You better learn these names, Xiaoyu Yu and Yang Jin, because they’ll definitely have a say in the years to come – they already have. The Chinese looking up to the 2010 Olympic champions Xue Shen and Hongbo Zhao, and trained by Hongbo Zhao himself, won everything in juniors – and, this season, they actually took the senior level by storm, winning silver at 2014 Cup of China, bronze at 2014 NHK Trophy and finishing fifth in the first senior Grand Prix Final of their career (Barcelona, December). As a matter of fact, Xiaoyu Yu and Yang Jin only came to Tallinn to defend their World Junior title; and, as the old Latin phrase says: “Veni, vidi, vici” – I came, I saw, I conquered.
by Florentina Tone
Looking at the statistics of the Junior Worlds from 2010 till now, it seems more than obvious that the gold in the pairs event is a Chinese affair: Wenjing Sui and Cong Han won the title for three years in a row (2010, 2011, 2012), and their teammates Xiaoyu Yu and Yang Jin did the same in 2014 and 2015. And for a country traditionally winning medals in the pairs event at the Olympics (bronze in 2002, Salt Lake City, through Xue Shen/Hongbo Zhao; silver and bronze in 2006, Torino, through Dan Zhang/Hao Zhang and Xue Shen/Hongbo Zhao; gold and silver in 2010, Vancouver, through Xue Shen/Hongbo Zhao and Qing Pang/Jian Tong), with the only exception being 2014 Olympics in Sochi, these two young pairs are a great asset for the future; and China sure looks ready for the 2018 Olympics in PyeongChang.
In Tallinn, Xiaoyu Yu and Yang Jin were in a class of their own: skating to programs choreographed by David Wilson, the Chinese breathed power and sophistication; though, surely, it was difficult for them to come back and compete in a junior event after skating all season in seniors – there are significant differences when it comes to the length of the programs, the types of elements required, the overall layout of the programs. As Yang Jin very well pointed out in the press conference after the short program, “We are pleased with our performance today, especially since we haven’t been training this (junior) short program a lot. Coming back from seniors to juniors, we don’t think that it is easier to skate in junior competitions, because the competitors here are very strong as well”.
A day later, after the free skate, it was Yang Jin again explaining the difficulties of the transition: “I think we had a good performance technically, the elements were solid. This was good especially considering that we didn’t have much time to prepare the junior program. We skated in senior competitions all season. So we are pleased that we were able to show a good level today”. With these in mind, their performance in Tallinn deserves even higher appreciation. They won both segments of the event and both programs were a joy to watch; not to mention they were intriguing and totally different than the rest: the short program was skated to “Yulunga (Spirit Dance)” and the free, to “Humility and Love” from “Creation” soundtrack.
And while Xiaoyu Yu and Yang Jin repeated as World Junior champions in Tallinn, the Canadians Julianne Seguin and Charlie Bilodeau won their first World Junior medal, the silver, in their first participation in the event; they had been assigned to represent Canada at the 2014 Junior Worlds in Sofia, but unfortunately they had to withdraw due to Julianne’s back injury.
This season, with the Chinese Xiaoyu Yu and Yang Jin already performing in seniors, it was the Canadians who dominated the Junior Grand Prix circuit: Julianne and Charlie won gold at both of their assignments, JGP Ostrava (Czech Republic) and JGP Pokal dBS (Germany), to eventually become the Junior Grand Prix Final champions in Barcelona, in December. In all these three events, they won over the same team, Russia’s Lina Fedorova and Maxim Miroshkin, and the same thing happened at 2015 Junior Worlds, with the Canadians taking silver and the Russians, bronze.
In Tallinn, Julianne and Charlie skated to “The Grand Hotel Budapest” soundtrack in the short program and to “In Your Eyes” and “Wallflower” by Peter Gabriel in the free (a program choreographed by Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon) – and looked satisfied with their result. “We really felt great on the ice today. We really focused on the performance and all the elements we did clean. We’re really proud of that. I think it’s a good way to end our last junior competition”, Charlie Bilodeau told the journalists after their free skate.
It was bronze again for Russia’s Lina Fedorova and Maxim Miroshkin at the Junior Worlds, after the bronze won in Milan, at 2013 edition of the competition – and, in spite of a 22-point difference between them and the silver medalists, the Russians impressed the audience with their joy of skating and enthusiasm; not to mention they are one of the few pair skaters doing side-by-side Biellmann spins. Their short program to Michael Bublé’s “Feeling Good” suits their style of skating like a glove – but it’s the free program to “Korobushko” that really emphasizes their strengths, their playfulness; hats off to Marina Zueva, the choreographer of both routines. “This was another step towards our senior career. We’ll try our best. We’ll take it one thing at a time”, Maxim said at the end of the free skate – and Lina added: “We have to train more, to work more on the jumps to make them consistent”.