Monday, February 23, 2009

Strong U.S. Junior Team in Sofia

The United States is presenting a very strong team at the 2009 Junior World Championships.

The U.S. Men's team includes our recently crowned U.S. Junior Champ, Ross Miner. This only his second international event and is looking to gain some experience from this event. Curran Oi, who made a successful debut as a Senior at the 2009 U.S. Figure Skating Championships is also on the team. Curran, who finished 6th in Cleveland, has quite a bit of international competition experience under his belt and has a good shot at being in the medal hunt. The one to watch, however, is last season's Junior World Champ Adam Rippon. Adam returns to the competition with an entire season of Senior level competition to rely on and a more consistent triple axel. If he's on, he will quite likely win.

We have two young up and coming Pairs teams competing. Both Brynn Carman and Chris Knierim along with Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir competed on the Junior Grand Prix this season. Marissa and Simon made it to the Junior Grand Prix Final where they placed 6th. Brynn and Chris were the U.S. Junior Silver medalists and Marissa and Simon were the U.S. Junior Bronze medalists.

In Ice Dance we have three teams that have been dominant on the Junior scene this season. Brother and sister team Maia and Alex Shibutani are the current U.S. Junior Silver medalists. In their first season in the Junior Ranks they took a Gold and Silver in the Junior Grand Prix events and placed fourth at the Junior Grand Prix Final. U.S. Junior Champs Chock and Zuerlein are competing as well. This team has won every event they've entered this season and look to continue that winning streak in Sofia. This is their first Junior World appearance. In their way is last season's Junior National Champs, brother and sister Madison and Keiffer Hubbell. Madison and Keiffer were right behind Chock and Zuerlein at the Junior Grand Prix Final. Madison and Keiffer made a successful debut as Senior's in Cleveland, placing fourth.

The U.S. ladies look very strong as well. All three entries have been skating on the Senior circuit for two seasons and have solid international experience. Katrina Hacker, who is replacing Mirai Nagasu who withdrew due to a lingering ankle injury, comes to Sofia after a top six performance at U.S. Nationals. She competed at both the Cup of China and NHK Trophy this season and looks to have a solid skate before leaving competitive skating to focus on her studies at Princeton University. Ashley Wagner wowed us in Cleveland with an amazing comeback performance that pulled her up from 12th place all the way to 4th (she won the free skate). In her favor is the experience of having competed in a Senior World Championships (in Goteborg, Sweden) and her wonderful interpretation of the music 'Spartacus.' Ashley will look to better the bronze she won at this event in 2007. Our top entry is Caroline Zhang who was the U.S. Bronze medalist this season. Caroline also won the bronze medal at this seasons Trophee Eric Bompard in Paris and most recently finished 4th in a very strong ladies field at the Four Continents Cup in Vancouver. Caroline has worked hard this season at increasing her speed in her skating as well as rotating her jumps fully. She is no stranger to this event, having won in 2007 and winning the Silver in 2008.

While I've focused on the U.S. entries, there are a myriad of competitors from around the world that will certainly challenge for the top spots as well. Will be very interesting to watch. Competition kicks off tomorrow. You can see a full list of competitors here.

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