by Laura Flagg | Photo by Robin Ritoss
The second Junior Grand Prix event takes place this week in Riga, Latvia. 15 ice dance teams from 11 different countries will compete.
Betina Popova & Yuri Vlasenko (pictured, right) are the only team competing in Latvia who have previously won medals in the JGP series, finishing with one gold and one silver each of the past two seasons. They also earned a bronze at the JGP Final last season. However, at the World Junior Championships, they had major errors in both segments and finished a disappointing 11th. This season, they will be skating their short dance to music from “The Master and Margarita” by Igor Korneliuk and their free dance to “Crazy in Love” by Beyonce. They are coached by Ksenia Rumiantseva and Ekaterina Volobueva.
Their Russian team mates, Sofia Evdokimova & Egor Bazin, are one of the teams most likely to earn their first JGP medal. They placed fourth in both their events last season and 10th at the Junior World championships. They train with Oleg Sudakov and will be skating to music from the Romeo and Juliet soundtrack by Craig Armstrong and Nellee Hooper in the free dance.
Also fighting for their first JGP medals are Christina Carreira & Anthony Ponomarenko, who are are coached by Igor Shpilband, Fabian Bourzat, and Greg Zuerlein in Novi, Michigan. They placed fourth and fifth at their JGP events last season and followed that up with a fifth place finish at U.S. Nationals. The team already has a silver medal from the inaugural Lake Placid Ice Dance International. The young Americans will be doing their free dance to music by Goran Bregovich.
Rounding out the list of the medal contenders are Angelique Abachkina and Louis Thauron of France, who are training mates of Carreira & Ponomarenko in Shpilband’s group. They finished 7th at both their JGP events last season, but had an impressive 8th place finish at the World Junior Championships.
Emily Day and Kevin Leahy will also be representing the U.S. They made their JGP debut last season, with an eighth place finish in Courchevel and finished sixth at U.S. Nationals. They are skating their short dance to a waltz and a polka by Edith Piaf and their free dance to music from the motion picture Slumdog Millionaire. They are coached by Christine Fowler-Binder and Vitali Novikov in California.
Melinda and Andrew Meng, who are coached by Shawn Winter and Elise Hamel in Montreal, Quebec, will be competing for Canada. Their highest placement at a JGP event was sixth, but that was back in 2012; they placed third (junior level) at their Nationals last season. Their free dance is to “Nocturne” and “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Lucia Micarelli. Also representing Canada, Hannah Whitley and Elliott Graham placed 10th at their one JGP event last season and fifth in at Canadian Nationals. They train in Barrie, Ontario with David Islam, Kelly Johnson, and James Callan.
Marina Elias and Denis Koreline, from Estonia, will be competing at a JGP event for the fourth straight season. They placed 20th at Junior Worlds last season. The duo is coached by Lea Rand.
The short dance will be on Friday with the free dance being contested on the following day.