A relatively young U.S. Figure Skating team showed promise for the future as it earned the bronze medal at the ISU World Team Trophy Saturday evening in Tokyo.
The medal marked Team USA’s fifth straight podium appearance in as many World Team Trophy events. Started in 2009, the biennial event showcases the top six nations in that season’s ISU team standings. Each country sends two men’s and two women’s singles skaters, one ice dance team and one pairs team. Countries are granted points ranging from 12 down to 1 for their skater’s finish in each segment.
Japan won with a total score of 109, while Russia was second with 105 and Team USA third with 97.
Team USA previously won the event in 2009, 2013 and 2015, taking silver in 2012. While this year’s placement marks its lowest finish, the eight-member squad included four members who were making their World Team Trophy debut and generally are not used to such a long competitive season.
The bronze-medal performance was highlighted by two-time world medalist ice dancers Madison Chock and Evan Bates, who won the short dance with a personal-best score of 79.05 and finished second in the free dance, garnering a 109.96.
“We’ve got a great crop of talent in our country,” Bates said after their short dance. “We’re the veterans. This is our third time here. I’m rooming with Nathan Chen and he was doing homework last night [in the room] and I was just thinking, ‘Wow, I remember doing homework at competitions back in the day.’ It’s a different role for us here, but as we grow older, we learn to love it even more.”
Nathan Chen and Jason Brown represented the U.S. in the men’s competition. The event marked Brown’s second World Team Trophy appearance and fourth-career team competition. He finished fifth and sixth in the short program and free skate, respectively, a solid end to a season that included multiple injury setbacks for the 2014 Olympic team bronze medalist. His 94.32 scored in the short program is a personal best.
“It’s always great to end the season with a personal best,” Brown said after his short. “I couldn’t have been more excited at worlds to break into the 90-point range so to beat that score here, I couldn’t be happier. I’m really, really thrilled.”
Chen, on the other hand, was competing at his first World Team Trophy, marking his eighth competition of the season – which is his first full one on the senior circuit; his previous busiest season (2013-14) included five events. The reigning Four Continents champion was second and fourth in Tokyo.
Team USA’s women’s entries were in a similar position. Veteran and 2016 world silver medalist Ashley Wagner finished sixth in both programs, earning season’s best scores in each, after a rocky season. Meanwhile, Karen Chen made her World Team Trophy debut to eighth- and ninth-place performances just a few weeks after finishing fourth at her first world championships. Karen, similar to Nathan, was competing at her eighth event of the season; last season, she had six.
The pairs team of Ashley Cain and Timothy LeDuc were not only skating at their first World Team Trophy together, but also in their first season together. It marked a career-high for the two, neither of whom had reached an event of this caliber with any previous partners. Cain and LeDuc have impressed in their debut season as a team, earning bronze at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in January and finishing ninth at Four Continents the following month.
They finished fifth in each of their programs in Tokyo.
“That was so much fun,” LeDuc said after their short. “The crowd was amazing. This crowd is great and that’s one reason that this competition is so much fun. It was fun to have a group dynamic with our team because figure skating can be so individual sometimes. Ashley and I enjoyed competing today.”