by Melanie Hoyt | Photo by Daphne Backman
This week, the International Skating Union will stage the World Junior Championships in Debrecen, Hungary. The roster is composed of 31 teams from 21 countries, and should feature repeat match ups from the Junior Grand Prix Final at the top of the field.
Undefeated on the Junior Grand Prix, Americans Lorraine McNamara & Quinn Carpenter will be looking to upgrade last year’s world junior silver medal to a gold this year. Although their JGPF score was a few points back from their season’s best of 162.63, they could still set a new season record this week with exceptional performances.
McNamara & Carpenter’s longtime training mates, Rachel Parsons & Michael Parsons have a great chance of winning their first world junior championship medal. They finished third at the Junior Grand Prix Final, 14 points behind McNamara & Carpenter, but their season’s best is 160.79, much closer to McNamara & Carpenter’s best score. They certainly have the ability to perform at a very high level and should be one of the top five teams for the second consecutive year.
Rounding out Team USA will be Elliana Pogrebinsky & Alex Benoit, who won a bronze medal on the JGP circuit this year, as well as the junior bronze medal at the U.S. Championships. Pogrebinsky & Benoit were 13th at the World Junior Championships last year and should be able to finish in the top ten this year.
The Russian Federation will send three top teams, as usual. Alla Loboda & Pavel Drozd performed extremely well at the JGP Final, where they nestled into the silver medal between the two top American teams. Last year, they missed the World Junior Championships, despite also having won the silver medal at the JGPF, after a poor skate at the Russian Junior Championships. This year, though, Loboda & Drozd easily punched their ticket to Hungary with a Russian junior title.
The Russian junior silver medalists, Betina Popova & Yuri Vlasenko, have struggled at the World Junior Championships in the past two seasons, despite having excellent JGP records and now being three-time JGP Finalists. If they skate their best, they have the potential to top 150 points and could be in the top five, with a shot at the podium.
Anastasia Shpilevaya & Grigory Smirnov will complete the Russian team. While they are less experienced and younger than the other teams, they did just win the Youth Olympic Games and are well-tested in international fields.
Marie-Jade Lauriault & Romain Le Gac of France were the only team from outside of Russia and the United States to qualify for the JGPF, where they finished fifth. Their season’s best score of 152.72 was earned on the JGP circuit, when they won a gold medal in Logroño, Spain. They train alongside the world champions in Montréal.
Also representing France are Angelique Abachkina & Louis Thauron. This will be their third appearance at the World Junior Championships; they were eighth last year. Abachkina & Thauron earned a silver medal on the JGP circuit last fall, narrowly missed making the JGP Final, and have a season’s best score of 142.85. They could be a top-five team this week. Abachkina & Thauron train in Novi, Mich., alongside Pogrebinsky & Benoit of the United States.
Team Canada will also send three teams to Hungary, led by the new Canadian junior champions, Mackenzie Bent & Dmitre Razgulajevs. Bent is a three-time world junior championships veteran has come close to the podium before, in 2013, but Razgulajevs will be making his world junior début. Their season’s best score of 133.27 was set early on the JGP circuit, but they should be able to score quite a bit higher if they skate well this week.
Melinda Meng & Andrew Meng were consistent on the JGP circuit and scored as high as 140.80, but were only third at the Canadian championships. They seemed a little cautious at that event, so if they regain some of the confidence that they showed in the fall, they could be challenging Bent & Ragulajevs for the top spot. The Canadians do have an outside shot at retaining three berths for next year.
Marjorie Lajoie & Zachary Lagha, first-years on the junior circuit, round out the Canadian team. They are training mates of Lauriault & Le Gac in Montréal. Although they only had one JGP assignment, they out-skated more experienced teams at the Canadian Championships and recently competed at the Youth Olympic Games, where they finished fourth.
The dance competition begins on Thursday in Debrecen, and the free dance is set to close the event on Saturday.