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JGP Spain could see repeats from France

Gold medalists from Courchevel lead field in Madrid

After her gold medal in France, Kristine Musademba is the favorite at the JGP Spain.
After her gold medal in France, Kristine Musademba is the favorite at the JGP Spain. (Paul Tortland)

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By Becca Staed, special to icenetwork.com
(09/24/2008) - The fifth event of the 2008 International Skating Union Junior Grand Prix (JGP) Series will take place Sept. 25-28 in Madrid, Spain. The event, which will be held at the Dreams Center, known as Palacio de Hielo de Madrid, begins Thursday with the ladies and men's short programs.

One hundred and twelve athletes from 42 countries will compete in Spain in three disciplines: ladies, men's and ice dancing. Pairs will not be skated, as only four of the eight JGP events will include a pairs competition.

The JGP Series, now in its 12th season, consists of eight international events in a cumulative, point-scoring format. Approximately 400 athletes representing more than 35 countries are expected to participate in the series. Each athlete is eligible to score points in two of the eight scheduled events (pairs can compete in two of four designated events). The top eight point-earners in each of the disciplines qualify for the Junior Grand Prix Final, Dec. 11-14, in Seoul, South Korea.

Ladies

The favorites in the ladies competition are Americans Kristine Musademba and Becky Bereswill, who in August finished first and second, respectively, at the JGP France. This is Musademba's second season on the JGP circuit. Last year, she took silver in Austria and placed fourth both in Great Britain and at the Junior Grand Prix Final in Gdansk, Poland. Bereswill won bronze as a senior at the 2008 AEGON Challenge Cup in The Hague, Netherlands.

Hometown favorite Sonia LaFuente of Spain is also a top contender. She became the country's first skater to medal at a JGP event when she won silver in 2006 at the JGP Mexico. She will look to top last year's third-place finish at the JGP Great Britain.

Russia's Ekaterina Kozireva had considerable success in her first year on the JGP circuit, taking bronze at the 2006 JGP Romania and finishing fourth at the JGP Netherlands. In 2007, she competed in two JGP events - Croatia and Germany - finishing ninth both times. She took ninth again this year at the JGP Italy.

Men

Several men are primed to top the podium this week. This will be the second go-around for American Armin Mahbanoozadeh, who last year won the JGP United States and was the bronze medalist at both the JGP Croatia and the JGP Final. So, Mahbanoozadeh is looking for his second JGP gold overall and a chance to best his silver-medal finish at this year's JGP France.

Returning for his third JGP Series is Japan's Tatsuki Machida, who will also try for his second career JGP gold medal. He won last year's JGP Great Britain. In 2006, he took second at the JGP Czech Republic and fourth at the JGP Mexico.

Also competing in the JGP Series for a third time are Mark Vaillant of France and Artem Grigoriev of Russia. Last year, Vaillant finished sixth in Croatia and eighth in Great Britain. Grigoriev, who has five top-10 finishes at JGP events, will seek to top last year's third-place finishes at the JGP Great Britain and the JGP United States.

American William Brewster, who placed ninth as a junior at the 2008 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Saint Paul, Minn., will make his JGP Series debut.

Ice Dancing

New to the JGP circuit this season is the American brother-and-sister duo, Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani. The siblings are fresh off their first international win at the JGP France. They won the U.S. novice ice dancing title in 2007 and finished fourth last year in the junior division.

Russian junior ice dancers Ekaterina Riazanova and Jonathan Guerreiro, three-year veterans of the JGP circuit, will be the Shibutanis' toughest competition. The Russians won silver earlier this month at the JGP Italy. Last year, they placed second at both of their JGP events - in Romania and Germany - and took eighth at the JGP Final.

Ukraine's Anastasia Vykhodtseva and Alexei Shumski are in their fourth season on the JGP circuit. Last year, the team won the bronze medal at the JGP Bulgaria and finished fourth at the JGP Austria. American ice dancers Rachel Tibbetts and Collin Brubaker finished fifth at both of their JGP events last season, in Romania and Croatia.