by Klaus Reinhold Kany
(19 March 2017) The general level of the ladies competition at Junior Worlds 2017 was good, the majority of the skaters can jump all triple the jumps except the Axel which nobody tried, let alone quads. Alina Zagitova from the Moscow school of Eteri Tutberidze, winner of the ISU Junior Final three months ago, also took the first place in Taipei at her first Junior Worlds, this time with 208.60 points. She is only 14 years old, but skates in a mature way for her age. In the short program, she hit a combination of triple Lutz and triple toe loop, plus the required triple loop and double Axel. Her spins and footwork certainly had a level 4 and most of her GOEs were +2. She interpreted "Samson and Delilah" by Camille Saint-Saens and her components had an average of 7.3.
She explained: "I am pleased with my performance, but an athlete has always something to improve and hope to fix these imperfections. I have prepared seriously for this event, I have been working on all elements and it worked out for me in the short program. This is a very serious competition, one of the most important for me this season. So I was very nervous of course, but the nervousness went away as soon as went into my starting pose and the program just went from there."
Her free program to the ballet music Don Quixote by Leon Minkus was completely flawless as well. All seven triples, the three spins and the step sequence worked excellently, GOEs of +2 dominated again. All her seven jump elements were in the second half of the program and came exactly to the beat of the music. This time her components had an average of 7.8. Later she said: "Of course it was very hard to skate right after Marin (Honda). I knew I could not make any mistake. I realized if I make one mistake I won’t be first anymore, therefore I was nervous. But when I got into my opening pose all doubts disappeared and I started to skate. This title first of all is a victory over myself and I am very happy about that. I am not sure if I will skate senior next year.”
15-year old Marin Honda from Japan, last year’s gold medalist after two Russian girls withdrew during the competition, won the silver medal with 201.61 points. At the ISU Junior Final this season, she had to withdrew in the last minute due to the flu, had hardly recovered at Japanese Junior Nationals and just qualified for Junior Worlds on third position. In her Taipei short program to "Smile" by Charles Chaplin however, she performed an excellent triple flip – triple toe loop combination and a superb step sequence which was rewarded with three GOEs of +3. She said: "Compared to last year I could enjoy my performance. In the short program and in the long program the key are the steps. I went to the USA to polish my steps. In the first half of the season I put too much pressure on myself, but then I realized that I don’t need to do that. I tried to be more relaxed. Fortunately or unfortunately,I met my goal to win already last year. So now I am more relaxed than a year ago."
Her dynamic free program contained the maximum number of seven triple jumps and the other elements, all in very good quality. But she had more GOEs of +1 than +2. She said: "I believe I performed this year better compared to last year. However, I am still disappointed with the result and with the performance. I want to become a skater who can give a perfect performance in the short and in the long program at least once a year. In practice I was able to do a clean performance like today only like five times. So I was kind of surprised I did such a good job today.”
Russian and Japanese ladies have won almost all medals at Junior Worlds for years. So it was no surprise that the second Japanese lady Kaori Sakamoto won the bronze medal with 195.54 points. Her short program to "The Artist” contained a combination of triple flip and triple toe loop and was flawless as well. Her only "mistake” was that her step sequence only had a level 3. The 16-year-old teenager commented: "I am satisfied that I could achieve a personal best score in such a big event. In the second half of the season some mistakes started to occur and I have been working on having the perfect performance. Two seasons ago and this season I felt the same – I just have to do what I can do. But the difference is that two years ago I though I’ll never be able to beat the Russian girls, but now I started to think that maybe I can after all."
Like the gold and silver medal winners, in her long program to "The Color Purple" by Quincy Jones, she did not make any mistakes at all, did seven triples in good or very good quality and excellent spins and footwork. "Two years ago I could have won with this kind of performance”, she said. "This year, the whole level of the competition is higher. So I couldn’t make any mistakes. I am quite happy with my performance and that I didn’t make any mistakes. I want to keep my jumps as they are now and I want to improve my expression to be more competitive. When I went out for my performance my coach told me, you can do it and I am very satisfied that I really did do a good performance.”
Eunsoo Lim from South Korea also was very good and finished fourth with 180.81 points. She has enormously high jumps. Her short program had the same elements as the top three and was without any mistakes. Six of her triple jumps in the long program were impressive, she only fell on the second triple Lutz. The third Japanese lady Yuna Shiraiwa finished on fifth position with 174.38 points and one fall but otherwise strong performances, followed by Stanislava Konstantinova from Russia with 162.84 points who had hoped for more. But she popped three jumps. Astonishing enough, the top seven skaters all had the same place in the short and in the free program and in the total result, so there were no placement changes at all.
Bradie Tennell of Buffalo Grove, Illinois was the better of the two Americans and finished seventh with 161.36 points. In her short program, her triple lutz of her combination was good, but the triple toe loop a bit under-rotated. The rest of the program was good. In the free, she had problems with both of her Lutzes, the other elements were clean, however. The second American Starr Andrews of Lakewood and Riverside in California ended up 12th, winning 149,05 points. Her combination of triple toe loop and triple toe loop was good, but she stepped out of the triple loop. In the free, she popped both of her Axels and three other jumps got an edge call or were under-rotated. Between them Lea Johanna Dastich from Germany placed eighth, earning 157.11 points. She had the fifth best technical points in the free program.