In figure skating, it is not often that one gets a “do-over” or a chance at immediate redemption. The 18th Ondrej Nepela Memorial will take place from September 30 through October 2 in Bratislava, Slovakia, mere days after 42nd Nebelhorn Trophy wrapped up in Oberstdorf, Germany. Twelve ice dancing teams are on the roster — 11 European and one Australian — half of whom just competed in Germany. None of the Nebelhorn medalists, nor the Americans who placed fifth and sixth, will be in Slovakia. The event is named after Slovakian skater, Ondrej Nepela, who won the 1972 Olympics and passed away at the age of 38 in 1989.
Nelli Zhiganshina & Alexander Gazsi of Germany are fresh off their fourth-place finish at Nebelhorn Trophy and will compete in their second event in as many weeks when they take the ice in Slovakia. The team caused a stir last week with their costumes — as well as with their first-place technical scores in the short dance that bested reigning Grand Prix Final bronze medalists Nathalie Pechalat & Fabian Bourzat of France. Of the half-dozen teams who are competing in back-to-back weeks, the Germans were the highest finishers at Nebelhorn.
Hungary’s Nora Hoffmann & Maxim Zavozin (pictured, right), the favorites for gold based on their ISU and world ranking, will look to continue the momentum they built last season. Although they have been skating together since 2007, they were unable to make their international debut until the 2009-10 season, first because of Zavozin requiring a release from his former federation (U.S. Figure Skating) and second due to unfortunate injuries that plagued the team. In their international debut, 2009 Nebelhorn Trophy, they finished seventh, qualifying a spot for Hungary at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, Canada. After finishing 13th at the Olympics, the duo finished 10th at the World Championships. Hoffmann & Zavozin are joined by teammates Zsuzsana Nagy & Mate Fejes and Dora Turoczi & Balazs Major.
Brits Penny Coomes & Nicholas Buckland make their international debut of the season at Ondrej Nepela Memorial. Coomes & Buckland have moved to the United States to train with Evgeny Platov, the coach of their countrymen, Sinead Kerr & John Kerr. Last season, a silver medal at Nationals snagged them the honor of competing at the Olympics as Great Britain’s second entry. They are joined in Bratislava by countrymen Louise Walden & Owen Edwards, who made their season debut in Oberstdorf last week at Nebelhorn Trophy where they finished in 12th place.
Like the Germans, the Czech Republic’s Lucie Mysliveckova & Matej Novak are also doing back-to-back events after finishing seventh at Nebelhorn Trophy. Mysliveckova & Novak are in their second season as seniors. The team missed the Olympics after Mysliveckova broke her elbow. The team finished 16th at the 2010 World Championships.
Of the remaining teams, three competed last week: Austraila’s Danielle O’Brien & Gregory Merriman, Austria’s Barbora Silna & Juri Kurakin, and Israel’s Brooke Frieling & Lionel Rumi. Rounding out the roster are a pair of teams from Ukraine, Irina Babchenko & Vitaliy Nikiforov and Nadezhda Frolenkova & Mikhail Kasalo.
The short dance gets underway on Friday with the free dance wrapping up the event on Saturday.