This week, the United States will host the second stop of the Junior Grand Prix (JGP) Series in Lake Placid, N.Y., a town that is very familiar to ice dancers. Of the 11 teams on the roster, six competed here just last month at the Lake Placid Ice Dance Championships (LPIDC), and a seventh competed at LPIDC last year. After last week’s JGP featured some very tough judging, it will be interesting to see how the scores trend this weekend. In particular, the new rules for the short dance seemed to be problematic for quite a few teams. This year, timing is judged more strictly in the key points of the pattern.
The past two American JGP events were held in Lake Placid, in 2009 and 2007. Home teams won the gold medal in both of those years, and this year, an American team is among the favorites once again. Alexandra Aldridge & Daniel Eaton are the reigning U.S. junior champions and they capped off a terrific season last year with a bronze medal at the World Junior Championships. At LPIDC this year, they won their short dance group as one of only two junior teams to score over 50 points. They faltered in the free dance, though, missing a lift, and finished second in their group. Fortunately, they will have another chance to skate their “Fiddler on the Roof” free dance to its potential in the 1980 Herb Brooks Arena.
“I’m so excited,” Aldridge said about returning to the Adirondacks. “I love Lake Placid. It’s my favorite competition of the entire season, and to get to come back again is really great. It’s going to feel so comfortable and familiar for us, and I think that’s going to help us with competing.”
“It’s the one time where Europe has to come onto our turf,” Eaton added. “We don’t have to deal with the time difference this time.”
Aldridge & Eaton train at the Detroit Skating Club with Pasquale Camerlengo, Anjelika Krylova, and their accomplished team. Training mates Johanna Allik & Paul Bellantuono, who represent Estonia, and Lolita Yermak & Alexei Khimich from Ukraine will also compete at this event.
Team USA is also sending Madeline Heritage & Nathaniel Fast and Elliana Pogrebinsky & Ross Gudis to this event. Heritage & Fast were fifth at the JGP in Australia last year and they were also fifth at the U.S. Championships on the junior level. Their bluesy short dance to “Give Me One Reason” highlights their maturity and chemistry, and will be a standout performance if they skate their best. At LPIDC, they picked up fifth- and sixth-place finishes in their short and free dance groups, respectively, and plan for stronger skaters this time around.
“It will be nice to come back,” Heritage said. “It gives our families the opportunity to come and watch us.”
Lake Placid will be the JGP début for Pogrebinsky & Gudis, who were ranked eighth on the junior level in the United States last year. They were fourth in their short dance group at LPIDC, but won their free dance group, edging out Aldridge & Eaton with a score of 69.68. They will skate a hip-hop rhythm in the short dance to music by Roisin Murphy and will veer towards classical in the free dance with a program to Khachaturian’s “Masquerade Suite.”
Russia’s Evgenia Kosigina & Nikolai Moroshkin are one of the most experienced teams on the roster, with sixth-place finishes at both the Junior Grand Prix Final and the World Junior Championships to their credit. Last year was not as much of a standout year for them, and they were perhaps a bit overshadowed by some of their Russian teammates. In their four JGP appearances, they have won one gold medal, one silver, and two bronzes, and would love to add to their collection. Coincidentally, Kosigina & Moroshkin will use music from Lord of the Dance for their short dance, a theme which Aldridge & Eaton used in the free dance last year. Kosigina & Moroshkin’s free dance is a Michael Jackson medley.
Russia is also sending Daria Morozova & Mikhail Zhirnov to Lake Placid. Morozova & Zhirnov placed fifth at the JGP event in Latvia last year, but were not assigned to a second event, and finished only ninth at the Russian Junior Championships in February.
A pair of Canadian teams would also love to fight for a place on the podium. Andréanne Poulin & Marc-André Servant (pictured) are the Canadian junior champions and are in their third year on the JGP Series. They were sixth last year in Latvia and finished fourth in Germany in 2010. Inconsistency plagued them last year—they peaked at the Canadian Championships, triumphing over a deep field, but struggled at the World Junior Championships a few weeks later, finishing 20th. This year, they missed out on facing against the rest of the top North American teams at LPIDC (their choreographer was on the technical panel, which prevented them from competing), so they made their season début at Minto Summer Skate, where they picked up a pair of silver medals in the junior dance events. They could very well be the first skaters to use music by Usher in international competition, which we will see in their short dance. Their free dance presents a very different type of mood in a charming program to music from “Fantastic Mr. Fox.”
Noa Bruser & Timothy Lum won the junior bronze medal at last year’s Canadian Championships and are returning for their second year on the JGP. Last season, they finished sixth in Poland and would love to climb to the podium this time around. In the 1980 rink last month at LPIDC, Bruser & Lum won their short dance group with a score of 46.38 and were fourth in their free dance group, scoring 65.74. Just two weeks ago, at BC SummerSkate, they had some trouble in the short dance, dropping to 43.47 points, but raised their free dance score to 69.88.
“It’s nice that we got to skate on the same ice [in July],” Bruser said. “We would like to aim to get a second JGP.”
This year, Canadian teams need to place in the top four to earn a second assignment, a testament to the depth in that nation’s dance program. Bruser & Lum train in Burnaby, B.C., with coaches Megan Wing & Aaron Lowe. Their training mates Sara Aghai & Jussiville Partanen, the Finnish junior dance champions, are also assigned to Lake Placid.
Competition begins Friday with the short dance and will conclude on Saturday with the free dance.