Reflecting back on the World Team Trophy 2017

Sept 10 , 2017
By Atsuko Kuryu
Photos © Keiko Kasai

Editors note:
This article was written at the time of the competition, but due to circumstances, we have not been able to publish Atsuko's report of the World Team Trophy, which took place in April. This has been a long delay, for which we apologize to Atsuko. However, we did feel that it is worth sharing her narrative with you (the shorter version) as part of our season recap special. We hope you enjoy!

It’s time for the festival! On April 20 the 5th World Team Trophy started with the national teams of the world's top 6 joining together: Team Canada, Team Russia, Team U.S.A., Team Japan, Team China and Team France. No one will say the prize money is paltry; the 1st placed team will get US$200,000. - and even the last team will receive US$130,000.

The event includes attractions such as a fiesta which celebrates the end of the season, a battle with national pride at stake, a serious competition with all the top skaters of each discipline. For some skaters a chance to restore their disappointing performance at the World Championships and above all, it’s huge fun for the figure skating fans because you can see many top performances right after the Worlds and see the skaters having some fun with it, in the kiss and cry.

Day 1

A joyful opening ceremony; 12 adorable girl skaters from Tokyo Skating Federation showed very beautiful and well-synced flag skating and then the event mascot, Gochan, called the teams onto the ice. They all entered and skated around the rink with funny or playful moves or wearing some original accessories. I’d like to give the best performance award to the team of China with their colorful Afro wigs and comical moves. Team Russia’s hats and shawls were very impressive and created a folkish atmosphere and Team Canada’s had reindeer hat and caps with their symbolic maple leaf. In the team seats set around the kiss & cry, they kept demonstrating their ethnic feature, which was decided by the team captains.

The competition started with the short dance. All the teams showed almost flawless performances. Mari-Jae Lauriault/Roman Le Gac from France appeared on the ice first and captured the audience's hearts. They delivered an impressive program with beautiful twizzles.
Madison Chock/Evan Bates won the short dance with their season's best score and also a standing ovation from the audience. Their performance, featuring an up-beat non-touch step sequence, was outstanding, even though their twizzles were not their best. The most charming couple of the day was Kaitlyn Weaver/Andrew Poje. The non-touch step sequence at the end of the program thrilled the audience and the crowds gave them a standing ovation. Russia’s Ekaterina Bobrova/Dmitri Soloviev moved beautifully with very good speed, but they had some minor mistakes, ending them in third place.
The Chinese Shiyue Wang/Xinyu Liu came 4th with their gorgeous one hand rotational lift, earning them generous applause. Showing an impressive performance, Japan’s Kana Muramoto/Chris Reed bounced back from their disappointing short dance in the World Championships and hit their season's best score.

Ladies short program

Evgenia Medvedeva dominated the ladies' competition, as she basically did all season. She finally hit over 80 points for the first time in female skating. She skated a nostalgic and emotional program with tremendous speed. It was just remarkable, outstanding, and fantastic. It is not easy to find her weak points. I guess that the audience wasn't surprised at her score because most of them expected it would happen when she got 79.21 in the recent World championship. Her team mate, Elena Radionova proved her strength after she missed Worlds. She was dynamic and charming and performed a lovely step sequence which fit her character very well. Japan’s Mai Mihara skated a flawless program and came third. She had a disappointing skate at Worlds but here she left nothing on the table.
Even though the jumps were not her best, Gabrielle Daleman showed powerful step sequences, fast spins and placed fourth, while Wakaba Higuchi was in very good condition and delivered a perfect performance. Ashley Wagner skated energetically, unfortunately her triple toe in the combination was under-rotated. Can you believe being only 6th after getting over 70 points in the lady’s short program??! A bit behind Ashley, China’s Xiangning Li skated beautifully, her spins were fantastic and she left a strong impression with the audience.

Men's short program

Shoma Uno won the short program. He popped his planned 4 toeloop-3 toe loop combination to 4-2. Other than that, he gave an overwhelming performance. He received the highest PCS of this category. Nathan Chen’s performance with wonderful musicality captured the audience. He landed 2 quads and a triple Axel smoothly and delivered gorgeous spins and a vivid step sequence. He has amazing skating skills. Boyang Jin skated fantastically and joyfully. His high quad lutz was amazing and left a deep impression on the audience. We all enjoyed his delightful Spider Man. All top three men included 2 quads, a triple Axel, level 4 spins and step sequences so that their scores were very close and the grade of execution (GOE) and PCS decided their order. Mikhail Kolyada’s brilliant performance made him 4th among these strong skaters. His playful program was enjoyable especially because it was performed with this perfection. He also got his season's best. Just behind him with only a 1.05 points difference came Jason Brown. His performance was just so fabulous that I found myself close to tears. He dared to exclude quads in this era of quads, and tried to battle with many quad jumpers and achieved a measure of success. For Patrick Chan and Yuzuru Hanyu, it was just not their day. They landed only one jump element (4 toeloop - 3 toeloop from Patrick and 3 Axel from Yuzuru). Maxim Kovtun was also totally off today. A notably more successful performance came from Chafik Besseghier. He landed all the jumps including 4 toeloop - 3 toeloop and 3 Axel and received his season's best score.

The captains of the top three teams had a press conference at the end of the day. All of them were women and Ashley Wagner said the World Team Trophy represented women’s power. Japan’s Kana Muramoto and Russia’s Ekaterina Bobrova were requested to become captain by their national federations while Ashley was selected by teammate’s vote. All of them admitted that the role of a captain was an added pressure but they enjoyed it; what mattered to them was caring for other skaters, having fun and creating a pleasant atmosphere. All the captains there were very confident and reliable.

After the first day, the score of each team was as follows:

  1. Japan       44 points
  2. Russia      44 points
  3. U.S.A        43 points
  4. China       32 points
  5. Canada     31 points
  6. France      19 points

Day 2

Pairs'short program

Even though the world rankings of the competing pairs were not as high as in the other disciplines, the field was filled with high quality elements and wonderful musicality. Vanessa James/Morgan Cipres delivered a gorgeous cool program with great speed so the audience gave them a standing ovation. Their side by side triple Salchow was done with ease and very solid. I wonder how high their throw triple flip was! They scored their seasonal best and won the short program. Chen Peng/Yang Jin didn’t take part in the recent Worlds, but with a lovely and clean performance, they showed the depth of this discipline in China. Their comical program was welcomed by the crowd and their technical solidness was outstanding. Kristen Moore-Towers/Michael Marinaro delivered a satisfactory performance. They have amazing speed and wonderful flow throughout the program. The world bronze medalists, Evgenia Tarasova/Vladimir Morozov were off their game this time. Evgenia fell on the side by side triple toe loop and throw triple loop, however, they skated to fast music very well and had a wonderful balance in their lift. Ashely Cain /Timothy Leduc were very solid and showed great harmony, while Japan’s Sumire Suto/Francis Boudreau-Audet delivered a heartwarming performance.

Free Dance

Kaitlyn/Andrew conquered the free dance with their overwhelming performance. The audience was just intoxicated with their beautiful program, which went along to the music perfectly and expressed its mood supremely. They received level 4s for all elements except their circular steps. Their score was their seasonal best. They seemed to skate better and better at each competition. Madison/Evan did very well except Evan’s stumbling on their serpentine steps. They skated to modern music and moved very crisply and vividly. They also piled up level 4s except for the serpentine steps but the amount of GOE decided first and second. Ekaterina/Dmitri seemed to have a dignified air and skated to classical music. This was the first season for them since they stayed off due to injury but they finally came back and showed their presence very well. The remaining three couples also delivered wonderful performances and hit their seasonal best scores. Shiyue/Xinyu were vivid and stylish, skating to jazz music, New York, New York and came 4th, while Mari-Jade/Romain were 5th after their expressive performance to Section by Elton. Slightly behind them, Kana/Chris delivered a passionate and dramatic free dance to Poeta. The audience was delighted with their performance and gave them a standing ovation.

Men's free program

After spending a sleepless night, Yuzuru had decided to include 5 quads in his program. When he came back on the ice this evening, he looked highly charged. Popping the quad Salchow and the triple Axel into single, he couldn’t make his goal, however finally he became the only skater who gained over 200 points (200.49).
The winner of the short program, Shoma, had troubles with his quad flips. He stepped out the first one and fell at the second one. He seemed to lack some power in his performance, maybe because, in his own words, he didn’t feel the strain for the competition. He said he felt like everything was just as same as in his usual practice. Patrick was just fabulous in his skating skills. He landed a beautiful quad toe-triple toe and quad Salchow at the opening but piled up minor mistakes in his jumps plus a singled Axel. Another skater who intended to include 5 quads, Nathan, also popped his quad Salchow into a double. He came 4th because his PCS score was not as high as the top three skaters, although his step sequence was dynamic and excited the audience very much. Mikhail tackled the quad Lutz as his opening jump. Even though he fell, it was regarded fully rotated. Other than that, he skated solidly and was 5th.

Jason’s amazing performance was a breath of the fresh air among the more aggressive performances. Unfortunately, he popped his planned triple Lutz into a single and consequently the score was not so high. Boyang had many mistakes in the former half of the program and the score was surprisingly low for him, 174.63. He himself seemed to be surprised, too. Maxim Kovtun was totally off, again. I was afraid he might be still bothered by his injury in the World Championships.

At the end of the day the daily press conference of the captains of top three teams took place. The same captains as yesterday, but the order in ranking different.

Kana and Ashley said they were generally satisfied with the result today, while Ekaterina said today’s result was not as good as they had expected. And for tomorrow all said they would try to let the skaters relax and enjoy the rest of the game.
Some interesting questions were asked.

Who is the cheerleader in the team seat?

Kana: All the members tried to cheer very well and it was difficult to name one person.
Ashley: I should say everyone did well but I’m sure Jason Brown stands out.
Bovrova: We all put our heads together and brought ideas so we all are one team. I can’t tell who is the best.

What color do you choose as your team color?

Kana: I think it is red because we have a red Hinomaru [circle of the sun] on our flag. And, it is the color of flame.
Ashley: The same. Red is powerful and it’s a color of flame.
Bobrova: We Russian people respect our flag. So, I want to choose from three colors of our flag. I want to choose blue because blue is the color of sky and it’s a symbol of peace and equality.
Ashley: Wow, best answer (while giving Bobrova a high five)

The order after finishing day 2

  1. Team Japan                     81
  2. Team U.S.A.                    78
  3. Team Russia                    74
  4. Team Canada                      67
  5. Team China                     59
  6. Team France                    46

Day 3

Pairs' Free

Japan is very focussed on the single skaters, even in the group of figure skating fans, few people watch the pair competitions.  Despite this, Vanessa/Morgan nailed a fabulous free program along to Sound of Music and received thunderous applause from the audience. Surely their names will be known from now on! Their program was choreographed ingeniously and originally in several parts, and they skated it magnificently. Their only mistake was the two footed throw quad Salchow but after their performance was over, nobody cared about it except the judges. They scored their seasons best. Evgenia/Vladimir bounced back from their nightmare short program the day before and became second. They were gorgeous and elegant throughout their program and displayed high quality elements. On the third place sat Chen/Yang. Chen fell at their side by side double Axel and both stumbled at their combination spin. About 3 points behind them, Kristen/Michael nailed a speedy and smooth performance and received their seasons best score. Ashley/Timothy fell at their combination jumps and had some imperfect elements, still they were very elegant. Sumire/Francis had many mistakes but their heart-warming program to “Sakura” (cherry blossoms) represented the atmosphere of spring season.

Ladies' Free

What a competition! It was tremendously exciting in the second group! The stunning performances came in sequence; the best scores renewed one after another. Evgenia dominated the ladies’ free program with the performance and all the judges gave her 10.00 in PCS. Her score was as amazingly high as 160.46. I couldn’t help count the highest of possible GOE of her score sheet; here were 69 “3”s of all 108 given GOEs! If you didn’t see her performance you easily imagine how special it was. Actually she was just great and you couldn’t think of anything else, other than be enwrapped in her performance. The Japanese girls also delivered very successful programs. Both had tremendous speed, no minus GOEs, all level 4 spins and step sequences. What divided them slightly were Mai’s high base value and PCS. Wakaba regained her powerful skating and Mai showed her elegance; both achieving their season's best scores to become 2nd and 3rd respectively. Gabrielle had a very successful season and she maintained her condition. She has a sharp and athletic style and she gave it her all. Elena delivered a speedy and classical Turandot but 2 under-rotated jumps placed her 5th.  Ashley was powerful and energetic and looked very beautiful and elegant in her Exogenesis Symphony. Even though the rank was 6th, the audience was very excited about her performance. The Chinese ladies, Zijun and Xiangning performed nicely, too. Zijun only had an under-rotated jump and skated the rest flawlessly while Xiangning was not as good as the night before but showed her promising ability for the Olympic season.

Press Conference of the captains

Kana, the captain of Japan, said she was too happy to find any words to express how delighted she was. She thought that Team Japan was able to grasp this event together as a team. Ekaterina Bobrova of Team Russia said that some members couldn’t show their potential fully but she knew all the members did their best so she appreciated that. She admitted they all truly enjoyed this event, though she knew it was not a vacation. She felt grateful. Ashley, also grateful for the event, said she was proud of the whole team, they could work together as one team and achieved their wonderful result. All the captains admitted that the ladies' singles that night was tremendously impressive because it was a terrifc battle they had never seen before. They also mentioned that the Olympic team category might look a little different from this event's as Team America and Team Russia could include stronger members.

The festival was over. It was a tough event which was held just 2 weeks after the Worlds and many skaters had to travel far to Japan. But all the skaters seemed to enjoy performing in front of enthusiastic Japanese fans and supporting their teammates. It was the 5th World Team Trophy and the skaters, organization and officials are getting used to this event and know how to enjoy it. There were many superb performances, some decent ones and some disappointing, but all of them could lead to the road of the Olympic Games next year. I hope all the participants will get some good things from here and it benefit all of them for the next season.

Want to see more images of this fun competition? Then check out our photoalbum here!


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