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Team USA maintains lead in Tokyo; Korea and Japan follow

2023 World Team Trophy | Day 2

The 2023 ISU World Team Trophy continued on Friday with the Pairs’ Short program, Free Dance and Women’s Free Skate in Tokyo, Japan. Team USA maintained their overnight lead (90 points), while Team Japan (74) is closing the gap on team Korea (75).
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Team USA (90)

World silver medalists Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier literally rocked the hall with their routine to “Separate Ways” to a new personal best score of 82.25points. The level-three triple twist was just the beginning of a breathtaking spectacle, as they not only convinced with clean triple toes, but also a throw triple-flip. The latter element was perfectly matched to the music and and received 1.97 grades of execution (GOE). They reached the highlight of the show with an impressive lasso lift followed by a spin, footwork, and death spiral—all of which were graded a level four.

“We feel very proud and happy,” said Knierim after their performance. “It feels amazing to end the season with a short program like this. It’s a special feeling to crack the 80-point mark, but it’s rather about that great, satisfying feeling we had at the end of our performance.”

She added that touring with Stars on Ice Japan was very special for them.

“There are so many high level skaters, Hanyu being on of them. It was great to be there with them. It also helped us for this performance today as we were showing our full short program there, on smaller ice and different lightning, so that was surely great practice going into today.”

World champions Madison Chock and Evan Bates outdid themselves once again, earning a new world record score of 138.41 with their routine to “Souffrance” and “Les Tectoniques.” In the flow of an emotional choreography, they earned major GOEs for every element, with the lowest being three “+3.” The diagonal and one-foot steps were graded a level four, as were the three lifts, twizzles, and dance spin.

“It just feels wonderful!” said Chock. “It’s a feeling of freedom, happiness and pride. We are proud of ourselves and of our team. It was so fun watching Alexa and Brandon today while warming up. To bring our season to a close with a performance like that is very special for us. Knowing that my performance at Worlds was not the absolute best as it could have been, I wanted to just nail it today, and we did.”

When asked what they were most looking forward to, Bates replied, “To appreciate the moment, reflect on everything, take some time to relax and maybe do nothing for a bit. We don’t want to hurry right to the next moment. We will also be doing some touring and we absolutely love that.”

Isabeau Levito enchanted the audience with a beautiful performance to “My Sweetest and Tender Beast.” She opened the routine with triple Lutz-triple loop, but the latter jump was underrotated. This was the only small mistake in her program. The national champion nailed five more triple jumps, including a triple Lutz-triple Salchow, and showed level-four spins and footwork throughout. Her spins, in particular, received high GOEs, and she scored 142.65 points.

“I think I could have slightly done better here and there, but I have done worse, so I am pretty happy,” said the 16-year-old. “I think it was a decent performance.”

Levito plans to do some traveling off season.

“I am going on vacation to Italy soon to visit some parts of my family I haven’t seen in a while!” she revealed. “But right now, I am really looking forward to enjoying the next two days of this event to be cheering on my teammates tomorrow, and hopefully, the exhibition!”

Amber Glenn had a shaky start after underrotating and two-footing the landing of a triple Axel. She quickly recovered to land a triple flip-triple toe, triple Salchow and triple loop. The only other mistake came when she put a foot down on the end of a triple Lutz-double Axel. Although she gave an expressive performance to “Without You,” her footwork and layback spin were only graded a level two. Her other two spins received a level four, and the 2022 Skate America silver medalist was awarded 128.46 points for her effort.

After finishing the performance, Glenn reflected on her experiences.

“Indeed, (it’s been) such a long season,” she drawled. “But it’s wonderful, and I couldn’t be more grateful! I am so happy to be a part of this incredible event and this amazing team. I was having a really hard time with my triple Axel in practice today, but I am happy I went for it. I am just gonna go for it every time now until I land it!”

The skater shared that she will take a few days off, but is then going to delve into a “secret” project.

“It’s nothing too exciting, but it’s going to a have lot of physical and mental challenges involved, and it will be recorded,” she said.

Team Korea

Team Republic of Korea (75)

National Champions Hyejin Cho and Steven Adcock had a fantastic international debut at this event. Their short to “Nero” featured a level-two triple twist and pair spin, a level-three reverse lasso lift and footwork. The new team also produced clean side-by-side triple Salchows, as well as a throw triple Salchow. They earned 60.55. points.

“We are very happy to skate clean here,” said Adcock. “We concentrated a lot and the audience, and the team helped so much. It’s a different, but great, experience to skate in a team, and we would like to have it more often.”

With only a couple competitions under their belt after teaming up in June 2022, they plan to move up to the senior level next season.

Hannah Lim and Ye Quan put out an expressive performance to “Dance Macabre” for a new personal best score of 109.27 points. The 2023 World champions engaged the audience with their level-four lifts and dance spin. She received a level four on the twizzles as well, however, his were graded a level three. The one-foot and circular steps were both graded a level two. This marks their first senior international event.

“We are so happy,” said Lim. “It was our first time in front of such a big audience. It’s incredible!”

They will keep their newly created rhythm dance as a show program as they like it very much. They are looking forward to creating new programs for next season.

After a rather disappointing short program, Yelim Kim proved all her skills with her elegant routine to “Summer Of 42” and “Summer Arabesques,” earning her a new personal best score of 143.59.  The only glitch came at the beginning when she underrotated the back half of a triple Lutz-triple toe. The 2023 Four Continents silver medalist otherwise landed five clean triples, including a triple Lutz-double toe-double loop. All spins were graded a level four, while the steps earned a level three.

“I am so happy and relieved,” said Kim. “This was the last performance of the season and I am very happy I could end it with a clean program like this!”

The 20-year-old will take some time before returning to Canada to begin work on her programs for next season.

Haein Lee‘s performance to Phantom of the Opera was a masterpiece. The lone flaw was an edge call on a triple flip in the second half of her routine. The world silver medalist landed a total of seven triple jumps, with the triple Lutz-triple toe receiving 1.69GOEs. She also earned high GOEs for her level four footwork and steps, ending the romantic love story about the lonely phantom with a wave of applause. She pocketed 148.57 points for a new personal best.

“I think I did really well today, no mistakes!” said Lee. “I am very happy I did the best for my team with earning them 12 points twice.”

The skater plans to take a few days off before returning to the ice.

“I will go back onto the ice just because I love to skate so much!” said the skater, who turns 18 in two days. “And I am really looking to work on my new programs!”

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Team Japan (74)

Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara are coming off a long season having toured Japan for Stars On Ice after the World Championships. Although they reported that their condition had not returned to  one hundred percent, they took the audience into a peaceful world with their dreamy number to “You’ll Never Walk Alone” and “Sweet Hope Walk.

After opening with a level-three triple twist, Miura had to hang on to the triple toe after a slightly uneven landing. In the second half, they convinced with a stable level-four reverse lasso lift and a throw triple-Lutz, which was perfectly in tune with the music. The combination spin and footwork were awarded a level four, as was their death spiral, which brought their calm program to a harmonious end. The world champs racked up many GOEs throughout, scoring 80.47 points—just a tad bit off from their previous best in Saitama.

For Kihara and Miura, it was an exciting season through which they gained a lot of experience.

“This season began with an injury, so we didn’t have so much time to train,” Kihara emphasized. “But within this short time span, we were able to prepare well and work for the World Championships.”

Miura explained, that World Team Trophy was another precious experience.

“This is a team event, so it’s different from normal competitions,” she said. “In our team, everyone is fighting and giving their best, so we want to give our best, too. A team event is so much fun!”

With their program to “Phantasia” and “The Music of The Night,” Kana Muramoto and Daisuke Takahashi pulled the Phantom of the Opera from the world of musicals onto the ice. The 2022 Four Continents silver medalists showed expressive level-four lifts, and both the one-foot and diagonal steps were graded a level three. He received a level three on the twizzles, while hers were a graded a level four and they scored a new personal best of 116.63 points. They were showered with rapturous applause and a standing ovation.

“We have trained a lot” Muramoto said with a bright smile. “We wanted to enjoy the performance. We didn’t make any major mistakes and we renewed our season’s best, so we’re happy.”

Whether the team will carry their career into the following season is still unknown, but Muramoto explained that they would discuss their team’s future while participating in many shows.

Olympic bronze medalist Kaori Sakamoto was near-solid in her stylishly choreographed routine to “Elastic Heart.” The only error came in the second half when she fell on a double Axel-triple toe. Otherwise, the 23-year-old racked up numerous high GOEs for all other jumps, including a triple flip-triple toe and triple Lutz. Her spins and footwork were also strong, and the world champion scored 145.75 points.

“This year, Team Japan consists of several age groups, it is very diverse,” Sakamoto pointed out. “Each member brought their own personality, and that brings a breath of fresh air to the event. It was very fun!”

Although Mai Mihara struggled with several jumps, she still won the hearts of the audience with her passionate program to “El Amor Brujo.” The two-time Four Continents champion underrotated the back half of a triple Lutz-triple toe and double Axel-triple toe. She also underrotated the first jump in a triple Lutz-double toe-double loop. All other jumps were clean, however, and she received a level four for two spins and the footwork to earn 131.21 points.

“I have received so much applause from the audience and I heard a lot of “Ganba” (Do your best!) from the crowd,” said a smiling Mihara. “I realized how blessed I am to skate here, so I gave it my all. This season, many things happened that surprised me, and I’ve experienced so many emotions. I’m just happy that I was able to return to a huge stage and compete at many events. Going into the next season, I want to show an even stronger Mai and I want to show my improvement.”

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Team France (60)

Skating to Billie Eilish’s hit songs “My Boy” and “Bad Guy,” Camille Kovalev and Pavel Kovalev opened with a confident triple twist, but it had a low catch and was graded a level one. The 2022 Grand Prix de France silver medalists landed their side-by-side triple toes, although his landing was a bit shaky. While she had to hang on to the landing of the throw triple Salchow, the footwork and spin were graded a level four. They scored 63.60 points.

“We feel great!” Camille exclaimed after her performance. “We just came here to have fun and we did just that. We feel great and were actually really excited right after Worlds for this competition! The highlight of our season was surely the Grand Prix in France, and the most fun event is the World Team Trophy.”

Evgeniia Lopareva and Geoffrey Brissaud set a new personal best (118.52) with their performance to Edith Piaf’s “l’Accordeoniste” and “Mon Dieu.” The national champions won the hearts of all spectators for their romantic choreography. The twizzles, lifts and spin were graded a level three, while the one-foot and circular steps were both a level three.

“This is how we wanted to end the season!” Lopareva stated during the interview. “After Worlds, we really wanted to give our all here and this is exactly what we did! We need some recovery now, but we feel very good!”

They plan to take a small vacation after doing some shows in France, and then will begin working on their new programs for next season. They are hoping one will be choregraphed by Guillaume Cizeron, but still need to work out the schedule.

Lorine Schild started her expressive performance to “Tango Yesica Lozano” and “Tango de Roxanne” quite convincingly with a successful triple Salchow-triple-toe, triple Lutz-double toe and triple flip. However, the national silver medalist took a fall on a triple Lutz. She otherwise landed a triple loop-double Axel-double loop sequence and a triple loop. All spins were graded a level four, while the steps received a level two, and she scored 114.28 points.

Nevertheless, Schild appeared to be quite satisfied.

“I feel really happy about my performance today,” she said. “I am a bit disappointed with my second Lutz, but I am very happy to skate here in Japan once more.”

The 18-year-old is looking forward to working on her new programs off-season and then will return as a “full” senior next season.

Lea Serna hung on to the landing of a triple flip and slightly underrotated a triple Salchow in the first half of her routine, but the rest was quite solid. She landed two triple Lutz jumps and was rewarded with a level four for her spins and footwork in her performance to “La terre vue du ciel” and “Dawn of Faith.” The three-time national champ finished with a new personal best of 117.54 points.

“I was a bit stressed ahead of my Salchow, as it’s the hardest jump for me in the program, but afterwards I was fine and it was easy for me,” explained the 23-year-old from Poitiers.

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Team Italy (55)

World bronze medalists Sara Conti and Niccolo Macii delivered a romantic number to “Oblivion (Una Sombra Mas),” capturing the enchanting atmosphere perfectly throughout the whole program. They produced a level-three triple twist, and the throw triple loop was cleanly executed, garnering a GOE of 1.50 and high ratings from the judges. However, they were off synch in their side-by-side spins, which resulted in just a base value score for that element, and scored 69.84 points overall.

“We feel happy to skate here for the first time at the World Team Trophy and one last time to this music,” said Macii. “We don’t really understand the scores as we feel like we did a lot of things better than at Worlds, but we have to evaluate that after the competition.”

It’s been a long season of 11 competition for the skaters who are looking forward to some vacation time. They revealed that they are not in a relationship with each other off the ice, but will be life-time best friends and share “custody” for their dog, Tyson.

Italy’s dream team Charlene Guignard and Marco Fabbri scored a new personal best (132.24) after their superb free dance to “My Love will never die,” “Mephistos Lullaby” and “Eden.” The world silver medalists moved smoothly through each element, earning a level four for the lifts and twizzles. She received a level two for the one-foot steps, while his were graded a level four, and both skaters produced level-three circular steps.

“We are really happy we could finally perform this free dance the way we wanted to at the last competition of the season,” Fabbri stated emphatically. “Better at the end than never!”

Fabbri revealed that they will take a two-week break to travel through Vietnam and Cambodia.

“We are really looking forward to that!” he said. “We sat together after Worlds discussing our future. We haven’t completely finalized the decision yet, but we are almost sure we will be staying at least one more season.”

Anna Pezzetta struggled in her routine to music by Vivaldi. The national bronze medalist underrotated the back half of her opening triple Lutz-triple toe and then slightly underrotated a triple flip. She also stepped out of double Axel and double Lutz. Her footwork and flying camel spin received a level three, while the change combination and layback spins garnered a level four. She finished with 106.30 points.

“I know I can do a lot better and I was working really hard,” said Pezzetta. “But I kept fighting until the end and my team supported and helped me a lot!”

Although she wasn’t satisfied with her program, she commented on her clean triple Lutz.

“I used to fall on my Lutz a lot when I was learning it,” said Pezzetta. “I kept falling and falling, until one day I landed it and it somehow became “my” jump. I really want to work on my consistency. I can do much better in practice, but in competition, it’s harder. So I really want to work on my stamina and also on my artistic side!”

With a wonderful performance to selections from Hitchcock movies, Lara Naki Gutmann proved that with a new day comes a new chance. She nailed the triple Lutz-Euler-triple Salchow and triple toe-double Axel sequence right out the gate. While the three-time national champ landed a total of six triple jumps, solo triple Lutz was landed on the quarter and she doubled a flip. However, she earned a level four for all spins and a level three for the footwork, finishing with 116.83 points.

“It felt a bit harder for me than at Worlds, but it was still good, and I feel much better than yesterday,” reflected the young Italian. “I will go practice a lot of flips now!”

Gutmann will begin work soon an a new short program, but is undecided about the free skate for next season.

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Team Canada (51)

Deanna Stellato-Dudek and Maxime Deschamps took the audience into a completely new sphere with their program to “Oblivion.” They started off their routine with a stable level-three triple twist and clean triple toes, followed by a level-three lasso lift. However, they lost points when she put her hand down on the throw triple loop. After that mishap, they quickly recovered to, receiving high levels for the spins and their clean footwork. The ending was introduced by an artistically executed death spiral which was rated a level three, and the 2023 Four Continents bronze medalists pocketed 70.20 points.

Reflecting on their performance, Stellato-Dudek said she was “super disappointed” with the throw.

“I think I haven’t missed one in weeks,” she said. “I wanted to leave this program behind on a higher note. But this team event is so much fun with the entire Team Canada. It’s a great spirit and we really enjoy it!”

Two-time world bronze medalists Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier presented the spectators an emotional spectacle on the ice with their performance to selections from Evita. Gilles’ received a level two on the one-foot steps, however, they embraced music with emotional level-four twizzles and dance spin. The rotational lift was graded a level three, while the other two lifts received a level four, and both skaters picked up a level three on the circular steps. They scored 128.48 points which included high composition scores from the judges.

“We are both very happy about how we skated today,” said Gilles. “We are happy to end it on this note. We are looking forward to a little bit of a break after this. The last month here in Japan was an absolute blast!”

“Even thought it’s just one week before the North American (Stars On Ice) tour starts, it will be very nice now to be home, be back in your daily routine for a bit,” added Poirier.

Sara-Maude Dupuis struggled in her routine, underrotating and falling on a triple flip and underrotating two triple loops. In the end, she landed two clean triple jumps, a triple toe and triple Salchow. However, two spins were graded a level four and she picked 94.44 points.

“I am disappointed with my skate,” said Dupuis. “I know I can do a lot better! I somehow tensed up a bit right ahead of my program, but I still feel happy as the support of my team was amazing.”

She is looking forward to the summer and plans to go to Toronto to have her new short choreographed by David Wilson.

Although Madeline Schizas knows how to enchant the audience with elegant movements and good expression, her program turned out to be rather mixed. She nixed her triple toe in the opening, only landing a triple Lutz, and at the end, the triple toe was a solo jump. She also put a foot down on a triple flip and stepped out of an underrotated triple loop. In all, she landed four triples. Her footwork was graded a level three, while all three spins were a level four, and she finished with 115.12 points.

“I am happy to be done with the season now,” admitted Schizas. “I would have wished to have ended with a better skate, but what can you do? I was fighting until the end and managed to get the triple toe in. I will definitely remember the short program from this competition as a win!”

The two-time national champion is looking forward to touring with Stars on Ice.

“I will be seeing parts of Canada I haven’t visited before,” she said. “I am really excited for that.”

The even will conclude tomorrow with the Pairs’ and Men’s Free Skate.

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