Second Junior Grand Prix Much Like the First

Another messy men’s competition turns up surprise winner, another new Russian girl wins ladies, another mistake-plagued ice dance competition.

For its second week, the Junior Grand Prix moved up to the other side of the world, to Austria, which was a skating powerhouse in the 20s and 30s, though not so much today. However, things ultimately went not unlike how they’d gone in Australia. Once again the men’s competition was less than impressive, while the ladies competition was better. Even the ice dance competition had more mistakes than is typical for it again.

Men

Before this week, American Camden Pulkinen’s highest international score barely broke 170, and his placements hadn’t been the highest either. And his short wasn’t the best; he landed a triple axel jump, only to fall on his jump combination and struggle with two spins and even finishing on time. Lucky for him no one else skated a good short either, and shown himself greatly improved artistically over the summer, so he still led. In the free, though he once again finished late enough to lose a point, he had mild trouble with two axels but more or less pulled off everything else. That ultimately proved enough for him to win that segment too as well as overall, and break 200.

For French silver medalists Luc Economides, too, a medal was a huge accomplishment, especially when he didn’t even make the free skate at the World Junior Championships last year. Except he didn’t actually skate very well. His second-place short was more good than not, if you discount the fall on his triple axel attempt. In his long he got closer to landing the solo axel, but then struggled with four combinations, the first of which he did by accident for an eventual Zayak penalty. He was still third in the segment, partly due to presentation scores; in both programs he showed himself to be a good performer.

Both Russian men had far more worse short programs. It left Evgeni Semenenko in 11th, and Egor Murashev down in 14th. But Murashov managed a second-place long. His triple axels weren’t good, the landed one only barely so, but he had that to combine with his other jumps, all but one which were clean, and more gestures than were likely appropriate. He got up to bronze, knocking off Turkish skater Basar Oktar. Another man who failed to make the free at Junior Worlds last year, Oktar did far better here, getting through an interesting program with a stumble on an axel to get third in the segment. But his sixth-place free had two falls and other errors.

Semenenko, the more hyped of the Russians going in, was not so lucky. In his long he managed neither triple axel attempt at all, and his other jumps and elements were more weak than not. The debuted program exposed his immaturity too. He could only managed fifth in the segment and sixth overall, just ahead of Canadian Conrad Orzel. Orzel may have come in the only man in the field with a JGP medal to his name already, but he followed up a mildly disastrous short with much worse free. He was responsible for one of the competition’s two quad attempts, both of which ended badly.

Ladies

Another JGP event debuting another new Russian baby ballerina phenom is actually predictable; the country does churn them out. But Anastasia Tarakanova, the one who won this week, seems a bit more wild than usual for these girls.  Her intensity and emotion are stronger than you often see in juniors, but her free program felt like it was on the verge of disaster for much of it. Some of her jumps suffered especially, including her triple lutz-loop-triple salchow, and she doubled the second jump of one difficult triple-triple, though of course she’d already done other one. Her triple flip-triple toe in her short felt similar, but that program combined choreography, music, and passion to make for a memorable one:

She might not have been able to match Tarakanova technically or artistically, but silver medalist Eunsoo Lim of Korean was still very good. She was also a lot smoother in almost everything, including the difficult triple-triple she had in each program. Bronze medalist Mako Yamashita of Japan was not a dissimilar story in the short, and her free opened with a beautiful triple lutz-triple toe-double toe. But towards the end she suffered a fall and three underrotations, including one on her triple lutz-triple toe attempt.

The only skater that really could’ve challenged Tarakanova was countrywoman Anastasiia Gubanova. Her short went very badly, with two falls. Her all too beautiful free skate had two falls in it too, though there she landed a few more jumps, including a triple lutz-triple toe. She finished fourth, a point and a half ahead of American Starr Andrews. After landing everything in a relatively easy short, Andrews made a triple axel attempt in the free which was fully downgraded, as was the second jump in her triple flip-triple toe attempt. The rest of her program included a successful triple-triple-double, but no other clean triples.

Ice Dance

The ice dance had all of the top four couples had trouble at some point. For Americans Christina Carreira & Anthony Ponomarenko, the heavy favorites, it hit in the short dance twizzles, where she fell. They were better enough than everyone else to still narrowly pull out the segment, before pulling away in the free, where they had no such issues, skating beautifully. After three silvers on the JGP, they finally have their first gold.

Carreira’s error may not have had much consequence, but those of two Russian teams trying to debut their programs, and one French one that had had a run of them in front of an audience already, made the battle for the other two medalsa touch wilder. In terms of ability, Ksenia Konkina & Grigory Yakushev were easily the best of the three. But in the short dance steps she fell, and then he slipped trying to help her up. It left them in third behind Natasha LaGouge and Corentin Rahier, who are pretty good themselves. This setback, however, they ultimately recovered from in the free. When all three teams did character-driven programs, theirs was the most nuanced and effective, and they more or less nailed it. They shot ahead to win silver by nearly ten points.

Despite a close call on their short dance lift, LaGouge & Rahier nearly got through the competition clean. But near the end of their free dance, his leg went wrong in the twizzles. Though a low level on their step sequence cost them too. They were fourth in the free dance, but held onto bronze by the skin of their teeth over Evgenia Lopareva & Alexey Karpushov. Ironically Lopareva & Karpushov’s fourth-place short dance was the clean-skated one, though the low technical tariff in it killed them. Also, the miming was much less annoying there than it was in their free dance.  They took third in that segment largely due to a higher technical tariff than the French this time, but not by enough when their step sequence was less than clean.

View full results here.

Croatia Cup Roster

How much the roster for the fifth JGP event in Croatia, which came out this week, will remain by the actual event is very uncertain. Alexei Krasnozhon is the top name on the men’s list, but while he will certainly get a second event, it may or may not be this one. The two Russian men on the roster haven’t had their first event yet may be in or out depending on how they do beforehand. The roster also includes two Japanese men who had medaled on the circuit, and both Basar Oktar and Joseph Phan, who’ll try to improve on the fourth places they’ve gotten at the first two events.

The ladies roster, meanwhile, currently includes Anastasiia Gubanova, but she may pay a heavy price for her failure to medal this week. The top Russian lady in Croatia might not even be on the roster yet. Which American lady ends up going is also currently uncertain. Mako Yamashita too is currently scheduled to have her second event in Croatia. Young You is another name to watch here.

The pairs field includes the World Junior silver and bronze medalists, Aleksandra Boikova & Dmitrii Kozlovskii and Yumeng Gao & Zhong Xie. The dance field is currently headed by last year’s JGP Finalists Anastasia Shpilevaya & Grigory Smirnov. Natasha LaGouge & Corentin Rahier should return for this one, as should last week’s silver medalists Marjorie Lajoia & Zachary Lagha.

At the Riga Cup next week, one top skater, last week’s men’s silver medalist Roman Savosin, will have his second event, and attempt to become the first lock for the JGP Finale. Latvia will also see the beginning of the series for the pairs.

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