Vantaa, Finland

This week, ice dancing returns to Finlandia Trophy for the first time since 2003. Nine teams, many making their senior international or competitive debuts, will take the ice in Valtti Arena in Vantaa, Finland from October 9-12. The last time ice dancing was held as part of Finlandia Trophy, Bulgaria’s Albena Denkova and Maxim Staviyski won their fifth consecutive Finlandia title. This year, a new champion will be crowned in Vantaa.

The clear favorites are Sinead & John Kerr of Great Britain. The Kerrs have been moving up the international ranks since 2003 and recorded their highest World Championships placement by finishing eighth in 2008. They have been on the cusp of medaling on the Grand Prix circuit with top five finishes in the past two seasons, and currently train in Princeton, N.J. with coach Evgeny Platov.

Making their senior international debut are Russians Kristina Gorshkova & Vitaly Butikov. The 2008 World Junior bronze medalists finished in the top three at all of their junior events last season and will look to continue this tradition in Vantaa with a smooth transition to the senior ranks.

Fellow Russians Anastasia Platonova & Alexander Grachev are making their international debut as a team. Platonova finished fifth at 2006 Skate Canada and second at the 2007 Winter Universiade with former partner Andrei Maksimishin, but the team ended their partnership following a fourth place finish at the 2007 Russian National Championhips. Grachev was the 2004 World Junior Champion with Elena Romanovskaya. Platonova & Grachev teamed up in 2007 and finished fifth at the 2008 Russian National Championships.

At Finlandia, American Caitlin Mallory will make her competitive debut for Estonia with new partner Kristjan Rand. Both Mallory and Rand’s former partners retired from the sport due to injury. Mallory represented the U.S. internationally with Brent Holdburg for three seasons and finished as high as seventh at the U.S. Championships, while Rand won the 2007 World Junior silver medal with Grethe Grunberg before the team was forced to miss the entire 2007/08 season due to Grunberg’s career-ending foot injury. The team trains in Canton, Michigan, with coach Igor Shpilband.

Junior Grand Prix competitors Oksana Klimova & Sasha Palomäki of Finland are making their senior international debut. Klimova, a former Russian singles skater, teamed up with Palomäki in summer 2007. The team finished 11th and seventh in their JGP events this season and 23rd at the 2008 World Junior Championships.

Germany’s Carolina Hermann & Daniel Hermann, who are fresh off their seventh place finish at Nebelhorn Trophy, look to better that placement here. The siblings, Germany’s third-ranked senior team in 2008, spent the summer training in Vancouver, British Columbia, with Victor Kraatz and Maikki Uotila-Kraatz.

Great Britain’s second entry at Finlandia, Penny Coombs & Nicholas Buckland, are another team making their senior international debut. Coombs & Buckland teamed up in 2005 and are the 2008 British junior champions. The team competed at the 2008 World Junior Championships before being forced to withdraw after the original dance.

Nadezhda Frolenkova & Mikhail Kasalo of Ukraine won a bronze medal at the 2007 John Curry Memorial Junior Grand Prix and finished ninth in their first senior international, the 2007 Winter Universiade.

Rounding out the roster are Poland’s Joanna Budner & Jan Moscicki, who are competing in their fifth senior event. The team finished 19th at the 2008 European Championships and 26th at the World Championships two months later. Recently Budner & Moscicki received word that they will compete in their first Grand Prix assignment this season, Trophée Eric Bompard.