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Team USA takes lead at World Team Trophy

2023 World Team Trophy | Day 1

The 2023 ISU World Team Trophy, featuring 10 out of 12 of the medalists from the recent World Figure Skating Championships, kicked off on Thursday. The biennial event began with the Rhythm Dance, followed by the Women’s and Men’s Short program on Thursday in Tokyo. Team USA took the lead with 50 points, followed by Team Korea (39) and Team Japan (36).

The event 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 eighth edition of the event, are: Canada, France, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, and the United States. Each team is composed of two Men and Women single skaters, one pair team, and one ice dance team.

The team event consists of two phases of competition, the Short Program/Rhythm Dance and the Free Skating/Free Dance. Teams are awarded 12 to 1 team points (12 points for first place, 1 point for 12th place) for Men and Women, respectively, and  12 to seven points for Pairs and Ice Dance teams in the Short Program/Rhythm Dance and Free Skating/Free Dance. The standings are calculated according to the sum of the team points achieved in each phase of the event. Several tie breakers are in place.
Team USA

Team USA (50)

Madison Chock and Evan Bates once again set the rink on fire with their masterful rhythm dance to “Let’s Dance,” picking up a new world record score of 93.91 points. Their twizzle sequence was perfectly in tune with the beat, as was their midline step sequence and demanding curve lift. All elements were graded a level four and the newly-crowned world champions earned very high grades of execution (GOE) on every element. Before attending World Team Trophy, they participated in the Stars On Ice tour, traveling and performing throughout Japan.

Quad King Ilia Malinin enchanted the audience with his program to “I Put A Spell On You” right from the start, renewing his personal best to 105.90 points. The 2023 World bronze medalist landed the quad Lutz-triple toe, quad toe and triple Axel, and pulled off his choreography expressively until the end. All spins and footwork were graded a level four with positive GOEs.

“It’s an incredible feeling,” said Malinin. “Being out there in front of the fans and performing for your team was just a different atmosphere. I felt my team was really supportive. It was just an amazing time. I almost didn’t know what I was doing at that moment. I feel like I was performing way over the way I am usually doing, and I think that paid off.”

With an emotional program to “Melancholy,” Japan’s crowd-favorite Jason Brown literally brought tears to the eyes of the audience. He ended his season with an outstanding performance, as well as a new season’s best (95.91 points), after nailing his triple flip, triple Axel and triple Lutz-triple toe. The 2020 Four Continents silver medalist was also rewarded with many positive GOEs for his level-four footwork and spins, and received the highest program component scores of the men.

“I love this event, I am so happy to be here!” said Brown, who has been touring Japan as part of the Stars on Ice cast. “It was so cool to get to stay in Japan and tour with so many of the best skaters in the world. We did 10 shows in 11 days. I was able to go out there every single night and watch the performances of the skaters. All four World Champions were there, Senior and Junior. Watching all of them do what they are so passionate about was so inspiring and so much fun! Also being there with Yuzu…(Yuzuru Hanyu) he elevates every single thing he’s in.”

Right from the very first second, all eyes were set on Isabeau Levito as she started her passionate performance to “Una noche mas.” She opened her fiery dance with a successful triple flip, and continued with a double Axel, but then underrotated the backend of a triple Lutz-triple toe. She whirled around the rink like a flame during her step sequence, rising to a huge blaze with the layback spin at the end. All spins and footwork were graded a level four with positive GOEs, and the 2022-23 Grand Prix Final silver medalist scored 71.22 points.

“I am happy of what I showed and didn’t let my teammates down,” said Levito. “At worlds, I didn’t think that far ahead and didn’t really think of this event.” In fact, Levito wasn’t sure whether she was going to participate in the competition. “But I heard so many great things about this competition and really wanted to do it.”

Amber Glenn not only caught the audience’s breath with her elegant black glitter costume, but also with a convincing performance to “Hit The Road Jack.” The only small error was a foot down on the backend of her triple flip-triple toe. The double Axel was done with ease and triple loop was solid. Her spins perfectly matched the beat of the music, and she ended the program with a power-packed level-four step sequence. The 2022 Skate America bronze medalist scored 66.65 points.

“This is my first ever team event and it’s a lot of fun,” said Glenn. “I have known many of my teammates for a long time and know them well. I also got to know the younger ones well recently and we have a great team connection!”

Team Korea

Team Republic of Korea (39)

Although Hannah Lim and Ye Quan scored 69.96 points for their program to “Don’t Go Yet, Havannah” in their senior debut. The 2023 World Junior silver medalists were literally beaming after their first big international performance. Right from the start, they engaged the audience with a fiery delivery, picking up a level four for the twizzles and rotational lift, and showed a clean routine until the end.

With his program to a Michael Jackson medley, Junhwan Cha proved that Team Korea, which is participating in this event for the first time, is capable of competing with the whole world. Following a flawless program, he cracked the 100-point mark for the first time with a score of 101.33. The world silver medalist landed a perfect quad Salchow, as well as a triple Lutz-triple toe and sturdy triple Axel. He also racked up GOEs on his level four spins and footwork.

“I am very happy about the score and how I’ve been skating today,” said Cha. “Maybe the Lutz-loop could be a bit cleaner, but I am very pleased with the rest and really enjoyed performing here today so much. This is our first World Team Trophy. We were really thinking within our team how we could cheer each other on. Everyone has a different personality and we are trying to present that in the Kiss and Cry. It’s so much fun!”

Sihyeong Lee earned 77.24 points for his routine to “Feeling Good.” Unfortunately, the 2022 Nebelhorn Trophy silver medalist took a fall on his opening jump, the quad loop. While the program started a bit shaky, he pressed forward, landing a triple Axel and triple Lutz-triple toe. He also earned high scores for his level-four spins and steps.

“I am so happy to be here,” said Lee. “It’s a precious experience for me to be here. We hope that this was just the start and we can be here at the next World Team Trophy again!”

Yelim Kim skated a beautiful program to the melancholy “Mercy” for which she received 62.35 points. The 2023 Four Continents silver medalist took a fall after popping the back end of a triple Lutz-triple toe, but she was able to quickly regain her composure to land a double Axel and triple flip. All spins were graded a level four, while the footwork received a level two.

“I am a little disappointed about my performance as I did a big mistake at the beginning, but in general, this competition is so much fun,” said Kim. “It’s less stressful and it feels a bit like a festival. It’s the first time for all of the team to be here and we just enjoy it a lot! This competition here I think is my most fun memory of this season!”

A storm of applause filled the hall as Haein Lee let herself be carried like a feather throughout her program to “Storm,” scoring a new personal best of 76.90. With choreography perfectly matched to the music that made it seem as if she was hitting the piano keys with each element, she transported the audience to a picturesque world where she landed a double Axel, triple Lutz-triple toe and triple flip. All spins and footwork were graded a level four and received numerous GOEs.

“I was not nervous today, because all of our team skaters cheered for me and they gave me a lot of good energy,” said the Worlds silver medalist. “I feel really joyful with my program. I am thankful to them and I am satisfied with my scores.”

Team Japan

Team Japan (36)

Following a challenging rhythm dance throughout the year, Kana Muramoto and Daisuke Takahashi ended the last competition of the season on a high note. The 2022 Four Continents silver medalists scored 78.38 points for their inspiring performance to “Conga Is Gonna Get You.” As soon as they took their first step onto the ice, a wave of applause swept the arena. Fueled by the audience, the two ice dancers contained enough energy to successfully conclude the challenging second half of their routine, showing level-four twizzles and a beautiful level-four rotational lift.

“This year, we could hear the audience cheering for us,” Takahashi explained after the performance. “We were really able to feel their energy and support. In the second half, we felt that we started lacking energy, but the spectator’s cheers gave us enough power to make it through.”

Not only did the spectators cheer for their favorite team, Team Japan pushed hard as well.

“Throughout the season, our rhythm dance didn’t really work out, so we were very nervous at the beginning,” said 37-year-old Takahashi. “But we were fired up by our group’s support.”

Japan’s super-entertainer Kazuki Tomono showed expressive choreography in his routine to “Happy Jazz.” The 2022 Four Continents silver medalist had a promising start after landing a quad toe-triple toe, but then forfeited points after taking a fall on a quad Salchow. Nevertheless, he hung on to the triple Axel and also picked up a level four on all spins. Despite the mistake, he had no problem heating up the arena.

“I had the mishap with the Salchow, but I can’t change it,” Tomono pointed out. “I already had trouble with the second jump during my training, so I have to work on that for the coming season. Apart from that mistake, the performance was good.”

“While training, I always have the impression that the quad toe is more difficult,” he said, when asked about the jumps. “But when in competition, it comes off more easily (than the quad Salchow).”

Shun Sato stepped in as a replacement for World Champion Shoma Uno after the latter withdrew on April 10 due to an injury. Taking part in the competition was a sudden decision. The 2023 Four Continents bronze medalist fell on a quad Lutz and then hung on to the landing a quad toe-double toe. The triple Axel was clean, however, and he picked up 76.45 points.

“I wasn’t really prepared for this competition,”  Sato explained. “I heard that I was to skate last Thursday for the first time, so I just thought, ‘I have to get it over with.’ I tried to work on my jumps, but my Lutz wasn’t good.”

Kaori Sakamoto, who had captured the world’s breath with her routine to “Rock with U” and “Feedback” at Worlds in Saitama, left the ice unsatisfied on Thursday. Her routine was off to a promising start with a clean double Axel and triple Lutz, but then she underrotated and fell on a triple toe. However, all other elements, including the footwork and spins, earned many GOEs. She scored 72.69 points.

“My flip was underrotated, so I started thinking whether I should combine the jump with a triple toe or double toe instead,” said the world champion. “I decided to go for the triple flip and then I fell,” the 23-year old reflected. “In this season, I have made many frustrating experiences with this program, such as changing my choreography. I have learned a lot throughout this year.”

Mai Mihara glided to “Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence,” composed by Ryuichi Sakamoto, who just passed away on March 28. She had a powerful start, landing a double Axel and triple flip. Then she doubled the a Lutz in combination with a triple toe that was underrotated. Her spins and footwork were graded a level four, but her final score was only 66.85.

“Today, as I skated to this program, I closed my eyes and I really felt the music,” said the two-time Four Continents champion. “And while I skated, I remembered my own life as well. Of course I am frustrated about the result, but I’m happy that I was able to skate to this program in this season. I have incorporated all my gratitude.”

Team France

Team France (34)

Evgeniia Lopareva and Geoffrey Brissaud skated to “Paxi Ni Ngogo, Magalenha” and finished fifth with a score of 76.15. Overall, the French did not make any major mistakes, but received rather low scores at the beginning of their performance. However, both athletes were able to convince with their high-quality level-four twizzles and stationary lift.

A flood of delighted tears beaded down Kevin Aymoz’ cheeks after receiving a new personal best score of 100.58 points. It was the first time the Frenchman broke the 100-mark in a short program. The team leader didn’t allow himself any major mistakes in his creative performance to “Still Don’t Know My Name,” which featured a quad toe-triple toe, triple Axel and triple Lutz.

“I was really tired after Worlds and also today,” Aymoz revealed. “I had to lie down in the medical room, but when I was out there on the ice, I knew it was going to be the last time performing this program and I just went for it. The team helped me a lot. The 100 points only happened because of them. They helped me so much, not only today, but throughout the entire season!”

Adam Siao Him Fa did not let his injury affect him and reached 92.82 points with his short to “Rain, In Your Black Eyes.” Although the planned quad Lutz-triple toe ended with a fall, he stood the subsequent triple Axel and attached the lost combination to the next quad toe.

“I am pretty happy,” said the European champion of his performance. “I finished Worlds with an injury on the left foot, and I was a bit sick when I arrived here, but today wasn’t hard to skate. I didn’t put any pressure on myself! I just thought about enjoying the competition and the moment. It’s also good practice for next season!”

Lorine Schild delivered an emotional program to “In The End” for a score of 55.72 points. The two-time national silver medalist landed a triple Lutz-triple toe right out the gate, but then stepped out a triple loop, which cost considerable points. However, she quickly recovered and convinced the judges with a successful second half which featured a double Axel and three level-four spins.

“It was very nice coming back here,” said Schild. “It was fun to skate here, to skate in a team for the first time. Everyone supports one another, it’s very motivating!”

Lea Serna made her entrance to “Bang Bang My Baby Shot Me Down” with an exciting choreographic interlude and landed a double Axel right at the start. She appeared a bit tentative in her triple flip-double toe, but the jump was clean, as was the triple Lutz. The second half of her routine showed a lot of choreographic variety, and the three-time national champion picked up a level four for two spins and the footwork. She scored 60. 18 points.

“It was really cool today,” said Serna. “Europeans were very hard for me, and after that, I had an injury back. My program is still a bit more simple, but I am so happy today to deliver as I did. Skating in a team is really cool, it gives you good energy, so I really enjoy it.”

Team Italy

Team Italy (28)

Charlene Guignard and Marco Fabbri’s routine to “This is,” “I’m Crying” and “Cuba” was a festive end to the first day of the ice dance competition. The 2023 World silver medalist took second place right after Chock and Bates with a new personal best score of 90.90. Even before the performance, the audience joined in the team’s applause, ensuring that nothing stood in the way of a fiery show. The team received much enthusiasm, particularly for their straight-line lift, which garnered 5+ GOEs by nearly all the judges.

“It was a bit tough to see everyone around us trying new stuff, taking it a bit easier, and we still had to go all in,” said Fabbri. “Doing run-throughs and going all in at training session. But especially the last days, we felt really good and actually very fresh. Competing in a team is actually easier for us, we really enjoy it a lot. Japan is great organizing such an outstanding event.”

Matteo Rizzo skated an emotional performance to “Le parole lontane, Zitti e buoni” for a new season’s best of 88.01 points. Although he did not allow himself any falls, the first half in particular was rather unstable. He doubled the second jump in a quad toe-triple toe and underrotated a quad loop. In the second half, however, he was able to pick himself up and landed a solid triple Axel. He also picked up a level four for two spins and the footwork.

“Overall, I am happy,” said the 2023 European silver medalist. “It wasn’t my best performance, but I was very tired coming here. It was a bit hard flying back to Italy and then coming back here again. My most happy memory of this long season was the Europeans. Of course it was great winning the medal there!”

Daniel Grassl finished his successful program to “Silhouette” to a new season’s best of 89.81 points. The first half, which featured a quad Lutz and triple Axel, turned out very clean. However, a mistake crept in during his triple Lutz-triple toe with his second jump being underrotated. Nevertheless, the 2022 European silver medalist showed quality spins and footwork throughout.

“I am pretty pleased!” said Grassl. “The last mistake on the triple Lutz-triple toe usually never happens to me, but, oh well, today it did. The team event is always great fun to be there with all your friends. I am especially happy to see Anna (Pezzetta) here as I trained with her for a long time.”

Anna Pezzetta took the ice as the first athlete in the women’s discipline, and performed to “Fly” and “Experience.” The skater, who took gold in her senior debut at 2022 IceChallenge, landed a triple Lutz-triple toe, but then doubled a flip which received no value. She quickly regained her composure and adjusted her step sequence to the climax of the music and scored 56.12 points.

“I was so grateful I got the opportunity to skate here after my Junior Worlds where I was very disappointed,” said Pezzetta. “I wanted to do better and worked hard. In general, I really want to just enjoy this competition and I am doing that so far. My teammates are very supportive as I am the youngest of the team. The dog we showed in the Kiss & Cry is my dog Susi that I have had for three years now. We will show all of team Italy’s animals in the Kiss & Cry!”

For Lara Naki Gutmann, the short program to “Un Ano de Amor” ended rather disappointingly with 51.12 points. She doubled the front end of a planned triple loop-triple toe and underrotated the latter jump. She then fell on a triple flip, but the second half the program did not have any major mistakes.

“I was fighting hard for the combination, as always, but then the flip happened,” said Gutmann. “Well, I am definitely not happy. The short program was kind of always more rough than the long program for me this season. We will reflect on that and try to change it for next season!”

Team Canada

Team Canada (26)

Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier caught the interest of the audience right at the beginning of their program to “Do What I Do” and “Rhythm Only.” They started their choreographic rhythm sequence with creative elements and carried through with a powerful performance. Gilles lost a level in the twizzles for being a bit out synch, but rotational lift and pattern steps were both graded a level four. The two-time world bronze medalist also earned many GOEs and finished third with a score of 88.37.

“We had so much fun today, performing this program one more time. We love it so much,” the couple explained during an interview. “We had a blast being with Stars on Ice during the last weeks. Being on tour with Yuzuru was great! He brings in so many fans that we never skated for before. It was also great to get to know so many skaters better that we haven’t been touring with before.
We are looking forward to having one week off before the North American “Stars on Ice” will start!”

Performing to “Grace Kelly,” Keegan Messing stepped onto a big stage for the last time in his career, arousing the hearts of all spectators with his routine. He didn’t succeed in his planned quad toe-triple toe, only landing a triple toe in which he turned out and put a hand down. While he quickly recovered to land a triple Axel and triple Lutz-double toe, his spins were only graded a level two and three. He scored 79.75 points, nearly 20 points below his personal best from worlds earlier last month.

“I haven’t skated last all year,” said the 2023 Four Continents silver medalist. “When I stepped onto the ice, I realized I kind of forgot how to skate last. Receiving a standing ovation with an imperfect performance like that is incredible and showed me they are right with me on this ride. I put the performance first, as I did all season, and I had an absolute blast. I skated as free as I could and had so much fun!”

For Stephen Gogolev his program to “Dream State” was ill-starred as he struggled with all jumping passes. He only managed a triple toe in a planned quad toe-triple toe, before doubling a Salchow and popping a triple Axel. While all spins were graded a level four, the mistakes were costly, and the 2019 National silver medalist finished with 49.78 points.

Sara-Maude Dupuis entertained the audience with an upbeat program to “Take the A Train,” for which she renewed her personal best with 54.31 points. The skater lost a rotation on the second jump in a planned triple toe-triple toe, and then put a hand and foot down on a triple Lutz. Two spins were graded a level four in what was otherwise a stable performance.

“Not in my wildest dreams I would have thought I would compete at Four Continents, and now I am here!” said Dupuis. “It’s incredible! I was in Japan as a child, but I hardly remember it, and it’s my first competition here. It’s so cool! Everything is so clean and well organized, it’s amazing!”

Madeline Schizas convinced the crowd with her balletic routine to “Black Swan,” earning a new personal best of 69.76 points for her effort. The two-time national champ stayed the course, landing a triple Lutz-tripe toe, triple loop and double Axel. During her step sequence, she dove into the role of the tragic ballerina, giving a cinematic delivery while displaying level four spins.

“It seems like team events are my thing!” she said. “I’ve always liked being in a team. As a kid, I played in a soccer team. I am happy. It’s been kind of an up and down season. Also, the warm-up here was a bit wonky, but I pulled it out when it counted.”

The event continues tomorrow with the Pairs’ short program, Free Dance and the Women’s free skate.

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