by Laura Flagg | Photo by Daphne Backman
The third of seven Junior Grand Prix events takes place this week in Yokohama, the largest city (by population) in Japan. Only 11 teams from eight countries will compete, the smallest ice dance field thus far in the series.
The clear favorites are Rachel Parsons & Michael Parsons. This will be their sixth season competing in the JGP series, with last season being their best, winning both of their events and placing third at the JGP final. They followed that up with silver medals at both the U.S. National Championships and the World Junior Championships. Still coached by Alexei Kiliakov, Dmytri Ilin, and Elena Novak in Maryland, they will be among the few teams using hip-hop in their short dance.
The other two favorites for medals are France’s Angelique Abachkina & Louis Thauron and Anastasia Shpilevaya & Grigory Smirnov of Russia.
Abachkina & Thauron won the JGP event two weeks ago in St. Gervais, their first victory in the JGP series, achieving personal bests in both segments. As a result, even finishing as low as third will all but guarantee them a spot at the JGP final. Coached by Igor Shpilband’s team, their free dance is to “Shadritsa.”
Shpilevaya & Smirnov are competing in their third season on the JGP, placing fourth in their only JGP event last season. They finished third at Russian Junior Nationals, followed by a gold medal win at the 2016 Youth Olympic and fifth at their World Junior Championships debut. They will be skating to Tarantella Napolitana for their free dance. They are coached by Alexander Svinin and Irina Zhuk in Moscow.
Marjorie Lajoie & Zachary Lagha (pictured), the reigning Canadian junior silver medalists, had solid placements in their international competitions last season, placing seventh in their only JGP event and 13th at the World Junior Championships. Coached by Marie-France Dubreuil and company, they should be able to take advantage of the small field and improve upon their JGP placement.
A trio of teams are competing on the JGP series for the first time.
Emma Gunter & Caleb Wein, training mates of the Parsons, will be making their JGP debut. They finished second in novice last season at the U.S. National Championships. Their free dance is to “Palladio” by Karl Jenkins and “Adagio” by Rolf Lovland. They placed seventh at their junior international debut in Lake Placid in July.
Polina Ivanenko & Daniil Karpov, who placed 12th at the Russian Junior Championships last year, competed internationally at the junior level last season, but not on the Junior Grand Prix circuit. They won the gold medal at the 28th Volvo Open Cup in Riga, Latvia.
Representing Canada are Seungyun (Olivia) Han & Grayson Lochhead, who won gold in Novice at their national championships and will be making their international debut. Han & Lochheed are coached by Paul McIntosh in Ontario, Canada.
Both segments will take place later in the week than is typical for JGP events, with the SD being competed on Saturday, September 10th and the free dance on Sunday.