Recap: 2023 World Junior Championships

by Anne Calder | Photos by Robin Ritoss

The 2023 World Junior Figure Skating Championships protocols are now recorded in the ISU history books. The WinSport Event Centre in Calgary, Alberta Canada hosted the 47th competition, February 27 – March 5.

The Rhythm Dance roster began with 30 teams representing 22 countries. At the end of the session, twenty teams advanced to the Free Dance.

Prior to each Press Conference, small medals were awarded by the Referee to the top three teams in each segment (RD/FD). Two ice dance teams headed home with three medals per partner – CZE and KOR. A medal ceremony was also held on the ice at the conclusion of the competition followed by the playing of the gold medalists’ national anthem.

History was made at the 2023 event when CZE and KOR medaled for the first time at the World Junior Championships.

Rhythm Dance

At the end of the Rhythm Dance, the final group for the Free Dance was posted: Katerina Mrazkova & Daniel Mrazek (CZE), Hannah Lim & Ye Quan (KOR), Phebe Bekker & James Hernandez (GBR), Nadiia Bashynska & Peter Beaumont (CAN) and Celina Fradji & Jean-Hans Fourneaux (FRA).

Mrazkova & Mrazek were the only team to earn a perfect (YYYY / YYYY) for their eight Argentine Tango key points. The rotational lift and his twizzle also earned level 4. Dancing Tango to “A Evaristo” and Paso Doble to “Espana Cani”,  the siblings earned a 71.19 score, falling short of their personal best by a thin .68 points.

“We know that we can do better, but we did a kind of safe program, which is good,” Mrazkova noted. “We just wanted to do what we were practicing and to enjoy the program, and that’s it.”

Lim & Quan danced a fast-paced Milonga to “Primavera Portena”. The twizzles, second Argentine Tango pattern, rotational lift  and both midline step sequences earned level 4. The personal best 71.08 score topped their recent Junior Grand Prix Final score by almost seven points.

“I’m happy that the hard work we put into our technical parts – for instance the step sequence [both level 4] and pattern dance – paid off,” Quan said. ”We are really happy we got our levels today. We did want to beat our personal score.”

Bekker & Hernandez scored a personal best 68.89 with Flamenco and Tango selections by Roni Benise. The duo earned level 4 for the rotational lift, second Argentine Tango pattern, her midline step and his twizzle,

“For such an intense program, it’s actually so much fun to skate,” Hernandez said.  “We have these little moments scattered through where we catch each others’ eyes – yes it’s intense – but we get energy from each other in those moments. Today we found those moments; we connected. We had a great time from beginning to end. We’re happy.”

Bashynska & Beaumont (CAN) were fourth. Their Spanish Waltz performance to “Espana” and the “Tango Grande” from The Great Gatsby received a personal best 68.00 score. The opening midline sequence footwork and twizzles earned level 4 as did the closing rotational lift. The Argentine Tango patterns received levels 1 and 2. The Junior Grand Prix Final gold medalists were still only less than a point out of podium range. 

This isnt a setback,’’ Bashynska said. ’Perhaps it might be a little benefit for us. It will put less pressure on us for the free dance which is our stronger performance. We plan to come back tomorrow (Saturday).’’                                                 

Fradji & Fourneaux (FRA) scored a personal best 65.81 for their Tango performance to Gringo Nr.1 by Tango for 3, arranged by Hugo Chouinard. The twizzles, straight line lift and second Argentine Tango pattern were level 4. Both midline step sequences were level 3.

Free Dance

The panel of judges was introduced. The order and some individuals were different from the Rhythm Dance. The first group of athletes was announced. The teams competed in reverse order of their Rhythm Dance standing. 

Mrazkova & Mrazek  danced a powerful performance to “Surrounded” and “The Heart of a King” from The Man in the Iron Mask soundtrack and earned the first Junior World title and medal for the Czech Republic. The twizzles, rotational lift and dance spin were level 4; the circular and one foot step plus curve lift earned level 3. Both the 106.17 segment and total 177.36 were personal best scores. 

“The rhythm dance for us was not so great because we were nervous; we were scared to do a mistake,” Mrazek said. “We tried to be more chilled in the free dance, and I think we did it better today.” 

Lim & Quan  earned the first Korean ice dance medal at Junior Worlds with a haunting interpretation of Danse Macabre – Dance of Death. The lifts, dance spin and her twizzle earned level 4. The other elements were level 3. The 103.31 segment and 174.39 total were personal best scores. 

“We really feel happy about what we had today. For me, it hasn’t sunk in yet,” Quan said. “We felt funny dancing in front of a big crowd like this.”

Bashynska & Beaumont (CAN) scored 101.13 for their captivating interpretation of  “Anna’s Theme” from The Red Violin by John Corigliano and Elegie: O doux Printemps d’autrefois by Jules Massenet. Their lifts, dance spin and her twizzle were level 4; the diagonal step and his twizzle earned level 3. The Canadian Junior Champions slipped into third place by a .06 margin and took home their second consecutive Junior World bronze medal.

At the Press Conference, Bashynska applauded all the medalists plus the British team. “I’m obviously very happy to end up on the podium, and I’m very proud of ourselves and of everybody else here. Also to Phebe and James [who narrowly finished fourth behind the Canadians and off the podium]. It’s only right to give everybody credit for how far we all came. It’s been a long and hard season for all of us.”

Bekker & Hernandez (GBR) danced a dramatic presentation of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons that earned level 4 twizzles, lifts, and dance spin. At the Mixed Zone, Hernandez referenced Bekker’s recent illness and his father’s death two weeks ago. He noted that under the circumstances, they were incredibly proud of what they were able to do. The personal best 100.18 segment and 169.07 total scores guaranteed the British Junior Champions fourth place.

Leah Neset & Artem Markelov (USA) vaulted from seventh to fifth with an exhilarating and powerful dance to Pirates of Caribbean. The twizzles, dance spin, and lifts earned level 4. The USA Junior Champions’ Rhythm Dance (64.01), Free Dance (98.58) and Total (162,59) were all personal best scores.

Ice Chips

The podium teams will all be moving up to the senior ranks next season. They shared their expectations.

  • Katerina Mrazkova: “We don’t have any expectations. It’s a completely new category for us.”
    Daniel Mrazek: “Of course in the future we want to be the best. We don’t know how it’s going to be next season, so we will work hard like last year. We will try to improve everything – our bad sides and our good sides.”
  • Hannah Lim: “We’re a bit nervous because we have a lot of examples at our school (I.AM), and they are all really amazing senior skaters.  I’m glad they’re there so we can look up to them. I’m nervous, but also very excited.”
  • Nadiia Bashynska: “We don’t really have a choice. We have to move up. We’re very excited and looking forward to showing a new side of ourselves, obviously stepping up our game and working hard.”
  • Peter Beaumont: “Last year we were sort of debating about it, but I’m glad that we stayed junior another year. Now it feels right for us to move up. I’m looking forward to a bit of Samba and ‘80s’ (music for senior RD) next year.”

Choreographic Element Highest Total Scores:

  • Choreographic Character Step Sequence: Leah Neset & Artem Markelov (USA) – 3.95
  • Choreographic Sliding Movement: Nadiia Bashynska & Peter Beaumont (CAN) – 3.83

World Junior Championship Medalists Coaching at 2023 World Junior Championships:

  • Marie-France Dubreuil & Bruno Yvars (CAN) 1990 (bronze)
  • Elena Khaliavina Dostatni & Maxim Shabalin (RUS) 2001 (bronze), 2002 (silver)
  • Sylwia Nowak & Sebastian Kolasiński (POL) 1993 (silver), 1994 (gold)
  • Tatiana Gladkova & Igor Shpilband (USSR) 1982 (silver), 1983 (gold)
  • Anastasia Gorshkova & Ilia Tkachenko (RUS) 2005 (bronze)

The 2024 World Junior Championships will be held in Taipei City, Taiwan. The allotments per country:

3 – Canada, Czech Republic, United States
2 – Cyprus, France, Great Britain, Korea
1 – All other ISU countries