Preview Archive

Tough Junior Field Set for Tallinn

14jgpest-yanomozgovby Laura Flagg | Photo by Robin Ritoss

After a week off, the Junior Grand Prix series continues this weekend in Tallinn, Estonia. The roster features 16 teams, including some who are hoping to secure a spot in the Junior Grand Prix Final. Tallinn held a JGP event last year, and three of the teams expected to vie for medals this year are returning competitors from last year’s event.

Mackenzie Bent and Garrett MacKeen, who represent Canada, are coming off a stupendous competition at the JGP event in Ostrava, Czech Republic, where they earned 138.17 points, the highest score earned by any junior ice dance team this season. While they were not flawless—he had a minor stumble in their “Red Queen” free dance—their powerful, precise skating gives them an advantage over most junior teams. Last season, Bent & MacKeen also won their first event, but faltered in their second. This year, they will be attempting to follow up their victory with another strong performance and earn their first trip to the JGP Final.

However, despite their dominating performance several weeks ago, Bent and MacKeen are not the favorites. That role falls to Anna Yanovskaya & Sergey Mozgov (pictured, right), the Russian team who won the JGP Final last season. Yanovskaya & Mozgov, who have been skating together since 2011, decided to return to the junior level after just missing out on the gold medal at the World Junior Championships last March. They are coached by Svetlana Alexeeva, Elena Kustarova, and Olga Riabinina. This will be their first competition this season; their late start is due to Mozgov’s recovery from a knee injury. Yanovskaya & Mozgov are the defending champions from last year’s JGP Tallinn Cup.

Alexandra Nazarova & Maxim Nikitin are looking to rebound from their disappointing 4th-place finish in Courchevel last month. The Ukrainian team qualified for the JGP Final last season, but even a victory in Estonia may not be enough to qualify again this season. Without the errors that marred their samba and rhumba short dance in France, they are one of the favorites to medal here in Estonia. Nazarova & Nikitin won the silver medal at this event last year.

Holly Moore & Daniel Klaber are also expected to battle for a medal. Moore & Klaber, who represent the United States, had a solid competition at the JGP event in Ljubljana, Slovenia. Despite problems in the short dance, they rebounded to win the free dance with their entertaining “Addams Family” program. A spot in the Final is not out of the question, but they will probably need to finish second or higher to have any chance. Moore & Klaber finished fouth in Tallinn last year, just .04 from the podium, and they would love to take home a medal this time.

Earning the bronze at the competition in Courchevel were the young Russian team of Anastasia Shpilevaya & Grigory Smirnov. Their total element score was comparable, if not higher, than teams that placed above them, so they will be looking to increase their component score and improve on their very promising JGP debut.  The tough field in Estonia makes earning a trip to the Final unlikely, but as they are the youngest team to have medaled on the JGP this year, time and their natural charisma are in their favor. 

Americans Christina Carreira & Anthony Ponomarenko had a promising start to their international careers, finishing fifth in a strong field in Ostrava. As one of the youngest teams on the circuit—even younger than Shpilevaya and Smirnov—Carreira & Ponomarenko will be attempting to build on their experience for the future. While a berth in the Final is almost mathematically impossible at this point, they will be able to use everything they have learned from their international experience as they look toward the U.S. Championships.

The newly-formed Canadian team of Audrey Croteau-Villeneuve & Jeff Hough will be making their international debut in Tallinn.They earned their spot on the circuit with a series of good results at summer competitions. Croteau-Villeneuve moved to Ottawa this year to train with Hough at his home rink. 

The short dance will take place on Friday, September 26. The free dance takes place the following day.

Comment here