JGP Series kicks off in Courchevel
Bereswill and Shibutanis lead U.S. contingent in France
|Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani are among the talented field at the JGP Lake Placid. (Paul Harvath)|
The event, which will be held at the Courchevel 1850 rink, known as Le Forum, begins Thursday, Aug. 28, with the compulsory dance and the ladies and men's short programs. Official practice begins Wednesday.
Ninety-eight athletes from 34 countries will compete in France in three disciplines: ladies, men's and ice dancing. Pairs will not be skated, as only four of the eight JGP events will include a pairs competition.
The JGP Series, now in its 12th 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 Junior Grand Prix Final, Dec. 11-14, in Seoul, South Korea.
The favorite in the ladies competition is Japan's Yuki Nishino. Last season, she won both of her JGP assignments -- in Estonia and Great Britain -- collected the bronze at the Junior Grand Prix Final in Gdask, Poland, and finished fifth at the 2008 World Junior Championships in Sofia, Bulgaria.
This is the second season on the JGP circuit for American Kristine Musademba, who last season finished second in Austria, fourth in Great Britain and fourth at the JGP Final. Italy's Stefania Berton won a pair of JGP medals in 2006, a bronze in France and a silver in Norway.
American Becky Bereswill, who won the bronze medal as a senior at the 2008 AEGON Challenge Cup in The Hague, Netherlands, will make her JGP debut. Alexandra Rout, who made her JGP debut last season in Croatia, is also in the field, just two weeks removed from winning the senior title at the Australian Figure Skating Championships.
The men's field in Courchevel is loaded, with Armin Mahbanoozadeh of the Unites States and Michal Brezina of the Czech Republic leading the group. Last season, Mahbanoozadeh brought home a gold medal from JGP United States and a bronze from both JGP Croatia and the Junior Grand Prix Final. Brezina won the 2007 Nebelhorn Trophy, beating countryman and 2003 European champion Tomas Verner in the process, and finished fifth at the 2008 World Junior Championships.
The field is full of other JGP medalists, such as China's Chao Yang, who won a bronze in Poland in 2005 and last season in Estonia. The U.S.'s Eliot Halverson won a pair of bronze medals at his JGP assignments in 2006, in Hungary and the Netherlands. Artur Gachinski of Russia took silver at the JGP event last season in Estonia.
An intriguing entry in the event is Canada's Paul Poirier, the 2008 world junior silver medalist ice dancer, who also came in second in the junior men's division at the 2008 Canadian Championships.
The ice dancing event appears to be wide open, as only two teams have previously won JGP medals. Lucie Mysliveckova and Matej Novak of the Czech Republic captured the silver last season at JGP Great Britain, while Anastasia Vykhodtseva and Alexei Shumski garnered the bronze last fall in Bulgaria.
Canadians Kharis Ralph and Asher Hill placed eighth at the 2008 World Junior Championships and should fight for a podium spot this weekend.
Both U.S. ice dancing teams -- Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani and Chloe Wolf and Rhys Ainsworth -- hope to make an impact in their international debuts. The Shibutanis, a brother-and-sister duo, won the U.S. novice ice dance title in 2007 and finished fourth last year in the junior division. Wolf and Ainsworth are the 2008 U.S. novice champions.