American Ladies Sweep World Junior Medals

by Sal Zanca, Special to U.S. Figure Skating Online
Caroline Zhang
Photo by Paul Harvath

2007 World Junior Championships Results and Photos

(3/3/07) - Caroline Zhang, Mirai Nagasu and Ashley Wagner gave the United States its first-ever sweep at the World Junior Championships by taking the top three spots in the ladies event Saturday in Oberstdorf, Germany.

Zhang beat Nagasu for the title in the showdown between the two 13 year olds. Zhang now joins three other Americans - Tiffany Chin, Michelle Kwan and Elaine Zayak - as 13-year-old winners of the World Junior ladies title. In all, counting Suzie Brasher in 1976, there are now 13 American World Junior ladies champions.

Zhang turns 14 on May 20 and is coached by Mingzhu Li, the former coach of Lu Chen, the 1995 World champion who was twice third in the World Junior Championships.

“I am really happy with the performance,” Zhang said. “Especially with the result – obviously.”

The sweep by the ladies in Germany is reminiscent of another 1-2-3 American sweep at the 1991 senior World Championships when Kristi Yamaguchi, Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan took all three spots on the podium.

Zhang's program to “Mediation” was as light and smooth as could be. She scored a personal best of 169.25 with an impressive 110.68 in the free skate.

She said she was anxious to make up for the 2007 State Farm U.S. Championships where she was favored and lost to Nagasu.

“I learned from the nationals,” Zhang said. “I learned not to get distracted. I learned to concentrate on every element and not think ahead. And never think back to what you did. Just keep on going.”

She opened with a smooth triple Lutz-double toe-double loop combination and then did a back spiral into a double Axel. After her triple flip – which she fell on at the U.S. Championships – she went on to land a triple loop, triple Lutz, triple flip-double toe, and triple toe-double toe combination. And the spins and spirals were just as impressive. Li compared Zhang to Chen.

“Caroline mentally is stronger,” Li said.

She also mentioned that the competition this year was stronger than when Chen was competing as a junior in 1991 and 1992.

“I feel this was a great competition. We have a lot of good strong [athletes]. I am so proud of those three girls,” Li said.

Nagasu's routine had a couple of wobbles and she scored 106.61 for the free and 163.84 overall. She said she felt the pressure before skating to a work by Dvorak.

“I was really nervous at the beginning with this being my first international competition,” she said. “I was freaking out a little bit.”

Before last October her biggest competition was the Southwest Regional Championships.

“I was in the warm-up area, and I was walking around and all these doubts come to me like 'Am I going to do OK? Am I going to fall? What happens if I fall?'

“When I got on the ice I was feeling a little bit better, and I just wanted to do what I did in practice a million times. My coach helped me push them [bad thoughts] away and was always putting reassuring thoughts in my head.”

Although she completed all her jumps, some were shaky, such as the last of a triple flip-double toe loop-double loop combination, which she barely held but still gained points.

“I wanted to rack up as many points as possible, and I [said] ‘I am not going to let that sucker go. I am going to land his thing.”

Meanwhile, Wagner was having fun.

“I had the most fun out there I ever had in competition. It was great,” Wagner said. “It is the junior worlds, so to have it be so great for me meant all my training and practice was worth it.”

She completed the sweep with seven triple jumps – one more than Zhang and Nagasu – and a whopping overall personal best of 157.15. At the Junior Grand Prix Final she was 20 points behind Zhang. Here she was just 12 points behind with a 105.48 score in the free to her routine to “Summertime.”

She scored well in the second half of the program by putting two triple toe loops in sequence.

“My coach and I feel it (endurance) is my strength,” Wagner said. “It may look difficult on paper but for me it is easy.”

She said that her coach, Shirley Hughes, said to be prepared for the audience reaction skating right after a great performance by Zhang.

“My coach reminded me that there would probably be a response from the audience, so I was really prepared for that. But I was just focused and relaxed, and whether there was that response or not it really didn't matter.”

And the “elder” stateswomen of the U.S. trio – she is 15 – completed the sweep surpassing the most recent top finish by the United States, when Jennfier Kirk finished first, Deanna Stellato was second and Sasha Cohen sixth in 2000.

Emily Samuelson update (3/3/07)
Emily Samuelson was in good spirits as she made an appearance at the closing banquet of the World Junior Championships Saturday night.

She even won a consolation award given by the German Skating Federation and received it onstage to warm applause and a standing ovation by her teammates, especially those from the Ann Arbor, Mich., club.

Samuelson wore a large bandage on her left hand and her arm was in a sling to prevent movement.

She spoke briefly with reporters and said that she should take about three weeks off before resuming practice with no complications.

Television replays showed partner Evan Bates stepping on the back of Samuelson's hand when she was on the ice nearly on her back after she fell about 40 seconds into the free dance. They were in second place of the ice dance event at the World Junior Championships Friday night.

U.S. Figure Skating team doctor Craig Westin said he was optimistic about a complete recovery.

"Emily's wrist is completely repaired. It is not a severe injury if repaired properly," he said Sunday.

He described the cut from "the back of left hand from third finger to the base by the thumb. It severed the tendon to her middle finger."

He spoke of Samuelson's attempt to continue competing on Friday.

"It was immediately clear because of the gaping wound she couldn't continue. She expected me to do something to have her continue, but she also knew it wasn't possible."

He said that they sutured the wound closed to keep it clean and arranged the definitive repair at the hand clinic in Ravensburg since they didn't have any operating facility in Oberstdorf.

Emily Samuelson update (3/2/07)
Emily Samuelson looks to be on the way to recovery after surgery on her hand, according to U.S team doctor Craig Westin Saturday.

Television replays showed partner Evan Bates stepping on the back of Samuelson's hand when she was on the ice nearly on her back after she fell about 40 seconds into the free dance Friday.

“She suffered a laceration of the middle finger tendon of the left hand. It was repaired completely Saturday by Professor Herman Krimmer in Ravensburg,” Westin said. “We expect a complete recovery.”

Ravensburg is about an hour and a half away, and there is a center for hand surgery founded by Krimmer in 2005. Westin said the cut was about seven centimeters (about three inches) long, and the surgery was done Saturday afternoon. Samuelson was in good spirits, and she was expected to return to the Oberstdfor hotel in the evening. He also added that Friday night when Samuelson first came off the ice she wanted just a bandage and to go back on the ice to compete, but she was bleeding too much.

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