U.S. Figure Skaters Extend Commanding Lead at World Team Trophy

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U.S. figure skaters took a nearly insurmountable lead at the season-ending world team trophy with one day of competition left in Tokyo.

World champions Madison Chock and Evan Bates won the free dance, 2022 World champions Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier won the pairs’ short program and Isabeau Levito and Amber Glenn stayed close to women’s singles stars from South Korea and Japan.

The U.S., which held an 11-point lead over South Korea after Thursday, increased it to 15 over South Korea with two programs left Saturday (pairs’ and men’s free skates). The U.S., which has world medalists in pairs and men’s singles, can have average results on Saturday and still win.

The U.S. and Japan were pre-competition co-favorites, but the Americans seized control on Thursday when Japan’s men’s and women’s singles skaters struggled. Japan is in third place, 16 points behind the U.S.

In Friday’s events, Chock and Bates won the free dance with the world’s best score this season, a day after posting the world’s top rhythm dance score this season.

Chock and Bates, who won their first world title last month in their 12th season together, said before worlds that they were undecided on whether to continue competing next season. They are planning to get married in summer 2024.

Knierim and Frazier recorded the world’s top pairs’ short program score this season on Friday. Knierim and Frazier, who are likely to retire after this competition, outscored Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara, three weeks after taking silver behind the Japanese at worlds.

Levito was fourth in the women’s free skate, matching her overall finish from the world championships. Glenn was sixth in both the short program and free skate.

World team trophy, which debuted in 2009 and has always been in Japan, pits the top six figure skating nations in a format similar to the Olympic team event that debuted in 2014. Nations earn points based on their skaters placements in short and long programs.

This year’s event includes, in order of ranking, Japan, the U.S., Canada, South Korea, Italy and France. Each nation has two men’s singles skaters, two women’s singles skaters, one pair and one ice dance couple.

Russia, which won the last world team trophy in 2021, is not entered due to its suspension for the war in Ukraine.

The U.S. took silver at the last edition and before that won in 2019. The U.S., Russia and Japan made up the podium at each of the last four editions dating to 2015.

Source : NBC