Junior Grand Prix Series heads to Germany
Flatt, Mroz, Chock and Zuerlein are back for more JGP gold
|Madison Chock and Greg Zuerlein hope to duplicate their gold medal from earlier this year. (Paul Harvath)|
At least 20 countries will be represented by 120 athletes at this event in four disciplines: ladies, men's, pairs and ice dancing.
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.
At last week's JGP stop in Sofia, Bulgaria, the gold medal winners in each discipline represented a different flag. In the ladies contest, U.S. skater Chrissy Hughes won her second JGP gold this season. On the men's side, Russian Artem Borodulin improved on a second-place short program to edge American Adam Rippon and take home the gold. Ice dancers Isabella Pajardi and Stefano Caruso secured the top spot for Italy.
Japan's Rumi Suizu has a JGP history full of top-10 finishes. She placed eighth at last year's JGP Final and most recently earned a bronze medal in Romania. The Germany competition will be her chance to secure a place at this year's Final in Poland.
Russian skater Ekaterina Kozireva first skated in JGP events in 2006, earning a bronze in Romania and a fourth-place finish at The Hague. Her effort at the JGP Croatia this season ended with her in ninth.
The U.S.'s Rachael Flatt took her first JGP event by storm, winning the gold in Austria with nearly 18 points to spare. She also placed fifth as a senior at the 2007 State Farm U.S. Figure Skating Championships.
Flatt's teammate, Blake Rosenthal, returns for her second JGP event this season. She won silver in her first appearance, at the JGP Estonia in September. Ayane Nakamura, a teammate of Suizu, comes to Chemnitz with a fourth-place finish at the JGP Vienna Cup as her only international experience.
Brandon Mroz is back for his second JGP this season, having won a gold medal for his performance at the JGP Austria. Mroz achieved outstanding results during the 2006-07 JGP season, bringing home a gold medal from Taipei and garnering a silver in Mexico. He finished second at the 2006 JGP Final, rising from fifth place after the short program.
Michal Brezina of the Czech Republic skated to a seventh-place finish last month during the JGP's stop in Vienna. His country's national junior champion, Brezina went on to place in the top 20 at the World Junior Championships last year and win a silver medal at the Gardena Spring Trophy. His most notable career accomplishment, however, is his first-place finish two weeks ago at the Nebelhorn Trophy.
French competitor Kim Lucine first skated in a JGP event in 2004 at Courchevel, where he placed 12th. He most recently placed fifth last week at the JGP Bulgaria. American Eliot Halverson's JGP season got off to a slow start with a fifth-place finish last month in Romania. He earned gold at the 2007 U.S. Championships as a junior and placed 10th at the 2007 World Junior Championships. Takahito Mura of Japan placed fourth at last year's JGP Final after winning silver in Budapest and bronze in Taipei City.
Carolyn MacCuish and Andrew Evans, a Canadian duo, are their country's reigning national junior champions. They placed eighth at the world juniors last year after claiming sixth- and seven-place finishes at their two JGP assignments. MacCuish and Evans competed at the JGP event in Lake Placid, N.Y., earlier this season, placing second behind teammates Olivia Jones and Donald Jackson, who will also be competing in Germany. Americans Bianca Butler and Joseph Jacobsen are competing in the JGP Series for the second season. The 2007 U.S. junior silver medalists finished fourth at the first JGP stop of 2007, in Lake Placid, N.Y.
Adding to the competitive heat will be Ksenia Krasilnikova and Konstantin Bezmaternikh, a Russian duo. Krasilnikova and Bezmaternikh have traditionally placed very well in JGP events, earning gold at Liberec in 2006 and silver at last season's Final. The pair also claimed a bronze medal at the 2007 world juniors. Germany will be their first JGP event this season.
Americans Jessica Rose Paetsch and Jon Nuss are back for their second JGP appearance this season, after finishing fifth in Lake Placid. The 2006 season saw the pair place third at the JGP Taipei and fourth at the JGP Hungary.
Russian skaters Vera Bazarova and Yuri Larionov are skating in their first JGP event of this season. The world junior silver medalists placed seventh at last year's JGP Final following a fourth-place finish in Norway and a silver medal in Taipei City.
Russian ice dancers Kristina Gorshkova and Vitali Butikov are no strangers to the JGP medal stand. They already a bronze from the JGP Croatia in 2005, gold from the 2006 JGP Romania and, most recently, a silver at this year's Croatia event.
Ekaterina Riazanova and John Guerreiro, another Russian team, will also make the trip to Germany for this weekend's event. They finished second last month at the JGP Romania.
Ukrainian dancers Alisa Agafonova and Dmitri Dun have competed in JGP events since their seventh-place finish at Harbin in 2004. This competition comes after their silver-medal performance at the JGP Estonia last month.
This is the second JGP appearance for Americans Pilar Bosley and John Corona, who garnered a bronze for their performance in Lake Placid. Bosley and Corona are joined in Germany by U.S. teammates Madison Chock and Greg Zuerlein, whose JGP career started with a bang, as the team took home gold in its first-ever JGP appearance, last month in Estonia.
Michelle Scott contributed to this article.