15PreviewFinlandiaWeaPoby Melanie Hoyt | Photo by Robin Ritoss

This weekend, skaters will take the ice for Finlandia Trophy, the fourth event in this year’s ISU Challenger Series. The event, held in Espoo, Finland, will feature 11 teams from nine countries and will be headlined by two-time world medalists Kaitlyn Weaver & Andrew Poje.

Weaver & Poje will undoubtedly be looking to check their levels and tune up their programs before their Grand Prix events. Finlandia will offer the first look at these programs, an Elvis-themed short dance that uses “Can’t Help Falling in Love” and “Heartbreak Hotel,” and a free dance set to introspective music by Max Richter and Ludovico Einaudi. A soulful cello line is present in the pieces by both composers and should create unifying material in the cuts. After last year’s effort with a traditional classical piece, this music is more like Weaver & Poje’s 2013 “statue” free dance, and it will be interesting to see what they do with this program. At any rate, the Canadians are the clear favorites to win this week in Finland.

Joining them will be their American training mates, Kaitlin Hawayek & Jean-Luc Baker, also with a shot at the podium in their season début. Hawayek & Baker won a surprise bronze medal at NHK Trophy last season and were fifth at the 2015 Four Continents Championships. Their ISU personal best total score is still the 157.12-point effort that earned them the junior world title in 2014. Known for their strong connection on the ice, Hawayek & Baker have chosen pieces that should play to this strength. They will skate to excerpts from “The Nutcracker” in the short dance and the beautiful soundtrack from last year’s film “The Theory of Everything” in the free dance.

With a silver medal from the U.S. International Figure Skating Classic already this season, Denmark’s Laurence Fournier Beaudry & Nikolaj Sorensen will be gunning for the top spot in the Challenger Series this week. Fournier Beaudry & Sorensen continue to impress audiences and judges alike with their smooth skating and connection, highlighted in their bluesy free dance to “Woman” by Shawn Philipps. They only scored 141.08 a few weeks ago in Salt Lake, but with an ISU personal best of 156.23 points, their scoring potential is much higher.

Isabella Tobias & Ilia Tkachenko will continue their debut season this week. Tobias & Tkachenko, representing Israel, won the inaugural Lake Placid Ice Dance International in August. Unable to compete last year due to country switches for both skaters, they have had a lot of time to train their “Cinderella” short dance and free dance to “Polovtsian Dances.” This event is the first of two international events in a row for Tobias & Tkachenko; they will also compete at Mordovian Ornament in Saransk, Russia, next week.

Brianna Delmaestro & Timothy Lum will join Weaver & Poje on Team Canada this week. They recently finished sixth at the U.S. International Classic, where they scored 111.46 points. With a couple of weeks to work on their elements, they should be able to reach a higher mark this week.

The home team will be represented by Olesia Karmi & Max Lindholm, who were 19th at the 2015 European Championships, and Cecilia Törn & Jussiville Partanen, who were 25th at the 2015 World Championships.

The short dance will open the competition on Friday evening, and the free dance will be held on Saturday evening.