by Maria-Laura Mitsuoka
Last Day of the World Team Trophy; Russia Becomes World Team Trophy Champion for the First Time
World Team Trophy, Final Standings
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.
Three exciting days come to an end
Today, the third day of the World Team Trophy, the tournament came to an end, pleasing judges and the audience with a weekend of magnificent performances. The six best nations according to the ISU calendar were invited to compete for the gold medal in Osaka. It is a team event where two athletes from each nation aim for the highest score in their disciplines to bring their team to the top of the podium. Only China was not able to attend the World Team Trophy this year due to the Corona restrictions. After the first two days, Team Russia led with 91 points, followed by Team USA and Japan in third place.
Russia rules the figure
skating world in 2021
World Champion Anna Shcherbakova, only 17 years old, continued to defend her top title pulling off a great performance. The 4F at the beginning of the program earned her small minus points, but the rest of her free skate was flawless as usual. “I felt the cheering of the audience and the team spirit so strongly, we really supported each other. After the World Championships, the season wasn’t over for me, so the tension continued, but this is the end of the season, so I’m happy and I finally can relax.”
Team leader Elizaveta Tuktamysheva took third place right after Kaori Sakamoto. She did not make any big mistakes, only small erros influenced the total score of her performance. Elizaveta has big plans for the coming season, “I’m working on my quads right now, but they are not stable and consistent yet. In the next season, however, I think I can put them into my program.”
Anastasia Mishina & Aleksandr Galliamov also led the way in the pair dance. Their free program was more than convincing, suitably performed to the chosen music. Although the Russian Federation made an effort to keep the athletes in shape through many national events, it was difficult for the pair to get ready for the World Championships and the WTT that followed. Mishina said, "There were fewer international competitions than the previous years, so it was difficult to adjust. The season's start was late, there was a lot of quarantine and a lot of difficult times, but the Russian Federation prepared many competitions and we are very thankful.
Team USA takes the silver medal
The USA remained stubbornly in second place, led today by the outstanding performance of Pair Dancers Alexa Knierim & Brandon Frazier, who earned a full eleven points for their team. However, the triple Salchow left much to be desired this time. Although Alexa did not fall, she, unfortunately, could not perform the jump synchronously with her partner and thus gave away some points. Although the pair has not been training together for too long and has only had a few opportunities to put their skills to the test, their confidence in each other's abilities is unshakable. “Before we took the ice today, Brandon brought me to the side and he was like 'You know, one year ago we were doing lifts on parking lots, just trying to learn each other further. It’s incredible, we’re here after one year, so let just everything go! Stop trying to prove or to be perfect. Of course fight, but let‘s just do this for each other," said Alexa.
Unfortunately, it was not enough for third place in the women's free skate. Bradie Tennell did not land cleanly after her first triple-triple combination and jumped some under-rotated combinations in the second half of her program. This unfortunately gave her only fourth place behind Elizaveta. Nevertheless, she enjoyed her stay in Osaka very much! “It feels amazing to come here and to put on a program like that. I’ve been training every day for the last months, especially after Worlds with my boot breaking. I skated well, it was so much fun to skate with fans again. I’m so grateful for all of their support and I could definitely feel that through my performance.”
Team Captain Jason Brown cheered on the ladies and couples with the utmost vigour and commented at the end of the event, “I think one of the biggest takeaways from this event is how much strength we pulled from each other and how much we learned this week and just built up this great comradery. It’s only been positive! I think the louder we cheer, the more our teammates feel that they have our support on the ice and that pushes them to work harder and to fight harder also.”
Bronze for Japan
At the top of Team Japan was Kaori Sakamoto, who even outshone Elizaveta with her free skate. At the triple Lutz the edge was not clear and also the landing at the Salchow was rather unclean, but the second half went flawlessly. With 150.29 points Kaori set a new high score for the season. Now it's time to say goodbye to Matrix and move on to preparations for the Olympics, “For the Olympic season, I want to be on the offensive and be very aggressive. At the Worlds, I prioritized stability, so I only practiced the jumps in the program, and for a month I haven’t practiced the quad. During the weeks of quarantine, I practiced some quads with Yuma and he made me feel that I could do it.”
Although Rika Kihira suffered back pain two days before her arrival in Osaka, she fought her way through the event very bravely. There were inconsistencies throughout the program and she fell after her triple flip - double toe loop, but she still mustered enough strength to finish the routine and grab fifth place.
The World Team Trophy was gratifying for Pair Dancers Riku Miura & Ryuichi Kihara. Although Riku landed the Throw Triple Loop on rather shaky legs, their performance was still enough to overtake top Italian contenders Nicole Della Monica & Matteo Guarise in the rankings. Riku stated, “The second half my legs weren’t moving and he was supporting me and kept me going. I must make sure I put not too much burden on my partner, so I need to brush up and also work harder.” The couple was clearly surprised by the result and even cried tears of joy because getting into the top three was their goal. “Yesterday after the short program I said that I had no concerns, but when I came into the competition, fatigue hit me and it worked on my stamina, but we could perform with full power until the very end,” so Ryuichi.
Italy overtakes Team France, Canada still in the last place
Today there was movement in the lower half of the ranking list. Although Team Italy had to lament the absence of single skater Matteo Rizzo, the Ladies and Pair Dancers put up a valiant fight to overtake their French rivals, who were only three points ahead a day earlier.
Team Canada, unfortunately, was unable to catch up on the final day, even though Canadian skaters Alison Schumacher and Gabrielle Daleman held their own against the French. Nicole Della Monica & Matteo Guarise scored nine whole points for Team Italy and looked in good spirits despite the point deductions for the first 3S, that Matteo didn’t land cleanly, and the triple toe loop - double toe loop combination, which unfortunately fell out of sync. “We are happy about the outcome of our performance. It wasn’t clean, but we made all elements we intended to do and the most important point is to enjoy the competition. We felt all the people in the crowd support us. That is the point, have fun, enjoy and let people enjoy.”
Nevertheless, regardless of the results, all the teams agree that the World Team Trophy was a huge enrichment! Many athletes were able to beat their World Championship scores and earn a new record score for the season, plus all Team Captains saw it as good preparation for the 2022 Beijing Olympics. Despite the Corona pandemic, all athletes felt comfortable in the "bubble" and enjoyed their stay in Osaka. Let's wish them all a good rest in the off-season and enough strength to start the Olympic Games season healthy!