by Melanie Hoyt | Photo by Barry Gropman
The race for the Junior Grand Prix Final is heating up, and several teams will attempt to set themselves up for qualification this week in Ljubljana, Slovenia. The roster is comprised of 13 teams from 11 countries and is headlined by Lorraine McNamara & Quinn Carpenter, the reigning world junior champions from the United States.
McNamara & Carpenter won their first JGP event of the year, Czech Skate, with a score of 159.30. They earned a new ISU personal best in the short dance of 66.60. If they reach that mark again, it is unlikely that anyone in the field will be able to catch them. McNamara & Carpenter’s initial JGP outing was very strong, but they have room to improve in terms of polishing their new twizzles and footwork sequences. They only need a top-four finish to secure their spot in the Final, but they are likely to pick up their fourth consecutive JGP gold. They are Team USA’s only dance entry this week.
The Russian delegation will field a pair of strong teams, as usual. Anastasia Skoptcova & Kirill Aleshin, last year’s Youth Olympic Games bronze medalists, will make their JGP season debut here. The young duo qualified for the Grand Prix Final in their initial JGP season last year, but with so many strong teams already out on this year’s series, they will likely need a silver medal in at least one of their assignments to qualify again this year.
Sofia Polishchuk & Alexander Vakhnov picked up a bronze medal at JGP St. Gervais, the first event this year. They scored 137.77 at that event, so they will need to win silver this week and outscore their Russian teammates by quite a bit in order to have the best chance of nabbing the final qualification berth. They do have a shot, but it will take a pair of great skates.
France is using both of its spots for this event. Natacha Lagouge & Corentin Rahier will attempt to improve upon their sixth-place finish at JGP St. Gervais, where they earned 124.29 points. Sarah Marine Rouffanche & Geoffrey Brissaud, now training in Milan with Barbara Fusar-Poli, with compete in their first JGP event of the year. Last season, they were eighth in two events.
Canadians Ashlynne Stairs & Lee Royer are heading to their second event after a seventh-place finish in St. Gervais. They set a new ISU personal best of 119.59 in France, and they have a chance to improve upon that this week, especially if they can boost their technical score in the short dance.
The short dance will be held on Friday evening, and the free dance will close the competition on Saturday night.