Stars of Tomorrow Shine at Junior Worlds

The ISU World Junior Figure Skating Championships once again saw the best junior skaters in the world battle it out for top honours. Taipei City, Taiwan was the stage for some superb performances that point to a bright future for skating.

_MG_3301sAfter placing fifth at last year’s Junior Worlds in Hungary, Vincent Zhou leaped to the top of the pile this time round in the men’s event. The American had been in fifth after the short programme, less than five points off the lead. With the aid of three quadruple jumps and mistakes by those ahead of him, he emerged victorious.

“To me this medal is a great opportunity to build for next year,” Zhou said. “Of course it’s a great way to end this season and of course I’m very happy to have won. For next year, it will give me new confidence in my training and my future competitions I’m looking forward to.”

Overnight leader Dmitri Aliev and compatriot Alexander Samarin took silver and bronze respectively for Russia.

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Japan and Russia had captured all of the last eight ladies titles at Junior Worlds between them and this year it came down to skaters from those two nations again. Alina Zagitova took the lead from the short and never relinquished it. In her free, the Junior Grand Prix Final champion inserted all seven of her jumping passes in the second half of her programme to glean precious bonus points and in the end won by almost seven points.

” I knew I could not make any mistake,” Zagitova said. “I realised 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.”

Marin Honda had put an enormous amount of pressure on the Russian by skating an entire set of new personal bests, but the defending champion had to settle for second place. The bronze medal was secured by Kaori Sakamoto who also managed to put together the performances of her career.

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The most surprising result of the championships came in the pairs event. Australia had not won a medal at Junior Worlds since the inaugural event in 1976 when Elizabeth Cain and Peter Cain won a pairs bronze. Four decades later, Ekaterina Alexandrovskaya and Harley Windsor were on course to repeat that achievement as they sat in third place following the short. Despite a fall by Alexandrovskaya on a triple Salchow throw in the free, the Australians were moved ahead of everybody else and claimed first place overall. It was the first time Australian skaters had won gold at an ISU championships.

“It’s still slowly sinking in,” Windsor said. “It’s overwhelming for both of us. We came in this competition very confident, in our training and coaches. In the performance we just took one element at a time and just tried to focus. We made a little mistake, but in the end it sort of worked out for us.”

Aleksandra Boikova and Dmitrii Kozslovskii, who had been in front after the short, held on to silver despite placing fourth in the free and Yumeng Gao and Zhong Xie picked up bronze.

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The United States of America and Russia had shared the spoils when it came to Junior World ice dance titles over the past decade. In Taipei, this was the closest fought of the disciplines with less than a point separating first and second. Rachel Parsons and Michael Parsons came from behind after the short dance to become the first siblings to win Junior World ice dance gold.

“It feels incredible for us,” Rachel said. “Michael and I had a really good season so far and t his is just theperfect way to cap off our junior career. We couldn’t be more happy.”

Alla Loboda and Pavel Drozd had been ahead of the Americans after the short, but had to settle for silver. Christina Carreira and Anthony Ponomarenko rounded out the podium to deliver a second medal for the U.S.

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