by Melanie Hoyt | Photo by Daphne Backman
This weekend, Ostrava, Czech Republic, will host the second event of the 2016 Junior Grand Prix Series. Ostrava is a frequent JGP site, having hosted an event six previous times since 2001. This weekend’s lineup is headlined by reigning world junior champions Lorraine McNamara & Quinn Carpenter, who won a bronze medal in Ostrava in 2014.
McNamara & Carpenter debuted their new programs in Lake Placid, where they easily won both dances with strong scores of 65.58 and 93.26. Though the experienced juniors won every major event that they entered last year, they are still age-eligible for juniors and are returning to the JGP circuit. They are expected to win here if they skate well and will be looking for high levels and additional feedback on their programs as their international season gets underway. Their short dance features an edgy hip-hop section to “The Power,” and their free dance builds on the powerful theme with a violin version of “Thunderstruck.”
Joining McNamara & Carpenter on Team USA in Ostrava are Chloe Lewis & Logan Bye. Lewis & Bye (pictured) were second at the Lake Placid International last month, where they earned a total of 135.90 points. If they hit their levels, their smooth and sultry blues could score very well in the short dance, setting them up for a chance to earn their best JGP finish yet. Lewis & Bye have placed fifth in four of their five JGP events since they debuted on the series in 2013.
The home team of Nicole Kuzmich & Alexandr Sinicyn is enjoying their best early season results to date and should be flying high after a fourth-place finish last week at JGP St. Gervais. Since they were just in France last week, they do not have far to go to get to Ostrava. Their Robbie Williams short dance earned a personal best score of 55.25 last week, and they were less than a point off their best free dance mark with their Chaplin program. If they continue skating well, they should be aiming for the podium in Ostrava.
Team Russia is sending two JGP newbies to this event, Evgenia Lopareva & Alexey Karpushov and Arina Ushakova & Maxim Nekrasov. Lopareva & Nekrasov have been competing in domestic Russia Cup events since 2013, but in the deep Russian junior field, this is their first chance at making it through test skates and getting to the JGP. They were ninth at Russian Junior Nationals last year.
Ushakova & Nekrasov competed in Lake Placid last year, but this is also their first big international event. Ushakova & Nekrasov did not qualify for Junior Nationals in 2016.
Team Canada will send two teams, one making its JGP debut. Hannah Whitley & Elliott Graham are back on the competitive circuit this season after missing last of most season while Whitley recovered from compartment syndrome. Whitley & Graham finished 10th and seventh at JGP events in 2014 and 2015, respectively. Based on summer competitions, they are on track to take aim at their ISU personal best of 115.54 points.
Wu & Mirzakhani were fifth at the Lake Placid International last month, scoring 116.21. This will be their first JGP event together, but both partners competed on the JGP series with previous partners. This will actually be Wu’s third trip to JGP Czech Skate in Ostrava; she was fifth in 2013 and sixth in 2014 with Spencer Soo. Like Kuzmich & Sinicyn, Wu & Mirzakhani also have a Charlie Chaplin free dance.
The French team of Salome Abdedou & Dylan Antunes look like they could make an impression this year. They debuted on the JGP series last year, finishing 15th in Spain, but the team looked strong at the French Masters and should be able to improve on their 82.31-point ISU personal best.
The short dance will kick off the competition Thursday morning, and the free dance is set for Friday afternoon.