by Melanie Hoyt | Photo by Daphne Backman

The past six weeks of junior skating have built to this weekend, when top competitors from around the world will vie for the final places to December’s Junior Grand Prix Final. Just as it did two years ago, Tallinn, Estonia, will host the seventh and final event. Among the 14 teams competing are Anna Yanovskaya & Sergey Mozgov, who won JGP Tallinn Cup in 2011.

Yanovskaya & Mozgov, who represent Russia, are the clear favorites for gold again this year. They have already won their first JGP event of the season, JGP Kosice, with a score of 143.39. Yanovskaya & Mozgov have been very successful on the JGP in just two full seasons together, qualifying for the Final both times and finishing second and fourth. Last season, they were eclipsed domestically and missed out on attending the World Junior Championships, but this year, they seem to be establishing themselves as leaders on the Russian junior team. As long as they medal in Tallinn, they will qualify for the Final, along with Kaitlin Hawayek & Jean-Luc Baker, Lorraine McNamara & Quinn Carpenter, and Betina Popova & Yuri Vlasenko. Rachel Parsons & Michael Parsons will most likely qualify for the Final, but they have not yet mathematically clinched their spot.

As always, the fight for the last spot gets a little complicated. One team competing in Tallinn seems to be a likely candidate, but of course, ice is slippery and technical panels can be unpredictable.

Ukraine’s Alexandra Nazarova & Maxim Nikitin began their season with a bang at JGP Baltic Cup, where they scored 135.22 en route to the silver medal and 13 points towards qualifying for the Final. Nazarova & Nikitin began training with Alexander Zhulin and Oleg Volkov this season, and they have already made improvements. If they can win at least another silver medal this weekend, they will secure their place to the Final. If they win the bronze medal (11 points), they would need to do so with a score of at least 132.20 to get past Canadians Madeline Edwards & ZhaoKai Pang, who also have 24 points and are currently on the bubble.

Holly Moore & Daniel Klaber of the United States and Daria Morozova & Mikhail Zhirnov of Russia have each won a bronze medal (and secured 11 points) on the JGP circuit this year. If either team wins the silver medal this week (for 13 points) and if Nazarova & Nikitin finishes off the podium, then the Tallinn silver-medal finisher would be up against Edwards & Pang in the 24-point tiebreaker. Morozova & Zhirnov would need 138.78 points and Moore & Klaber would need 143.51 points. Both scores are well above what each team has scored so far this season, so it seems most likely that either Nazarova & Nikitin or Edwards & Pang will earn the last berth to the Final.

13jgpest-dellumMoore & Klaber’s 123.91-point effort at JGP Kosice sent the duo to their first JGP podium. They are the 2013 U.S. pewter medalists and will be in a fierce fight to move up at the U.S. Championships later this season. Their sassy Latin free dance should be a highlight for the audience in Estonia.

Morozova & Zhirnov’s bronze medal at JGP Minsk two weeks ago was their second JGP medal; they also won bronze last year in Germany. They train with Alexander Svinin and Irina Zhuk and finished fourth at Russia’s junior national championship in 2013.

Canada’s Brianna Delmaestro & Timothy Lum (pictured, right) earned a second JGP assignment after a strong first outing at Baltic Cup, where they placed fifth and scored 129.81 points. Delmaestro & Lum are in their first season together and train among a crop of talented junior teams at the BC Centre of Excellence in Burnaby, B.C. They would need a perfect storm of unusual results, including a victory in Tallinn, to make the Final, but their scoring potential does mean that they could play spoiler for another team. 

Katie Desveaux & Dmitre Razgulajevs will also represent Canada at this event—that is, if the paperwork mishap that led to their withdrawal from JGP Mexico has been corrected. Desveaux & Razgulajevs flew to Mexico City last month and joined Team Canada for their first JGP event, but were unable to compete because of a paperwork mistake that involved Razgulajevs’s U.S. passport. Fortunately, Canada had room at the final event and was able to send Desveaux & Razgulajevs out for their JGP début without having to sacrifice another team that had earned the spot. Desveaux & Razgulajevs have already been skating together for seven years.

The short dance is set for Friday morning and the free dance will be on Saturday. Both events began at 11 a.m. in Tallinn.