Junior Worlds

Team USA wins two Junior World pairs medals for the first time in 18 years

By Team FSO

In 2006, American Drew Meekins, along with his partner, Julia Vlassov, took home the gold medal at the World Junior Championships. They were joined on the podium by fellow Americans Kendra Moyle and Andy Seitz, who earned the silver medal. It was the first time in the history of the World Junior Championships that Team USA achieved two medals in the pairs’ event at a World Junior Championships.

Now, 18 years later, Meekins is back at the World Junior Championships, this time standing at the boards, coaching two of  his pairs teams to World Junior medals. 2024 U.S. Junior Champions Olivia Flores and Luke Wang took home the silver medal, with their World Arena Pairs Academy (WAPA) training mates, 2024 U.S. silver medalists Naomi Williams and Lachlan Lewer earned the bronze medal.

2024 European silver medalists Anastasiia Metelkina and Luka Beruvala, of Georgia, were awarded the gold medal. They had a nine-point lead over Flores and Wang in the short program. In the free skate, Metelkina and Beruvala had a few mistakes as Metelkina fall on the triple salchow while Berulava stepped out of the triple toe. The Georgians still managed to win the free skate with a score of 107.79 to clam the gold medal with an overall score of 179.32. Despite taking the title, Beruvala was not satisfied with their skate.

“I am not happy. I don’t know (what went wrong). This is sport, it is a casino. This competition was a lesson for us. We’ll go back home and work even harder,” Berulava said following the free skate.

Beruvala becomes the first man to win two Junior World titles with two different partners. He won the World Junior title with Karina Safina in 2022.

Flores and Wang skated last and could have capitalized on the mistakes of Metelkina and Beruvala to possibly win the free skate, but Flores fell on the throw triple loop and stumbled on the side-by-side triple Salchow. They finished second in the free skate with a score of 104.56 and a total score of 166.89 to win the silver medal in their first appearance at the World Junior Championships.

“It (to win a medal) means a lot,” Wang said. “Our coach was saying this event, it feels like the culmination of all of the hard work we put into the year and all of the lessons we’ve learned thus far. We take away a lot, a lot to learn and there is a lot to be happy about, no regrets.”

Williams and Lewer sat in fourth after the short program. They were only 0.30 points out of third. Their only mistake in the free skate was Williams fell on a double Axel. They ranked fourth in the free skate with 90.63, but moved up to third to capture the bronze medal with an overall score of 146.00. Williams and Lewer missed the fall ISU Junior Grand Prix series as Williams recovered from surgery for a torn ligament in her ankle.

“It’s such a relief to be here after the season we had, the ups and downs,” Lewer said. “Naomi did a great job to get back on the ice as quickly as she did. Her surgeon didn’t even think she was able to go to Nationals (in January) so to go to Nationals and then to come here is just such a huge accomplishment for all of us and I’m super proud of my partner.”

Our goal in the season was obviously to compete in the Junior Grand Prix and in Junior Worlds, and after missing the first goal, it meant a lot to be here,” Williams added.

Italy’s Irina Napolitano and Edoardo Comi had the three best free skate to move up from seventh place to finish just off the podium. 

Canada’s Martina Ariano Kent and Charly Laliberte Laurent slipped from third to fifth and Ava Kemp and Yohnatan Elizarov finished sixth.

France’s Louise Ehrhard and Matthis Pellegris withdrew from the pairs free skate, citing injury. They stood in sixth place following the short program. 

Other disciplines

Korea’s Minkyu Seo won the Junior World title in the men’s event. His victory marked a historic first junior men’s medal for Korea. The reigning Junior Grand Prix Final champion, Rio Nakata of Japan, rose from fifth to claim the silver medal while Slovakian Adam Hagara continued his historic season by winning the bronze, the first ISU Championship figure skating medal for his country.

In the women’s event, the competitiveness of Japan’s Mao Shimada and Korea’s Jia Shin continued at the World Junior Championships with Shin coming out on top in the short program, but it was Shimada, who won the free skate to claim her second straight World junior title. Shin achieved her third World Junior silver medal.  Rena Uezono, who was in eighth after the short program, earned the bronze in her Junior World debut. The women’s podium at Junior Worlds was the same exact podium as the Junior Grand Prix Final in December.

Junior Grand Prix Final Champions Team USA’s Leah Neset and Artem Markelov won gold ahead of Israel’s Elizabeth Tkachenko and Alexei Kiliakov. Germany’s Darya Grimm and Michail Savitskiy took home the bronze. The Israeli and German couples won the first ice dance medal at the ISU World Junior Championships for their countries. Read more about the dance event at Ice-Dance.com.