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Junior Grand Prix heads to Czech Republic

Twelve athletes will represent the United States at the event in all four disciplines

Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir will compete this week at the final stop on the JGP series.
Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir will compete this week at the final stop on the JGP series. (Sarah S. Brannen)

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By Tori Watson, special to icenetwork.com
(09/17/2008) - The United States team will have its work cut out for it this week in Ostrava, Czech Republic, if its wants to add to its gold-medal tally in the 2008 Junior Grand Prix of Figure Skating Series. The Americans have captured seven gold medals in the first three events, but the competition will be stiff at this week's event, especially in men's and pairs.

LADIES
Several ladies are poised to be in contention for a medal. Stefania Berton is the reigning two-time Italian silver medalist, and she finished fourth last month at the JGP event in Courchevel, France. American Angela Maxwell won the junior silver at the 2008 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Saint Paul, Minn., and bronze at the 2007 JGP event in Lake Placid, N.Y. Japan's Shoko Ishikawa has finished fifth in her two previous JGP assignments and won the junior bronze medal at the 2008 Japanese Championships. Na-Hee Sin of Korea also has a pair of fifth-place finishes in her JGP career. Marissa Secundy is appearing in her first Junior Grand Prix. She won novice gold at both the 2008 U.S. Championships and AEGON Challenge Cup.

MEN
Ivan Bariev of Russia will look to continue the success he had in last season's JGP Series, in which he took silver at the events in Croatia and Romania and finished seventh at the 2007-08 JGP Final. This is the second go-around in the JGP Series for men's competitors Alexander Johnson and Keegan Messing. Johnson finished seventh at the 2008 U.S. Championships as a junior and fourth at the 2007 JGP event in Sofia, Bulgaria. Messing finished 13th at the 2007 JGP stop in Great Britain and fifth at the 2008 U.S. Championships, where he competed as a junior. Alexander Majorov of Sweden has four top-10 finishes at JGP events to his credit, as does France's Christopher Boyadji.

PAIRS
Looking to earn a medal in Ostrava will be 2008 world junior silver medalists Lubov Iliushechkina and Norari Maisuradze of Russia. The pair also finished fourth at the 2008 Russian Championships. The Canadian team of Amanda Velenosi and Mark Fernandez won silver at the 2007 JGP Estonia and placed fourth in the 2007 JGP Final. Poland's Krystyna Klimczak and Janusz Karweta won gold at the 2008 Polish Championships and finished ninth at the 2007 JGP Final. Kloe Bautista and Galvani Hopson will be making their JGP debut in the Czech Republic. The pair finished fourth as novices at the 2008 U.S. Championships. Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir return for a second season on the JGP circuit. The team finished 10th at the 2007 JGP event in Estonia and followed that by capturing novice bronze at the 2008 U.S. Championships.

ICE DANCING
Lucie Mysliveckova and Matej Novak of the Czech Republic took the bronze medal last month at the JGP France. They also won silver at the 2007 JGP Great Britain and finished fourth at the 2007 JGP Estonia. Canada's Karen Routhier and Eric Saucke finished fifth at the 2007 JGP Bulgaria and 10th at the 2008 World Junior Championships. The American teams of Piper Gilles and Zach Donohue and Shannon Wingle and Timothy McKernan will be competing in their first international event together. Gilles and McKernan competed together from 2003-08, earning the bronze at JGP Mexico in 2006 and the U.S. junior silver medal in 2007. Wingle previously competed with Ryan Devereaux, with whom she garnered the silver at JGP Bulgaria in 2007.