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Russia's reign continues as Radionova repeats

Sakhanovich, Medvedeva finish 2-3; Americans place seventh, ninth, 14th
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Elena Radionova is the first lady to win back-to-back world junior titles. -Getty Images

Russia's thorough dominance of junior ladies continued Sunday in Sofia, where Elena Radionova became the first lady ever to defend the world junior crown.

With her teammates Serafima Sakhanovich and Evgenia Medvedeva taking silver and bronze, respectively, Russia swept the ladies podium for the second consecutive season. Ten of the last 12 world junior ladies medalists have hailed from that country.

The 15-year-old Radionova, who placed fourth at the Grand Prix Final, had a flawless free skate to Latin-themed music from the Russian group Frida. Among the highlights: an opening triple Lutz-triple toe loop combination and a triple loop-single loop-triple Salchow. In all, she performed seven triple jumps.

Radionova's spins all gained Level 4, with her layback drawing many +3 grades of execution (GOEs). She used her musicality and refinement to her advantage: Her components averaged about 7.5. With her winning short program, she ended with 194.29 points.

"I am very pleased with my performance today -- it was one of the best in my career," Radionova said. "I skated with a lot of emotion, as if it were for the last time, and did all of my elements."

Russia has such a fine group of junior ladies that initially Radionova was not named to its world junior team, likely because of an injury in December.

"This victory was not easy for me because until a short time ago, I did not know if I would come here," said Radionova, who trains in Moscow under Inna Goncharenko.

As always, the diminutive blonde was smiling and engaging in the press conference, seeming to thoroughly enjoy her meteoric rise to success.

"I have a strong motivation to do sport, because if you are good in sport, you can meet famous people and become famous yourself," Radionova said. "This is one reason for my motivation. I want my children and grandchildren to be proud of me one day."

Sakhanovich was second in the short program and free skate, and won the silver medal with 182.13 points. Her opening triple flip-triple toe combination was excellent, but she got edge calls on both of her triple Lutzes. All of her other elements, including three Level 4 spins, were strong.

"My performance was not ideal today; I can do better," said Sakhanovich, who trains in St. Petersburg under Alina Pisarenko. "I got an injury here and could hardly walk, but I did not feel it on the ice."

Medvedeva, third in both the short and free, won bronze with 178.43 points despite having two of her jumps judged underrotated by the technical panel. Five other triple jumps were clean, and her closing layback spin was one of the best of the event.

"I am not so pleased with my performance; I made many mistakes, not only on the jumps, but even on the spins," Medvedeva said. "After I skated, I did not think I would be on the podium. I watched Satoko [Miyahara] skate, and I thought she would be third. When they told me that I am in third place, I didn't believe it at first."

Japan's Miyahara, fourth after the short, remained fourth with 177.69 points. She performed five clean jumps but underrotated two others.

Canadian Alaine Chartrand had an impressive free skate to music from Dr. Zhivago, moving up from seventh to fifth place with 164.35 points. Her seven triples included an opening triple Lutz-single loop-triple Salchow.

The three U.S. skaters all had good moments in their free skates, but their scores were limited by technical errors.

Texan Amber Glenn, who placed seventh with 158.88 points, began her romantic program to "Who Wants to Live Forever" with a combination of a triple flip and triple toe loop, followed by a combination of triple Lutz-triple toe. An excellent double Axel and triple loop followed, but her second triple Lutz was called underrotated and her triple Salchow was downgraded.  

"It was not my absolute best, but I did pretty well," the U.S. junior champion said. "This was only my second international competition, and I think I handled the pressure very well. I did some really good things."

Glenn, who is coached by Ann Brumbaugh and Ben Shroats, discussed her plans for next season.

"I will move to seniors next season, at least nationally, and maybe do Junior Grand Prix internationally," she said.     

Karen Chen, who trains under Tammy Gambill in Riverside, Calif., was ninth with 155.83 points. She opened her Miss Saigon free with a triple Lutz-triple toe loop combination, followed by a shaky triple flip and three more triples. Her Level 4 step sequence was excellent, as was her closing layback spin, for which she got two +3 GOEs and seven +2s.

"I feel like I did my best today; I tried to attack and to not regret anything," she said. "I had to deal with so many injuries during this season."

Chen, who medaled at two Junior Grand Prix events this season, withdrew from the 2014 U.S. Figure Skating Championships after the short program because of a right ankle injury.

"Some of my jumps were not clean, and I did not get all of my levels, but I was able to do my triple-triple combination for the first time," Chen said.

Another Gambill student, Tyler Pierce, fell from 10th place after the short to 14th overall with 138.58 points.

Pierce opened her program with an excellent triple flip, but she fell on a triple Lutz, singled an intended triple loop and had trouble with other jumps. Her spins were strong, and she landed a solid triple loop-double toe combination.

"I felt that the first mistake on the triple Lutz affected my program, because then I rushed through the next elements and did not take my time," Pierce said. "On the other hand, I learned so much from this competition. I feel really excited to train harder for next season when I see all these talents here."

Bulgarian bits: Glenn's seventh-place finish, combined with Chen's ninth, means the U.S. has qualified just two ladies spots for the 2015 World Junior Figure Skating Championships. Russia and Japan qualified three ladies. ... Two Korean ladies, Da Bin Choi (sixth) and Na Huyn Kim (10th), finished in the top 10. ... For the first time, the ladies free skate was held Sunday before the event's gala. "The main Bulgarian TV station wants to show some of the best ladies and the complete gala in their big Sunday sports program. Therefore, we arranged the schedule according to its wishes," ISU event director Peter Krick said.

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