Castelli, Shnapir second at World Juniors

Marissa Castelli and Simon ShnapirMarissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir turned in a stellar short program at the World Junior Championships in Sofia, Bulgaria, placing second with 49.10 points, a season’s best for the Massachusetts based pair.

Russia’s Liubov Iliushechkina and Nodari Maisuradze (55.12) captured the lead with country mates Ekaterina Sheremetieva and Mikhail Kuznetsov (48.84) follow in third place.

U.S. Championship bronze medalists in junior pairs Castelli and Shnapir gave a solid performance to “The Survivor” soundtrack that featured a double twist, one-armed hand-to-hip lift and a throw triple loop. Their pair combination spin, lift and spiral sequence were graded a Level 4 but their death spiral only received a a Level 1.

“Our goal tonight was to sell our programs and really put out a lot of emotion, work on our component scores, and I think we really improved in that,” Shnapir said. “In that sense, we had a nice, clean program, we really sold it, we both felt very emotional throughout the whole program. The presentation was great.”

The team scored 28.62 points for total elements and another 20.48 for program components.

“We skated a very well done program today,” said Castelli, who was visibly happy with the team’s skate. “I just want to have fun on the ice and come off with a smile on my face and I did.”

Brynn Carman and Chris Knierim, who won the junior pairs silver medal at the 2009 U.S. Championships a year after winning the novice crown, are currently in ninth place. Like Castelli and Shnapir, Carman and Knierim are appearing at the competition for the first time.

Their program included a double twist, throw double loop and side-by-side double lutz jumps. All of their elements were judged as Level 4 and Level 3 but three moves, including the twist and side-by-side jumps, received negative grades of executions.

The compulsory dance proved to be a battle between Madisons. Americans Madison Chock and Greg Zuerlein (33.15) took the lead ahead of their teammates Madison Hubbell and Keiffer Hubbell (31.29).

“We are happy with our result, but it wasn’t our best performance. We were solid, though, in our patterns,” Chock said. “(Paso Doble is) one of my favorite dances of all the compulsories. It is very expressive and fun to do.”

Chock and Zuerlein are the 2009 U.S. Champions in junior dance, a competition the Hubbell and Hubbell won in the previous season. The Hubbells, who were fifth at 2008 World Juniors, made their senior national debut this year with a fourth place finish.

“It’s cool to be here at Junior Worlds on my birthday. It’s a good way to celebrate,” Madison Hubbell said. “I just got second at Junior Worlds on the Paso, that’s an honor. This year I feel the most prepared I’ve ever felt. I’m happy to be here and it really feels like we are ready to compete. We look forward to the rest of the week.”

Russia’s Ekaterina Pushkash and Dmitri Kiselev are third with 30.44. Americans Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani, who were second in the junior dance event at nationals, are sitting in fifth with 29.71 points.

The competition continues in Sofia with the men’s short program and pairs free skate Wednesday.

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