Japan holds off Russia to win World Team TrophyMihara, Higuchi deliver clutch free skates; Team USA takes home bronze
Team Japan recaptured the World Team Trophy title they had previously won in 2012, doing so by delivering a solid performance across the board. The Japanese, who were skating on home ice at the 2017 World Team Trophy in Tokyo, totaled 109 points over the three days of competition. Team Russia vaulted in the standings to place second with 105 points, while three-time and defending champions Team USA earned the bronze medal with 97 points.
In the end, though, the entire competition came down to the ladies event. Mai Mihara and Wakaba Higuchi put out spectacular performances to finish second and third, respectively, earning a combined 21 points for their efforts. Mihara's Cinderella program featured seven clean triples and excellent spins, enabling her to post a score of 146.17 points.
Higuchi's "Scheherazade" free skate was clean as well, and included the maximum of seven triples. Her mark of 145.30 was third-best in the segment and helped Team Japan land an additional 10 points. Her pairs teammates, Sumire Suto and Francis Boudreau-Audet, finished sixth in the free skate and contributed seven points to the final team score.
"I am happy and surprised that we ended up in first place and I am very grateful," said captain Kana Muramoto. "I am too happy for words. I think the ladies put on a wonderful performance tonight just as we did. I also believe Team Japan was able to grasp this event together as a team and we were able to make a statement as a new national team."
For Russia, two-time and reigning world champion Evgenia Medvedeva scored 12 points with a first-place finish in the ladies free skate. The two-time European champion put out a mesmerizing performance of her program to music from the Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close soundtrack, reeling off seven triples -- including two triple-triple combinations, Level 4 spins and footwork. The 17-year-old achieved a new record score of 160.46 points.
Medvedeva's teammate, Elena Radionova, delivered a strong performance as well, but she stumbled on an under rotated double axel. The two-time European silver medalist finished fifth in the free skate with 137.08 points. Earlier in the day, the Russian pairs team of Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov finished second in their discipline with 142.38 points. Skating to "Music Was My First Love," the European champions produced a triple twist, triple toe-double toe, two additional triple throws and Level 4 elements.
"Our team did not perform to their maximum, but we really felt the atmosphere of this event," said team captain Ekaterina Bobrova. "We enjoyed our skating as much as we could and we were very happy the season was over. We congratulated each other on ending the season on a high note."
Though a three-peat was not in the cards, Ashley Wagner led Team USA to a bronze-medal finish by solidifying sixth in the ladies free skate. Her "Exogenesis: Symphony Part III" program included five clean triple jumps en route to a score of 133.26 points. Teammate and reigning U.S. champion Karen Chen finished ninth in the segment, while Ashley Cain and Timothy LeDuc placed fifth in the pairs free skate.
"I think it was a fantastic event for Team USA to have some rookies perform as well as they did and everybody working together to get third place," said Wagner. "We definitely could have been stronger in some areas, but I know what we created together is something that I'm very proud of. Team USA worked very hard and I think this was a very successful competition for us and a tremendous accomplishment."
Team Canada locked up fourth place at 87 points, with their highest-scoring team members Gabrielle Daleman and Kirsten Moore-Towers and Michael Marinaro ranking fourth in their disciplines.
Team China, who received a third-place pairs finish from Cheng Peng and Yang Jin en route to a final score of 80 points, finished fifth in the standings.
France, who were led by the incredible effort of pairs winners Vanessa James and Morgan Ciprès, landed sixth with 62 points.