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Is figure skating dead? Notes from 2023 Junior U.S. Figure Skating Championships

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Head sports editor

FEBRUARY 02, 2023

In figure skating, the junior circuit is one of the best to follow; it is filled with untapped potential, both for talent and content. At the U.S. Championships in San Jose in January, the nation’s juniors were on full display, prompting a conversation about where the sport is going.

Yes, there was a clear lack of transitions in programs, some empty faces and a fair number of wrong edges on lutzes and flips. But they’re not expected to be perfect — they’re juniors. For many of them performing last week, this was their first stint at such a major competition. Others have been through the ringer on the Junior Grand Prix circuit, or JGP circuit, and have a fair share of competitive experience.

In both of those categories, though, there was ample talent — and, more importantly, ample promise for the future of the sport. That being said, some disciplines look stronger than others; singles proved to be the real shining light of hope last week.

A frequent point of conversation is the lack of expression or performance from many men’s skaters. That was easily proved wrong, not only by the new junior U.S. Champion Lucas Broussard (the JGP Final silver medalist), but also by someone who didn’t even make the podium: Kirk Haugeto.

Despite not having the most technical of programs and lacking elements in his skating skills that might be desired from a top skater, Haugeto, just 13 years old, very quickly became a fan favorite. With a “Hall of the Mountain King” short program and a “The Godfather” free program (which included a now-famous triple-flip, double-axel, double toe combination in which Haugeto blows a kiss to the crowd in between jumps), Haugeto earned his place in figure skating discourse.

In the women’s field, newly-crowned U.S. junior champion Soho Lee has been showing serious promise on the JGP circuit, with solid artistry and extraordinary spins.

The senior championship actually also saw some prominent junior skaters, as the rules for age participation differ at the national level compared to ISU-level competitions. Clare Seo, who finished sixth at the 2022 World Junior Championships and won junior nationals last year, is certainly one to look out for in the coming years. With impressive control in her skating and some of the best step sequences in juniors, the 16-year-old took to senior ice last week, finishing seventh at her first senior nationals.

Another such name was Josephine Lee, a relatively unknown 14-year-old who came third at last year’s junior U.S. Championships. Lee got a standing ovation after her free skate — the highest praise from a figure skating crowd — for a clean program after doubling her opening flip with a two-footed, underrotated landing in her short program.

There were also some solid teams in ice dance, where the junior teams frequently display more creative elements, including their lifts. This is not just an American phenomenon, but it was showcased well last week in San Jose. The edge quality and flow within the top three teams was abundant, and the quality of the lifts shouldn’t be dismissed, either.

When it comes to lifts, U.S. junior pairs showed some promise. That being said, this field was probably the weakest, lacking serious depth to proclaim any real “bright future” as of yet. With weaker technical content, less stable lifts and a federation seeming to struggle to put teams together, this is one discipline that will need to see serious refinement to flourish in time for the next few Olympic cycles.

Overall, though, it was a joy to watch the future of U.S. figure skating show off to a knowing audience and share the stadium with their senior colleagues. With some names to follow over the next few seasons, this year’s Junior World Championships and the JGP circuit beginning in August are definitely must-watch events.

Contact Maria Kholodova at  or on Twitter


FEBRUARY 02, 2023