For the third consecutive season, the ISU Junior and Senior Grand Prix series concludes with a combined Final. The top six senior and top eight junior skaters/teams in each discipline qualify for the GPF, which will be held from December 9-12 at Capital Indoor Stadium in Beijing, China. Although injuries, illness, and other issues affected teams from competing at GP assignments, all ice dance qualifiers are currently scheduled to compete at the Final, meaning that neither junior or senior alternate lists should come into play.
Prize money is awarded to all competitors, with the senior gold medalists receiving $25,000, silver $18,000, and bronze $12,000. No team leaves with less than $3,000. Pairs and ice dance teams receive the same amount as their singles counterparts. However, at the junior level, the couples receive 50% more, but the dollar amounts are lower. Gold in juniors earns $6,000 for ladies and men, $9,000 for pairs and dance. Silver is worth $5,000/$7,500, bronze $4,000/$6,000 and continues down incrementally.
Previously, the ISU eliminated the compulsory dance phase from the GP Final events, but this season it was not necessary. The elimination of the compulsory dances and revamping of the original dance to become the new ‘short dance’ meant a clean slate with regard to personal bests and seasons best scores.
The Final will take place without three veteran teams. The senior Grand Prix Final will take place without the 2010 Olympic Champions, Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir, who missed the Grand Prix series due to injury. Virtue underwent surgery in October to reduce lingering pain that is a result of Chronic Exertional Compartment Syndrome. Sinead Kerr & John Kerr of Great Britain, who finished fourth at last year’s event, won the silver at Skate Canada, but were forced to withdraw from their second event due to Sinead’s injured shoulder. Injury also plagued Italy’s Federica Faiella & Massimo Scali, who won the bronze at Cup of China, but were forced to withdraw after the short dance at Cup of Russia.
The battle for gold could be closer than anticipated. Meryl Davis & Charlie White of the U.S. qualified by winning both of their events, Skate America and NHK Trophy, but their victories were marred slightly by less than their best skates. Nathalie Pechalat & Fabian Bourzat have been on a roll, winning every event they have entered this season including Nebelhorn Trophy, Finlandia Trophy, French Masters and both Grand Prix events. Their score at Trophee Eric Bompard was less than four points behind the marks posted by Davis & White at NHK Trophy. Although scores across events cannot be directly compared, it does appear the competition for gold in Beijing may be closer than expected at the end of last season, where the French were nearly 20 points behind the Americans at the 2010 World Championships.
The elimination of the compulsory dances and revamping of the original dance to become the new ‘short dance’ meant a clean slate with regard to personal bests and seasons best scores.
Meryl Davis & Charlie White of the U.S. qualified by winning both of their events, Skate America and NHK Trophy, but their victories were marred slightly by less than their best skates.
Nathalie Pechalat & Fabian Bourzat are on a roll. The French dancers have won every event they have entered this season including Nebelhorn Trophy, Finlandia Trophy, French Masters and both Grand Prix events. Their score at Trophee Eric Bompard was less than four points behind the marks posted by Davis & White at NHK Trophy. Although scores across events cannot be directly compared, it does appear the competition for gold in Beijing may be closer than expected at the end of last season, where the French were nearly 20 points behind the Americans at the 2010 World Championships.
Canadians Vanessa Crone & Paul Poirier qualified for their first Grand Prix Fina. They were alternates in 2009, replacing Jana Khokhlova & Sergei Novitski who themselves were alternates to replace Tanith Belbin & Benjamin Agosto. Crone & Poirier finished sixth. In the past, the team has become known for trying different themes each year and pushing the boundaries of their skating. This year is no exception. Christopher Dean choreographed their free dance to The Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby” (performed by Joshua Bell) and the team pulled an upset at Skate Canada when they won the gold over fan favorites, Sinead & John Kerr of Great Britain.
A trio of Grand Prix Final rookies round out the roster.
Qualifying in fourth position were Ekaterina Bobrova & Dmitry Soloviev of Russia. The 2007 World Junior Champions have slowly moved up the senior international ladder and broke out this season winning their first Grand Prix medal (silver) at Cup of China followed by a gold medal win at Cup of Russia. This is their first Grand Prix Final.
Like Bobrova & Soloviev, Kaitlyn Weaver & Andrew Poje (pictured, right) are also competing in their first Grand Prix Final. The Canadians broke out last season, collecting the bronze at Skate Canada and winning gold at Four Continents. Their short dance to “At Last” and “Cheek to Cheek” is one of the best programs of the season.
Rounding out the roster are Nora Hoffmann & Maxim Zavozin, who qualified for the final in their first season on the Grand Prix series. Hoffmann & Zavozin are the first team from Hungary to qualify for the Grand Prix Final. The team finished fourth at Cup of China and won the silver at Cup of Russia.
For the juniors, this is the last season that eight teams will qualify for the final as the ISU has reduced the number of qualifying dance (and pair) teams to six, while leaving the singles qualifying number at eight. The ISU also changed the way the junior results/points are calculated and converted into the World Ranking system. Only two teams who competed at the Junior Grand Prix Final in 2009 are returning to the Final this season.
At first glance, the roster looks like a who’s who of Russian junior ice dance, but not all in the usual order you would expect. Although 2010 World Junior Championships, Elena Ilinykh & Nikita Katsalapov, burst onto the scene last season, they have now moved up to the senior ranks. Rest assured the future of Russian ice dance is still in capable hands. Six of the eight teams qualifying for the Final are from Russia. In addition, only three of the eight teams were at the Final in 2009.
Ksenia Monko and Kiriil Khalivin are on track to defend their 2009 JGP Final title. The Russians won the bronze medal at the 2010 World Junior Championships and looked poised to move to the senior ranks, but decided another year on the junior circuit was in order. They have dominated the JGP series, posting 155.04 at John Curry Memorial, which is 19 points higher than any other JGP score.
Alexandra Stepanova & Ivan Bukin of Russia are competing in their first season on the JGP circuit. The team won the gold medal at both of their JGP events and finished first at the Pavel Roman Memorial, an even that was after their JGP events and prior to the JGP Final. Bukin is the son of 1988 Olympic gold medalist, Andrei Bukin.
Qualifying for their second JGP Final are Russians Ekaterina Pushkash & Jonathan Guerreiro. The team finished fifth in 2009 and should be in the fight for a medal. Though this is only their second season together, both Pushkash & Guerreiro have a wealth of experience from competing with their previous partners. This experience could prove valuable amongst the JGPF rookies.
For the past several seasons, the U.S. has qualifed two or more teams for the Final, but Charlotte Lichtman & Dean Copely (pictured, left) are the lone qualifiers this year. Lichtman & Copely started their season strong with a gold medal at Cup of Austria and finished third in a tough Germany event. Their free dance to music from “Beetlejuice” suits Copely’s comedic style and the team should be competitive for the podium in Beijing.
Evgenia Kosigina & Nikolai Moroshkin rebounded from a mistake-filled bronze medal finish in Courchevel to win the gold in Germany. The young Russians teamed up after both of their partners left them and have several additional years of eligiblity to build a solid foundation for their career.
After several seasons on the JGP series, Victoria Sinitsina & Ruslan Zhiganshin finally broke through winning two silver medals and qualifying for the final. At 15 and 18, the team is another of the young Russian up-and-coming teams.
In their second season on the JGP series, Anastasia Galyeta & Alexei Shumski won their first JGP medals and qualified seventh for the Final.
Due to their previous experience, one may have thought Russians Marina Antipova & Artem Kudashev would have been a shoe-in to dominate the junior ranks, but this season the team has been on the cusp of achievement, but hasn’t translated to strong results. They finished eighth at the last two JGP Finals and this is their final season of junior eligibility.
Junior events get under way with the short dance on Thursday, December 9, followed by the free dance on Friday. Senior events begin with the short dance on Friday, December 10th and free dance on Saturday.