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Takahashi, Japan jump into lead; U.S. wins dance

World silver medalist dethrones Chan before home crowd; Davis, White relish triumph

Meryl Davis and Charlie White of the U.S. ousted rival Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir.
Meryl Davis and Charlie White of the U.S. ousted rival Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir. (Getty Images)

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By Adam Spunberg
(04/20/2012) - The Japanese team came out roaring on day two in Tokyo, giving plenty of reason for the home fans to cheer at the 2012 World Team Trophy.

Pairs Short Program

Coming off their surprising bronze pairs medal at the 2012 World Championships, Narumi Takahashi and Mervin Tran picked up right where they left off, grabbing the lead after the pairs short program. Takahashi and Tran posted 64.92 points, giving them a 2.90-point advantage over Russians Vera Bazarova and Yuri Larionov.

Their routine to "Imagine" featured a triple twist, throw triple Salchow and four Level 4 elements, but Takahashi stumbled out of the triple Salchow.

"Last time we were just attending this event, but this time actually we are able to leading the charge for the team," Tran said. "That is a very good feeling. I was so excited to compete today, because I felt so ready yesterday. I was inspired by the others."

If Takahashi and Tran can hold on through the free skate, that would virtually guarantee Japan the overall victory.

Though Americans Caydee Denney and John Coughlin finished fifth, a tightly packed leaderboard has them within six points of first place. The U.S. pairs champions were mostly pleased with their performance.

"It was fun to get out there one more time," Coughlin said. "We love this program and love skating for this country's crowd, so we had a good time. It wasn't perfect; we both made some bobbles that won't necessarily show up on a protocol sheet.

"There are things we improved on. We got a Level 3 on our death spiral, and it was a Level 1 at worlds. There were some positives to take away."

"It felt great to skate for the awesome Japanese crowd," Denney added. "We were excited to perform our program one more time, but we're also excited to go on to the new season and start new challenges, too."

For Coughlin, the opportunity to compete as part of a national team has been especially exciting.

"Getting on the ice with Caydee each day is my favorite thing about skating," he said. "To be able to do that plus be in a 'team' environment here, with other teammates who push so hard every day to represent Team USA, it's a lot of fun to be a part of. I have a little inner-baseball player, team sport guy in me, so this format is a treat for me."

Free Dance

After a string of international victories, U.S. champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White saw their fortunes turn with silver-medal finishes at the Four Continents Championships and then worlds. In Tokyo, the American duo reclaimed the throne once again, holding off archrival Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir by 5.60 points.

Though the World Team Trophy may not be as meaningful as worlds, the triumph still meant a great deal to Davis and White.

"I don't know if I've ever been so emotional after a program we've skated before," White said. "Obviously, it's World Team Trophy; it's not worlds or the Olympics, but I still feel like we wanted to do the program justice in our last program of the season. I'm really proud of how we skated."

"It was very special for us," Davis said. "It's been a season of growth like any other season. We always aim to go into the next season taking what we've learned from the previous season. Finishing out this season makes us more confident about where we are going to take our skating in the next few years."

Ending the season on top helped assuage some of the disappointment from worlds.

"Charlie was saying yesterday he felt like there was a lot of pressure, and I was saying I didn't," Davis said. "Coming in today, I think I felt a little bit differently because we were really disappointed with second at worlds. Even though we were really happy with how we skated, the silver isn't what we were looking for. We felt pressure to prove ourselves here and we did that. We are really happy."

The six dance duos all finished in exactly the same order in the free dance as they did in the short dance. World bronze medalists Nathalie Péchalat and Fabian Bourzat of France were comfortably in third, amassing 167.83 points, and Italians Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte grabbed fourth with 162.00 total points.

Men's Free Skate

If Japan wins this World Team Trophy, the nation will have Daisuke Takahashi to thank. After finishing second to world champion Patrick Chan of Canada multiple times, Takahashi saved his best for his supporters in Tokyo, vanquishing Chan by a startling 16.26 points.

It was Chan's first competition since separating from coach Christy Krall, and his first defeat since the Rostelecom Cup in 2010. Takahashi's 276.72 points were easily a personal best.

"It was the last program of the season. I was able to skate really well," Takahashi said. "I was very happy. There were some details I didn't do well, but I was able to feel good out there and I was able to finish my program without major mistakes and I was able to contribute to the team.

"I was quite nervous from this morning. I felt really relieved at the end," he said.

American Jeremy Abbott had placed third in the short program, but he fell to fifth overall after the free skate.

"I went out there today and knew I wanted to enjoy the audience. I started out with a bad mistake, then followed up with my next jump," Abbott said. "I got my feet back under me and I thought, 'Whatever happens for the rest of the program -- land, fall, win or fail -- enjoy this moment.' I have to say I did.

"I didn't enjoy the jumping part of it so much. I've had better days, but I'm happy that my season is over and ready to move on and be five times stronger next year."

The other U.S. men's competitor, national silver medalist Adam Rippon, finished seventh with 222.73 points.

"There were some really good things in there and there were some things that were a little rough," he said. "Overall, I hope I did enough to help my team win or medal at this World Team Trophy. I went out there and fought for everything."

The French contingent of Brian Joubert and Florent Amodio finished third and fourth, respectively.

TEAM STANDINGS AFTER DAY TWO

Team Japan - 59
Team USA - 51
Team France - 44
Team Italy - 42
Team Canada - 40
Team Russia - 34

Information from U.S. Figure Skating and the International Skating Union was used in this report.