U.S. wins JGP medal count with four in Great Britain
Japan, France, Russia join U.S. with gold in Sheffield
|Madison Chock and Greg Zuerlein are the top junior ice dance team. (Michelle Harvath)|
Angela Maxwell finished in third place in the ladies event -- behind Japan's Kanako Murakami (gold) and Yukiko Fujisawa (silver) -- and qualified for the JGP Final in Goyang City, Republic of Korea, in December.
Johnson finished with the bronze medal, while his teammate Keegan Messing took silver and France's Florent Amodio secured the gold. Chock and Zuerlein were able to collect their second gold medal of the season, beating both Russian ice dancing teams by more than 14 points. The pairs event was dominated by Russian teams Anastasia Martiusheva and Alexei Rogonov and Sabina Imaikina and Andrei Novoselov.
In her second JGP stop this season, Maxwell found herself up against the same competitor that trumped her efforts in the Czech Republic -- Fujisawa. This time, however, it wasn't Fujisawa that Maxwell had to worry about after the short program but another up-and-coming Japanese skater, Kanako Murakami.
Murakami, who won bronze at the JGP Spain, often positions herself as an early leader, and this week was no different. In Spain, she came in second in the short program, and this week she led after it with a 55.52-point segment score, giving her more than a four-point cushion over the field. Though her routine was not spotless, she pulled off a clean triple flip-double toe, a beautiful double Axel and spins that received two Level 3s and a Level 4.
Maxwell ran into trouble in her short program, though it had improved since the JGP Czech Republic, her first event of the season.
"My short [program] is getting better," she said. "I just wanted to improve from my last competition, and I did."
Maxwell successfully landed her opening double Axel, which received an impressive Grade of Execution (GOE) of 1.50 points. However, trouble ensued when she put a hand down on her triple toe-triple toe and took off on the wrong edge on her double Lutz. Her step sequence and the majority of her spins earned Level 3s. She sat in second place going into the free skate with a segment score of 51.25, but two competitors followed less than a point behind -- one of which was Fujisawa.
Fujisawa finished her short program in fourth place with a score of 50.82, just 0.43 points back from Maxwell. Her routine was nearly flawless, except for a hand down on her opening jump that was meant to be a triple flip-double toe but was downgraded. Both her triple Lutz and double Axel were solid, but she later received a Level 1 on her spin sequence. However, her position going into the free skate was not dire.
Fujisawa's free skate started with a base value of 52.83 -- five points more than her closest competition, Murakami, and nearly 10 points more than Maxwell. She fired off six triple jumps, five of which were successful and two in combination. All of her spins earned Level 4s, and her step sequence came up with a Level 3. Her 98.46-point segment score rocketed her into first place in the free skate and onto the podium with the silver medal.
Murakami followed her teammate closely, skating a solid program that featured three clean triple jumps -- a triple toe, a triple flip and a triple Salchow-double toe -- and two Level 4 spins. She finished with a 98.32-point segment score, which left her a razor-thin 0.14 points behind Fujisawa in the free skate. But her early lead was enough to snag the gold medal -- her first on the JGP circuit.
Maxwell performed her free skate, which was set to "What Hands Can Do" and Khatchaturian's "Waltz Masquerade," with nary a mistake or a negative GOE. Her first three jumps were on spot, particularly her triple toe-triple toe that garnered a 1.38 GOE and 9.38 points. She displayed strong spins, highlighted by a Level 4 flying camel spin with a change of foot. She then pulled off a triple flip-double toe with grace, followed by a triple loop and a double Salchow-double toe. Her 96.21-point segment score gave her a combined score of 147.46 and the bronze medal.
"I just tried to stay very positive after the short program," Maxwell said. "I knew I was in a good place, and I was like, 'I am going to go out there and do my best and get through the program.'"
Maxwell's finish qualifies her for the JGP Final in Goyang City, Republic of Korea, which will be held in conjunction with the Grand Prix Final in December. After falling short of making it to the JGP Final last year, Maxwell's success is a reason to celebrate, but it has not yet sunk in.
"I don't know what to think right now," said Maxwell, "but I know it will be a very great experience. I am going to work on my program and polish it up for the Finals and hopefully do better there."
France's Amodio was the front-runner after the men's short program with a segment score of 72.00, leading Johnson by nearly four points and Messing by more than seven.
The Frenchman, who won the bronze medal at the JGP France at the start of the season, delivered a flawless short program that featured a 10.75-point opening triple Salchow-triple toe. He followed that by landing a clean triple Axel and then a triple Lutz. His spins and step sequences earned decent Level 2s and 3s, but his jumps more than made up for it. In addition, his program component score topped Johnson by 0.29 points.
Johnson opened with a triple flip-triple toe that earned 9.75 points, but his next jump -- a triple Lutz -- received a negative GOE score. He earned Level 4s on two of his three spins, but it wasn't enough to overcome Amodio.
Johnson's teammate, Messing, had a good run on his "Fundamentum" short program, which featured a beautiful triple Axel, triple flip-double toe combination and a Level 4 spin. However, he flubbed on his earliest combination spin, which was graded a Level 1. His remaining flying camel spin and step sequences earned Level 2s and 3s. He received a 64.70-point segment score and was third going into the free skate.
However, the Girdwood, Alaska, native, who finished 13th at this very competition last year, was finally ready to prove himself. Skating to the Gremlins soundtrack, he opened with a grand triple Lutz-triple toe, which suffered a -0.50 GOE but still earned 9.50 points. All of his spins received Level 4s, and he attempted six more triple jumps -- two in combination and four of which were successful. He garnered 123.51 points and finished in first place in that event. His comeback gave him a competition mark of 188.21, and he moved into second place overall -- his first JGP medal after two years on the circuit.
Messing will not advance to the JGP Final, which he said he is a bit disappointed about right now.
"It feels good to get the silver," he said. "I felt that I skated really well, but I kind of blew it at JGP Czech Republic, and that would've helped me here. My ultimate goal right now is to get a quad before nationals as well as a triple Axel-triple toe."
Amodio stayed close behind in second during the free skate. Though his program was littered with negative GOEs, his early lead after the short program gave him enough leverage to finish first overall. His free skate featured eight triple jumps -- four of which were in combination but only three that were clean. His program was highlighted by triple Salchow-triple toe and triple Lutz-double toe-double loop combinations. His free skate earned 121.34 points, which gave him a total score of 193.34 and the gold medal.
Johnson finished third in the free skate and third overall after having trouble with his jumps. He turned out singles on both his planned triple Lutz and triple loop, which significantly lowered his element score. All of his spins earned Level 4s, and he landed a solid triple Salchow-double Axel in sequence. He finished less than a point behind Messing, with 187.81 points, earning the bronze medal.
"I am very happy with the bronze because this whole season I have been working really hard to get more consistent," Johnson said. "What I did, I did well, except for a couple mistakes that were kind of silly, but I deserved [the bronze]."
With his gold-medal finish in the JGP Czech Republic and his third place finish here, Johnson will advance to the JGP Final in December.
Russia's Artur Gachinkski remained steady in fourth place throughout both portions of the event for fourth overall with a competition mark of 175.79.
Russian pairs Imaikina and Novoselov and Martiusheva and Rogonov surged to the top of the leaderboard after the short program with a razor thin 0.06 between them. Their closest competition, Japan's Narumi Takahashi and Mervin Tran, sat more than four points behind with a segment score of 50.06.
Imaikina and Novoselov, who won silver at the JGP Czech Republic last month, received no negative GOEs for their 54.78-point short program, which opened with a clean double Lutz, followed by a solid throw triple loop, the highest-scoring element of their performance. All three of their spins received Level 4s, as well as their Group 3 lift and their forward inside death spiral.
Their Russian teammates, Martiusheva and Rogonov, earned Level 4s for two of their spins and their Group 3 lift. They received the most points for their throw triple loop (4.82), which received a negative GOE, as did their Level 3 double Lutz twist lift. They gained an advantage with their showmanship, collecting a 22.73 program component score -- the highest among the field.
Takahashi and Tran gave a strong performance, but their program started with a lower base value than the Russian teams. If they were counting on their competitors' mistakes, they were unable to make up the difference after both delivered strong routines. The Japanese team garnered Level 4s on nearly all of their elements, including a combination pairs spin that earned a hefty 4.56 points.
In the free skate, Martiusheva and Rogonov eased into first place. They opened their program with an excellent throw triple loop. Three of their next four elements received negative GOEs. However, they earned Level 4s for all but one of their remaining components, including their forward inside death spiral, both of their combination spins and a superb Group 5 Axel lasso lift. In addition, their 48.16 program component score far outweighed the field and would be a key factor in their finish. They received a segment score of 96.38 for a competition mark of 151.10 -- enough for first place -- but their teammates still had to skate.
Imaikina and Novoselov's element score of 49.38 bested their teammates' by more than a point. They opened strong with a Group 3 triple Lutz twist lift, followed by a throw triple loop. Then came a triple Salchow and a solid Group 5 toe lasso lift, graded a Level 3. They were given Level 4s for both their flying camel combination spins and their Group 3 lift. Incredibly, however, a 45.56 program component score was a setback for the duo. They earned a free skate score of 94.94 and a competition mark of 149.72, which wasn't enough to overtake their teammates. They settled for their second silver medal, while Martiusheva and Rogonov won their first gold and second medal of the season.
Takahashi and Tran placed fourth in the free skate, but their 131.10 competition total put them in third place overall for their first JGP medal after two years on the circuit. They opened their free skate well with a Level 3 double Lutz twist lift. However, they received three negative GOEs and a one-point deduction for a fall.
American pairs team Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir finished fifth in the short program and seventh in the free skate, for fourth place overall. The two other American teams, Molly Aaron and Daniyel Cohen and Kloe Bautista and Galvani Hopson, finished eighth and 12th, respectively.
In just their second year together, U.S. ice dancing duo Chock and Zuerlein have had such great success on the JGP Series, you'd think they'd been partners for years. Last year, they finished first and third in their JGP events in Estonia and Germany, respectively. This year, they collected two more gold medals en route to their second appearance at the JGP Final.
Their toughest competition in Great Britain came from Alisa Agafonova and Dmitri Dun of the Ukraine, who won gold this year at the JGP Belarus. The Ukranian team sat in first place following the compulsory dance event with a 31.94-point segment score. Russia's Ekaterina Pushkash and Dmitri Kiselev came in second, trailing their Ukrainian competitors by exactly 0.70 points. Chock and Zuerlein were in third, trailing Pushkash and Kiselev by a miniscule 0.01.
However, Chock and Zuerlein were able to reclaim the lead, as their Ukrainian contenders fell into third, and Canada's Karen Routhier and Eric Saucke-Lacelle moved into second. The Americans' routine was highlighted by an opening synchronized twist, a beautiful straight line lift, followed by a spin, all of which earned Level 4s. They received Level 3s on both of their step sequences, including a diagonal step sequence that earned the most points (8.33) of the program. They finished with a segment score of 53.78.
Agafonova and Dun received a score of 50.14 for their original dance, more than three points behind Chock and Zuerlein. Although they too displayed three Level 4 elements -- their spin, synchronized twizzle and rotational lift -- their midline not touching and diagonal step sequences earned a Level 3 and 2, respectively.
Entering the free dance, the American and Ukrainian teams were separated by just under three points. However, Chock and Zuerlein cleaned up the competition with their free dance, taking an 11-point lead over Agafonova and Dun. Chock and Zuerlein earned Level 4s on all but the last two elements in their program, which received Level 3s. They opened with a Level 4 combination spin, followed by a Level 4 diagonal step sequence that earned a 1.13 GOE, as well as a Level 4 curve lift into a Level 4 rotational lift. Their Level 3 circular step sequence garnered an impressive 1.25 GOE and the most points in the program (8.45). Their 83.07-point segment score gave them a competition mark of 168.08 and their second gold medal of the series.
"We have definitely improved over last year," Zuerlein said. "We were hoping to be on top. It was an amazing experience. At Finals, we want to skate well and would like to at least be in the top four because last year we were fifth."
Their American teammates Rachel Tibbetts and Collin Brubaker, who placed fifth and fourth in the compulsory and original dance portions, respectively, snuck into second in the free dance with their powerful routine to Puccini's "Tosca." They displayed an excellent opening curve lift, followed by synchronized twizzles, both of which received Level 4s. They collected 7.95 points for their Level 3 circular step sequence, and their combination spin and rotational lift received Level 4s. The duo came in fifth overall.
Agafonova and Dun trailed behind in the free dance, earning just 71.75 points. Though most of their elements received Level 4s, their GOEs were average, and they got a one-point deduction for a fall. However, their early lead at the beginning of competition gave them enough of an advantage to finish with the silver medal. Their overall score was 153.83, more than 14 points behind Chock and Zuerlein.
Canadians Routhier and Saucke-Lacelle finished fifth in the free dance with 70.99 points, which gave them a competition mark of 152.59 and their second bronze medal of the season.
Pushkash and Kiselev finished in fourth place with 151.42 total points.