Junior Figure Skating Championships in Ostrava in the Czech Republic – positive for China and negative for Russia. For the first time, Chinese teams finished first and second in the competition and for the first time since 1978, no Russian or Soviet pairs were on the podium.
China’s Dan Zhang and Hao Zhang, fresh from a bronze medal at the 2003 Four Continents Championships at the senior level, won the short program, skating to “Victory” by Bond. The duo, which also won the Junior Worlds in 2001, completed a throw triple loop, nicely synchronized side-by-side triple lutzes, and a high double twist, which came near the end of their program. Their spiral sequence was solid and their pairs spin was fast with good positions.
Russia’s Julia Karbovskaya and Sergei Slavnov, the silver medalists from last year, were second. Skating to “Tango” by Raul di Blasio, they opened with a big throw triple loop and followed with side-by-side double lutzes and beautiful side-by-side spins. But their split double twist was not very high. Russia’s third couple, Tatiana Kokareva and Egor Golovkin, withdrew after Kokareva was badly cut on her leg in a practice collision with another team before the pairs event began.
Last year’s bronze medalists, Yang Ding and Zongfei Ren of China, took third in the short. Their side-by-side double lutzes were well timed, and both the throw triple loop and split double twist were high and solid in their “Zigeunerweisen” program. The 2002 fourth-place finishers, Maria Mukhortova and Pavel Lebedev of Russia, were fourth again. Their program was to the soundtrack of a Russian movie, “Gospodin Oformitel”. They performed the same elements as the top three, but their split double twist was low with a shaky landing. Jennifer Don and Jonathon Hunt of the United States, a team in their first season together, were in fifth after Don touched down on the throw triple loop. They skated to Rachmaninov’s “Piano Concerto No. 2”.
Zhang and Zhang again dominated the long program, using “Gräfin Mariza”. They completed a high lateral triple twist, a throw triple salchow followed by side-by-side triple toe loops, a side-by-side double Axel/double toe sequence, and a throw triple loop with great lifts and solid choreography. They won the gold easily. “We worked hard to reach our goal here and were very happy to win,” Hao Zhang stated. “The change from the senior to the junior program [after the Four Continents] was pretty easy, but the timing of the two events was pretty tight.”
Ding and Ren moved up from third to take the silver medal, using Shostakovich’s “The Golden Age”. They opened with a throw quad toe loop, which she nearly landed but fell, followed by side-by-side triple toes, a high lateral triple twist, and a throw triple loop. But they both did single toe loops after their side-by-side double Axels. Their lasso lift to a one handed carry and upside down carry lift were both solid, but their back press lift was weaker than usual. “We felt a bit shaky today,” Ren noted, “but we did pretty good.”
Don and Hunt completed a unique sequence with side-by-side triple toes followed by a split jump and then a double toe loop in their “Freedom” program by Michael W. Smith. They also completed side-by-side double Axels, a split triple twist and a throw triple loop but she fell on a throw triple. But they moved up to third in the free and overall. Don said, “We were really excited to be a part of such a great night of skating. We got a lot of experience here.” Hunt added, “It’s another step forward for us. We’ve only been together eight months.”
Both Russian teams made serious errors to keep them off the podium. Mukhortova and Lebedev again had trouble with the landing of the double twist and she fell heavily on the throw triple salchow, keeping them in fourth. They used “Lawrence of Arabia” for their long program. Karbovskaya and Slavnov fared worse in their “Romeo and Juliet” program when she fell on both the side-by-side triple toes loops and the side-by-side double Axels, causing the couple to drop to fifth.