One Winner Repeats and Others Don’t at the Croatia Cup
Krasnozhon wins second men’s title of the series; Samodurova shocks Tarakanova; new Russian pair surprise Junior World medalists.
We are now past the halfway mark of the Junior Grand Prix. This week the series traveled to Zagreb for the Croatia Cup, a regular event in the series since 1999. Here the lineup of the JGP Finale started to take shape, especially with at least one skater in each field who had won an event already. Surprisingly, only one of them repeated. The ladies especially featured a surprise winner, albeit another Russian one.
American Alexei Krasnozhon won his second event of the series, but it was closer than it was in Brisbane. Things started out well. He nailed everything in the short, including the triple axel, taking a lead even when Canadian Joseph Phan and Japanese Riga Cup winner Mitsuki Sumoto did the same for second and third, with only slightly lower technical content. But in the free, after underrotating his usual quadruple loop attempt, Krasnozhon struggled with his lutzes, falling on the first and underrotating the combination on his second. He did land two more axels, but they didn’t look as good.
It caused him to lose the free skate to Russian Makar Ignatov. Like the top three, Ignatov landed the axel and all his jumps well in the short. But he struggled with both his closing spins, causing him to finish so late he got a time violation. That left him too far behind in fourth. He opened his free with a high-flying quad toe loop and triple axel with a stunning triple axel-loop-triple salchow jump combination. But when he failed to do the next combination, managing only one other weak one, his content was still lower than Krasnozhon’s, and he only beat him by a couple of points. He’d been only a point behind Sumoto, and passed him for bronze, but couldn’t get any higher.
After three top six finishes, Phan finally won his first JGP medal. The axel in his short was a little close, but the end of it was pure delight. He went down on his underrotated quad toe attempt in the free, but landed the rest of his relatively easy technical content, including another triple axel. Third in the segment, he held onto silver by less than two points. Sumoto’s axel and solo lutz in the short, though clean, weren’t as good as the top two’s, leaving him below them. Then he stumbled out of both axel attempts in the free and had a couple more rough spots. He finished fourth, ahead of fellow Japanese skater Koshiro Shimada and Turkish skater Basar Oktar.
Shimada has medaled on the circuit in the past, but here he couldn’t contend without a triple axel. He danced through two artistic programs, with nothing going wrong besides a slightly haywire spin, but still couldn’t finish higher than fifth. Oktar, who finished fourth in Salzburg, was a bit awkward on his nonetheless clean jumps, axel included, in the short. His axel in the free had a hand down. Most of the rest of his jumps there were clean, but he fell on a loop and had trouble with his final combination.
The ladies’ competition, like all the JGP ladies competitions so far, may have been won by a Russian, but it stood as proof that debuting baby ballerinas don’t always conquer all. Of course, Anastasia Tarakanova is the wild one of them. Her short had nothing worse than her skidding on one jump, still enough to take the lead. Mako Yamashita, who won bronze behind her in Austria, matched her triple flip-triple and all her technical content, and was within a point and a half. Though perhaps the most Russian moment of the short was when Sofia Samodurova revealed that there is such a thing as Jewish folk music techno. She was in third with a turnout in her triple flip-triple toe.
It was in the free that things went off the wall. First Tarakanova fell three times, including on an underrotated lutz and triple flip-triple toe. She even doubled the last jump on her triple lutz-loop-triple salchow, leaving her with no big ticket items. Then Yamashita failed to take advantage, barely holding on to her jumps and not managing to land her own big combinations. Even when she managed a double axel-triple toe and her three-jump near the end, she stumbled through the latter. Then Samodurova, very much seen as one of the lesser Russian girls, had the skate of her life. She had a hard three-jump and double-axel triple toe, but no triple-triples. But this week, she didn’t need any clean triple-triples to win:
Yamashita managed to get second in both the segment and overall. Tarakanova, sixth in the segment, held on to bronze, a couple of points ahead of Korean international debutante Young You. You had popped the toe after her flip badly in the short and was way behind in fifth. Her free was relatively clean, and she landed a triple lutz-triple toe in it, but she still underrotated both her other lutz and her only flip. Suffering even more from her short was Akari Matsuoka, who had come in fourth in Brisbane. That program had no triples for her. Most of her triples and her three hard combination attempts in the free failed too. She finished seventh.
Skating clean if relatively easy short programs, since the required side by side jump was the lutz, and no one tried triple ones, got three pairs a sizable lead, with less than two points between them. The main differential was the presentation scores. Junior World silver medalists Aleksandra Boikova & Dmitrii Kozlovskii took the lead on their general better quality skating. The bronze medalists from that event, Yumeng Gao & Zhong Xie, skated a fun short program where they were exuberant but inconsistent in keeping of the character, while the technical panel quibbled about their lutz technique. They placed second.
Lowest presentation scores went to Russian international debutantes Polina Kostiukovich & Dmitrii Ialin. They placed third with a mostly generic Malaguena short where they did the best split twist but lagged heavily at the end. Another Russian pair at their first JGP, Daria Kvartlova & Alexei Sviatchenko, landed their jumps in a more exotic cliché short program, but failed to properly do their death spiral, leaving them some way behind in fourth.
None of the Russian teams skated well in the free. Boikova & Kozlovskii opened their free by going for side by side loops, which she failed to even partially rotate. They managed their side by side three-jump, but not very well. Then in the second half, not only was neither throw quite clean, but their other elements turned wobbly, and, like Ignatov, they struggled enough with their closing spin they got a time violation. Polina Kostiukovich & Ialin opened their cool Cirque du Soleil free by making a high quad twist look easy. Then she fell on the throw loop and ambitious triple salchow-loop-triple salchow, and nearly fell again on their toes. Kvartalova & Sviatchenko did fall three times, which dropped them to sixth.
Gao & Xie put on a much better show with their beautiful, emotional free, much of which was excellently done. But they underrotated their salchows, and he doubled in their triple-double attempt. That left them with the lowest technical tariff of the top three. When Kostiukovich & Ialin still got the rotations on their jumps (except the single loop, which didn’t make much difference), they had a tariff ten points higher. The Chinese made up much of that gap, but not enough. In a split of a little more than two points, Boikova & Kozlovskii fell to third, Gao & Xie stayed in second, and Kostiukovich & Ialin got up to claim gold.
The technical panel took more objection to the lutz technique of Riga Cup bronze medalists Evelyn Walsh & Trent Michaud. Combined with a rough twist and a fall on their short, and they were seventh after the short. Their free skate was close to clean, but the twist wasn’t the only dicey spot there. And when their technical content was far easier than the top three, they couldn’t quite even get third in the segment, though they did pull up to fourth.
After the short dance, the top three teams stood far above the rest of the field, even before the team in fourth pulled out with a broken arm. Canadians Majorie Lajoie & Zachary Lagha got the lead when they got a very good technical tariff and the two Russian teams didn’t. The best cha cha pattern of the three helped compensate for the weakest twizzles. The main hit for both Russian teams was only getting a level two on their step sequence. But the lowest tariff of the top three caused Riga Cup winners Sofia Shevchenko & Igor Efremenko to come in a surprising third, .19 behind Ksenia Konkina & Grigory Yakushev. Konkina & Yakushev’s cha cha pattern was not the best done, but their enthusiasm helped make up for it.
The free dance became a bit of a battle of the Canadian Weaver-&-Pojé-style drama and the Russian voidy-style drama. Shevchenko & Efremenko’s creativity and intensity helped squeak out the highest presentation scores, and they even maxed out the possible score for their opening twizzles. But once again they only got a level two in their steps, and the lower technical tariff again proved fatal. Lajoie & Lagha prevailed with their more naturalistic performance-she might have been the most emotional skater on the ice, and an ending much better done that Shevchenko & Efremenko, both on the closing choreographic elements and the emotional climax.
Shevchenko & Efremenko did, however, manage to get past Konkina & Yakushev for the silver. The other Russian team got their steps up to level three to match the Canadians in the tariff this time. But while they had their own kind of intense expression, and in both programs, both their elements and their performance in general just wasn’t as mature as those of the top two teams, and in the free dance, this kept them from keeping up.
View full results here.
Alexei Krashnozhon is now locked for the Junior Grand Prix Finale. With two silvers, Makar Ignatov is now second in the standings, while Mitsuki Sumoto with gold and fourth is in third. Their chances of making the Finale are also good, but they’ll have to wait and see. Joseph Phan, with silver and fourth, probably won’t. View full men’s standings here.
Since the ladies circuit already had a repeat winner, meaning there can be no more than six winners, gold and another medal locks anyone in. So Anastasia Tarakanova’s spot remains secured. Mako Yamashita, with silver and bronze, will have to wait and see. View full ladies standings here.
Aleksandra Boika & Dmitrii Kozlovskii with silver and bronze are in; they’re second in the standings, and mathematically, it’s impossible for five teams to pass them from the final event next week. Evelyn Walsh & Trent Michaud, with bronze and fourth, are likely out. Though it’s just possible they could get in if two of the five teams trying to qualify next week falter. View full pairs standings here.
There being a repeat winner in the dance as well means Marjorie Lajoie & Zachary Lagha and Sofia Shevchenko & Igor Efremenko with their golds and silvers both qualify. With silver and bronze, Ksenia Konkina & Grigory Yakushev will have to wait and see. View full dance standings here.
I will be heading out of town Tuesday morning, and I won’t be back until Sunday afternoon. So there’ll be no further coverage of skating news this week, or next weekend’s events. We’ll resume week after. Until then, enjoy the new free dance of Gabriella Papadakis & Guillaume Cizeron from the French Masters, an internal French affair that also took place this weekend: