Radionova, Chen highlight field at JGP Austria
Russian looking for second gold of series; U.S. junior champ making JGP debut
|Nathan Chen makes his long-awaited Junior Grand Prix debut in Linz, Austria. (Tom Briglia)|
Thirteen-year-old Elena Radionova of Russia and French ice dancers Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron of France will compete for the second time this season after winning gold last month at 2012 JGP France. The event is the second of four in the series to include a pairs competition.
Radionova won her first JGP title by nearly 30 points. In her Junior Grand Prix debut, she earned 116.64 points in the free skate and 177.79 points overall. Challenging Radionova for the top spot will be Risa Shoji of Japan, who won the silver medal at 2011 JGP Estonia with a personal-best score of 157.83 points, and Natalia Popova of Ukraine, a two-time silver medalist at the Ice Challenge. Leading the American contingent is Samantha Cesario, who finished third behind Shoji in Estonia and won a second bronze at 2011 JGP Poland. Cesario returns to the JGP series after withdrawing from the 2012 U.S. Figure Skating Championships due to a back injury.
Ryuju Hino of Japan comes off a bronze-medal finish at JGP France. Hino's free skate there included the highest-scoring element of the competition, a triple Axel-triple toe loop combination, which earned 14.17 points. Also competing is Hino's teammate Sei Kawahara and Viktor Romanenkov of Estonia. Both men earned personal-best scores and placed sixth in the 2011 JGP series, Kawahara at JGP Latvia and Romanenkov at JGP Estonia. Also hoping for a spot on the podium is American Nathan Chen, who won the 2010 U.S. novice title when he was just 10 years old. Chen is the reigning U.S. junior champion, and will make his JGP debut in Linz.
Favored to win the pairs event are reigning World Junior silver medalists Xiaoyu Yu and Yang Jin of China. Yu and Jin have won medals at four of their JGP events over the last two seasons, including bronze at the 2010 JGP Final. Challenging Yu and Jin are Americans Britney Simpson and Matthew Blackmer, the reigning JGP Final bronze medalists and U.S. junior silver medalists. Also competing for a spot on the podium are Yu and Jin's teammates Meiyi Li and Bo Jiang, who placed fourth at this event last year, and Russia's Tatiana Tudvasava and Sergei Lisiev, who finished just behind Yu and Jin, in sixth, at the 2011 JGP Final.
Papadakis and Cizeron finished second in the short dance at JGP France by less than one point, but they claimed the gold after an impressive free dance, which helped them to earn a final score of 131.13 points. Challenging for the title are Russians Anna Yanovskaia and Sergei Mozgov, who finished less than two points ahead of Papadakis and Cizeron at the 2012 World Junior Championships. Yanovskaia and Mozgov are the 2011 JGP Final silver medalists. Also competing for medals are Shari Koch and Christian Nüchtern of Germany, who finished just off the podium, in fourth place, at both of their JGP assignments in 2011, and Alexandra Nazarova and Maxim Nikitin of Ukraine, who earned a personal-best score of 131.68 en route to winning silver at the 2012 Youth Olympic Games.