Fukuaka, Japan

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Figure skating is an individual sport where the athletes focus on their performances – many people tend to think that way, but the ISU World Team Trophy in Figure Skating proves the opposite. Figure skating can be a great team sport. Ever since the event was introduced in 2009, it has been a favorite for many skaters. Despite the fact the ISU World Figure Skating Championships took place shortly before and skaters might be looking forward to some downtime after a busy season, the unique atmosphere at the World Team Trophy makes up for all that. “This was my first experience at the Team Trophy and I hope to come back to this competition. I really felt that the cheering and the energy that I was getting from my team gave me a lot of motivation. I would love to see this happen every year,” said Misato Komatsubara, the captain of Team Japan.

Team Boxes WTT 2019©International Skating Union (ISU) 1141882841

Team Boxes at the ISU World Team Trophy 2019©International Skating Union (ISU)

At ISU World Team Trophy, the fellow skaters join their teammates in the Kiss & Cry and more than that, they get dressed up, bring flags and all kinds of accessories, they even perform dances to celebrate the performance. 

The team boxes are full with decorations, props and national symbols. What did the Russians bring? A typical “samovar” for example. The Americans had so many different things, it is hard to name one or two, but the inflatable “Uncle Sam” stood out. The Canadians had brought a giant flag that they waved for their skaters. The French had, of course, a mini Eiffel Tower, the Japanese even a Mount Fuji costume and the Italians had a mascot teddy bear.

 Rika Kihira (JPN) WTT 2019©International Skating Union (ISU) 1141902640

Rika Kihira (JPN) at the ISU World Team Trophy 2019©International Skating Union (ISU)

The special atmosphere helped 19 skaters (out of 48) to achieve a new seasons best score in at least one segment of the competition. Rika Kihira (JPN) set even a new highest score in the Ladies Short Program with 83.97 points and World Ice Dance Champions Gabriella Papadakis/Guillaume Cizeron (FRA) achieved a new record score in the Free Dance scoring 135.82 points.

Gabriella Papadakis Guillaume Cizeron (FRA) WTT 2019©International Skating Union (ISU) 1141868399

Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron (FRA) at the ISU World Team Trophy 2019©International Skating Union (ISU)

“Everybody on our team tried to keep their form that they had gotten into during the season to skate well at this competition,” Nikita Katsalapov, captain of Team Russia, pointed out. “To be honest, I didn’t think I would be that nervous at this competition since the major events are done. However, there is a completely different responsibility at the team event, because you’re not only skating for yourself, but you are fighting for the team and everybody is contributing something of their own to the overall collection”, he continued. The World silver medalist and his partner Victoria Sinitsina produced two seasons-best performances as well.

Although she had come down with a stomach flu after the World Championships, USA’s team captain Madison Hubbell and her partner Zachary Donohue didn’t want to miss the ISU World Team Trophy. They didn’t regret it. “It's been a long season, everyone is tired, many of us got sick after Worlds, just being exhausted. We weren't all trained our best. I know that we're incredibly proud of our team and proud to represent our country. There's a little bit of fight in there. You get tired and you may not have as much energy, but you find the energy with your teammates cheering you on. You know you have to do your best for them. It's a really cool atmosphere,” Madison shared.

Madison Hubbell (USA) WTT 2019©International Skating Union (ISU) 1142220733

Madison Hubbell (USA) at the ISU World Team Trophy 2019©International Skating Union (ISU)

“Physically, it was hard, but it is fun to perform here the programs one last time. We enjoy being here and being here for our team,” European Pairs Champion Morgan Cipres (FRA) agreed.

Vanessa James Morgan Cipres (FRA) WTT 2019©International Skating Union (ISU) 1142367620

Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres (FRA) at the ISU World Team Trophy 2019©International Skating Union (ISU)

Ice Dancer Kaitlyn Weaver (CAN) added more festivity to the event as she celebrated her 30th birthday on the day of the Free Dance. Her teammates waited with signs and cake for her and partner Andrew Poje, and the Canadians and members of the other five teams together sang “happy birthday”. “It was an incredible six minutes there between our program and the support of the world, the support of our peers as well, we’re all in this together in spite of being at competition,” Kaitlyn commented. “I’ve been on Team Canada for almost half of my life and it’s a joy of being able to do this on a special day.”

Kaitlyn Weaver Andrew Poje (CAN) WTT 2019©International Skating Union (ISU)

Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje (CAN) at the ISU World Team Trophy 2019©International Skating Union (ISU)

However, the ISU World Team Trophy is not just for fun, the seasons best scores count officially and after all a team event has been included in the Olympic Games since 2014. The format is a bit different and not surprisingly it is more formal with the team members not coming to the Kiss & Cry, but the feeling is similar and the motivation is great. “All the US skaters compete amongst each other and not against each other, which is a really cool feeling. I really like that, especially since the team event is implemented in the Olympics as well, so it’s good to have a sort of trial run before the Games,” two-time World Champion Nathan Chen (USA) noted.

The team spirit counts. Pair skater Matteo Guarise (ITA) even would like to have more team events. “This would give very good emotions and is very motivating for the skaters. In other sports, there are more events and more opportunities to win a medal. It would be great to have that in figure skating as well,” he said.

Nicole Della Monica and Matteo Guarise (ITA) WTT 2019©International Skating Union (ISU) 1142368435

Nicole Della Monica and Matteo Guarise (ITA) with Team Italy at the ISU World Team Trophy 2019©International Skating Union (ISU)