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U.S. athletes head to JGP Belarus, Nebelhorn

Alissa Czisny kicks off her competitive season this week in Germany.
Alissa Czisny kicks off her competitive season this week in Germany. (Lynn Rutherford)

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(09/21/2009) - Colorado Springs, Colo. - The United States will send a team of 10 skaters to the fourth event of the 2009 International Skating Union (ISU) Junior Grand Prix (JGP) of Figure Skating Series this week in Minsk, Belarus, while six U.S. skaters will travel to Oberstdorf, Germany, for the Nebelhorn Trophy.

The Junior Grand Prix event, which will be held at the Sport Palace, begins Thursday, Sept. 24 with the compulsory dance and the ladies and pairs short programs. The Nebelhorn Trophy, taking place at the Eislaufzentrum Oberstdorf, also starts Thursday, with the compulsory and original dances and the men's and ladies short programs. The United States will have competitors in all four disciplines at both events.

JGP Belarus

LADIES
This is the first appearance in the JGP Series for Laney Diggs and Kristiene Gong. Last season, Diggs placed sixth in her senior international debut at the AEGON Challenge Cup and was 10th at the 2009 AT&T U.S. Figure Skating Championships. Gong took home the junior pewter medal from the 2009 U.S. Championships in her first appearance at the event.

MEN
Eliot Halverson is in his fourth season on the JGP circuit. He was eighth last year at the JGP stop in Courchevel, France; his top finishes in the series are the bronze medals he won at each of his two 2006 JGP assignments, in the Netherlands and Hungary. This will be Alexander Zahradnicek's first go-around in the JGP Series. He was fourth in novice at the 2008 U.S. Championships.

PAIRS
Newly paired team Brynn Carman and A.J. Reiss will be making their first JGP appearance together. Carman competed in last year's JGP Series with former partner Christopher Knierim, with whom she won the 2008 U.S. novice championship and 2009 U.S. junior silver medal. Reiss and then partner Jaclyn Farmiglietti garnered the juvenile pewter medal at the 2008 U.S. Junior Figure Skating Championships. Carman and Reiss paired in the spring of 2009.

ICE DANCING
Anastasia Cannuscio and Colin McManus are also competing in the JGP Series for the first time. They finished 10th last season as juniors at the U.S. Championships. Rachel Tibbetts and Collin Brubaker are looking to improve on their seventh-place finish at JGP Lake Placid earlier this season. The team has placed in the top six at each of its four previous JGP assignments.

In addition to Minsk, Belarus, the Junior Grand Prix Series consists of the following events:
JGP Germany: Dresden, Germany - Sept. 30-Oct. 4
JGP Croatia: Zagreb, Croatia - Oct. 7-11
JGP Turkey: Istanbul, Turkey - Oct. 14-18
JGP Final: Tokyo, Japan - Dec. 3-6

The JGP Series, now in its 13th season, consists of seven 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 seven 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. 3-6 in Tokyo, Japan.

U.S. ENTRIES AT JGP BELARUS

Ladies
Laney Diggs
Kristiene Gong

Men
Eliot Halverson
Alexander Zahradnicek

Pairs
Brynn Carman & A.J. Reiss

Ice Dancing
Anastasia Cannuscio & Colin McManus
Rachel Tibbetts & Collin Brubaker

Nebelhorn Trophy

The 2009 Nebelhorn Trophy serves as the Olympic qualifying competition for countries that were unable to qualify any skaters during the 2009 ISU World Figure Skating Championships. The top six women and men, top four pairs teams and top five ice dancing teams will earn a spot for their country at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games.

LADIES
Reigning U.S. champion Alissa Czisny is making her third trip to the Nebelhorn Trophy. After finishing fourth in 2004, she took home gold from the event last season.

MEN
This is the first appearance at the Nebelhorn Trophy for reigning U.S. pewter medalist Ryan Bradley. After taking home silver from Skate Canada last season, Bradley finished seventh at Trophée Eric Bompard.

PAIRS
Brooke Castile and Ben Okolski won gold in their debut at the Nebelhorn Trophy in 2006. The 2007 U.S. champions, they placed fifth at the 2009 U.S. Championships.

ICE DANCING
Reigning U.S. champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White are making their first appearance at the Nebelhorn Trophy. The team won gold last season at Skate Canada, bronze at Cup of Russia and bronze at the Grand Prix Final in Goyang City, Republic of Korea. Their gold-medal win at the Four Continents Figure Skating Championships was followed by a fourth-place finish at the 2009 World Championships in Los Angeles, Calif.

The Nebelhorn Trophy has been held continuously since 1969. In that time, U.S. skaters have won 50 gold medals, including Dorothy Hamill (1971), Todd Eldredge (1987), Michael Weiss (1996), Timothy Goebel (1997), Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto (ice dancing, 2005) and, most recently, Alissa Czisny (ladies, 2008) and Emily Samuelson and Evan Bates (ice dancing, 2008).

U.S. ENTRIES AT THE NEBELHORN TROPHY

Ladies
Alissa Czisny

Men
Ryan Bradley

Pairs
Brooke Castile & Ben Okolski

Ice Dancing
Meryl Davis & Charlie White