15LPIDC-JrSDB-7603-PB-KW 600This week marks the halfway point of the JGP series.  In what is the largest pool thus far, 21 ice dance teams from 16 counties will be competing in Linz, Austria.

The favorites are Alla Loboda & Pavel Drozd, who took home silver medals from Bratislava three weeks ago.  After winning the short dance, they were unable to hit all the features needed for the top levels on their elements in the free dance.  Loboda & Drozd, who train with Ksenia Rumiantseva and Ekaterina Volobueva, are skating to “Paganini 5” by Edvin Marton in the free dance.
 
Elliana Pogrebinsky & Alex Benoit (pictured, right) will be making their international debut for the season.  They are the reigning bronze medalists in junior dance for the United States, which earned them a spot at last season’s Junior World Championships, where they finished 13th.  Their free dance this season is to music from two different versions of Romeo and Juliet.  They train in Novi, Michigan with Igor Shpilband and will be looking to earn their first JGP medal.

Marie-Jade Lauriault & Romain Le Gac are representing France.  They finished second at French Nationals at the senior level last season.  In early August, Lauriault & Le Gac won the short and free dance segments of the Championnats québécois d’été 2015 in Montreal, where they train with coach Romain Haguenauer.  

Sofia Evdokimova & Egor Bazin are competing in their second event of the season, having earned bronze in Latvia.  Coached by Oleg Sudakov, they are skating to a polka and a waltz in the short dance.  A silver or better in Linz gives them a shot at qualifying the JGP final.

Julia Biechler & Damian Dodge had a strong start to their season, shattering their personal bests at JGP Bratislava, while finishing in 5th.  Coached by Yovanny Durango and Natalia Linichuk, their short dance combines a foxtrot with the requisite waltz to showcase their personalities.  Their first ever JGP medal is not out of reach if they skate to the best of their abilities in Linz.

Nicole Kuzmich & Alexandr Sinicyn also attended JGP Bratislava, where they placed seventh, their best finish ever at a JGP event, and earned personal bests in both segments.  And there is still room for even more improvement, as Kuzmich let go of her blade during their twizzle sequence in their short dance to “Under Paris Skies,” which cost them points on both the base mark and the grade of execution.  The duo, who represent the Czech Republic, is coached by Carol Lane in Toronto, Ontario.

Two Canadian teams will be making their JGP debuts.  Haley Sales & Nikolas Wamsteeker finished 9th last season at Canadian Nationals in Juniors, while Ashlynne Stairs & Lee Royer finished 4th in Novice. Both teams train in with Megan Wing and Aaron Lowe in Vancouver, British Columbia.

The short dance takes place on Thursday, with the free dance on Saturday.