Golden Skate

Team USA grabs lead in World Team Trophy

The 2019 ISU World Team Trophy kicked off a three-day competition with the Rhythm Dance, followed by the Ladies’ and Men’s Short Program in Fukuoka, Japan, on Thursday. Team USA currently leads with 50 points, followed by Team Japan (48) and Team Russia (38).

The ISU World Team Trophy format is based on a competition consisting of the six best national teams from ISU Members with a special provision for the host ISU Member to be included as a Qualified Member. Competing in this sixth edition of the event, are: Canada, France, Italy, Japan, Russia, and the United States. Each team is composed of two Men and Ladies’ single skaters, one pair team, and one ice dance team. Each team nominates a Captain who represents the team.

Team USA (50 points)

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Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue showed good speed and attack in in their traditional Tango to “Alevare” and “Tangata del Alba.” They earned a level 4 on the twizzles, curve lift, and midline steps, but the patterns were a level 3 and 2 and not all key points were met. The World bronze medalists finished third in the Rhythm Dance with 82.86 points.

After a rough Short Program at Worlds, Bradie Tennell redeemed herself  at this event with a new season’s best of 74.81, finishing fourth in the Ladies’ short progam. The 2018 Internationaux de France bronze medalist landed a solid triple Lutz-triple toe, double Axel, and triple flip in her routine to “Rebirth,” earning a level 4 on all spins along the way.

Mariah Bell placed fifth with 70.89 points after her short program to “To Love You More.” The 2018 Golden Spin of Zagreb  underrotated the front end of a triple Lutz-triple toe, but landed a solid double Axel and triple flip, showing level 4 spins and footwork throughout.

Nathan Chen scored 101.95 points for a first-place finish after his routine to “Caravan.” The two-time and current World champion was solid. After a busy season, he opted for a solo quad toe instead of a Lutz and a triple Lutz-triple toe instead of a quad toe-triple toe. He also landed a triple Axel and earned level 4 on all spins and footwork.

Vincent Zhou landed his opening quad Lutz-triple toe and a solid quad Salchow in his short to “Exogenesis Symphony Part III” by Muse. The 2019 Worlds bronze medalist also produced a triple Axel, showed level 4 spins, and despite receiving a level 3 on his footwork, earned a new season’s best of 100.51 for a very close second place.

“This is my first time at a team event and what a great way to start,” said Team USA’s captain, Hubbell. “Team USA had all very strong performances. We have a team of Olympic (team) members, national champions, world medalists, all world(team) members. We knew we were strong going in and we wanted to fight together as a team and it just shows how strong we are.”

Some skaters were not trained up to par for this event due to a long and exhausting season. Some skaters were even sick after the World Figure Skating Championships, which took place less than a month ago. Despite this, some skaters still managed a season’s best.

“But the atmosphere of having such a fun event that really seems like it’s just for the appreciation of being here,” noted Hubbell, who was honored to have been voted as the team captain. “I know that we’re incredibly proud of our team and proud to represent our country. There’s a little bit of fight in there. You get tired and you may not have as much energy, but you find the energy with your teammates cheering you on. You know you have to do your best for them. It’s a really cool atmosphere.”

Team Japan (48 points)

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Misato Komatsubara and Timo Koleto rounded out the top six ice dance teams with 60.93 points after their tango which was highlighted by a nice level 4 curve lift.

Rika Kihira, who held the Short Program record score from 2018-19 Grand Prix Final, broke her own record with a new season’s best of  83.97 for a first-place finish in the Ladies’ short program. The 2019 Four Continents champion nailed a solid triple Axel, triple flip-triple toe and triple Lutz, earning level 4 on all elements with many high GOEs in her expressive and lyrical routine to “Clair de Lune.”

Kaori Sakamoto also edged past her season’s best at Worlds with a score of  76.95, placing second in the Ladies’ short program. The 2018 Skate America silver medalist earned Team Japan 10 points after her poetic routine to “From My First Moment” which featured a triple flip-triple toe, double Axel, and triple loop. All elements were also graded a level 4 with positive GOEs.

Shoma Uno hung on to the landing of his quad flip, but turned out of the first jump and stepped out of the second in a quad toe-double toe, but his triple Axel was pristine in his routine to “Stairway to Heaven.” The Olympic silver medalist also showed strong level 4 footwork and spins to earn 92.78 points, finishing third in the Men’s short program.

Keiji Tanaka put a hand down on his triple Axel, but otherwise showed a good quad toe and triple flip-triple toe in his performance to “Memories” by Gary Moore. The 2018 Ondrej Nepela Trophy bronze medalist also earned a level 4 on his footwork and two spins, topping his score from Four Continents with 89.05 points.

“I knew everybody in our team is very talented and there was one great performance after the other, said Japan’s team captain, Komatsubara. “Personally, even though we (she and partner Tim Koleto) gave our best, we still were in last place, but I think it is a stepping stone for tomorrow.”

She added that she was nervous about the event, coming in with strong skaters. “My best performance is maybe not yet nice, but when I see Shoma (Uno) cheering for us, I am like, ‘yes, we can do it.’ It was definitely a positive emotion. It is really entertainment and I hope that everybody enjoyed it, the public and the judges enjoyed it. I really like this competition.”

Since seven of the eight team members of Japan are competing at this event for the first time, Komatsubara was surprised to be nominated as the team captain. “I expected Shoma to be the captain, but he somehow got out of it, so I think it was decided by the order of age.”

Team Russia (38 points)

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Victoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov were strong in their tango performance to “Verano Porteno,” earning level 4 on all elements and meeting all eight key point in their patterns. The 2019 World silver medalists showed good speed and ice coverage throughout, earning high GOEs on most elements to finish in second place with a new season’s best of 84.57.

Elizaveta Tuktamysheva managed to top her season’s best from 2018 NHK Trophy with 80.54 points after landing a triple Axel, triple toe-triple toe, and triple Lutz in her routine to “Assassin’s Tango.” The 2018-19 Grand Prix Final bronze medalist also earned a level 4 on her spins and footwork while racking up many positive GOEs throughout.

After a solid and sassy short program to “Nyah,” Sofia Samodurova pocketed 68.61 points for sixth place. The European champion landed a triple flip, triple toe-triple loop, and double Axel, earning level 4 on all elements.

Andrei Lazukin put out a solid routine to “I Put a Spell on You,” which featured a quad toe, triple Axel, and triple flip-triple toe. All elements received a level 4, and the 2019 Dragon Trophy silver medalist earned a new season’s best of 88.96, finishing fifth in the short program.

Alexander Samarin rounded out the top 12 men with a score of 71.84. The 2019 European silver medalist fell on both quad attempts, but landed a triple Axel and showed solid spins and footwork.

“It was a good day for Russia,” proclaimed Team Russia’s captain, Katsalapov. “We did a few great run throughs. I am very happy for Liza Tuktamysheva to come back on to the ice and put out that kind of strong performance and also Andrei Lazukin did a great job. What about Alexander (Samarin)–maybe his coach could tell him to do a little more simple content and play it safe. But still, we have the free dance tomorrow and a great pair team. We’re ready to fight and play this game to the end.”

Regarding some of the skaters earning new season bests, Katsalapov  said: “Each team member tried to stay in shape for this competition. I think I was at this competition eight years ago, with my previous partner and I have forgotten everything. Now as the captain, I have to cheer up my team and motivate them for good performances, and together with Vika (Sinitsina), we managed to do that. I didn’t think I would be that nervous, because the major competitions are all done, but here it is a different responsibility–you aren’t fighting only for yourself, but for your team. Everyone is contributing something to this game. Therefore, I couldn’t relax and have one hundred percent fun, but I enjoyed it nevertheless. ”

Katsalapov was appointed team captain by the Russian Skating Federation. “I don’t think there was a vote by the team, but I think it is a very honorable position and I’m trying my best to motivate and to help them morally, but I cannot skate for them. I’m doing everything for them that depends on me.”

Team France (27 points)

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Olympic silver medalists Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron earned 87.31 for first place in the Rhythm Dance after a solid tango to to “Oblivion” and “Primavera Porteno” in which they earned level 4 for the twizzles, curve lift and both Tango Romantica patterns. The four-time and current World champions also met all eight key points in their patterns and earned many high grades of execution (GOE) on all elements. While they showed good connection and deep knees, the team only earned a level 3 on the midline steps (it was level 4 at Worlds last month).

The 2019 Cup of Tyrol champion, Laurine Lecavelier, had to hang on to her triple Lutz, but the French national silver medalist managed a solid triple toe-triple toe and double Axel for 62.53 points (eighth place).

Mae-Berenice Meite underrotated the back end of a triple toe-triple toe, but landed a triple Lutz and double Axel while showing three level 4 spins. The five-time and current French national champion scored 59.45 points (10th place).

Kevin Aymoz lost some points when he found himself hanging on to a quad toe and triple Lutz (in combination with a double toe). His triple Axel was solid, however, and the French national champion earned a level 4 on all spins and footwork for a score of 85.22 (eighth place).

Adam Siao Him Fa finished in 11th place with 72.55 points. The 2018-19 Junior Grand Prix Finalist landed a quad Luz, but hardly received any positive GOEs for the element. He struggled with his combination jump and had to hang on to the landing of a triple Axel, but two spins and his footwork were graded a level 4.

Team Canada (26 points)

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Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje placed fifth with 79.60 points in the Rhythm Dance. Their routine to “Libertango,” in which they displayed good lines and extension, featured level 4 twizzles and their signature straightline lift which earned many high GOEs.

Gabrielle Daleman popped a triple Lutz, but landed a triple toe-triple toe and double Axel. Nevertheless, the 2017 World bronze medalist displayed good level 4 spins and footwork to finish in seventh with 64.33 points.

Alaine Chartrand came in 11th with 52.36 points. The Canadian national champion struggled with several jumps, but otherwise showed good spins and footwork, all of which were graded a level 4.

Skating to “That’s Life” by Sinatra, Nam Nguyen landed a quad Salchow-triple toe, triple Axel, and triple flip, however only one element received a level 4 (flying camel spin). The Canadian national champion still topped his score from the World championships last month, earning 87.57 points (seventh place).

Canadian national bronze medalist Keegan Messing had a disappointing skate after struggling with his jumps. Two of his spins and footwork were graded a level 3 and he scored 79.75 points for a ninth-place finish.

Team Italy (24 points)

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Charlene Guignard and Marco Fabbri placed fourth in the Rhythm Dance with 80.25 points for their Tango. The 2019 European bronze medalists earned level 4 on most of their elements, including their diagonal steps, but only met seven out of eight of the key points in their patterns, one of which was graded a level 3.

Marina Piredda, who debuted at Worlds this year, broke the 60-point mark for the first time in international competition with a new season’s best of 60.33 points (ninth place). The 2019 Mentor Cup junior champion landed a triple toe-triple toe, triple Lutz, and double Axel in her routine to “Querer” from Cirque du Soleil.

Roberta Rodeghiero rounded out the top 12 ladies with a score of 48.45. Her short program to Tina Turner’s “Proud Mary” was highlighted by her spins, but the skater struggled on her jumps.

Matteo Rizzo landed a quad toe, triple Axel, and triple Lutz-triple toe, but the Lutz received an edge call. Two spins and the footwork were graded level 3 and the 2019 European bronze medalist was awarded 87.64 points for a sixth-place finish in the Men’s short program.

Daniel Grassl underrotated his opening quad loop and received an edge call on his triple Lutz (in combination with a triple toe) in his routine to “Rain, In Your Black Eyes.” The 2019 World Junior bronze medalist finished in 10th place with a score of 79.68 points.