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Skate Today

Team Spirit Leads Americans to Top at Team Trophy

The festivities kicked off with the American team capturing the top spot for day one with a total score of 48 points. The Americans produced a stellar showing of team spirit and a display of technical wizardry on ice as well.

Thier off-ice shenanigans entertained the audience and were the envy of the other top teams. Equipped with red, white, and blue top hats, pom-poms, guitar, and sunglasses they propelled their teammates to produce top-notch performances.

“I’m very proud of my team, all around and in all of the disciplines,” Team Captain Evan Lysacek stated. “I think it shows the depth in our country. It’s an honor being elected the team captain. Overall as a team we are really satisfied. We have a great camaraderie between us all. I cannot remember – and I’ve been at it a long time – a closer knit team than the one that we have.”

Nobunari Oda led the Japanese team to a second place standing entering tomorrow’s event with a five-point deficit at 43 points. The Japanese team seemed somewhat reserved in cheering on their teammates when compared to their American counterparts.

“The Ladies and Men’s single skater’s must take the lead, especially myself as Kozuka is injured. Our ladies did very well, and it was a very nice start for us today,” Oda told the press. “I’m not the type to be a captain. But I know my responsibility. I’d like to make the competition fun for everyone, and I try to cheer everyone up. I feel I fulfill this role 60 out of 100%.”

Canadian Captain Scott Moir took charge of his motley crew. Nipping at the heels of the Japanese with 39 points, Moir vowed for a come-back on Day 2.

“Overall I think all the Canadians were pleased with their skate today. We’ll be looking forward to building upon our performances of today for the next two days to come,” Moir stated. Obviously, we are one of the strongest teams competing here. The strategy for us is to treat it like a normal competition. I think there is a lot of pride in competing directly for your country with a team in this format.”

Joubert pumped up Team France, but despite some stellar performances by the French, his efforts left him and his teammates in a distant fourth place with 32 points.

Not far behind the Russians are fifth with 29 points at the end of day one. Khoklova and Novitski had a strong start for Team Russia and Sergei Voronov had a great skate which featured a quad toe/double toe combination. Junior World Champion Alena Leonova punctuated her season with another strong skate to help propel the Russian team.

Hao Zhang seemed to forget to rally the troops and their teammates seemed missing-in-action in the kiss-and-cry Thursday. They currently are sixth with 22 points.

Skate Today was in attendance for the inaugural event and called the action in this way:

Olympic silver medalists and reigning World silver medalists Tanith Belbin and Benjamin Agosto kicked off the festivities for the American team with a lively tap dance to the music “Steppin Out” by John Kander and Fred Gibb. The Americans claimed the top spot with a performance filled with attitude, smooth level four circular steps and a mid-line step sequence that was designated level three by the technical panel.

“My costume is falling apart! I already had to sew it twice, so it’s done! We are very tired at this point, and we were on tour since Worlds, so it’s difficult to do a competitive program after not being home training,” Belbin explained. “But we trained while we were on the road, and I’m glad our muscles remembered what to do. Maybe it wasn’t quite as energetic as at Worlds, but we are just happy that the audience enjoyed it.”

The Americans picked up twelve points for the American team after they placed first with an original dance worth 64.27 points.

World bronze medalists Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir led the Canadians charge with their high stepping dance to “Won’t You Charleston With Me” from the soundtrack The Boyfriend. The Canadian Champions sparkled as they stepped on the ice at Yoygi Stadium here in Tokyo.

They danced with speed and expression and delivered an upbeat presentation which included blazingly fast synchronized twizzles and a level three mid-line step sequence that was so well-done they earned six +2 Grade of Execution (GOE) marks and three +1.

“I really enjoyed the music today. I was more relaxed than usual. We were the first to skate from our team and our goal was to get the Canadian’s going. My legs are a lot better now.”

The two-time Canadian Champions picked up 11 points for Team Canada and finished second in the original dance with 60.98 points.

Russians Jana Khokhlova and Sergei Novitski headed the Russians to a fifth place finish after the first day of competition. The Muscovites skated a bluesy and swing routine to “Sam’s Blues” and “Puttin’ on the Ritz.”

The Russian Champions produced a much improved version of the dance they performed last month in Los Angeles. Their unison was strong and the energy level was high.

They skated aggressively and it resulted in a third place finish with 58.58 points. They picked up ten points toward their team score.

“We thought Worlds were our last competition of the season, but then we came here. We have a very positive impression of this special competition. Maybe there is less pressure on everyone as we share it as a team.”

The French team went wild as Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat headed the French during the first round of the competition. The fifth places finishers at the World Championships performed a sassy Lindy Hop to “It Don’t Mean a Thing” from the Hellzapoppin soundtrack by the Peppini Sisters.

Their energetic routine featured a sensational straight line lift and a mid-line step sequence that earned four +2 GOE’s. The elements were called mostly level three except for the straight-line lift and midline step sequence which were awarded level four.

“This is not like an exhibition here, it’s a real competition, but it feels more fun with the team. I think this is something really interesting,” Bourzat commented.

Team France pocketed nine points for Pechalat’s and Bourzat’s original dance which was ranked fourth with 57.36 points.

The brother and sister team of Cathy Reed and Chris Reed warmed up the home crowd with a playful Charleston to “Money, Money” from the Cabaret soundtrack. Dressed in costumes reflecting the time period the duo struggled on their elements.

They bumped into each other during a twizzle sequence and were unable to refocus.

“It was a long morning,” Chris Reed stated. “We were never able to get our legs to relax. We will look forward to tomorrow’s free dance.”

The Japanese Champions accumulated eight points toward the Japanese team score with a fifth ranked dance worth 44.80 points.

The Chinese opened the competition with a crowd pleasing performance to “Minnie the Moocher” and “Big Bad Voodoo Daddy.”

They highlighted their dance with three level four elements but managed only level two on both their diagonal and mid-line step sequences.

They earned a segment score of 57.36 points to finish in sixth place which added seven points to the Chinese team score.

After a quick fifteen minute break, the attention turned to the men.

Skating last 2007 World Champion Brian Joubert rocked the house with a power-packed program to “Rise” by Safri Duo.

His opening quad toe/triple toe combination drew gasps from the crowd and his triple Lutz was solid as well. His only error came when he placed a hand down on the ice on his triple Axel and of most interest only four judges punched in the mandatory negative GOE for the mistake. His footwork was spectacular and he flirted with the crowd which enhanced their reaction.

The crowd reaction seemed to energize the 24-year-old as if their energy propelled the Frenchmen throughout the program.

While the Frenchman excels at the jumps the levels of his non-jumping elements were level three except the straight-line steps which were level two.

“As far as the choreography and the skating, this was my best short program of the season,” Joubert commented on his short program performance. “I’m a little disappointed with the triple Axel, it’s a shame, because it has been very strong. However, that’s not a big problem. I know that I still can do better which is encouraging for next year.”

Joubert claimed first place with a score of 85.39 points and packed away twelve points for Team France.

“It was hard, because after I went back t France (from Worlds in LA) I didn’t get over the jet lag,” Joubert added. “I was very tired for one week, and then had to do the French Tour. We couldn’t train correctly, but we wanted to come here. I just wanted to give everything in this competition.”

The audience was on their feet for newly-crowned World Champion Evan Lysacek who lit up ice with a spectacular skate to “Bolero” by Maurice Ravel. The American bronze medalist has found a new love for skating and a flame seems to be burning inside him.

He reeled off a strong triple Axel and a triple Lutz/triple toe. His triple flip was rock-solid as well. He wowed the crowd with powerful and aggressive step sequences which earned level three’s from the technical panel. His flying sit spin and his combination sit spin were level four and his change foot combination spin was called level three.

“I’m definitely not as alert today as it is about two or three in the morning for me, so I feel a little weird,” Evan stated of his status. “I was missing a bit of the spark that I would have had in my own time zone.”

Lysacek was awarded eleven points and a season’s best score of 83.70 points.

“I think it’s good incentive for us, because we have done ten, twelve events this year in exactly the same format, and to be able to have something a little different is great. We’re really close and we cheer each other each night on the road (when on tour) and it’s kind of the same thing here.” he added in regard to the team competition.

Nobunari Oda executed an expressive program to “Waltz Masquerade” by A. Khatchaturian. His spins and his foot work just sang to this music.

Oda nailed his opening triple Axel and then followed with a steady triple Lutz/triple toe combination and a triple flip. He delivered a level four change foot combination and two impressive step sequences.

“I wasn’t confident enough to try the quad today,” Oda admitted. “I didn’t do well in the morning practice. My second combination jump was a little tilted. As I am the Team Captain, I really wanted to do well.”

Oda accumulated a total of 79.35 points and ten points for the Japanese team.

Sergei Voronov of Russia embraced his teammates after a successful performance which earned the Russian Champion a fourth placement score with 71.42 points.

His opening quad toe/double toe combination was strong as was his triple flip but struggled on the landing of the triple Axel. He executed three level four spins and two level three step sequences but lacked the panache of those above him.

“All season in most competitions I landed the quad, and I am happy that I pulled off the triple flip once more.” Voronov stated confidently. “This is hard for me, especially because (of the trip to) Japan. I’m happy I was able to enjoy skating today. The real fight will be tomorrow (in the free skating), it will be the hardest and the most interesting fight.”

He earned nine points for his Russian team.

Grand Prix Champion Jeremy Abbott struggled during his performance to “Adagio” by Tomaso Albinoni.

After he nailed his opening triple flip/triple toe combination, he fell on the triple Axel. He appeared refocused when he executed a strong triple Lutz but then had an uncharacteristic fall on his circular steps.

The 25-year-old from Aspen, Colorado looked stunned at the end of his short program which earned him a segment score of 71.27 points. That placed him fifth and eight points were awarded to the US Team.

The Canadians were on their feet for Alberta boy Vaughn Chipeur after the Canadian silver medalist put out a squeaky-clean performance which earned the 25-year-old 71.05 points.

His opening triple Axel was strong as was the triple Lutz/triple toe that followed. His triple flip was solid as well. His spins were mostly level three and his footwork was level two.

The French team whistled for Junior Grand Prix Champion Florent Amodio as he brought his “Mask of Zorro” and “Malaguena” short program to a successful close.

The 18-year-old who was born in Brazil but raised in France delivered a well-packaged performance which featured wonderful choreographic touches which sold the program. Whatever was ailing the youngster at Junior Worlds seems to have vanished.

His opening triple Axel was first-rate and earned the teen seven +2 GOE’s from the nine judges. His triple Salchow/triple toe was rock-solid but on the triple Lutz he put a hand down.

Amodio finished in seventh place with 69.85 points. France added six points to their total.

Jialang Wu was up for the Chinese and delivered strong jumps but lacked the performance quality of top men.

He reeled off a triple Lutz/triple toe combination, a triple Axel, and a triple loop. He managed two level four spins, but his footwork was level two.

The Chinese Champion gathered 66.90 points to place eighth and earn five points for the Chinese.

Abbott wasn’t alone in his troubles as 18-year-old Four Continents Champion Patrick Chan tumbled to a ninth place finish with 66.03 points.

He fell on his opening triple Axel and then fell on a triple Lutz as well. He did manage a strong triple flip/triple toe combination as well as strong spins and footwork.

Chan, who started skating because he wanted to learn hockey, but then turned to figure skating right away, has had a stellar season. He won both his Grand Prix Events and Four Continents and followed it with a silver medal at the World Championships.

Despite his miscues, the Canadian skated with polish and emotion rarely seen in someone his age. His musicality and basic skating skills are outstanding as is his maturity and sportsmanship.

“I’m not at all recovered from the jet lag,” Patrick told the press. “It feels like a Grand Prix competition, and I think we’d have at least three days of practice before the competition, but I only had one day here. Practices were not going as well, because my legs are tired. But there is no excuse, I still could have skated better, and I should have a better mental preparation.”

Grand Prix and Four Continents silver medalist Takahiko Kozuka took the ice and performed on behalf of the home team. He delivered a powerful opening with a strong triple Lutz/triple toe combination but then popped the following Axel into a double. His struggles continued when he slipped off the edge on the landing of his triple flip causing him a one point deduction for that element. The 20-year-old from Nagoya is struggling with a neck injury which surely affected his performance.

His jazzy routine to “Take Five” was well received by the home crowd . He managed tenth place with 65.25 points. He accrued three points for the home team.

Chao Yang of China fell on his opening triple Lutz/triple loop combination but then quickly refocused and tacked on a triple toe to a planned triple flip to complete a combination. He traveled on the flying sit spin and managed only a double Axel.

His eleventh place finished picked up 55.73 points and two points for the Chinese team.

Konstantin Menshkov was first on the ice for the Russian men and like Joubert delivered an upbeat performance to “Rise” by Safri Duo. The youngster started out strong with a triple Axel but then fell on a Quad toe of a planned quad toe/triple toe combination and the triple Lutz that followed.

The late replacement for Andre Lutai finished twelfth with 54.99 points. One-point was added to the Russian’s score.

The ladies took to the ice next and 2008 World Champion Maao Asada rose to new heights after her disappointment less than three weeks ago in Los Angeles. The Japanese superstar proved once again that she is a favorite heading into the Olympic season.

The 18-year-old from Nagoya had fire in her eyes as she took to the ice for her “Claire de Lune” short program. The Grand Prix Champion executed a flawless skate. Mao hit a gorgeous triple Axel /double toe combination and then followed it with a triple flip and a double Axel. She managed three level four spins and a level four circular step sequence as well.

“I did my best, the same as I do in practice. I am very pleased with my score, and especially with the triple Axel combination,” Mao said beaming. “I decided to do this combination after the World Championships.”

The teen smashed her personal best score by over six points when she captured a score of 75.84 points to earn twelve points for the home team.

“I hope that tomorrow all the (Japanese) skaters will do their best.”

World silver medalist Joannie Rochette didn’t deliver the program she had in Los Angeles, but once again it was good enough for second and eleven points for team Canada.

Despite receiving her skates late, (they were left by the airline in Vancouver) Rochette remained calm. She performed a bluesy short program to “Summertime” by George Gershwin.

The five-time Canadian Champion sailed into her opening double Axel which earned six +2 GOE’s for that element but then doubled the back-end of a planned triple Lutz/triple toe combination and had a shaky landing on the triple flip. Her change foot combination spin and spiral step sequence were level four and the straight line steps and layback spin were judged level three.

“It didn’t stress me too much, but I didn’t have as much time to prepare for the short program as I would have like to,” Joannie explained. “It didn’t affect my performance today, it was more the fatigue that affected me. My legs were really wobbly. I am glad that I stayed on my feet, because the take off on the jumps wasn’t too good. I’ll have one more day to prepare now and I hope it will better for the free skating.”

The Four Continents silver medalist was awarded a score of 62.08 points and ended the short program in second place. She captured eleven points for the Canadians.

Miki Ando picked up a repeat third placement after winning the bronze medal at the World Championships in March.

Her score of 62.08 earned an additional 10 points for the home team who sat rink-side and gave reserved cheers to compatriots on the Japanese team.

Her opening jump – a triple Lutz/triple loop – was downgraded and earned negative GOE’s from the judges. Her triple flip and double Axel were solid, but she wobbled on the spiral step sequence earning a mere level one. She continues to struggle on her lay back spin which was also level one. While she placed third in the segment she received a second ranked component score of 29.28 points.

“ I am shocked that my spiral was level one. I had fun out there and enjoyed skating today. I wasn’t as nervous as I was at Worlds. I hope I will do better in the long program.”

The World bronze medalist received a huge ovation and earned the home team 10 points after finishing third in the segment with 62.08 points.

Junior World silver medalist Caroline Zhang did her team proud when she placed fourth in the short program with a season’s best score of 58.88 points.

Her opening triple flip/triple toe was downgraded and she slowed down on the entrance of a triple loop. She reeled off a double Axel and delivered strong spins and spirals. Her final pearl spin was sensational earning +3 GOE’s from eight of the nine judges.

“It was a lot better than at Junior Worlds,” the 2008 Junior World Champion stated. “I knew about coming here after Worlds, like the day after. So I stared training. I didn’t train in between, so it was kind of hard, but I think I did well. I wanted to to show the best I can skate since I haven’t done that in competitions this year.”

The 15-year-old from Brea, California racked up an additional eight points for the Americans.

Nipping at her heels, teammate Rachael Flatt placed fifth with a segment score of 58.40 points. The 16-year-old picked up a additional seven points for the Americans after she delivered a lovely program to “Moon River” from the Breakfast at Tiffany’s soundtrack by Henry Mancini.

The 2008 World Junior Champion has displayed a more mature presence on the ice than earlier this season.

Her opening triple flip/triple toe combination was also downgraded and the triple Lutz suffered from an edge watch as well — saddling her with negative GOE’s for those elements. She executed two level four spins, two level three step sequences and a double Axel. Her component scores were ranked number three after receiving 26.40 points for components.

“I thought I did really well. I’m really happy with how things went,” a very psyched up Flatt replied. I didn’t hook my lay back very well, so I had to do a level two instead of a level three because I didn’t have a lot of speed.”

Reigning World Champion Alena Leonova produced a robust performance to “Al Anduluz” by Manolo Carrasco. The 18-year-old St Petersburg native projects a youthful exuberance and attacks each element with vigor.

She executed a steady triple flip/double toe combination before receiving the dreaded (e) edge call for the triple Lutz. Her spins were strong but her spiral step sequence earned a paltry level 1 and only level two on her straight line step sequence as well.

Her sixth performance added six points to the Russians total team score.

Canadian silver medalist Cynthia Phaneuf has been on the come-back trail all season. Her balletic routine to “Nocturne” performed by Rosand earned the Canadian seventh place and a score of 54.30 points. She started with a nice double Axel but then fell on a planned triple Lutz/double toe combination. The 21-year-old from Contrecoeur, Quebec mesmerized the audience with her spins and her spirals and a solid triple toe.

Her efforts contributed five additional points for the Canadians.

Binshu Xu of China struggled on the triple Lutz/triple toe combination and then received an edge watch on the triple flip of her “Carmen” short program. She managed a solid spiral step sequence and three strong spins to place eighth in the short program with a season’s best of 50.30 points.

Team captain Brian Joubert roused his squad to support teammate Candice Didier as she produced a bluesy number to “Blues for Klook” by Eddie Louis which earned the team an additional four points.

She performed a triple toe and a double Axel but received the dreaded (e) for her triple Lutz/double toe combination and received negative GOE’s for that element.

Her score of 48.38 points placed her in ninth place.

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Three-time Chinese Champion Yan Liu performed a light and lyrical program to “The Impossible Dream” by Enrique.

She struggled on her opening jump combination and managed only a double Lutz/double toe, but received across the board -3 GOE’s for that element. Her triple loop was lovely as was the double Axel and her spiral step sequence.

Placing tenth with 44.36 points she added three points to her team’s score.

Russian bronze medalist Katarina Gerboldt struggled on her triple Lutz which earned an (e) and a fall on the element. She struggled with a planned triple flip/double toe combination. Her spiral step sequence showed great extension and flexibility.

Her “Seven Years in Tibet” routime ranked twelfth with 38.10 points adding one-point to the score of the Russians.

Gwendoline Didier was first up for the French team. The 2008 National Champion had a disappointing performance and opened the competition with a dismal score of 38.10 points.

Didier put her hand down on her opening triple Lutz then fell on a planned triple toe/double toe combination as well.

The event will continue tomorrow with the Pair’s short program, Free Dance and Men’s Free-Skating.

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