The podium in the ladies’ event in Tallinn, at this year’s edition of the Junior Worlds, looks like a copy of the one in Barcelona, at the Junior Grand Prix Final: as in December, Russia’s Evgenia Medvedeva and Serafima Sakhanovich managed to retain the gold and the silver, while the 14-year-old Japanese Wakaba Higuchi won the bronze (she was still 13 in Barcelona). While this may seem a repeat in terms of placements, the scores in Tallinn actually prove Wakaba’s steady improvement during the three months that passed since the final in Barcelona: her personal best score is now almost 7.50 points higher than the one she got at JGPF – and this largely comes from the lights out free program skated in Tallinn, in her debut at the Junior Worlds. This season’s results – she is also the Japanese Junior champion and the winner of the bronze medal at Japan (senior) Championships, along with her convincing, enthusiastic skate make Wakaba Higuchi a name for the future; and a fierce competitor for the years to come.
by Florentina Tone
It wasn’t a Russian sweep in Tallinn – as it happened in the ladies’ event at the previous two editions of the Junior Worlds – but Russia did manage to keep the gold and the silver through teammates Evgenia Medvedeva and Serafima Sakhanovich. The 15-year-old students of Eteri Tutberidze dominated the Junior Grand Prix events this season, winning two gold medals each – but in Barcelona, at the Final, it was Evgenia who took the lead and the same thing happened in Tallinn at the Junior Worlds; and this is a significant change if we look at the results of the same competition in 2014: bronze medalist in Sofia last year, Evgenia Medvedeva claimed the Junior crown this year in Tallinn, while Serafima Sakhanovich repeated as silver medalist.
Evgenia Medvedeva: “I think I am upping the ante”
Medvedeva’s progress is obvious if we think about the fact that she is also the winner of the bronze medal at 2015 Russian (senior) Nationals. One thing is sure: the 15-year-old Russian lady from Moscow did make a bold move this season, deciding to have all the three jump elements of the short program in the second half of the routine; as she explained in Barcelona, at the Junior Grand Prix Final, three months ago: “This season, I have moved three jump elements to the second half, while in the past season I had two elements in the second half. I think I am upping the ante”. While in Barcelona she also commented on the musical choice (and the story) of her intriguing free program: “I didn’t decide on the music myself, it was our whole team. For the most part, the music was chosen by Alexander Zhulin; he did great programs for me. The story of the [free] program is that there are two sides to each person, the dark side and the light side. The Tschak Tschak Tango reflects the dark side, but at the end I have a calmer music, that shows the light side – and I think that eventually the light side always prevails”.
In Tallinn, at the post-event press conference, both Russian ladies seemed happy with the result. The newly crowned World junior champion, Evgenia Medvedeva, stated: “I am satisfied with my skate. I made some minor mistakes on many jumps, but it didn’t hurt my score. I just tried to go out and skate well, and some things weren’t so good, but everything is good that ends well”. As for Serafima, “I enjoyed how I skated and I had a blast out there”.
Wakaba Higuchi: “I did what I had to do”
When it comes to the bronze medalist in Tallinn, the 14-year-old Wakaba Higuchi from Tokyo, her only visible mistake was turning out of the triple Flip-triple toe combination in the short program; everything else was exquisite. Her short program, to “Beloved Czardas” by Vittorio Monti, was skated with speed, ease and attack, earning 61.27 points, a new personal best, for her performance, and the free skate, to “Piano Concerto in F” by George Gershwin, was an absolute joy to watch; with a great jumping technique and the mentality of a conqueror, Wakaba nailed every single element of her routine, finishing this particular segment of the event on the second place (only 0.19 of a point separating her from Evgenia’s scores for the free skate) and third overall, in her debut at the World Junior Championships. “In this competition I did quite well from the beginning to the end. I was nervous, but under this pressure I did what I had to do”, the 14-year-old Japanese Junior Champion told the journalists at the post-event press conference.
From where we stand, this was a good competition for all the Japanese ladies in Tallinn – in their debut at the Junior Worlds all three of them finished in Top 10 (or should we say Top 7?): Wakaba Higuchi on the 3rd place, Kaori Sakamoto on the 6th place (after being 4th after the short) and Yuka Nagai on the 7th place; a result in full compliance with what happened in the Junior Grand Prix Final in Barcelona, with Japan qualifying three skaters for the Final.
A wonderful free skate from Elizabet Tursynbaeva
Apart from Wakaba Higuchi’s medal – who puts the young Japanese on the list of names to watch in the future, this year’s edition of the Junior Worlds featured another highlight in the ladies’ event: with a gorgeous, fluid, sensitive free skate, to “Papa, can you hear me?”, the 15-year-old skater representing Kazakhstan, Elizabet Tursynbaeva, pulled from 7th place after the short to 4th overall, after being 11th last year in Sofia. An impressive climb in the World junior rankings – no less than 7 places between two consecutive editions of the Junior Worlds – and more than 30 points improvement in the overall scores between last year and now. To me, both of her programs this season put the young Kazakhstani skater under the spotlight – and you can definitely see team Brian Orser-Tracy Wilson-David Wilson’s hands (and inspiration) in Elizabet’s routines; the 15-year-old learns from the best and moving to Canada, in 2013, might have been one of the best decision for her future international career. “That was nice, I’m proud of you”, Brian Orser smiled with satisfaction at the end of his young student’s free skate and, seeing the scores, Elizabet looked happy too.
All in all, a great competition in Tallinn – and a great future for the ladies’ figure skating: some of the other names here, like Karen Chen, Maria Sotskova, Kaori Sakamoto, Yuka Nagai, Da Bin Choi, seem to have all the necessary qualities to make a name for themselves the following years. Looking forward to seeing them progress.