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Hughes, Rippon hope to bolster JGP resume

Junior Grand Prix Series heads to Sofia, Bulgaria

Adam Rippon hopes to build on his gold medal last month in Romania.
Adam Rippon hopes to build on his gold medal last month in Romania. (Michelle Harvath)

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(10/03/2007) - The sixth event of the 2007 International Skating Union (ISU) Junior Grand Prix of Figure Skating (JGP) Series takes place in Sofia, Bulgaria, Oct. 4-6. The event will be held at the Winter Sports Hall and will commence Thursday with the ladies and men's short programs and the compulsory dance.

More than 90 athletes from at least 25 different countries will compete at the event in three disciplines: ladies, men's and ice dancing. (No pairs competition is being held at the JGP Bulgaria; pairs is being skated at only four of the eight JGP events this season).

The JGP Series, now in its 11th season, consists of eight international events in a cumulative point-scoring format. Approximately 400 athletes representing more than 35 countries are expected to participate in the series. Each athlete is eligible to score points in two of the eight scheduled events (pairs can compete in two of four designated events). The top eight point-earners in each of the disciplines qualify for the JGP Final in Gdansk, Poland, Dec. 6-9.

In last week's event in Croatia, medal winners hailed from a handful of countries. American skaters Mirai Nagasu and Austin Kanallakan brought home gold in the ladies and men's competitions, respectively. Finland's Jenni Vahamaa earned silver in the ladies contest, just ahead of bronze medalist Na-Young Kim of Korea. In the men's competition, Kanallakan's teammate Armin Mahbanoozadeh, who won gold at the JGP Lake Placid event, finished with a bronze medal and Russian Ivan Bariev won silver. The ice dancing gold went to the Canadian team of Vanessa Crone and Paul Poirier. Russian skaters Kristina Gorshkova and Vitali Butikov placed second, while their teammates Ksenia Monko and Kirill Khaliavin won the bronze medal.

LADIES

In Bulgaria, Melissa Bulanhagui returns to the JGP Series for her fourth event. She took a silver medal at 2006 JGP Romania and fourth place at the JGP stop in the Czech Republic a month later. She also competed at the JGP Final in 2006, placing fourth. Bulanhagui placed 12th as a senior at the 2007 State Farm U.S. Figure Skating Championships. Her teammate, Chrissy Hughes, won gold in Romania last month in her JGP debut. Stefania Berton of Italy placed sixth at last year's JGP Final (also held in Sofia) after winning a bronze in France and a silver in Norway. Her first JGP assignment this season has her returning to Bulgaria after winning the silver at the Finnish National Championships and claiming a 10th-place finish at the 2007 World Junior Championships. In 11th place at that competition was Satsuki Muramoto of Japan, who will also compete in this weekend's JGP. Muramoto placed seventh at this season's first JGP event, in Lake Placid, N.Y.

MEN

Russian Skater Artem Borodulin won a bronze medal at the JGP stop last month in Vienna. In Bulgaria, he will look to medal again and qualify for the JGP Final. At last year's Final, Borodulin skated to a seventh-place finish after two silver medals in Romania and The Netherlands. American Adam Rippon also has the chance to add to his JGP winning streak. He won gold in Romania last month. France's Kim Lucine has skated in the JGP Series since 2004. Last year, he placed fifth at both his Courchevel and Taipei City assignments. He also placed 12th at the world juniors last year. Swedish competitor Adrian Schultheiss last competed in Vienna, finishing in fourth place, just behind Borodulin. Schultheiss has competed in the JGP Series since 2005 and has yet to finish outside the top 10 at any event.

ICE DANCING

The Canadian ice dancing duo of Eric Saucke-Lacelle and Karen Routhier travels to Bulgaria with limited JGP experience, having competed at the 2006 JGP Mexico and placing fourth as well as a fourth-place finish last month in Vienna. French competitors Charlene Guignard and Guillaume Paulmier placed fifth in Lake Placid and will need an even stronger finish to have any hope of qualifying for the Final. Also looking for a chance to move on to Poland in December will be the Russian team of Ekaterina Pushkash and Dmitri Kiselev, who placed sixth at the JGP Estonia. Among those looking for a first JGP medal will be the two U.S. teams. Shannon Wingle and Ryan Devereaux finished fifth two weeks ago in Estonia and had two JGP appearances in 2006, finishing sixth in Hungary and seventh in Norway. Isabella Cannuscio and Ian Lorello, who finished in fourth place in the novice division at last year's U.S. nationals, look to build on their only other JGP appearance, a fourth-place finish last month in Romania.