This week’s I.S.U. Junior Grand Prix will be held along the banks of the river Elbe in Dresden, Germany with 19 teams representing 14 countries contending for medals and a spot at the Final. The Pokal der Blauen Schwerter — also known as the Cup of the Blue Swords — is one of the oldest international figure skating competitions in the ISU history. 2010 marks the 44th time the event will be contested.
USA’s Charlotte Lichtman & Dean Copely’s season has been on a roll. It started with a bang at the Lake Placid Championships in August where they received overall scores of 66.01 in junior free dance and 48.41 in junior short dance. They followed that up with the gold in Graz at the JGP Austria. If they make it to the podium again this week, they are well on their way to the Final and will also achieve their personal goal of medaling in two JGP events this season. As is usually the case, the Russians are always a threat for a medal. Some last-minute roster shuffling means Valeria Zenkova & Valerie Sinitsin and Valeria Loseva & Denis Lunin are out and substitutes Marina Antipova & Artem Kudashev and Evgenia Kosigina & Nikolai Moroshkin are in. Zenkova & Sinitsin placed fourth at the JGP in Austria, but the powers that be decided Kosigina & Moroshkin’s bronze at JGP Courchevel warranted a roster change with a spot in the Final on the line. Antipova & Kudashev, partners since 2001, have qualified for the Junior Grand Prix Final the last two seasons and will be competing both here and at the JGP next week with the hope of a JGP Final hat trick.
Two Canadian teams are among the talented North American contingent. Kelly Oliveira & Jordan Hockley, 2010 Canadian novice national champions, posted a fifth-place finish two weeks ago in Japan at their JGP debut. Although they had a rough start in Minto, Andreanne Poulin & Marc-Andre Servant can boast winning the free dance at the Quebec summer event and placing fifth at Canadian junior nationals. Dresden marks their JGP debut.
Also making their international debut this week are American twins Danielle & Alexander Gamelin (pictured, right), who finished fifth in novice at the 2010 U.S. National Championships. This season, the 17-year-olds relocated from New York to train at the University of Delaware. Before moving to UDel, the Gamelins often trained with Evgeny Platov and shared the ice with another sibling dance team, Sinead & John Kerr.
Competing in back-to-back events are Great Britain’s junior national champions Charlotte Aiken & Josh Whidborne and Spain’s Sara Hurtado & Adria Diaz. Last week at JGP Sheffield, the teams placed ninth and 10th, respectively. Hurtado & Diaz received no credit for two elements in their short dance in England, putting them dead last (17th) in that phase of the competition. In the final standings, Hurtado & Diaz jumped seven teams who were ahead of them after the SD by placing seventh in the free dance.
For several teams, Dresden will be their second JGP of the season. Top 10 finishes in their first event were earned by Ukraine’s Maria Nosulia & Evgen Kholoniuk (5th, Austria), Italy’s Sofia Sforza & Francesco Fioretti (6th, Romania), Switzerland’s Ramona Elsener & Florian Roost (7th, Austria), and Germany’s Dominique Dieck & Michael Zenkner (8th, Japan).
Also calling Dresden their second event are Japan’s Misato Komatsubara & Kokoro Mizutani (11th, Japan), France’s Sofia Gassoumi & Arnaud Pasztory (12th, Austria), Latvia’s Ksenia Pecherkina & Aleksander Jakushin (13th, Austria), and Belarus’ Hanna Asadchaya & Sergei Plishkin (15th, Austria).
Three additional teams will be making their season debut in Dresden. Karolina Prochazkova & Michal Ceska of the Czech Republic are a late substitution. They are still on the list for their home event next week at the JGP Ostrava, so this experienced team could be looking at back-to-back events in their third season on the JGP circuit. Two teams from Germany, Kathrin Hauser & Sevan Lerche and Juliane Haslinger & Tom Finke, round out the roster. Haslinger & Finke are beginning their fourth season on the JGP, while their countrymen, Hauser & Lerche, are JGP rookies.
Official practices begin Wednesday, October 6. The ice dancers do not compete on Thursday. The short dance will be contested on Friday with the free dance wraps up the entire competition Saturday afternoon.