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U.S. captures two of three golds at JGP Spain

Americans win singles; Russians top the dance program

Silver medalist Becky Bereswill and gold medalist Kristine Musademba, both of the U.S., stand together at the JGP Spain.
Silver medalist Becky Bereswill and gold medalist Kristine Musademba, both of the U.S., stand together at the JGP Spain. (courtesy of U.S. Figure Skating)

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By Becca Staed, special to icenetwork.com
(09/28/2008) - U.S. skaters collected four more medals -- two of which were gold -- at this week's Junior Grand Prix (JGP) Series event in Madrid, Spain.

For the second time this year, American ladies Kristine Musademba and Becky Bereswill stole the show in their category, finishing first and second, respectively, while American men's competitor Armin Mahbanoozadeh grabbed gold -- his first of 2008-09 season. Russia's Ekaterina Riazanova and Jonathan Guerreiro asserted control over the ice dancing competition, but Americans Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani finished close behind, earning their second JGP medal, this one silver after their gold at the JGP France last month.

Ladies

Musademba and Bereswill finished one-two for the second time in the 2008 JGP Series. The event's biggest surprise was Japan's Kanako Murakami, who made a splash despite her lack of international experience. Making her JGP debut, the 14-year-old took third place, less than a point behind Bereswill.

The 14-year-old Murakami's only previous international experience came at the 2006 Gardena Spring Trophy in Italy, where she captured the novice title. Despite her short program having a significantly lower start value than her competitors, Murakami found herself in second place, behind Russia's Ksenia Makarova, by just more than three points. She displayed three flawless Level 4 spins and attempted two triple jumps, including one in combination, but could not land them cleanly.

Musademba and Bereswill scraped through their short programs, coming up third and fourth, respectively. Makarova held the first-day lead after a nearly flawless short program, with one stumble on her opening double Lutz.

Skating to "Within," Musademba attempted two triple jumps -- a triple flip in combination and a triple Lutz -- but was unsuccessful this time. The majority of her spins earned Level 3s and one Level 4. She earned a 45.48-short program mark, good enough for third place.

Bereswill, who earned a short program score of 45.16, also ran into trouble. She fell on her opening triple flip in combination, and her triple Lutz was downgraded. Her spins were evenly graded Level 3s and 4s.

However, the Americans were able to trump their competitors in the free skate. Musademba, skating to Handel's "The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba," struggled on her opening triple Lutz, which was downgraded, but quickly composed herself and landed a clean triple flip-double toe, followed by a triple loop, both of which helped secure her the top spot. Musademba landed two more clean triples over the course of the program, and suffered one fall. Her spins were graded a Level 2, 3 and 4. Her free skate score of 82.16 gave her a competition mark of 127.64.

"I'm glad I went for everything and finished strong," Musademba said.

Bereswill rose from fourth-place after the short program to silver-medal position. Though she ran into trouble on her free skate, she opened with a solid double Axel, followed by a triple Lutz. She attempted four more triple jumps, though not all of them were landed cleanly, in her free skate to Turandot's "Nessun Dorma." The performance featured two beautiful Level 4 spins -- a layback and a combination spin. Her program components score (45.16) was nearly three points higher than anyone else's. Her free skate score of 82.11 gave her a 127.27 competition mark and second place overall.

An overall score of 126.87 earned Murakami the bronze, her first medal as a junior on the international circuit. Her free skate, highlighted by three clean triples, two in combination, and her signature Level 4 spins, earned her an 80.29-point free skate tally. Her program's start value was the lowest of the top six free skate performances, and three of her jumps earned negative Grades of Execution (GOE).

Russia's Makarova finished eighth in the free skate and fourth overall.

Men

Mahbanoozadeh's short program, skated to "Dark Forest" by Ara Gevorgian, put him up by roughly three and a half points heading into the free skate. His short program performance was nearly flawless, with just one negative GOE for his double Lutz. It was highlighted by an opening triple flip-triple toe combination, followed by a clean triple Lutz, which earned an impressive 17.25 points -- half of his total element score Japan's Tatsuki Machida, a three-time JGP medalist, attempted almost the same jump elements but received a negative GOE for taking off on the incorrect edge on his triple flip-double toe, taking second place in the short program.

Mahbanoozadeh delivered a solid free skate, set to selections from The Mummy soundtrack by Jerry Goldsmith. He opened strong with a double Axel and a triple flip-triple toe combination. He had a hiccup later when he singled a planned double Lutz, for which he received negative GOEs. His other mistake came on his double Axel-triple toe sequence.

"After I had a glitch on the Lutz, I really fought through the program and said, 'I really want this,' and was able to finish the program successfully," said Mahbanoozadeh.

His spins received mostly Level 3s and one Level 4. He landed three more triples en route to a segment score of 114.61, a competition mark of 179.40 and the gold medal. For every JGP event Mahbanoozadeh has attended, he's found his way to the podium. This is his fifth JGP medal and his second gold (he also won the 2007 JGP United States).

Improving from fifth place after the short program to first in the free skate was Russia's Artur Gachinksi. He opened with two triple Axels (one in combination), landed four more triples and completed two Level 4 spins in his free skate. His program earned 121.31 points and the silver medal -- his second in the JGP Series.

The bronze went to Machida, who suffered one fall and received negative GOEs on five of his jumps in the free skate, in which he finished sixth.

American William Brewster made the biggest improvement in the men's field, moving from 13th after the short program to fourth in the free skate and seventh overall.

Ice Dancing

Russia's Riazanova and Guerreiro were given little room for error by the American Shibutani siblings, and the Russians were up to the task, winning their first-ever JGP gold medal.

Riazanova and Guerreiro competed in their first JGP event in Romania in 2006, where they finished ninth. Since then, however, they have amassed three JGP silver medals leading up to this week. After the compulsory dance, they led by a slim 1.24 points. They opened their original dance with Level 4 synchronized twizzles, followed by a solid step sequence and a Level 4 spin. Their circular step sequence garnered the most points, and they ended strong with a Level 4 rotational lift.

The Shibutanis, skating their original dance to swing-themed selections from film scores by composer Paul Englishby, gave a superb performance that featured an opening midline not touching step sequence, for which they earned 7.08 points, and a closing diagonal step sequence that garnered 7.83 points. Their spin, lift and twizzles all earned Level 4s.

Riazanova and Guerreiro's free dance Sunday earned 81.31 points. They were awarded the most points (8.45) for their serpentine step and earned Level 4s on all their lifts, their combination spin and their twizzle sequence. Their overall score of 167.80 gave them a more than four-point victory.

The Shibutanis finished second in the free dance as well. Their performance to selections from the film Cinema Paradiso composed by Ennio Morricone was first-rate, except for one negative GOE on their circular step. All of their lifts, their synchronized twizzle sequence and their combination spin were graded Level 4s. Their 79.30-point segment score widened the gap for the Russians, and the Americans' 163.56 competition mark put them in second overall.

The bronze went to Ukranian's Anastasia Vykhodtseva and Alexei Shumski, the second time they have medaled at a JGP in four attempts. They finished with a competition mark of 146.31, a 17.25-point disparity between them and second place.

Americans Rachel Tibbetts and Collin Brubaker slipped from third after the compulsory dance to fourth in the original dance portion. They then suffered a two-point deduction for both falling on their twizzle sequence in the free dance competition, where they finished seventh. Their overall score of 137.93 left them in sixth overall.