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Sunday, April 22, 2012

Suzuki powers Japan

Staff writer

Boosted by a strong performance from Akiko Suzuki, Japan captured its first World Team Trophy title on Saturday night at Yoyogi Gymnasium.

News photo
Team player: Akiko Suzuki performs her free-skate routine at the World Team Trophy at Yoyogi Gymnasium in Tokyo on Saturday. AFP-JIJI

Japan won the three-day, team competition with a total of 55 points to edge out the United States which finished second with 53.

Canada took third with 42 points.

Suzuki, who looked radiant in a flashy blue outfit, was solid in her free skate and claimed the women's singles crown with a total of 187.79, beating out world champion Carolina Kostner of Italy, who was second with 185.72.

Skating to "Die Fledermaus Overture," Suzuki landed five triple jumps and displayed her usual elegance on the ice. A reverse spiral was especially well executed.

The only blemish for the world bronze medalist came when she under-rotated a double loop at the end of a three-combination jump.

"The results for Japan were great, but I felt the content of my program needs some work heading into next season," Suzuki said. "It was a tough competition to prepare for coming so close after the worlds. But I'm happy we won."

The victory capped off the finest season of Suzuki's career. The Aichi Prefecture native also won the NHK Trophy, and placed second at the Grand Prix Final, the Japan national championships and Skate Canada, in addition to earning her first world or Olympic medal.

Kostner had a tough outing, as she wobbled on the landing of her triple flip, fell on her planned double axel/triple toe loop combination, under-rotated a triple toe loop and singled a planned double axel.

American Ashley Wagner, who won the free skate, took third with 179.81.

"That performance was just the way I wanted to end my 'Black Swan' program," said the U.S. champion. "It's one of my favorite programs by far and to skate it clean is quite extraordinary. To top it off, I had a great double axel-triple toe. Overall, it was a solid program. For the end of the season and the last program, it's a great way to wrap everything up."

Kanako Murakami, who was in third place after the short program, tumbled to sixth on 159.62 after a poor free skate to "Violin Concerto."

News photo
All in together: Members of the Japan team stand on the podium after winning the World Team Trophy on Saturday. KYODO

Murakami under-rotated a triple loop and triple toe loop, and was also marked down on a triple salchow and double toe loop.

"My short program was good, but I was disappointed in the free," said Murakami. "I thought I could pull off the triple/triple (combination), but I just overdid it."

Despite finishing off the podium, Murakami was content to be part of a championship team.

"I'm very happy Japan won and that I could help," she said. "I just wish I could have done better in the free skate."

Russia's Vera Bazarova and Yuri Larionov won the pairs with a score of 180.70, while Canada's Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford were second.

Narumi Takahashi and Mervin Tran (177.56) finished third in the pairs after leading following the short program.

Daisuke Takahashi, who prevailed in the men's singles on Friday, reflected on the triumph by his nation.

"As captain I concentrated on my own performance as well as that of the other skaters," he said. "It was hard to figure out what was going to happen, but we were very happy with the result."

Added Takahashi, "It was a tough competition. I felt the strength of the team behind me."

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