A Look Back at Junior Worlds Pairs

Although it’s been a couple weeks since Junior Worlds, I wanted to take a quick look back at the pairs event there. I have to admit, in the past I’ve never watched junior pairs. However, I was drawn into this year’s competition by the presence of Yu/Jin and Fields/Stevens. It turned out to be an interesting event. Some exciting new teams are about to make the jump to seniors, and it was fun to get an early preview of these pairs. Let’s take a look at the top 6 pairs and their future prospects as seniors.

JW-medialists

Junior-Worlds-standings

Yu/Jin

A lovely performance to win their second Junior Worlds

A lovely performance to win their second Junior Worlds

How did they do in Tallinn? Very well, obviously! Yu/Jin won both segments of the competition to earn their second consecutive Junior World title. I thought their “Humility & Love” LP was one of their strongest, most emotionally resonant performances this season. The program was technically solid too, with the only error being a slight 2-foot landing on the throw 3F.

Are they ready for the next level? They’re already there. Not only did Yu/Jin compete as seniors this season on the Grand Prix, they even made the senior GP Final. Still sad they won’t be at senior Worlds.

Technically, Yu/Jin are such a strong pair. They have a great base to build on. All their senior-level pairs elements—lifts, triple twist, throw triples, and SBS jumps—are good-quality and consistent. The question now is, do they focus on polishing those elements and continuing to improve quality, or do they follow the current trend in pairs and try to add a quad twist, quad throw, or higher-level SBS jump content? Yang Jin told IceNetwork that they worked on the throw quad Salchow in 2013, but stopped training it because partner Xiaoyu got injured practicing the element. So, I wonder if Yu/Jin will instead work toward a quad twist or upgraded SBS jumps. They can also work on improving their speed.

Even if they don’t add new technical elements, there’s still much room for growth with Yu/Jin. They created many beautiful moments in their programs this season; however, I’d like to see them hold their positions longer sometimes, for greater effect with the music. Also, their chemistry as a team is steadily growing, but they still seem a bit shy and restrained with each other. In some ways, this added to the mysterious, tantalizing quality of their LP this season. But I want to see them really go for it next year, build that chemistry, and not hold back at all.

Seguin/Bilodeau

Seguin/Bilodeau: A strong silver

Seguin/Bilodeau: A strong silver (David Ramos/Getty Images)

How did they do in Tallinn? Excellent. Seguin/Bilodeau were undefeated on the junior circuit this year and would have been heavy favorites if not for Yu/Jin’s unexpected return. Even so, they skated very well in Tallinn and put up a much stronger challenge to Yu/Jin than I think many expected. I was really impressed with them at this competition (more so than at Canadians). They skated with great energy and confidence. I love the security and depth of edge in their skating. They seem exceptionally comfortable together on the ice, too–unusual for such a young pair.

Are they ready for the next level? Yes, as they proved by winning bronze at senior Canadian Nationals. Their throw jumps and SBS jumps are strong and consistent. Their triple twist isn’t the best, but they have it and will get base value for it, if not much more. It’s being graded as a level 4, quite impressive for such a young team.

I think Seguin/Bilodeau’s biggest strengths right now are their skating skills and connection. I love how they really get into the ice and generate lots of speed. It will be interesting to see how they fit into the mix at senior Worlds. For next season, I think they’ll want to work on upgrading their transitions. There’s a lot of stroking/crossovers in their LP, and their PCS scores in Tallinn reflected this. They were above 7.0 in every mark except transitions, for which they got 6.86.

Fedorova/Miroshkin

What to do about those side-by-side jumps?

What to do about those side-by-side jumps?

How did they do in Tallinn? Just okay. Although they won bronze, they finished over 20 points behind the leaders and had errors in both programs.

Are they ready for the next level? Yes . . . except for SBS jumps. Fedorova/Miroshkin have that classic Russian pairs look in their favor (emphasized by their Russian folk dance LP this season), and their pairs elements are good. Their triple twist is excellent, with great height and an amazing cantilever entrance. It was the highest-scoring element in this competition and is fully senior-ready. Their lifts are nice too, with beautiful positions from Lina. However, their SBS jumps are not good; Lina fell on both sets in the LP and they earned only 1.84 points total for their SBSs. Also, their basic skating skills are fine but not as strong as, say, Seguin/Bilodeau or Fields/Stevens. It may prove quite difficult for Fedorova/Miroshkin to gain traction in the deep, crowded Russian seniors pairs field.

Gubanova/Sintsov

They have the big elements--but not much else yet

Gubanova/Sintsov have the big elements–but not much else yet

How did they do in Tallinn? Not bad. They had a strong short program. This team has a triple twist and very good lifts. Aside from that, their skating is unexceptional.

Are they ready for the next level? They will presumably stay in juniors next year. They are the only team in the top 6 that is not aging out of juniors.

Fields/Stevens

So much progress in such a short time  (Jay Adeff)

So much progress in such a short time (Jay Adeff)

How did they do in Tallinn? I thought Caitlin/Ernie did great, especially considering it was only their second international event. Caitlin/Ernie didn’t even pair up until last summer, so they did not compete on the Junior Grand Prix this year. Coming into this event with no international reputation, they got hit hard in the SP when Caitlin singled the 2Lz. However, they came back very strong in the LP to place 4th in that segment and 5th overall. Their PCS was good in both segments, especially in the LP. Caitlin/Ernie also successfully landed 2 new technical elements in this event: Triple twist and throw triple Salchow.

Are they ready for the next level? Good question! In terms of presentation/PCS, Caitlin/Ernie are definitely ready. They already look like a senior pair on the ice. They skate with great confidence and attack and are very polished for a new pair. Ernie has terrific line and musicality; Caitlin has wonderful carriage and a beautiful arch through her back. Plus, they have great skating skills–I love their strong, deep edges. At times, their unison gets a bit off. But that’s to be expected with a new team.

The technical elements will be the big issue for Caitlin/Ernie heading into seniors. I was so happy to see them land the triple twist here, but obviously this element is a work in progress. The throw 3Lp and throw 3S look great, so I’m not worried about the throw jumps. Their lifts are fine so far. The real hurdle is the SBS jumps. Right now SBS 2Lz is their hardest jump, so they’ll need to upgrade to a SBS 2A or triple jump, plus add another triple. Hopefully this will be doable, because they have so much potential otherwise.

I suspect it will be a very busy offseason for Fields/Stevens.

Koga/Boudreau-Audet

Japan's promising new pair

Japan’s promising new pair

How did they do in Tallinn? Perhaps better than expected. Koga/Boudreau-Audet skated two decent programs to place 6th in both segments and overall. They have a nice look on the ice.

Are they ready for the next level? Yes, I think so. With only one real senior pair in Japan currently (Takahashi/Kihara), K/BA should have no problem making the national podium/team and getting some international opportunities. They have all the necessary senior elements, except for a SBS 2A or second SBS triple jump. Their triple twist here received only level 1 and all negative GOE, but I’m sure they’ll work on that. Throws and lifts look okay. In terms of presentation, they have nice line and decent programs, but need more presence on the ice.

Wrap-up

It was surprisingly fun watching the junior pairs! Somehow, I have a feeling I’ll be tuning in again next season. 🙂 The top contenders next year may include not only Gubanova/Sintsov, but also the young American pair Liu/Johnson, who had a strong short program here and placed 7th overall.

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