Junior Grand Prix Series Begins in Riga, Latvia

by Katie Tetzloff / Photo by Daphne Backman

This season’s Junior Grand Prix (JGP) Series will kick off this week with the Volvo Cup in Riga, Latvia. The competition runs from August 27th through September 1st. The dance event features 12 teams from 10 different countries. Many of these teams have competed internationally in the past couple of years, but others will make their JGP debut in Latvia.

Canadians Mackenzie Bent & Garrett MacKeen have won two bronze medals on the JGP circuit in the past two seasons. They won the silver medal at the 2013 Canadian Championships on the junior level, which earned them a spot to their first World Junior Championships, where they finished fifth after two strong performances. With the hopes that their success will continue this year, Bent & MacKeen debuted their new short dance at Minto Summer Skate in Ottawa during the first weekend of August, where they won the event with a score of 57.65. A bad fall in warmup forced them to withdraw from the free dance at Minto, but they were back to competition two weeks later at Central Ontario Summer Skate, where their winning free dance scored 76.16. 

13jgplat-mccarpsAmericans Lorraine McNamara & Quinn Carpenter (pictured, right) will begin their second year on the JGP circuit in Riga. Though they were among the strongest American junior teams in 2011, McNamara was not yet old enough until last season. In 2012, they placed sixth at JGP Courchevel and fourth at JGP Bosphorus. After winning the junior bronze medal at the 2013 U.S. Championships, they were sent to Milan for Junior Worlds, where they placed ninth. This season, McNamara & Carpenter have warmed up for their international events by competing at the Chesapeake Open in Baltimore and at the Lake Placid Ice Dance Championships. So far, their season’s best scores are 51.46 for the short dance and 71.11 for the free dance.

Elliana Pogrebinsky & Ross Gudis of the USA are McNamara & Carpenter’s training mates at the Wheaton Ice Skating Academy. This is also their second season as JGP competitors. Last year, they placed sixth at the JGP in Lake Placid and 11th at the Sencila Bled Cup in Slovenia. Pogrebinsky & Gudis were ranked fifth at the U.S. Championships on the junior level last season. They, too, competed at both the Chesapeake Open and Lake Placid Ice Dance Championships this season, scoring as high as 44.94 for their short dance and 69.23 for their free.

Latvia will be the third JGP event for Daria Korotitskaia & Maksim Spodirev, who represent Ukraine. Last season, surprised in their first JGP season with strong results, placing fourth in Courchevel fifth at Sencila Bled Cup. Having already competed against and finished ahead of both American teams, it will be interesting to see if they can keep their lead over them this season.

Russia had originally planned to send two teams to this event, but late last week, they withdrew both scheduled teams and replaced only one of them. Alla Loboda & Pavel Drozd will be the lone Russian entry as they make their JGP debut in their second season as a team. Last year, they won the junior bronze medal at Ice Challenge in Graz, Austria, and they were 11th at the Russian Junior National Championships.

The French team of Estelle Elizabeth & Romain Le Gac placed 15th at the 2013 World Junior Championships and will be looking to improve their international standing this year as one of France’s top junior teams. Last year, they were 10th in both of their JGP assignments. They began this season in late July with the Lyon Summer Cup, where they won the short dance and placed second in the free.

As the only past JGP medalists in the field, Bent & MacKeen look like the favorites, but should face a good challenge from McNamara & Carpenter. Pogrebinsky & Gudis and Korotitskaia & Spodirev are also expected to contend for the podium.

The event gets underway with the short dance on Friday and wraps up with the free dance the following day. All programs will be uploaded to the International Skating Union’s YouTube channel.