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Russians make clean sweep of junior ladies

Lipnitskaia, Shelepen, Korobeynikova occupy three podium spots; Lam settles for fifth

Russia's Julia Lipnitskaia bested the competition by more than 17 points.
Russia's Julia Lipnitskaia bested the competition by more than 17 points. (Robin Ritoss)

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By Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(12/09/2011) - Triple-triple combinations were flying at Friday night's junior ladies free skate at the 2011 Junior Grand Prix Final, with four of the six skaters trying one.

But, in good news for the future of the senior circuit, the skaters were not stereotypical junior jumping beans; they also performed with a degree of grace and maturity.

Russia's Julia Lipnitskaia's combination of extreme flexibility and solid triples again reigned supreme, although she was one of only two ladies not to do a triple-triple. Skating to music from Romeo and Juliet, the 13-year-old opened with a double Axel-triple toe-double toe combination, followed by another double Axel-triple toe and five other triples.

As usual, her program was highlighted by extreme split positions in her combination spin and a spectacular closing Biellmann position in her layback spin. The Quebec City crowd rose as one to give the youngster a standing ovation. She earned a personal best 119.75 points for 179.73 overall.

"During my program, the happiness was flowing out of me," Lipnitskaia said. "It never happened to me before. I wasn't expecting the standing ovation, and I was so happy to get it."

The teen doesn't do any special exercises to maintain her extreme flexibility -- not even special dance classes.

"It's my nature's gift," she said. "I just have to keep it up and do stretches every morning."

Lipnitskaia's friend and training partner Polina Shelepen was also impressive, landing an opening triple Lutz-triple toe worth 10.80 points before falling on the second jump in a triple Salchow-triple toe attempt. After that, the 16-year-old found her stride, although her camel combination spin rated just Level 1.

Shelepen earned 107.35 points, also a new high, for 162.34 overall.

"Everyone skated well. Everything felt great," said the vivacious 16-year-old, who wore a bright smile throughout her stay in Quebec City. "There are things I need to work on in my program, but overall I am happy with my placement."

Bronze went to Polina Korobeynikova, a tall, mature-looking 15-year-old who opened her "Otonal" free skate with an exceptional triple flip-triple toe, followed by a triple Lutz, triple flip and double Axel-triple toe, all done with lovely pointed toes. Her jumps are high, and she skates with good speed, somewhat reminiscent of her coach, Victoria Volchkova. While her program lacked complex transitions, her only major mistake was falling out of a triple loop.

"During my performance, I did not think of placement; I was just trying to do all of my elements and be happy about the performance," said Korobeynikova, who earned 151.18 overall. "I think it is a big step forward for Russia to have three ladies in the top three."

Third after the short, California's Vanessa Lam landed a fine triple flip-double loop combination and double Axel-double Axel sequence, but she lost ground when she fell three times in her free skate to Rachmaninoff's "Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini." The Californian earned 145.62 total for fifth place.

"The beginning of the program, I was a little overcautious," Lam said. "That's probably why I went down on the first element, the Lutz. I regained my footing on the second jump, but I felt my timing was off for the triple loop. The program didn't feel like I had my footing under me. I didn't feel as comfortable as I did yesterday."