We are now less than two weeks away from the start of the 2011 ISU World Figure Skating Championships in Tokyo. Having just wrapped up the Junior World Championships, and prior to that, watching hours of US Junior skaters compete in Greensboro, I couldn’t help but wonder which of these young wonders we might see finding success at the senior level some day. …which got me thinking even further, wondering to what extent Junior World success translates to Senior World success.
So I began to research – Which Junior World medalists went on to medal at Senior Worlds? And how many Senior World medals were won by former Junior World medalists?
What I found was…well, a bit inconclusive as to the direct correlation, but it is interesting, nonetheless. For starters, let’s take it a discipline at a time, beginning with Ice Dance.
*Keep in mind, I’m only comparing World results, and even at that, only Junior/Senior World medalists. The complete comparisons of Junior success vs. Senior success would certainly be more telling overall, but also WAY more involved. I’d love to do that some day, but probably not as long as my “real job” takes up so much time!
So here we go.
The first Junior dancer to go from Junior World medalist to Senior World medalists was Sergei Ponomarenko. He (with T. Durasova) won the Junior title in 1978 and 1979. Ponomarenko then won five World Silver medals and three World Golds with Marina Klimova from 1985-1992.
In the last 33 years, 99 medals were won. Sixteen Junior World medalists went on to win Senior World medals, totaling 41 (41.4%) overall.
Sixteen Senior World GOLD medals were won by former Junior World medalists. Interestingly, though, only two of those were won by teams that competed together at the Junior level (Delobel/Schoenfelder & Virtue/Moir) . The other 10 were won by teams that paired up post-Junior World success.
Despite the significant success of some Junior World medalists, 11 out of 33 years resulted in NO Junior World medalists going on to win a Senior World medal…to this point (1981-83, 1995, 1997, 2004, 2007-2010).
*Partner triangle: Marina Anissina skated at Junior Worlds with Ilia Averbukh, who later went on to win Senior Worlds in 2003 with Irina Lobacheva, while Anissina paired up with Gwendal Peizerat (who skated juniors with M. Morel). Of course, the two won the Olympic Gold as well as two world titles.
While we’re discussing partner swapping, let’s continue with the Pairs.
Once again, Junior medals translated to Senior medals beginning in 1978, this time with B. Underhill and P. Martini of Canada. From there, 11 other teams took their Junior World medals to the podium at Senior Worlds, totaling 37 of the 99 medals awarded.
Only 13 senior GOLD medals were won by former Junior medalists. Those 13 medals were won by 10 different teams, only two of which competed together at the Junior level (Underhill/Martini, Gordeeva/Grinkov).
From 16 of these 33 years, NO Junior World medalists has gone on to win a Senior World medal (1982-83, 1986-87, 1990-92, 1996, 1998-99, 2002, 2006-2010)…at least not in Pairs. In 1987-88, R. Galindo/K. Yamaguchi won Junior World medals together. Both went on to win Senior world medals but as individuals, not a pair.
*Partner triangle: In 1989, Alexei Tikhonov won a Junior World Bronze medal with I. Saifutdinova. From 1993-95, Anton Sikharulidze won three Junior World medals with Maria Petrova. In 1998, Sikharulidze won a Senior World title with Elena Berezhnaya (who did not medal at the Junior Worlds at all). The two went on to win two more World Medals, and, of course, the ever-disputed Olympic Co-Gold medal in 2002. In 2000, however, Alexei Tikhonov won his first World Senior medal — the first of four — after pairing up with Maria Petrova (who previously skated with Sikharulidze). …follow that okay?
How about the ladies?
Kira Ivanova was the first Junior World medalists (silver in 1978) to go on to win a Senior World medal (silver, again, between Katarina Witt and Tiffany Chin) in 1985. Since then, 20 different Junior medalists went on to win Senior World medals, totaling 48 of the 99 medals awarded.
In 33 years, 10 of the Senior Gold medalists were former Junior World medalists, while for 12 years, NO Junior medalists went on to win a Senior World medal (1982-82, 1985-87, 1996, 2000-01, 2007-10).
*Fun fact: In that same 33 years, Michelle Kwan (nine medals) and Irina Slutskya (six medals) combine for 20% of all of the medals won by former Junior medalists.
Last but not least, the men.
They have a couple extra years to play with, since, in 1976, Brian Pockar was the first to turn a Junior World medal into a Senior medal in 1982. Including Pockar, 21 Junior World medalists went on to win Senior World medals. Since then, 51 Senior World medals have been won by former Junior World medalists.
Six Senior World GOLD medalists were former Junior World medalists.
Yet again, there were several years worth of Junior World podiums that produced no Senior World medalists — eight, to be exact (1991-92, 1998-99, 2006, 2008-2010).
*Fun fact: Five men with NO Jr world medal won a combined 27 medals (S. Hamilton, B. Orser, K. Browning, E. Stojko, B. Joubert).
Overall, 177 Senior World medals have been won by former Junior World medalists.
Conclusion? Well, decide for yourself. But, it seems that success on the World stage is less about Junior World success, and more about, well, other variables.
And, of course, the research appears to limit “success” to World medals. We all know, however, that many Junior skaters who didn’t medal at Junior Worlds went on to have success, and many who never won a Senior World medal had long, fulfilling careers.
Still, the facts are interesting…at least they were to me!
Another Senior Worlds is right around the corner, and previews will be coming soon. Then…we reach the season’s end! Can you believe it? I can’t. But shortly, I’ll have to. *sigh*
Anyway…as always, until then.