Gdansk, Poland welcomes skaters for JGP #3

by Laura S. Marshall

The third Junior Grand Prix event this year is the Baltic Cup, which will be held in Gdansk, Poland. The 21 ice dance teams from 15 countries include a few very strong couples, so the competition will be exciting.

Likely to the lead the pack are Victoria Sinitsina & Ruslan Zhiganshin of Russia, who set an ISU personal best score of 134.62 when they won the silver medal at the 2011 JGP Final. Unfortunately, their season ended there. Sinitsina was ill and unable to compete at the 2011 Russian Junior Championships, and the team was not selected for the World Junior team. With two silvers from last year’s JGP series, Sinitsina & Zhiganshin would love to take one more step to the top of the podium this year. They pair solid technique with natural expression and good extension, so with solid programs, they have an excellent shot at this title.

They will be joined in Gdansk by Russian teammates Anna Yanovskaia & Sergei Mozgov, a new pairing this year. Yanovskaia and Mozgov placed seventh and ninth, respectively, with their former partners at the 2011 Russian Junior Championships.

Ukrainians Anastasia Galyeta & Alexei Shumski may have only placed 13th at 2011 Junior Worlds, but earlier last season, they established themselves as a threat on the JGP. With a silver in Romania and a bronze in the Czech Republic, they qualified for and placed seventh in their first JGP Final. The team’s personal best of 124.65, earned at the Brasov Cup in Romania last year, is ten points off of Sinitsina & Zhiganshin’s, but this is a new season and it will be exciting to see how they have improved during the summer.

Also in the medal hunt are Gabriella Papadakis & Guillaume Cizeron of France. Last year, in their second JGP season, they won a bronze medal in Austria. After winning the French junior dance title, they finished 12th at the 2011 World Junior Championships, where they earned their personal best score of 115.56. France will also send Valentina Rudchenko & Arthur Reggiani, who will be making their JGP debut.

hasegawas-jgppoland11Canada’s Victoria Hasegawa & Connor Hasegawa (pictured), who are coached by Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon in Montreal, are hoping to move up the rankings in their second year on the JGP. Last year, they were tenth at the SBC Cup in Japan. Their character-driven, humorous short dance with a crisp pattern will set them up well this weekend if they skate it to its potential. A graceful pair, their ‘Black Swan” free dance seemed to lack drama at their summer events, but they did improve their score by almost 20 points between the Lake Placid Ice Dance Championships and the Quebec Summer Provincial Championships. If they can recreate those kinds of scores on the international circuit, they will do very well here.

Noa Bruser & Timothy Lum also will represent Canada at the Baltic Cup. They are one of several talented teams that turned heads in the novice division last year, where they won the silver medal at the 2011 Canadian Junior Nationals and the bronze at the 2011 Canada Winter Games. Their JGP assignment was earned after their season debut at Minto Summer Skate, where they won silver medals in both dances. At their home competition, BC Summer Skate, three weeks later, they finished second once again.

The two American entries will be making JGP debuts. Rachel Parsons & Michael Parsons and Jessica Mancini & Tyler Brooks are the top two teams from the 2011 U.S. Championships at the novice level. Both teams have showed improvements in their first junior season. The Parsonses missed some training time this summer after an injury sustained by Rachel but put in solid performances at Lake Placid and have had a month to continue training since then. Mancini & Brooks, meanwhile, delivered a strong short dance in Lake Placid that earned a bronze medal, but struggled a bit with their free dance. Both teams will benefit invaluably from this experience, even though they are not considered among the front-runners.

Official practices begin on Wednesday, Sept. 14 and the Latin short dances are scheduled for Friday, Sept. 16. Skaters will perform their free dances on Saturday, Sept. 17.

The ISU JGP series leads up to the Junior Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final, held in conjunction with the Senior Grand Prix Final in Québec City, Canada, Dec. 8-11. In previous seasons, eight junior skaters/teams qualified in each discipline, but this year, only six will qualify, so each dance team will have to work hard to eke out as many points as possible.