Americans Emily Samuelson and Evan Bates had to wait one year for their crowning moment on the world level. Last year they were knocked out the junior global competition by an injury. This season, they danced to victory at the 2008 ISU World Junior Figure Skating Championships, which are being in Sofia, Bulgaria.
Canada’s Vanessa Crone and Paul Poirier claimed the silver medal and the bronze went to Kristina Gorshkova and Vitali Butikov of Russia. For all three couples, it was their first time medaling at the World Junior Championships.
After the short program in the ladies discipline, Americans held the top three spots. Mirai Nagasu was first while Caroline Zhang and Rachael Flatt placing second and third, respectively.
Samuelson and Bates put out a romantic free dance to “Luna” by Alessandra Safina and were technically proficient.
The Americans compiled a new season best 88.71 points (45.96 element score/42.75 program component score). Overall they accumulated 181.66 points to take the title.
One year ago, the couple, standing in second place, was forced to withdraw from the competition during the free dance when Samuelson fell and he cut her hand with his blade. The injury required surgery and rehab.
“It’s the opposite extreme from what happened last year. We’re grateful for everything, for our coaches for getting us thus far, the judges and fans for their support. It just has been wonderful,” Samuelson said. “We felt very, very strong during our performance.”
Samuelson and Bates produced difficult lifts right on beat with highlights, including a curve-rotational lift and a straight line lift, fluid yet intricate footwork and fast twizzles. When they finished their performance, they hugged each other tightly.
The Americans received a level four for all elements except the dance spin.
“Last year we obviously didn’t have a very good Junior Worlds,” Bates said. “It just kind of motivated us.”
Crone and Poirier danced a characteristic Tango “Adios Nonino” that was highlighted by a stationary lift with him in a low position, a reverse rotational lift, a curve lift and a diagonal and circular step sequence that both were graded a level four.
The Canadians earned a level four for all seven elements. They scored 86.86 points (45.45/41.41) and defended their second place at 178.09 points total.
“It still hasn’t kind of sunk in yet,” Crone said. “We worked really hard to get this. Our original goal was top five so this is just the icing on the cake to come second.”
Both gold and silver medalists will be age eligible for the junior level next season and haven’t yet decided whether they stay in juniors or move up to seniors, while
Gorshkova and Butikov have to move up. They danced to “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” and compiled a new personal best score of 83.87 points (43.38/40.49). They remained in third place with 172.85 points overall.
“Tonight we skated really well and did all we wanted to do,” Butikov said. “Now we’ll have to train, to train and again to train. In first place we have to work on our presentation.”
ISU Junior Grand Prix Final champions Maria Monko and Ilia Tkachenko (RUS) had to settle for fourth place. Madison Hubbell and Keiffer Hubbell (USA) came in fifth. Ekaterina Riazanova and John Guerreiro (RUS) placed sixth
Nagasu, Zhang and Flatt all earned a new personal best scores.
Nagasu’s performance to “I Got Rhythm” by George Gershwin showed loads of the feisty teen’s personality.
She produced a triple Lutz-triple toe loop combination (but had a deduction for the wrong edge take-off), a triple loop, a layback spin with beautiful positions and a double Axel. All her spins were awarded a level four, and the footwork got a level three.
The 14-year-old collected 65.07 points (39.81 element score/25.26 program component score) and improved her previous personal best of 59.35 points clearly. “I was really nervous coming into this competition, because it’s such a big competition. But when I got on the ice I put all my fears behind me and I attacked out there, and so I’m really happy with my performance,” Nagasu said.
Skating to “Spanish Gypsy,” Zhang nailed a triple flip-toe loop combination, a triple loop, a double Axel and earned a level four for the flying sit and the excellent layback spin. The 2007 World junior champion posted a new personal best of 62.60 points (38.50/24.10) for her elegant performance.
The 14-year-old had to overcome some obstacles as her skates had arrived only on Tuesday and she had no opportunity to practice on the main rink.
“I think it was a pretty good performance. I had a pretty shaky warm up and before my program I was like, ‘Oh my God.’ I think it was a pretty good effort but for my flying sit, because I worked on it just after nationals. It could have been a lot better,” she said.
Flatt’s routine to “It Ain’t Necessarily So” by George Gershwin included a triple Lutz-triple toe loop combination, a triple loop, double Axel. Her straight line step sequence was graded a level three and the combination spin got a level four.
The 15-year-old American scored 60.16 points (35.94/24.22), which was a new personal best for her. “I am very pleased with how I skated today. I had a couple of bobbles going into my spiral and into my footwork, which is almost embarrassing, but I still had a lot of fun,” she said. “It’s been really great coming to skate (here at Junior Worlds) and it’s been so exciting especially to compete against all these great girls internationally.”
Yuki Nishino (JPN) placed fourth in the short program with 54.15 points.