2009 JGP Turkey Preview

Istanbul, Turkey

For the first time, the JGP makes its final stop in a most exotic location: Istanbul, Turkey. Located on the Bosphorus Strait, the western part of the city is in Europe, while the eastern part is in Asia. The lucky skaters, coaches, and team leaders attending this event get to take in beautiful architecture, mild temperatures, shopping at the Grand Bazaar, and an exciting race for the remaining spots in the JGP Final.

Four of the eight spots in the Final are taken. Maia Shibutani & Alex Shibutani (USA), Elena Ilinykh & Nikita Katsalapov (RUS), Kharis Ralph & Asher Hill (CAN), and Lorenza Alessandrini & Simone Vaturi (ITA) can book their tickets to Tokyo in December. At Bosphorus Cup this weekend, five teams have chances at taking one of the remaining four spots. Meanwhile, several teams on the bubble of qualification can only sit at home and wait for the results.

Team Russia will be the powerhouse team in Istanbul this week. Two current JGP gold medalists will battle in Turkey. Spots to the Final are on the line, as well as national honors. Ksenia Monko & Kirill Khaliavin won gold in Belarus, while Ekaterina Pushkash & Jonathan Guerreiro secured their victory in Germany. Both teams put up excellent numbers at their events, but veterans Monko & Khaliavin edged out the new partnership of Pushkash & Guerreiro, 167.65 to 164.01. And while they will certainly be fighting for the title this weekend, both teams only need to finish in the top four in order to go to the Final.

JGP veterans Alisa Agafonova & Dmitri Dun of Ukraine will be in the hunt for their second trip to the Final. Since they were third in Belarus last month, they have 11 points and are currently ranked 16th in the JGP standings. If they win gold or silver here, they’ll likely make the Final, especially since a silver medal would tie them with Alessandrini & Vaturi, but Agafonova & Dun already have a six-point lead in the tiebreaker. If they finish third, they could grab the final spot, but would need the Russian teams to finish first and second.

Also with a bronze medal in the series, 11 points, and ranked 17th in the JGP standings are Americans Isabella Cannuscio & Ian Lorello. They are in the same place as the Ukrainian team; if they finish in the top two, they’ll collect a ticket to Tokyo along with their medals. If they finish third, and the Russian teams are the top two, they’ll likely qualify seventh or eighth.

Cannuscio & Lorello are joined in Turkey by Isabella’s younger sister, Anastasia, and her partner, Colin McManus. The four dancers are part of the close-knit group of Delaware ice dancers and are used to mixing friendships with on-ice rivalries. Cannuscio & McManus made their JGP debut in Belarus, where they finished seventh.

Team Canada also sends one medal threat to Turkey. Alexandra Paul & Mitchell Islam are a new team, but they did well in their first international event, finishing fourth at Torun Cup, less than a point from the podium — and from Cannuscio & Lorello. Mathematically speaking, they are still in the race for the Final, although it would likely take a gold or a silver medal, and their personal best is some 20 points lower than the Russian teams. They could certainly challenge Agafonova & Dun and Cannuscio & Lorello for the bronze medal, though, and that could stir up the standings for the Final.

Fellow Canucks Carolyn MacCuish & Tyler Morris train with Paul & Islam in Barrie, Ontario. Their seventh-place finish two weeks ago in Dresden earned them the final Canadian assignment on the JGP. Last year, MacCuish & Morris were Canadian champions on the novice level in their first year as a team.

It is probable that the medalists in Turkey will advance to the Final, along with the four teams who have already qualified, as well as Marina Antipova & Artem Kudashev of Russia, who are currently right on the bubble. However, a podium finish by Paul & Islam — or any team that has less than 11 points — could change a few things. If a lower-ranked team sneaks in to take the bronze medal, Canadians Karen Routhier & Eric Saucke-Lacelle would qualify for the Final.

Bosphorus Cup begins on Thursday with the Westminster Waltz.