Chinese junior pair could be skating's next big thing | Figure Skating | CBC Sports

Figure SkatingChinese junior pair could be skating's next big thing

Posted: Monday, March 5, 2012 | 03:51 PM

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Sui Wenjing, front, and Han Cong dominated the pairs' competition en route to their third consecutive junior world title. (Matthew Stockman/Getty Images) Sui Wenjing, front, and Han Cong dominated the pairs' competition en route to their third consecutive junior world title. (Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

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Last week's World Junior Figure Skating Championships showcased some glorious skaters who will undoubtedly make the grade when they hit the senior ranks to stay.

The Chinese team of Wenjing Sui and Cong Han were head and shoulders above the rest of the pairs competition on their way to their third consecutive junior world title, and if they continue to evolve they may be one of those teams that come along to redefine the sport.
CBC commentator and world and Olympic ice dance bronze medallist Tracy Wilson said something that started me thinking.

Tracy opened our broadcast of the World Junior Figure Skating Championships this weekend by comparing the event to hockey's world junior tournament. She said that just because a hockey player is a star as a junior, it doesn't necessarily translate to a career in the NHL. She thought the same thing could be said for figure skating stars competing last week in Minsk, Belarus.

For me there are some exceptions of glorious skaters who will undoubtedly make the grade when they hit the senior ranks to stay.

Let's take a look the battle for the ladies podium. There was no doubt coming into the competition that Russia's three-woman delegation would be the one to beat with Adelina Sotnikova leading the charge as the defending junior world champion.

Sotnikova was third after the short, leaving her in the unenviable position of having to skate perfectly in the free if she wanted to move up. She was good enough for a bronze medal but not good enough to get ahead of short program leader and eventual champion Julia Lipnitskaia, her Russian teammate.

Lipnitskaia is on the list of skaters to watch, having claimed victory in both her junior Grand Prix events, plus the Junior Grand Prix Final and the Russian national junior title - all in her first season on the international stage.

The quality of the jumps and overall elements was as good as any senior event. American junior champion Gracie Gold was as dazzling in her free as she was at her national championships. She took the silver in her second ever international competition. Gold is another name to remember.

Canadian bronze medallist Kaetlyn Osmond won the preliminary round in Minsk to qualify to compete. As Canada's lone entry for the women, Osmond did what she came to do. By finishing in 10th place overall, she qualifies Canada for two spots at next year's junior worlds.

Chinese pair dominates

The Chinese team of Wenjing Sui and Cong Han were head and shoulders above the rest of the pairs competition on their way to their third consecutive junior world title.

They have already made inroads on the senior landscape with Grand Prix medals in the last couple of years. They have a list of outstanding accomplishments, including a bronze at the Grand Prix Final last season, two Junior Grand Prix titles, as well as last month's Four Continents title. They are the face of China's pairs future. I think if they continue to evolve, they may be one of those teams that come along to redefine the sport. Although they have a way to go in terms of presentation, with a solid throw quad Salchow and quad twist attempt, they are very impressive technically.

Sui and Cong's teammates, Xiaoyu Yu and Yang Jin, appeared at the junior worlds for the first time and were also technically strong but had a much more lyrical and watchable style. They earned the silver medal, adding to their gold from the 2012 Youth Olympic Games.

The bronze medal went to Russia's national junior champions Vasilisa Stepanova and Andrei Deputat.

Men's champ can improve

For my money, the senior ranks in men's and ice dance are much stronger today than the ladies' or pairs'. As a result, the junior world champions in both these disciplines won't necessarily be able to make the leap into senior top-10 consideration right off the bat. This doesn't take anything away from the impressive title-winning performances.

In the men's event, it was the same podium finishers in a different order from the Junior Grand Prix Final in Quebec City. China's Han Yan improved on last year's sixth-place finish to take the title. I am keeping my eye on him. For me, he still needs lots more development in terms of expression and artistry to be able to compete successfully with today's senior men.

Americans Joshua Farris and Jason Brown took the silver and bronze, respectively. Both men delivered solid performances where you can clearly see their potential.

Russian go 1-2 in dance


The ice dance title went to Victoria Sinitsina and Ruslan Zhiganshin from Russia in their first trip to the junior worlds. Sinitsina and Zhiganshin have already established themselves as future contenders by winning this season's Junior Grand Prix Final and taking their country's junior national title.

Russian teammates Alexandra Stepanova and Andrei Bukin, also in their first trip to the junior worlds, took the silver. American junior champions Alexandra Aldridge and Daniel Eaton jumped from fifth after the short dance and earned the bronze.

My impression of the teams in the dance event was uniform: all the teams were well-trained and performed their best. That said, I think that in the case of the world junior dance podium, none of the teams is ready for the top 10 today in the senior ranks.

The good news is they have time on their side.

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