Home Figure Skating News Neset and Markelov secure Junior World gold in Taipei

Neset and Markelov secure Junior World gold in Taipei

by Paula Slater
International Skating Union
Leah Neset and Artem Markelov secured the gold medal

(L-R) Silver medalists Elizabeth Tkachenko and Alexei Kiliakov (ISR), gold medalists Leah Neset and Artem Markelov (USA) and bronze medalists Darya Grimm and Michail Savitskiy (GER) pose at the medal ceremony at the ISU World Junior Figure Skating Championships on March 02, 2024, in Taipei, Taiwan.

2024 Junior Worlds: Ice Dance

USA’s Leah Neset and Artem Markelov secured the gold medal in their second appearance at the World Junior Figure Skating Championships on March 2, 2024, in Taipei. Elizabeth Tkachenko and Alexei Kiliakov of Israel edged out Germany’s Darya Grimm and Michail Savitskiy for the silver, becoming the first Ice Dance team from Israel to medal at this event. Grimm and Savitskiy also made history by becoming the first German team in Ice Dance to medal at Junior Worlds.

Leah Neset and Artem Markelov

Neset and Markelov delivered a confident rhythm dance to “Still Loving You” and “I Hate Myself for Loving You.” Both Rocker Foxtrot patterns were graded a level two, meeting four of the key points. The twizzles were graded a level four and three, while the midline steps were a level two. The 2023-24 Junior Grand Prix (JGP) Final champions also showed an impressive level-four straightline and all elements received high grades of execution (GOE). They scored 70.16 points for first place going into the free dance.

“I felt the nerves a bit before the performance, but I guess that’s normal,” Neset admitted. “We enjoyed performing here and we love Taiwan so far. Coming in here as the favorites increases the pressure a bit, but it’s very exciting.”

“I agree, we are very pleased with our skate today,” added Markelov. “It was great fun and tomorrow we want to show our best again and enjoy the moment as good as we can.”

The three-time national junior champions were the favorites coming into this event, and they didn’t disappoint. The only error came when she touched the ice with her hand for balance on the ending choreographic lift, resulting in one-point deduction for a “fall.” Their dramatic free dance to “Anytime, Anywhere” and “Cry” otherwise featured excellent level-four twizzles, lifts and dance spin. The circular steps were graded a level two while the one-foot steps were a level three. All elements, except for the choreo lift, received very high GOEs, and they finished first in the free dance and overall (99.60/169.76).

“It feels super exciting to be Junior World Champions,” said Neset. “I am feeling great! I am a bit sad that we couldn’t show a super clean skate and had this little stumble at the end.”

“Yes, this choreo lift was a new element,” noted Markelov. “We created it three weeks ago and wanted to show it perfectly here. We have a few shows coming up where we will be showing a shortened version of this free dance, so it’s not a full goodbye yet to the program and we can still show this lift.”

Despite going in as the front runners, they admitted to being nervous as every competition is different. The team has not yet decided whether they will move up to the senior level.

Elizabeth Tkachenko and Alexei Kiliakov

Tkachenko and Kiliakov put out a high-intensity race car-themed routine to music by Yello. They showed very good level-four twizzles and rotational lift and earned positive GOEs throught. The diagonal steps were graded a level two while the Rocker Foxtrot patterns were a level two and one. They finished third with 65.88 points for the rhythm dance.

“We feel good, it was a good start into the event,” said Kiliakov. “The success at the Final gave us a perspective where we can go and also where we can still improve on.”

“Since the Final, we worked on a lot of little details,” Tkachenko added. “We really like skating here. The arena and Taipei are great!”

The 2023-24 JGP Final silver medalists displayed very deep edges and good flow in their intense free dance. The twizzles were graded a level four and two, but the lifts and dance spin were a level four. The one-foot steps received a level two and one while the diagonal steps for both ice dancers were a level one. They finished second in the free dance (96.80) and moved up one spot on the podium to second place overall (162.68).

“It feels great to have won a medal,” said Kiliakov. “This free dance was definitely something special, but it showed us what we are capable of and motivates us to create something new.”

“I feel like compared to the Final, the skates here felt cleaner, so this event is more meaningful to us,” added Tkachenko.

While it’s up to the Israel Ice Skating Federation whether they will stay as juniors, Kiliakov sees benefits either way.

Darya Grimm and Michail Savitskiy

Grimm and Savitskiy produced an engaging and progressive rhythm dance to music by the Electric Light Orchestra. The 2023-24 JGP Final bronze medalists appeared relaxed, earning a level four on the twizzles and rotational lift. The first Rocker Foxtrot patters was also graded a level four and met all key points. The midline steps were graded a level three and two and all elements received positive GOEs. They placed second with 66.11 points.

“We think this was our best rhythm dance and performance of the season,” said Savitskiy. “Now, where it is the end of the season, we really gave our all and wanted to finish on a strong note. It’s really the moment to show what you worked on all season. Our preparation was also ideal, so we feel very good overall. We also added some little details to the choreography, and I think it was visible today.”

“As we came here last Sunday, we already had the chance to see a bit of the city which was very nice,” said Grimm. “We really like it. I went to see a monument in the city which was really interesting.”

Savitskiy enjoyed the night market. “I went there with my parents. It’s of course nice that they are here to support us.”

The three-time national junior champions earned a new season’s best of 96.02 for their strong free dance to Introduction et Rondo Capriccioso and “Habanera.” They showed two strong level-four lifts and dance spin, and the twizzles were graded a level three and two. The diagonal steps were a level three and two, while the one-foot steps earned a level three. With a total score of 162.13, they were edged out by the Israelis by 0.55 points for third place overall.

“It’s great to have taken a medal here,” said Savitskiy. “It’s the first medal in Junior Ice Dance ever for Germany, so that’s of course amazing! It’s a bit unfortunate we missed the silver because of my mistake on the twizzles, nevertheless, we had our best free dance of the season. Overall, I think we had a good season and improved continuously.”

“We will mainly stay junior next season, do the JGP and Junior Worlds, and maybe try a few senior events,” he added. “We aren’t entirely sure yet.”

Celina Fradji and Jean-Hans Fourneaux

Celina Fradji and Jean-Hans Fourneaux of France were sixth (61.52) after the rhythm dance. Their rock routine featured level-three midline steps and a level-four rotational lift. The twizzles were graded a level three and four, but the second Rocker Foxtrot patter only garnered a base value.

“I am very disappointed as there were big mistakes today,” said Fradji. “I still think a lot of things improved from the Final, so it’s even more disappointing that we made big mistakes. We hoped to have a chance for the third place here. Actually, the gap is not that big, so we will give everything we have tomorrow. We also feel more comfortable with our free dance than with the rhythm dance, so we will fight tomorrow.”

The 2023-24 JGP finalists showed excellent level-four twizzles in their mature free dance to music by Rascasuelos, receiving +2.18 GOEs for the element. They showed lots of detail, good skating skills and deep edges throughout. Both the circular and one-foot steps were graded a level two, while the lifts and dance spin garnered a level four. They placed fourth with a new personal best of 95.14 and moved up two spots to fourth overall (156.66).

“We knew we were more secure with the free dance, and it showed today,” said a happy Fourneaux.

“I was a little bit nervous because I really wanted to end the season on a high note,” said Fradji. “I am so glad we did! The support of our teammates here, and also at home, really helped us a lot after yesterday’s rhythm dance.”

They plan to extend their stay in the junior level for another season for the JGP series. However, they are contemplating participating in senior Challenger events to gauge their competitiveness against the senior teams.

Elliana Peal and Ethan Peal

USA’s Elliana Peal and Ethan Peal scored 61.65 points for fifth place with their rhythm dance to music by Janet Jackson. The two-time JGP medalists picked up a level four on the twizzles and rotational lift. The midline steps were graded a level two and they met three of their key point in the first Rocker Foxtrot pattern which was a level three.

“We are so happy we started here today,” said Elliana Peal. “It felt great to perform here at our first Junior Worlds. We were supporting our pairs the last days and now they came to cheer for us. That’s really cool! We have an amazing team, we support each other a lot, it’s like family.”

“We want to use this event in order to gain experience for next year where we will skate in juniors again and then hopefully step it up,” added her brother and partner.

The two-time national junior bronze medalists placed fifth (92.44) in the free dance with their charming free dance to music from Lord of the Rings. All elements received positive GOEs, in particular, the level-four straightline-rotational lift. The twizzles and dance spin also received a level four. The one-foot steps were graded a level two and three, while the serpentine steps were a level two.

“We are very happy with this result,” said Elliana Peal. “Going into this, it was surely the best outcome we could have hoped for. It was also the biggest audience we ever competed for. We are super grateful for the support of our teammates. “It’s funny we can recognize their screams from the audience!”

“A main factor of why we had so much fun this season was that we always went together with so many amazing people,” she added. “We are now really ready to step it up next season.”

Chloe Nguyen and Brendan Giang

Chloe Nguyen and Brendan Giang of Canada met seven out of eight of their key points for the Rocker Foxtrot patterns their fun rhythm dance to “Let’s Dance” and “Dancing in the Street.” The 2024 JGP Cup of Austria silver medalists also received a level four on their twizzles and straightline lift, earning a new personal best of 61.22. They placed seventh going into the free dance.

“We feel great about or skate today,” said Giang. “I think our hard work we put in during the season really paid off. We want to show our best at this competition and will see where this puts us.”

“It felt really good out there, we enjoyed it very much,” added Nguyen. “The whole atmosphere of the event is great! It’s great being here in Taiwan.”

She added that before teaming up, they had already been very good friends which made it easy for them to build their partnership.

Their free dance to a Paul Jones medley was highlighted by a level-four dance spin, two lifts and solid twizzles. The national junior silver medalists placed sixth in this segment with another personal best of 89.87, placing sixth overall (151.09) in their debut together at this event.

“I think it was a solid skate, we are happy with our performance,” said Nguyen. “I like that the program is so high energy. It was a good comeback from Nationals where we made many little mistakes.”

“We set some goals, and our current placement is definitely in the range, so we are pleased,” added Giang.

They will be moving up to the senior level next season.

“It’s exciting, but also a bit terrifying as there are so many good teams out there,” noted Giang. “We need to put in a lot of work.”

“But that also clearly pushes us,” Nguyen chimed in. “I like that we will have a little more time preparing new programs. I am looking forward to that.”

Noemi Maria Tali and Noah Lafornara

Italy’s Noemi Maria Tali and Noah Lafornara scored a new personal best of 62.58 for fourth place after a solid rhythm dance. Their routine featured level-four twizzles and rotational lift, both of which earned mostly +2 GOEs. The Rocker Foxtrot patters were graded a level three and two and they met five of the key points. The midline steps were a level one and three.

“We feel really good,” said Lafornara. “We came here with no specific goal; we just wanted to show our improvement, and we think we did that.”

“It was our goal for this season to make it here and we did,” added Tali. “This is already great. We’ve skate together since April 23 and it kind of “clicked” right away. So it was very easy to build our partnership. We are also excited to train more and improve for next season. We would have to move up to senior in case the age rules stay as they are.”

The national junior champions placed ninth (85.99) in the free dance with their routine to “Who Wants to Live Forever.” Unfortunately, both ice dancers fell during the ending pose which resulted in a two-point deduction. The curve lift also received a one-point deduction for an extended lift. However, the twizzles were good and graded a level four, as was the rotational lift. With a total score of 148.57, they slipped to seventh overall.

“I feel a bit disappointed as we wanted to finish the season on a high note and a good impression,” said Lafornara. “Overall, we can say though that it was a good event for us, and we had a good season.”

“We didn’t expect to be in the last warm up at all,” Tali added. “We enjoyed this event overall. During the off season, we want to work on our partnership and skating skills. We would love to compete one more year in juniors, but it depends on if they change the age rules. We take it as it comes.”

Rounding out the Top 10

Layla Veillon and Alexander Brandys of Canada placed eighth overall (147.40) followed by USA’s Yahli Pedersen and Jeffrey Chen (144.55) and Dania Mouaden and Theo Bigot of France (144.52).

Angelina Kudryavtseva and Ilia Karankevich of Cyprus stood in eighth after the rhythm dance but slipped to 11th overall (141.08).

“We are very happy to be back,” said Kudryavtseva. “Our season didn’t really start after my practice accident in Linz. I was in cast for seven weeks, then started rehab and came back on the ice in December. It was our goal to be able to skate at Junior Worlds, but if it wouldn’t have worked out, that also would have been okay as health goes first.”

“It was a hard time,” added Karankevich. “I was skating on my own for a long time. We are very happy to be here.”

They will move up to seniors next season and want to improve on their mental strength.

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