Nebelhorn Trophy in Obertsdorf, Germany, is the perennial event to start the senior competitive season. From September 25-28, 15 ice dance teams will take the ice looking for medals, feedback, and experience. Many of them are making their senior international debuts. 

In their last seven international competitions, Americans Emily Samuelson & Evan Bates have finished no lower than second, taking five gold medals and two silver. They are the 2008 World Junior Champions and will make their senior international debut in Obertsdorf, hoping to keep their streak alive. Nebelhorn Trophy will serve as a warm-up for their Grand Prix assignments, Skate America and NHK Trophy. Samuelson & Bates finished fourth at the senior level at the 2008 U.S. National Championships. 

Another one of the teams in the battle for gold will be siblings Alexandra and Roman Zaretsky. The Zaretskys, who teamed up in 1995, are ranked number 15 on the ISU’s world standings and finished ninth at the 2008 World Championships. They took bronze at Nebelhorn in 2006. 

Though Samuelson & Bates’ personal best of 181.66 is over two points higher than the Zaretskys’, the Americans achieved their highest score at the World Junior Championships, while the latter earned 179.21 at the World Championships, a senior event, meaning that cross-level scores are not truly comparable. Junior free dances are 30 seconds shorter and have one less required element. 

Jane Summersett & Todd Gilles of the U.S. are competing in their second season as a team. Summersett & Gilles finished sixth at the 2008 U.S. National Championships and won the compulsory, original and free dance events at the 2008 Lake Placid Ice Dancing Championships in August. At Placid, they scored a 166.67 in the combined OD, free dance, and Viennese Waltz (the compulsory chosen for Nebelhorn). Training in Colorado Springs, Summersett & Gilles will definitely have the advantage regarding altitude, going from 6,000 feet back at the Broadmoor down to just over 2,600 feet in Germany.

Germany’s Carolina Hermann & Daniel Hermann will start their second senior season at home at Nebelhorn Trophy. The siblings finished fifth at this event in last year. Because Daniel’s university scholarship required him to spend one term studying in a different language, the Hermanns spent the summer months in Vancouver, Canada, working with Victor Kraatz and Maikki Uotila-Kraatz, combining their sport and education.

Canada’s Siobhan Karam & Kevin O’Keefe are also competing in their second season together and at their second international event. Karam & O’Keefe finished fourth at the 2008 Ondrej Nepela Memorial Trophy and sixth at the 2008 Canadian National Championships. They were assigned to Nebelhorn after strong results at the Central Ontario Summer Skate, where they won the free dance. Canada is also sending Andrea Chong & Guillaume Gfeller, who are making their international debut as a team. Chong & Gfeller finished ninth at the 2008 Canadian National Championships, and have had a couple of early season competitions under their belt at both Lake Placid and the Québec Summer Championships. The Canadian team with the higher finish this weekend will earn the opportunity to make their Grand Prix debut at Skate Canada.

Phillipa Towler-Green and Phillip Poole have the most experience competing at Nebelhorn, as this is their fifth trip to Obertsdorf. Their highest finish was in 2004 when they won bronze. Towler-Green & Poole have been the silver medalists at the British National Championships for the past three years. They are joined by countrymen Christina Chitwood & Mark Hanretty, who are making their international debut. This is Chitwood & Hanretty’s third season together, and the duo won the bronze medal at the 2008 British National Championships.

Kamila Hajkova & David Vincour of the Czech republic, who were 23rd at the 2008 World Championships in Sweden, make their second appearance at Nebelhorn Trophy. They finished 10th in 2005. Hajkova & Vincour train in Oberstdorf, making them perfectly acclimated to the mountain setting.

Switzerland’s Leonie Krail & Oscar Peter also competed at Nebelhorn in 2005, finishing 14th. The duo currently trains in Aston, Pennsylvania with Natalia Linichuk and Gennadi Karponosov and were 24th at the 2008 World Championships.

Rounding out the roster are Alina Saprinka & Pavel Khimich of Ukraine, who finished seventh at Nebelhorn last season; former Junior Grand Prix Finalists Julia Zlobina & Alexei Sitnikov of Russia; Nadine Ahmed & Bruce Porter, who represent Azerbaijan; and Greece’s new team of Christa Goulakos & Bradley Yaeger.