by Daphne Backman

Russia made it two in a row on this year’s Junior Grand Prix series when Daria Morozova & Mikhail Zhirnov took gold at the second JGP event, Ljubljana Cup in Slovenia, last weekend. Canada’s Brianna Delmaestro & Timothy Lum claimed silver, while Holly Moore & Daniel Klaber of the United States won the bronze medal.  

Short Dance
Morozova & Zhirnov took a slim .66-point lead heading into the free dance after scoring 49.80 for their short dance. The performance started with mirror twizzles and continued with a straightline lift with a smooth change of position and a cool cartwheel exit. The performance lacked some of the speed and spark of the other top teams. The team has been competing on the JGP series since 2011. 

Delmaestro & Lum skated to the popular “Malagenha” for their samba and used music from “Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights” for the rhumba. They received a higher PCS, but lower levels on several elements kept them behind the leaders.  Their performance started with one of their Silver Samba sequences (level 2), followed by level 4 twizzles, and they had good speed and expression. The Canadians were one of only three teams who received the highest level on their twizzles.  

Moore & Klaber started strong with their first Silver Samba sequence to “Hips Don’t Lie” by Shakira, for which they received a level 4, becoming the first team on the JGP this season to earn level 4 for a samba sequence. Despite a solid skate, they lost ground due to lower levels on their lift as well as a blip by Moore on their twizzles, which resulted in them receiving only a level 1 and negative GOEs.  They scored the highest program component marks.  

Free Dance
Moore & Klaber zipped past their previous personal best free dance score by almost nine points, scoring 82.72 in the free dance. Skating to music from “The Addams Family” soundtrack, they brought to life the characters of Morticia and Gomez Addams in not only their costuming, but also their expression and mannerisms. Their straightline lift especially matched the music and theme, and they received level 4 on their twizzles and spin. They received a one-point deduction for an extended lift and remained in third overall, despite winning the free.

Second in the free dance and overall, Delmaestro & Lum also beat their previous personal best, earning 82.16 points for their efforts in the free dance. Skating to music from “The Aviator” and the “Leatherheads” soundtracks, the performance was fun and had authentic expression and good speed.  They received level 2 on both step sequences and level 3 on their lift, so there is still room for the program to score even higher than it did in Slovenia.

Morozova & Zhirnov’s program to music from the “Mirrors” soundtrack was dramatic and dark, but well skated. The performance has room to grow in speed and expression. They received level 4 on their twizzles and both lifts. Scoring 81.74, the free dance was only ranked third, but they held onto the gold by a narrow margin of .24.

U.S. ice dancers Julia Biechler & Damian Dodge finished fifth in their Junior Grand Prix debut, just .60 out of fourth after a fourth-place free dance. Also competing in their JGP debut, Valerie Taillefer & Jason Chan of Canada finished ninth.