The second competition of the 2016 IPC Wheelchair Dance Sport season gets underway on Saturday (30 April) at the Suomi Open in Lohja, Finland, with many of the dancers looking to build off the season opener in Kazakhstan earlier in the month.
Roughly 50 athletes from 12 nations are expected to compete in the Suomi Open, which will feature six events: duo standard and Latin, combi standard and Latin, men and women’s singles, with class 1 and 2 combined.
The men’s singles will be one to watch, with two of the top-three class 2 dancers expected to take the floor. Russia’s reigning world champion Maksim Sedakov is coming off two victories (in the combi Latin and singles) from the Kazakhstan Open earlier in April. Germany’s Erik Machens, who took runner-up to Sedakov at the 2015 Worlds in the men’s singles, will make his 2016 debut and battle his Russian rival for the top spot. But Austria’s world No. 3 Robert Pleininger is also seeking his first gold of the season after taking bronze in the event in Astana.
Pleininger’s class 2 teammate Sanja Vukasinovic is also going her first victory of 2016 after taking third in the women’s single event in Astana. She will have to face reigning world champion Galina Ryzhkova of Russia, who is hot off two medals, including gold in the singles, from the Kazakhstan Open.
Ryzhkova and her partner Viacheslav Osipov will take on the combi Latin, an event they won the world title in Rome, Italy, last November. Fellow Russians Svetlana Kukukshina with partner Sedakov will look to top the podium after taking bronze in Rome 2015. Georgian couple Ketevan Zazanashvili and Iko Iakobidze, currently ranked No. 8 in the world in the event, will try to spoil the Russian reign.
Host nation Finland will be represented by eight athletes and their dance partners. Karin Antell and Gustav Antell will look for home support as they take on the duo standard and Latin events. But Zaida Ester Launis and her partner Leevi Ketola will also challenge in both events.
Host nation’s Tuuli Harju and Timo Pyykkonen, and Tuija Pajunen with partner Mikko Hakkarainer, will try to occupy the top three in the combi standard. Harju will also compete in the women’s singles event.
The Suomi Open will run until Sunday (1 May).