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Murakami, Monko and Khaliavin Close Out JGPF With Gold

Kanako Murakami capped off a successful event for the host country by taking the junior ladies title at the 2009-10 ISU Junior Grand Prix Final in Tokyo. Ksenia Monko and Kirill Khaliavin of Russia nabbed the top spot on the poidum in the junior ice dance discipline.

The Junior Ladies

Murakami slipped past overnight leader Polina Shelepen of Russia to pull out a 1.24 margin of victory. American Christina Gao claimed the bronze.

It was a high-level competition. Murakami landed five strong triple jumps. She only had few errors—a wobble on one spin and a deduction for the wrong edge take-off on her triple Lutz. The 15-year-old scored 101.01 points for her long program. She compiled 160.53 overall to move up from second place after the short prgram to first place for the competition.

“I didn’t skate my best in the free, but I am happy to win in the final here in Japan. I wanted to do all the jumps, spins, footwork clean, but I made a few mistakes,” she said. “I was really nervous before I went out onto the ice, and I thought my heart would pop out of my mouth. But the audience called out my name and cheered me on, so I was able to relax a little bit and skate well.”

Skating to “Polovetsian Dances,” Shelepen hit six triples including a double Axel-triple toe loop combination. She had higher technical marks than Murakam, but the Japanese teen-ager had higher component scores.

Shelepen earned 99.75 points for her free skate. It was her season best mark. Overall the 14-year-old accumulated 159.29 points.

Gao, who stood in fifth place following the short program, gave a strong performance to “La Fille Mal Gardée” that featured six triple jumps. With a season best 98.65 for the free skate, she scored 151.47 points overall.

For Shelepen and Gao, it was their first appearanaces in the ISU Junior Grand Prix Final, while Murakami ranked fourth last year.

Murakami pocketed $6,000 (U.S.) for her big win. Shelepen earned $5,000; and Gao $4,000. The fourth-, fifth- and sixth-place finishers took home $3,000, $2,000 and $1,000, respectively

The Junior Dance

It was Monko and Khaliavin first appearance in a Junior Grand Prix Final but the handled the pressure well. Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov (RUS), newcomers as well, overtook Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani (USA) to earn the silver medal. The Americans settled for the bronze.

Monko and Khaliavin turned in a powerful dance to “This is a Man’s World” by James Brown, showing difficult lifts and intricate footwork. The couple from Moscow picked up all level fours and threes for their elements to score a season best 85.51 points. They defended their overnight lead with a total of 141.21 points.

“We are very excited to have won. We never expected to win this final, since we compete here for the first time. Right now in Russia we have a tough competition in ice dance, there are many good junior and senior couples,” Khaliavin said.

Ilinykh and Katsalapov produced a dramatic performance to “Schindler’s List” that was highlighted by their speed and effortless looking elements. The Muscovites posted a season best 85.01and pulled up from third after the short program to second overall with a score of 139.36.

Shibutani and Shibutani produced a smooth “Tango Rhapsody” and scored 83.54 points. The reigning World junior silver medalists slipped to third place with 138.75 overall points.

Monko and Khaliavin earned a total of $9,000 for the win. The second place team of Ilinykh and Katsalapov netted $7,500 while Shibutani and Shibutani earned $6,000. The fourth place team earned $4,500, fifth place $3,000 and sixth place $1,500.