Tuesday, September 1, 2009

International field looks strong for Lake Placid

A strong international field has assembled for this week's Junior Grand Prix of Figure Skating Series event in Lake Placid, N.Y., with no fewer than five entrants having made an appearance at last year's Junior Grand Prix Final. The competition takes place Sept. 3-5 at the 1980 Rink -- Herb Brooks Arena, with icenetwork.com providing free live and on-demand video coverage beginning Thursday at 2:30 p.m. ET with the compulsory dance.

Japan's Yukiko Fujisawa won gold and silver at her two Junior Grand Prix Series events in 2008 and went on to take the silver the Junior Grand prix of Figure Skating Final in Goyang City, Republic of Korea. The United States' best chance at a medal is Kristine Musademba, who won gold last year in Spain and France and finished sixth at the JGP Final. Other medal contenders include Ksenia Makarova of Russia, who was fourth at both her JGP stops in 2008, Korea's Min-Jung Kwak, the bronze medalist at the 2008 JGP Mexico, and 2009 Canadian junior bronze medalist Rylie McCulloch-Casarsa.

Sweden's Alexander Majorov will offer a challenge in the men's event. Majorov is the Swedish silver medalist and has six top-10 finishes in the JGP Series to his credit. American Andrew Gonzales, Jr., finished fourth at JGP Mexico and sixth at JGP South Africa last season. Andrei Rogozine, the Canadian junior champion, will make his second appearance at this event, at which he finished eighth in 2007. Switzerland's Stephane Walker came in seventh at the JGP Czech Republic last year and was fourth at the 2009 AEGON Challenge Cup. Ross Miner, the 2009 U.S. junior champion, is competing for the first time on the JGP circuit. He won silver at the 2008 Gardena Spring Trophy, where he competed as a junior.

PAIRS Ekaterina Sheremetieva and Egor Chudin are making their competitive debut in Lake Placid but figure to be a force to be reckoned with. With her previous partner, Mikhail Kuznetsov, Sheremetieva finished second at the 2007 JGP Final and racked up two top-five finishes at the World Junior Championships. Reigning Japanese champions Narumi Takahashi and Mervin Tran were sixth at the inaugural ISU World Team Trophy in April and seventh at the JGP Final last year. Anais Morand and Antoine Dorsaz are Switzerland's two-time reigning national champions. They finished eighth and sixth at their 2008 JGP stops in Czech Republic and Belarus, respectively. Also looking for a podium spot are Maddison Bird and Raymond Schultz, junior bronze medalists at the 2009 Canadian Championships and seventh-place finishers at last season's JGP Belarus. Leading the U.S. pairs are Britney Simpson and Nathan Miller, the 2009 U.S. junior pewter medalists.

Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani, the 2009 World Junior and U.S. junior silver medalists, are the favorites to win gold in Lake Placid. Last season the team won gold at JGP France, silver in Spain and finished fourth at the JGP Final. Battling the Shibutanis for the top spot will be Canada's Kharis Ralph and Asher Hill, who came in sixth at the 2008 JGP Final and placed fifth at the 2009 World Junior Championships. Other notable teams include Valeria Zenkova and Valerie Sinitsin of Russia, who won bronze last year at JGP Mexico, and Americans Rachel Tibbetts and Collin Brubaker, who finished sixth at JGP Spain and fifth at JGP Great Britain last season.


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