by Daphne Backman | Photo by Sean Gillis

The 45th Golden Spin of Zagreb takes place this week in Croatia. Nineteen teams from 14 countries will fight for medals and world standings point. In addition, some teams are still seeking the minimum technical scores required for the ISU championships.

Russia’s Ekaterina Riazanova & Ilia Tkachenko are favorites for the gold medal. After winning two bronze medals on the Grand Prix series, they finished as second alternates to the Grand Prix Final. Riazanova & Tkachenko have shown more depth this season with their performances and have credited working with Igor Shpilband as one of the reasons for their growth.  

12zagreb-kolbecarusoRussia will also send Kristina Gorshkova & Vitali Butikov to this event. Gorshkova & Butikov were one of Russia’s many successful junior teams, but they have not seen the same kind of results since entering the senior ranks in 2008.

Isabella Tobias and Deividas Stagniunas were forced to withdraw from their only Grand Prix event this season, Skate America. The Lithuanians have only competed once this Fall, finishing fourth at Pavel Roman Memorial, so this event could give them fresh momentum heading into the second half of the season.

After falling short of qualifying for the free dance at the 2012 World Championships, Japan’s Cathy & Chris Reed have come back strong this fall. So far, the siblings have won a silver medal at NRW Trophy and had their highest finish to-date at a Grand Prix event, placing fifth at NHK Trophy. A medal here would add to their comeback story.

Germany’s Tanja Kolbe & Stefano Caruso (pictured, right) will make their season début in Zagreb. After ending their partnership in the spring and spending a few months apart, Kolbe & Caruso re-teamed in late summer. They have been sidelined by an injury that reduced their training time, so they will need to start strong in order to continue the momentum that they built last season.  

Julia Zlobina & Alexei Sitnikov of Azerbaijan already have a silver medal from Nebelhorn Trophy this season. Though they debuted on the Grand Prix series back in 2007, it took five years and a country switch to return. They saw strong results on the Grand Prix, finishing sixth at Skate Canada and fifth at Trophée Bompard. Zlobina & Sitnikov could sneak onto the podium this week.    

The competition starts on Friday with the short dance and wraps up with the free dance on Saturday.