Home Figure Skating News Minkyu Seo cinches Men’s title at Junior Worlds

Minkyu Seo cinches Men’s title at Junior Worlds

by Paula Slater
International Skating Union
Minkyu Seo cinches Men's title at Junior Worlds

(L-R) Silver medalist Rio Nakata (JPN), gold medalist Minkyu Seo (KOR) and bronze medalist Adam Hagara (SVK) pose at the medal ceremony at the ISU World Junior Figure Skating Championships on March 02, 2024, in Taipei, Taiwan.

2024 Junior Worlds: Men

Minkyu Seo of the Republic of Korea cinched the Men’s title at the World Junior Figure Skating Championships on Mar 2, 2024. In doing so, he became the first skater to win a medal for his country in the Men’s discipline for this event. Rio Nakata of Japan rose from fifth to claim the silver, while Slovakia’s Adam Hagara pocketed the bronze, taking the first medal for his country in the Men’s event at this competition. This was Seo and Nakata’s first appearance at this event and Hagara’s fourth.

Minkyu Seo

Seo was solid in his lyrical short program to “Flower Dance,” landing a triple Axel, triple Lutz and triple flip-triple toe. The only error was an edge call on the Lutz. All spins and footwork were awarded a level four and he placed first with a new personal best of 80.58 points.

“I am very happy with my clean skate and the personal best today,” said the 2023 JGP Turkey champion. “At the beginning of the season I only jumped the double Axel in the short program, but I included the triple Axel to me more competitive.”

“From a young age, I wanted to always focus more on the performance and the choreography,” he added. “This is more important to me than the technical content. Of course, I would be happy in case I could grab a medal, but I just want to focus on myself and stay calm.”

Skating to music from Notre-Dame de Paris for his long program, Seo opened with a solid triple Axel-double toe, but then popped his second Axel. He quickly recovered to land six more clean triple jumps while executing level-four spins throughout. The two-time national bronze medalist finished second (150.17) in the free skate but maintained first overall with a total score of 230.75.

“It feels so amazing!” said the 15-year-old. “I want to thank my parents who made this possible. It was not always easy for me to find the facilities to train, so I am really thankful to them.”

“After I popped the second Axel, I felt a bit embarrassed, but I had still so many elements to go and focus on,” shared Seo. “I knew I had the possibility to win and be the first Korean to win Junior Worlds, but I tried not to think about it and stay calm. Yes, I won this because of the PCS score. I always thought that components were very important, and I think my point was proven today.”

Rio Nakata

Nakata landed a triple Axel, triple flip-triple toe and triple Lutz in his dramatic short program to “God Particle” and “160 Bpm.” He fought for the landing on the combination jump and made a tiny mistake on the change foot camel spin but was otherwise clean. He earned a level four on two spins and picked up a new personal best of 77.60 points for fifth place.

“The Youth Olympics gave me a big shock and I was pretty scared of the short program today in many ways,” said Nakata, recalling the painful memories of that event. “I’m glad it went much better than that time. Although there are still things that I hope to fix, I thought it was good.”

“This is probably the last competition of the season, so I hoped to enjoy it with all I have at my own pace,” he added. “Since the middle of the season, if I played around a bit and did things like lifting my fist in the air (guts pose), it had a good feeling to it, so I hope to be in a good mood like that.”

In his free skate to music from the Spectre soundtrack, he stepped out of his opening quad toe, but was otherwise solid. He landed a total of seven clean triple jumps, including two triple Axels. All spins were graded a level four, and all elements except for the quad toe received positive GOEs. He finished first (151.71) in the free skate, and with a total score of 229.31, rose three spots to second overall.

“I’m upset about doing a mistake with the quad, but the rest went as planned, so I think it was good,” said the 15-year-old. “I was nervous, but I really wanted to work hard for the sake of next year.”

“I get extremely nervous with my short program,” added Nakata. “Compared to that, the free program was much easier to do.”

The 2023-24 JGP Final Champion plans to continue competing as a junior as he wants to take “take revenge” on his Youth Olympics.

“I want to do even better,” he said. “I was too tired around the time of JGP, and I couldn’t even do the jumps I’m strong at that well. Compared to JGP, my condition right now is the best it’s been this season.”

Adam Hagara

Hagara placed third in the short with a solid routine to “Another Love.” The 2023 JGP Cup of Austria champion produced a triple flip-triple toe, triple Axel and triple Lutz, all of which received over +1 GOE. Two spins garnered a level four, and he scored a new personal best of 78.02.

“I am pleased with my skating today,” said Hagara. “I was pretty tired actually, but I pushed through, and I think it was quite good. I got a bit nervous as I saw a lot of guys had very high scores before I skated, but I guess I am okay as I now also scored higher than ever before.”

His coach couldn’t accompany the skater, but Hagara said it didn’t impact him. “I know what to do.”

The 17-year-old put out a near-solid routine to “Dream On,” only stepping out of the landing of his opening triple Axel-double toe. All other jumps were clean, including his second triple Axel and triple flip-triple toe. He landed a total of eight clean triple jumps while displaying level-four spins throughout, finishing third in the free skate and overall (147.59/255.61).

“It feels amazing! Winning a medal at Worlds was always my goal,” said the two-time national champion. “So, winning one here at Junior Worlds is maybe a good step into the upcoming senior career. Compared to the Final, this competition felt better. At the Final, many things were a bit messy. Here, everything went really smoothly. My legs are actually really tired now, but I am happy!”

Shunsuke Nakamura

Shunsuke Nakamura of Japan fell on triple Axel in his short program but landed a clean triple flip-triple toe and triple Lutz. He was 10th (72.85) going into the free skate.

“I feel really frustrated about the Axel,” said the 18-year-old from Nagoya. “My practice was the best one I had up until now, so that only happened in the actual performance. After falling on the Axel, I heard the voices of support from the audience. Even before the flip-toe, I heard many voices, so it helped me switch my mindset. I’m glad that after that, I was able to bounce back.”

The national junior champion bounced back in the free skate, placing fourth with a new personal best of 142.61. His dramatic routine to “Child of Nazare” featured a clean quad toe, as well as five triple jumps, but he fell on the solo triple Axel. Two spins were graded a level four, and with a total score of 215.46, soared to fourth place overall.

“For me, this competition had been the one I worked hard for the most,” said Nakamura. “And my condition matched it. I’m happy that I was able to skate my free for the last time.”

The national junior champion said that we would like to add one or two quad jumps after he gets the triple Axel down.

“I’ve been quite good at jumping the second Axel in my practices, even better than the first,” he said. “I haven’t been able to do that here, but I didn’t let it break my spirit, so I think that will give me strength for the next time.”

He went on to say that he remained upset for two days after his mistake in the short program.

“But I think regrouping and challenging the free is really a part of my growth,” Nakamura summed up. “And also, I think all the practices I’ve done until now will benefit me in the future.”

Francois Pitot

Skating to “Separate Ways” and “Stranger Things,” Francois Pitot of France landed a very good triple Axel which earned +2.51 GOE. He followed up with a solid triple Lutz and triple flip-double toe. The change foot camel spin wasn’t the best, but he earned a level four on the other two spins and footwork. The 2023-24 Junior Grand Prix finalist scored a new personal best of 78.79 for second place going into the free skate.

“I am very happy to have received the best components,” said Pitot. “I am glad that the judges like my program and I am thankful to my choreographer. I felt much better here than at the Final where I was a bit sick. A little mistake though on the combination, but well, better that I doubled it and didn’t take a fall. I am also very happy to have won a small medal. Let’s make it a big one on Saturday.”

The two-time national bronze medalist had planned a quad Salchow but opted for two triple Axels instead in his free skate to “Cry Me a River.” He landed the triple Axel-triple toe but popped his second triple Axel and later fell on a triple Lutz. However, the triple loop and triple flip were clean. He attempted another triple Axel later in the program but turned out the landing. Two spins received a level four, and he finished seventh with 136.16 points. With a total score of 214.95, he slipped to fifth overall.

“I am pretty disappointed,” said the 19-year-old. “Frankly speaking I fu**ed up! I wasn’t nervous. I was pretty calm all the time, also during practice. Maybe after the first mistake on the Axel nerves came a bit.”

“For next season, I really will work on the quads, toe and Salchow, and then we will see how it will go in seniors.”

He was happy about the plushy from the anime “One Piece”: “It’s my favorite anime.”

Jaekeun Lee

Jaekeun Lee from the Republic of Korea fell on a triple Axel in his short program to “IO Ci Saro.” However, the rest of the program was solid. The triple Lutz and triple loop-triple toe earned positive GOEs, as did his level-four spins and footwork. Unfortunately, the fall was costly and he placed 12th (70.15) going into the free skate.

In his free skate in his routine to Romeo and Juliet, the skater from Gunpo City landed a solid triple Axel-double toe but fought for the landing of a solo triple Axel. He also fell on an underrotated triple Salchow, but showed two solid triple Lutz jumps, both in combination. The triple flip received an edge call, but he produced three good level-four spins. The 16-year-old placed fifth with a new personal best of 142.07 in the free skate and catapulted to sixth place overall (212.22).

“I am still shaking,” said Lee. “I fought until the end, and I am pretty happy I attempted two triple Axels and with my first Junior Worlds. I am happy that my components are so high here, it shows that I worked on it.”

He shared that he portrays “Romeo” in the free skate. “I try to show that with my expressions, for example, desperate eyes.”

He looks up to both Yuma Kagiyama and Shoma Uno.

Arlet Levandi

Arlet Levandi of Estonia popped his opening triple Axel to a double in his short program, leaving points on the table. The triple Lutz and triple flip-triple toe were clean, however, and he also received a level four on all spins and footwork. Despite the mistake, he still earned a new personal best of 75.43, placing eighth.

“I feel pretty good, I tried to imagine to be at home at my practice rink,” said the 18-year-old. “Junior Worlds was my goal of the season, but I prepared just like always, with hard work.”

“Also, in my mother I have the best mental coach. She gave me my fighting spirit.”

The two-time national silver medalist opted not to go for the triple Axel in the free skate. He landed a total of four clean triples in his routine to music by Ibrahim Maalouf, but popped both jumps in a flip-toe combination near the end. He scored 136.55 for sixth place in the free skate and rose one spot to seventh overall (211.98).

“I feel mostly pretty sad right now,” said Levandi. “Because of the mistake on the last jump, I lost a lot of places. That’s a pity.”

“I take from this season that I made a lot of progress on the harder jumps and that I can land them,” he said of his experience this year. “Not in competition yet, but next season they will come. I will work very hard and am looking forward to the off season.”

He plans on working with Benoit Richaud on two new programs. The deciding factor of whether he will compete as a junior or senior next year depends on if he’s picked up for a Grand Prix event.

Aleksa Rakic

Aleksa Rakic of Canada placed fourth in the short program with a new personal best of 77.74 for his routine to “Biblical” and “Epiphany.” He landed a triple Lutz, triple Axel and triple flip-triple toe. All three spins and the footwork were graded a level four.

“I am feeling so happy,” said Rakic. “Especially after my training was a bit interrupted last week as I took a hard fall on a quad toe. That I was able to overcome and put out a skate like this shows me how much I have improved in general. I know I can do even better in the future. I feel like I am in a good place right now physically and mentally. I approached this season a bit differently, competed a lot already in the summer. That gave me a lot of confidence. I also worked a lot on my speed recently.”

The national silver medalist landed a quad toe in his free skate to “No One Like You.” However, he made several costly mistakes, including a fall on a triple Axel, to finish ninth (134.00).

“I have mixed feelings right now,” said the 19-year-old from Burnaby. “Landing the quad toe obviously felt amazing, but then some mistakes crept in. I lost some spin levels, a lot of things to work on. I think the main reason is that my training was a bit interrupted [due to bad fall in practice].”

“I am looking back on this season with a lot of things to be proud of,” Rakic summed up. “Getting second at nationals felt really good. I will work hard on everything overall, and hopefully will be putting in the quad Salchow next season.”

Rounding out the top 10

Great Britain’s Edward Appleby placed ninth overall (205.55) followed by USA’s Jacob Sanchez (199.17)

Jakub Lofek of Poland stood in seventh after the short but placed 18th in the free skate, slipping to 11th overall (199.04).

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