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U.S. wins five medals on final day of JGP Lake Placid

Canada goes 1-2 in pairs

Emily Samuelson and Evan Bates won their third Junior Grand Prix event on Sunday.
Emily Samuelson and Evan Bates won their third Junior Grand Prix event on Sunday. (Daphne Backman)

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By Sandra Stevenson / Special to icenetwork.com
(09/02/2007) - LAKE PLACID, N.Y. -- The United States and Canada were the big winners on the third and final day of competition at the 2007 Junior Grand Prix in Lake Placid, taking home five and three medals, respectively. The U.S. monopolized the podium in the ladies event and earned two of the three medals in the ice dancing competition, while Canada won gold and silver in pairs as well as a silver in dance.

Ladies Free Skate
Mirai Nagusu, an energetic 4-foot-11, 14-year-old from Arcadia, Calif., gave a dazzling performance Sunday evening to lead a U.S. sweep of the ladies medals in the closing event of the first ISU international competition of the season.

Nagasu scored 159.14 points, with Alexe Gilles from Colorado Springs, Colo., taking silver with 132.67 points and Angela Maxwell from Hurst, Texas, placing third with a score of 120.26.

Charlotte Belair, from Brossard, Quebec, rose from sixth after the short program to finish fourth with 106.95 points, 3.13 ahead of Na-Hee Sin of Korea.

Nagasu, who won silver in her first international event, the 2007 World Junior Championships, skated 20th of the 24 competitors, and she was in a league of her own.

Most of the competitors seemed to be emulating greyhounds, racing from their starting position as fast as they could, often soaring into their most difficult jump at the other end of the rink only to land in a messy heap, flat on their face on the cold ice.

In contrast, Nagasu began slowly, with an exquisite spiral sequence which demonstrated her gymnastic flexibility. She held each stretched position well past the minimum time requirement and earned not only level fours but also a +1.63 GOE.

An easy double Axel jump followed and then her Coppelia music turned playful.

"I'm supposed to be a doll, beautiful but cold," she later explained. "At first I have no expression, but then I come to life."

Nagasu has seen the ballet, which is set to music by Delibes, and has absorbed its lightheartedness. The routine was choreographed to perfection by Lori Nichol, who has integrated six triple jumps.

The triple Salchow, triple flip and triple loop-double toe went off perfectly, but the triple Lutz combined with two other jumps (double toe and double loop) was a little strained.

The second triple flip combined with a double toe was perfectly adequate, but then Nagasu tired a little and slowed down. Her final jump, a second triple Lutz, was downgraded to a double.

Her last two elements, both spins, gained excellent GOEs but "only" level threes instead of the hoped-for level fours.

Her coach, Charlene Wong, said, "If she had not slowed down, she would have had more rotations and got level four, definitely in the layback."

Nagasu received a deduction of one point because she went, ever so slightly, over the time allowed.

"There's still a lot to work on. There's so much to improve. Nothing is ever perfect," Nagasu said. "I had a really bad practice this morning. It made me feel like I had to change the way I was thinking. I was thinking negatively. You have to think positively.

"My coach and my mother did a good job of turning around my thinking," she continued. "I'm really thankful for my coach, my family and my supporters."

Although Nagasu is skating in junior events internationally, she will compete at the senior level at the U.S. Championships, and in a "Japan vs. U.S." event in early October.

"I'm really proud of her, but I've been stressing what a big gap there is between junior and senior and how many talented senior skaters there are," Wong said. "She has to skate assertively throughout the routine and not slow down at all."

The two other medalists, Gilles and Maxwell, were a level above the rest of the field, but they had noticeable faults. Gilles, a 5-5 graceful blonde, is the third member of her family to hit the Junior Grand Prix circuit. Her older brother, Todd, competed as a junior ice dancer and is now a senior. Her twin sister, Piper, made her debut on the Junior Grand Prix circuit last season, also as an ice dancer.

Gilles skated to Oceanic composed by Vangelis. She is one of those rare, fortunate skaters who manage to look relatively graceful even when falling, which she did on her second triple Lutz.

Though six of her 12 required elements were saddled with negative GOEs, it was a routine of great promise.

At 4-10, the dark-haired Maxwell has a cat's ability to roll over and spring back from a fall. Even with a deduction of one point for going over time, and for three falls, the U.S. novice champion put on an enjoyable show to music from the movie Finding Nemo.

She was still 13.31 points ahead of the fourth-place finisher.

"It was kind of a bad skate today," Maxwell confessed. "I have a lot of difficulty in my program, but my nerves got the best of me.

"I've been nervous before, but not as much as today. I didn't have it all together in my mind," she continued. "My goal this season will have to be to contain my nerves."

Free Dance
The U.S. ice dancers easily gained gold and bronze early Sunday afternoon, but while Pilar Bosley and John Corona were effervescently "over the moon" about their third-place finish, Emily Samuelson and Evan Bates were more "matter of fact."

For the latter, it was their third Junior Grand Prix gold medal; they won twice last year, in Mexico and Taipei.

Here in Lake Placid, their margin of victory was extremely large, 13.63 points. In second were Joanna Lenko and Mitchell Islam, the Canadian junior silver medalists.

Bates and Samuelson presented a beautiful free dance Sunday, set to Luna by Alessandra Safina, but they readily admitted there was room for improvement.

Their coach, Iouri Tchesnitchenko, heard this romantic music, which is sung in Italian, three years ago.

"He saved it for us to skate to when we were mature enough," Samuelson said.

The accompaniment certainly pushed them to a new level. They swung gracefully around the arena, a vision in light blue. Their deep knee bends and well-practiced edges created a flow and speed which made their difficult moves look effortless - except, that is, for two split seconds when Bates momentarily spoiled the perfection.

Their initial three elements, the circular steps and two lifts, were superb, gaining level fours and good Grades of Execution (GOE).

Then came trouble. She got too close to him, and he did only two twizzles in the second set and put his foot down.

They were given only a level two on this requirement and were saddled with a minus GOE.

"I was pleased we even got a level two," said Bates, who also lost his balance and had to lunge forward to keep from falling during their midline steps.

This is their third competition in a row in which one of them has received stitches. While practicing for their exhibition at the State Farm U.S. Championships in Spokane, Wash., their feet collided and he fell on his chin. At the World Junior Championships, she suffered a bad injury when he stepped on her hand. Here, his blade gashed her knee at the beginning of the original dance practice on Saturday.

Lenko and Islam, who have skated together for 10 years, performed immediately after Samuelson and Bates and suffered a little in comparison.

They presented an excellent, entertaining routine to music from a touring show by ballroom dancers, which included several energetic Latin American sections and a sultry, smooth rumba.

Bosley and Corona performed a very lively number to "Still Loving You" by Scorpions. Both were very satisfied with their bronze.

"Our free was so much better than our original (in which they placed fourth), and we skated overall in a different league from last month," said Bosley, who had falls during the Lake Placid Ice Dance Championships.

Sara Bailey and Kyle Herring who train with Christie Moxley and Alexandr Kirsanov in Newark, Del., were pleased with their showing, which put them in seventh place, 10.77 points ahead of Ukrainians Anastasia Galyeta and Semen Kaplun.

Using music from the movies 300 and Chronicles of Narnia, Herring had a slight error on his twizzles at the beginning of their routine.

"I went into the sequence and caught a funny edge. It was frustrating," Herring said. "It was tough to keep it going, but for our first year at junior level, it went well."

Pairs Free Skate
Canadians walked away with gold and silver, and a new Russian pairing gained bronze in the finals of the pairs event Sunday afternoon.

Olivia Jones and Don Jackson were delighted with their victory, on that came in their first Junior Grand Prix.

"We just came here for the experience," Jackson said. "We didn't expect to win."

Jones was a starry-eyed ten year old dreaming of becoming a pairs skater when her mother heard Jackson had split up with a previous partner and e-mailed him.

"We tried out and it was a match," said Jackson, who is from Western Ontario. "I had finished school, so I moved to (her hometown of) Montreal."

Their free skate program, set to stirring Hungarian music, was judged second best behind that of their teammates, Carolyn MacCuish and Andrew Evans, who skated to the soothing, dulcet tones of Otonol. But Jones' and Jackson's lead from the short program was enough to keep them 2.95 points ahead overall.

Jackson admitted to feeling the pressure of being in the lead.

"That put some weight on my shoulders, but my coach calmed me down. She said, 'Just take one element at a time,' and it all came together," Jackson said.

"I pointed out that they weren't doing anything they hadn't done many times in practice," coach Annik Douaire said.

MacCuish and Evans were back in fourth after making errors in their tango short program.

"Our goal was the silver medal," MacCuish said. "The throw triple toe is a big risk, but without taking risks you can't progress. I put my hand down and that made the difference between second and fourth in the short."

The Russian team of Anastasia Khodkova and Pavel Sliusarenko, from Perm, held on to third place although it was beaten in Sunday's free skate by Californians Bianca Butler and Joseph Jacobsen.

Khodkova and Sliusarenko have been together for only eight months, but he competed with his previous partner, Ekaterina Ragozin, in many Junior Grand Prix events, including one in Long Beach, Calif., in 2004.

"We split up because we weren't placing high enough," Sliusarnko said.

Butler and Jacobsen, who are being trained by two-time U.S. bronze medalist Angela Nikodinov, were third in the free skate, but they were held back by their sixth-place standing in the short program, in which she fell and their side-by-side double Axels were downgraded.

They played it safer on Sunday, when they performed to "El Sombrero de Tres Picos" and "Concierto de Aranjuez."

"We took out the throw triple loop; we didn't want to risk it," Butler said. "The throw triple Salchow was a little shaky, but we were pleased overall."

"This is a more mature, totally different program," Nikodinov said. "They came back after the short and were pretty satisfied with the performance. They wanted to get in the top four so they could be considered for another assignment, and they did."

Jessica Rose Paetsch and Jon Nuss were devastated with their performance, which included a collapsed lift and a fall by each of them. The former, according to coach Dalilah Sappenfield, cost them at least six points.

They came in fifth in the segment and fell to fifth overall.