by Katie Tetzloff | Photo by Daphne Backman

This week, 19 ice dance teams from 14 countries will travel to Nice, France, for the 18th Annual International Cup of Nice (or Coupe Internationale de Nice, for the Francophones). This event is one of the International Skating Union’s senior international competitions, and therefore, the top-placing teams will earn ISU World Standings points. Scores earned at this event can also be used to qualify for ISU Championships.

The likely favorites for the gold medal are Russians Ksenia Monko & Kirill Khaliavin. They are the 2012 Cup of Nice champions, and they recently placed second at this year’s Nebelhorn Trophy. These senior international competitions are a great opportunity for them to showcase and improve their programs before their upcoming Grand Prix assignments at Trophée Eric Bompard and Rostelecom Cup.

Representing Italy, Lorenza Alessandrini & Simone Vaturi will be returning to the ice after a training injury to Vaturi caused them to miss much of last season; because they had to withdraw from the Italian Championships, they could not be considered for berths to the European or World Championships. At Cup of Nice in 2010, they won the silver medal and they are medal favorites again this year. 

Alessandrini & Vaturi’s part-time training mates, Federica Bernardi & Chris Mior of Italy and Federica Testa & Lukas Csolley of Slovakia, are also competing. The three teams train in Milan for part of the year. Bernardi & Mior placed 12th at the U.S. International Classic last month, while Testa & Csolley competed in a tight race for Olympic berths at Nebelhorn Trophy. Testa & Csolley’s ninth-place finish gave Slovakia the first alternate position for the 2014 Olympic Winter Games.

13nice-parouelFrench natives Gabriella Papadakis & Guillaume Cizeron are making their senior international début this week in their home country. The 2013 World Junior silver medalists have the potential to take home a medal, despite being untested at this level. It is possible that politics could affect them this weekend; Papadakis & Cizeron are unfortunately caught in the middle of a power struggle between the French skating federation and their training rink in Lyon.

Canada is sending two teams to Nice, although this competition is not usually on their schedule. Kharis Ralph & Asher Hill will make their international season début in Nice. Both their short dance, an Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong medley, and their Latin-themed free dance have been performed at club competitions this summer. With so much international experience under their belts, Ralph & Hill are definitely strong podium contenders. Nice will be the first of two consecutive competitions for them; they will also compete at NRW Trophy in Dortmund, Germany, next week.

This weekend will mark the long-awaited international début for Canadians Élisabeth Paradis & François-Xavier Ouellette (pictured, left). They nearly had a JGP assignment two years ago, but when rosters were adjusted to accommodate second assignments for teams that did well on the circuit, Paradis & Ouellette just missed out. They earned their Cup of Nice assignment based on strong results in Lake Placid and at the Québec Summer Championships early this season, and they won Souvenir Georges-Éthier two weeks ago.

The ice dance event at Cup of Nice begins with the short dance on Friday, October 25, and finishes with the free dance on the following day.