With a few spots in this year’s Junior Grand Prix Final still up for grabs, the JGP Series moves to Zagreb, Croatia, this week for its penultimate event. Zagreb has hosted a plethora of international skating events, including the annual Golden Spin of Zagreb, the 2008 European Championships, and JGP events in 2003, 2005, 2007, and 2009.
A pair of experienced Russian teams leads this field. Evgenia Kosigina & Nikolai Moroshkin (pictured, right) and Valeria Zenkova & Valerie Sinitsin both won silver medals at their first event and will each be looking for gold to guarantee a spot to the JGP Final in Sochi, Russia.
Kosigina & Moroshkin earned the highest short dance score of the series so far, 59.44, at the second event in Lake Placid, N.Y. They set ISU personal best scores in both phases of the competition there, but their free dance included a botched lift and was far from their best effort. They have had plenty of time to clean up their programs and if their free dance is now as polished as their short dance was last month, their teammates might not be able to catch them. Kosigina & Moroshkin were JGP Finalists two seasons ago, but silver and bronze medals from the series were not enough to get them to the Final last year. A gold medal will secure their place, but a second silver will also likely be enough.
Zenkova & Sinitsin are also coming into this event with a silver medal, but their score of 124.94 from Courchevel, France, is over 10 points less than what Kosigina & Moroshkin scored in Lake Placid. Courchevel’s participants have been scoring much higher in their second event, though, so Zenkova & Sinitsin could still be a threat for the victory in Zagreb. They switched coaches this year and are now training with Alexander Zhulin, but their Cats free dance has not gone over as well as some of Zhulin’s past efforts. Zenkova & Sinitsin also won a silver and a bronze medal on the series last year. They are aiming to qualify for their first Final, and will probably do so if they finish in the top two places.
Canada’s Mackenzie Bent & Garrett MacKeen are the only other JGP medalist from this season on the roster for Zagreb. They won bronze at the third event in Austria, and they could qualify for the Final with a top-two finish this week. They tallied a strong score of 129.16 in Austria, setting ISU personal bests in both dances, even despite some level problems. Assuming that they have ironed out those issues and have another strong short dance, Bent & MacKeen are in shape to make a run at that silver medal position that could send them to Sochi, depending on possible tiebreakers. A gold medal would earn them the spot outright.
Melinda Meng & Andrew Meng will join Bent & MacKeen as Canada’s second entry. This will be the JGP début for the 2012 Canadian novice silver medalists. The Mengs, siblings from Ottawa who now train in Montréal, have earned this assignment based on solid performances in summer assignments, including a 72.47-point free dance victory at the Québec Summer Championships.
Anna Nagornyuk & Viktor Kovalenko of Uzbekistan are coming off of a fourth-place finish last week at Sencila Bled Cup, where they set a new ISU personal best of 116.80 points. They also set a personal best score in the short dance of 50.99, just sliding past the important 50-point threshold. As their country’s top dance team at both the junior and senior levels, Nagornyuk & Kovalenko will be aiming for the 29- and 39-point technical marks in the short and free dances, respectively, in order to qualify for the World Championships. They have been within a point of the mark in each dance before, but were several points away last week.
Ukraine’s Alexandra Nazarova & Maxim Nikitin, the 2012 Youth Olympic Games silver medalists, already have a fifth-place finish on this year’s JGP series. They scored 114.18 in Austria and will aim to improve upon that effort, particularly in the short dance, where they were affected by low levels.
The United States is sending Rachel Parsons & Michael Parsons to Zagreb after their sixth-place finish in Austria, where they were just 13 tenths of a point behind Nazarova & Nikitin. The Parsons also placed behind the Ukrainians at the Youth Olympic Games last January; the Americans finished fourth there. The USA had earned two dance spots for each JGP event, but chose to leave their second spot in Zagreb blank.
Rebeka Kim & Kirill Minov will make their JGP début this week, providing that Minov’s paperwork has come through. Kim & Minov represent South Korea, but train in Moscow, Russia, with Irina Zhuk and Alexander Svinin.
The short dance will be held on Friday, October 5, at 10:00 a.m. The free dance will be on Saturday, also at 10:00 a.m.