by Laura Flagg | Photo by Daphne Backman

The biggest junior competition of the season takes place this week in Taipei City, Chinese Taipei. The field boasts 31 ice dance teams from 25 countries.

The three teams who medaled at the Junior Grand Prix Final (JGP Final), Rachel Parsons & Michael Parsons, Alla Loboda & Pavel Drozd, and Lorraine McNamara & Quinn Carpenter, are the favorites to medal here. These three teams were also the medalists at both the JGP Final and the World Junior Championships last season. All three teams are in their final junior competition, as they will age out after this season.

The Parson siblings, who won at the JGPF and the junior title at U.S. Nationals, have been dominant all season. Their interpretation of hip-hop music is some of the best of teams on any level and their free dance is captivating.

McNamara & Carpenter, who are training mates of the Parsons under coaches Alexei Kiliakov, Dmytri Ilin, and Elena Novak in Wheaton, Maryland, won both of their JGP events, and the bronze medal at both the JGP Final and the U.S. Championships. Compared to last year, where they won every competition they entered, they have not been able to repeat those results. Despite that, their strong technical abilities and personality they can bring to the ice make them a threat here.

Loboda & Drozd had a very strong Fall, winning silver at the JGP Final, but have had problems in 2017 thus far, most notably at the Russian Junior Championship where they placed second to Anastasia Shpilevaya & Grigory Smirnov. Loboda & Drozd, who are coached by Ksenia Rumiantseva and Ekaterina Volobueva, will need to overcome these issues to be able to challenge for gold.

Russia is represented by two additional teams in Chinese Taipei. The aforementioned Shpilevaya & Smirnov, who train with Alexander Svinin and Irina Zhuk in Moscow, have had the best season of their careers, qualifying for the JGP Final in addition to their national junior title. While technically they are not yet on the level of the best teams here, their charm and chemistry makes them stand out. They placed fifth at the World Junior Championship last season. Anastasia Skoptcova & Kirill Aleshin earned the final spot on Russia’s junior world team. They medaled at both their JGP events this season and are coached by Svetlana Alexeeva, Elena Kustarova, and Olga Riabinina.

Angelique Abachkina and Louis Thauron will be representing France at this competition for the fourth consecutive season, placing 7th last year. In their last season as juniors, they qualified for the JGPF for the first time in their careers. They are coached by Igor Shpilband, Greg Zuerlein, and Fabian Bourzat.

Also training in Shpilband’s group are the young American team of Christina Carreira and Anthony Ponomarenko. Due to the deep American ice dance field, this is their first time competing at the World Junior Championships. They placed fourth at the Junior Grand Prix Final this past December.

Battling for spots in the top 10 include Nicole Kuzmich and Alexandr Sinicyn of the Czech Republic, and Marjorie Lajoie & Zachary Lagha of Canada, who placed 11th and 13th respectively at last year’s World Junior Championships. Both teams have showed significant improvements this season. Kuzmich & Sinicyn had the best results of their career this fall, medaling for the first time at a JGP event, while Lajoie & Lagha recently won their national junior title.

The short dance takes place on Thursday, March 16; the free dance takes place on Saturday.