Nagasu, Crone and Poirier go for second JGP gold
Several competitors make their second 2007 JGP appearance
|American Austin Kanallakan earned a silver medal at the JGP United States this year. (Michelle Harvath)|
Nearly 30 countries will be represented at the event in three disciplines: ladies, men's and ice dancing. (No pairs competition is being held at the JGP Croatia; pairs is being skated at only four of the eight JGP events this season).
At last week's installment of the JGP Series in Estonia, skaters from four different countries claimed gold in each of the four disciplines. Such variety is a statistic so far unique only to the Estonia event this season.
U.S. teammates Madison Chock and Greg Zuerlein won the gold in ice dancing while the Russian duo of Ekaterina Sheremetieva and Mikhail Kuznetsov took first place in pairs. For the men, Jinlin Guan of China improved on his silver medal in Vienna to bring home his first JGP gold medal, and Japanese newcomer Yuki Nishino captured gold in the ladies division.
Croatia is the second JGP event this season for U.S. skater Mirai Nagasu, who won the gold medal four weeks ago in Lake Placid, N.Y., at the series' first event. Nagasu is the 2007 world junior silver medalist.
Also vying for a spot in the Junior Grand Prix Final is Finland's Jenni Vahamaa. Vahamaa has fallen short of making it to the JGP Final in each of her two years competing in the series, but she arrives in Croatia with a bronze medal from Vienna. The Finnish junior champion also placed fourth at last year's world junior championships.
Two Russian competitors also promise to put up a fight in the medal race this week. Ekaterina Kozireva had a strong JGP debut last season, winning bronze at Miercurea Ciuc, Romania, and placing fourth at The Hague, Netherlands. Kozireva's teammate, Alena Leonova, skated to a 12th-place finish at last year's world juniors and also brought home a silver medal from Romania earlier this month.
No stranger to JGP ice, Slovakian competitor Jakub Strobl enters his third JGP event with a pair of seventh-place finishes at last year's Norway and Budapest stops. This will be the second JGP event of the year for American Austin Kanallakan, who claimed silver at the Lake Placid event. Kanallakan had a noteworthy JGP campaign in 2006, winning gold in Norway and France before placing eighth at the final.
Mark Vaillant of France placed fifth and sixth at Mexico City and The Hague, respectively, in his two JGP appearances in 2006. Christopher Berneck of Germany made his JGP debut in Lake Placid, where he earned a seventh-place finish.
Vanessa Crone and Paul Poirier are Canada's junior champions and placed ninth in their world juniors debut last year. In their third year on the JGP Series, Crone and Poirier most recently won the gold at the JGP Romania.
Ukrainians Nadezhda Frolenkova and Mikhail Kasalo are in their fifth season together. This will be only their second JGP, as they captured the bronze at last year's event in Miercurea Ciuc.
Russia's Kristina Gorshkova and Vitali Butikov will arrive in Croatia with a fourth-place finish at the 2007 world juniors to their credit. They are looking to make a return trip to the JGP Final, where they placed just outside of medal range last year following a silver medal in Norway and gold in Romania.
U.S. entries Anastasia Cannuscio and Dean Copely are appearing in their first JGP event. Their 2006 season included a silver medal in the novice division at the 2007 State Farm U.S. Championships.
Michelle Scott contributed to this story.