by Maria-Laura Mitsuoka
Team Russia Leads World Team Trophy after Day One
© International Skating Union (ISU)
Anna Scherbakova (RUS), winner of the Ladies Short Program
Results After Day 1
Each team has two entries in Ladies and Men, and one entry in Pairs and Dance. Matteo Rizzo of Italy had to withdraw due to being Covid positive.
Points are awarded for each placement, 12 for first place through 1 for 12th place.
Spectators return to skating
After a long Corona break with many cancellations and restrictions, this season ends with the ISU World Team Trophy in Osaka. About two weeks after the World Championships, top skaters from France, Italy, Canada, the United States, Russia and Japan were invited to join forces and bring the gold medal into their country. To ensure the safety of all athletes, as well as the organizers and the public, the number of participants was reduced and the stay was limited to moving within a so-called “bubble”. Although the arena contains 12000 seats, only 3000 spectators were admitted in total. Understandably, the tickets were already sold out within just a few minutes.
Unlike the World Championships, where athletes compete individually against each other, the World Team Trophy is about teamwork. Athletes can earn a maximum of twelve points per discipline, influencing their score by their performance and ranking. The team that achieves the highest total number of points is crowned the winner.
Team Russia on top
In the short program the Russian ladies once again showed fantastic performances and took the first two places. World Champion Anna Shcherbakova enchanted the jury with her program "O doux printemps d'autrefois" and landed almost all jumps flawlessly. Only the triple flip was a little bit wobbly at the landing, but her lightness and elegance quickly made up for this little "uncleanliness". For the upcoming free skate she wants to deliver a very clean performance, "I want to land all my jumps cleanly, and feel I did a good job. I want to do everything as well as possible, and also do well not just for me but for my team." After last season, Shcherbakova's performance has improved so much that she could easily be called a shooting star of figure skating, "This year I trained a lot, and I think I grew. I am happy you think I have improved artistically. I wanted to put a lot of emotion in my performance and focus on everything, not just one thing."
Also this time silver medalist of this year's World Championships Elizaveta Tuktamysheva secured herself the second place and thus brought her team 11 points. For her, today was especially joyful, as she showed a flawless performance of her program and even achieved her personal best score this season. "I am happy with the performance. I was relaxed and felt strong support from the audience, they gave me energy." In addition, this year she gets to prove herself as the Team Leader of the Russian athletes for the first time. "I was very honored and surprised when I found out that I was going to be the captain of the Russian team. It was a bit nerve-wracking at first as I did not quite know what I had to do, but when I came here I learned about my obligations and it is not that difficult. It is indeed fun, we have a great, strong team here, therefore it is all going very well so far."
Judging by the performances of the Russian athletes, Tuktamysheva is doing a really good job as team captain, as Victoria Sinitsina & Nikita Katsalapov also took first place for Russia. The European and World champions were not able to beat their personal best, but they stood at the top with 86.66 points. After only about 30 percent of the spectators had been admitted for safety reasons during the Rostelecom Cup, the positive energy of the audience in Osaka had a good effect on the two ice dancers. Everything was right, the atmosphere, the music and the choreography!
The performances of the men were not enough to make it into the first three places, nevertheless Kolyada and Semenenko finished their performances with smiles on their faces as soon as they saw the ladies’ results.
“We are strong, we are healthy and we are trained”
Nathan Chen (USA)
After a rather stressful World Championships, the American athletes approached the Word Team Trophy with one thing in mind: "We are strong, we are healthy and we are trained." Sunshine Jason Brown completely blossomed not only on the ice but also as a team leader, talking about how much he enjoyed taking the lead.
"You know, I just love representing The USA, the event and the fact that we all get dressed up in our countries' colors and cheer each other up. So, it's one of my favorite things to do and to be there to support my teammates." After finishing seventh in the World Championship, he fought his way to third place today just behind Nathan Chen and Yuzuru Hanyu. Even after his performance, he kept up the happy mood in the Kiss and Cry, scoring a miraculous 94.86 points.
For World Champion Nathan Chen, who had a rather unsatisfactory result in Stockholm in his short program, it couldn't have gone better today either. This time, the Yale student landed all jumps with flying colors and thus took the well-deserved first place. Compared to the World Championships, he was very relaxed about the WTT, enjoying competing together with his friends: " The Worlds take a lot of energy, so I'm a little bit more refreshed coming here. For the free program I try to skate as clean as I can and enjoy the music."
The ladies were not quite as convincing this time, but were still happy to finally be able to perform in front of an assembled audience. Ice dancers Kaitlin Hawayek & Jean-Luc Baker took third place in Rhythm Dance.
Third place with some hurdles
With figure skating legend Yuzuru Hanyu on the team, Team Japan put up a valiant fight for third place. His short program "Let me entertain you" really heated up the audience and despite small point deductions for his 3A, he was able to achieve second place after Nathan Chen. For Yuzuru, this season was fraught with extra difficulties as the Corona crisis separated him from his coach Brian Orser for a long time. In addition, just before the World Championships, in which he took bronze, a major earthquake again sought his hometown. "Fortunately my home was not damaged, but the ice rink Sendai did have a wall crack similar to 2011. However, I was able to participate in practicing after just one day," he said.
Shoma Uno, who trains under Stepahne Lambiel in Switzerland, has not been particularly lucky this season. A One fall, a landing on the quarter in his 4T combo and other small mistakes were only enough for ninth place. Rika Kihira was also not satisfied with her result, fell right after the first under-rotated jump, and landed the following 3-3 combination uncleanly. "For the 3A I felt my body axis was leaning backwards. Hopefully I can get a better understanding of that before my free program. The other jumps I was able to do pretty relaxed, but my goal was to do a clean program, so I definitely want to do my free program cleanly."
Kaori Sakamoto achieved a pretty satisfying result for the ladies. However, she also knows that she will have to dare new challenges if she wants to continue to be at the top of Japanese female athletes in the future, "The quadruple jump is starting to become a must for ladies as well, starting the Holiday Week, the Golden Week in May, we'll be able to train for the next season, so I'll start thinking about putting quadruples into my program and also training."
For husband and wife Misato Komatsubara & Tim Koleto, who received 19th place in the World Championships, their best placing so far, it was a very good start. However, unlike the Canadian athletes, who were denied training on the ice for a long time, they were lucky to test their program in various ice shows.
Disappointment for Canada, France and Italy
Major and minor mishaps in the last-placed teams caused long faces and partly even tears. While Kevin Aymoz achieved fourth place in the men's short program with a clean performance, things did not go well at all for the ladies. Lea Serna fell after her triple flip and could not convince with her step sequences in the second half, so that she only made it last. Maia Mazzara’s program was also not perfect, landing on the wrong edge after her triple Lutz and not jumping the triple-triple combination cleanly.
Ice dancers Adelina Galyavieva & Louis Thauron were satisfied with their program, because apart from an interruption of less than 4 beats right at the beginning of their performance, the athlete from Moscow and her partner seemed to enjoy their dance.
Among the Italians, ice dancers Charlene Guignard & Marco Fabbri took the lead and won second place after their Russian rivals. However, the eleven points were unfortunately not enough to take the team to the top. To make matters worse, Matteo Rizzo had to withdraw from the tournament after testing positive for COVID-19. So only Daniel Grassl could fight for Italy in the men’s short program, for the missing athlete the team received zero points.
It did not go well at all for Team Canada today. In none of the disciplines could they make it among the first five, so unfortunately they ended the day in last place. However, the WTT was the first real event on the ice for many Canadian athletes after a long time. Nam Ngyuen explained, “For us Skate Canada athletes, we really had the minimum of times participating in competitions, so to make up for that our federation did the best to keep us motivated for the season since we were not knowing what’s gonna happen. They set up multiple monitoring sessions for all of us to check on our condition, it’s been an interesting season.” After Canadians rinks were closed and many events fell into the water, they considered themselves lucky to finally be in front of an audience again.