Ostrava, Czech Republic

Ostrava, Czech Republic plays host to the fourth Junior Grand Prix event this season. Seventeen teams representing 11 countries will take the ice at the JGP Czech Skate from September 17-21. 

As a JGP event host country, Czech Republic can have up to three teams on the roster. Lucie Mysliveckova & Matej Novak will compete in their second JGP event this season, after winning the bronze at Courchevel. The team fell in their free dance in France, so they will look to improve upon that performance to earn a spot in the Final. Fellow countrymen Karolina Prochazkova & Michal Ceska are also competing in their second JGP of the season after finishing eighth in Merano, while Gabriela Kubova & Petr Seknicka will compete in their first JGP of 2008. Kubova & Seknicka are entering their second season on the circuit.

Russia’s Ksenia Monko & Kirill Khaliavin medaled at both of their JGP events in 2007. They are ranked 60th on the ISU’s world standings list, and they finished fourth at the 2008 Russian Junior National Championships. The duo is considered the favorite to contend for the gold medal here. Joining Monko & Khaliavin from Russia’s traditionally strong dance program are Marina Antipova & Artem Kudashev. Now entering their third JGP season, they finished seventh at Sofia Cup in 2007.

Canada will also send two teams to Ostrava. Karen Routhier & Eric Saucke-Lacelle, the 2008 Canadian silver medalists on the junior level, finished 10th at the 2008 World Junior Championships. They are competing on the JGP circuit for the third season, and last year finished eighth and fifth at their Junior Grand Prix events. Routhier & Saucke-Lacelle made their season debut at the Lake Placid Ice Dancing Championships, where they placed sixth in their free dance group and eighth in the original dance. Two weeks later, at Central Ontario Summer Skate, they finished third in each segment of the competition with stronger performances.

Olivia Martins & Alvin Chau, the 2008 Canadian novice champions, are making their JGP debut. They also began their season with both Lake Placid and Central Ontario Summer Skate. In Lake Placid, they qualified for the compulsory dance championship round, where their fiery Paso Doble was ranked sixth. At Central Ontario Summer Skate, Martins & Chau were second in the compulsory dance and fifth in both the original and free dances.

The United States sends two new teams to the Czech Republic. Piper Gilles & Zachary Donohue had a strong debut in Lake Placid, winning the junior compulsory dance championship round and original dance events and finishing third in the free dance. While Ostrava is Donohue’s JGP debut, Gilles competed for the past two seasons on the JGP series with former partner Tim McKernan, finishing as high as third in 2006 in Mexico. Gilles & Donohue’s programs were well received in Lake Placid, and they have the potential to turn heads in Ostrava. Look for their throw in the OD to create some buzz, and possibly earn them a place on the podium.

Interestingly enough, United States Figure Skating has also chosen to send McKernan to compete in Ostrava with his new partner, Shannon Wingle. Wingle won a JGP silver medal with Ryan Devereaux at Sofia Cup last season. This team has only been together since mid-summer, but they made an impressive debut at Lake Placid, just a few weeks after the start of their partnership. With barely enough time to finish their programs and skate only two complete run-throughs, they were sixth in the original dance and seventh in the free dance. However, the compulsory dances were their greatest strength, although Ostrava’s CD is the Paso, rather than Wingle & McKernan’s superior Starlight Waltz.

Fresh off of a sixth-place finish at Mexico Cup last week, Siobhan Heekin-Canedy & Dmitri Zyzak of Ukraine hope to continue a successful JGP season. It is unusual for junior teams to compete back-to-back on different continents, but perhaps this new team can capitalize on some momentum and improve on last week’s performances. Their Ukrainian teammates, Anastasia Galyeta & Semen Kaplun, will begin their second JGP season. Last year, they were eighth at the event in Lake Placid.

It is the second event of the series for Estonia’s Kristina Kiudmaa & Aleksei Trohlev. They finished 14th two weeks ago in Italy and aim for a better ranking this week. Dora Turoczi & Balazs Major of Hungary are also hoping to improve upon their 14th-place ranking in Courchevel.

Poland’s Justyna Plutowska & Dawid Pietrzynski start their second year on the JGP circuit, as do Sarah Robert-Sifaoui & Nicolas Berger of France. Last year, Plutowska & Pietrzynski were 11th in Croatia and 18th in Germany, while Robert-Sifaoui & Berger were 11th in Estonia.

This will be the first international junior event for the remaining two teams on the roster, Stephanie Friedreich & Heinrich Lang of Austria and Viktoria Kavaleva & Yirii Bieliaiev of Belarus.