Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Team USA poised for medal sweep in Budapest

U.S. skaters have a good chance of coming away with all three gold medals at the first event in the 2009 ISU Junior Grand Prix of Figure Skating Series this week in Budapest, Hungary.

The event, which will be held at the Budapest Ice Rink, begins Thursday, Aug. 27, with the compulsory dance and the ladies and men's short programs. Official practice will take place Wednesday, Aug. 26.


The ladies event figures to come down to American Angela Maxwell, Japan's Haruka Imai and Estonia's Svetlana Issakova.

Maxwell is competing in the Junior Grand Prix Series for the third season; last season she finished second in Czech Republic, third in Great Britain and fifth at the Junior Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final.

Imai competed in only one JGP event last season, in Belarus, winning gold at that event. She went on to capture the Japanese junior title before placing 16th at the World Junior Figure Skating Championships.

Issakova will have redemption on her mind, as she placed 13th and 16th at her two JGP events last season after medaling at both of her assignments and qualifying for the Junior Grand Prix Final in 2007. She finished one spot better than Imai at the 2009 World Junior Championships.

France's Mae Bernice Meite (12th at the 2009 World Junior Championships) could also find herself in the medal mix.


The men's field is a mostly inexperienced one, as only one skater in the field has a JGP medal in his trophy case. Leading the charge is American Richard Dornbush, who, like teammate Maxwell, is in his third season on the JGP circuit. He took home gold from both of his assignments last year, in Mexico and South Africa, and won the bronze at the JGP Final.

Canadian Samuel Morais pocketed top-10 finishes at both of his JGP assignments last season, in Mexico (eighth) and Belarus (10th).

Other entrants with top-10 JGP finishes to their credit are France's Morgan Cipres (ninth at 2008 JGP Great Britain) and Czech Republic's Petr Bidar (ninth at 2007 JGP Romania).


The ice dancing competition looks to be the most competitive, with three very strong teams in the field.

Americans Piper Gilles and Zach Donohue had a successful debut last season in the JGP Series, taking gold at their first event, in Czech Republic, and silver at their second, in South Africa. They are the 2009 U.S. junior bronze medalists.

Canadians Karen Routhier and Eric Saucke-Lacelle won the bronze at both of their 2008 JGP events, claimed the 2009 Canadian junior title and placed seventh at the 2009 World Junior Championships.

Lorenza Alessandrini and Simone Vaturi of Italy have placed no lower than seventh at any of their four career JGP assignments. They won the bronze at last season's JGP Italy, took the 2009 Italian junior title and came in ninth at the 2009 World Junior Championships.

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