Musademba, Shibutanis score JGP gold

Canadians Hole, Johnson win pairs

Kristine Musademba bested the ladies in Lake Placid.
Kristine Musademba bested the ladies in Lake Placid. (courtesy of IDC)


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By Becca Staed Bishop, special to
(09/06/2009) - The only skater within the top-10 ladies to defend her position after the short program was Kristine Musademba, whose 92.91 free skate score tallied a 147.39 competition mark that earned the American skater a third JGP gold medal in her two years on the circuit.

"I am excited to keep on training and make it better," Musademba said of her programs. "I feel more comfortable with this year's programs. The music cuts are more for me, and I feel like the programs are more my style."

Musademba opened strong with a triple Lutz-double toe, which garnered 7.87 total points. She landed four more triples and two doubles, including a towering double Axel that brought in the highest Grade of Execution -- a 1.14 -- of the program. Her 44.76 component mark topped the field by nearly three points.

She said she plans to work on her triple Salcow-double toe-double toe, after falling on the first jump in the sequence. She was unable to complete the combination and received a -3.00 GOE, along with a one-point deduction for the fall.

"We recently added that jump, so I haven't trained it as much as it should have been," she said.

As the series progresses, Musademba is looking to improve upon last year's sixth-place finish at the Junior Grand Prix Final.

"Every athlete gets nervous about what happened in the past," said Musademba of her disappointing JGP Final placement. "It was something I have to forget about and move on from and focus on the future."

Russia's Ksenia Makarova moved up from fourth after the short program to finish second in the free skate and overall with a 137.94 final score.

"I made some mistakes, but who doesn't?" she said "I was very happy with my triple toe-triple and fell on my flip, but that's OK. I'll do it next time. Overall it was really good."

Makarova collected the most points -- 8.29 -- for her opening triple toe-triple toe. The fall on her subsequent triple flip cost her four points. She went on to land four doubles, including two double Axels, and three triples. Her change-foot combination spin was graded a Level 4, and she had the second-highest component marks among the ladies.

Isabelle Olsson of Sweden jumped an impressive five spots between the short and free skate programs to finish third with a personal best 126.15 competition mark.

"It's real good because it's my first real competition of the season, and it feels real good to show what I can do." Skating to ???, Olsson also had one fall -- on the double Axel -- but landed three excellent combinations, including an opening triple Lutz-double toe, a triple loop-double toe and a triple Salchow-double toe-double toe. She landed two additional clean triples and earned a Level 4 for her flying camel spin.

"I want to work on my double Axel for next time," she said.

Japan's Yukiko Fujisawa dropped from second after the short to eighth in the free skate, finishing fourth with 119.57 points. She had the most trouble with her jumps, falling twice, having several jumps downgraded and receiving a 1.71 deduction for taking off on the incorrect edge on her triple flip. However, she did land a double Axel-double toe and a nice triple flip and performed two Level 4 spins.

Pairs free skate
Canadians Kaleigh Hole and Adam Johnson remained at the top after their free skate to Stravinski's "Firebird" and collected gold at their first JGP appearance together with a more than 11-point advantage.

The duo paired up only five months ago when Hole made the transition from singles to pairs. Johnson previously competed on the JGP circuit with then partner Christi Steele, with whom his best JGP finish was eighth.

"We have come together pretty well in a short time, and we are just looking forward to the future," Johnson said.

They earned 91.48 points for their free skate that featured excellent side-by-side triple Salchows, a Group 5 rotational lift that was graded Level 4, a clean throw triple Salchow and flawless Level 4 spins.

"We are really happy with our performance," said Johnson. "It was what we wanted to do -- come here and skate well with lots of speed and put on a performance. I feel like we did that."

Russia's Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov sat fifth in the free skate, but their 47.53 short program score bolstered them. Their 129.50 competition mark put them in second place overall in only their second competition together.

Though not the team's strongest performance, they landed their opening side-by-side triple toe-double Axel and were graded Level 4s on their Group 5 lift and their closing combination pairs spin. They also displayed a beautiful throw triple Salchow. Their only major blunder was Stolbova's fall on the throw triple loop.

"I hope it is much better next time, but it was good this time," said the team's coach. "The fall is no trouble because she will only learn from it."

Narumi Takahashi and Mervin Tran of Japan moved up from fifth after the short to second in the free skate, winning the bronze medal with a 129.34 total - just .16 points behind the Russians.

Their 42.81 component mark was the highest in the field. Their program was near flawless, with only two negative GOEs on their flying camel combination spin and their throw triple Salchow. The program was highlighted by their lifts -- a Group 5 Axel lift and a Group 3 lift. Five of seven elements were graded Level 4s.

This is the team's second bronze medal after three years on the JGP circuit.

Americans Britney Simpson and Nathan Miller finished third in the free skate and fourth overall with 128.83 points after only one season together.

"We've done better, but our goal was to get top four and attack, and we did that," Simpson said.

The pair lost significant points -- a -1.40 GOE -- in the beginning for their wobbly throw triple Salchow, but they came back with a Group 5 Axel lift that garnered a Level 4, clean side-by-side double flips and a Level 4, Group 3 lift at the end.

"It's [Simpson's] first international event, so we just wanted to get her feet wet," coach Dalilah Sappenfield said. "We left a lot of points on the table, but we certainly know we can do better."

Ice Dancing
Americans swept up two medals in the ice dancing event, with gold medalists Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani dominating the field by a more than 21-point lead and JGP first-timers Lauri Bonacorsi and Travis Mager collecting bronze. Canadians Kharis Ralph and Asher Hill garnered the silver medal with 154.42 points.

The Shibutanis held their lead throughout the competition and recorded a personal best overall score of 175.95 after earning 85.51 points for their sharp "Tango Rhapsody" free dance.

"At the beginning we don't know each other, and we challenge each other, like 'anything you can do, I can do better,'" Alex said of the free dance. "Halfway through, we realize we are good at dancing together and work off each other's strengths as the music builds. At the end is a sit spin lift where it culminates."

Their opening synchronized twizzles were flawless, receiving a 1.30 GOE and 3's from four of seven judges. They earned Level 4s on all of the elements except for their closing diagonal step sequence, which was a Level 3. Their routine was highlighted by a nice circular step sequence and an elegant straight-line and curve lift.

"It was a really strong performance," said Alex. "It's the first time putting it out this year, so for the beginning of the season, we are really happy with the scores. We increased our personal best by 10 points. So to be able to pick up from Junior Worlds and skate like that is gratifying."

This makes for the Shibutani's second gold and third collective medal on the JGP Series.

Ralph and Hill put on an energetic number called "Miss Marigold's Dancing Academy," that garnered 74.79 points.

"Our skate out helps us get into character, and we begin acting as soon as they call our names out and then it's easier to perform," Ralph said.

The couple opened with a Level 3-reverse rotational lift, followed by a circular step sequence that brought in a 1.00 GOE. Their synchronized twizzles and rotational lift were both graded Level 4s, and their diagonal step sequence garnered the highest GOE of 1.20.

Their goals this season include a third trip to the Junior Grand Prix Final as well as to go to the World Junior Championships again, where they placed fifth this year and eighth in 2008. But first, they hope to improve upon their step sequences, which both earned only Level 2s.

"We are getting the levels on everything but the footwork sequence, so we need to work really hard to make sure everything is clean and clear so they can't dock us for anything," said Hill.

Newcomers to the JGP, Bonacorsi and Mager gave a captivating performance to I Giorni's "River Flows in You," which portrays a dream cycle, collecting 69.59 points and a 145.97 competition mark despite one fall. The reigning U.S. novice champions said they never imagined such success in Lake Placid. "We didn't even know we were getting a Junior Grand Prix this season," Mager said. "To be in the final warm-up at our first JGP was ridiculous. We were pleased with all our skates here. They were all very competent and we just wanted to prove that we could do it."

The team displayed soul, opening strong with a Level 4 combination spin, followed by Level 4 synchronized twizzles. Their straight-line and rotational lifts highlighted the lyrical routine and garnered Level 4s and the duo's highest GOE of .90. Their only misfortune was Mager's fall on the diagonal step sequence, which cost them a point.

"We started the diagonal a little too far back so we tried to make up for it," Mager said. "It was at the end and we were so excited. I stepped behind her too much on the outside Mohawk and just fell."

Yet, Mager recovered quickly and easily transitioned into their final and elegant lift, wherein Bonacorsi appears to be sleeping across Mager's lap -- her bed.

In their JGP debut, Stefanie Frohberg and Tim Giesen of Germany came in fourth place with a 143.97 final score.