2023-24 Junior Grand Prix Final: Pairs
Georgia’s Anastasiia Metelkina and Luka Berulava secured historic gold in the Pairs’ event at the 2023-24 Junior Grand Prix Final in Beijing, China, on Saturday. They are the first Georgian pairs team to win a JGP Final medal of any color. Ava Rae Kemp and Yohnatan Elizarov of Canada took the silver while teammates Jazmine Desrochers and Kieran Thrasher earned the bronze.
Anastasiia Metelkina and Luka Berulava
Metelkina and Berulava put out a strong and dynamic short program to “Summertime.” The team only had a small error on the spin. The level-four twist, double Axel, throw triple loop, and level-four lift were solid. The newly formed team picked up many positive grades of execution (GOE) for all elements, particularly for the twist and lift. They scored a new personal best of 70.48 for first place.
“We want to skate clean,” said Metelkina. “Today there was a mistake on the spin. We don’t compare our scores to the Seniors. We decided to skate in Juniors as we weren’t sure we would get two Senior assignments. We are still very motivated to skate in Juniors. The Grand Prix Final is definitely exciting!
“I always liked Anastasiia and had great respect for her even when we were in different teams,” shared Berulava. “I admire her consistency. We right away did all the pair elements well when we tried out together.”
Skating to “The Millionaire Waltz” by Queen for the free skate, the team reeled off a level-four triple twist that earned mostly +4 GOEs across the board. They went on to land a solid side-by-side triple Salchow-double Axel-double toe and triple toes. The throw triple flip and throw triple loop were very good, and they earned a level four on both lifts and the pair spin. They scored a new personal best of 131.63, placing first in the free skate and overall with a total score of 202.11.
Metelkina and Berulava showed they were clearly in a separate league in terms of speed, detail, choreography and transitions. This was apparent as they separated themselves from the rest of the teams by 34 points, breaking the 200-mark.
“I felt a bit nervous for the first time in a long while ahead of the competition,” admitted Berulava. “But I focused on getting my job done. We are proud that we beat the Junior World record today. We want to express gratefulness to our coaches and federation.”
“I am feeling really happy,” added Metelkina. “The triple toes could have been better. I am always a bit nervous ahead of a competition, but I tell myself I can do everything!”
The team plans to compete at both junior and senior World championships, and they would like to win Europeans.
Ava Rae Kemp and Yohnatan Elizarov
Kemp and Elizarov were solid in their short program to “Monde Inverse,” producing a level-two twist, side-by-side double Axels and a good throw triple loop. The 2023 JPG Solidarity Cup champions also earned a level four on their step sequence and picked up a new personal best of 57.91 points for second place.
“Our goal was to score two personal bests, so half of that is already done,” said Kemp. “We are very happy about today’s skate. There was a mistake on the spin, so we lost some points there.”
“After last year we were so happy to be here,” said Elizarov. “After the last training we just said, ‘yes, it’s real, we are really going!’ The preparation for this event was a bit tough, so we are really glad we made it here. Big thanks to our coaches!”
They are aiming for 60 points in the short program at Nationals or Junior Worlds.
The national junior silver medalists showed good focus in their free skate to “Writing’s on the Wall” and “Skyfall,” earning a new personal best of 110.92 points. They landed a side-by-side double Axel-single Axel-double toe sequence and triple Salchows with no problem. The throw triple loop and throw triple Salchow were good and they earned a level four on both lifts. Only the triple twist was graded a level one. They easily maintained second place overall with a total score of 168.83.
“We came here without any expectations placement wise,” said Kemp. “We just wanted to have fun. After the short program, we felt a little bit of pressure and had to remind ourselves to just focus on ourselves. There is still room for improvement.”
“It’s amazing to have earned this medal after the struggles in the past,” added Elizarov. “We want to dearly thank our team and the coaches for pushing us to train. It was the first time we skated internationally with two throw triples. It was a stressful competition. Moving forward, we just want to keep improving from competition to competition.”
Jazmine Desrochers and Kieran Thrasher
Desrochers and Thrasher placed fourth (54.91) in the short program with their lyrical routine to music from Amélie. The new team showed good connection, but she stepped out of the side-by-side double Axels and two-footed the throw triple loop. However, the lift and death spiral earned a level four.
“We left some points on the table but overall, we are happy with our skate,” said Thrasher. “Our goal here is to just show our best.”
“It’s exciting to be here,” added Desrochers. “This was the first time, apart from sectionals, that we put the triple throw into the program, and it felt great to accomplish that.”
The newly formed team finished third in the free skate with a new personal best of 101.42. Their routine to Warsaw Concerto featured two level-four lifts and pair spin, but the team struggled on their jumping passes. She stepped out of the side-by-side double Axels as well as the last jump in a double Salchow-single Axel-single Axel sequence. She also two-footed the throw triple loop, but the throw double Salchow was clean. Despite the mistakes, with a total score of 156.33, they moved up from fourth place onto the podium for the bronze.
“We are happy with the skate today,” said Desrochers. “It had been our goal to hit the 100 points in the free skate and we did that. We want to work now on our overall confidence of the jumps and hopefully add in another throw triple.”
“We haven’t been able to show a good skate on the international scene and we are happy we did that today,” added Thrasher.
Martina Ariano Kent and Charly Laliberte-Laurent
Martina Ariano Kent and Charly Laliberte-Laurent of Canada showed a level-three triple twist, double Axels and a level four lift in their short program to “I’m Gonna Be.” She took an unfortunate fall on the throw triple loop, but the new team earned a level four on the change combination spin. The 2023 JGP Cup of Austria champions placed third with a new personal best 55.97 points.
“It feels amazing to be here,” said Kent. “The ice is great and it’s so inspiring to skate here with the seniors. We are especially looking up to Deanna and Max!”
Kent added that she had a small concussion and several issues with her skates recently.
“I had to change them twice,” she said. “We only had two weeks of training before coming here. But these have been going great. Considering the problems we had, we just came here to have fun.”
The new team struggled in their free skate to “Radioactive” and “Finally Free,” taking two falls. They landed a good double Axel-double Axel sequence, but then Kent took a fall on both the throw triple loop and side-by-side triple Salchows. She also two-footed the landing of a throw triple Salchow, however the lifts were graded a level four. They placed fourth in the free skate and overall (94.73/150.70).
“It’s hard to say something right now, I just don’t feel too good,” Kent told the press. “I feel like need to work a lot on my stamina.”
“It was overall a nice experience to compete in front of the huge crowd,” offered Laliberte-Laurent.
Olivia Flores and Luke Wang
USA’s Olivia Flores and Luke Wang earned a new personal best of 54.91 for fifth place with their short program to “Once Upon a December.” There were some minor errors, but a step out and hand down on a throw triple loop was the costliest.
“It is so exciting to be here,” said Flores. “It is definitely more nerve-wracking than all other competitions we did before.”
Wang shared that the preparation was tough as they had little down time after their JGP events.
“But our coaches Drew (Meekins) and Natalia (Natalia Mishkutenok) helped us through amazingly! We focused a lot on our artistry, and we feel happy with our skate!”
The 2023 JGP Cup of Austria and JPG Istanbul silver medalists finished sixth in the free skate and fifth overall (91.02/140.17). They had an unfortunate fall on a triple twist as Wang didn’t catch her. Wang also went down in the side-by-side double Axel-single Axel-double Axel sequence and triple Salchows. The throw triple loop and Salchow were clean, with positive GOEs, and they earned a level four for the spin and Group 3 lift.
“I have to say I didn’t totally feel up to it today,” said Wang. “I had shaky legs. I guess such things just happen. We are extremely thankful though for all the fans that came out there today and cheered us on. It was incredible to perform in front of such a big audience.”
“I think it’s part of the learning experience,” said Flores. “This competition is so big. When we ended our program, I just thought, ‘Wow, I am really here, we made it here!’ That’s amazing!”
They are excited as they will be performing in an upcoming show in Colorado alongside Olympic champion Nathan Chen.
Violetta Sierova and Ivan Khobta
Violetta Sierova and Ivan Khobta of Ukraine were sixth (47.52) after their short program to “If I Can Dream.” The team opened with a showed a level-two triple twist and throw double loop, but she stood up on the side-by-side double Lutzes. However, the lift and change combination spin were graded a level four.
“I am still not fully recovered from my injury,” shared Sierova. “I took three weeks off after the JGP and thought it had gotten a little bit better, but actually the problem is still there. It used to be a problem with my right hip, but now I also have back problems.”
“We feel really happy to just be here,” said Khobta. “It is still difficult to properly run programs. We also couldn’t train triple jumps.”
The 2023 World Junior bronze medalists placed fifth (92.65) in their free skate to Sia’s “Bird Set Free.” While not as technically demanding as their counterparts due to her back injury, the team was still clean in their elements. Their routine was highlighted by their level-two triple twist and double Salchow-double toe-single Axel sequence. The lifts were very nice and their posture was good, and they rounded out the group with 140.17 points.
“Today was a bit better,” said Sierova. “But we really want to show triple jumps. First, I need to fully recover from my injury.”
The skaters, who took silver at both events in Budapest and Gdansk, plan to skate at Europeans and then take more time off to fully recover.