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Review of the WTT and a Hard Look at Team Events

The World Team Trophy took place April 20-23 in Tokyo, Japan. This is always an interesting event for several reasons. The World Team Trophy began back in 2009 and was pitched as the equivalent to the all-around gymnastics event. The team event was adopted into the Olympic Games in 2014. Once the team event was in the Olympics, I thought it would help legitimize the competition, but that hasn’t really been the case.

This event takes place at the end of such a long season for these skaters that most of them are not at their best. Since it is at the end of the season, it makes sense that they try to make the event more fun, but at the same time it almost seems like the event as a whole is not taken as seriously. It seems like a Grand Prix competition holds more weight than the team event, which is disappointing. The team event has the potential to be something substantial within the sport, but it’s just not developed that way.

The other thing that bewilders me about this event is the structure. There’s the World Team Trophy, which is held about every other year and then there is the Team Challenge Cup which was held for the first time last year. Both of these formats are not the same format that is used at the Olympics. I just don’t understand why all of these team events have different formats. Wouldn’t it just make sense to use the format that is being used at the Olympic Games? Regardless, the World Team Trophy was the last event of the season and the final chapter before beginning the Olympic season, which did make it interesting to watch.

Ladies Event

Once again Evgenia Medvedeva was perfection. Her consistency is outstanding and practically unheard of in the sport. She once again received a world record breaking score in her free skate. Evgenia has become so incredibly reliable that in some ways the ladies event has become stagnant. We all know that Medvedeva is going to win and honestly, she could use a rival right now to make it more exciting and to push her to see what else she might be capable of.

Mai Mihara came in second with fellow Japanese teammate Wakaba Higuchi coming in third place. Both of these ladies came in strong and skated well in front of an adoring Japanese audience.

The American ladies did not fair so well. Ashley Wagner had two strong skates, but still wound up in sixth place. Wagner has had a turbulent season and has openly admitted that she is having a difficult time maintaining her competitive fire. She’s been in the sport a long time and after winning a world medal last year, she seems content with her success and will need to rediscover her fire as she enters the Olympic season.

Karen Chen also had some trouble. She was in eighth place after the short and finished in ninth place. This was such a great opportunity for Karen to backup what she had done at worlds, but instead it left her on a negative note at the end of the season. Chen is still young, but going into an Olympic season with such an up and down season this year, does not build a lot of confidence. She still remains a wild card for sure, but she did not manage to establish herself as a sure bet heading into next season.

Mens Event

Almost all of the major players in the men’s field were there to compete at the World Team Trophy, with the exception of Javier Fernandez. Spain was not a qualifying county for this event, so Javier didn’t compete.

Even without Javier, what makes the men’s event more exciting to watch, comparatively to the ladies, is that the men are having to fight to get on top of the podium, and they frequently take turns on top. This keeps the competitors hungry. These men are pushing one another and the sport to new heights.

Yuzuru Hanyu has not done well with his short programs this season and at this event, he fell all the way to seventh after the short. It is in the free skate that he really excels and we saw that yet again in this event where he moved up to win the entire competition. Shoma Uno came in second, Patrick Chan third, Nathan Chen fourth and Boyang Jin finished in seventh.

These men are so good for each other. They do not just have one rival, they have five of them nipping at their heels, pushing them to do more, give more and be more. They are bringing out the best in men’s figure skating.

Pairs Event

French team Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres have really made a splash this season. Fans have been rooting for this team for quite some time and this season especially, this team has made a statement. They actually overcame world bronze medalists Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov to win the event. This was not a good event for Evgenia and Vladimir as they had a somewhat disastrous short program. They recovered in the free skate moving up from fourth to second place.

Ice Dance Event

I found it very interesting that Virtue and Moir, Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron and the Shibutanis did not compete at this event. It is clear that these top teams are busy preparing for the Olympic season. Though some of the teams may have financial backing, others may have needed the event to help provide training funds for next season. This could be part of the reason that some of these teams decided to compete even if they would have preferred to stay back and recoup from this season and prepare for the next one.

Madison Chock and Evan Bates had the lead after the short dance, but Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje overcame them in the free dance and won the event. Weaver and Poje received a seasons best score and gave one of their best performances of the season.

Final Team Results

1. Team Japan – 109

2. Team Russia – 105

3. Team USA – 97

4. Team Canada – 87

5. Team China – 80

6. Team France – 62

Though this event is somewhat of a precursor to the Olympic team event, there were a lot of different factors here than what we’ll see at the Olympics. For one, the rules and strategy are completely different and there were several top skaters missing in this event.

The World Team Trophy has its benefits, but it is also hard to see the skaters perform when they are so incredibly tired after a long season. It just seems like the ISU needs to take a step back and look at this event and retool it in order for it to be successful. I love the idea of having an all-around discipline event between the countries, it’s just the way that this is done needs to be adjusted so that it is taken seriously and so the skaters are not so exhausted. This is how they close their season and for some, it left them on a pretty negative note, while for others there was some redemption there, but overall there’s not a lot to takeaway from this event.

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  1. Pingback: Figure Skating Articles for Thursday, May 4, 2017 | BLAZING BLADES II

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