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18 U.S. skaters head to JGP Final

Team USA makes up more than half the field

Team USA's Chrissy Hughes.
Team USA's Chrissy Hughes. (Paul Harvath)

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(12/05/2007) - After eight weekends of exciting qualifying competitions at various locations across the globe, 18 U.S. skaters earned coveted spots at the International Skating Union's (ISU) Junior Grand Prix (JGP) Final, to be held Dec. 6-9 in Gdansk, Poland.

The U.S. will send five ladies, five men, two pairs teams and two ice dancing teams to the Final, giving Team USA more than half of the 33 total slots at the competition. Skaters were invited to the Final based on point totals earned throughout the JGP Series. In the ladies and men's competitions, the U.S. has the top-ranked skaters. The country with the second-most skaters is Russia, with 14.

The U.S. team won 26 medals out of a possible 96 at the eight qualifying events. In total, the U.S. brought home 14 gold, eight silver and four bronze medals.

Last year 24 U.S. athletes qualified for the JGP Final in Sofia, Bulgaria. Between them, they won nine medals and took home gold in all four disciplines: Caroline Zhang in ladies, Stephen Carriere in men's, Keauna McLaughlin and Rockne Brubaker in pairs and Madison Hubbell and Keiffer Hubbell in dance.

The Junior Grand Prix is considered a training ground for the future stars of figure skating. Zhang is now the reigning World Junior champion and has moved up to the senior level this season with great results. She brought home bronze and silver from Skate America and Cup of China, respectively. Previous U.S. entries in the JGP Final include 2002 Olympic champion Sarah Hughes, three-time U.S. champion Johnny Weir and reigning U.S. ice dancing champions Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto.

LADIES

The United States sends five ladies to Poland, two of whom took gold medals at both of their JGP Series events. Mirai Nagasu is ranked first in the standings after garnering gold in the season opener in Lake Placid and repeating the feat in Croatia. Chrissy Hughes came away with gold medals at her events in Bulgaria and Romania. Rachael Flatt won gold in Austria and silver in Germany. She won the 2007 International Challenge Cup as a junior and placed fifth at the 2007 State Farm U.S. Championships, where she competed as a senior. Also competing in Poland is Alexe Gilles, who took second place in Lake Placid and fourth in Croatia. She placed second at the 2007 International Challenge Cup as a junior and fifth at the 2007 U.S. Championships as a junior. Finishing fourth in Great Britain and second in Austria, Kristine Musademba will round out the U.S. ladies team. Musademba is the 2007 U.S. novice silver medalist.

MEN

The U.S. is well represented in the men's competition, with four of the five having brought home gold from at least one of their JGP assignments. Brandon Mroz leads the team, with gold medals won in Germany and Austria. Mroz is the 2007 U.S. junior silver medalist and finished fourth at the 2007 World Junior Championships. Mroz is joined by Adam Rippon who garnered gold in Romania and silver in Bulgaria. Rippon placed sixth as a junior at the 2007 U.S. Championships. Austin Kanallakan won silver in Lake Placid and gold in Croatia. Kanallakan is the 2007 U.S. junior bronze medalist. 2007 U.S. Championships novice gold medalist Armin Mahbanoozadeh won gold in Lake Placid and bronze in Croatia. Doug Razzano will also compete in Poland, on the strength of his fourth-place finish in Estonia and his second-place finish in Great Britain.

PAIRS

With a first-place finish in Germany under their belt, Jessica Rose Paetsch and John Nuss head to the JGP Final as the fourth-ranked team. Paetsch and Nuss finished fifth in Lake Placid and won bronze as juniors at the 2007 U.S. Championships. The pairs team of Bianca Butler and Joseph Jacobse will appear in their second JGP Final, after placing sixth in 2005. Butler and Jacobsen placed fifth in Germany and fourth in Lake Placid.

ICE DANCING

Reigning U.S. junior gold medalists Emily Samuelson and Evan Bates are the second-ranked team going into the JGP Final. Samuelson and Bates won gold at their JGP assignments in Austria and Lake Placid. Rounding out Team USA are Madison Chock and Greg Zuerlein. Chock and Zuerlein brought home gold from their JGP debut in Estonia and bronze from Germany.