U.S. wins four medals at the JGP Romania

Farris wins silver, Bonacorsi & Mager earn bronze

A medal of any color will guarantee Keegan Messing a spot in the Junior Grand Prix Final.
A medal of any color will guarantee Keegan Messing a spot in the Junior Grand Prix Final. (Suzanne Schlecht)


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By Renee Felton, special to
(09/11/2010) - The U.S. contingent earned four medals, the most of any country, at the ISU Junior Grand Prix (JGP) Series event in Brasov, Romania. Russia, Japan (two medals each) and Ukraine were the only other countries to win medals at the event.

Keegan Messing became the first American gold medalist of the 2010 season as he shared the podium with countryman and silver medalist Joshua Farris. Kristiene Gong earned a silver medal while ice dancers Lauri Bonacorsi and Travis Mager won their second bronze in a JGP competition.

Russia's Elizaveta Tuktamisheva claimed the ladies gold while teammates Ksenia Monko and Kirill Khaliavin easily prevailed in ice dancing.

In the first Junior Grand Prix Series event of her career, Tuktamisheva won the gold medal after sitting in fourth place following Thursday's short program. The 13-year-old opened her free skate, set to "Asturias" by Isaac Albeniz, by landing a triple Lutz-double toe-double loop combination. She received nearly all neutral or positive Grades of Execution (GOE) on her elements (except the two falls) including a triple Lutz, triple Salchow-double toe combination, triple Salchow and a Level 4 flying camel spin.

Gong earned the first medal of her international career. A season ago, she placed fourth at her JGP debut assignment in Belarus. Gong, who sat in third place following the short program, maintained medal position despite seeing four of her jump elements marked down for under-rotation. The Cerritos, Calif., native earned 83.02 points for her "Salome" free skate, with an event-best 43.59 points for her program components.

"I've been working hard on the second mark [program components] for the last few months," Gong said. "[Coach] Frank [Carroll] is really particular about this piece of music and has pushed me to connect with it. I'm happy that's improving."

Japan's Shion Kokubon, the 2009 Golden Spin champion, won the bronze. She overcame a shaky start in the free skate, in which she received negative GOE on her three opening elements, to cleanly land three jumps, including a triple flip-double toe combination and a double Axel-double-toe combination, in the second half of her program.

American Samantha Cesario finished just off the podium in fourth place. Short program leader Yuki Nishino of Japan fell to seventh while Russia's Rosa Sheveleva, who was in second entering the free skate, finished in sixth.

Messing won the free skate en route to his second medal in a JGP event. He previously won silver in Great Britain two years ago. Like Gong, Messing received a segment-best score for his program components of 62.50 (total segment score of 122.05), nearly seven more points in the category than teammate Farris (55.56). The Girdwood, Alaska, native moved up from second, where he sat after the short program, though he struggled with his jumps. After landing a clean triple Axel to start the free skate, Messing was downgraded on his quad toe and received negative GOE on five other jumps. He performed the rest of his elements cleanly and earned neutral or positive GOE throughout the skate.

"I was psyched to win the gold. Even though I have won silver before, I can't explain the feeling of hearing my national anthem when I stood on the podium," Messing said. "I was disappointed with my jumps in the free skate but am looking forward to improving as the season continues."

After finishing just out of medal contention in two JGP assignments a year ago, Farris earned the silver medal. The 15-year-old, who led after the short program, set personal-best marks throughout the competition. Messing earned a total segment score of 67.03 for his short program. Despite falling on the three opening elements of his free skate, Farris earned a personal-best 112.19 for the segment and scored 179.22 points total. Farris recovered from a shaky start to the free skate by cleanly landing a triple Lutz-double toe to regain momentum.

"I was unhappy with my performance in the first half of the free skate but then regained my composure and gave it my best in the second half of the program," Farris said. "I was extremely pleased with my short program and am honored to win the silver medal."

Japan's Keiji Tanaka took the bronze.

Ice dancing
Monko and Khaliavin ran away with the competition, winning both the short and free dances. The pair received positive GOE on all seven elements in their free dance, which was set to the soundtrack of Frida. All three of their lifts (curve, rotational, straight line) were scored at Level 4. Their total score of 138.27 is nearly 21 points higher than that of the JGP France gold medalists Alexandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin (RUS). Monko and Khaliavin have now won the last four JGP events they have entered including the 2009 JGP Final.

Anastasia Galyeta and Alexei Shumski maintained silver medal status through their "bluesy" free skate. They earned neutral or positive GOE on their six elements including their Level 4 lift combination early in the program. For the competition, they earned 124.65 points as they won their first medal in a JGP event.

Bonacorsi and Mager, the 2009 U.S. novice champions, vaulted into medal contention after sitting in fifth place following Friday's short dance. The duo, which trains in Aston, Pa., skated a clean free dance in which they received neutral or positive GOE on six of their seven elements. They finished with a total score of 110.58 points to edge France's Tiffany Zahorski and Alexis Miart for the bronze.

"We are happy that our hard work over the past few months paid off in the form of a medal," Mager said. "We gave it our all and gained valuable experience. It's a great way to start the season."

Teammates Gabrielle Friedenberg and Ben Nykiel, in their first ever international competition, finished eighth.