Web Exclusive

World Juniors Day 5: Rachael Flatt the New Champion

It was the second consecutive year that three U.S. ladies stood on the podium at the World Junior Championships, but this season there was a new champion. Newcomer Rachael Flatt edged out last year’s gold medalist, Caroline Zhang, to take the title. Flatt also defeated 2008 U.S. senior ladies champion Mirai Nagasu, who earned the bronze medal at this year’s junior global event. Last Nagasu won silver at this competition.

Flatt, the 2008 U.S. senior ladies silver medalist, delivered a flawless free program Friday at the 2008 ISU World Junior Championships in Sofia, Bulgaria. The season marked Flatt's first time competing at the World Junior Championships.

The American earned 112.03 points (61.74 element score/50.29 program component score), which was a new personal best for her. Overall she compiled 172.19 points rally from third place and claim the gold medal.

When her marks came up, Flatt knew that she had a medal and applauded the score. “Today we all skated very well,” she said. “It was a great competition and I’m really excited to be here.

“Today I really wanted to achieve my goals and that’s what I did. I really wanted to do all my jumps and really skate my heart out. Going into every jump I knew that I trained very well and that I can do it. I really went out and attacked today, and I think that helped me skate as well as I could.”

Skating to “Romantic Rhapsody” by Mathieu, the 15-year-old reeled off a triple Salchow, triple Lutz-triple toe loop combination, a triple loop, triple flip and another triple Lutz. She also nailed a triple flip-double toe-double loop combination right at the end of her routine.

Flatt produced solid spins and footwork, earning level threes for those elements

Zhang opened her lyrical performance to “Ave Maria” with a triple flip-triple toe loop combination followed by a triple Lutz-double toe, a triple flip and another Lutz. However, her triple loop was underrotated and downgraded.

The 14-year-old drew extra applause for her spins, especially for her trademark layback spin, that was graded a level four.

Zhang scored 109.24 points (58.15/51.09) and remained in second place at 171.84 points overall. She was just 0.35 points behind Flatt.

“I think that I could have skated a little better,” Zhang said. “I’ve had a couple of things coming in. Before I came I was injured. I had a hematoma and I sprained my back, but they got better. But when I came here at one of my practices I fell really hard and I got another hematoma. It’s been bothering me and I’m just glad I managed to get past it.”

Overnight leader Nagasu lost points on some costly errors. She struggled with her first triple Lutz and wasn’t able to add the planned triple toe. She also stumbled on her second Lutz and she also lost hold of her blade at the end of a layback spin and fell out of the Biellmann position.

Nagasu earned 97.82 points (48.73/49.09) and slipped from first place after the short program to third overall with 162.89 total points.

“I’m a little disappointed in myself for not doing a little bit better in the free skate and fighting out there, but overall I’m not disappointed in my placement at all and I think it was a very good competition,” Nagasu said.

Nagasu landed solid double Axel and also completed a triple flip-double toe-double loop, a triple Salchow and a triple loop. The Lutz and also the second flip were cheated and downgraded. The 14-year-old was awarded a level four for the flying sit spin.

Jenni Vähämaa (FIN) produced four clean triple jumps and two level-four spins in her performance to “Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini” to move up from sixth to fourth (she earned 142.54 overall points).

Yuki Nishino (JPN) came in fifth. She landed a solid triple Lutz-double toe loop and a triple flip but made a few errors on other jumps (she earned 139.44 overall points).

Alena Leonova (RUS) gave a dynamic free skating that featured five triples. She was ranked fifth in the free skating and moved up one spot to sixth at 138.06 points total.