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USA's Wang, Miller top ladies podium in Croatia

Americans Choate, Parsons siblings earn first career JGP medals

Hannah Miller (left) and Angela Wang are both heading to the Junior Grand Prix Final.
Hannah Miller (left) and Angela Wang are both heading to the Junior Grand Prix Final. (Karen Terry)

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By Josh Ellis, special to icenetwork.com
(10/06/2012) - Needing a 1-2 finish to guarantee themselves a spot in the Junior Grand Prix Final, Americans Angela Wang and Hannah Miller delivered. They paced a Team USA contingent that took home four medals at JGP Croatia in Zagreb this week, second only to Russia who took home a competition-leading five.

Ladies

Wang was in eighth place after the short program at JGP Lake Placid, her first JGP assignment, and rallied back with three strong performances to place herself at the JGP Final in December. Wang earned the gold medal in the ladies event in Croatia.

Wang opened her weekend and was in a league of her own, posting a personal best 58.47 points in her short program. In that performance, Wang opened with a triple Lutz-triple toe which was the only element to earn a double-digit point total during the short program. She backed up the skate with a first place finish in the free skate Saturday.

In her free, Wang skated to "Ladies in Lavender," but it would be gold as she earned 104.18 points for a total of 162.65 for the week. Wang opened with a huge triple Lutz-triple toe-double toe, which earned 12.10 points, the highest scoring element in the competition by more than two points.

Miller, a silver medalist at JGP Austria, earned a medal of the same color in Croatia to punch her ticket to the JGP Final. She earned a total of 153.21 points and turned around a third-place finish in the short program with the second-best total in the free skate.

For her "The Storm" free skate, Miller broke the century mark with 101.88 points. In addition to her jumps, Miller's score was aided by two Level 4 spins and a Level 4 step sequence.

In second after the short program, Anna Pogorilaya of Russia earned the bronze medal in her JGP debut. She received high marks for her opening triple toe-triple toe as well as three Level 4 elements in her short program.

Men's

In the men's event, Maxim Kovtun of Russia was not in first place after the short program, but he put together one of the best free skates of the entire Junior Grand Prix Series to jump one spot to the top. Trailing Han Yan, the reigning world junior champion, Kovtun racked up 149.72 points for his free skate, more than eight points better than Yan.

In Kovtun's Casablanca free skate, he opened with two huge combination jumps, a quad toe-double toe which earned 12.31 points and a triple Axel-triple toe which earned 14.17 points, the top two scoring elements in the competition. He completed his program with only one element receiving a negative grade of execution (GOE) and ended with 80 points for his elements and 219.19 points for the week, second most behind 222 points from Nathan Chen in Austria earlier this year.

In first after the short program, Yan, of China, could not hold on to what was a small lead and earned the silver medal. He currently sits in the final qualifying spot for the JGP Final, with one event to go. Yan, who landed a quad toe in last season's winning performance at the 2012 World Junior Championships, did not record a quad attempt in Zagreb. He finished with 212.10 points and will have to wait and see if he can improve upon back-to-back JGP Final silver medals.

Finishing just off the podium at JGP France, American Harrison Choate put together a personal best performance to earn his first international medal. For his "Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White" and "Mambo Jambo" short program, Choate earned 64.05 points and an improvement of nearly seven points from his performance in France earlier this season. Although Choate received a negative GOE on his opening combination, he skated the remainder of his program clean while garnering a components score which rivaled the scores posted by Kovtun and Yan.

Choate landed fourth in the free skate and earned a total of 185.39 points, nearly 15 points better than at JGP France.

"I was really excited to win my first Junior Grand Prix medal," Choate said. "This was my last JGP event because I age out next year, so I just wanted to have fun and enjoy every minute of it. This was the best week I could have asked for."

American Chen, who has the top score of the JGP Series this season, was fourth after the short program but was forced to withdraw prior to the free skate due to a lower leg injury. Chen will not qualify for the JGP Final.

Pairs

In pairs, Margaret Purdy and Michael Marinaro provided the comeback performance of the competition; they have earned gold at both of their assignments this season, winning at JGP Lake Placid earlier this year and then again in Croatia. In fourth after the short program, the Canadians earned a personal best 98.17 points for their free skate to garner an overall personal best of 147.40 points, a near three-point improvement from earlier in the season.

Skating to the soundtrack from The Artist, Purdy and Marinaro earned the top free skate score on the strength of the best program components score. Although they did not have the top element score in the competition, their 48.81 points on components was nearly three points higher than the second-place team. With two gold medals, Purdy and Marinaro will make their first trip to the JGP Final in their fourth season on the circuit.

In third after the short program, Xiaoyu Yu and Yang Jin of China earned the silver medal, the same color they earned at last season's world junior championships. For their "Die Fledermaus" free skate, Yu and Jin recorded the most points for their elements in the competition, which included a Level 4 Axel lasso lift which earned 7.75 points. The duo finished with 146 points for the competition, but a spot in the Final will be determined next week while they are idle.

Earning the bronze medal were Vasilisa Davankova and Andrei Deputat of Russia. The pair finished with 143.62 points overall and held off their countrymates Kamilla Gainetdinova and Ivan Bich, and Evgania Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov, who were first after the short program.

Americans Madeline Aaron and Max Settlage, who earned bronze at JGP Lake Placid, finished in seventh, while Jessica Calalang and Zack Sidhu, and Christina Zaitsev and Ernie Utah Stevens finished in eighth and 11th, respectively.

Ice dancing

Russia finished with skaters on the podium in the top two spots in ice dancing, and they were separated by just 0.04 points, as Valeria Zenkova and Valerie Sinitsin earned gold and Evgenia Kosigina and Nikoli Moroshkin earned silver.

In third after the short dance with a personal best 54.42 points, Zenkova and Sinitsin posted 80.21 points in the free dance to stand atop the podium. Despite not earning the top components score for their Cars free dance, the 2012 Russian junior bronze medalists earned the top elements score as they performed every element with a positive GOE; they achieved a Level 4 on five elements. They finished with 134.63 points overall and have clinched a spot in the JGP Final, held in their home country.

Similar to their appearance at JGP Lake Placid, Kosigina and Moroshkin danced to the lead with their Lord of the Dance short dance, but couldn't hold on with their free dance to a medley of Michael Jackson songs. They finished with the second-best free dance score but fell just short to earn their second silver medal of the season with 134.59 points. They will have a chance at redemption, as they clinched a spot at the JGP Final.

Sixth and ninth in their previous two JGP assignments over the last two years, Rachel Parsons and Michael Parsons will leave Croatia with their first international medal, bronze, with a personal-best performance. The American siblings from Maryland were in second place after the short dance with a personal best 56.35 points and finished with the third-highest free dance score, 77.74. That was also a personal best for them, and they ended up with 134.09 points overall, more than 20 points better than their total from JGP Austria.

"It feels unreal to have won our first international medal," Michael Parsons said. "All our hard work has started to pay off, and this was just one step for us on a long flight of stairs."