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World Junior Championships Open Today in the Netherlands

The 2010 World Junior Figure Skating Championships open today in The Hague, Netherlands. All four fields look dynamic with the 2009-10 Junior Grand Prix Final champion in each discipline headlining their respective disciplines. The ISU is awarding a global prize 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 will pocket $10,00 each with the top pairs and ice dances receiving $15,000, respectively, to split.

THE MEN

A new champion will be crowned in the men’s event. Two-time and defending champion Adam Rippon is not age-eligible to compete at the World Junior Championships this season but the list of contenders is still quite strong. The men's field features Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan and Denis Ten of Kazakhsta.

Hanyu (season best 206.77 points) won the JGP Final. A two-time Japanese junior champion Hanyu, 15, placed 12th in his debut at the ISU World Junior Championships in 2009, and now has his eyes set on the podium.

Tough competition will come in the form of the 16-year-old Ten. His season best score is 211.25 and he has Olympic experience under his belt. He skated into 11th place in Vancouver at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games. Ten is hoping to improve on his fourth-place finish at last year’s World Junior Championships.

Ten is the first skater from Kazakhstan to medal at an ISU competition (gold at 2008 ISU Junior Grand Prix event in Gomel/BLR).

The 2009-10 Junior Grand Prix Final runner-up Nan Song of China (season best 209.68), also debuted successfully at the senior level by ranking sixth at the 2010 Four Continents Championships at end of January. Song finished seventh at this event last year.

This season, Song earned a silver medal at JGP in Belarus and gold at the JGP in Germany, advancing to the JGP Final, where he captured silver. Hanyu squeezed out the win in Tokyo at the Junior Grand Prix Final. His margin of victory over Song was 1.78.

Russian junior champion Artur Gachinski earned a gold medal and a silver from his two JGP events this season; he came in sixth at the JGP Final.

Other contenders in the men's field include Armin Mahbanoozadeh (USA), who competed at the senior Grand Prix circuit this season. Mahbanoozadeh was the 2008 JGP Final runner-up and the bronze medalist at the 2007 event. He came in eighth at the senior level at the 2010 U.S. Championships.

Also in the mix will be Junior Grand Prix events medalists Grant Hochstein who made his senior debut at this year’s U.S. Championships, finishing seventh, as well as Keegan Messing , the 2009 U.S. junior silver medalist.

THE LADIES

In the ladies’ event, expect a battle to the very end. The three 2009-10 Junior Grand Prix Final medalists will meet again in The Hague.

The champion, Kanako Murakami of Japan, comes with a season best score of 160.85. Murakami has won every event she’s entered this season. She is Japan's reigning junior champion.

JGP Final silver medalist Polina Shelepen (RUS) has a season high score of 159.29 points. She won her two won her first two JGP assignments this season.

Meanwhile, Christina Gao (USA) scored a season best 151.47 points at the JGP Final where she claimed the bronze medal. In her senior debut, Gao finished fifth in a very strong field at the 2010 U.S. Championships.

All three skaters are making their World Junior Championships debut so nerves could play a role in the outcome.

Anna Ovcharova of Russia, who placed fifth in the Junior Grand Prix Final, is also in the field as is reigning U.S. junior champion Agnes Zawadzki and 2009 U.S. novice champion Kiri Baga.

Zawadzki's 171.87-point score at the 2010 U.S. Championships is the highest to date by a junior lady at a U.S. qualifying competition. Baga replaced 2010 U.S. bronze medalist and two-time World Junior bronze medalist Ashley Wagner. Earlier this season, Baga won her Junior Grand Prix assignments in Germany and Turkey, and finished fourth as a junior at the 2010 U.S. Championships.

Others to watch for include Joshi Helgesson (SWE), who finished fourth in this event in 2009, as well as Canada’s Kate Charbonneau (CAN) and Russia’s Polina Agafonova. Charbonnea won Canada’s junior title in 2009 and placed seventh at the senior level at the 2010 Canadian Championships (she earned a silver in Croatia in the fall on the Junior Grand Prix circuit). Agafonova is Russia’s reigning junior ladies champion (she claimed a bonze in one of her two JGP assignments in the fall ).

THE PAIRS

The pairs competition features the top junior teams of this season. Wenjing Sui and Cong Han (CHN) are on a roll. They have every event entered this season and would like to continue the golden streak in their debut in The Hague. Their season best score is 164.84 points.

Both Narumi Takahashi and Mervin Tran (JPN) and Yue Zhang and Lei Wang (CHN) are competing in their third ISU World Junior Championships and are eyeing the podium after taking the silver and bronze medals, respectively, at the ISU Junior Grand Prix Final in December. The Chinese couple has a scored 147.89 as their top score this season while the Japanese team scored 151.83 points.

After faltering in the Junior Grand Pirx Final, three Russian couples are looking for some redemption in The Hague. Tatiana Novik and Mikhail Kuznetsov, Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov, and Anna Silaeva and Artur Minchuk are hoping to skate onto the podium here.

Other contenders are Kaleigh Hole and Adam Johnson (CAN) and Jessica Simpson and Nathan Miller (USA).

ICE DANCE

It looks like the ice dance competition will be a battle between the best young teams from Russia and the USA. ISU Junior Grand Prix Final champions Ksenia Monko and Kirill Khaliavin (RUS) will face Junior Grand Prix Final silver medalists Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov ((RUS) and reigning World Junior silver medalists Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani (USA), who came in third at the Junior Grand Prix Final.

Ilinykh and Katsalapov's season best score was 171.61 points (the 2009 JGP event in Poland) and Shibutani and Shibutani have a 175.95 point score (the 2009 JGP event in Lake Placid, NY) to their credit. Meanwhile, Monko and Khaliavin's season best score is 173.15 points (the 2009 JGP event in Istanbul, Turkey).

The two Russian teams will debut at the ISU World Junior Championships, while Shibutani and Shibutani come back after taking the silver last year. The Shibutanis are the reigning U.S. junior champions and 2009-10 JGP Final bronze medalists. Earlier this season, the Shibutanis won their JGP events in Lake Placid and Croatia.

Ekaterina Pushkash and Jonathan Guerreiro (RUS) will challenge the leaders. Both competed at the 2009 World Junior Championships, but with different partners. Guerreiro is the 2009 World junior bronze medalist with former partner Ekaterina Riazanova.

Piper Gilles and Zachary Donohue (USA), Lorenzo Alessandrini and Simone Vaturi (ITA), Stefanie Frohberg and Tim Giesen (GER) and Rachel Tibbetts and Collin Brubaker (USA) are the other teams looking to making a name for themselves at the competition.

CASH REWARDS

The ISU global prize pot of $200,000 (U.S.) will be awarded as follows:

Men and Ladies

1st place US $10,000
2nd place US $7,000
3rd place US $5,000
4th place US $3,000
5th place US $2,750
6th place US$ 2,500
7th place US$ 2,250
8th place US$ 2,000
9th place US$ 1,750
10th place US$ 1,500
11th place US$ 1,250
12th place US$ 1,000

Pairs and Ice Dance (Per Couple)

1st place US $15,000
2nd place US $10,500
3rd place US $7,500
4th place US $4,500
5th place US $4,000
6th place US $3,750
7th place US $3,500
8th place US $3,000
9th place US $2,750
10th place US $2,250
11th place US $1,750
12th place US $1,500

The event has drawn skaters/couples from 53 ISU members. All skaters/couples will compete in the short program and the top 24 men and ladies and the top 16 pairs will proceed to the free skating. In ice dance, all couples will compete in the compulsory dance, the top 30 couples will advance to the original dance and the top 20 dance teams will compete in the free dance.

THE SCHEDULE

Tuesday, March 9: Compulsory Dance, Pairs Short Program
Wednesday, March 10: Men Short Program, Pairs Free Skating
Thursday, March 11: Original Dance, Men Free Skating
Friday, March 12: Ladies Short Program, Free Dance
Saturday, March 13: Ladies Free Skating and Exhibition Gala


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