by Klaus Reinhold Kany
(19 March 2017) The men were the first ones to finish their competition at Junior Worlds in Taipei, Chinese Taipei. 24 of the 45 competitors reached the final and the overall level was excellent. Like in the senior competitions in this season, the junior men perform many more quad jumps than before. In the short program, no quad is allowed yet for juniors, but this rule will perhaps be changed at the next ISU congress in the summer of 2018. This time, the spectators saw 10 more or less clean quads in the free program plus around ten more which were popped or not successful.
The new Junior World Champion is 16-year old Vincent Zhou from Palo Alto in Northern California who had been second at U.S Senior Nationals in January and trains in Riverside, CA and in Colorado Springs, CO. Although he was only fifth in the short program, he won overall, gaining 258.11 points. There, he made no mistake at all, but performed a good triple Axel, the required triple loop and an excellent combination of triple Lutz and triple toe loop plus three very good level 4 spins. He is no great showman and even for the best free program of the day he only got the sixth highest components with an average of 7.5. But thanks to his jumps and a completely faultless free program he could surpass all other skaters, including the three Russians. Skating to the soundtrack of "Casablanca", Zhou began with a superb quad Lutz which alone brought him 15.46 points. A good combination of quad Salchow and triple toe loop followed (15.80 points) plus a second quad Salchow, two triple axels and four other triple jumps.
After his victory he commented: "The gap between first and fifth after the Short Program wasnít that big, so I knew it wasnít anything I couldnít overcome. I just took the free skate element by element. It feels great to come from behind and kind of top off the field like that. The standard has been getting higher and higher over the last few years. The scores also have been getting higher and higher. Thatís a good thing for me personally. It allows me to keep on basing my standards on myself and it allows me to know what I have to do so I can set better goals for myself and work harder towards them. For next year, this victory will give me new confidence in my training and my future competitions Iím looking forward to. For me the most important area to develop is my artistic side. I know the technical side is very, very important nowadays, because people are doing more and more quads. Of course I will need to be doing more and more quads, too. But I canít just be a jump machine and skate like a robot. So Iíll work hard on the in-betweens stuff and also my spins and working hard to improve my lines and my presentation."
The three Russian skaters finished second, third and fourth. The best of them was Dmitri Aliev who had won the ISU Junior Final and this time won silver with 247.31 points. He had been in the lead after a flawless short program with the same elements as Zhou, but landed them a bit more smoothly and certainly excelled by an elegant style, deeper edges and better interpretation of his music which was the Tango "Oblivion" by Astor Piazzola. After the short, he said: "Today I did a very good job. We tried a lot of new things. The work was difficult and there were some changes, but overall it has been a great experience for me, because this is unusual and the more there are some interferences in the training process, the more it is pushing me."
But in the free program, he almost fell on the opening quad toe loop which was his only quad attempt. Seven of his eight triple jumps were very good, the flip a bit under-rotated, but his step sequence outstanding. He explained: "It was a very hard, intense competition. I am glad that I was able to overcome my emotions. The last starting number is like a torture for me and today I was able to deal with it. So I am very positive and very happy right now. Indeed, the level of junior skating has risen a lot and I think that is very good, because the guys are trying to follow the elite skaters like Yuzuru Hanyu, Javier Fernandez and I could name many others. You have no choice than to improve and to work hard. This medal means a lot to me because I ended my junior career on a high note. I am planning to move up to the senior level. Right now in my training I have some reserve, I have been working on the quad Lutz and it goes quite well. I also did difficult combinations with the Lutz and I tried the (quad) flip."
Alievís countryman Alexander Samarin won the bronze medal with 245.53 points. In his short program the triple loop was not a hundred per cent clean, otherwise he did the same elements as the two top skaters. "I look very calmly at todayís result event though I got a personal best in the short program," he said. In the free program, he perfomed two quad toe loops and two triple Axels, but almost missed a spin. "Today everyone showed a very high level. It was my fourth Junior Worlds and the first time I got on to the podium, but I cannot say that I am satisfied with this result. Now I will start from scratch at the senior level. The higher the level of the seniors is, the more the juniors will work, because after a certain time each junior has to move up and to compete against the senior and titled skaters. The next season is an Olympic season, I think the main goal is clear for everyone who is here. As for other goals, I need to work on these components and nuances that I was lacking at this competition."
The third Russian skater Alexander Petrov finished fourth with 243.47 points. His triple Axel is maybe the best in the field, The short program was flawless as well as the long program with one quad toe loop and eight triple jumps, but his skating style and interpreatation is a bit less strong than those of the medalists. Yun Hwan Cha from South Korea finished fifth, earning 242.45 points. In his excellent short program, all seven elements got GOEs of +2 or +3. He said: "I tried not to be nervous and to be calm. After my Nationals I returned to Toronto to train and I have worked hard on my expression and my choreography.Ē In the free program, he landed one good quad Salchow, but fell on the second (under-rotated) one. Six triple jumps were at least good, but a Salchow was under-rotated.
Last yearís Junior Worlds gold medal winner Daniel Samohin from Israel, who trains in San Diego, Califiornia, fell on his opening triple Lutz in the short program and therefore had no combination. He also made mistakes on his two other jumps and therefore was only 16th after the short program. But with the second best free program and his very friendly style, he could move up to sixth place, winning overall 232.62 points. There, he landed a very good combination of quad and triple toe loop, an excellent quad Salchow, but fell on the second quad toe loop. Kevin Aymoz from France finished seventh (218.63 points). He has an excellent style, but no quad yet. Texas skater Alex Krasnozhon finished eighth with 211.47 points. He tried the quad loop again, but it was downgraded again.
For the Canadian men, who all had hoped for top positions, Taipei was no good competition. The best was Nicolas Nadeau who ended up 12th with 196.63 points in spite of a clean short program. But in the free program he popped his two Axels and made other mistakes. His countryman Conrad Orzel is 13th with 194.41 points, and Roman Sadovsky 17th with 186.53 points. Bad luck also for the third American Andrew Torgashev who popped his Axel in the short program, singled the toe loop of his combination and fell on the loop. He is on 25th position and therefore did not even qualify for the final. Maybe some North American skaters had problems with the huge time change because they arrived relatively late.