The Junior Grand Prix Final 2003

Reported By Magdalena Osborne

Part 1: "Before the competition"

The competition took place in Malmö, Sweden on Dec 12 – 14, 2003. The eight qualifying single skaters or teams in each discipline came to compete and Malmö was suddenly the host for such celebrity coaches as Frank Carroll, Doug Leigh and Zhanna Gromova. Olympic gold medallist Alexei Yagudin also came as a coach.

Photo © Carl-Gustaf Ringdahl

Official practices started on Wednesday Dec 11. Among the ladies were Japan’s Miki Ando, the first lady skater to land a quad in competition, and local rising star Lina Johansson. The two had earned the most points from their two Grand Prix events during the fall and the final would clearly be dominated by them. They were also the only two among the ladies who were at the final last year.

The dance teams consisted of among others, last year’s silver medalists Hungarians Nora Hoffmann/Attila Elek and last years bronze medalists Elena Romanovskaya/Alexander Grachev of Russia. Half of the dance teams were Russian as were half of the pairs. Last years silver medalist Jessica Dube of Canada, now teamed up with Bryce Davison, hoped for a gold medal this time.

Anticipation was high for the men as many of them were trained by well known coaches, not least Andrei Griazev, student of Tatiana Tarasova and Alexei Yagudin. Last year’s winner of the gold Alexander Shubin of Russia was no longer a junior and the contenders for the top this year wouldn’t give up without a fight. The final battle was believed to stand between Andrei Griazev and Evan Lysacek who finished fourth and fifth last year.

The press conference on Wednesday afternoon did unfortunately show the lack of interest from the local and national press as there were plenty of empty seats.

Photo © Magdalena Osborne

We were welcomed by Tussan Rix, the president of the Organizing Committee. The Swedish Figure Skating Association was of course very proud to have a skater in the final, Lina Johanssson qualified among the 134 lady skaters in the Junior Grand prix competitions and she and her coach Ela Magnusson would answer questions. Lina was asked about training and preparing for the final and said she got much of her inspiration from Irina Slutskaya.

Miki Ando of Japan had trouble understanding English and her coach served as an interpreter. Miki was asked about the quad and if we could expect to see it in her free program. The answer was a little wavering, we’d have to wait and see.

Our attention went to Andrei Griazev of Russia. We were also invited to ask his coach, Alexei Yagudin, questions. Andrei’s English was somewhat limited and there was a moment of silence and Alexei said: "Thank you, let's move on!" and everyone laughed.
Not at all bothered by the lime light, the charisma and humor of the Olympic champion stole the entire show as he kept making remarks that made us laugh throughout the press conference.

Andrei was asked what he'd do to win and replied "just skate" and stated his biggest competition was Evan Lysacek, USA, who won silver last year at Junior Worlds.
Alexei was asked how it felt to stand on the other side of the boards. He smiled and answered "Horrible!" and everyone laughed again. He explained about being unable to do anything or change anything during a performance and how he could now relate to his own coach Tatiana Tarasova’s nervousness when he skated. He thought it much easier to skate than to be a coach.

Photo © Magdalena Osborne

Questions were next directed to Canadian pair Jessica Dube and Bryce Davison and their coach. Jessica speaks only French but Bryce answered how they have prepared for this competition with a "We train hard and we have a lot of fun!"
At this point Alexei cut in: "I forgot to say we have a lot of fun too!"
That was quite obvious to anyone who saw them during the week. No dance team was present during the press conference, probably because they had practice at the same time.

There were official practice sessions on Wednesday and Thursday and it was very interesting to watch these young skaters and catch glimpses of their programs.

Go to "The Competition: Opening and SP's"

*** Previously published by Europe on Ice

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