Russian junior ladies sweep the podium

Elena Radionova at 2013 World Junior Figure Skating Championships

By Kitty Xie

Earlier in the day at the Agora Ice Rink in Milano, Italy, the American junior men added a page to the figure skating annals when they finished 1-2-3 for the first time in the 31-year run of the World Junior Championships.

Joshua Farris (228.32), Jason Brown (224.15), and Shotari Omori (204.34) were all smiles as they accepted their medals and posed for photographs on a star-spangled podium.

Just hours later, the U.S. junior ladies also ended a streak when Samantha Cesario (154.55 points) and Courtney Hicks (152.92) dropped to fourth and fifth, respectively, after the free skate. Yasmin Siraj (139.08), meanwhile, moved up from the short program to finish eleventh overall.

The last time a U.S. lady failed to medal at the event was in 2003. In 2007 and 2008, the Americans swept gold, silver, and bronze. Yesterday, it was Russia’s time to shine.

Fourteen-year-old Elena Radionova (169.71) recovered from a shaky short program and, despite two edge calls and an underrotated triple-triple combination, won both the free skate and the Junior Worlds crown. This title is the fourth of a show-stopping debut season — in 2012, Radionova swept gold at all three of her Junior Grand Prix assignments with the technical difficulty and sensitive artistry of a seasoned senior lady.

Defending champion Julia Lipnitskaia (165.67), also from Russia, received two edge calls in her free skate to “Pas de Deux” to finish in second place overall. Though too young to compete in senior ISU events, Lipnitskaia benefited from the exceptions made for the 2012 Grand Prix series, winning a silver and a bronze medal before a concussion forced her to withdraw from the Final. Her World Junior records of 123.96 in the free skate and 187.05 overall, both set at the 2012 World Junior Championships, still stand.

Anna Pogorilaya (160.32), in second place after the short program, claimed the bronze. Russia’s last medal sweep in the junior ladies’ discipline was in 1998, when Julia Soldatova, Elena Ivanova, and Viktoria Volchkova performed the feat. Between 2002 and 2008, no Russian ladies were featured on the podium.

Is this a sign of a revived Russian team? More answers will be available after the World Championships, to be held in London, Canada from March 10-17. There, European medalists Adelina Sotnikova and Elizaveta Tuktamysheva, along with 2012 Worlds silver medalist Alena Leonova, will attempt to secure three spots for Russia for the 2014 Olympics — to be held on none other than home ice.

In the end, Elena Radionova said it best, and with an attitude that should be emulated by her elders: “I expected to move up.”

Photo: Vladimir Pesnya

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