The 2019 World Junior Championships will be a showcase of the future with a number of the top skaters and teams moving into the senior ranks next season … and all will be looking for a podium finish at this final competition of their junior careers.
The battle for gold will come down to a handful of young men. Canada’s Stephen Gogolev earned a trip to the Junior Grand Prix Final as an alternate and then claimed the title in a runaway victory.
The 14-year-old will make his debut at the World Junior Championships in March and will face all five men he defeated in Vancouver. However, the World Junior Championships is a very different platform to that of the Final.
With multiple quads in his arsenal, Gogolev is driven to win. But how he handles the pressure and the stress will be a factor in how he performs and places. If he can keep his nerves under control and land his jumps, he will be the odds-on favorite to take the title.
Canada’s second man, Joseph Phan, fourth at 2018 Junior Worlds, trains alongside Gogolev in Toronto.
Russia’s Petr Gumennik, 16, ranked first heading into the Junior Final but faltered in the short program in Vancouver and finished second overall. He is also a contender for the title and could win if he can keep it all together.
The 2018 World Junior champion Alexey Erokov, who moved up to the senior ranks this season — but has been sidelined by injury for most of it — will join Gumennik in Zagreb. Roman Savosin rounds out the trio. This will be his third appearance at this competition.
Koshiro Shimada, 17, who is coached by Stéphane Lambiel was Japan’s only representative at the junior Final. He ranked fifth heading into the competition but leapfrogged into third after the free. Shimada said winning the bronze medal in Vancouver made him realize he could have a chance to win competitions. However, he placed third at his national championships two weeks after the Final.
Japan’s second man is Tatsuya Tsuboi, the reigning national junior champion.
Adam Siao Him Fa was the first French skater in a decade to compete at a Junior Final. Coached by Brian Joubert, he finished fourth overall. In a smart move on Joubert’s part, he sent his student to the 2019 European Championships so his student could gain competitive experience at a high-pressure level. Siao Him Fa placed 12th in Belarus ahead of three veterans (Daniel Samohin, Maxim Kovtun and Paul Fentz).
Camden Pulkinen of the U.S., sixth at last years World Junior Championships, led after the short program at the Final but technical errors, two falls and a time violation in the free skate dropped him fifth in the standings. He will be looking to erase that memory with two solid performances and a podium finish in Zagreb.
His teammate Tomoki Hiwatashi finished sixth in Vancouver. However, he had a solid outing at the national championships, and if he can pull off two solid programs at this competition, he could be a dark horse in this field.
In a repeat of last season, Alexandra Trusova and Alena Kostornaia were one-two at the top of the leaderboard at the end of the seven-event Grand Prix Series. However, Kostornaia, who had been the bridesmaid to her teammate Trusova at every competition they had previously contested, captured the title in Vancouver.
Other than the Final, Trusova, who has a quad Lutz and a quad toe in her arsenal, has been unbeatable in her two seasons on the junior circuit.
Two weeks after placing fifth at the Final, Anna Shcherbakova won Russian senior nationals with Trusova and Kostornaia placing second and third. At junior nationals in early January she placed third behind Trusova and Kostornaia. Shchberakova also has a quad Lutz in her arsenal but has not had much success with it this season.
Alena Kostonaia has withdrawn from the competition citing medical reasons, effectively ending Russian hopes of a podium sweep.
Japan also has three spots. Yuna Shiraiwa leads the trio, which includes Tomoe Kawabata and Yuhana Yokoi.
South Korea assigned its two berths at Junior Worlds to Young You and Haein Lee. You could be the spoiler at this competition, following her victories at 2018 Tallinn Trophy and the 2019 Bavarian Open. Yelim Kim is the first alternate.
The U.S. will be represented by Ting Cui and Hanna Harrell and Allison Schumacher will be the sole Canadian lady in the field.
There is little doubt the Russian teams will sweep the podium in Zagreb. The three teams that swept the podium in Vancouver and placed top three at the Russian junior championships — Anastasia Mishina and Aleksandr Galliamov, Polina Kostiukovich and Dmitrii Ialin and Apollinariia Panfilova and Dmitry Rylov — have been assigned to Junior Worlds.
Canada will field two teams: Gabrielle Levesque and Pier-Alexandrew Hudon and Brook McINtosh and Brandon Toste.
The U.S. will send three teams to this competition — newly crowned junior champions Laiken Lockley and Keenan Prochnow; silver medalists, Kate Finster and Balazs Nagy and Sarah Feng and TJ Nman — who qualified for the Junior Final but were forced to withdraw due to injury.
As with the pairs, the three Russian teams that swept the podium in Vancouver are all assigned to Junior Worlds: Sofia Shevchenko and Igor Eremenko, Arina Ushakova and Maxim Nekrasov, and Elizaveta Khudaiberdieva and Nikita Nazarov.
Canada’s Marjorie Lajoie and Zachary Lagha who missed the third step of the podium in Vancouver by 0.03 of a point have the ability and the potential to break up a Russian sweep in Zagreb. Alicia Fabbri and Paul Ayer, who captured the silver medal at the 2019 Canadian junior championships, will join them.
The U.S. will field three teams: newly minted national junior champions Caroline Green and Gordon Green; Avonley Nguyen and Vadym Kolesnik (fifth at the Junior Final) and Eliana Gropman and Ian Somerville.
Georgia’s Maria Kazakova and Georgy Reviya of Georgia, sixth at the junior Final, will be chasing a top five finish in Zagreb.