The ISU Challenger and Junior Grand Prix series continued this weekend in Finland and Poland respectively with much anticipation focused on the international season debut of two-time World champions Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron at Finlandia Trophy.
The French made a solid start with their short dance which they performed to the slightly left-field choice of Ed Sheeran songs. Their rhumba pattern, twizzles and straight line lift were all graded Level 4, while their two step sequences earned Level 3. The judging panel seemed to be impressed with five programme components scores of 10.00 this early in the season. Their score for the short was 78.09.
In the free dance, Papadakis and Cizeron were weaving their magic spell to Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” when Cizeron slipped right at the end of a diagonal step sequence. Despite the error, the current World silver medallists posted a free score of 110.16 to give them a comfortable victory with a total of 188.25.
Alexandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin, who claimed the World Junior title ahead of Papadakis and Cizeron in 2013, finished second in both segments of the event to bag silver overall with 166.88 points. Laurence Fournier Beaudry and Nikolaj Sorensen overcame mishaps and fifth in the free to hang on to bronze with a score of 158.21.
Boyang Jin was not able to finish first in either the short programme or free skating and not all of his quadruple jump attempts were successful, but he did enough to win his first international title in Espoo. Vincent Zhou leaped from sixth to second overall after placing first in the free, while Adam Rippon narrowly finished behind his compatriot to mark a successful return after a long lay off due to injury.
Maria Sotskova put hardly a foot wrong in both of her routines in her international season debut and racked up personal bests for her free (137.61) and total score (205.30) to secure gold. Carolina Kostner had a shaky start to her free when she stepped out of a first triple flip and then immediately singled another one. The 2014 Olympic bronze medallist settled herself and ended up being placed in second. Elizaveta Tuktamysheva had been leading following the short, but too many errors in the free meant the 2015 World champion dropped to third.
Cheng Peng and Yang Jin picked up their first international together as a pair with their win in Finland. Nicole Della Monica and Matteo Guarise, who had been in first following the short, had to settle for second place. Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov struggled through their free and just about hung on to third.
Junior Grand Prix Final Spots Fill Up In Poland
The sixth round of the Junior Grand Prix in Gdansk, Poland saw more skaters book their places at the Junior Grand Prix Final in December. Alexey Erokhov from Russia won his second title of the series to put himself top of the standings. He will be joined in Nagoya, Japan by Camden Pulkinen who pulled up from fourth after the short to come second. Conrad Orzel from Canada took bronze.
For the sixth week in a row, the ladies title at a Junior Grand Prix was won by a Russian skater. Alena Kostornaia was competing in her first international event and won narrowly over teammate Daria Panenkova. Panenkova’s second place gives her a berth in the Junior Grand Prix Final. Kostornaia will try to join her next week when she skates in Italy. Rino Kasakake took her first Junior Grand Prix medal when she finished third in Gdansk.
Poland was the last of four Junior Grand Prix pairs events and the top four all earned Junior Grand Prix Final spots there. Following on from successfully taking an Olympic spot at Nebelhorn Trophy the previous weekend, Ekaterina Alexandrovskaya and Harley Windsor knew they needed maintain their form for another week if they were to have any chance of qualifying for the Junior Grand Prix Final for a second year in a row. They did so comfortably. Daria Pavliuchenko and Denis Khodykin, Anastasia Poluianova and Dmitry Sopot (both from Russia) and Yumeng Gao and Zhong Xie from China will accompany the Australians to Japan in December.
Anastasia Skoptcova and Kirill Aleshin from Russia were also celebrating their Junior Grand Final qualification this weekend as they cruised to the ice dance title in Gdansk. Elizaveta Khudaiberdieva and Nikita Nazarov from Russia won silver with Caroline Green and Gordon Green from the United States taking bronze.