Jumping Juniors

Jumping Juniors

Alena Kostornaia

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There have been many heated debates over the past two seasons with respect to the number of quads senior men have been including in their programs. Some feel this is a sign of the sport’s evolution and applaud those pushing it to a higher level. Others feel it detracts from the programs and sacrifices artistry, which makes them less enjoyable to watch.

That quad trend has extended to the junior ranks — albeit at a much slower pace — but it picked up speed this past season, particularly with some of the junior ladies.

It is interesting to note that when Japan’s Miki Ando executed a quad Salchow at the Junior Grand Prix Final in 2002, it did not lead to a wave of ladies attempting quads. There were several reasons for that. As with the men, the introduction of the International Judging System (IJS) shifted the attention from jumps to other elements such as spins and footwork, and also to the skills that are graded in the program component scores (PCS).

After that historical leap, Ando herself rarely attempted a quad Salchow in competition, and only a few ladies during that decade began working on triple Axels — Japan’s Mao Asada being the most notable.

Triple-triple combinations also came out of the junior ranks. Midori Ito landed the first — a triple toe loop-triple toe loop combination at the 1982 World Junior Championships.

In subsequent years, only the top ladies who were challenging for medals included triple-triple combinations in their programs, but as the sport has evolved it is now almost a necessity to qualify for either of the Grand Prix Finals or to be competitive at a Championship event, especially in the junior ranks.

Jumping Juniors

Alexandra Trusova

Alexandra Trusova, Russia’s 13-year-old wunderkind, who landed two quads in her free skate at the 2018 World Junior Championships, is not the only one working on triple Axels and the four- revolution jumps.

Japan’s Rika Kihira, 15, has been practicing quad toes and has landed triple Axels in competition.

Less than a month after winning silver at Junior Worlds, Russia’s Alena Kostornaia, 14, landed a triple Axel in practice with online video footage providing the proof.

Trusova has attempted a quad Lutz and though the one I saw seemed under-rotated, it was still impressive.

South Korea’s Young You, 13, recently posted a video of herself on Instagram landing a triple Axel-triple toe combination.

The fact that these young ladies are executing these jumps proves that it is not only the men who can do them, and their success will encourage others to start learning them. Indeed, just as triple-triple combinations have become almost a requirement in the junior ranks, the triple Axel and the quads may not be too far behind.

Some observers believe that the current crop of teenage ladies will lose their quads and triple Axels once they hit puberty. However, Ito, Asada and Mirai Nagasu of the U.S. as well as Russia’s Elizaveta Tuktamysheva landed triple Axels well past puberty and, in the case of Tuktamysheva and Nagasu, only started doing the triple Axel at the senior level.

Obviously, the physical health of the skaters is a primary concern for coaches who need to ensure that injury prevention comes first. “A lot will depend on the athletes themselves,” said Daniil Gleikhengauz, who coaches in Eteri Tutberidze’s group in Moscow. “If they continue to look after themselves, their nutrition, work as they have to, then they won’t get out of shape.

“Obviously, if a girl grows tall to say 180 cm (5-foot-9), it will be tough for her to do a quad. But with normal height it should be fine. But there are no examples yet, so we have nothing to compare. We will have to see and watch Sasha (Trusova) and others.”

Jumping Juniors

Rika Kihira

International Skating Union (ISU) vice president Alexander Lakernik, who hails from Russia, agrees. “With the right technique the jumps are not lost, even when the girls are growing. The girls, especially in Eteri Tutberidze’s group, are correctly taught,” he said. “They are taking the next step to learn more difficult elements. But that’s not only the case in Russia. In Japan, Rika Kihira does a triple Axel and Mirai Nagasu does it, although she is not the youngest and smallest skater.”

This, however, seems to be an analogous development for the men who have started to train a number of different quads over the past few years. It is interesting to note that the current generation of junior men has fewer quads in their arsenals than the top senior men.

Alexey Erokhov, the 2018 World Junior champion from Russia who is also coached by Tutberidze, Gleikhengauz and Sergei Dudakov, has the quad toe and quad Salchow in his arsenal, but he has also landed other quads in practice. “I’ve tried already the loop and the flip. I did them in practice before the (2017) Junior Grand Prix Final,” he said. “But then I had a little injury and we put them aside. Now we’ll get these jumps and I’ll try to do them consistently. Maybe I’ll show them next season, but I can’t tell for sure.”

Alexei Krasnozhon, a Russian-born skater who competes for the U.S., has been working on the quad loop and quad Salchow.

The 2018 World junior silver medalist Artur Danielian of Russia, 14, and bronze medalist Matteo Rizzo of Italy did not attempt a quad at Junior Worlds, but they, like most of the other men, are working on the four-revolution jumps. At Junior Worlds, no one attempted more than two quads, and all were the toe or Salchow.

With the new ISU rules coming into play this season, the junior men might not be chasing quads so much going forward. The rule changes should not affect the ladies, however, as it is unlikely that any will attempt four or more quads in their programs anytime soon.

But, if their development follows the pattern of the men, we will probably see female skaters including a triple Axel and one or two quads in their programs in the not too distant future.

2018 JUNIOR GRAND PRIX SCHEDULE