U.S. takes lead at ISU World Team Trophy
|Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto helped propel the U.S. into the lead with their win in the original dance Thursday in Tokyo. (Getty Images)|
(04/16/2009) - TOKYO - The inaugural ISU World Team Trophy opened Thursday in Tokyo, Japan, with the original dance and the ladies and men's short programs. This new event features the six best figure skating teams of the 2008/09 season which are the USA, Canada, Japan, Russia, France and China. Each team consists of two men, two ladies, one pair and one ice dance couple. The teams qualified primarily according to the results of the ISU World Figure Skating Championships, the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating and Final plus possibly the ISU European, ISU Four Continents, ISU World Junior Figure Skating Championships and the ISU Junior Grand Prix of Figure Skating. Each skater/couple competes with a short program/original dance and free skating/free dance. In each discipline, the top ranked finisher earns 12 points, the second ranked skater/couple receives 11 points and so on. The last ranked single skater gets one point, the last pair/ice dance couple gets 7 points. These points are added to determine the winning team. Team USA took the lead on the first day with 48 points ahead of the Japanese (43 points) and the Canadian (39 points) teams. Team France ranks fourth (32 points) ahead of Russia (29 points) and China (22 points). Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto got the U.S. team off to a good start when they won the original dance, the opening event of the ISU World Team Trophy. Belbin and Agosto put out a sparkling performance of their Tap Dance to "Stepping Out" and earned a Level 4 for their twizzles, the spin, the circular footwork and their one-armed rotational lift. They picked up 64.27 points (33.20 element score/31.07 program component score). "We are very tired at this point and we were on tour since worlds, so it's very difficult to do a competitive program after not being home training. But we trained while we were on the road and I'm glad our muscles remembered what to do. Maybe it wasn't quite as energetic as at worlds, but we are just happy that the audience here enjoyed it", Belbin said. She enjoyed having the support of their teammates: "We can hear them while we are skating, and it's really fun. It reminds us that this isn't the world championships, we are allowed to have a little more fun at this team event and hopefully we'll have more in the future", she added. Evan Lysacek then followed up with a strong short program to "Bolero" in the men's competition, hitting a triple Axel, triple Lutz-triple toeloop and a triple flip as well as two Level 4 spins. He scored 83.70 points (45.30/38.40) to come in second behind Brian Joubert (FRA). Jeremy Abbott is currently sitting in fifth place after missing the triple Axel and falling in his footwork (71.27 points). The two U.S. ladies Caroline Zhang and Rachael Flatt added 17 points to the team score by finishing fourth and fifth. Both went for a triple flip-triple toeloop combination and both had the back end of the combination downgraded. Zhang also produced beautiful spins, a triple loop and double Axel to achieve a seasons best score of 58.88 points. Flatt landed a triple Lutz and a double Axel as well as a Level 4 combination and flying camel spin (58.40 points). "I'm very proud of my team, all around and in all of the disciplines. I think Tanith and Ben did a great, great job in the OD, and our men did really well and then our ladies did great. I think they both might have had their personal best. I think it shows the depth we have in our country", commented team captain Lysacek. Mao Asada won the ladies short program for Team Japan with an outstanding performance to "Clair de Lune" that featured a triple Axel-double toeloop combination, a triple flip, a double Axel as well as excellent spins, spirals and steps. The flying sit sin, the combination spin as well as the spiral sequence and the circular footwork were graded a Level 4 by the Technical Panel. The 2008 World Champion scored 75.84 points (44.40/31.44), significantly improving her previous personal best of 69.50 points that dates back to 2006. "I did my best, the same as I do in practice. I'm very pleased with my score and especially with the triple Axel combination. I decided to do this combination after the world championships", Asada commented. Reigning world bronze medalist Miki Ando finished third at 62.08 points (32.80/29.28). She produced a triple flip, double Axel and a Level 4 combination spin, but the second jump in the triple Lutz-triple loop combination was downgraded and she got only a Level 1 for her layback spin and the spiral. Nobunari Oda delivered a dynamic performance to "Waltz Masquerade" and landed a triple Axel, triple Lutz-triple toeloop combination, a triple flip and was awarded a Level 3 for two spins and the two footwork sequences as well as a Level 4 for the combination spin. The Japanese champion collected 79.35 points (44.80/34.55) and is ranked third in the men's event. Takahiko Kozuka placed 10th after popping his Axel into a single and crashing on a triple flip (65.25 points).
Ice dancers Cathy Reed and Chris Reed finished fifth in the original dance with a Charleston to "Money, Money" from the Cabaret soundtrack (44.80 points). "The ladies and men's single skaters have to take the lead, especially myself as Kozuka is injured. Our ladies did very well and it was a very nice start for us today", team captain Oda said. World silver medalist Joannie Rochette and ice dancers Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir led the Canadians to third place in the team standings. Both came in second in their respective events. World bronze medalists Virtue and Moir gave an energetic performance of their Charleston in the original dance that included fast twizzles, a straight line lift with changes of positions and smooth footwork. The dancers got a Level 3 for the step sequences and a Level 4 for the other elements and scored 60.98 points (31.20/29.78). Rochette opened her program to "Summertime" with a double Axel but then two-footed the triple Lutz (in combination with double toe) and did a three-turn out of her triple flip. She recovered to show a Level 4 combination spin and spiral as well as a Level 3 layback spin and straight line footwork. The Four Continents silver medalist earned 62.08 points (33.60/28.48). Cynthia Phaneuf came in seventh. She fell on a triple Lutz (54.30 points).
Vaughn Chipeur and Patrick Chan finished sixth and ninth. Chipeur delivered a solid program and picked up 71.05 points while world silver medalist Chan went down on a triple Axel that was downgraded and on the triple Lutz (66.03 points). "Overall I think all the Canadians were pleased with their skate today. We'll be looking to build upon our performances from today for the next two days to come. I think overall we were very strong", team captain Moir told the press. Joubert secured twelve points for the French team with his win of the short program. The reigning European champion nailed a quad-triple toeloop combination and a triple Lutz and got the crowd at the Yoyogi National Stadium going with his energetic footwork, but he put down his hand on the triple Axel. The world bronze medalist scored 85.39 points. "It was great. As far as the choreography and the skating go, this was my best short program. I'm a little disappointed with the triple Axel, it's a shame, because it has been very strong now. But that's not a big problem. I know that I still can do better which is encouraging for next year", Joubert explained. Junior Grand Prix Final champion Florent Amodio and ice dancers Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat also skated well. Amodio is currently ranked seventh (69.85 points) and Pechalat and Bourzat are fourth (57.36 points). The top scoring skaters from Russia were ice dancers Jana Khokhlova and Sergei Novitski. The European champions delivered a Blues and upbeat Swing dance to finish third in the ice dance event at 58.58 points. Sergei Voronov was fourth and besides Joubert the only other skater to land a clean quadruple jump. Voronov did quad-double toeloop combination (71.42 points).