Golden Spin: Competitive men's field headlines ISU Challenger in final tune-up for national events

The ISU Challenger is set for 9-11 December in Sisak, Croatia, and marks one of the last international stops of 2021. Canada's Keegan Messing leads the men. 

By Nick McCarvel
Picture by 2021 Getty Images

While this weekend's Grand Prix Final in Japan has been cancelled due to the omicron variant of Covid-19, one of the final international figure skating events of 2021 is moving ahead in Sisak, Croatia.

Golden Spin of Zagreb is an ISU Challenger Series event, and marks the last stop for many skaters before they head to their all-important national championship events in late December and early January, many of which serve as the last marker before teams are named for the coming Olympic Games Beijing 2022.

The men's field offers the most intrigue out of the four disciplines, with Morisi Kvitelashvili of Georgia just two weeks removed from his surprise win at the Rostelecom Cup - his first-ever Grand Prix gold.

He will be a part of a crowded men's division which also features Canada's Keegan Messing, who was sixth at the world championships this past season, as well as 2019 Grand Prix Final bronze medallist Kevin Aymoz and Deniss Vasiljevs - the Latvian who placed fourth at both of his Grand Prix assignments this season.

Aymoz continues to work his way back after a series of injuries set the Frenchman back this year.

The women - led by American Amber Glenn - kick off the skating on Thursday (9 December), followed by the men and pair skating short programs later that day. The ice dance event begins on Friday (10 December).

Top Canadian pairs go head-to-head-to-head

Kvitelashvili, Messing and Aymoz are joined by Israel's Alexei Bychenko and Daniel Samohin, while Youth Olympics Lausanne 2020 silver medallist Andrei Mozalev is Russia's lone man in the competition.

Jimmy Ma will lead the American men's team.

In pairs, it's a head-to-head-to-head battle among the top three Canadian teams, who are battling for just two Olympic spots for February: New duo Vanessa James and Eric Radford look to continue their improvement - having not met their potential yet - while reigning national champions Kirsten Moore-Towers and Michael Marinaro are aiming for two solid back-to-back programs. Evelyn Walsh and Trennt Michaud will also feature.

Russia's Iuliia Artemeva and Mikhail Nazarychev are the reigning junior national champions in their country and announced a strong arrival on the senior Grand Prix with a pair of podium performances in Italy (bronze) and France (silver). They could be the favourites on the weekend.

Much like the Canadians, three strong U.S. teams are competing, too, as reigning national champions Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier are joined by training mates Jessica Calalang and Brian Johnson. Audrey Lu and Misha Mitrofanov are also set to skate.

And another American team headlines the ice dance, as Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker look to continue to make up ground after Hawayek's concussion in August. They were fifth at Rostelecom Cup two weeks ago in their season debut.

Golden Spin: Competition schedule

Thursday, 9 December
0900 - Women's short program
1400 - Men's short program
1915 - Pairs short program

Friday, 10 December
0900 - Ice dance rhythm dance
1230 - Women's free skate
1830 - Pairs free skate

Saturday, 11 December
0900 - Ice dance free dance
1230 - Men's free skate

All times are local, Central European Time (CET) (GMT+1)

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