Christine Zukowski Wins World Junior Bronze

by Jyrki Pirkkalainen, Special to U.S. Figure Skating Online
Christine Zukowski
Photo by Paul Harvath

2006 World Junior Championships Results and Photos

(3/10/06) - Yu-Na Kim of Korea did what many experienced journalists expected – she dethroned defending World Junior champion Mao Asada and won the first ever ISU championship for her country. The victory came with a convincing free skate. Kim landed six triples, including a triple flip-triple toe combination, and her only mistake was an unsecure landing on her three-jump combination (triple Lutz-double toe-double loop).

Kim said she had injured her ankle before arriving in Slovenia, and maybe that's why she had some trouble with her triple loop.

“I missed the loop once in the warm-up, so my coach and I decided to take it out of the program and do a double Axel instead,” she said.

Kim has won every single competition she has entered this season, and next year she and Asada will be age-eligible to compete at senior Worlds.

The Japanese favorite singled her planned triple Axel and a Lutz, but she also lost to Kim by three points in the component scores. In the press conference, she didn't mince words about what she thought of her performance.

“It was the worst performance of the season because I didn't skate clean,” she said.

She also had to think long before answering to the inevitable question about her triple Axel.

“I don't know what happened on that jump,” she finally said, without losing her smile or composure for a second.

Delaware skater Christine Zukowski skated well enough to capture the bronze medal in her first appearance at the World Junior Championships. It's the third straight year the U.S. has won a medal in the ladies event.

Skating to Stravinsky's “Firebird,” she pulled off five triples but doubled her opening jump, the loop. Three of her non-jump elements were called only level one.

“I just didn't trust myself on the loop,” she said. “On the other elements, I might not have held them long enough. But I had fun out there. I don't think about a medal, I just want to get to skate in the exhibition.”

In the end, she beat Japan's Nana Takeda (fourth) and Aki Sawada (fifth) by six and nine points.

Alissa Czisny had tough luck with her skate. She fell on her opening triple Lutz and popped her last three jumps into singles. Obviously, she was very disappointed with her performance, and it was hard for her to find words.

“The warm-up was O.K. I don't know, I don't usually pop jumps,” she said.

Czisny was only 11th in the free skate, but in the end she repeated her sixth-place finish from last year.

Megan Hyatt finished a creditable 13th at her first World Junior Championships. She landed four triples - two toes and two Salchows, but she popped the Lutz and the loop into singles.

“On the Lutz, I didn't feel it went up quite right, and on the loop I was just thinking too hard and wasn't relaxed,” she said. “I'm glad I came back strong though. I was surprised [about the reaction from the crowd]. I saw the U.S. team out there cheering for me, and it helped me realize that wow, I'm representing my country (at a championship), and that is an accomplishment in itself.”

The U.S. team has now earned three medals, one of each color, and there might be another one coming Friday in ice dancing.

Original Dance

The Hala Tivoli is probably one of the chilliest ice rinks ever, but luckily the ice dancers warmed up the arena with the hot Latin rhytms in the original dance.

Rhumba-ing and mambo-ing like true ballroom dancers, Canada's Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir were able to keep their lead, but only narrowly. Natalia Mikhailova and Arkadi Sergeev lost by only 0.12 points in the original dance and were rewarded better for their elements than the Canadians.

“We were very relaxed going into the warm-up,” Virtue said. “We just wanted to have fun with it, and we really enjoyed the program. The audience was really supportive today, and we were trying to feed off their energy.”

For the Russians, this is their fourth appearance at World Juniors.

“We're extremely happy to be in second place right now,” Mikhailova said. “Last year, we didn't even make the top three. Tomorrow we want to give 100 percent.”

Meryl Davis & Charlie White (Bloomfield Hills, Mich.) were edged out of third place by Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte, thanks to the Italians more difficult step sequences. Otherwise, the marks for the two teams were pretty close, and it will be an interesting battle for the bronze medal.

White didn't say that they expected to stay in third.

“It's hard to know what to expect here,” he said. “Of course it would be nice to be in a medal position. Tomorrow we are just going to skate like we always do.”

“It's not over till it's over,” Davis added.

Trina Pratt & Todd Gilles (Colorado Springs, Colo.) in turn moved up one place above Russians Anastasia Gorshkova and Ilia Tkachenko, who got too close to the boards after a lift and fell on top of each other on their backs. It was a costly error, as they received a –2 point deduction for falling and another –1 point deduction for an excessive interruption.

Pratt and Gilles said theirs was the best original dance they had done all season.

“I'm happy that the midline (step sequence) was level 3,” Gilles said. “It has been everything from one to four at our earlier competitions.”

Emily Samuelson & Evan Bates (Ann Arbor, Mich.) stayed in 10th place and have a safe-looking 3.39-point gap over the 11th-place team.

“We are happy with our performance. It's our first Junior Worlds, and we don't have a lot of expectations. It's definitely the biggest stage we've been on. We learn a lot from other skaters when we practice with them here.”

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