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Denney and Frazier safely through qualifying

U.S. junior pairs champions place second to Chinese team

U.S. junior pairs champions Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier moved through qualifying and will compete in Wednesday's short program.
U.S. junior pairs champions Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier moved through qualifying and will compete in Wednesday's short program. (Tom Briglia)

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By Klaus-Reinhold Kany, special to icenetwork.com
(02/27/2012) - U.S. junior pairs champions Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier landed two triple throws en route to a second-place finish in Monday's qualification round at the 2012 World Junior Figure Skating Championships.

Performing to music from the Pearl Harbor soundtrack, the Colorado Springs-based team earned 91.58 points for a free skate that also featured a triple twist and strong lifts. Frazier stepped out of the double flip and Denney fell at the beginning of the side-by-side combination spins.

"We were relaxed and confident and powerful today," said the 16-year-old Denney, whose older sister, Caydee, is the U.S. pairs champion with partner John Coughlin.

"It motivated me that my sister won a (silver) medal at the Four Continents Championships two weeks ago."

"The qualification [round] is a help for us," Frazier, 19, said. "It is like an exhibition."

The two other U.S. pairs here -- Britney Simpson and Matthew Blackmer, and Kylie Duarte and Colin Grafton -- are entered directly into the short program draw, because two U.S. pairs placed in the top 12 at last season's junior worlds. Although Denney and Frazier are the U.S. junior champions, they have the fewest ISU world rankings points, so they had to qualify.

(Since three U.S. men, ladies and ice dancing teams placed in the top 12 last season, no U.S. skaters in those disciplines had to qualify.)

China's Xiaoyu Yu and Yang Jin, fifth at the Junior Grand Prix Final in Quebec City last month, won the pairs qualification with 96.37 points. Yu fell on two individual jumps, but the pairs elements, including two triple throws and a triple twist, were successful.

"It was not our best competition today, but the qualification was a very good practice for the main competition," Jin said.

Another Chinese team, Meiyi Li and Bo Jiang, were third with 88.49 points. All told, 11 pairs qualified for the short program.

Canadian wunderkind Nam Nguyen of Vancouver, just 13, won the men's qualification with 116.33 points. The youngest and smallest skater in the field landed his first-ever triple Axel in competition and was the only skater to try the three-and-a-half revolution jump.

Nguyen added six other triple jumps, four of which were clean, but the two triple toe loops in his triple-triple combinations were called under-rotated by the technical panel. He also popped an intended triple Lutz into a single.

"I had a lot of fun, and it was my first time to do a clean triple Axel; before it was always cheated," Nguyen said. "It looked easy, but it was pretty hard."

June Hyoung Lee of South Korea hit five clean triples and placed second with 110.45 points. Michael Christian Martinez of the Philippines completed six clean triples for 109.42 and third place. Fourteen men qualified for the short program.

German junior champions Shari Koch and Christian Nuchtern skated a lively program to a medley of "Hey Big Spender" and "Fever" to win the ice dancing qualification round with 72.36 points. Five of their elements got Level 4, and the two step sequences gained Level 2 and Level 3.

Czechs Karolina Prochazkova and Michal Ceska captured second with 70.58 points, and Anna Nagorniuk and Viktor Kovalenko of Uzbekistan were third with 70.40. The top 11 couples qualified for the short dance.