Rematches mark this week's JGP Japan
All three men's medalists from the JGP France return to the ice this week
|Max Aaron is among the men competing in the Junior Grand Prix event in Japan. (Lynn Rutherford)|
By Renee Felton, special to icenetwork.com
(09/21/2010) - Rematches mark this week's ISU Junior Grand Prix (JGP) of Figure Skating Series event in Karuizawa, Japan. All three men's medalists from the season's first event in Courchevel, France, return to the ice this week. Look for Americans Max Aaron and Jason Brown, who finished third and second, respectively, to challenge Canadian Andrei Rogozine for the gold medal. Just six points separated gold from bronze the last time these three faced off. Also vying for medals are Japan's Kento Nakamura and Russia's Gordei Gorshkov and Mark Shakhmatov, all of whom make their season debuts. Nakamura medaled at both of his JGP assignments last year and placed eighth at the JGP Final. Gorshkov has a pair of JGP medals to his credit and most recently placed eighth at his country's national championships, while Shakhmatov placed third and fifth at his two JGP events in 2009. In ice dancing, Americans Anastasia Cannuscio and Colin McManus will clash once again with Russians Alexandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin. These teams finished one-two at JGP France, with Stepanova and Bukin claiming the gold medal. Ekaterina Pushkash and Jonathan Guerreiro, also representing Russia, are gold medal contenders in dance after winning gold and silver at their two JGP assignments and placing fifth at the JGP Final last year. Five of the 13 dance teams set to compete in Kariuzawa are making their international debuts, including Americans Joylyn Yang and Jean-Luc Baker. Though the ladies event may lack friendly rivalry, the battle for gold will still be intense, with American Kiri Baga and Japan's Shion Kokubun among the favorites. Baga won gold medals at both of her JGP assignments last fall before placing seventh in the Junior Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final. She most recently finished seventh at the 2010 World Junior Figure Skating Championships. Kokubun is the 2010 JGP Romania bronze medalist. Less than four points separated the 18-year-old from gold after a second-place finish in the free skate. Kokubun set career bests throughout the event. Russia's Anna Ovcharova, who placed fifth at the 2010 World Junior Championships, figured to be in the medal hunt before she withdrew from the competition on Sept. 21. Baga's teammate Angela Wang makes her international debut in Karuizawa.