Juniors shine in Grand Prix

Skating expert Hannah Robbins details the Junior Grand Prix hosted in Lake Placid.

While here in Oklahoma the weather is hot as hell, at the Junior Grand Prix rink in Lake Placid, the air is freezing. The Junior Grand Prix is the competition series is the chance for junior skaters hoping to hit it big before they age into the senior competitions. Similar to the Grand Prix, skaters compete in two events, with the highest skaters moving on to the finals.

This week in Lake Placid, New York some of the biggest names in American figure skating, including senior champion Alysa Liu, start their race for the Junior Grand Prix Final. In the men’s competition, all eyes were on Canada’s Stephen Gogolev, one of the youngest men to land quadruple jumps.

In the ladies’ competition, Liu showed that last year’s U.S. Championships were not a fluke, beating runner-up Yeonjeong Park of South Korea by 16 points. Liu won without a pair of clean skates, falling on an axel in her free program. Russia’s Anastasia Tarakanova rounded out the podium, but failed to skate cleanly, falling in the short program and under-rotating in the free.

Of the ladies in the competition, only Liu had the triple axel and a quad in her pocket. Despite restrictions the International Skating Union has put on the juniors competition which limits ladies to a double axel in the short and reduces the number of step and choreographic sequences, her score would have placed her just off the podium at the Grand Prix Final last year. After she ages into the seniors, Liu will be a force to be reckoned with.

Gogolev also had a chance to put a strong foot forward after finishing a disappointing fifth in Junior Worlds last year, but unfortunately he stumbled — literally. After falls on two critical elements in his free program, Gogolev was left in second place. Instead, it was Shun Sato of Japan who came out on top in his first Junior Grand Prix event. Gleb Lutfullin of Russia rounded out the top three.

Interestingly enough, all three men on the podium attempted the same jump: the quadruple salchow. This seems to have given them the slight edge they needed to end up on top. While Liu is unique, quads have taken the men by storm, as frequent in the juniors competition as in the seniors.

Unlike the men’s and ladies’ competitions, the pairs and ice dance competitions were very clear cut. The smaller competition let the more experienced competitors run away with golds. Russians Apollinariia Panfilova and Dmitry Rylov claimed the pair’s gold and Americans Avonley Nguyen and Vadym Kolesnik beating their nearest competitors by ten points in the ice dance competition.

While the results may have seemed inevitable at this lower level, this year’s pack of juniors give a preview of what some of the new seniors will bring to the table in the Grand Prix series in the next few months, and I for one am excited to see what happens as skaters continue to unveil their programs for this season.

Post Author: Hannah Robbins