by Melanie Hoyt

 

While the eyes of most dance fans will be fixed on the battle between Virtue & Moir and Davis & White in Québec City, another dance battle will be staged this weekend, halfway around the world. In Zagreb, Croatia, the 44th annual Golden Spin competition will host 17 teams, primarily from European nations.

Although they finally fought their way back to the Grand Prix circuit, Germany’s Nelli Zhiganshina & Alexander Gazsi continue to keep themselves busy with senior internationals. The tactic worked well for them last season, leading to a breakthrough performance at the World Championships. This year, their status in the dance world has been solidified by a silver medal at Nebelhorn Trophy, and a gold medal at Ondrej Nepela, in addition to two fourth-place finishes on the Grand Prix. Although they have not yet reached the heights of last season’s scores, they have the advantage of momentum and are the favorites to lead the pack in Zagreb.

The German team will also send two more teams, each aspiring to be the second-ranked team domestically, Tanje Kolbe & Stefano Caruso and Carolina Hermann & Daniel Hermann, back this year after being sidelined by injury last season. The two teams have already met twice this season. At Cup of Nice, Kolbe & Caruso were fourth to the Hermanns’ sixth, with about nine points separating the two teams. More recently, at NRW Trophy, Kolbe & Caruso won the title, and the Hermanns’ effort placed them about five points below their national rivals, in bronze medal position.

alessandrini-vaturi-goldenspinA strong effort should also come from Penny Coomes & Nicholas Buckland of Great Britain, who came tantalizing close to their first Grand Prix podium at Cup of China this year. While the mistakes that kept them in fourth were disappointing, they also provided an important learning experience, and it will be interesting to see how they have grown after that event.

At NHK Trophy last month, Italy’s Lorenza Alessandrini & Simone Vaturi (pictured, right) finished fifth in their Grand Prix début.They were within three points of Zhiganshina & Gazsi and will be anxious for a rematch in Zagreb. The couple had a promising junior career, but their initial senior season was hampered by injury. This year provides an opportunity for them to get back on track.

Italy also sends the team of Charlène Guignard & Marco Fabbri, training mates of Kolbe & Caruso. At NRW Trophy last month, Guignard & Fabbri came from behind after the short dance to win the free and finish second overall, just behind Kolbe & Caruso.

Russia will also send a pair of entries, Kristina Gorshkova & Vitali Butikov and Jana Werner & Artem Kudashev. Gorshkova & Butikov have had success in the past at the junior level, but have slowly been slipping over the past few seasons as seniors. They have a ton of experience and should not be counted out of the medal hunt, but their programs have not been well-received this year. Werner & Kudashev are a new team in their international début. They skated at a domestic Russia Cup event back in September and did not appear ready, but they could have progessed quite a bit since then. Werner last appeared on the competitive scene in 2008, when she skated for Germany with Tim Giesen. Kudashev spent a decade skating with Marina Antipova that culminated in three consecutive Junior Grand Prix Final appearances.

Crowd favorites from Spain Sara Hurtado & Adria Diaz will continue a busy autumn with Golden Spin, their fifth competition already this season. Results for their first full senior season have been mixed, ranging from a disappointing showing at Trophée Eric Bompard to a bronze medal at Cup of Nice.

The dance world will also be anxious to see the competitive début of Lucie Mysliveckova & Neil Brown of the Czech Republic. Mysliveckova skated with Matej Novak for eight years, finishing 16th at their first World Championships in 2010. Novak chose to retire from competition this summer, resulting in Mysliveckova’s pairing with Frenchman Neil Brown. Brown skated with Géraldine Bott for the last two seasons, placing 10th at the 2010 World Junior Championships. Both skaters bring a wealth of experience to the table, although Brown has not competed at the senior level before.

Mysliveckova & Brown will be pushed by their Czech teammates, Karolina Prochazkova & Michal Ceska, who are making their senior international début in Zagreb. Prochazkova & Ceska had good results and solid scores on the Junior Grand Prix Series this season, including a fourth-place finish at Volvo Cup in Latvia. The Czech Republic has two berths to the European Championships, but only one spot at the World Championships.

Official practices begin Thursday in Zagreb. The short dance is scheduled for Friday and the free dance will be skated on Saturday.