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Junior skaters duke it out for medals in Dresden

JGP Germany features strong entries from U.S., Russia

Team USA's Christina Gao is a good bet to medal at the JGP Germany.
Team USA's Christina Gao is a good bet to medal at the JGP Germany. (Michelle Harvath)

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By Renee Felton, special to icenetwork.com
(10/05/2010) - The opportunities to qualify for December's Junior Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final in Beijing are running out as the sixth of seven qualifying events takes place this week in Dresden, Germany. The United States has gold-medal contenders in both ladies and ice dancing, while Russia could potentially walk away with four gold medals.

Ladies
Russia's Polina Agafonova and Elizaveta Tuktamisheva are among the favorites to win in Germany. Agafonova, the reigning world junior bronze medalist, placed seventh at JGP Austria after sitting in third place following the short program. At JGP Romania, Tuktamisheva rallied from fourth place after the short program to win the free skate and the gold medal. American Christina Gao won silver at JGP Austria and has won a medal at each of the three JGP events in which she has competed plus bronze at the 2009 Junior Grand Prix Final.

The field also features JGP Japan bronze medalist Kexin Zhang of China and a pair of fourth-place finishers in France's Yretha Silete (JGP France) and Belgium's Ira Vannut (JGP Austria). Canadian Kate Charbonneau struggled to a 15th-place finish at JGP Austria but was on the podium last fall as a silver medalist in Croatia. Japan's Yukiko Fujisawa may be the dark horse. The 2008 JGP Final silver medalist has struggled since her dominant season two years ago and hasn't placed higher than fourth in competition since.

Men's
The men's event is up for grabs as only three skaters in the field have medaled in the JGP series. Kazahkstan's Abzal Rakimgaliev, the only medalist from the 2010 season, earned bronze at JGP Japan two weeks ago. American Richard Dornbush looks to improve on a fourth-place finish at JGP Austria. Competing on the JGP circuit since 2007, Dornbush has three gold medals and the 2008 JGP Final bronze to his credit. Russia's Gordei Gorshkov is the only other skater to have earned a medal in the series. He received bronze in events last fall in Poland and Germany, and placed fourth in Japan two weeks ago.

Look for Canada's Samuel Morais (the reigning Canadian junior silver medalist), China's Jiaxing Liu and France's Romain Ponsart (fifth at JGP France) to also contend for a spot on the podium.

Pairs
The pairs event is likely to be the most hotly contested competition of the weekend. China's Wenjing Sun and Cong Han, the 2009 JGP Final champions, skated to the silver medal in Austria. Sui and Han will try to keep Japan's Narumi Takahashi and Mervin Tran, the 2009 JGP Final silver medalists, at bay. They have been on the circuit since 2008 and own five medals in that span, including silver last week in Great Britain.

Brynn Carman and A.J. Reiss are the United States' best chance at a medal. They placed fifth in Austria and are the only American team with international experience. Canada's Brittany Jones and Kurtis Gaskell would like to add another medal to their resumes after winning bronze last fall in Poland. Russians Tatiana Danilova and Andrei Novoselov finished just off the podium in their JGP debut in Austria last month.

Ice Dancing
Charlotte Lichtman and Dean Copely are gold-medal contenders. They earned their first medal of any color outside of sectional competition with a first-place finish in Austria. Russia's Marina Antipova and Artem Morshkin have a wealth of international experience. Having competed on the JGP circuit since 2006, they have accumulated a pair of silver medals and finished eighth at the JPG Final in 2009. Teammates Evgenia Kosigina and Sergei Moroshkin were bronze medalists in the inaugural event of the season in France. Representing the United States, twins Alexander Gamelin and Danielle Gamelin make their international debut.