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Rippon Claims Second Crown at World Junior Championships, Russia’s Alena Leonova Skates to Gold

America’s Adam Rippon scored a resounding victory and claimed his second consecutive World Junior title last week in Sofia, Bulgaria. Michal Brezina of the Czech Republic skated into second while Russia’s Artem Grigoriev earned the bronze.

In the ladies event, which saw 54 entrants contest the short program, Alena Leonova claimed the first major international medal of her career. Caroline Zhang of the U.S. catapulted from 10th after the short to silver and teammate Ashley Wagner scooped the bronze.

The Men

Rippon, who had a secure lead after the short program, put down a strong performance to “Send in the Clowns” and “I Pagliacci” nailing two triple Axels, one in combination, in the process. His efforts garnered a new personal best score of 147.70 points and a combined total of 222.00 points.

The 19-year-old fell to his knees at the end of his performance then jumped up and down with joy. “I feel really good about everything,” Rippon said. “Mentally and physically I was in really good shape going into the long program. I’m really happy with myself that I could put together this program. [It is] a really rewarding experience. So far it’s the best I’ve skated in competition.”

Brezina, second after the short, turned in a strong performance. He also landed two triple Axels during his routine, but doubled the Salchow. He earned 135.33 points, a new personal best. His combined score of 204.88 points earned the young Czech his first World Junior medal. “I have to thank Adam for this competition. It was a great battle between us,” Brezina said.

Grigoriev pulled up from fourth after the short to claim the bronze with a score of 184.40 points in his debut at the World Junior Championships.

Fifteen-year-old Denis Ten from Kazakhstan narrowly missed the podium with 183.77 points and placed fourth. America’s Curran Oi, third after the short fell to fifth with 182.89 points.

The Ladies

It was a different story in the ladies event with skaters rising to the challenge in the long program to turn the tables on the short program results.

Elene Gedevanishvili of Georgia skated into first in the short program ahead of Wagner and Leonova. But Gedevanishvili could not contain her nerves in the long and slipped to sixth overall.

In the end it was Leonova who claimed the title, earning a new personal best score of 101.68 points for her free skate and racking up 157.18 points. Though she ranked second in the free skate, her combined score was enough to claim the gold.

“This medal means a lot to me. It took me very long to get there. Two years ago I was 12th, last year I was sixth and now I’m in first,” Leonova said. “I’m still in shock, but I’m just very happy that I’m in first place. I usually don’t expect such high placements and it happens by itself. I go out in a good mood and I just skate.”

Zhang, 15, the 2007 World Junior Champion and reigning World Junior silver medalist rebounded from a disastrous short that left her in 10th place in the short to win the free skating portion of the event. She earned 107.03 points and a combined score of 154.67 catapulted her into second place overall. It was her third consecutive medal at Junior Worlds. “I made a lot of mistakes (in the short program),” she admitted. “But I think I did well in the long program, coming back. So I’m happy with my performance today.”

Wagner scored 96.07 points for her free skating efforts but slipped from second to third with 153.57 points. It was Wagner’s second bronze medal at the ISU World Junior Championships. She claimed bronze in 2007.

“It was a good program for me. Throughout the whole week I‘ve had a lot going up against me so I just wanted to do everything just the way I’ve been practicing it and focusing on everything just in pieces, not as a whole big thing,” Wagner said. “I fell on a triple Sal and I’m still hitting myself in the head for that. But I’m satisfied with the program. It was good for this week.”

Joshi Helgesson from Sweden finished fourth with 139.89 points. America’s Katrina Hacker placed fifth with 139.68 points.

The Pairs

As expected, reigning Junior Grand Prix Final champions Lubov Iliushechkina and Nodari Maisuradze continued their winning ways, claiming gold and their first World Junior title. Teammates Anastasia Martiusheva and Alexei Rogonov placed second while Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir from the U.S. claimed the bronze.

Iliushechkina and Maisuradze, skating to a medley of music by Edvin Marton, earned 89.20 points for their free skating performance and accumulated 144.32 points overall. “Our feelings are ambivalent right now,” Maisuradze said.

“We are happy about the result, but our performance was poor. I was not nervous at all, I’m never nervous, but Lubov unfortunately has been struggling with her nerves all season. We are already making the transition to the senior level. We still have Worlds ahead of us and we think that the transition to seniors will be smooth for us.”

Martiusheva and Rogonov roared back from 11th place after the short to clinch the silver medal. The duo picked up 93.99 points, winning the free skating portion but their combined total of 138.59 points left them in second place. “Our performance yesterday was a big surprise to us and we were in shock about our short program,” Rogonov said.

“Yesterday we had a bad performance, the worst, and we never would have expected such a performance,” Martiusheva added. “Today though we were able to pull together our thoughts, our hands and feet and we skated well.”

Castelli and Shnapir made a splash in their debut appearance at Junior Worlds. The duo who stood in second place after the short, scored a new seasons best score of 88.37 points for the free skate. They racked up a total of 137.47 points but slipped to third overall. “We skated our best program we could have done. We didn’t put in our triple Sals and we didn’t have as difficult elements (as the other teams), but with everything we did I think we did very well,” Castelli said.

Shnapir said she felt it was the best program of the season for the team. “We’re very honored just to be up here at Junior Worlds and to be skating with some of these great skaters that are sitting at this table,” she said.

The Canadian pair of Paige Lawrence and Rudi Swiegers ranked third in the free skate but finished fourth overall with 137.07 points, a mere .40 off the podium. Ekaterina Sheremetieva and Mikhail Kuznetsov from Russia placed fifth.

Ice Dance

Madison Chock and Greg Zuerlein from the U.S. cruised to gold claiming the title in their first appearance at the World Junior Championships. Teammates Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani, newcomers as well, claimed the silver medal and Russia’s Ekaterina Riazanova and Jonathan Guerreiro took the bronze.

Chock and Zuerlein received 82.11 points for their free dance and earned a total of 172.55 points. “We are overwhelmed. It feels so good. We’ve worked so hard,” Chock said.

“It’s awesome. The free dance is definitely our best of all the segments. We just felt we connected well with each other and the audience,” Zuerlein agreed.

Shibutani and Shibutani scored a new personal best free dance score of 80.34 points 43.40/36.94) and racked up a total score of 162.15 points to take the silver medal.

Riazanova and Guerreiro earned 161.80 points to claim the bronze.