by Melanie Hoyt Heaney | Photo by

This week, junior skaters will take the ice in Dresden, Germany, for the seventh and final stop on the ISU Junior Grand Prix Series. At Pokal der Blauen Schwerter, or Cup of Blue Swords, 15 teams from 12 countries will compete, including several JGPF hopefuls. This will be the eighth time overall that Germany has hosted a JGP event; it has held an event in even years since 2010.

The event’s headliners and gold medal favourites are Rachel Parsons & Michael Parsons of the United States. The Parsons siblings captured gold at their first JGP event this year in Japan, and have won gold at JGP events twice before, in 2015. They are the reigning world junior silver medalists with an ISU personal best of 162.74. While they came just short of that mark in Japan this year, their strong programs and additional time to continue polishing their material means that setting a new personal best is within their reach. The Parsonses only need to finish in the top three to reach the Final, scheduled for France in December.

Russia’s Anastasia Shpilevaya & Grigory Smirnov are also aiming for the Final, having finished second to the Parsons team in Japan. Their deficit in Japan was about nine points, even though they set a personal best, so overtaking the Parsonses for the gold this time is probably not within their reach. Even a bronze medal could get them into the Final, if they put down another high score near the 150-point mark.

Arina Ushakova & Maxim Nekrasov, also representing Russia, have eeeeeeea bronze medal under their belts so far this year and would need silver in order to squeak into the Final. Even that is unlikely, though, given that they only scored 136.10 in their first event. If Ushakova & Nekrasov finish second, Shpilevaya & Smirnov would have to finish off the podium or win bronze but be 15 points below their teammates, in order for Ushakova & Nekrasov to sneak past in the JGPF standings. Even without solid JGPF aspirations, though, this event is a great opportunity for this young team to better their score and continue climbing the ranks in their own country.

Canada will send a pair of teams that each picked up fourth-place finishes earlier in the series. Marjorie Lajoie & Zachary Lagha are in position to challenge for a podium finish, having earned 137.14 points in a tough field in Japan. Newcomers Alicia Fabbri & Claudio Pietrantonio took advantage of an inexperienced field (outside of the medalists) in Saransk, Russia, to earn 127.89 points in their first JGP event. If they can come out stronger in the short dance this time, they could easily push their score into the 130’s.

France’s Salome Abdedou & Dylan Antunes were able to pick up a second event. Antunes’s luggage was lost on their way to their first scheduled JGP event in Slovenia, and they were unable to compete there. They successfully competed in Saransk and placed seventh, and now they have a chance to improve their placement in Germany.

With two victories each, Alla Loboda & Pavel Drozd of Russia and Lorraine McNamara & Quinn Carpenter of the United States have already qualified for the final. Angelique Abachkina & Louis Thauron of France have also qualified for their first Final, with a gold and a bronze. Christina Carreira & Anthony Ponomarenko of the United States are probably in as well with two silvers, but they will need to hang on and wait for results this week to be sure. In the unlikely event that the two Russian teams go 1-2 and the Parsonses finish no higher than third, Carreira & Ponomarenko could be edged out into an alternate position.

The short dance will kick off the competition on Thursday morning, with the free dance set for Friday afternoon.