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Kanako Murakami Crowned World Junior Champion

Kanako Murakami of Japan won every competition she entered this season. Her latest victory was the biggest as she skated off with the gold medal at the 2010 World Junior Figure Skating Championships in The Hague, Netherlands this weekend. She pocketed $10,000 (U.S.) for the win.

American Agnes Zawadzki rallied from eighth to claim the silver medal and Russia’s Polina Agafonova earned the bronze. It was the debut appearance for each of the three lady medalists.

Murakam was in second place after the short program but that did not deter the 15-year-old who put down a strong technical and lyrical program in the free skate. She scored a total of 165.47 for the competition to walk away golden. “It is such a strange feeling that I’m here. … I haven’t yet decided whether I will compete in juniors or seniors, but I hope to show better performances next season,” a smiling Murakami said.

Murakami, the reigning Junior Grand Prix Final champion, skated next to last and gave a strong performance of her “Swan Lake” program. Murakami earned 106.47 points (56.71 element score/49.76 program component score) for the program which was highlighted by five triple jumps including two flips. She had several glitches: a doubled Salchow and a deduction on one Lutz for a wrong edge take-off.

Murakami earned level fours for her three spins and a level three for her footwork. “I did very well today,” Kanako said. “There was only one disappointment, I missed the triple Salchow. I just did a double.”

Zawadzki peaked at the perfect time this season. Last year, she finished fifth at sectionals, just missing a berth to the U.S. Championships. This season she did not receive any Junior Grand Prix Series assignments but she had a fabulous year nonetheless.

Zawadzi won the 2010 Southwestern Regional Championships in mid-October and one month later claimed the gold medal at the 2010 Midwestern Sectional Figure Skating Championships. She went on to win the junior title at the 2010 U.S. Championships in Spokane, Wash.

At the World Junior Championships, she earned the silver medal with 156.79 points. “This meant a lot, because it’s my first international and getting second is great,” Zawadzki’s said. “I didn’t have much experience coming into it, but I think I gained a lot and I learned a lot.”

Zawadzki’s entertaining routine to “Chicago” earned 105.81 points (58.21/47.60). The 15-year-old’s program featured a triple loop, two Lutzes, a triple Salchow and toe loop as well as difficult spins and steps. The only glitch came on a shaky triple flip that was downgraded for a wrong-edge takeoff.

“I was a little disappointed (yesterday), because I’ve been doing clean shorts in competitions,” Zawadzki said. “My coach just told me to trust my training and so I did. I felt pretty confident and relaxed.”

Agafonova, 14, ranked fourth in the free skate but remained in third place overall with 154.27 points. “I did everything I could,” she said. “I’m for the first time at this competition and I didn’t expect to be third right away. I had hoped to make the top 10.”

Agafonova opened her program to “Romeo and Juliet Ouverture” by Peter Tchaikovski with a triple Lutz-triple toe loop combination and followed up with four more triples, but the judges took a deduction for a wrong edge take-off on her flip. She scored highly again for her superb spins and collected a personal best score of 97.99 points (55.03/42.96)

Polina Shelepen (RUS) rallied from seventh to fourth with a solid performance that included a double Axel-triple toe loop combination (151.65 points). Overnight leader Anna Ovcharova (RUS) plummeted to fifth after falling on two jumps (147.52 points). Kate Charbonneau (CAN) finished sixth (147.46 points).

American teammates Kiri Baga (146.98 points) and Christina Gao (143.86 points) placed seventh and eighth, respectively.

Russia was the most successful nation at the World Junior Figure Skating Championships with five medals (ice dance gold and four bronze medals). Team Japan took the two singles titles and one silver in the pairs. The Chinese team earned a gold in the pairs and silver in the men’s. Meanwhile Team Canada earned just one silver in ice dance and the Team USA took just one silver medal in the ladies.

The ISU awarded a global pot of $200,000 (U.S.) at the competition with skaters/couples placing between first and 12th receiving cash rewards. The ladies and men's winners took home $10,00 each with the top pairs and ice dances receiving $15,000, respectively, to split.