|Gracie Gold celebrates with teammates after her free program
during the ISU World Team Trophy at Yoyogi National
Gymnasium on April 13, 2013 in Tokyo, Japan.
Figure skating is such an individualized sport that with the introduction of a team event at the upcoming Winter Games, even the skaters have to get used to concept of cheering for one another.
But Team USA came together this past week in Tokyo to win the 2013 ISU World Team Trophy and did so with a cast of rivals competing as one. Ashley Wagner, the U.S. two-time national champion, and Gracie Gold, for example, were cheering each other on. Wagner, in fact, was the team captain. Same for Max Aaron and Jeremy Abbott. Just a couple of months ago, these skaters were competing against each other at nationals.
Team USA finished first, followed by Canada and Japan. Along with Russia, those teams are expected to be among those at the top at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games.
“I saw my teammates and felt good they were cheering me on,” said Abbott, a three-time national champion and 2010 Olympian. “I have complete support, it’s amazing. It’s so cool to be up in the stands rooting for everyone.
“The weird part is that your teammates are also your competitors. I want Max to skate his absolute best because the better he skates the better our team does. I want him to skate his best and I want me to skate a little bit better. It’s really cool and it’s a fun event. It’s a different sort of pressure. When you’re competing by yourself, you really feel alone on the ice. That can be scary. To have that camaraderie and that support here is really cool.”
In Sochi, the team event actually begins a day before the Opening Ceremony and will run through Feb. 9. There are some differences between the World Team Trophy and the setup for the inaugural Olympic team event (mostly involving substitutions and qualifying) but it is a good omen for Team USA to finish this event in front.
And who knows if 2010 Olympic champion Evan Lysacek and/or fellow Olympian Johnny Weir will make the 2014 team?
A good omen for Team USA is that it won the World Team Trophy without its most decorated team on the roster: Olympic silver medalists champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White. In their absence, U.S. silver medalists Madison Chock and Evan Bates won both the short and free dances in Tokyo.
|Ashley Wagner performs during day the ISU World Team
Trophy at Yoyogi National Gymnasium on April 14, 2013 in
Davis and White, who won their second world title last month in London, Ont., have a very real chance of contending for two Olympic medals in one Winter Games because of the addition of the team event. No skater(s) have ever pulled off two medals in one Winter Games.
At worlds, White joked that he thought only Michael Phelps could win multiple medals.
Even for the skaters who train in pairs and ice dancing and are used to having a partner, the concept of being part of a team is unusual. Marissa Castelli, who has been partners with Simon Shnapir for seven seasons, admitted that there was extra pressure at this event because she did not want to let the other skaters down.
One unusual sight for some of the skaters: their own kiss and cry area for the team to hear their scores.
The World Team Trophy made its debut in 2009 and has been held three times. The United States has won twice and finished second once.
“I couldn’t be more proud of Team USA,” Wagner said. “Everyone went out and skated with their hearts and really pulled it together during a difficult time. It’s not easy to compete at the end of the season and a few weeks after worlds.”
Amy Rosewater is a freelance contributor for TeamUSA.org. This story was not subject to the approval of any National Governing Bodies