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Spartak Junost takes gold at synchro junior worlds

Russians down two Finnish outfits for gold; U.S. finishes fourth, seventh
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Russia's Spartak Junost earned 106.49 points in the free skate en route to claiming the gold medal at the 2017 World Junior Synchronized Skating Championships. -Getty Images

Spartak Junost (Russia 2) pulled up from second after the short to be crowned champions at the 2017 World Junior Synchronized Skating Championships on Saturday night in Mississauga, Ontario, bringing Russia its first-ever gold medal at the event.

Junost put out an appealing performance to Igor Stravinsky's "The Firebird" that was highlighted by a pair element (death spirals), smooth intersections and a traveling wheel. The Russians earned a Level 4 for the pair element and step sequence, while their intersections, no hold element, move element and traveling wheel merited Level 3 grading.

The 2013 world junior bronze medalists received 106.49 points for their free skate, and their two-day total of 168.83 points was more than enough to help solidify the top place on the podium.

Performing to "Bullet Train," "Slow Down" and "Time," Team Fintastic collected Level 4's for its pair element, no hold element and traveling wheel. Though two falls cost the team two points, it was still able to secure 96.51 points, and with an event score of 158.06, Finland's top team landed the silver medal.

Though they failed to overtake their country mates for the silver, the Musketeers did enough to snag the bronze. Performing to music from the Sleeping BeautyThe Chronicles of Narnia and The Huntsman soundtracks, Finland's second unit received three Level 4 elements throughout the course of its program. The defending world junior champions were fifth in the free skate, but their overall total of 156.24 points narrowly edged the United States' Skyliners (156.04 points) for third place.

The Skyliners' Last of the Mohicans free skate was rated the second best of the day, and the team ended the event in fourth, a mere 0.18 points out of third place.

"I think everybody there was in a mix for a medal. Being that close, after an eighth-place finish in the short, is pretty remarkable" Skyliners head coach Josh Babb said. "They are extremely hard workers and talented skaters. I knew once the programs were done that they would be medal-contending programs."

The Skyliners' free skate took all year to develop.

"When I first started the long program, I wasn't quite sure it would work," Babb explained. "I had a long conversation with Hugo [Chouinard], who cut our music. He had someone compose the last part of the program, which made me fall in love with it. Watching the team develop and grow throughout the season was special".

The Skyliners brought much of the audience to its feet Saturday night, as they received all positive Grades of Execution (GOEs) from the judging panel. Their program components ranged from 7.25 to 8.75.

"I'm extremely proud of what they did this weekend," Babb added. "They absolutely did everything they have been trained to do. They went out and did their job, and that's what needed to be done."

The Lexettes came back from a fall in the first part of their program to deliver a strong and dynamic free skate to Titanic. Skating first in the final group, the team received high scores for its pair element and traveling wheel. The Massachusetts-based team had program components ranging from 7.25 to 8.25 and finished the segment in seventh.

Head coach Maikki Merilehto was proud of her team despite a few missteps.

"They skated beautifully. They performed their free skate very, very well," Merilehto said. "We were a little disappointed with the mistakes and not having a clean skate -- that was really the goal for tonight. They made up for it in different elements and, overall, we are really happy with how they skated."

Sarah Shorter, a third-year member of the Lexettes, added, "We put out a strong performance and one that we can definitely be proud of. I think it was a great way to close the year, and we are very proud of that."

Sitting first after the short program, Crystal Ice (Russia 1) endured a free skate that contained a whopping nine falls, and the team dropped to eighth overall.

Information from the ISU was used in this report.