by Katie Tetzloff | Photo by Robin Ritoss
This week, 27 ice dance teams from 19 different countries will compete in Tallinn, Estonia, at the 2015 World Junior Figure Skating Championships. Tallinn is not unfamiliar to the figure skating scene, as it has hosted a Junior Grand Prix event five times, including one this past fall, but this will be the first time that the city hosts the World Junior Championships. In order to qualify for this event, junior-aged teams must have achieved a minimum technical element score (TES) of at least 18 in the short dance and 28 in the free dance at a previous ISU event in the past two seasons.
For these competitive ice dancers, the race to the podium will be exciting. Many of the teams present at this year’s championships already have extensive international experience from the Junior Grand Prix (JGP) series from this and past years. In fact, several of the podium contenders are competing at this event for the third time. It is likely that the Russians, Canadians, and Americans will be those fighting the hardest for the three medals, as those teams dominated the JGP circuit earlier this season.
The favorites for gold are Anna Yanovskaya & Sergey Mozgov of Russia. This will be their third time competing at this event, having placed fourth in 2012 and second in 2014. This team had a promising start to the 2014-2015 season; they won both the JGP Tallinn Cup and Croatia Cup before advancing to the JGP Final in Barcelona, where they also captured gold. In addition, they have the highest ISU Junior score of the season so far, having achieved a combined total of 152.00 at their first JGP of the season, which is nearly eight points higher than the next highest score.
Also competing on behalf of Russia are Betina Popva & Yuri Vlasenko. They, too, will be skating for a podium spot. After placing second at the JGP Czech Skate and winning the JGP Pokal der Blauen Schwerter, they qualified for the Final, where they took third.
The third team representing Russia is Sofia Evdokimova & Igor Bazin, who narrowly defeated Alla Loboda & Pavel Drozd at the recent Russian Junior Championships. Although Loboda & Drozd had finished second at the JGP Final this season, Evdokimova & Bazin were given the spot on the team. Evdokimova & Bazin finished fourth at both of their JGP events this season.
Canadians Mackenzie Bent & Garrett MacKeen are hoping to win a medal at this year’s Junior Worlds as well. This will be their third experience at this event, having placed fifth in 2013 and 12th last year. Bent & MacKeen currently have one of the highest ISU scores of the season, their personal best of 144.51, earned at JGP Tallinn Cup in the fall. During the JGP season, this team was ranked second after winning gold at Czech Skate and silver in Tallinn, but at the Final, they placed fourth behind a Russian podium sweep.
Also of Canada, Madeline Edwards & ZhaoKai Pang will be returning as defending world junior bronze medalists. This season, they placed first and second at their two JGP events, Nagoya TV Cup and Courchevel, respectively, before finishing in fifth in Barcelona at the JGP Final. Like Bent & MacKeen, this is their third trip to the World Junior Championships.
Lorraine McNamara & Quinn Carpenter (pictured, right), leading Team USA to this event, are also competing for a third time at the World Junior Championships. In 2013, they placed ninth, while in 2014, they placed fourth. This year, they competed at Czech Skate and Pokal der Blauen Schwerter JGP events and placed third and second, respectively, finished behind Popova & Vlasenko both times. Their current ISU season’s best score is 139.35, earned at Pokal der Blauen Schwerter, but they won the U.S. Junior Championships with a score of 155.39, over ten points higher than their training mates, Rachel Parsons & Michael Parsons.
The Parsons siblings, also in their third trip to the World Junior Championships, would love to improve upon their 15th-place ranking in 2012 and their eighth-place ranking in 2014. After placing third and second in their JGP events this fall, they just missed qualifying for the Final as first alternates. Parsons & Parsons recently placed second behind McNamara & Carpenter at both the U.S. Junior Championships and Mentor Nestle Nesquick Torun Cup.
Elliana Pogrebinsky & Alex Benoit will round out Team USA in the ice dance event. This is this team’s first season competing together. They placed fifth at JGP Nagoya TV Cup and eighth at JGP Croatia Cup before placing third on the junior level at the U.S. Championships. This will be the first Junior Worlds for both of them.
Beyond the three powerhouse countries, Ukrainians Alexandra Nazarova & Maxim Nikitin have a shot at repeating last year’s top five status if they skate their best. Unfortunately, the Alexander Zhulin-trained team was off their game on the JGP circuit this year after qualifying for the Final in the previous season. This fall, they failed to top 130 points on the junior circuit, though they fared better at a pair of senior international events later in the season. They earned a silver medal at Warsaw Cup and set a new ISU personal best of 148.48 at Golden Spin in December.
The ice dance event begins with the short dance on Thursday, March 5, and finishes with the free dance on Saturday, March 7.