by Laura Flagg | Photo by Daphne Backman

This season’s Junior Grand Prix (JGP) series begins this weekend in St. Gervais, France.  Sixteen teams from twelve countries will be competing in the first of seven events with the top finishers qualifying for the Junior Grand Prix Final.

Four of the teams competing medaled in last year’s series, including Angelique Abachkina & Louis Thauron, who are competing in their fourth season on the JGP series.  Abachkina & Thauron placed second and fourth in their two JGP events last year, and finished the season by placing seventh at the World Junior Championships.  They are coached by Igor Shpilband, Fabian Bourzat, and Greg Zuerlein.

Their American training mates, Christina Carreira & Anthony Ponomarenko, will likely be their top challengers for gold.  They had the same placements in last year’s series, although at different events, but a fourth place finish in the deep field of juniors at the U.S. National Championships left them just short of a slot for the World Junior Championships.  Their new free dance is to “Exogenesis Symphony Pt. 3” by Muse.

Four of the teams competing medaled in last year’s series, including two Russian teams. Sofia Shevchenko & Igor Eremenko, who are coached by Irina Zhuk & Alexander Svinin in Moscow, earned bronze in both of their events.  They had a tough time at the Russian Junior National Championships, finishing seventh.  Finishing just ahead of them at Nationals were Sofia Polishchuk & Alexander Vakhnov who will also be competing in France.  They train with Svetlana Liapina and finished third and fifth in their two JGP competitions last year. 

The second American team competing will be Eliana Gropman & Ian Somerville.  They had difficulties at their one JGP event last season and finished 10th, but had a strong competition at U.S. Nationals where they finished seventh.  They are coached by Alexei Kiliakov, Dmytri Ilin, and Elena Novak in Maryland.  Gropman & Somerville’s 2016-17 free dance is to music from the soundtrack of Le Petit Prince.

Nicole Kuzmich & Alexandr Sinicyn will be representing the Czech Republic in St. Gervais.  Coached by Carol Lane, they had a solid season least year placing 7th at two JGP events and 11th at the World Junior Championships.  This is the teams last season of junior eligibility.

Ashlynne Stairs & Lee Royer will be competing on the JGP series for the second year, placing eighth at their lone event in 2015, Cup of Austria.  Their free dance to music by the Beatles includes the selections “Something In the Way She Moves” and “Here Comes the Sun”.  The team trains in Vancouver with Megan Wing and Aaron Lowe.

Karolina Calhoun & Logan Leonesio are making their debut on the JGP series and will be the first ice dancers to represent Brazil at an ISU event.

The short dance takes place on Friday the 26th; the free dance is on Saturday.