by Megan McDevitt
In the past, the Junior World Qualifier/Junior World Team Selection Event has been used to select the two synchronized skating teams to represent the United States at either the Junior World Challenge Cup or the Junior World Synchronized Skating Championships.
Over the past few years, US Figure Skating rules have shifted, leaving the selection of the Junior World team to the discretion of the Synchronized Management Subcommittee (SMS). The SMS’s mission is to “select the U.S. Synchronized Skating Team that wins the maximum number of international medals and berths possible by strategically providing experience and exposure to qualified members of the U.S. Synchronized Skating Team, and by identifying and supporting the best qualified future prospects to achieve the ultimate goal of World podium results” (ICR 5.04 of the United States Figure Skating 17-18 Rulebook). Last season was the first season where the SMS had the full responsibility to select the Junior teams to represent the United States at Junior Worlds, which was announced after the conclusion of the Junior World Team Selection Event. In the 2016-2017 Rulebook, the process for selecting the Junior World team was described in ICR 5.15
ICR 5.15 The SMS will nominate the teams to all international competitions.
The U.S. World Synchronized Skating Team must include the current U.S. champion. The remaining selection (if designated) will be based upon the results of the two most recent U.S. Synchronized Skating Championships, the most recent World Championships and all other international events.
When team selections are necessary prior to the United States Synchronized Skating Championships, a special event may be used for this purpose. Results will be considered along with those described in ICR 5.15 (A) for selecting teams to the U.S. World Synchronized Skating Team.
The United States Synchronized Skating Junior World Championships Team will be selected using the criteria described in ICR 5.15 (A) and (B).
Under these rules, the selection committee used the 2017 Junior World Team Selection Event in Simsbury, Connecticut, to compare the country’s junior teams side by side. Even though the results of the competition were considered in the selection, the SMS decided to send the first place team, Skyliners, and the third place team, Lexettes, to the World Junior Synchronized Skating Championship.
With the new rules this year, a single selection event will not be held. Instead, the SMS is tasked with determining the two teams that have the highest chance of placing on the podium from the teams in the international selection pool (ISP). It is described in the document published on usfsaonline.org under the team selection procedures how the World Junior Synchronized Skating Team is selected. The evaluation of the contenders is based on performance and results of competitions weighted in a two-tier system, with tier one holding more weight than tier two.
To create a pool of teams to be considered for selection to the World Junior Synchronized Team, the SMS will take into consideration placement, performance (which can include performance data) and the competitive field of the events listed below in priority order: The events have been stratified into tiers from the highest value events in Tier 1 through the lowest value events in Tier 2. Events within each tier shall be evaluated at equal weight.
Tier 1 ‐ 2017 – 2018 International Competitions
Tier 2 ‐ 2017 – 2018 U.S. domestic competitions meeting the requirements set by SMS.
The selection procedure also explains that teams will be informed of the decision one week prior to the due date of the entry forms for the 2018 ISU World Junior Synchronized Skating Championships. Entry forms are due on February 21st; teams will know of their selection on February 14th.
One of the most prestigious and competitive international competitions the United States participates in takes place just prior to this due date, and the top three junior teams in the country will all be attending. The reigning nationals champions, Skyliners, the reigning silver medalist, Lexettes, and the reigning bronze medalist, Starlights, have all been in Rouen, France for the 2018 French Cup since earlier this week. With the international panel of judges and heavy competition between the US teams as well as the rest of the world, the pressure is on for these teams to perform their best.
All three teams have been to one international competition so far this season and have met each other at one other competition to date. Starlights junior and Skyliners junior started out the international season this year together, competing in the Cup of Berlin at the beginning of the year. The two US teams placed first and second in the competition with Skyliners junior finishing with a score of 165.73 and Starlights junior finishing with a score of 140.56.
Lexettes just finished their first international competition last week and went straight to France from the Leon Lurje Trophy in Sweden. They finished in second behind Russia with a total score of 158.29. Only looking at scores, Skyliners junior has the highest total score for the United States followed by Lexettes then Starlights. It should be noted that there was a month between these competitions and with different judging panels, comparison between competition may not be an accurate reflection of how the teams will stack up.
The only time all three teams have been at the same competition so far this season was the 2017 Synchronized Fall Classic in Anaheim, California. The final placement of the competition put Skyliners junior on top with a total score of 156.17, Starlights junior in second with a score of 143.97 and Lexettes in third with a total score of 134.57. It will be interesting to see where these teams falls in comparison to each other after having a few months to train.
Kristen Alexander from Starlights junior comments:
“We are feeling excited and nervous at the same time. This is one of the largest competitions we have been at and there are top world teams, but we are staying calm and skating like our practices back home. Confidence is key for us and it keeps us calm on the ice. We are using French Cup to gain experience for future endeavors no matter what happens.”
Emily Melski from Lexettes comments:
“After having several great practices during our time in Europe, we feel very well prepared going into this competition. Additionally, it’s such an honor to be competing in the beautiful city of Rouen, and to be able to perform our programs among such incredible teams, both international and from the United States!”
With two teams representing Finland, three teams representing France, one team representing Russia and one team representing Sweden, the likelihood of some of these teams meeting again at the 2018 Junior World Championships is high, which means this is a great opportunity to see how teams begin to stack up.
Alexis Bolner from Skyliners junior comments:
“The French Cup is a particularly exciting competition for us because it is an opportunity to compete our programs against some of the world’s top junior teams. We have worked hard this season in preparation for our domestic and international competitions and feel confident in all of the hard work that has gone into both of our programs. There is definitely a bit of added pressure with so many strong teams competing here, but our team is handling it well and using it to fuel excitement and motivation. Additionally, while the other US teams are our competitors, we all support each other to create an atmosphere of comfort and confidence for each other. If we are lucky enough to qualify for Worlds, this competition will serve as good experience, for we are competing against many of the same teams that we would be competing against there. We are excited to compete our programs for an international audience this weekend and wish all French Cup competitors the best of luck!”
All the teams representing the United States at this event understand that their performance this weekend will play a big role in the decision on the Junior World team. This weekend’s competition is taking place under the eyes of the rest of the world and will prove to be an interesting competition to follow and cheer on the competitors.
We wish everyone the best of luck this weekend! Be sure to check out the live-stream: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CywliiiJDgA or on Facebook Live on the French Cup page.
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