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Sunday, April 19, 2009

U.S. captures first World Team Trophy championship


Staff writer

Behind strong performances from singles skaters Caroline Zhang and Rachel Flatt, the United States won the inaugural World Team Trophy on Saturday afternoon at Tokyo's Yoyogi National Gymnasium.

News photo
Crowd-pleasing performer: Mao Asada delights the crowd at Tokyo's Yoyogi National Gymnasium on Saturday, winning the women's program in the World Team Trophy. Mao earned 201.87 points to help Japan place third in the inaugural six-nation tournament. KYODO PHOTO

The U.S. held a six-point lead over Canada in the team event entering the final day of the six-nation competition, and retained it as Zhang, the 2007 world junior champion, and Flatt, the 2008 world junior champ, skated solid programs in their free skates.

The U.S. tallied 60 points in the victory, with Canada second on 54, and Japan third at 50.

Zhang performed to "Ave Maria," hit seven triple jumps, and finished third overall with a score of 175.68.

"I'm pretty happy," said Zhang.

"It wasn't the best performance overall, but I think the technical points of the program were good."

Flatt skated to "Romantic Rhapsody," and despite being downgraded on two of her combination jumps, placed fourth (171.81).

"I feel pretty good about the program," said Flatt.

"I was glad to finally do a good long (program) at the end of the season."

Both Zhang and Flatt moved up one spot from their showings in Thursday's short program.

Mao Asada went all out to try and vault Japan into the lead as the final skater of the day, but was downgraded on her second triple axel and a later triple flip.

Mao still won the women's title with a total score of 201.87, well ahead world silver medalist Joannie Rochette of Canada, who was second with 182.16.

"I feel really comfortable with both my short and free programs this time," said Mao.

"I think I gave 100 percent of my ability. I achieved more than 200 points, which was nice."

It was an uplifting end to the season for Mao, who finished a disappointing fourth at last month's world championships. Mao was rewarded with a lengthy standing ovation on home ice at the end of her routine.

Japan's chances for victory dissipated when Miki Ando, who was third in the short program, fell while attempting a quadruple salchow.

Ando was downgraded on a later combination jump, finished sixth in the free skate, and was fifth in the final standings (167.52).

"I tried the quad, but I fell," said Ando. "My shoulder was hurting, and I just didn't have the power to pull it off. I felt numb throughout the whole program."

Ando, the bronze medalist at the worlds, was upbeat even in defeat.

"It was a good season for me overall. I will have to work on the quad again for next season," said Ando.

Rochette stumbled on the landing of a triple flip early and again during her straight line step sequence later. She was also downgraded on a triple salchow, but was content in the end.

"I'm very pleased to have finished this season on a high note and to have skated better than at worlds," she said. "At worlds, I felt my jumps weren't so solid. Here they felt better."

Rochette said she was awed by the crowd of 9,525 that turned out on Saturday.

"When I got out on the ice I saw that all the seats were full and I thought, 'Oh my God, I really need to skate well.' "

China's Dan Zhang and Hao Zhang won the pairs with a total tally of 193.82. Russia's Yuko Kawaguchi and Alexander Smirnov were second (185.15).



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