Two-time world champion Nathan Chen and teammate Vincent Zhou dominated the men's free skate on Friday and increased the lead of the United States at figure skating's World Team Trophy.
Skating to "Land of All," Chen landed three quad jumps to finish first in the free skate with 199.49 points.
First after the short program, Chen opened with a quad salchow and added a quad toeloop-triple toeloop combination in the first half of his routine. The 19-year-old full-time student at Yale also landed a quad toeloop.
Three fourth-place finishes in Friday's events have moved Canada from fifth to fourth overall at the ISU World Team Trophy figure skating competition.
In ice dancing, Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje of Waterloo, Ont., took fourth spot in the free dance with a season's best 124.18 points.
.S. Figure Skating has medaled at every team event held since its debut 10 years ago and the 2019 ISU World Team Trophy was no exception.
Olympian Bradie Tennell had her highest score of the season in the women’s free skate on Saturday, and her performance helped the U.S. lock down its fourth World Team Trophy title in Fukuoka, Japan.
The U.S. went into the third and final day of competition with a 12-point lead over second-place Japan in the hunt for its fourth gold medal in World Team Trophy history.
The competition features the top six nations from the figure skating season and each country is represented by two men, two women, one pair and once ice dance team, who earn points based on their placements in both the short and free programs.
World Team Trophy occurs every other year, and the U.S. also won in 2009, 2013 and 2015. It took silver in 2012, when the event was postponed because of an earthquake and tsunami in Japan, and most recently finished third in 2017. The U.S. has also won bronze at the two Olympic team events.
Japan just managed to hold on to second place to finish runner-up in the World Team Trophy as Kaori Sakamoto and Rika Kihira finished third and fifth, respectively, in the women's free skate on Saturday.
Japan, the defending champion, needed big efforts from the 16-year-old Kihira and her 19-year-old compatriot to overtake the United States, which began the day in first place and held on to win its fourth championship with 117 points to Japan's 104.
Russia was third at Marine Messe Fukuoka with 102 points, beating fourth-place Canada by a good margin.
Kihira, who posted a world record short program score of 83.97, under-rotated her opening triple axel and a triple toe loop that was part of a combination and finished with 138.37.
Nathan Chen had a remarkable season, even if judged only by what he did on the ice.
When one puts his undefeated record in the context of having done it while simultaneously being a full-time freshman student at Yale University whose coach was 3,000 miles away, Chen’s was a season for the ages.
Chen was lights out in winning a third straight U.S. title. Then, he was even better in winning a second straight world title, this one more significant because two-time Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan was in the field.
Chen has not yet decided – or perhaps just not yet announced – whether he will be a full-time student again next season, although there doesn’t seem any reason to mess with success given there are two more seasons before the next Olympics.
If Yale allows him three straight semesters off – and the University already has been very accommodating of his travel schedule and his need for ice time on the Yale rink – it would make more sense for him to take an academic leave beginning with the second half of the 2020-21 season and academic year and going through the 2022 Winter Games.
Vincent Zhou of the U.S. no longer is just that guy who goes from jump to jump (while collecting under-rotation marks.)
Zhou’s improvement in the last two months of the season was tremendous. He went on from a bronze medal at worlds to do two terrific skates at the World Team Trophy, his free skate a seamless, compelling performance and an athletic tour de force. The under-rotation calls were disappearing.
Doing three quads at World Team Trophy instead of his usual four seemed to give Zhou the time to breathe and create an entertaining impression. Maybe he should keep thinking less is more.
“We knew we were strong going in and we wanted to fight together as a team and to show how strong we are.”
That comment from U.S. team captain Madison Hubbell summed up the high-quality American performance on the first two days of the ISU World Team Trophy competition in Fukuoka, Japan.
The U.S. leads, as expected, going into the final day, with 91 points to 79 for Japan and 70 for Russia. Although in a strong position, the U.S. hasn’t clinched the title, with Japan expected to score 22 in the women’s Free Skate, and seven in the Pairs Free Skate. That would be 108 points, so the U.S. has to score 18 to win. American skaters Bradie Tennell and Mariah Bell scored 17 in the women’s Short Program and Pairs entry Ashley Cain and Tim LeDuc scored eight in their Short Program; a repeat would give the U.S. 25 points and another title.
World Champion Nathan Chen and Worlds bronze medalist Vincent Zhou were impressive with 1-2 finishes in both the Short Program and Free Skate, scoring a combined 301.44 and 299.01, respectively. That’s a combined lifetime best for Zhou, who has made a solid move up the ladder to be able to compete with anyone in 2019.
Japan’s home favorite Rika Kihira dazzled the home crowd with a brilliant Short Program that score 83.97, a new record for the scoring system put into place this season. She held the prior high of 82.51, and of course included a triple Axel in her program. Her Free Skate comes on Saturday.