Junior Grand Prix Series Opens in Brisbane

Ladies put on a better show than either the men or the ice dance as the skating season opens in Australia.

On August 24, a little past 2 PM local time in Brisbane, the speakers at an ice rink started playing La La Land, and young home skater Jordan Lazarus, the first skater up in the 2017 Junior Grand Prix of Figure Skating, opened the 2018 Olympic skating season. Three days later, the JGP Brisbane concluded with a very Russian and rather voidy free dance to the other main music of choice this year, Swan Lake (or rather Black Swan, in this particular case).

One hopes, however, the quality of skating that went on in Australia will not be so reflective of the season to come. Although the Russians were more impressive than not, much of the skating at the event was bad. There were only competitions in singles and ice dance, which is probably a mercy. Better to not know how ugly a pairs competition might have proved.

Men

The men’s competition was especially bad. Even winner Alexei Kraszohon fell twice in his free program, including on his underrotated quadruple loop jump attempt. He was, however one of only two men to land a triple axel in his short, and the only one to do so in the free, where he pulled off two, one in combination with a triple toe loop. The other man to land the axel in the short was silver medalist Roman Savosin. Krasnozhon’s fellow JGP Finalist from last year debuted a pair of mediocre programs. Like the American, he skated a clean short, and he actually stayed on his skates even through three quad attempts in his long. But he stumbled through them, only rotating the first, and doubled his axels, and most of his other triples weren’t much better.

Canadian Joseph Phan was initially second after the short program, skating an entertaining program despite falling on his axel. But his seventh-place free was a disaster. It says something about how bad this competition was that he nearly medaled anyway, coming within a point and a half of bronze medalist Egor Rukhin. Savosin’s fellow Russian debuted himself internationally with a pair of programs that showed the potential to be prettier, but his short was less than steady, and his axel attempts went badly in both programs, though most of his second-place free was much better.

Ladies

At least the ladies were a prettier sight, with special props going to seventh-place Canadian Aurora Cotop, who skated unfazed through her music losing volume. Even so, winner Alexandra Trusova was something else. The Russian nailed all her triples, even combining a triple flip with a triple loop in the short and a triple lutz with it in the long, one of two difficult triple-triples in the latter. She did underrotate her long-anticipated quad salchow attempt, but even that was a pretty good try. Her short was a little less than age-appropriate, but her long was just plain beautiful:

Silver medalist Anastasia Guliakova skated programs almost as breathtaking. They were a little technically easier; she did only the triple flip-triple toe in both programs, as well as a triple lutz-loop-triple salchow in the free, and had one underrotated triple in the latter. Bronze medalist Rika Takino landed the same triple-triple in two programs a bit more imitative, her short especially, though nowadays it’s kind of daring to not use vocals in Les Miserables. She also had trouble with her lutz, and her jumps in general weren’t as beautiful, but all but the free program lutz and a singled axel in her double axel-triple toe attempt were rotated. In fourth place, Akari Matsuoka was the more graceful of the two Japanese skaters, but underrotated all three of her triple-triple attempts.

Dance

Even the dance event was a bit of a mess. JGP veterans Sofia Polishchuk & Alexander Vakhnov won mostly on technical skill and cleanliness, even if their short dance felt workmanlike, before they broke out the Russian voids for the free dance. In second place, Canadian Marjorie Lajoie & Zachary Lagha skated with a bit more passion, but their twizzles were weak in both programs. Russian JGP debutantes Elizaveta Khudaiberdieva & Nikita Nazarov performed even better, starting with a short dance with spark, and, at an event where there were too many Ghost programs, made their free dance sing (although for some reason, that’s not on YouTube as I post this a few hours later!). But they ended both programs with a fall, and so had to settle for bronze.

They got that largely because five of the other six teams competing simply weren’t at their level, although fourth place Eliana Gropman & Ian Somerville weren’t too far off, even coming in third in the free dance. Gopman & Somerville’s fellow Americans Chloe Lewis & Logan Bye might have been once, but in Australia their recent woes continued. They performed with a new maturity, but weren’t doing well technically even before he wrecked the twizzles in the free dance, dooming them to fifth.

View full results here.

Roster for Minsk Arena Cup

Even as the series is underway, the rosters for the later events are still coming out. This week we got the roster for the JGP Minsk Arena Cup in Belarus. It’s impossible to assume there won’t be changes between now and when it happens. Russia may put more competitive men in, since Andrew Torgashev is more or less the top skater there right now. The ladies field already has Stanislava Konstantinova and Ye-Lim Kim in it, as well as a couple more promising newcomers, and Rika Takino having her second event. Much of the pairs field is also new blood, though it includes Anastasia Poluianova & Dmitri Sopot, who both had some success with their previous partners. Christina Carriera & Anthony Ponomarenko top the ice dance field, though they’ll be pit against two very strong Russian teams.

Next week, however, the competition continues in Salzburg. Although the recap of that may take a little longer to arrive, since I’ll be on holiday most of the week.

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