On March 27, Asahi TV headquarters in Tokyo hosted a press conference to announce the teams that will participate in the eighth World Team Trophy to be conducted at the “Tokyo Taiikukan (Gymnasium)” from April 13 to 16, 2023. Modeled on the team competition at the Olympic Games, World Team Trophy has been held in Japan every two years since 2009. The event offers the six best-performing nation’s skaters the opportunity to showcase their skills and abilities as a team once at the end of the season. In addition to the host country, Canada, South Korea, Italy, and France will be participating in the competition.
Presented in the form of a talk show, moderated by former tennis player Shuzo Matsuoka and figure skaters Nobunari Oda and Shizuka Arakawa, Japan’s leading athletes shared their aspirations for the upcoming event.
“My slogan is ‘Tonikaku ganbarou! (First of all, let’s do our best!),'” stated Kaori Sakamoto, the two-time World champion team captain. “After the World championships, of course everyone is relieved, but we still have the World Team Trophy coming up. So, we all want to continue to take care of ourselves, not get injured and do our best.”
In addition to Sakamoto, Mai Mihara, the 2022 Grand Prix Final champion, will also compete in the women’s category. Inspired by Japan’s famous baseball star Shohei Ohtani, whom she chose as a model for continuing to excel despite numerous hurdles, she explained, “No matter what may happen during my performance, I want to combine both my strengths and weaknesses and become a top athlete.”
In the men’s category, World Champion Shoma Uno, who unfortunately could not attend the press conference due to his injury, is set to skate. Japan’s most popular entertainer, Kazuki Tomono, will also take the state. For the latter, World Team Trophy will be his first major team competition.
“My strength is to carry my program through to the end and stay true to my personality, no matter what happens in between,” Tomono said. “I love cheering (someone) on,” he explained with anticipation for the upcoming event. “I hope to become the ‘leader of enthusiasm’ together with Kao-chan (Sakamoto).”
The pairs discipline will be represented by World Champion pair skaters Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara, while Kana Muramoto and Daisuke Takahashi will compete in the ice dance event.
Although Team Miura/Kihara are heavy contenders, their main goal is to surpass their World’s performance at World Team Trophy next month.
“We left the World Championships a little disappointed,” Kihara commented on his ambitions. “Of course, we are very happy that we won, but we were actually aiming for the 145-point mark and we weren’t able to achieve that. We would like to make up for that.”
For Daisuke Takahashi, it’s the first competition of its kind in 10 years. He last participated in 2012 while skating in the singles discipline.
“Normally, as a competitive athlete, you’re on your own, but as a team, you get a lot of energy from the other members,” reflected Takahashi. “The American athletes are very strong in all categories. However, our Japanese team, we want to contribute our best in ice dance as well, of course, including the World champions. If things go smoothly for us, I think we might definitely win.”
The 37-year-old also expressed his admiration for Ilia Malinin’s quadruple Axel.
“I dared to do the quad Axel once in my single skating career when I was training under Nikolai (Morozov),” he shared. “That was well before my surgery. When I fell, I thought I was going to die, so I gave up,” he laughed.
His partner, Muramoto, clarified the motivation with which the team would enter the competition.
“In the rhythm dance we had some mistakes, while our free skate was almost perfect,” she said, regarding Worlds. “On that account, this time we want to deliver a flawless performance in both programs.”
The way in which Team Japan will cheer on their skaters has not yet been decided. Nevertheless, the group, featuring pep talkers Sakamoto and Tomono, promise to hit the ground running when it comes to cheering.
“We are all from western Japan, so Team Japan has a strong Kansai influence,” Sakamoto pointed out, smiling big. “Which is why I think we’ll get fired up like ‘WAAAAH’ right away!”
The United States has not yet announced their team, but newly-minted World Ice Dance Madison Chock and Evan Bates, World Pairs silver medalists Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier, World bronze medalist Ilia Malinin, and Jason Brown are expected to compete.
Team Canada is led by 2023 World Ice Dance bronze medalists Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier, 2023 Four Continents bronze medalists Deanna Stellato and Maxime Deschamps and 2023 Four Continents silver medalist Keegan Messing.
South Korea comes with their new World silver medalists Haein Lee and Junwhan Cha to Tokyo.
World silver Ice Dance medalists Charlene Guignard and Marco Fabbri, 2023 World Pairs bronze medalists Sara Conti and Niccolo Macii and 2023 European silver medalist Matteo Rizzo headline Team Italy.
Team France includes 2023 European Champion Adam Siao Him Fa and Kevin Aymoz .