IT’S ALMOST JGP TIME *weird excited dance*, which is THE BEST TIME, because juniors are amazing and I almost always end up ubering a 13-to-15-year-old and having to cross my fingers they never find this blog. (Lookin’ at you, Vivian. Speaking of which, she will probably not be in this because she’s competed as a senior at club competitions recently, so I have no idea if she is moving up.) It’s just a few weeks away, and you know what that means: preview time!
So, here are 10 junior ladies I think will make a splash this season!
1. Polina Tsurskaya, Russia
Why She’s One To Watch: Polina totally dominated the junior circuit last season up until her unexpected last-minute withdrawal from Junior Worlds due to an injury sustained in practice. She’s primarily a jumper: her textbook-perfect, freakishly consistent jumps are some of the best I’ve ever seen. But she also has strong spins and presentation. She’s very tall (5′ 6″ according to the ISU, but could be more) and, unlike most tall juniors, actually uses it to her advantage. I love the way she uses her long limbs to enhance the performance, if that makes any sense. When used properly, that can give you a commanding ice presence; Polina gets it right, and combined with her speed and powerful jumps, it does.
2. Marin Honda, Japan
Why She’s One To Watch: Marin was the suprise Junior World Champion last season after the withdrawals of Polina Tsurskaya and teammate Alisa Fedichkina, who she tied in the SP. She doesn’t pack the biggest technical punch: her 3-3 in the SP last season was a 3Lo-3T, which she will not be able to do this season due to 3Lo being the solo jump, and in the FS, a 3S-3T. If she skates clean, as we’ve seen, that won’t hold her back: her jumps are solid, her spins great, and her presentation some of the strongest in the field. But she’s not particularly consistent. She’s able to keep up, though, and a lot of that is because of her stellar presentation. She has an easy grace and lightness to her skating that’s very pleasant to watch, and her interpretation is great. I call her Baby Mao because her artistic style reminds me a lot of Mao Asada as a junior. That kind of says it all.
3. Alisa Fedichkina, Russia
Why She’s One To Watch: Alisa is, in a word, charming. Her lyrical, dainty style and adorable smolness (smol=new favorite word) are a delightful combination and she connects to both crowd and programs superbly. Her jumps are a little bit small, but she usually lands them; she’s consistent, though not robotically so, a la Polina. And her spins are excellent. Along with Marin, she’s one of the few juniors whose artistry stands out more than her technical content. Provided she can land things, she will definitely be a strong contender.
4. Elizaveta Nugumanova, Russia
Why She’s One To Watch: Liza is one of the debuting juniors that many people are expecting good things from, with good reason. She’s got it all: her jump technique is excellent (a hallmark of Alexei Mishin pupils, of which she is one), her spins are great, and her presentation is good. She’s not exactly the picture of artistic maturity, but her youthful interpretation really works and is a joy to watch. She makes excellent use of arm variations in jumps (they’re utilized but not overdone), which is good for the scores. And her 3Lo-backended 3-3s are truly gorgeous. Oh, and she’s also extremely consistent. Unless something changes dramatically over the next few months, I’m expecting her to win stuff. 🙂
5. Ye Lim Kim, South Korea
Why She’s One To Watch: Ye Lim recently won the Korean JGP Selection Event Thingy I Don’t Remember The Official Name Of with a truly impressive technical layout: in the FS, for example, a 3Lz-2Lo that looked popped and was likely intended to be a 3-3, a 3Lz-3T, and an improvised 3F-3T thrown in at the end. And she’s a truly astounding backloader: two of her three jumping passes in the SP are in the bonus, and SIX(!) of her seven jumps in the FS are after the halfway point. Her spins are strong, too. I’m a bit lukewarm on her programs and interpretation, and she could use more speed, but with a layout like that…wow.
6. Kaori Sakamoto, Japan
Why She’s One To Watch: as far as I know, Kaori’s been on the JGP the longest of anyone on this list. This is her third season, so she has a lot more experience than most of these girls. Her jumps are her standout: solid but floaty, with that inexplicably satisfying “crack” when she taps in for a toe jump. She’s not much of a standout in spins or presentation, but she’s done well on the JGP in the past, so she’s going on this list.
7. Anastasia Gubanova, Russia
Why She’s One To Watch: another of the Russian debutantes, Anastasia is a very expressive skater with lovely lines, spins. Her jumps are great, too: she has a gorgeous 3Lz-3Lo. Anastasia’s issue is with consistency, unlike most of her teammates. Which is a shame, because she’s so strong artistically; her polish is very impressive for a junior. Hopefully, she can keep it together at her events.
8. Alexia Paganini, USA
Why She’s One To Watch: Alexia has been doing very well at the club competitions she’s done this summer, with near-60 SPs and near-100 FSes. She’s also successfully added a 3Lz-3T to her short program and attempts two 3-3s, 3T-3T and 3S-1Lo-3S, in her free skate. Not on the level of the Russian girls, but strong content nonetheless. Her spins and presentation are nice, too, and she’s fairly consistent. However, she does not seem to attempt the 3F, which might hold her back a little bit (correct me if I’m wrong on this one).
9. Alisa Lozko, Russia
Why She’s One To Watch: yet another debuting Russian, Alisa boasts a great 3Lo-3Lo and one of the best laybacks in the business. She’s not really the greatest artistically, and sometimes her jumps are a bit sketchy, but she could definitely be up there.
10. Ashley Kim, USA
Why She’s One To Watch: Ashley seems like an odd pick for this list because she’s never been to Nationals (at any level), but she’s had an extremely promising summer. She won the Freezer Aerial Challenge, a jump event, with stellar 3-3s, which also helped her mop the floor with her competition at various summer events. She’s also a strong spinner (her layback is especially fantastic). Her presentation is a bit frantic and unpolished, but she’s a very talented jumper (like many of her Dallas FSC training mates-winkwinknudgenudge). So, on the list she goes!