So much for the post-worlds break.
Fresh off his second world title in Saitama last week, two-time world champion Nathan Chen will return to Japan for the ISU World Team Trophy April 11-14 in Fukuoka.
Chen heads a solid U.S. team that includes fellow 2018 Olympians Vincent Zhou and the ice dance team of Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue. Both are also reigning world bronze medalists in their respective events.
Bradie Tennell and Mariah Bell, who finished seventh and ninth, respectively, at worlds, and 2019 U.S. pairs champions Ashley Cain and Timothy LeDuc round out the American contingent.
Held mostly in odd years since 2009, the World Team Trophy will be contested for the first time outside of Tokyo this year. World Team Trophy is considered the most fun and exciting international assignment for skaters, with athletes sitting in team boxes that they decorate, while wearing elaborate garb to cheer on their teammates in what is typically an individual sport.
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American skaters have proven solid in team competitions, an innovative new format in the sport, landing on the podium at every World Team Trophy in addition to the team competition at the last two Olympic Winter Games. Among other differences, World Team Trophy features two men and two women performing in both the short and free, while the Olympic team event is only one per singles event.
Chen was part of the bronze-medal U.S. teams at the 2017 World Team Trophy the 2018 Olympics. Tennell was also part of the 2018 Olympic team, while Cain and LeDuc were also on the 2017 World Team Trophy squad.
Both U.S. women, Zhou, and Hubbell and Donohue will make their World Team Trophy debut.
Teams from either the United States or Japan have won top prize at the event every year since its inception, with a Yuzuru Hanyu-led Japanese team taking the last round in 2017, ahead of Russia and Team USA.
Hanyu, the two-time Olympic champion and world silver medalist in Saitama, has announced that he will not be competing this year.
Chen, a Yale freshman who trained via video conferencing with coach Rafael Arutunian in the lead-up to worlds, dazzled audiences in Saitama with astonishing technical mastery in a long program that included four quadruple jumps en route to his second world title following a fifth-place finish at last year’s Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018.
Russia was the top qualifier to the six-team event, followed by Team USA, Japan, France, Italy and Canada. Jason Brown, another 2019 world team member, and rising talent Starr Andrews have been tapped as individual alternates to the event, along with ice dancers Madison Chock and Evan Bates and pair Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier.
Blythe Lawrence is a journalist based in Seattle. She has covered two Olympic Games and is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.