Monday, 23/4/2018 | : : UTC-7
Skate Today

Zhang and Flatt lead Americans to historic Gold at World Team Trophy

The Inaugural event of the World Team Trophy culminated today with a win for Team USA in Tokyo. The overnight leaders held onto the top spot after strong performances by two former World Junior Champions – Caroline Zhang and Rachel Flatt. Zhang won Junior Worlds in 2007 (she also took silver in 2008 and 2009) and Flatt captured the title in 2008. Both skaters gave sterling performances to capture the third and fourth spot, respectively in the ladies competition. Caydee Denny and Jeremy Barrett slipped one spot in the pair’s event to finish fourth overall. Barrett doubled the side-by-side triple toe loop and singled an Axel. With spirits riding high the Americans were relentless in providing encouragement and support for their teammates. Decked out in wigs, caps, top hats, pom-pom’s, flags, bandana’s and utilizing air guitars and a beach ball, the team continued their off-ice antics.

The American’s scored 60 out of a possible72 points to claim the World Team Trophy and the top prize money of $200,000 USD.

“As I have said this whole week I am very proud of my team. They (all) did a wonderful job,” Team Captain Evan Lysacek stated. “I think this is going to be a memorable competition for everyone who participated, because it was the first of hopefully many (World Team Trophies). I think it was very successful, above and beyond any team’s or any person’s performance here. I think we are all proud and impressed with (the) level of competition that was brought here to Tokyo. So it was a great test event to (show) the importance of this competition, and obviously we thank the ISU and Japan for hosting it.”

The Canadians were unable to close the gap with their fellow North Americans despite some strong performances of their teammates. They finished the event in second place with 54 points — yet appeared the most subdued of the top teams.. Joannie Rochette captured the second spot in the ladies event and Jessica Dube and Bryce Davison pulled up to third in the pair’s event to extend their lead over Team Japan by three points.

They won the silver medal and earned a paycheck of $170,000 USD.

“It has been a fantastic week,” Scott Moir Team Captain stated. “The Canadian team is very happy. It was difficult to keep up with the American team (this time), but we are looking forward to the next World Team Trophy to catch them. It has been fantastic skating from everyone all around. The American team obviously really delivered this week, so hats off to them. There were some amazing performances from the Japanese skaters that we will never forget. The Canadians are just extremely pleased to be in the mix and had some personal bests (of their own) as well.”

The home team became more spirited and that in it-self energized the audience here at Yoyogi stadium. Donning new Japanese headbands and utilizing fans they let loose in support of their teammates. Mao Asada rose from a disappointing fourth place at the World Championships to finish first in the ladies competition. In addition, the 18-year-old did it in grand style and broke the 200-point mark for the first time in her career. She is only the second women to break the 200 point barrier at an ISU event. The other of course was Yu-Na Kim of Korea, who did so at the World Championships in March. Miki Ando was unable to deliver the program she delivered in Los Angeles and dropped to fifth place overall behind the two Americans. Despite a bad fall in the warm – up, the 20-year-old was determined to go for the quad Salchow. Instead she popped the jump and only received credit for a double. Junior pair team Narumi Takahashi and Mervyn Tran delivered a season’s best free skate but were unable to compete with the other top seniors. They were ecstatic just to be here. The experience they have gained this week cannot be overstated.

The Japanese dropped two-points overnight despite the stellar showing by Asada, today. They closed out the competition with 50 points and earned $160,000.00 USD and the bronze medal.

“I’m very proud of my team and I am very pleased to have been the captain,” Oda said smiling. “The schedule was really difficult for everyone, but everyone knew how to warm up and to get ready. I don’t think there is anything to improve (upon for this competition).”

The French team struggled on Saturday and remained a distant fourth with 37 points. Team Captain Brian Joubert along with ice-dancer Nathalie Pechalat did not get discouraged and led the troops exhibiting the best team spirit of the day. They sung, they danced, they whistled, and cheered on their compatriots.

The Russians who were headed by Team Captain Jana Khokholva finished fifth after gutsy performances by World bronze medalists Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov and Junior World Champion Alena Leonova. Kavaguti and Smirnov went for a quad throw Salchow but Kavaguti fell on the landing. Leonova blew a kiss to her teammates at the end of her step sequence. Khokhlova wore a mask with a devil’s face as she stood rink-side cheering on her teammate.

The Russians dropped one-point overnight and ended with a total of 35 points to finish fifth. They held off the Chinese who finished sixth with 34 Points.

The Chinese Team Captain Hao Zhang refused to go down with a sinking ship. He and his partner Dan Zhang rallied his team with a splendid performance packed with power and elegance to lead Team China on Saturday. Teammate Yan Liu performed a season’s best skate to earn China one additional point in the team total. She finished eighth in the ladies competition..

The house was packed and anticipation filled the air as the ladies took to the ice in the final event of the competition.

The noise was deafening as hometown queen Mao Asada rocked her trademark triple Axel then produced five additional triple jumps en-route to a personal best score of 126.03 points. Despite under-rotating the second triple Axel done in combination with a double toe and a triple flip done in combination with a double loop — the performance was mesmerizing.

Skating to “Waltz Masquerade” the teen danced through her elements. Asada’s straight line step sequence was so superb she earned Grade of Execution marks of +2 from eight on the nine judges for that element. The ninth judge awarded a Grade of Execution of +3.

Her component mark of 63.92 points towered over all of her opponents with her closest challenger Joannie Rochette at 61.44 points. And for her basic skating skills she was awarded 8.15 points to Rochette’s 7.55 points. The performance, however, was lacking her nemesis – the triple Lutz.

In the end, the Nagoya based native maintained her number one ranking with an overall score of 201.87 points – a new personal best.

“I felt really comfortable for both my Short and Free Programs this time,” Asada told the press. “I think I gave a 100 percent of my ability. I achieved more than 200 points, which was nice. The second triple Axel was downgraded, so I need to work on that. Overall I am satisfied with this competition.”

Canada’s Joannie Rochette skated second to last and delivered another good skate to “Concierto de Aranjuez” by J. Rodrigo.

The World silver medalist dazzled her teammates with five strong triple jumps to capture the second spot in the ladies competition. Rochette attempted two other triples, but she stepped out on the landing of a triple Lutz and the back-end of her triple toe + triple Salchow sequence was downgraded as well. She also had an uncharacteristic stumble on her straight line step sequence.

“I’m very pleased to have finished this season on a high note and to have skated better than (I did) at Worlds,” Rochette said smiling. “At Worlds, I felt my jumps weren’t so solid, here they felt better. The loop was especially nice.”

Rochette picked up 120.08 points for her free skate and a event total of 182.16 points.

“When I came out and saw that all the seats were full I thought, oh my god! I really need to skate well,” the 23-year-old added.

American bronze medalist Caroline Zhang performed a balletic free skate to “Ave Maria” by Franz Shubert that won the hearts of the audience. The 15-year-old from Brea, California executed six clean triples but took off from the wrong edge on a triple Lutz/double toe combination. Her spins and her footwork were gorgeous, and she earned straight +3 Grades of Execution in her final layback spin which the youngster has coined as the pearl.

Zhang zoomed up one spot and finished third overall with175.68 points. She received a personal best score of 116.80 points for her free skate.

“I’m pretty happy. It wasn’t the best performance overall, but I think the technical points of the program were good. I feel pretty happy about it,” Zhang said of achieving a personal best score. “This is a great competition and our team is really strong. I hope we can win that trophy! I love Japan, it is so much fun.”

Compatriot Rachel Flatt had a personal best skate of her own and also climbed one spot to finish fourth overall with 171.81 points.

Performing to “Romantic Rhapsody” by Matthieu, the 16-year-old displayed a fluid elegance and attacked her jumps with vigor. The American silver medalist featured seven triple jumps, however, two received downgrades and two took off from the wrong edge.

“I feel pretty good about the program,” Flatt told the press. “I was glad to finally do a good long at the end of the season. It was an honor (to come here), and it was a wonderful opportunity. The audience was great.”

Miki Ando, the 2007 World Champion and 2009 World bronze medalist struggled on her free skate to “Symphony No. 3” by Camille Saint-Saens.

After a bad fall in the warm – up, the 21-year-old from Nagoya appeared a bit shaken.

The audience screamed when she reeled off a strong triple Lutz/double loop combination. However, she popped her next jump — a planned quad Salchow — into a double and fell. Ando looked recovered and nailed a triple Salchow and a triple Loop, before she popped a planned triple Lutz into a single.

She did manage a triple toe/double loop/double loop combination but the second double loop was downgraded.

She finished well below her personal best with 105.44 points for her free program. Her event total of 167.52 points placed her sixth in the free skate but she concluded the competition in fifth overall with a score of 167.52 points.

“I tried the quad (Salchow), but I fell. My shoulder was hurting, and I just didn’t have the power to pull it off,” Ando explained. “I felt numb throughout the whole program. But overall it was a good season for me. For the next season, I will have to work on the quad again.”

Russia’s Alena Leonova capped off her strong season with the final presentation of “La Leyenda del Beso” by Raul di Blasio. She placed fifth in the free skate with 106.68 points but when combined with her short program score the teen placed sixth overall with 161.40 points.

Her spunky performance included five triple jumps including two combinations and one sequence. However, the 18-year-old from St. Petersburg popped a planned triple Lutz into a double.

She was the only competitor to earn a level four for all three of her spins.

“At the end, I was just relieved that it was over and that the season was over,” Leonova confessed. “Right after the program, I was a bit disappointed with doubling the Lutz, but overall it was a good performance and technically strong. I got positive GOE’s on some of the jumps, too. I’m improving with each season, so this gives me confidence for next year,” she added about her success this season.

Cynthia Phaneuf maintained her overnight placement of seventh despite a disastrous free skate which placed her ninth in that segment with 81.35 points. Phaneuf fell on the triple Lutz and the triple Salchow. She singled a planned triple flip and a triple Lutz as well. The Canadian also received negative GOE’s for her change foot combination spin and zero points on her final sit spin.

Yan Liu of China eclipsed her teammate Binshu Xu with an elegant performance to “Why Are the Flowers so Red” and finished the competition in eighth place overall with 135.41 points. She picked up 91.05 points for her free skate which included five triple jumps, a level four spiral step sequence and a level three change foot combination spin. Her only errors came when she doubled the triple Salchow and under-rotated the double toe of a planned triple Salchow/double toe combination as well. She also struggled on a flying sit spin.

Compatriot Binshu Xu slipped one spot to finish ninth overall with 133.26 points. She placed eighth in both the short program and free skate.

The French ladies Candice Didier placed tenth (126.46 points) and Gwendoline Didier finished eleventh (113.87 points). They were followed by Russian Katarina Gerboldt who finished twelfth overall with 112.03 points.

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