by Laura Flagg

Skate Canada, the second of six events in the Grand Prix series, takes place this week in Lethbridge, Alberta.   Eight ice dance teams representing five countries will compete for medals, prize money, and the standing points to qualify for the Grand Prix Final.

Reigning Canadian Champions, Kaitlyn Weaver & Andrew Poje, are the heavy favorites.  Weaver & Poje won all but one of the competitions they entered last season — but that one was the World Championships, where they finished third.  They also won Finlandia Trophy earlier this month.  Their coaches and choreographers are Pasquale Camerlengo and Anjelika Krylova.  Weaver & Poje will be performing a free dance to “On the Nature of Daylight” by Max Richter and “Walk” and “Run” by Ludovico Einaudi.

Russia’s Ekaterina Bobrova & Dmitri Soloviev are looking to restart their career as injury kept from competing last year. They made their senior debut at Skate Canada in 2007, where they finished 5th.  Since then, they’ve won numerous medals, including a bronze at the 2013 World Championships.  Despite the time off, they should still be considered medal favorites.  Coached by Alexander Zhulin and Oleg Volkov, Bobrova &  Soloviev will use their free dance to music from Anna Karenina that they had choreographed for last season.

The other likely medalists are Maia Shibutani & Alex Shibutani, who represent the United States. They were 2nd at U.S. Nationals and fifth at the World Championships last season, but their career highlight is still their bronze medal from Worlds in 2011.   They had a somewhat disappointing debut to their season, finishing third at Nepela Trophy.  After a strong performance of their new short dance to music of Coppelia resulted in a first place finish in that segment, low levels on both step sequences in their free dance caused them to fall in the rankings.  They train with Marina Zoueva.

 

Laurence Fournier & Nikolaj Sorensen, who are coached by Marie-France Dubreuil, Patrice Lauzon, and Romain Haguenauer in Montreal, Quebec, will be looking to continue to establish the reputation of Danish ice dancing.  They were ninth at Europeans and had an impressive 11th place finish at Worlds last season.  They have followed that up with two strong showings in the ISU Challenger series this year, already taking home silver from Salt Lake City and bronze from Finland.  Their free dance this season is to “Woman” by Shawn Phillips. 

Also representing Canada are Alexandra Paul & Mitchell Islam.  After a solid performance earned them a second place finish at  Nebelhorn Trophy in September, the duo has a chance to earn their first ever Grand Prix medal this week.   They are also part of the Dubreuil-Lauzon-Haguenauer group in Montreal.  Their new free dance is to music by Michel Legrand.

Paul & Islam’s training mates, Elisabeth Paradis & François-Xavier Ouellette, are the third Canadian team entered. Their free dance is to “Bridge Over Troubled Water” by Simon & Garfunkel. Paradis & Ouellette had a strong season last year, highlighted by a fourth place finish at Skate America and a fifth place finish at Nationals.  This season, they have already earned a bronze medal on the Challenger Series. 

Italian silver medalists, Charlene Guignard & Marco Fabbri, will also be competing in Lethbridge. They had the best season of their careers last year, finishing 6th at the European Championships and 12th at Worlds. Coached by former World Champion, Barbra Fusar-Poli, Guignard & Fabbri are skating to music from Schindler’s List and W.E. for their free dance.

Finishing one slot away from Fournier & Sorensen at both Europeans and Worlds last season were Ksenia Monko & Kirill Khavalian.  Monko & Khavalian placed second and fourth at their Grand Prix events last season.  After earning a spot at Worlds via a second place finish at Russian Nationals, they placed an impressive eighth in their World Championship debut.   Like Bobrova & Soloviev, they train with Zhulin and Volkov.  Their free dance this season is to “Torn” by Nathan Lanier and “Eternal” by William Joseph.

The short dance takes place on Friday the 30th and the costumes will be particularly appropriate for the free dance, which takes place the following day, on Halloween.