The 2019 Challenger Series opens with Autumn Classic International in Oakville, Ontario, Sept. 12-14, and boasts strong line-ups in the three disciplines that will be contested: men′s, ladies and ice dance. This season, the pairs discipline is included at only five of the 10 Challenger Series events. This competition overlaps Lombardia Trophy in Italy (Sept. 13-15) and the Junior Grand Prix event in Chelyabinsk, Russia (Sept. 12-14).
Japan′s Yuzuru Hanyu has been assigned to this competition, but with fans anticipating his participation, tickets and hotel rooms sold out long before his participation was confirmed. He will be joined by teammate Rika Kihira, the reigning Grand Prix Final champion.
Also on the men′s roster is Canada’s newly-married Keegan Messing and his teammate, Conrad Orzel, who will make his senior debut. Kévin Aymoz of France, Jun-Hwan Cha of South Korea (2018 ACI silver medalist) and Mexico′s Donovan Carrillo are also slated to compete.
Russia′s Evgenia Medvedeva headlines the ladies field but Kihira, who finished fourth at the 2019 World Championships just 0.31 of a point behind Medvedeva, will be a strong challenger for the top step of the podium. Eunsoo Lim of South Korea could also be in the mix to capture a medal at this competition. Karen Chen of the U.S. will make her return to competition in Oakville after sitting out last season.
Four of the six ice dance duos slated to compete are all coached by the team at the Ice Academy of Montréal (formerly the Complexe récréatif Gadbois). Canada′s Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier, the top-ranked team in the ice dance field, and the Australian duo are the exceptions. Japanese ice dancers Misato Komatsubara and Tim Koleto have withdrawn. In an Instagram post, Komatsubara advised she has suffered two concussions recently and is also dealing with external injuries to her head and neck.
All practice sessions and the competition will be live streamed worldwide with no restrictions.