Medals, money on the line at World Team Trophy
Top six point-earning countries convene this week in Tokyo with $1 million at stake
|Jeremy Abbott scored eight points for the U.S. at the last World Team Trophy. (Getty Images)|
The six best national figure skating teams from the 2011-12 season -- Japan, Canada, Russia, United States, Italy and France -- are participating in the competition, which begins Thursday with the short dance and ladies and men's short programs.
Icenetwork.com will have news, photos and blogs from the event.
Countries qualified based mainly on the results of the world championships, Grand Prix Series events and Grand Prix Final as well as those of the European, Four Continents and world junior championships, and Junior Grand Prix events.
The most prize money in ISU history -- $1 million -- will be awarded at the event, which is a precursor to the team competition that will be included in the program at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.
The format is as follows. Each team has a total of eight skaters: two ladies, two men, one pair and one ice dancing team. Each skater/couple will compete a short program/dance and a free skate/dance. The top-ranked skater(s) in each discipline earns 12 points, the second-ranked skater/team receives 11 points, and so on. (The last-ranked singles skater gets one point; the last pair/dance team gets seven points.) These points are added together to determine the winning team.
In qualifying for the competition, Japan amassed the most points over the course of the season, with 7,891, followed by Canada (6,943), Russia (6,807), the United States (6,399), Italy (5,412) and France (5,214). Three of the four 2012 world champions and five other reigning world medalists will compete this week.
Japan is the favorite to bring home the gold, as it has world medalists entered in three of the four disciplines. World silver medalist Daisuke Takahashi is joined by world bronze medalists Akiko Suzuki and Narumi Takahashi and Mervin Tran. Bolstering Japan's chances is the inclusion of 2011 world silver medalist Takahiko Kozuka.
Team Canada has favorites in two of the four disciplines, with reigning two-time world champion Patrick Chan and world champion ice dancers Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir. Canada's fortunes could rest on the performance of pairs team Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford, who placed fifth at the world championships.
Russia comes in as the third seed, but it is a bit short-handed at this competition, as it is without its top men and pairs team. The slack will have to be picked up by its ladies, including freshly minted world silver medalist Alena Leonova and Adelina Sotnikova, a two-time medalist in the 2011 Grand Prix Series. Not to be overlooked are reigning European pairs silver medalists Vera Bazarova and Yuri Larionov and reigning European ice dancing bronze medalists Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov.
The strength of the American team lies in its dance and ladies entries. Reigning world silver medalist ice dancers Meryl Davis and Charlie White, 2012 Four Continents champion Ashley Wagner and 2012 world junior silver medalist Gracie Gold will take the ice for the U.S in Tokyo. The X-factors for this team are its men, Jeremy Abbott and Adam Rippon.
The French delegation in Tokyo is spearheaded by 2012 world ice dancing bronze medalists Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat, world fourth-place finisher Brian Joubert and reigning European bronze medalist Florent Amodio.
Team USA won the inaugural World Team Trophy, which was also held in Tokyo, ahead of Team Canada and Team Japan. The event is to be held every two years; however, the 2011 World Team Trophy was postponed until this year due to the series of natural disasters that took place in Japan in March 2011. The next World Team Trophy is scheduled for 2013.
Information from the International Skating Union and U.S. Figure Skating was used in this report.