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Juniors Hit the International Stage in France and Italy

The 2008 Junior Grand Prix of Figure Skating series got a kick-start to the new season with some excellent results being posted at the first two events.

American skaters were a dominant force at both events in France and Italy, winning the ladies and dance competitions. The men claimed the silver medals at both competitions.

Courchevel, France

The American ladies went one-two at this event with American Kristina Musademba winning gold by a sizeable margin (143.02 points) over Becky Bereswill who skated into second with 134.98. Canada’s Diane Szmiett, the 2007 national junior champion, placed third with 126.58 points.

The men’s event belonged to Michal Brezina from the Czech Republic who out-skated the rest of the field to take the gold. Brezina scored 182.72 points over America’s Armin Mahbanoozadeh (172.64) while Florent Amodio from France placed third with 171.69 points.

The young upstarts from the United States, 14-year-old Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani (17) danced away with the gold medal at their international debut. The brother-and-sister team won the dance competition by 11 points (157.84) over Canadian competitors Kharis Ralph and Asher Hill (146.84). Lucie Mysliveckova and Matej Novak from the Czech Republic placed third with 139.72 points.

Merano, Italy

The Americans once again showed strength of force at the second event of the series, claiming two of the three gold medals up for grabs.

The women’s event had some interesting twists and turns. Melissa Bulanhagui skated away with the gold in the ladies event (127.25) over Japan’s Rumi Suizu (121.97). Sarah Hecken from Germany won the bronze (118.65) by a slim margin over Brittney Rizo of the U.S. (117.19).

Bulanhagui won both the short and long programs, but the other placements flip-flopped. Suizu placed second in the short but fell to fourth in the long. Sweden’s Joshi Helgesson placed third in the short but slipped all the way to 13th in the free program, ending up in seventh overall.

Rizo sat in sixth place after the short ended up in fourth place, narrowly missing the podium.

The surprise skater of the event had to be New Zealand’s Allie Rout who placed eighth after the short but skated into third in the free skate. Rout ended up in fifth place (116.97) but made history by placing higher than any other skater from her nation had ever done at an ISU international event.

A slim margin of 4.80 points separated the top eight skaters in the free skate.

Brezina once again stole the show with a runaway victory in the men’s event. The rising Czech star skated into third place in the short behind Curran Oi of the U.S. and Russia’s Nikita Mikhailov.

But Brezina blew the competition away in the free skate, winning that segment by more than 22 points (128.96). He claimed gold with a combined score of 192.48 points, more than 27 points ahead of runner-up Oi (165.38) and Alexander Nikolaev of Russia who placed third (161.59).

Brezina improved on the overall score he achieved in Coucheval by almost 10 points. Mikhailov wound up in fourth overall (159.28).

U.S. ice dancers Madison Chock and Greg Zuerlein claimed the gold medal with 156.52 points ahead of Ekaterina Riazanova and Jonathan Guerreiro of Russia (149.42). Italy’s Lorenza Alessandrini and Simone Vaturi were third with 142.01 points.

The top three rankings after the first two events:

Ladies:

1. Kristina Musademba (USA)
2. Melissa Bulanhagui (USA)
3. Becky Bereswill (USA)

Men:

1. Michal Brezina (CZE)
2. Armin Mahbanoozadeh (USA)
3. Curran Oi (USA)

Dance:

1. Maia Shibutani/Alex Shibutani (USA)
2. Madison Chock/Greg Zuerlein (USA)
3. Ekaterina Riazanova/Jonathan Guerreiro (RUS)

The third event in the series is the Mexico Cup, to be held Sep. 10-14 in Mexico City.


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