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Lipnitskaia puts lid on perfect junior season

Gold hangs tough for silver; U.S. maintains three spots in all disciplines

Russia's Julia Lipnitskaia bested the competition by more than 15 points.
Russia's Julia Lipnitskaia bested the competition by more than 15 points. (Robin Ritoss)

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By Klaus-Reinhold Kany, special to icenetwork.com
(03/03/2012) - Julia Lipnitskaia, the youngest and possibly most talented of the vaunted Russian wunderkinds, capped a perfect 2011-12 junior campaign Saturday, defeating American Gracie Gold by more than 15 points to win the ladies crown at the 2012 World Junior Championships.

The skater from Moscow, who will turn 14 in June, won every junior short program and free skate she entered this season, with nary a mistake in sight. Saturday was no different, as she hit seven triple jumps -- including two double Axel-triple toe combinations, the second with an added double toe -- in her program to Nino Rota's Romeo and Juliet.

It's likely, though, that her extraordinary flexibility -- on full display in her three Level 4 spins as well as many spiral and illusion transition moves -- is what brought the Minsk crowd to its feet for the first and only time this week. Her program components scores ranged up to 8.0, rare for a junior, and she earned 123.96 for her free skate and 187.05 overall, outpacing the previous world junior record by 12 points.

"I am really happy because my performance today was ideal," Lipnitskaia said. "I did not think very much during the program; I just took one element after the other. I thought: 'Do it like in practice every day.'

"If others ask for advice, I just say: 'Skate always in a good mood, and then you will be successful.'"

Lipniskaia will not be age eligible for the world championships until the 2013-14 season.

Gold, the 16-year-old from Chicago, opened her free to music from The Mission with a strong triple Lutz-triple toe, followed by a double Axel-triple toe.

She doubled an intended triple loop but executed superb spins, a triple flip, a second triple Lutz and a triple Salchow. Gold earned a personal-best 113.85 points and finished with 171.85 points.

"I am very happy now," the U.S. junior champion said. "My performance today was not perfect, but I am really happy with it and my placement. This whole season has been exciting. I worked hard, and I deserved to be here.

"During my performance, I thought of each element, just one after the other, and I kept the muscle memory and enjoyed myself."

Gold, who competed in just one Junior Grand Prix last fall, is undecided on what her immediate future holds.

"I will pass the senior test soon, but we have not decided yet if I keep junior or move to senior," she said. "It would be cool to get a senior Grand Prix."

Russia's Adelina Sotnikova, the 2011 world junior champion, won the bronze medal with 168.45 points after an energetic program that opened with the event's most difficult combination, a triple Lutz-triple loop. (The Lutz got an edge call from the technical panel). Although she hit three more triples, she fell on the triple loop.

"I am rather happy because I did some very complicated elements today," Sotnikova said. "Not everything was perfect, and this season was not as successful as last season, but I took it as an experience for the future."

Yet another talented young Russian, Polina Shelepen, recovered from a disastrous short to hit two triple-triple combinations in her free and place fourth in the free and sixth overall.

Christina Gao, who has placed fifth in the U.S. each of the last three seasons, opened her free to Piazzola's "Libertango" with a triple flip-triple toe but later stepped out of a triple loop and popped an intended triple Salchow into a single. She placed seventh with 151.09 points.

"I am really proud of what I did today overall, even if I did not get the best result today," Gao said. "I am a bit upset that the two elements I had worked the hardest did not work today, but I am sure my time will come."

Vanessa Lam opened her free with a combination of triple Lutz and two double loops but stepped out of an under-rotated triple flip and missed a triple toe loop and the second double Axel. However, the 16-year-old showed three fine Level 4 spins as well as a second triple Lutz and strong triple loop. (Her Lutzes received edge calls.) She placed 13th with 138.94 points.

"The warmup was really good, but then I felt shaky throughout my program and was a bit cautious," Lam said. "I am happy that I held together the second triple Lutz. I know now that I have to work on putting together a whole program when I get home."

Minsk madness: Seven of the top 10 finishers in the ladies free skate executed at least one triple-triple combination ... After this successful junior worlds, the Belarusian Skating Federation is considering applying for a European or even world championships in 2015 or 2016 ... The Gala on Sunday is sold out (14,000 seats). Part of the ISU seating area was sold to the public because many ISU officials have already departed ... The U.S. team won four medals and maintained three spots in all four disciplines for the 2013 World Junior Figure Skating Championships, to be held in Milan, Italy.