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2017 World Junior Championships

by Klaus Reinhold Kany

(19 March 2017)  Only 16 pairs competed at Junior Worlds 2017 in Taipei because many countries especially in Europe and Asia don’t have pairs at all. Therefore it is a huge encouragement for them that no pair from one of the big pair skating countries was crowned Junior World Champion in 2017. For the first time in the history of the ISU, a pair and skaters from Australia won gold medals at ISU championships. But one must admit that Ekaterina Alexandrovskaya (16) still has Russian citizenship, was formed and trained in the huge pair skating school of Nina Mozer in Moscow and released only last year, when Russia allowed 25 of its skaters to compete for other countries.

Her partner Harley Windsor (20), however, is really Australian, has even some aborigine ancestors and has been trying pairs for years with different Australian girls, but it never matched. With the connections of his Russian-born coach Andrei Pachin he went to Moscow to look for a partner  He found Alexandrovskaya who was not regarded as a top pair skater in Russia and therefore released quickly. Now the Russian federation will certainly regret to have released her, because she and her partner beat all three Russian pairs and won with 163.98 points. This was not their first success because they had reached the ISU Junior Final in December. But they were only fifth there because they came directly from Australia and suffered from the time change after their more than 24 hour long journey. This was no problem in Taipei.

In the short program, Alexandrovskaya & Windsor were third and only 1.3 points away from the first place after performing to the music „Skyfall“ Their triple twist even had level 4 which even some of the best senior pairs are not able to show. Double Axel and difficult reverse loop lift also were good, only the triple throw flip was a bit shaky. After the short program she commented: „We skated today with little mistakes, but we’re happy. My favorite skaters are Tarasova & Morozov. It is easy to skate for another country because in Russia it is tough to go through, even if you are skating well, because the competition is too strong. You need to train hard, of course, to achieve a result and the most important thing is to skate clean, to pull yourself together and focus.“

Windsor added: „My favorite skater when I was starting out was Evgeni Plushenko, just because of his charisma and his skating. In pair skating, definitely Trankov is my favorite skater, his performance and his elements. I think in the partnership it is very important to have good trust in each other. If you can’t trust the other partner, then you can’t connect with him in an emotional and physical way. Also, I think you need to treat skating very business-like. At this level now it’s sort of a full-time job for us. In such a short time, we’ve come a long way. Our results show our hard training. We’re very happy with everything we’ve done.“

In the free program to the „W.E.“ soundtrack, they began with a very good triple twist, followed by a clean side by side triple Salchow and a combination of triple toe loop, double toe loop and another double toe loop. This time the throw triple flip was good, the two lifts as well and their only mistake came when Alexandrovskaya fell on the throw triple Salchow. This meant the second place in the free program and the overall victory. The free program winners Atakhanova and Spiridonov collected three more points than the Australians, but were nine points behind in the short program.

Windsor said: „It’s still slowly sinking in. It’s overwhelming for both of us. We came in this competition very confident, in our training and coaches. We made a little mistake, but in the end it sort of worked out for us. I‘d like to blame my coach Andrei (Pachin) for that. Lots and lots and lots of hard work. Lots of hours on the ice, lots of hours off the ice, lots of tears, lots of fights and lots of smiles as well and endless lifts. I’d like to thank both my coaches (Pachin and Andrei Hekalo) for bringing us here and making me strong and pushing us towards being the best we can. The medal for us is just an excuse to work harder now. We know we can always do better and better. Next season we’re probably going to be senior, leading up the Olympic season. Fingers crossed for Pyeongchang. Next season we just want to start working on more elements, getting stronger, getting faster and hopefully start working on some really big elements.“

The Australians were not the only team to give their debut at this championships. The Russian pairs were new as well. Aleksandra Boikova & Dmitrii Kozlovskii were the best one, taking the lead in the short program, being fourth in the free program and grabbing an overall silver medal with 161.93 points. In their short program to a Flamenco by Russian star Didulia six elements were good, but she touched down her hand after landing the throw triple flip. Kozlovskii commented: „It was not our best, but we will try to do our best in the free skating. I really like ice dancing and my favorite pair are Gabriella Papadakis & Guillaume Cizeron.“ Maybe this is why they chose part of the same free program music as the French couple last season. He continued: „The relationship between the partners is one of the most important things in the partnership. If there is no contact between them, there will be no result. Aleksandra and I are trying to maximize our connection so we can achieve the best possible results in the shortest time.“

In their free program, the two triple jumps, the triple twist and the lifts were good, but Boikova stepped out of the throw triple Salchow and two-footed the landing of the throw triple loop. Kozlovskii commented: „We wanted to skate better than that obviously and we made some errors. But what happened, happened. We know that we have a lot of work ahead of us and we are confident that we can be more successful next time. We have another competition next week, the Spartakiade (national competition) in Saransk. After that we’ll start the next season, we will do new programs.“ Boikova added: „We will stay junior.“

Yumeng Gao & Zhang Xie from China won the bronze medal, earning 161.09 points after being second in the short and third in the free program. Their short program to music of „The Deer Hunter“ was clean, but they performed only a side by side double loop, which is allowed but brings more than two points less than the double Axel of most other pairs. Xie said: „Today’s performance was quite good, but we could have done better in some parts like the speed and the connection.“ Their free program was good, the throws, the triple twist and the lifts even excellent, but the level of their individual jumps low (only a 2T-2T-combination and she doubled the Salchow). Xie explained: „We are pretty satisfied with today’s performance. I made a mistake on the Salchow and I am not too satisfied with myself. When coming to Taipei, we never thought we could win this medal. We are happy with what we have achieved in our frst season together, but we still have to improve a lot. Our goal are the 2022 Olympic Winter Games in Beijing.“

Amina Atakhanova & Ilia Spiridonov from Russia finished on fourth position, winning 157.76 points although they won the free dance. But in the short program she fell on the throw triple flip and later he could not hold her during the Lasso lift which meant zero instead of around seven points for this element. Their free program was almost flawless, with excellent throws and lifts and a good side by side triple toe loop. The only mistake was when she singled the toe loop (which he doubled) after both performed a clean triple Axel.  Evelyn Walsh & Trennt Michaud from Canada, who train in London, Ontario, finished fifth in their debut season together, winning 150.74 points. In their short program six elements were quite good, only the triple twist (in both programs) almost failed. Their long program was otherwise clean again. The third Russian pair Alina Ustimkina & Nikita Volodin ended up sixth with 145.69 points. They performed a relatively good short program, but made mistakes on both individual jumps and both throws in the free program.

Chelsea Liu and Brian Johnson of California, a very experienced pair, finished only seventh with 138.95 points. In the short program Liu fell on the (under-rotated) double Axel and the throw triple toe loop was not clean. In the free program, she crashed hard on the double Axel again and hit her head. She continued, but fell again on the throw triple toe loop and stepped out of the throw triple Salchow. The other elements of the students of Todd Sand were clean. The second U.S. pair Nica Digerness and Danny Neudecker of Colorado Springs ended up tenth with 127.49 points. In both programs three elements did not work as planned.