by Ashli Meynert | Photo by Melanie Hoyt

Twenty teams from 13 countries are ready to make their mark during the fourth Junior Grand Prix event of the season, held in Gdansk, Poland, from September 18 to 22. This event marks the halfway point of the JGP Series, and the top teams in the standings will be keeping an eye on the JGP standings to see what their chances are at qualifying for the Final.

Russians Evgenia Kosigina & Nikolao Moroshkin are the most experienced team in the event and among the favorites for gold. They won a pair of silver medals on the JGP circuit last year. Their placements earned them a spot at their second JGP final, where they match their prior ranking and placed sixth. Six seems to be a lucky number for Kosigina & Moroshkin, as they have also placed sixth twice at the World Junior Championships, in 2011 and 2013. They are coached by Oleg Sudakov and Alexei Gorshkov, who periodically brings his team to Novi, Mich., this summer, to work with Igor Shpilband.

Alla Loboda & Pavel Drozd will join Kosigina & Moroshkin on Team Russia. They teamed up in 2012 and have already competed in their first JGP event this season. They won the bronze medal (and won the free dance) at Riga Cup, earning 126.43 points. A silver medal here would give them a good shot at the Final, but they are not yet mathematically out of it if they earn a second bronze.

Americans Kaitlin Hawayek & Jean-Luc Baker won JGP Mexico Cup two weeks ago with a total score of 136.45, so they should qualify for the Final if they stand on the podium this week. Their free dance, to a selection from the “Amélie” soundtrack, earned a personal best in Mexico, but they were two points away from their best overall ISU score, set last year at the JGP event in Germany. Hawayek & Baker faced Kosigina & Moroshkin at the World Junior Championships earlier this year. The Americans were seventh, less than two points behind the Russians’ sixth. Hawayek & Baker train at the Detroit Skating Club.

Also representing the USA are Elliana Pogrebinsky & Ross Gudis. They also have competed at a JGP event this season, placing fourth at Riga Cup with a score of 121.09, a new ISU personal best. They are part of the up-and-coming Wheaton Ice Skating Academy.Their short dance is a selection from “Pink Panther” and their free dance is a selection of music from the composer Maxime Rodriguez.

Canada has also sent two teams to this competition. Melinda Meng & Andrew Meng are a sibling team that trains in Montréal with Marie-France Dubreuil & Patrice Lauzon. This team competed at JGP Croatia Cup last year and placed sixth. If they can place a bit higher this year, they could earn a second JGP assignment. They are skating to “The Pink Panther” for their short dance and are using a mixture of music from “House of Flying Daggers” and “Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon” for their free dance.

Brianna Delmaestro & Timothy Lum also represent Canada this week. Lum previously competed internationally with Noa Bruser and teamed up with Delmaestro at the beginning of the year. They have three competitions under their belts this season, including a bronze-medal outing at BC/YK SummerSkate, but this will be their JGP début. Their music for their short dance is a combination of “Something’s Gotta Give” and “Girls, Girls, Girls.” For their free dance, they are skating to a selection of music from “Once Upon a Time in Mexico.” They train in Burnaby, B.C., with Megan Wing & Aaron Lowe.

13jgppol-naznikTwo other countries, France and Germany, are sending two teams each.

The French team of Myriam Gassoumi & Clement Le Molaire have three years of international experience, with one JGP event per year since 2010. Last year, they placed 14th at JGP Bosphorus Cup. Their teammates for this event, Angelique Abachkina & Louis Thauron, are competing in their first season together and making their début on the international circuit. Thauron has previous JGP experience with former partner Lindsay Pousset. 

Florence Clarke & Tim Dieck will represent Germany this week. They have already competed at a JGP event this year, placing ninth at Riga Cup with a total score of 90.31. They are skating to music by Irving Berlin for their short dance and “Moonlight Serenade” for their free dance. Joining Clarke & Dieck are Polina Gorlov & Eduard Vishnjakov, who are skating at their first JGP event.

Ukrainians Alexandra Nazarova & Maxim Nikitin (pictured, left) could be a factor at this competition. They competed at two JGP events last year, placing fifth at both. After an 11th-place finish at the World Junior Championships in 2013, they moved to a new training location and are now in Moscow with Alexander Zhulin and Oleg Volkov. Their will take on “Man with the Hex” and “Mack the Knife” in the short dance. The free dance is music from “Cabaret” by John Kander and Fred Ebb.

Poland, the host country, is allowed three entries. They will be represented by Joanna Zajac & Cezary Zawadski, Beatrice Tomczak & Damian Binkowski, and Natalia Kaliszek & Yaroslav Kurbakov, all making their JGP débuts. 

On paper, this event promises excitement at the top of the field, with a showdown between Russians Evgenia Kosigina & Nikolai Moroshkin and Americans Kaitlin Hawayek & Jean-Luc Baker. Official practices will be held on Wednesday and Thursday. The short dance is set for Friday afternoon and the free dance will close the competition on Saturday.