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Weaver & Poje headline Nebelhorn Trophy roster

14W-FD-7209-WP-RR 595by Melanie Hoyt | Photo by Robin Ritoss

While it is no longer the start of the senior international season, Nebelhorn Trophy still feels like a new beginning to longtime skating enthusiasts. The annual competition in idyllic Oberstdorf, Germany, is a competition where seasoned veterans and new seniors alike can test a new season’s waters. This year is no exception, as the roster includes both world medalists and senior débuts.

The title is likely Kaitlyn Weaver & Andrew Poje’s (pictured, right) to lose. They reached the second step on the world podium last season after their first Olympic experience, and they hope to continue their momentum to reach new heights this year, for the first time as Canada’s #1 team. Beginning their ninth season together, they have plenty of international experience, but this is their first appearance at Nebelhorn Trophy. They are not strangers to Oberstdorf, though; in 2007, they won the world junior bronze medal in the Bavarian resort. Weaver & Poje train at the Detroit Skating Club with Anjelika Krylova and Pasquale Camerlengo.

Also making a run at the medals will be Madison Chock & Evan Bates of the United States. Now in their fourth season together, Chock & Bates have been steadily climbing the international ranks and could establish themselves this year at the top American team, post-Davis & White. They were eighth at last season’s Winter Olympic Games and fifth at the subsequent World Championships. Skating fans, particularly those that have followed Bates, will be anxious to see their new free dance to music from “An American in Paris.” Bates had a free dance to this music in 2010 with previous partner Emily Samuelson, but only a handful of people saw the program before an injury ended their season. Chock & Bates train in Novi, Mich., with Igor Shpilband. They are the 2012 Nebelhorn Trophy champions.

The home team of Nelli Zhiganshina & Alexander Gazsi has a great shot at medaling. This will be their fourth Nebelhorn appearance, and they won the silver medal in 2011. Zhiganshina & Gazsi were 11th at both the Olympic Games and the World Championships in 2014, one place below their finish at the 2013 World Championships. The usually innovative Germans sometimes struggle technically, though never in performance quality. It will be interesting to see how they have adapted to some of the new technical requirements. They work with Rostislav Sinicyn and Martin Skotnicky year-round in Oberstdorf.

One American team will be making their senior international début at Nebelhorn. Kaitlyn Hawayek & Jean-Luc Baker are coming off a banner final junior season that saw them win both the U.S. junior title as well as the world junior title. They have already competed this year, with a strong showing at the Lake Placid Ice Dance Championships. Their fiery Paso Doble short dance contrasts well with their much softer free dance, set to Abel Korzeniowski’s score from the 2013 version of “Romeo & Juliet.” The young team’s skills are impressive, and it will be exciting to see how they fit with some of the more experienced senior teams. Hawayek & Baker are traveling with training mates Weaver & Poje.

Canada will also send Élisabeth Paradis & François-Xavier Ouellette. Nebelhorn Trophy marks their second international assignment; they finished fifth at Cup of Nice in 2013. The couple began their season with the short dance competition in Lake Placid. They performed well, but their elements were hit with major deductions, something that they were able to correct in time for the Québec Summer Championships, where they also débuted their free dance. Paradis & Ouellette train in Montréal with Pascal Denis, Marie-France Dubreuil, and Patrice Lauzon.

Another interesting battle in Oberstdorf will be between the two Korean dance teams, Rebeka Kim & Kirill Minov and Yura Min & Timothy Koleto. Kim & Minov, who train in Moscow with Irina Zhuk and Alexander Svinin, have done well on the junior circuit, finishing sixth at the 2014 World Junior Championships. Nebelhorn marks their senior début. Min & Koleto began skating together last year as seniors, with Koleto completely new to ice dance. They train in Novi with Shpilband and Greg Zuerlein.

Former U.S. junior silver medalist Lauri Bonacorsi will make her début skating for Italy with Francesco Fioretti. This will be Bonacorsi’s first competition in about two-and-a-half years.

For the first time, the Nebelhorn Trophy LOC will offer a live stream of the competition. Last year, it was available as part of the IceNetwork subscription, but this option should be more widely accessible. View all the action, including practices at new.livestream.com/accounts/10053677/events/3397094.

The short dance is scheduled for Thursday afternoon, and the free dance will be held on Saturday afternoon.

 

 

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