The 15th Finlandia Trophy will take place at the Valtti Areena in Vantaa, Finland from October 7-10, 2010. The event has become a fall international staple since its debut in 1995, although it hasn’t always included ice dancing (2002, 2004, 2006, 2007). Finlandia Trophy has also been cancelled for one year (2005). Of the ten events when ice dancing was contested, the gold medals belong to only four teams: Sylwia Nowak & Sebastian Kolasinski of Poland won the inaugural event in 1995, Russia’s Anna Semenovich & Vladimir Fedorov claimed the title in 1996 & 1997; Albena Denkova & Maxim Staviyski of Bulgaria took gold from 1998-2001 and again in 2003, while Brits Sinead Kerr & John Kerr have claimed the Finlandia crown for the past two years. There are 11 teams from ten countries in contention for medals at the Valtti Areena.
It is unusual to see many of the top international teams debut their programs at Senior B competitions in a non-Olympic season. Due to the introduction of the short dance this season, it has become more common to see two or three higher profile names on some of the smaller event rosters as teams are trying to get valuable feedback on their program before jumping into the I.S.U. Grand Prix season.
France’s Nathalie Pechalat & Fabian Bourzat (pictured, left) will head to Vantaa for their third event in a row. The team won the gold at Nebelhorn Trophy in Oberstdorf, Germany but placed a disappointing third in the short dance behind Anna Cappellini & Luca Lanotte of Italy and Russians Ekaterina Riazanova & Ilia Tkachenko. They then travelled to France to compete in the Masters prior to Finlandia Trophy. Pechalat & Bourzat’s strategy is to compete at three smaller events and then return home to make any necessary changes before their first Grand Prix event, the Cup of China. The French are known for their originality and this season present a Chaplin-themed free dance. Three of the eight elements in their free dance were rated only a level 2, and two level 1s in the short dance really hurt their base technical score.
Representing the United States are siblings Madison Hubbell & Keiffer Hubbell (pictured, right). The Hubbells are making their season debut in Finland and will look to build on their bronze medal at 2010 Four Continents Championships with great start in Vantaa. The team has had nearly a full year training with their new coaches, Pasquale Camerlengo, Anjelika Krylova, and Elizabeth Swallow. No American team has ever finished higher than fifth at Finlandia Trophy (Jane Summersett & Todd Gilles in 2009; Kim Navarro & Robert Shmalo in 2003). The Hubbells hope to change that with their “Addams Family” short dance and their Yello free dance.
Hungary’s Nora Hoffmann & Maxim Zavozin jumpstarted their season with a gold medal at Ondrej Nepela Memorial in Bratislava, Slovakia and are competing in back-to-back events. They earned all level 3s and 4s in both their programs. Also from Hungary and like Hoffmann & Zavozin, Zsuzsanna Nagy & Mate Fejes are also competing in back to back events after finishing seventh in Slovakia.
This is the second trip to Vantaa for Kristina Gorshkova & Vitali Butikov of Russia, who won a bronze medal at Finlandia Trophy in 2008. Though the couple’s first senior international season — 2008-2009 — showed promise with fifth and fourth place finishes on the Grand Prix series and a bronze medal at Russian Nationals, their 2009-2010 season was not as successful as they finished seventh at both Grand Prix events and dropped to sixth at Russian Nationals. A medal at Finlandia could put them on track for a strong rebound this season.
Germany’s lone entry, Stefanie Frohberg & Tim Giesen, are making their senior debut. With several of the higher ranked senior teams in Germany in question (retirement, preparedness), Frohberg & Giesen could make a claim for their senior national title with a strong showing here. They were the first team to earn all level 4s last season, so they have the technical chops; and they are coached by world bronze medalist Rene Lohse, so they bring the pretty and the voids.
Two more teams who competed at Nebelhorn Trophy two weeks ago are Siobhan Heekin-Canedy & Alexander Shakalov of Ukraine (10th) and Katelyn Good & Nikolaj Sorensen of Denmark (14th). Rounding out the roster are Federica Testa & Christopher Mior of Italy and the home country team of Finns Henna Lindholm & Ossi Kanervo.
Defending champions Sinead Kerr & John Kerr of Great Britain had planned on making their international season debut at Finlandia Trophy. A minor injury to Sinead has forced them to withdraw from this competition.
Thursday, October 7th is official practice day, while the short dance will be contested on Friday evening. The ice dance event wraps up with the free dance scheduled for Sunday.