To me, the highlight of the event hosted last week by the Winter Palace in Sofia, Bulgaria, was definitely the presence of the 16-year-old Shoma Uno. And I have to be honest with you: after watching and rewatching Shoma’s short program, skated on „The Blessed Spirits”, I’m sure the future of the Japanese figure skating is on good hands. The boy already has the package suited for a champion: musicality, talent, charisma – and a wonderful sense of humility. And if it hadn’t been for the missed Triple Axel in the free („Steps” by Secrety Garden), he might have gotten a Junior World medal around his neck, alongside the small one (the bronze) after the short. No need to hurry: he’ll get there soon enough.
by Florentina Tone
Holding a plush dwarf with a mauve hat in his hands while waiting for his scores and, later on, putting a shy smile during the small medals ceremony after the short program, one could easily see a modest future champion in Shoma Uno – a feature that seems characteristic of all the Japanese figure skaters. And I do have to say that I’m particularly fond of the snaphot in which he allows his teammate, Keiji Tanaka, to admire his small medal; after all, at the end of the day, they all aspire to be awarded a small piece of shiny metal for their continuous efforts.
Elena Radionova is already great
But to the figure skating world the star of this year’s edition of the Junior Worlds was the Russian Elena Radionova, the 2013 champion – and the first lady to defend a World Junior title (as Adam Rippon did, in the boys’ event, in 2008 and 2009). Having won, at Senior level this time, the bronze medal at 2013 Skate America and the silver at 2013 NHK Trophy, Lena, as her friends call her, is already great – no doubt about it. And I’m already a fan – no doubt about that either. And though she is only a few months older than Serafima Sakhanokich and Evgenia Medvedeva (silver and bronze at the 2014 Junior Worlds in Sofia), Radionova’s skating has this maturity that makes you watch her programs again and again.
As for the final results in the ladies’ event, there has been again a Russian podium sweep at the World Junior Championships: Radionova-Lipnitskaya-Pogorilaya (Milan, 2013) turned into Radionova-Sakhanovich-Medvedeva (Sofia, 2014). A happy Radionova was quoted saying after medals ceremony: “I am very pleased with my performance today. It was one of the best in my career so far, full of emotions and I skated like it was for the last time. This victory did not come easy to me mentally and physically. I did not know for a long time if I can come here. I haven’t fully realized yet what happened, but I am getting more and more excited now”.
Anjelika Krylova: “These are my first World Champions”
I don’t think I have ever seen Anjelika Krylova that happy – the story of this edition of the Junior Worlds might very well be the story of her smile. And why shouldn’t she be happy? After all, Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker – the ice dance couple that she and Pasquale Camerlengo train at the Detroit Skating Club – have just won the gold at the 2014 Junior Worlds in Sofia. And a euphoric Krylova stated for the website beautyinsport.com: “These are my first World Champions. It was a great event for them, I’m very proud of the way they skated. This is a great achievement for America since in the last 4 years all dance titles went to Russia”.
Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker are, indeed, the first ice dancers, from the ones currently training at Detroit Skating Club, who reached the world title – after winning both segments of the event in Sofia, Bulgaria. And this is quite a performance considering also the fact they ended the Russian domination in Junior ice dance: in 2010, the world crown was won by Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov, in 2011, Ksenia Monko and Kirill Khaliavin won the event, in 2012, the World title was awarded to Victoria Sinitsina and Ruslan Zhiganshin and in 2013 – the gold went to Alexandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin.
To me, the Americans’ free program, skated on pieces of music from the movie “Amelie”, was like a jewel: beautiful and delicate; and Kaitlin and Jen-Luc’ love story on the ice won over the intricacy and the intriguing routine of the Russians Anna Yanovskaya and Sergey Mozgov, the winners of the Junior Grand Prix Final in Fukuoka.
When it comes to the ice dancing event in Sofia, I have to say that two other couples pleasantly surprised me – and I do want to see them successfully competing at international level in the forthcoming years. The Ukrainians Alexandra Nazarova and Maxim Nikitin were absolutely a joy to watch: their “Cabaret” program was fresh and innovative and to me this is a couple with a great future ahead. Considering they’re currently coached in Moscow by Alexander Zhulin and Oleg Volkov, one could say they are ready to shine. They ended their second Junior Worlds on the fifth place (after being 11th last year).
Finishing on the sixth place the ice dance event in Bulgaria, another couple drew my attention: Rebeka Kim and Kirill Minov, representing South Korea. Rebeka initially competed in single skating, representing Lithuania, but in 2012 she teamed up with Kirill Minov, skating now for South Korea; in the meantime, Kim’s family moved to Moscow and the team is currently trained by Irina Zhuk and Alexander Svinin. To me, Rebecca and Kirill were among the biggest discoveries of the 2014 Junior Worlds, skating in the free program a modern version of the ballet “Sheherezade” and showing great skills, great attitude – and a wonderful speed and fluidity.
Brian Orser has it all
With a European champion (Javier Fernandez in Budapest), an Olympic champion (Yuzuru Hanyu in Sochi) and, since last week, a Junior World champion (Nam Nguyen in Sofia), Brian Orser has become the most successful coach of the season and, without a doubt, the most successful coach in the men’s event. You should have seen Mr. Orser in the press conference hall, all happy and emotional, taking pictures of Nam, with his phone, during the small medals ceremony after the short. And you should have seen him absolutely thrilled at the end of the free program: Nam had just won the Junior World Crown, as Brian himself did in 1978.
Two-time Olympic silver medalist, in 1984 and 1988, Brian travelled back in time and shared his thoughts about Sofia and Junior Worlds to beautyinsport.com: „This is my second time in Sofia. I was here 5 years ago for Junior Worlds, when I had junior boy that won (Adam Rippon). And I have good memories of Junior Worlds with other skaters. Most of all, I have good memories of my first Junior Worlds in 1978. It was the time when I realised I was at big event. After that year I really started focusing on the Olympics, dreaming of big things. So I always get excited to see athletes experience Junior Worlds”.
One final note: I would have loved to see the Japanese Satoko Miyahara on the podium in Sofia – to me, her skating shows a sense of maturity the other girls just don’t have yet (except, of course, for Radionova…) And I hope the following skaters – at least them – will successfully move to Senior level when their time comes: Kazakhstan’s Elizabet Turzynbaeva (she may be small, but she’s definitely talented), the Russian Adian Pitkeev (his programs are already loaded with difficult elements), the Latvian Deniss Vasiļjevs (his version of Tchaikovski’s Nutcracker was wonderful…), the Russian pair Maria Vigalova and Egor Zakroev (love their posture on the ice – and their musicality).
PHOTO-GALLERY: glimpses of the 2014 Junior Worlds
Special thanks to Andriana Andreeva, who took wonderful pictures at this year’s edition of the Junior Worlds in Sofia.