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Nebelhorn to host slew of international stars

Volosozhar and Trankov, Sotnikova among top talent heading to Oberstdorf, Germany

Russia's Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov enter Nebelhorn Trophy as heavy favorites.
Russia's Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov enter Nebelhorn Trophy as heavy favorites. (Getty Images)

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By Renee Felton, special to icenetwork.com
(09/25/2012) - The senior international season continues this week in Oberstdorf, Germany, as skaters compete at the 2012 Nebelhorn Trophy. Held annually since 1969, Nebelhorn Trophy is one of figure skating's oldest competitions.

Several medalists from the 2011 edition of this event will be on hand, including Czech Republic's Michal Brezina and American Stephen Carriere, the respective men's silver and bronze medalists; the entire pairs podium, featuring world silver medalists Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov of Russia, and two of the three ice dancing medalists.

Ladies

American Caroline Zhang looks to continue her upswing from the latter half of the 2011-12 season that saw her place fourth at the 2012 U.S. Championships and third at the 2012 Four Continents Championships. She makes her first career appearance at Nebelhorn Trophy.

Russia's Adelina Sotnikova competed at the 2012 World Junior Championships, placing third, after skating at the senior level for the season. She earned a pair of Grand Prix bronze medals, at Cup of China and Rostelecom Cup, last fall. Sotnikova has won three of the last four Russian titles (2009, '11, '12).

Her teammate, Polina Shelepen, makes her senior international debut in Oberstdorf. She is the reigning JGP Final silver medalist and closed last season with a sixth-place showing at the world junior championships.

The field also includes Japan's Haruka Imai, who placed fourth at her country's most recent championships, and Sweden's Viktoria Helgesson, whose younger sister, Joshi, is the reigning Nebelhorn Trophy bronze medalist. Helgesson won Sweden's first ever Grand Prix medal when she earned bronze at 2011 Skate America.

Men's

The men's event features a stacked field that extends beyond Brezina and Carriere. Brezina has medaled at four consecutive national championships as a senior and won the 2010 title. He will be joined by teammate Tomas Verner, a two-time Olympian who has won three of the last four Czech titles. Both skaters spend ample training time in North America, with Brezina training out of Hackensack, N.J., and Detroit, and Verner working out of Toronto and Detroit when he's not in Prague.

Nobunari Oda, a staple on the Japanese podium over the last six years, has endured an up-and-down international career. A consistent performer on the Grand Prix Series with 13 medals to his credit, including three at the Grand Prix Final, Oda has yet to record a top-three worlds or Olympic finish. His last Four Continents medal came in 2006.

Russia's Konstantin Menshov will make his fifth appearance at Nebelhorn Trophy. He placed seventh in 2011 before going on to finish sixth and eighth, respectively, at his Grand Prix assignments, NHK Trophy and Rostelecom Cup.

Carriere returned to competition last season after battling injuries in both the Olympic year and 2010-11. After winning bronze in Oberstdorf, he took gold at 2011 Ice Challenge and finished sixth at the 2012 U.S. Championships. His teammate, Keegan Messing, who lives and trains in Alaska, looks for his second international gold medal after winning the 2011 Cup of Nice title.

Pairs

Volosozhar and Trankov have medaled at every international competition they have entered since teaming up in mid-2010. Their 2011-12 campaign included gold medals at Skate Canada, Trophée Eric Bompard and the European championships. They added silver at the Grand Prix Final and 2012 World Championships. They missed the Russian championships due to injury.

They will be joined in Oberstdorf by teammates Vera Bazarova and Yuri Larionov, the reigning Russian titlists. They have never defeated Volosozhar and Trankov head to head.

Americans Caydee Denney and John Coughlin begin their second season together. They opened their partnership with a third-place showing at 2011 Nebelhorn Trophy and went on to win the U.S. title and Four Continents silver medal.

Ice dancing

Nelli Zhiganshina and Alexander Gazsi of Germany look to move to the top of the podium in Oberstdorf after winning silver in 2011. They will be challenged by reigning bronze medalists Kharis Ralph and Asher Hill of Canada. Also on hand will be 2012 U.S. International Figure Skating Classic silver medalists Alexandra Paul and Mitchell Islam of Canada.

Americans Madison Chock and Evan Bates began their season at the 2012 U.S. International Figure Skating Classic. Their Lithuanian training mates, Isabella Tobias and Deividas Stagniunas, hope to improve on a fifth-place finish at this event last season. Their season included winning their first Grand Prix medal, the bronze, at Skate America.

Russia's Ksenia Monko and Kirill Khaliavin make their senior international debut. Among their junior accolades are the 2011 world junior title, two JGP Final crowns and a pair of Russian junior gold medals.