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Men lead field at the Karl Schafer Memorial

Two European champs -- Kostner and Verner -- tune up in Vienna

Reigning world silver medalist Carolina Kostner is the cream of the crop of the ladies field at the Karl Schafer Memorial in Vienna, Austria.
Reigning world silver medalist Carolina Kostner is the cream of the crop of the ladies field at the Karl Schafer Memorial in Vienna, Austria. (Getty Images)

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By Mickey Brown, special to icenetwork.com
(10/13/2008) - The Karl Schäfer Memorial, which will take place Oct. 14-17, is the last major tune-up before the 2008 Grand Prix of Figure Skating Series for a number of world-class skaters. The reigning European ladies and men's champions are both scheduled to take the ice this week in Vienna, Austria.

Ladies

Should she remain in the field, Italy's Carolina Kostner faces little competition. The 2008 world silver medalist was supposed to make her 2008-09 season debut last month at the Nebelhorn Trophy, but she withdrew at the last minute. Her main challengers are 25-year-old German Annette Dytrt, a wily veteran who came in 12th place at the 2008 World Championships, and 19-year-old Estonian Elena Glebova, an up-and-comer who came in fourth at Nebelhorn.

American Molly Oberstar will make her senior international debut this week at the Karl Schafer Memorial.

Men

The men's field in Vienna is the most star-studded of the event with at least three skaters having a legitimate shot at winning the title.

The Czech Republic's Tomas Verner is the reigning European champ, but he has been upstaged lately by countryman Michal Brezina, who convincingly won both of his Junior Grand Prix assignments this fall and finished a close second at Nebelhorn in Oberstdorf, Germany. Verner finished fourth there, more than 20 points behind Brezina.

The man who beat them both will also be competing this week. Japan's Nobunari Oda is hoping to continue his successful return to the ice after sitting out all of last season. Oda turned in an impressive performance in Oberstdorf, amassing more than 224 points en route to winning the gold medal.

Both U.S. entrants, Wesley Campbell and Tommy Steenberg, will be making their senior international debuts.

Ice Dancing

There is no one standout team among the ice dancing participants. The duo with the most impressive resumé is France's Pernelle Carron and Mathieu Jost. They were ninth last year in Europe.

One new team will compete in Vienna as well. Caitlin Mallory and Kristian Rand, skating for Estonia, made their competitive debut last week at the Finlandia Trophy, where they finished fourth. This week, they'll try and reach their first podium.

The two Czech teams in Austria could also find themselves in the medal mix. Lucie Mysliveckova and Matej Novak finished third and fourth at their two JGP assignments this season, while Kamila Hajkova and David Vincour took sixth at Nebelhorn.

U.S. teams Lynn Kriengkrairut and Logan Giulietti-Schmitt and Charlotte Maxwell and Nick Traxler will each be skating in their second senior international competition. Kriengkrairut and Giulietti-Schmitt placed eighth at the 2007 Nebelhorn Trophy, while Maxwell and Traxler came in eighth at the 2007 Golden Spin of Zagreb.