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U.S. and Japan lead the field in Romania

JGP filled with talent from skating powerhouses

Isabella Cannuscio and Ian Lorello hope to thrive in their first international event.
Isabella Cannuscio and Ian Lorello hope to thrive in their first international event. (Michelle Harvath)

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By Klaus-Reinhold Kany / Special to icenetwork.com
(09/07/2007) - After a successful first competition in the Olympic ice rinks of Lake Placid, N.Y., the Junior Grand Prix Series continues with its second event, the Harghita Cup, in Miercurea Ciuc, Romania, a town situated about 150 miles north of Bucharest, Romania's capital. The Cup is named after Mount Harghita, which looms over the town at more than 5,000 feet.

Twenty-three ladies, 16 men and 15 ice dance couples plan to skate. Unlike at Lake Placid, there will be no junior pairs at this event because, in an effort to avoid small fields, the International Skating Union has decided to hold a pairs competition at just four of the eight JGP events.

Ladies

The ladies competition will be held Friday, Sept. 7 and Saturday, Sept. 8. As is also the case in seniors, the best ladies in the junior field the last couple years are mostly from the U.S., Japan or South Korea. The same is to be expected at this event, but there are always surprises among the juniors.

The U.S. team has sent two young ladies from the West Coast. Seventeen-year-old Chrissy Hughes trains in the Highland Ice Arena in Shoreline, Wash. She was third last year at her first ever international event, the 2007 International Challenge Cup in The Hague, Netherlands, and sixth at the State Farm U.S. Championships in the junior division last January. This season she plans to skate as a senior domestically for the first time but as a junior internationally. Her short program music in Romania will be the "Hymn to Hope" by the Norwegian group Secret Garden. The free skate music is from Tchaikovsky's Concerto for Violin and Orchestra in D major.

The second American skater is 14-year-old Carolyn-Ann Alba from Anaheim, Calif. She was third in the novice division at last season's U.S. Championships. The JGP Romania will be her first international event. Her short program music will be music from the "Love Story" soundtrack, and her free skate music is Salome, which Michelle Kwan interpreted so well about 10 years ago.

Japanese skaters Yuka Ishikawa and Rumi Suizu could also contend for medals in Romania. The 16-year-old Suizu was fifth at the 2007 World Junior Championships in Germany and 11th at last season's Japanese Championships in the senior division. Russia's Alena Leonova, who finished 12th at the same World Juniors, is also in Romania. Myriane Samson from Canada finished 18th at the World Junior Championships and fifth as a senior at the 2007 Canadian Championships. She knows the rink in Miercurea Ciuc because she was there last year for the same Junior Grand Prix, in which she finished fourth.

Men

The men skate Friday night and Sunday afternoon. One of the favorites for this competition is Eliot Halverson from Saint Paul, Minn., where the 2008 U.S. Championships will be held. Last year he was third at both of his Junior Grand Prix appearances. He is a two-time U.S. champion, winning the U.S. novice title in 2006 and the junior title a year later. In March 2007, he was 10th at the World Junior Championships. His short program music is Libertango, and in the free skate he'll perform to the soundtrack of 2046 and to "Nostradamus" by Maksim Mrvica.

The second American is 17-year-old Adam Rippon, who was sixth at last season's U.S. Championships as a junior and also sixth at the 2005 JGP in Croatia. He had been coached by Yelena Sergeeva from the beginning, since the age of 10, until this spring. Now he lives in Hackensack, N.J., and trains with star coach Nikoli Morozov. In July, Rippon won the Liberty Summer Competition in Aston, Pa.

Other medal contenders are the two Japanese skaters, Kento Nakamura and Takahito Mura, the latter of whom finished eighth at last season's World Juniors and fifth at the competition the year before.

The two Canadians are strong as well. Jean-Simon Légaré from Beauport, Quebec, was third as a junior at the Canadian Championships, while Andrew Lum from Burnaby, near Vancouver, finished seventh.

Ice Dancing

The ice dance competition will be skated on Friday, Saturday and Sunday afternoons. The favorites for the event are the Canadians, Vanessa Crone & Paul Poirier from Scarborough, Ontario, who won the junior original dance at the Lake Placid Ice Dance Championships a month ago. They are the Canadian junior champions and were ninth at last season's World Junior Championships. Their original dance music is a Romanian gypsy folk dance, which should be very popular at this event.

But the two U.S. teams are medal contenders as well. Isabella Cannuscio & Ian Lorello from Newark, Del., also left a good impression a month ago in Lake Placid. They skate their free dance to a medley of Latin rhythms. The second U.S. team -- Rachel Tibbetts & Collin Brubaker, the brother of World Junior pairs champion Rockne Brubaker -- is from Colorado Springs, Colo. They have only skated together for a couple months, and this is their first international competition together.

A lot can be expected of Russia's two entrants: Ekaterina Riazanova & John Guerreiro and Ksenia Monko & Kirill Khaliavin. Joanna Budner and Jan Moscicki from Poland also hope for a medal after having competed on the junior circuit for five years now. They have a 12th- and a 13th-place finish at the World Juniors to their credit.