bonacorsi-magerThis week, the sixth and penultimate stop on the Junior Grand Prix is in Milan, Italy, at the Trofeo W. Lombardi. The fashionable city of Milan will host 16 teams from 11 countries as the battle to qualify for the JGP Final grows fierce. The JGP last visited Italy in 2008 with an event in Merano, but it has not been to Milan since consecutive events in 2001 and 2002.

After a few surprises last week, the top teams in Milan will need to stay on their toes if they want to stay on top of the JGP Final-bound leaderboard. As gold medalists already this season in Brasov, Russia’s Alexandra Stepanova & Ivan Bukin are favorites for gold here as well, but any medal will keep them high enough in the standings to stay in the fight for the Final. In Brasov, they put up the high mark of 134.29, a new personal best, and proved that they are among the world’s best on the junior level.

If either Valeria Zenkova & Valerie Sinitsin of Russia or Lauri Bonacorsi & Travis Mager of the United States (pictured) can upset Stepanova & Bukin for gold, they will likely be heading to the Final. If not, Bonacorsi & Mager will try to hold off Zenkova & Sinitsin once again, as they did in Australia a few weeks ago. If Bonacorsi & Mager can pick up a second silver medal, they will probably qualify to skate in Québec City. Both Bonacorsi & Mager and Zenkova & Sinitsin set new personal bests in Australia and the margin between the two teams was tight—123.62 to 122.35. Anything can happen, and it may come down to whether the judges prefer the Americans’ dramatic lyrical free dance or the Russians’ lighthearted Chaplin-inspired program.

Germany’s Shari Koch & Christian Nuechtern are taking on back-to-back competitions, flying high after a surprise fourth-place showing in Austria last week. Few expected the duo, who missed the JGP series last year, to contend in a field that included three JGP gold medalists, but the German junior champions skated incredibly well and finished fourth with a score of 124.09. Overall, the Austrian event was the highest-scoring competition on this year’s series so far, and it will be interesting to see how they compare to the other top teams.

Victoria Hasegawa & Connor Hasegawa of Canada earned a second assignment after an impressive showing in Gdansk, Poland, where they placed fifth and scored 118.45. They delivered two strong programs in Poland but were hurt by a couple of level issues on their lifts. With time to get those squared away, they could finish even stronger this week in Milan.

Joining the Hasegawas on Team Canada will be Caelen Dalmer & Shane Firus. Dalmer & Firus finished fourth on the novice level at last year’s Junior Nationals and are making their international debut in Milan. Canada’s young teams have delivered great results on this year’s JGP circuit, and Dalmer & Firus certainly have the scoring potential to continue that trend.

Leading the Italian home team will be Sofia Sforza & Francesco Fioretti. Trofeo W. Lombardi will be their second JGP event this season; they already finished fifth in Brasov with a score of 109.05. Alessia Busi & Andrea Fabbri and Jasmine Tessari & Stefano Colafato are also on the roster for Team Italy.

The dancers will have two days of official practice on Wednesday and Thursday before they begin competition on Friday afternoon with the short dance. The free dance is scheduled for 11:50 on Saturday.