Home Figure Skating News Metelkina and Berulava seize Junior World Pairs’ title

Metelkina and Berulava seize Junior World Pairs’ title

by Paula Slater
International Skating Union
Anastasiia Metelkina and Luka Berulava secure Junior World title

(L-R) Silver medalists Olivia Flores and Luke Wang (USA), gold medalists Anastasiia Metelkina and Luka Berulava (GEO) and bronze medalists Naomi Williams and Lachlan Lewer (USA) pose at the medal ceremony at the 2024 ISU World Junior Figure Skating Championships on February 29, 2024, in Taipei, Taiwan.

2024 Junior Worlds: Pairs

Anastasiia Metelkina and Luka Berulava of Georgia seized the Pairs’ title in Taipei on February 29, 2024, taking the gold with nearly 13 points to spare. USA’s Olivia Flores and Luke Wang and teammates Naomi Williams and Lachlan Lewer placed second and third, respectively.

Anastasiia Metelkina and Luka Berulava

Metelkina and Berulava earned a new personal best of 71.53 for their catchy short program to Billy Stewart’s version of “Summertime.” The 2024 European silver medalists were solid, delivering a level-four triple twist, side-by-side double Axels, throw triple loop, and level-four lift. They also earned a level four for the spin, steps and death spiral while picking up positive grades of execution (GOE) on all elements throughout.

“We improved continuously over this season,” said Metelkina. “In juniors, we are already well known. We knew that if we had a clean skate, we would get a high score. At the senior level, we don’t get high components like this yet.”

“We prepared very well for this event,” added Berulava. “I was actually a bit nervous ahead of the skate as the double Axel is more difficult for me than the triple Salchow. I am glad it went well.”

Their goal is to set a new Junior World record at this event. Depending on the age rules for next season, they may consider competing at Junior Worlds again.

The 2023-24 Junior Grand Prix (JGP) champions struggled in their free skate. They opened with a very good level-three triple twist, but then Metelkina went down on the side-by-side triple Salchows and stumbled on the landing of a triple flip. Berulava turned out the triple toe and Metelkina stepped out of the landing of the throw triple loop. However, both lifts and spin were graded a level four and they managed to finish first in the free skate and overall (107.79/179.32).

“I am grateful to our coaches, to the Federation and my partner that we were able to win this competition even though I made some errors,” said Metelkina. “I’ll work on that. We’ll work to improve the elements, first of all the jumps and work on the consistency.”

Berulava was not happy, noting the “big mistakes.”

“I don’t know (what went wrong). This is sport, it is a casino,” he said. “This competition was a lesson for us. I hope that from this point we’ll work even harder in training, because practice leads to the result and the result comes from practice. I think we haven’t found that point yet.”

Olivia Flores and Luke Wang

Flores and Wang were thrilled with their strong short program performance to “Once Upon a December.” The triple twist, lift, spin, and steps were all graded a level four. The two-time JGP medalists also executed side-by-side double Axels and a throw triple loop. They placed second in this segment with a new personal best of 62.33.

“62 feels surreal!” said Wang of their score. “We are so happy! I think our biggest learning curve over this season was our confidence. We felt calm and really good already ahead of the skate.”

“The elements now come easier to us, and this makes us relax more,” added Flores. “Also, the sun shone this morning, and it was so warm. We saw this as a positive sign.”

The national junior champions finished second (104.56) in the free skate with their routine to music from Star Wars. They landed a double Axel-single Axel-double Axel sequence, but then she turned out the landing of the side-by-side triple Salchows. She later fell on a throw triple loop but fought and landed the throw triple Salchow. The lifts and spins were graded a level four and the team finished second in the free skate and overall (104.56/166.89).

“It feels amazing to be a Worlds silver medalist,” said Wang. “I think our entire work we put in this season came together with this medal. It also shows how much we improved over the season. It was also a good experience to skate after the Georgian team.”

They were also thrilled that their teammates, Williams and Lewer, who won the bronze.

Flores and Wang will most likely compete domestically on the senior level next season, but as juniors internationally as they have one more year left age-wise.

“We actually don’t know about the Grand Prix season,” said Wang. “I mean it heavily relies on world rankings, so we will see. Junior Worlds is always fun and this is our first one, so I’d love to come back. We’d love to dabble in seniors as well, so definitely something we’re going to work for.”

“I’m just very excited to be here,” added Flores. “Definitely grateful even though, you know, you have hopes and you always want to do your best and sometimes that doesn’t happen. And moving on and learning the lessons from this competition and taking it to the next.”

Naomi Williams and Lachlan Lewer

Williams and Lewer put out a solid skate in their short to “Joli Garcon” which featured a level-three triple twist, side-by-side double Axels and throw double loop. The death spiral, combination spin, lift and steps were all graded a level four. The two-time national junior silver medalists placed fourth with a new personal best of 55.37 points.

“It means the world for us to be here!” said Williams. “I needed surgery because of ligament problems. It was a really tough season, so this is only our second competition. We came in here with no huge pressure and placement expectations. We are just so happy to be here!”

Williams was born in Korea but hasn’t been to Aisa in a very long time. “It is a bit new with the time change and everything.”

“This arena and the audience are also very huge for us,” added Lewer. “It’s very exciting! Unfortunately, I injured myself two weeks ago, but I am happy to be able to compete and we are working on it.”

Skating to Miss Saigon in the free skate, the team landed their side-by-side double Salchows and throw double loop, but Williams went down on the double Axel sequence. That was the only major mistake in an otherwise nice program. They also produced a throw double Salchow and received a level four on two lifts and the pair combination spin. They placed fourth in the free skate and third overall (90.63/146.00).

“I am so happy and proud of what we have done after all we have been through,” said Williams. “It was a really rough time this season. Despite that, we didn’t show our best skate today, but we are so proud to just be here and got it done! Initially, at the beginning of the season, it had been our goal to make the top five at Junior Worlds and we did!”

“Danny O’Shea told me something very useful: to embrace fear and turn it into something else. That really helped me a lot!” she added.

Williams and Lewer missed the JGP season due to Williams incurring a foot injury. Her surgeon didn’t think she would be able to compete at nationals, but they did and won the silver.

“Then to come here is just such a huge accomplishment for both of us,” said Lewer. “I’m super proud of my partner and everyone else here. They all worked super hard and they earned everything they got. Thank you to my coaches and congrats to everyone else. Thank you!”

They are excited about becoming seniors next season and want to work on their triple jumps.

“Ideally perform two triple throws and two side-by-side triples,” said Lewer.

Irina Napolitano and Edoardo Comi

Irina Napolitano and Edoardo Comi of Italy were seventh coming into the free skate. Their long program to The White Crow featured a side-by-side triple toe-double toe-single Axel sequence, throw double Salchow and throw double loop. The relatively new team showed an emotional connection on the ice and earned a new personal best of 94.12. They placed third in the free skate and climbed to fourth overall (94.12/143.88).

“We are super, super happy about our top five finish here at our first Junior Worlds!” said Napolitano.

Napolitano still competes in singles and is not sure yet if she will continue with both disciplines next season.

Martina Ariano Kent and Charly Laliberte-Laurent

Canada’s Martina Ariano Kent and Charly Laliberte-Laurent had a bit of a rough start in the short program with a faulty exit on the throw triple twist. However, they quickly recovered to land side-by-side double Axels, a level-four lift and a very good throw triple loop. The two-time JGP medalists placed third with 55.67 points, just .30 points off from their previous personal best.

“We are very pleased with the skate today,” said Ariano Kent. “After the little mistake at the twist, I just put it out of my head right away like it didn’t happen. I still have some problems with my boots, like at the Final (JGP), but it’s nothing dangerous, just a bit painful. I will have to switch skates after this competition.”

“It feels really great to be here,” added Laliberte-Laurent. “Just the experience to see so many great skaters competing, it’s so cool!”

Unfortunately, the free skate did not go as smooth as they had hoped. The twist only received a base value and Ariano Kent took three falls. The national junior silver medalists finished sixth in the free skate and slipped to fifth overall (85.59/141.26).

The team was pretty disappointed and acknowledged they could have done much better.

“But I am glad we fought until the end,” said Ariano Kent. “We will stay one more year in juniors and will take the experience from this year into next season.”

Ava Kemp and Yohnatan Elizarov

Ava Kemp and Yohnatan Elizarov of Canada found themselves in fifth place (54.86) after their fun short program to “Monde Inverse.” The triple twist was graded a level one and she stepped out of the double Axels, but the throw triple loop spot on. The 2023-24 JGP Final silver medalists also showed a level-four combination spin and steps.

“We thought it was a pretty decent program except for the step out at the Axel,” said Elizarov. “Seeing the score felt like we lost an entire element. Obviously, the twist was bad. During the skate the twist felt good for us, we will have to watch the video, but such things happen. We will have to re-group for the free skate. Our preparation for this event was actually very good! We are both well prepared and healthy.”

The national junior champions had a rough free skate, placing fifth (85.51) after Kemp took three falls in the first half of the program. They finished sixth overall (140.67).

“We have no explanation and excuse at this point,” said Elizarov. “It was not our day. We are now really looking forward to a nice vacation during the off-season and will re-group and come back stronger next season!”

Rounding out the top 10

Last year’s bronze medalists, Violetta Sierova and Ivan Khobta of Ukraine, finished placed seventh overall. Sierova has been battling hip and lower back injuries this season, so the team has scaled back on triple jumps, doing doubles instead.

Debora Anna Cohen and Lukas Vochozka of the Czech Republic finished eighth overall (128.53), followed by Romane Telemaque and Lucas Coulon of France (127.46) and USA’s Adele Zheng and Andy Deng (124.88).

Louise Ehrhard and Matthis Pellegris of France withdrew from the event. Ehrhard hit her head during practice prior to the short program. They still competed the short, placing sixth with a new personal best of 50.75.

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