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Farris tops men's podium in Sheffield

Russians post another strong showing at JGP Great Britain

Joshua Farris (left) claimed gold in Sheffield, and Timothy Dolensky took fourth overall.
Joshua Farris (left) claimed gold in Sheffield, and Timothy Dolensky took fourth overall. (Brittany Bottoms)

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By Mickey Brown, special to icenetwork.com
(10/03/2010) - Russia continued its dominance of the top step of the podium in this year's Junior Grand Prix of Figure Skating Series, winning three more gold medals at this week's stop in Sheffield, Great Britain. The other top prize went to Joshua Farris of the United States.

Russian skaters have now won 10 of the 17 gold medals handed out in this fall's JGP Series.

Ladies
Adelina Sotnikova, the 2009 Russian champion, took a lead of almost four points over Yasmin Siraj in the short program and narrowly defeated the American in the free skate to win her second gold medal of this year's series.

In her short program, skated to a selection of waltzes by Johann Strauss, Sotnikova was dinged for under-rotating the second part of her opening triple Lutz-triple toe combination, but she landed her double Axel and triple loop cleanly, and received lofty Grades of Execution (GOE) on her spins (0.93, 1.07).

She had problems with the first jumping pass in her free skate as well, having the second part of her triple Lutz-triple toe combo downgraded. She more or less cruised after that, landing four more triples (one in combination) and earning Level 4 for all three of her spins. With the win, Sotnikova earned a berth in the Junior Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final, Dec. 9-12 in Beijing, China.

Joining her will be Siraj, who picked up her second silver medal of the series, the first coming at the season-opening event in France. She did what every skater says they aim to do: skate two clean programs. Siraj earned positive or neutral GOEs on all 18 elements in her two programs. She landed seven clean triple jumps, including two triple Lutz-double toes and a double Axel-double toe-double loop, and received Level 4 for five of her six spins.

"It's a great feeling," Siraj said of qualifying for the JGP Final. "I've been striving to do my best, and whatever comes, comes. It's amazing to get the opportunity to go to the JGP Final."

Finishing third was Japan's Yuki Nishino, who edged American Kristiene Gong by 1.26 points for a medal. Nishino skated a clean short program to Puccini's "Omio Babbino Caro" but had a more difficult time with her Le Corsaire free skate, in which she had three jumps (triple Lutz, triple flip, triple toe) downgraded.

Gong, the silver medalist in Romania, skated well overall, but a downgraded double Axel in the short and a popped Lutz and wrong-edge takeoff on her triple flip in the free skate doomed her to a fourth-place finish.

Men
Farris won the United States' third gold medal of this year's series, after Keegan Messing's win in Romania and Charlotte Lichtman and Dean Copely's triumph in Austria. Sitting atop a tightly packed group of competitors after the short program, he blew away the field in the free skate to take the title by almost 15 points.

Less than two points separated Farris from Canada's Liam Firus and Japan's Keiji Tanaka after the short, with Russia's Zhan Bush sitting fourth. Skating to music from Gershwin's Porgy and Bess, Farris attempted eight triples in his free skate and landed seven of them, including an opening triple Axel-triple toe that garnered him 12.89 points, the most of any element in the segment. His only major mistake was a fall on his triple Lutz. Farris scored 127.95 points for his free skate, beating his previous best of 112.19 set at JGP Romania.

Combined with his silver medal from that competition, Farris earned a berth in the JGP Final.

Bush pulled up from fourth to take the silver, breaking a string of three straight JGP events at which he claimed the bronze. Save for a wrong-edge takeoff on his triple Lutz-double toe-double loop, he performed a clean free skate to the Hans Zimmer-composed music from The Rock, landing six clean triples and two double Axels.

Canada's Liam Firus captured the bronze, the first JGP medal of his career, despite his sloppy Lawrence of Arabia/war movie themes free skate. He fell on his opening triple Lutz, and received negative GOEs on five of his eight jump elements as well as on his second-to-last spin.

Tanaka fell to sixth overall after a seventh-place free skate in which he had his second double Axel downgraded and his third double Axel invalidated.

Timothy Dolensky of the United States placed fifth in each segment to come in fourth overall. He was the only competitor in the free skate to perform three Level-4 spins.

Pairs
Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov, the reigning World Junior bronze medalists, took a commanding seven-point lead with their "Asturias" short program, in which they cleanly landed their throw triple toe and side-by-side double Axels. Their free skate, set to music from Nino Rota's La Strada, included two clean throw triples and, again, side-by-side double Axels. Their only misstep came on their triple toe-double toe combination, when she fell out of the triple and didn't do the second jump.

Their competition score of 151.64 was seven points better than that of silver medalists Narumi Takahashi and Mervin Tran of Japan. It was their second gold medal of this year's JGP Series (the first came in Austria) and clinched them a spot in the JGP Final.

Takahashi and Tran found themselves more than 10 points behind Stolbova and Klimov after the short program. Skating to "Feeling Good" by Michael Buble, the reigning World Junior silver medalists were hit with two deductions, one for his falling on their triple twist and another when he put his hands down and re-centered their death spiral. They rebounded to win the free skate, which they perform to Raul di Blasio's "El Dia Que Me Quieras." After a fall on their opening side-by-side triple Salchows, Takshashi and Tran landed both of their throw triples cleanly, although they were credited with only a single toe in their planned double-Axel-double toe combination. Their segment score of 100.93 bested their previous high of 97.69 points, set at last year's World Junior Championships.

Making their international debut in Sheffield, Natasha Purich and Raymond Schultz of Canada took the bronze, outlasting teammates Taylor Steele and Robert Schultz (no relation to Raymond) by two points, 126.98-124.74.

The highest-finishing U.S. team was Kylie Duarte and Colin Grafton, who took fifth. They were sixth after the short program, but a third-place finish in the free skate pulled them up one spot. Skating to Phantom of the Opera, they landed side-by-side triple Axels (-0.7 GOE) and a clean double Axel-double toe combination en route to posting a segment score of 82.12 points, almost 20 more than their previous best set last season at JGP Lake Placid.

Duarte and Grafton moved their training site a couple months ago from Boston to Colorado Springs.

"We've changed our whole training approach, and it's been really good for us," Grafton said. "Training with other elite teams has really helped us."

Ashley Cain and Joshua Reagan finished one spot behind Duarte and Grafton, while Cassie Andrews and Timothy LeDuc came in eighth. Both teams were making their first appearances at an ISU event.

Ice Dancing
Ksenia Monko and Kirill Khaliavin of Russia captured their fourth straight gold medal at a JGP event, and that doesn't include the title they won at the 2009 JGP Final. They coasted to a 22-point win over country mates Victoria Sinitsina and Ruslan Zhiganshin, who won their second silver this fall. Nicole Orford and Thomas Williams captured the bronze, the first ice dancing medal won by a Canadian team in this year's series.

Monko and Khaliavin were just about flawless throughout the competition, earning Level 4 for 11 of their 12 elements. Their only glaring mistake was a one-point deduction for an extended lift in their Frida free dance. Their competition score of 155.04 points is far and away the best for any team in this season's JGP Series and makes them the heavy favorites to once again take home the gold at the JGP Final.

They will be joined in Beijing by Sinitsina and Zhiganshin, who finished comfortably in second despite being hit with a deduction in both programs, one for a fall in their short dancer and the other for an extended lift in their "Samson and Delilah" free dance.

Orford and Williams, making their first international appearance together, placed third in both segments of the competition. They skated as cleanly as the other medalists but their levels were not as high.

The two American teams, Alexandra Aldridge and Daniel Eaton, and Lauri Bonacorsi and Travis Mager, placed fourth and fifth, respectively. Aldridge and Eaton rallied from a sixth-place finish in the short dance to come in fourth in the free dance, a segment in which they posted the third-best technical score (37.00).