Who to watch at the 2019 ISU World Junior Figure Skating Championships
Many of the best young talents on the planet are in Zagreb, Croatia for the 2019 ISU World Figure Skating Championships which take place from Monday 4th to Sunday 10th March.
They're hoping to skate off with medals in Junior Men, Junior Ladies, Pairs, and Ice Dance categories.
Here's your Olympic Channel guide to the action we're most looking forward to at the Dom Sportova arena.
Unsurprisingly, the ladies event will center around a trio of Russian ladies.
They’ll be heavy favorites to sweep the medal podium, led by reigning Russian senior champion Anna Shcherbakova and last year’s junior world champ Alexandra Trusova. Both competed as seniors at the Russian championships but are too young to participate at the senior Worlds.
Shcherbakova and Trusova battled it out for the Russian national title in December with the former taking the title by just .07.
That duo, along with Alena Kostornaia (who misses these Junior World Champs due to medical reasons), easily bested the likes of Olympic champion Alina Zagitova, two-time World champion Evgenia Medvedeva and recently crowned European champion Sofia Samodurova.
And it wasn’t really close.
Shcherbakova and Trusova threw down incredible technical performances, both executing quadruple jumps in the free program. Shcherbakova opened her’s with a clean quad Lutz, a feat Trusova matched her own opening jump. She went on to fall on a second quad attempt – a toe loop.
They finished nearly 17 points above the highest senior finisher, Stanislava Konstantinova.
Best of the rest
With a limit of three entries per country, there’s an opening that didn’t exist at December’s Junior Grand Prix final where five of the six competitors were Russian.
One of the highest scoring junior ladies not from Russia this season is the United States’ Ting Cui. She holds the 17th best score among all competitors this season, having earned a 199.79 at the Tallinn Trophy.
Cui has struggled at times, however. At the U.S. Championships, two falls in the short program left her in 12th place. A stirring seven-triple jump free skate lifted her to fifth overall. She’ll need to repeat that in Zagreb to challenge.
Korea’s Yelim Kim is another skater to keep an eye on in Croatia. She was the lone non-Russian at the Grand Prix Final. She finished sixth and has similar potential to Cui.
At the Junior Grand Prix Czech Skate, she took the silver medal with a season’s best combined total of 196.34. That score was only 2.04 points back of Kostornaia.
It’s Gogolev time
Canadian Stephen Gogolev has his eyes on his first junior World champion title.
A win in Croatia would be a follow-up to the gold medal he earned at the Junior Grand Prix Final in Vancouver. That win came just prior to his 14th birthday, making him the youngest ever junior Grand Prix Final champion – a record previously held by double Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan. He's also the first substitute to win the title.
He beat Russia’s Petr Gumennik by almost 15 points there. A few weeks later, Gogolev finished second in the senior division at the Canadian Championships, after having posted the top score in the short program.
Along with Gumennik, his likely challengers for the title are American Camden Pulkinen and Japan’s Koshiro Shimada who have the second and third highest combined junior totals this season, according to the ISU.
More Russian sweeps possible
The Russians are also looking to sweep the podiums in the pairs and ice dance competition, something they almost pulled off at last year’s junior worlds.
2018 World junior silver medalists Polina Kostiukovich and Dmitrii Ialin return looking for gold. They’ll be challenged by compatriots Anastasia Mishina and Aleksandr Galliamov who edged them at the Grand Prix Final. Apollinariia Panfilova and Dmitry Rylov complete the Russian hopes in pairs.
For ice dance, Sofia Shevchenko and Igor Eremenko lead the Russians. Fifth at last year’s junior Worlds, they took the junior Grand Prix Final title ahead of their teammates Arina Ushakova and Maxim Nekrasov, the defending World junior bronze medalists, by just .01. Russia’s third entry is the duo of Elizaveta Khudaiberdieva and Nikita Nazarov.