Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Russia looks to build on lead at JGP Belarus

Russia looks to build on its medal lead in the 2009 Junior Grand Prix (JGP) of Figure Skating Series, as it has gold-medal contenders in all four disciplines at this week's stop in Minsk, Belarus.

Russian Ivan Bariev is looking to finally reach the top of the podium at a JGP event. He has four silver medals in four JGP events to his credit. Teammate Stanislav Kovalev was fourth in Belarus last season and fifth in Czech Republic. Nan Song of China was fifth at the JGP stops in Mexico and France last season, and he placed seventh at the 2009 World Junior Figure Skating Championships. Other challengers include China's Jiaxing Liu (seventh at JGP Budapest last month), Kazakhstan's Abzal Rakimgaliyev (third at the 2009 Triglav Trophy) and American Eliot Halverson (two bronzes in the 2006 JGP Series).

The ladies event is a showdown between a pair of Russian ladies, Ksenia Makarova and Polina Shelepen. Makarova took the silver three weeks ago in Lake Placid, N.Y., and was fourth at both of her JGP events last season. Shelepen topped the field at the first event in this year's JGP Series, in Hungary. The wild card in this competition is Japan's Yuki Nishino, who won gold at both of her JGP events in 2007 and bronze at the 2007 JGP Final but fell off the map last season. Canada's Alexandra Najarro (fifth in Great Britain, seventh in Czech Republic a year ago) will also contend for a medal.

The pairs event in Gomel will be highly competitive, with several JGP medalists in the field. Russians Ksenia Ozerova and Alexander Enbert won silver (Belarus) and bronze (Czech Republic) at their two JGP events in 2008, while their country mates, Ksenia Stoblova and Fedor Klimov, claimed the silver this season in Lake Placid. Wenjing Sui and Cong Han were the surprise winners of the pairs event at the 2010 Chinese Championships held earlier this month; one of the teams they defeated there was Yue Zhang and Lei Wang, the silver medalists at the 2008 JGP Final. Canada is well represented in Belarus, with JGP Lake Placid champions Kaleigh Hole and Adam Johnson as well as Maddison Bird and Raymond Schultz, the sixth-place finishers at the 2009 World Junior Championships.

Ice Dancing
Three teams will likely fight for top honors in the dance event. Karen Routhier and Eric Saucke-Lacelle are the reigning Canadian junior champs and grabbed the silver this season at JGP Budapest. Ukrainians Alisa Agafonova and Dmitri Dun have a gold and three silvers in their JGP career, while Russia's Ksenia Monko and Kirill Khaliavin have captured three bronze medals in the JGP Series (two in 2007, one in 2008). Should one of those three stumble, Americans Rachel Tibbetts and Collin Brubaker (three JGP fifth-place finishes) and Russians Tatiana Baturintseva and Ivan Volobuiev (three JGP top-seven finishes) could land on the podium.

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