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Team USA earns two medals at JGP Czech Republic

Cain and Reagan, Lam make podium in Ostrava

Vanessa Lam took home the gold medal in the ladies event in Ostrava.
Vanessa Lam took home the gold medal in the ladies event in Ostrava. (Michelle Harvath)

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By Renee Felton, special to icenetwork.com
(10/16/2010) - The last leg of the Junior Grand Prix wrapped up in Ostrava, Czech Republic, on Sunday. Team USA came away with two medals, and Russia continued to have success, grabbing three medals.

Ladies
In her international debut, American Vanessa Lam, who was recently added to the U.S. Figure Skating 2010-11 Reserve envelope, won the gold medal in Ostrava. She complemented a strong "Con te Partiro" short program, which featured a triple Lutz-double toe combination, with a mostly clean free skate set to music by Camille Saint-Saens. She began the program by earning 8.00 points on a triple Lutz-double loop-double toe followed by 6.7 more for a triple flip-double toe combination.

Lam, a native of Bellflower, Calif., felt her flips throughout competition were her strongest elements while acknowledging that "the next thing I need to work on is consistently landing my loops."

She called her short program the best moment in the competition and felt well prepared for the opening round of competition last Thursday.

"My short program was strong. I had been training well, and it showed," Lam said. "Overall, I'm really happy with the outcome here. I wanted to skate my best, and I think I came as close to skating my best as possible.

Japan's Risa Shoji nabbed not only the silver medal but also a trip to the JGP Final, Dec. 9-12, in Beijing. She climbed back into medal contention after placing fourth in the short program. The Tokyo native landed a triple Salchow-triple toe combination to begin the "Libertango" short, but received a 1.00 point deduction for falling on the ensuing triple loop.

Shoji won the free skate thanks in large part to a balance of technical elements including a double Axel-triple toe combination, triple toe-double toe-double toe combination and a series of spins and footwork performed at Levels 3 and 4.

Bronze medalist Polina Shelepen of Russia has now won a medal in each of her four JGP assignments dating back to last fall. The 2009 JGP Final silver medalist will make her second appearance at the Final thanks to her finish in Ostrava combined with a gold medal showing at the season's opening event in Courchevel, France.

Kiri Baga, the other American representative, finished in fifth place but earned a berth to her second consecutive JGP Final -- she was seventh a year ago -- after also placing second her first assignment in Japan. She will join fellow Americans Christina Gao, Kristiene Gong and Yasmin Siraj in Beijing.

"It is such an honor to make the Final for a second time," Baga said. "I feel so much better prepared this year and am excited for my first trip to China."

Men's
China's Han Yan skated to his second gold medal of the season (Austria) and secured his first trip to December's JGP Final. His "Time Club" short program started off with a bang as Yan nailed a triple flip-triple toe combination for which he received 10.60 of his 34.54 total element points. The program went on nearly flawlessly from there, with the only negative grade of execution coming on his triple loop.

The "Violin Show" free skate got off to a rocky start. Yan struggled with his two opening elements (triple flip and triple loop) but then regained composure to execute an array of jumps including a triple Lutz-double toe combination, a triple flip-double toe combination and an additional triple Lutz. The program was capped by a pair of Level 4 spins.

Silver medalist Artur Dmitriev of Russia fought his way back into medal contention after finishing the short program in sixth place. The short started with promise -- Dmitriev flawlessly performed his opening triple Axel -- but things didn't go so well from there.

He received no credit for spin planned halfway through the program and fell on this triple toe-triple Lutz combination. The "Gypsy Dance" free skate was drastically improved. Once again, the show started with a bang. Dmitriev earned 21.59 points on his opening two elements alone including 11.99 on a triple Axel-double toe-double loop combination followed by a triple Lutz-triple toe combination. He carried out four jumps in the second half of his program and performed most of his spin and step sequence elements at a Level 3 with the exception of the program-closing combination camel spin (Level 2).

Sweden's Alexander Majorov earned his first JGP medal after most recently placing fifth in Japan. The 19-year-old's "Polovestian Dances" free skate was highlighted by a triple Lutz-triple toe combination followed by a triple flip-triple toe combination and a Level 4 flying sit spin.

Keegan Messing, the lone American skater, placed fourth and earned his spot in the JGP Final, where he will join teammates Max Aaron, Richard Dornbush and Joshua Farris. Messing feels his conditioning is what needs the most improvement over the two months leading up to the Final.

"I'm going to go home and start double run-throughs of my programs so my endurance will be as high as possible," Messing explained. "I want to be able to take the ice and have everything come naturally so I can concentrate on performance and pleasing the crowd."

Pairs
Ashley Cain and Joshua Reagan became the first American pairs team to medal in the Junior Grand Prix Series this fall. Their silver-medal finish in Ostrava combined with a sixth-place showing two weeks ago in Great Britain was enough for a berth into the JGP Final, Dec. 9-12 in Beijing.

Using feedback received in Great Britain, Cain and Reagan reworked large parts of both of their programs to enhance their elements and better relate to the music. Their hard work in a short period of time paid off as they set personal-best scores in all segments of the competition.

"We reconstructed a lot of our programs," Reagan explained. "There were questions about content and musicality following our first competition. It was a fast turnaround, but it obviously paid off here with the silver medal."

The duo sat in first place following their "Clubbed to Death" short program that had just one hiccup -- Cain put her hand down as she landed the throw triple toe. Their score of 46.87 for the segment was nearly four points higher than they earned in Great Britain. Reagan noted they were especially happy with their program components score (20.65) and the levels at which they performed most of their elements.

The free skate, set to music from Romeo and Juliet, was also largely error free but once again, the throw element presented a problem as Cain stepped out of the throw triple flip. Highlights of the program included a Group 3 lift performed at a Level 4 and a side-by-side double Axel-double toe combination.

"We are very excited to compete at the final," Reagan said. "It feels great to have accomplished all of this in our first season in the Junior Grand Prix."

Gold medalists Xiaoyu Yu and Yang Jin of China had a lot of work to do, as they entered their Romeo and Juliet free skate in fifth place. Their short program saw them receive negative grades of execution (GOEs) on three of their seven elements, including opening side-by-side double Axels and a throw triple toe. However, they dominated the free skate with a program full of difficult elements. Despite seeing negative GOEs on three of their first four elements, the total element score (51.73) was 10 points higher than that of Cain and Reagan. In the second half of the program, Yu and Jin executed a throw triple loop followed by a throw triple Salchow and a Group 5 Axel lasso lift scored at a Level 3.

Canada's Natasha Purich and Raymond Schultz skated to the bronze medal, their second in this year's series.

Americans Kylie Duarte and Colin Grafton finished seventh, while Jessica Noelle Calalang and Zack Sidhu, in their international debut, placed 10th. Duarte and Grafton, who placed fifth at JGP Great Britain, are listed as substitutes for the JGP Final.

Ice dancing
The ice dancing podium was a mix of nations, featuring teams from Russia, France and Ukraine.

Ekaterina Pushkash and Jonathan Guerreiro skated to an easy gold medal, their second medal of the season, and a return trip to the JGP Final. The Russian team maintained gold-medal standing after a short dance that featured four elements that were scored at a Level 4. They earned 8.50 points for their second sequence of pattern dance. They also won the free dance segment with ease after once again executing Level 4 elements including a curve lift, twizzle sequence, rotational lift and more. Their program-opening Level 3 serpentine step sequence netted the duo 7.50 points (base value 6.5, 1.0 GOE).

France's Tiffany Zahorski and Alexis Miart placed second in both segments of the competition to earn their first medal on the JGP circuit. Their free dance, to a medley of songs, contained a Level 4 curve lift-straight line lift combination for which they received 9.19 points.

Anastasia Galyeta and Alexei Shumski parlayed a silver-medal performance in Romania and a bronze in Ostrava into their first trip to the JGP Final. They surpassed Russia's Marina Antipova and Artem Kudashev for the bronze medal. Like their French counterparts, the duo performed a highly technical Level 4 combination featuring both a rotational and a curve lift in their bluesy free dance. The base value of 8.00 was added to an impressive 1.31 GOE.

Americans Anastasia Olson and Jordan Cowan and Joylyn Yang and Jean-Luc Baker finished eighth and 10th, respectively.

Pushkash and Guerreiro will join five other Russian teams in the JGP Final. Charlotte Lichtman and Dean Copely are the lone American representatives.