Thursday, December 6th – Iceberg Skating Palace – Sochi, Russia
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*Coverage of the 2012 Grand Prix Final will air on NBC this Sunday from 1-3 p.m. ET*
From the home of the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, Team USA took the ice today as competition began at the 2012 Junior Grand Prix Final. In the midst of being awed by the Iceberg Skating Palace that stands out as one of the many buildings already constructed in the Olympic Park, skaters put on impressive programs and put up big numbers as they battle in the first of several annual ISU championship events. Following the junior short programs, Team USA stands in position to medal in all three disciplines, ladies, men’s and ice dance.
Joshua Farris, the reigning World Junior silver medalist, is in first place following the junior men’s short program. Farris posted a season-high score of 74.53 points, which included 40.32 on his technical elements. After a bobble on his program-opening triple Axel, Farris executed what coach Damon Allen called “his best triple Lutz-triple toe of the season,” which, the athlete added, “didn’t end up with me crashing into the boards.” He netted 10.10 points for the jump combination and also saw positive GOEs on the remaining five elements of the “Unaccompanied Cello Suite in G Major, BWV 1007: Prelude” program.
Farris, who was in first place after the short program the 2011 JGP Final (he went on to finish third) and World Juniors, says he has worked on his mindset entering the free skate this season.
“At junior worlds, I had gotten my mental state a lot calmer,” he explained. “I used to get really nervous for the free skate. I have been training so much better and using the tools I have learned at junior worlds to skate clean programs. I’m actually pretty confident going into the long this year.”
Jason Brown had something to cheer about following his season’s best short program. After three years of practice, the current JGP Final champion, landed his first ever triple Axel in competition.
“I was really excited that I was able to start off my first competition where I had a clean Axel,” Brown said. “And to do it in the program was very exciting. All the hard work, I felt it in that moment. It was unbelievable.”
The skate, which netted 69.43 points, also included a strong triple Lutz-triple toe and three level 4 spins.
Like all the competitors here, Brown is honored to skate at the Olympic venue over a year out from the Games.
“The rink is beautiful. The stands are amazing. Being on the ice and looking around is breathtaking,” he said. “To be with your coach and stand in the Olympic rink is a huge goal and what I hope to be part of my dream with her. It’s amazing to have a glimpse of it and I hope to be in an Olympic rink again.”
All three American woman skated well in their JGP Final debuts. Hannah Miller executed her best short program of the season, by far, totaling 59.18 points. Despite being the only competitior to leave a triple-triple combination out of the skate, Miller was confident in the program she has been training.
“I’m working on them, but they are not strong enough to put in the program yet,” Miller said. “I knew I could skate a clean program, that’s what I’ve been training for and I was really happy with the result.”
She earned level 4 on each of her elements, including three spins and the step sequence. She trains leader Elena Radionova of Russia by less than two points. Radionova has 60.90 points while teammate Anna Pogorilaya earned 57.94.
Angela Wang totaled 51.16 points on the night. After missing her program-opening combination – she singled a planned triple toe on the back end of a triple Lutz – Wang skated a clean Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon program that featured two level 4 spins and a double Axel. Like Wang, Leah Keiser, who earned 47.23 points and sits in sixth place, looks to rebound with a strong free skate on Saturday.
“I’m still feeling confident because I know I’m a consistent skater and I can perform better than I did today. I’ll come back fighting in the long,” she said.
Alexandra Aldridge and Daniel Eaton sit in fourth place after the short dance and are well within striking distance of the podium with 52.60 points. The team look to improve on a fourth-place finish at this event last year, and are confident going into the free dance.
“Everybody at home calls us the comeback kids,” Eaton explained. “For example, at Junior Grand Prix Lake Placid, we were behind six points and pulled back seven-and-a-half in free dance. We are a strong team for coming back from being down. I think our free dance is going to be really strong and we will do what we have to do.”
Russia’s Alexandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin sit in first place with 61.18 points, while the third-place duo of Anna Yanovskaya and Sergey Mozkov earned 53.03 points.
Competition continues Friday with the start of the senior events and the conclusion of the junior men’s and dance events. Team USA is being represented by Ashley Wagner and Christina Gao in the ladies event. Meanwhile, Meryl Davis and Charlie White skate for their fourth straight Grand Prix Final title.
Complete coverage of the event, including photo galleries, blogs, feature stories and complete competition stories, is available at icenetwork.com.
Friday, Dec. 7
Junior Men’s Free Skate – 4:45 a.m.
Brown – 5:15 a.m.
Farris – 5:30 a.m.
Senior Ladies Short Program – 6 a.m.
Gao – 6:07 a.m.
Wagner – 6:40 a.m.
Junior Free Dance – 7:15 a.m.
Aldridge and Eaton – 7:35 a.m.
Senior Short Dance – 9:15 a.m.
Davis and White – 10:01 a.m.
Senior Men’s Short Program – 10:35 a.m.
Senior Pairs Short Program – 11:50 a.m.
Saturday, Dec. 8
Junior Ladies Free Skate – 3:30 a.m.
Keiser – 3:37 a.m.
Wang – 3:51 a.m.
Miller – 4:06 a.m.
Junior Pairs Free Skate – 4:45 a.m.
Senior Ladies Free Skate – 6:15 a.m.
Senior Free Dance – 8:15 a.m.
Senior Men’s Free Skate – 9:40 a.m.
Senior Pairs Free Skate – 11:05 a.m.