Strong U.S. Team Ready for World Junior Figure Skating Championships This Week in Oberstdorf, Germany

Mirai Nagasu
Photo by Michelle Harvath

2007 World Junior Championships Results and Photos

(2/27/2007) - Approximately 200 athletes from more than 45 countries have descended upon Oberstdorf, Germany, this week for the 2007 ISU World Junior Figure Skating Championships. Among them are 18 talented U.S. skaters: three ladies, three men, three pairs teams and three ice dancing teams. The competition begins Tuesday with the compulsory dance and pairs short program, and it continues through Sunday, March 4, with the exhibition.

The U.S. Team skated away with four of 12 medals in 2006 and it looks to improve on that count in 2007, with seven athletes returning for their second appearance. Of those, two medaled last year: the pairs team of Kendra Moyle & Andy Seitz, which finished third. The U.S. Team's three other medals in 2006 came from Christine Zukowski (bronze) in ladies, Julia Vlassov & Drew Meekins (gold) in pairs, and Meryl Davis & Charlie White (bronze) in ice dancing.

This year's competition will take place at the National Training Centre for Figure Skating in Oberstdorf, which has hosted the event two times before, in 2000 and 1982. In 2000 the U.S. Team won five medals, including a bronze in ice dancing by 2006 Olympic silver medalists Tanith Belbin & Ben Agosto. In 1982 the U.S. Team won three medals. In addition, Oberstdorf hosts the Nebelhorn Trophy every fall, and in 2006 the U.S. Team won half (six) of the medals there, led by Bebe Liang's gold in ladies and U.S. champions Brooke Castile & Ben Okolski's gold in pairs.

The 1-2-3 punch of Mirai Nagasu, Caroline Zhang and Ashley Wagner will be a force at the 2007 World Junior Championships after securing the podium at the 2007 State Farm U.S. Figure Skating Championships in junior ladies. This week marks Nagasu's first at an international event. After failing to qualify for the 2006 U.S. Championships as a novice, she went undefeated in her 2007 regional and sectional championships before upsetting Zhang for the U.S. junior title. Zhang was on her own winning streak before finishing second at the U.S. Championships. Her impressive international résumé includes two Junior Grand Prix (JGP) wins this season before taking the 2006 JGP Final title by more than 20 points. In second at that event was Wagner, who won both of her 2006 JGP events as well. She also won the 2006 Triglav Trophy and finished third at the 2007 U.S. Championships. This week she returns to the country of her birth, where her father was stationed in the military.

2006 JGP Final champion Stephen Carriere returns to his second World Junior Championships gunning for the podium after finishing fourth in 2006. He won his two JGP events this season and placed ninth at the 2007 U.S. Championships – his first on the senior level. Joining him in Germany are 2007 U.S. junior champion Eliot Halverson and 2007 U.S. junior silver medalist Brandon Mroz. Halverson has finished fourth or higher in every major competition of his career. He finished third at both of his 2006 JGP events, narrowly missing a spot at the JGP Final. He won both his regional and sectional events this year. Mroz finished second to Carriere at the 2006 JGP Final after placing first and second at his 2006 JGP events. He also won the 2006 Triglav Trophy on the junior level.

Kendra Moyle and Andy Seitz
Photo by Getty Images Sport/Matthew Stockman
Though only one of the three U.S. pairs teams in Germany is entering its first World Junior Championships, that team is the likely favorite heading into Tuesday's short program. Keauna McLaughlin & Rockne Brubaker are undefeated in their first year together, having won their two JGP events and the JGP Final before taking the U.S. junior title. Moyle & Seitz have more international experience, including a second-place finish at the 2006 World Junior Championships, but fell behind McLaughlin & Brubaker in their one meeting – the JGP Final – where Moyle & Seitz finished fourth. Their senior level experience includes two six place finishes on the Grand Prix Series this year and a sixth place finish at the 2007 U.S. Championships. The third U.S. pairs team, that of Bridget Namiotka & John Coughlin, finished fourth at the 2006 World Junior Championships with a stellar free skate that was the second best of the event. They also finished sixth at the JGP Final and ninth as seniors at the 2007 U.S. Championships.

All three U.S. ice dancing teams in Germany are training partners coached by Iouri Tchesnitchenko and Iaroslava Netchaeva in Ann Arbor, Mich. The top two teams, Emily Samuelson & Evan Bates, and Madison Hubbell & Keiffer Hubbell, consistently run neck-and-neck at events. Samuelson & Bates took the 2007 U.S. junior title by less than 0.2 points over Hubbell & Hubbell, while the brother and sister Hubbell team took the 2006 JGP title by 2.2 points over Samuelson & Bates, who finished 10th at the 2006 World Junior Championships. This is the first appearance at the World Junior Championships for Hubbell & Hubbell. The third U.S. team, that of Lynn Kriengkrairut & Logan Giulietti-Schmitt, is in its first season together. Kriengkrairut & Giulietti-Schmitt are the 2007 Pacific Coast junior champions and the 2007 U.S. Championships junior bronze medalists.

Top competition on the ladies side will come from Nana Takeda of Japan, who finished fourth at the event in 2006, and Laura Lepisto of Finland, who finished ninth and recently took second at the Finland National Championships as a senior, ahead of 2006 European bronze medalist Kiira Korpi. In men's, Sergei Voronov of Russia won the silver medal in 2006 and Takahito Mura of Japan was fifth. Also strong is Kevin Reynolds of Canada, the 2006 JGP Final bronze medalist. The Russian pairs team of Ksenia Krasilnokova & Konstantin Bezmaternikh will test the U.S. teams as they placed third at the 2006 World Junior Championships and second at the 2006 JGP Final. In dance, the top teams include Russia's Ekaterina Bobrova & Dmitri Soloviev and Kristina Gorshkova & Vitali Butikov, who finished third and fourth, respectively, at the 2006 JGP Final.