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Competition heats up for men, pairs in Germany

United States looks to rebound in medal chase

Piper Gilles and Zach Donohue hope to improve on their fourth-place finish at the JGP Hungary as they head to Dresden.
Piper Gilles and Zach Donohue hope to improve on their fourth-place finish at the JGP Hungary as they head to Dresden. (Paul Harvath)

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By Mickey Brown, special to icenetwork.com
(09/30/2009) - The most heated competition at this week's Junior Grand Prix of Figure Series stop in Dresden, Germany, looks to be in the men's and pairs categories, while the United States expects to get back on track after winning just one medal last week in Minsk, Belarus.

Ladies
Angela Maxwell is a good bet to win her first JGP gold medal. The 2008 U.S. junior silver medalist has earned two silvers (including one this season in Budapest) and two bronzes in her JGP career. Challengers include Isabelle Olsson of Sweden, who took bronze at the 2009 JGP Lake Placid, Russian Polina Agafonova, who came in sixth two weeks ago in Poland, and China's Kexin Zhang, who was seventh last week in Belarus. Francesca Rio of Italy has the most senior-level experience in the field, including a 15th-place finish at the 2009 European Championships.

Men
The men's field is very top heavy, with four legitimate medal contenders. American Richard Dornbush has three JGP gold medals to his name, including the one he won at the first event in this year's series, in Hungary. He also took the bronze at the 2008 Junior Grand Prix Final. Artur Gachinski of Russia edged China's Nan Song for the gold last week in Belarus by less than a point, and he also has two JGP silver medals and two JGP Final appearances to his credit. On top of claiming the silver in Belarus, Song has finished in the top five at three other JGP events. The United States' other entrant, Grant Hochstein, won the silver last month in Hungary.

Pairs
The pairs podium will likely consist entirely of Chinese and Russian skaters. Wenjing Sui and Cong Han, the 2010 Chinese champions, are coming off a dominating performance in Belarus, where they won the gold by almost 20 points over teammates Yue Zhang and Lei Wang. Zhang and Wang also have claimed three JGP bronze medals and are the 2008 JGP Final silver medalists. Russians Tatiana Novik and Mikhail Kuznetsov captured the silver two weeks ago in Poland, while their country mates, Ksenia Ozerova and Alexander Enbert, are looking to bounce back from a sixth-place finish in Belarus. They garnered a silver (Belarus) and a bronze (Czech Republic) in last year's JGP Series. Also shooting for a podium spot are Canada's Taylor Steele and Robert Schultz (fifth at 2009 JGP Poland), Britney Simpson and Nathan Miller (fourth in Lake Placid), and Anais Morand and Antoine Dorsaz of Switzerland (fifth at the 2009 Nebelhorn Trophy).

Dance
The dance event is wide open, as three teams in the field have previously won JGP medals, while a fourth is composed of two skaters who had a great deal of success with their previous partners. The U.S.'s Piper Gilles and Zach Donohue won gold (Czech Republic) and silver (South Africa) at their two 2008 JGP events but stumbled out of the gate this season, finishing fourth in Hungary. Lorenza Alessandrini and Simone Vaturi of Italy have two bronzes (2009 Hungary, 2008 Italy) on their JGP resume, while Americans Lauri Bonacorsi and Travis Mager have one (2009 Lake Placid). Russians Ekaterina Pushkash and Jonathan Guerreiro are no strangers to international accolades; Guerreiro was the 2008 World Junior and 2008 JGP Final bronze medalist with Ekaterina Riazanova, while Pushkash was the 2009 Russian junior silver medalist and a 2008 JGP Final qualifier with Dmitri Kiselev.