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Miner claims first gold of the JGP Lake Placid

Musademba sits first following the short; Shibutanis retain lead after the original dance

Ross Miner (middle) won the men's gold at the JGP Lake Placid. Kento Nakamura (left) earned the silver and Mark Shakhmatov (right) grabbed the bronze.
Ross Miner (middle) won the men's gold at the JGP Lake Placid. Kento Nakamura (left) earned the silver and Mark Shakhmatov (right) grabbed the bronze. (Daphne Backman)

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By Becca Staed Bishop, special to icenetwork.com
(09/05/2009) - Kristine Musademba presented a powerful short program to DeBussy's "Clair de Lune," gaining a more than five-and-a-half-point lead with her 54.48 segment score.

This is Musademba's third appearance on the Junior Grand Prix Series. Last year, she earned gold at both her JGP stops and finished a disappointing sixth in the Final.

"My goal on the JGP this year is to do a lot better than last year and really train hard," she said. "I know what it's like. I have had my ups-and-downs, so I know how to get back where I want to be."

She lost 2.43 points on the GOE for taking off on an incorrect edge on her opening triple Lutz-double toe, but quickly refocused to land a clean triple flip, followed by a soaring double Axel. Three of her four spins were graded Level 4s.

"I trained really hard this year and felt prepared for this event," Musademba said. "I feel like those weren't my best jumps. I had some better ones in practice, but I am glad I stood up on everything."

Last year's JGP Final silver medalist Yukiko Fujisawa of Japan came in second place with 48.79 points.

"In practice, I was so nervous and fell a lot, but in the performance I felt relaxed and did well," Fujisawa said.

The beginning was shaky, as she received her only two negative GOEs of the night on her opening triple Lutz-double toe and for taking off on the incorrect edge on the following triple flip, which was downgraded. But she landed a clean double Axel and received Level 4s on all four spins in the program.

"I usually have trouble with the first jump," said Fujisawa. "The next step is to work on that."

Local favorite Taylor Firth, star of the Ice Castles remake, sits in third place after her "Prayer for Taylor" routine with 47.24 points.

"This is my home state," said the Buffalo, N.Y. native. "I have come to Lake Placid like a hundred times over the years, and it's just a comfort zone. It's one of my favorite places in the world. It's great to have the hometown feel, and it was nice to be able to have my family come because it's only a six-hour drive away."

Firth landed her opening triple Lutz-double toe, and two of her spins were graded Level 4s. She fell on the routine's second jump, a triple flip, but viewed her performance a success overall considering the hard work she put in over the summer to recompense training time lost while filming in the spring.

"I was only skating one to two times a week for a month and a half," Firth said. "But it was a once in a lifetime opportunity. Who knows if I will ever get to act again? It's something I can show my children and grandchildren. It was really, really precious to me.

"It was a bit of a struggle to get back into the competitive feel, but I was just trying to focus and keep running solid programs."

Russia's Ksenia Makarova is in fourth place with 47.05 points. She landed a clean double Axel and received Level 4s for three of four spins.

Men's free skate
Ross Miner sustained his lead in the free skate despite a rocky performance to win gold with a more than 11-point lead in his first-ever JGP Series appearance.

"I thought I started strong and ended strong, but there was a big gap in the middle," Miner said. "I have worked on my skating skills and components quite a bit, and I don't think I showed that."

Skating to "Adios Noninos" and "Libertango" by Astor Piazzolla, Miner landed three flawless jumps, including his opening triple Axel and triple flip-triple toe as well as a triple Salchow, the former and latter of which received 1.00 GOEs. Yet, the "disconnect" came in his five remaining triple jumps and a double Axel-double toe, which all received negative GOEs. Two of his three spins were graded Level 4s, including a change foot combination spin that garnered a .50 GOE. His component mark of 57.28 led the field by more than four points.

He finished with a competition mark of 179.95. Within minutes of coming off the ice, he was already strategizing for his next JGP stop.

"I have been off the ice three minutes and I already know what I need to work on for the next event," he said. "I need to do my programs more. They are still relatively new, but I want to make sure that every time I do my program, I really sell it and fight for every single element."

Japan's Kento Nakamura held onto second place despite an equally shaky free skate. His 105.55 segment score gave him a 168.03 total.

In his first JGP appearance since the 2007 JGP Romania, where he finished 10th, Nakamura landed his opening triple Axel, earning a 1.14 GOE, but fell on his next triple jump -- a Lutz -- and popped the following Axel. Yet, he landed four more triples -- two of which were clean -- and a double Axel-double toe and received a Level 4 for his change-foot sit spin.

"I am very happy," Nakamura said. "I cannot explain what the emotion is to have this medal."

Russia's Mark Shakhmatov placed fourth in the free skate, moving up from fifth after the short into third overall. His 103.51 free skate score gave him a competition mark of 158.97.

Making his international debut, Shakhmatov had one of the field's cleanest skates, with only a slight negative GOE of -.21 on his double flip-double toe combination jump. He landed 10 clean jumps, highlighted by a nice triple loop, triple Lutz and double Axel. His change foot sit spin garnered a Level 3, and he collected a 50.92 component mark.

Fourth place went to reigning U.S. novice champion Joshua Farris, who moved up from 10th place following the short, a remarkable six-spot jump. He placed third in the free skate, earning 104.22 points for his "Warsaw Concerto" routine.

Making his JGP debut, Farris reeled off three clean triple jumps at the start of his program, including a Salchow and Axel, both of which earned GOEs of 1.00. Three other triple jumps were downgraded, but also displayed a clean double Axel-double toe and a Level 4 change-foot combination spin.

Original dance
Wearing matching pastel-colored kimono-style costumes, brother-sister duo Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani retained their lead with a mesmeric Japanese folk-themed original dance that took a nod to their heritage.

Their 56.43 segment score was a personal best -- their second at this event -- giving them a 90.44 total that controls the field by more than 10 points following the original dance.

"We are very proud [of our heritage], and basically this dance is a festival dance, a celebration," Maia said.

Their music -- "Itsuka Mata" by Tetsuro Naito and "Ao-ki Kaze" by Ryutaro Kaneko -- are powerful pieces that contrast drum beats with a softer water-like musicality, which the team keenly interpreted.

Three out of four elements garnered a GOE of 1.20 or greater. They opened with razor-sharp Level 4 synchronized twizzles. Their circular step sequence garnered a Level 3, and they received a 1.80 GOE for their midline step sequence. Their only bobble came in the middle of the program on the straight line lift, which they did not practice in the warm-up. They were graded Level 4 on the lift but earned only a .90 GOE.

"We were a little shakier than normal on the lift, but part of competition is figuring out what's thrown out at you and figuring out how to deal with it the best way you can," said Alex.

Canadian's Kharis Ralph and Asher Hill also maintained their second-place spot, performing an African-style original dance, for which they collected 49.20 points that gave them a 79.63 total score.

To prepare for their routine, the team had two off-ice sessions with an African dance coach, who works with them for two hours every Friday.

"We felt that we gave good energy and good expression," Hill said. "We really tried to work the upper body to keep the African motif going throughout the program."

Their opening diagonal step sequence was graded only a Level 2, but it was followed by a strong midline step sequence that brought in a 1.20 GOE. Both their synchronized twizzles and rotational lift garnered Level 4s.

"We are happy with second place and confident going into the free dance," Ralph said.

Their free dance is a fun routine called "Miss Marigold's Dancing Academy" that features Ralph as the dance teacher and Hill a pupil who arrive to class late.

Reigning U.S. novice champions Lauri Bonacorsi and Travis Mager moved into third place after their Italian folk-themed routine to the "Tarantella Medley" that garnered a personal best segment score of 46.65 for a 76.38 competition mark.

"It's nice to skate well and get rewarded with nice marks," Mager said. "That is the highest OD score we've gotten by four points. It was a pleasure to see those marks come up, especially after skating an overall great performance."

The duo earned GOEs of .50 and greater on all elements in their routine, highlighted by their midline and circular step sequences that both earned a .80 GOE. They received a Level 4 on their straight line lift. They said they are enjoying their first competition on the international stage, especially after only two seasons together.

"It's really exciting to be in the mix of things here," Mager said. "We have been working hard on making the jump from novice to junior. We are still developing our partnership on and off and ice. That is the big goal for both of us this season -- to fit in and belong and maybe be in the mix for the top."

American team Rachel Tibbetts and Collin Brubaker jumped into fourth place (from sixth) following the original dance, for which they performed a lyrical American folk routine to Eva Cassidy's "Tennessee Waltz." They earned a 45.52 segment score, which gave them a 75.09 total.

Brubaker wore jeans and Tibbetts donned in an improvised version of cowboy boots in their routine, which featured a Level 4 rotational lift, followed by a nice circular step sequence that garnered a 1.00 GOE.

"We were pretty happy about the performance," Tibbetts said. "I almost ran into Collin on the first twizzle sequence because I didn't travel it out as much as I needed to, but we were happy about everything else."