The 20th Ondrej Nepela Memorial will take place from October 3-6 in Bratislava, Slovakia. Named for the 1972 Olympic gold medalist and held annually since 1993, the event has included ice dancing in all but two years. Eighteen teams representing 14 countries will face off.
Nelli Zhiganshina & Alexander Gazsi of Germany are competing in back-to-back events after winning the bronze medal at Nebelhorn Trophy last week. Though they led after the short dance, Zhiganshina & Gazsi finished fifth in the free dance, but were able to hold onto a podium finish. They are no strangers to this event as they are two-time Ondrej Nepela Memorial champions, with their most recent win in 2011. For the third consecutive season, the team has a heavy fall competition schedule.
The Germans will face stiff competition from Canada’s Kaitlyn Weaver & Andrew Poje, who are making their season début in Slovakia. Weaver & Poje finished a career-high fourth place at the 2012 World Championships and have steadily improved over the past few seasons. The audience this weekend will be the first members of the public to see their short dance to music from The Sound of Music and their free dance to selections from “The Legion of Extraordinary Dancers.” A gold medal in Slovakia would be the second international gold for the team, who won the 2010 Four Continents Championships.
Great Britain’s Penny Coomes & Nicholas Buckland (pictured, right) will look to build on momentum from last year. In the 2011-12 season, they narrowly missed a medal at Cup of China, placed sixth at the European Championships, and finished 14th at the World Championships. Also representing Great Britain are the new teams of Sophie Jones & Jordan Brown and Carter Jones & Richard Sharpe.
Lorenza Alessandrini & Simone Vaturi finished 16th in their World Championships début earlier this year. The Italians, who train as part of Pasquale Camerlengo and Anjelika Krylova’s group in Detroit, Mich., won the silver medal at this event last year.
After an absence from competition last season, Georgia’s Otar Japaridze will return to competition in Bratislava with a new partner, Angelina Telegina. Japaridze formerly skated with Allison Reed, representing Georgia at the Olympic Games and World Championships. Telegina finished sixth at the Russian National Championships in 2011.
A pair of Czech teams will begin battling against each other this season. Gabriela Kubova & Dmitry Kiselev came out ahead of Lucie Mysliveckova & Neil Brown at both the National and European Championships last year, earning the chance to compete at the World Championships. Mysliveckova is a former national champion, though, and she & Brown are expected to mount a challenge this year as they continue to grow as a team. Mysliveckova & Brown were tenth at Nebelhorn Trophy last week.
The event gets underway with the short dance on Friday, October 5th. The free dance will be contested on Saturday.