2015 men’s Junior Grand Prix series- Torun, Logrono & Zagreb

I’m finally getting around to doing this entry 😛

with my schedule, I’ve had to spread these competitions over a number of days because it’s hard to find 3-4 hours in a day to watch them all.

but I’d gotten much more from this series than I thought I would, which was a nice surprise.

But the fact I’m covering three competitions that I’d watched over 4 weeks, I’m so glad I tweeted personal highlights so I have a record of what to discuss.
With each competition having 24 competitors, a lot of them do run together after a while, so I only tweet when I’m really excited about someone or it’s someone I was excited about previously but they didn’t do as well on this occasion.

Torun, Poland

I knew this particular city was coming up because Alexei Krasnozhon said it’d be his next competition.
He was one of my favorite surprises this year- a blonde haired Russian that happens to be skating for the U.S. but also has a lot of talent.

In Torun, he seemed nervous to me and didn’t perform as well as I saw him in Riga where he got bronze (although Kevin Aymoz from France might have deserved it more… I’m disappointed I never saw him after that because he did so well in his free skate).

Sota Yamamoto from Japan skated first and showed no sign of nerves at all. I loved his footwork and how he expressed his music.

Roman Sadovsky, who won at Bratislava, skated to “The Prophet”- which was another selection of music I fell in love with this year. He skated to it so beautifully with great sensitivity.

Petr Gummenik from Russia confounded me to no end 😛 he’s only 13 and he had me wondering if Plushenko was even that good at his age… part of me believes that my suspicion is correct. He did really well and missed the podium in Torun just because he doesn’t have the triple axel or quads yet.
…that seems to be the difference between making the podium or not in the junior grand prix especially. Incorporating the bigger jumps means you have a greater mastery of your skills and are above the curve of the standard set by the juniors- where a 70 is deemed exceptional in the SP (when people like Nathan Chen and Nicolas Nadeau have gotten beyond that).

Comparably, Vladislav Tarasenko, who is 18, I thought was either in his head too much or he was nervous. Because at his age in Russia, he should be better than he showed. Just going by the standard I’d seen of some other Russians in the JGP series (Dmitri Aliev especially, but also Alexander Samarin- who had an amazing showing in Zagreb).

Deniss from Latvia had stronger jumps in Riga, but he’s a great performer. For me, that’s a huge plus in this stage because not everyone is confident enough to engage the audience with so much as eye contact.

even though he finished last in the standings, Wayne Wing Yan Chang from Hong Kong fought through his free skate and improved as he progressed.

“Cry Me a River” is a very popular piece this season (along with many others). I forgot who I made this comment about, but I said I hope one day to see a skater emote to this music and lose themselves in it because it has that potential to be something amazing.

Another popular piece is the “Pearl Harbor” soundtrack by Hans Zimmer.
Roman Galay from Finland (originally from St. Petersburg) made this so iconic to me in such a short time that when other skaters do it, it’s not quite the same. He had great presence on the ice and had plenty of great moments, but just needs to work on his jumps. They’re not as strong/consistent as they could be.

My suspicions about Vladislav turned out to be correct- his free skate was much better than his short program, but of course he has a lot of work to do.

Adrien Tesson from France- I commented that he gave a lot to his music with emotion, but needed to work on his jumps. He performed to Biogenesis by Muse, which Maxim Kovtun skated to last season. But he hasn’t established himself enough as a skater in my view where he’s made the music iconic to him.

Yakau Zenko from Belarus had another popular selection of music- Charlie Chaplin. [the most common selections of his I’ve heard are “Smile” and another song he performs in his film “Modern Times”]. I tweeted that he did Chaplin proud with his performance, really being true to the character of the piece.

Sure enough, Sota more or less won this competition when there were only three skaters left.
It’s happened a few times where the strongest skaters have gone first and their scores remain untouched and uncatchable throughout the short programs.
I was REALLY impressed with him where I felt like he’d be the most likely candidate to inherit the throne from Yuzuru Hanyu as Japan’s top male skater. But as a whole, this country has really stepped up their game with their skaters.
I read an article recently where Plushenko said the skaters in Japan are so insanely good [I’m paraphrasing here- I think he said they were alien, like their skills were out of this world] that he wanted to train with them and set up his game… which ultimately led to his current situation. I’d been seeing a lot of things in this Junior Grand Prix circuit from the Japanese skaters, lots of good things, but of course when Plushenko comments, I pay attention simply because he knows what he’s talking about. Certainly far more than I do 😛 But in my heart, I think I already knew that Japan has really stepped up their game.

Logrono, Spain

it’s interesting in these competitions when we have multiple skaters from the home country and they didn’t often appear in other competitions.
In Torun, sadly, none of the Polish skaters were good. They were either amateurish compared to many of the others in their field or made too many mistakes.
But in Logrono, Spain, we had three skaters from Spain and I was really impressed with 2 of them. I can’t help but wonder why they didn’t show up at any of the other events because they could have contended for the final. Even though that field is already very tight.

Aleix Gabara was the first of the Spanish to go. I commented that coming from the same country as Javier Fernandez has to add a lot of pressure. But he didn’t show any nerves at all.

Of course with Nathan Chen doing so spectacularly at Colorado Springs, I was so nervous for him in Spain 😛 I’ve seen it happen before in skating where there’s a lot of hype that leads to mistakes and downfalls. he wasn’t as solid as previously, but he still was SO good.

Vladimir Samoliov from Russia, again, very talented. My main comment was that him not having a triple axel kept him from getting higher in the standings because he had everything else going for him.

Matteo from Italy performed well to his music.

Once or twice, I’ve commented on skaters doing music iconic to other skaters and not making an impact…
Niko from Germany did “Black Betty” which Javier Fernandez did so well last season… he did not have the personality to back it up.

Another Spanish skater, Ton Consul, did “Fly Me to The Moon” and had great personality on the ice.
At this point I was starting to believe that Javier Fernandez has started something and Spain is becoming another power country in the skating world.

Daniel Samohin had me thinking “I wonder if Plushenko’s medical trips to Israel is somehow affecting the skaters out there”… because he was doing these huge jumps. I felt like he was too good to be in the junior circuit because he has everything going for him. He skated to something by The Scorpions and I called him a rock star (helped by the music and his leather jacket).

Andrei Lazukin from Russia had some beautiful skaters (something I hadn’t seen as much from Russia among the juniors) and only missed the one jump in the short program.

In this particular event, there were two interesting interviews.
Both were with skaters from non-traditional skating countries and how they’re starting to establish their programs out there.

The first was Julian Zhi Jie Yee from Malaysia. I didn’t remember details, but I remarked in my blog covering Riga that I was impressed with him and he could have made the podium if he didn’t make some mistakes.
The fact that there are at least 3 skaters from Malaysia in the JGP series suggests that things are picking up over there.
Julian’s short program, I really enjoyed and had me excited for when he turns senior- how he’ll improve over the years. It’s interesting how he said in the interview that performing didn’t come easy to him at first because that’s one of his best qualities.

South Africa is another non-traditional country I’d seen in this series, but they need more work.
Ancio had some nuances I liked in his SP but I enjoyed his free skate- it helps that he performed to music from “Moulin Rouge”. After seeing Ashley Wagner use it last year, it’s interesting to see it from a guy.

Josh Brown from the UK tried maybe a little too hard to bring a personality to his performance. I appreciate the effort, but it comes off better when you have the skills to back it up. I didn’t get that from him.

Two skaters from Estonia had done well throughout the series. It doesn’t surprise me considering they’re in Eastern Europe. [Although there’s only been one skater from Ukraine that did well in this series].

Denis from Argentina had some magical moments in his free skate that had me especially excited to see him in the senior ranks. he was the second of the skaters to be interviewed. he’s originally from Canada, I believe, but he moved back to his home country to help build their program out there. He didn’t do as well this time around, but his bronze in Bratislava says to me he’s one to watch.

There’s only been one time where I commented on a skater where they didn’t do well at all and it had nothing to do with their choice of music.
A young skater from Georgia had a really rough time where he wasn’t getting any of jumps at all. But the crowd was very warm to him and cheered him on even he was taking his bows. It is true that all skaters will have a bad day like that and the only way to go from there is up. Hopefully he will learn from this and bounce back in whatever competition he has next.

Nicola from Switzerland, I’d seen do well on another occasion, but he couldn’t bring himself together at this particular event.

Vladimir showed a lot of strong skating- once he brings quads and more performance to his programs, he’ll be an amazing asset for Russia’s team.

When Daniel Samohin did his free skate and did it so well… the only other time I heard the crowd THIS loud was when they were cheering for their own skaters. The crowd roared as huge as his jumps and personality. He’s already a star.

In the end, Nathan Chen won once again, still the highest total score of the series.

Zagreb, Croatia

I believe this was the site of the Europeans [January 2013] where Plushenko withdrew after his short program and this ultimately led to his first back surgery…
but like with Riga, I didn’t know of this city before I started following him.

it’s interesting seeing my tweet on Alexander Samarin after seeing his free skate. my opinion was radically different in both occasions.
in his short program, I said I felt a calm with his skating like I didn’t need to worry about him. [Somehow, I don’t remember him in Bratislava, but there were a lot of skaters to remember then as well].
But in his free skate, I felt like he lacked confidence, despite the fact he NAILED all of his jumps. His face looked all red that he was stressing about getting his elements right. He was one of two performances in a row where I was cheering, but they were for different reasons.

On the other hand, I didn’t forget Koshiro Shimada simply because he had “Tosca Fantasy” for his music.
Unlike in Bratislava, he didn’t fall and his jumps were good. But I felt like I was expecting more. Music this energetic and epic, you need to live and breath every second of it.
That’s just my personal opinion.

Nicolas Nadreau from Canada… tonight getting through his free skate I was thinking he could easily be the next big name in that country among senior skaters. They still have Patrick Chan (who is coming back this year after a year off) and Nam Nguyen has been succeeding… it’s going to get super competitive there.
Nicolas broke Nathan Chen’s record setting short program by nearly 3 points. He was a natural as a jumper and performer.
I was with him throughout his Mary Poppins free skate. I remember what a disaster it was in a previous competition and he recovered very well. The one mistake he made the cost him first place (which went to Alexander Samarin) was his quad, which he popped and turned into a double. The difference between them was 0.40, which is probably the closest margin I’d seen this whole series.

Daichi Miyata was someone else I had two different opinions about. He has great poise and skill in his short program. But in his free skate, I didn’t feel as strong about him. Maybe because Japan has so many good skaters.

Tony Lu, even though he was from the U.S., I didn’t really remember him in his last competition. But he showed such skill in his short program, I was thinking about the gap between established skating nations and ones that aren’t. Of course there is some notable talent out there from all these different places, but I feel like in some places like Canada, the U.S. and Russia, the skaters have an advantage with more resources.

Valentin from Romania skated to Charlie Chaplin, but didn’t have the personality to back it up.
Tomoki Hiwatashi on the other hand made my point and really brought his personality to his program. I remembered him simply because he’s young and small, but has a lot of talent and skill. And his one-handed Biellmann spin, I pretty much lost at that point. I didn’t react as strongly to his Charlie Chaplin free skate, but it’s probably because he followed Alexander and Nicolas- two exceptional performances. But he wound up taking third place.

Micah Tang from Taiwan I noted because they said Douglas Razzano (a recently retired American male skater) did his choreography. And it was really good choreography.
Hands down the most popular choreographer is Kenji Miyamoto. Elvin Wong has also come up a bunch of times as well.

James Min from Australia is another of those prodigies. He wasn’t perfect in his free skate, but he has such amazing talent.

Michael Durham from New Zealand has magical moments when he skated to Lord of the Rings. Great jumps, needs to work on performance, but has great potential.

Artistically, Mattia Dalla Torre from Italy does a lot that I like, but needs to work on performance.

Again, I appreciated Josh Brown performing well to his music, but it was frustrating that he didn’t have the jumps to back it up.

And Koshiro I also noticed as a Future Heir to Yuzuru. He did Charlie Chaplin the best of anybody. And had a perfect free skate that made me cheer.

So going to the JGP Final is:

Nathan Chen (1st/1st) and Vincent Zhou (2nd/2nd) from the US
Daniel Samohin from Israel (2nd/2nd)
Dmitri Aliev from Russia (1st/1st)
Sota Yamamoto from Japan (1st/3rd)
Roman Sadovsky from Canada (1st/3rd)

Definitely a very solid top 6 and I’ve felt a lot of excitement with all of them throughout their competitions.

According to Wikipedia, there are three alternates, including:

Deniss Vasilijevis from Latvia (2nd/2nd)
Alexander Samarin from Russia (4th/1st)
Nicolas Nadeau (5th/2nd)

again, more great skaters I’ve enjoyed, but I also don’t want them to have to step in because of unfortunate injury.

So yeah, it’s been a great junior grand prix series for my first time.

And tomorrow… it’ll be a week until the senior Grand Prix series… and I can officially go back to watching skating whenever I feel up for it 😛 I can’t wait to get all those YouTube videos that’ve been waiting for me since April.

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