by Abril Ventura
The top six qualifying teams from the Grand Prix circuit and Junior Grand Prix (JGP) series head to Turin, Italy for the Grand Prix Final. The events will be held at the Torino Palavela, which hosted the figure skating events for the 2006 Winter Olympic Games.
The top qualifiers for the Grand Prix Final this year are current World Champions from France, Gabriella Papadakis & Guillaume Cizeron, who took the gold at both their assignments – Internationaux de France and NHK Trophy – by large margins. They are the favorites to take the Grand Prix title, which they previously won during the 2017-2018 season. They currently have the highest scores in the Rhythm Dance, Free Dance, and overall.
World Silver Medallists, Russians, Victoria Sinitsina & Nikita Katsalapov are the second qualifiers for the Final. They had a breakthrough season last year where they won the silver medal at the Grand Prix Final and the World Championships. This season, they qualified for the Final with two golds.
Canada’s Piper Gilles & Paul Poirier last made the Final during the 2014-2015 season, where they finished 5th; since then they have just fallen short of making it again, until this season where they are going in with an impressive 28 points, qualifying in third place.
With 28 points, the fourth-place qualifiers are Madison Hubbell & Zachary Donohue from the USA, the current World Bronze Medallists, who are the defending Grand Prix Final Champions. Earlier in the season, they were overtaken in the free dance at Skate America by Stepanova / Bukin, and overall at Skate Canada by Gilles / Poirier.
Fifth qualifiers are Russia’s Alexandra Stepanova & Ivan Bukin, who took the silver at both Skate America and NHK Trophy. They had a few setbacks at the beginning of the season when they decided not to perform at the Russian test skates in early September due to an injury from Stepanova. This is their second consecutive season making the Grand Prix Final.
After deciding to take off the Grand Prix season last year due to injury, Americans Madison Chock & Evan Bates are back on the circuit and have made the Final for the fifth time in their career, their last appearance being in the 2017-2018 season, where they finished fifth. Although they are the sixth qualifiers, they currently have the second-highest scoring free dance of the season with 128.21 points, earned at the Cup of China.
The top qualifiers for the Junior Grand Prix Final this season are USA’s Avonley Nguyen & Vadym Kolesnik, who took the gold at JGP United States and JGP Poland. This is their second consecutive season making the Final, having finished fifth at last season’s Final. At the 2019 Junior World Championships, they finished fourth.
This is the first Junior Grand Prix Final for Russians Elizaveta Shanaeva & Devid Naryzhnyy, who stayed just short of making both the Final and the Junior World Championships last season. This has been a breakthrough season for them with their wins at both JGP assignments.
The brand new partnership of Russia’s Elizaveta Khudaiberdieva & Andrey Filatov has had a good start with wins at both their Junior Grand Prix assignments. They got reassigned from JGP Poland to JGP Italy after a brief illness, but both seemed well at their last showing in Italy. Khudaiberdieva is the current Junior World Silver medallist with her previous partner, Nikita Nazarov.
Maria Kazakova & Georgy Reviya became the first Georgian ice dancers to make the Junior Grand Prix Final last season, where they finished sixth. This season they are going into the Final with a solid first and second place at their assignments. Although they are the fourth qualifiers, they have received generally higher marks than third qualifiers, Khudaiberdieva / Filatov. They are the team with the most seniority at the Final and have participated in two senior events this season, where they got a silver and a bronze.
This is the first Junior Grand Prix Final for Loicia Demougeot & Theo Le Mercier from France, who were second at both of their JGP assignments. It is also the first Junior Grand Prix Final for Russians Diana Davis & Gleb Smolkin, who recently moved to the United States to train with Igor Shpilband and Pasquale Camerlengo. They earned the silver medal at both of their JGP assignments.
The event kicks off on Friday, December 3, with the junior rhythm dance at 3 p.m. local time ( 9 a.m. EST) followed by the senior rhythm dance at 6:30 p.m. ( 12:30 p.m. EST). The free dances are back-to-back on Saturday, December 4, at 6 p.m. ( 12:00 p.m. EST) and 7:25 p.m. ( 1:25 p.m. EST).