Junior Worlds

American and Korean women in a league of their own at Junior Worlds

By Scott Mammoser, Team FSO Contributing Writer
Photos by Robin Ritoss

TALLINN, Estonia -We all know there were no Russians at the World Junior Championships. Still, the top six women consisting of three Americans and three Koreans is still something to be celebrated.

With her nail-biting victory over Jia Shin on Sunday, Isabeau Levito became the first U.S. woman to claim the gold medal since Rachael Flatt in 2008. Flatt’s win was actually the last time someone from other Russia or Japan reached the top of the podium. In addition, Shin’s silver is the first medal for a Korean woman since Yu-na Kim won the gold in 2006.

“We put all of the work in our training,” Levito said, “When we get to the competition, we are just collecting our scores and our medals, so our win is just a reflection of our training and how we did with our nerves. I was very in the moment, and I felt like my program went by so fast.”

While Shin won the free skate, Levito still won the gold by a margin of .54 points (206.55 to 206.01). Fellow American Lindsay Thorngren won bronze, and Korea’s Ahsun Yun was fourth, with each flipping placements after the short program. Korea’s Seoyeong Wi was fifth, while 2022 U.S. junior champion Clare Seo was sixth, improving from 10th after the short program.

“Winning my first medal in the Junior World Championships makes me so happy,” Shin said. “The first Junior Worlds in my age is very special, and for me I was very nervous, but I came and did what I needed to do, so I am very happy about it.”

The three Koreans finished ahead of both competitors from rival Japan, not to mention two Canadians and all of the Europeans. The sport continues to take off in the generation after Yu-na Kim’s excellence and hosting the PyeongChang Olympics.

“The three women skating together competing here is a very happy moment,” the 14-year-old Shin said. “Not only during the competition, but the practice time and the sessions we support each other. Personally, I really lean on their help because I am the youngest and they are the oldest, so we are like the sisters who are growing up together in Tallinn.”

Yun is 15 years old, while Wi is 17 and was placed sixth at the 2020 Junior Worlds. She was the Korean junior gold medalist in 2018.

At the Senior World Championships in Montpellier, France, last month, Americans and Koreans occupied five of the top eight performances. With the latest Olympic cycle in the books, and the recent retirement of world bronze medalist Alysa Liu, Levito, Thorngren and Seo should be at the top of the conversation going forward representing the U.S. internationally.

“I think for the U.S., there are a lot of skaters,” added the 15-year-old Levito, who won the bronze medal at Senior Nationals. “We competed together a lot, and when we are together, we push each other.”

Thorngren, the 16-year-old who trains in New Jersey and was fifth at Senior Nationals, echoed Levito.

“The medal is a reflection of our training and how hard we worked this season,” Thorngren said, “We have a very strong team, and we are really supportive of each other, and we did really well this week. I am really proud of myself for coming back and skating a clean program after the last Junior Worlds.”

Thorngren was referring to a 26th-place struggle at the previous Junior Worlds in 2020 at Tallinn, of which she now has redemption. It made for one of many storylines that unfolded at Tondiraba Ice Hall.