12finlandia-virtuemoirby Jacquelyn Thayer

This year at Finlandia Trophy, 14 teams, ranging from world champions to rising stars, will take the ice for competition. The city of Espoo, Finland, will be a first-time host to Finlandia Trophy, one of the last international competitions before the Grand Prix. Several top teams will be taking advantage of the early opportunity to unveil new work before an international panel, and the dance competition should be exciting.  

Finlandia Trophy’s defending champions are also the 2012 World champions. Canada’s Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir (pictured, right) started off last season with their first visit to a senior international B event and found the experience beneficial enough to return for 2012. Most helpful last season was the early feedback the couple received, including marks that revealed an issue with one creative, but tricky lift. Virtue notes that both new programs – a short dance set to a waltz by actor and composer Anthony Hopkins, and a contemporary Carmen free dance created in conjunction with modern dance choreographer Jennifer Swan – contain entirely new elements. Given that, feedback ahead of their Grand Prix events at Skate Canada International and Rostelecom Cup will certainly be welcomed. The skating world is also anxious to see the world champions after the highly-publicized split between longtime coaches Marina Zoueva and Igor Shpilband. Virtue & Moir chose to remain at their rink in Canton, Mich., with Zoueva.

In the wake of the aforementioned split, Anna Cappellini & Luca Lanotte’s (ITA) off-season has most notably been marked by a summer spent with Shpilband and his staff at a new training base in Novi, Mich. The team’s short dance to Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and free dance to selections from Rodion Shchedrin’s Carmen ballet suite should play to their strengths with both lighthearted and dramatic narrative material. Combined with the technical training with Shpilband, the new programs should help the team in their goal to move up the European ladder. Their central question here will not be the contest of one Carmen against another, but of their standing against Ekaterina Bobrova & Dmitri Soloviev. While the Russian team won silver to Cappellini & Lanotte’s fourth at last season’s European Championships, the Italians finished ten points and one place ahead of them at Worlds. After this race, Cappellini & Lanotte will face off against a few other competitors here at Skate Canada International and Trophée Eric Bompard.

Ekaterina Bobrova & Dmitri Soloviev saw many ups and downs in their international results last season, taking gold and bronze on the Grand Prix, but finishing last at the Grand Prix Final, and concluding the year in seventh place at Worlds, behind national teammates Elena Ilinykh & Nikita Katsalapov, whom they’d bested at the Russian Championships. The team took action, moving to coach Alexander Zhulin from Elena Kustarova in an aim to develop a new style. After September’s Russian test skates, their new free dance – a story of insane lovers – earned quite a bit of buzz, and their short dance to a selection from Alfred Schnittke was also well-received. Finlandia will give the team an opportunity to test the programs before an international panel before taking the ice in a few weeks at Skate America and Cup of China.

Madison Hubbell & Zachary Donohue (USA) had an excellent first season together, beginning with a victory at the 2011 Nebelhorn Trophy, a bronze medal at U.S. Nationals, and a tenth-place finish at Worlds. The couple’s new programs are reported to include a short dance to music from the Titanic soundtrack and a flamenco free dance, both offering quite a contrast to last season’s selections. The race for a repeat national medal and berth to Worlds looks to be tight again this season, with Madison Chock & Evan Bates having just earned gold at this year’s Nebelhorn Trophy and Lynn Kriengkrairut & Logan Giulietti-Schmitt turning in a bronze-medal performance at the U.S. International Classic. While Hubbell & Donohue will also be competing in two Grand Prix events at Skate Canada and Trophée Eric Bompard, this extra competition time will be key, especially since they did not compete at any summer events.

12finlandia-guignardfabbriCharlene Guignard & Marco Fabbri (pictured, left) of Italy finished in fourth place at 2011’s Finlandia Trophy, right behind a sweep of teams from Canton, Mich. The national silver medalists placed eleventh at the 2012 European Championships and, a week later, won the Bavarian Open, their last competition of the season. The team here will aim to build on last year’s results while they give their programs some mileage before their Grand Prix event at Cup of China.

It has been an active early season for Siobhan Heekin-Canedy & Dmitri Dun (UKR), who finished sixth at last week’s Nebelhorn Trophy and fifth at the U.S. International Classic two weeks earlier. They fared well against some good teams at both events, and a similar placement among this roster is within reach. Two additional teams have also competed at Senior B events this fall. Switzerland’s Ramona Elsener & Florian Roost also competed at Nebelhorn, finishing eighth at that event. Justyna Plutowska & Peter Gerber (POL) took eighth at the U.S. International Figure Skating Classic.

Estonia’s Irina Shtork & Taavi Rand have competed for the past few seasons at both junior and senior events, including both junior and senior World Championships. Now having aged out of juniors, the couple will begin their full-time senior pursuit here. Also beginning their season in Finland are Dora Turoczi & Balazs Major, reigning Hungarian silver medalists, and Bryna Oi & Taiyo Mizutani, the current Japanese champions who train in Ann Arbor, Mich.

Two home teams will be competing: Olesia Karmi & Max Lindholm, who placed eighth at last year’s Finlandia, and Henna Lindholm & Ossi Kanervo, who ranked ninth and most recently placed thirteenth in the preliminary round at Worlds. Lesia Valadzenkova & Vitaly Vakunov of Belarus round out the roster.

The competition opens on Friday, October 5. The short dance is set for Saturday, and the free dance begins the final day of competition on Sunday.