Three-time world champion Nathan Chen (陈巍) beat two-time Olympic gold medalist Yuzuru Hanyu (羽生 結弦) in the men’s short program at the figure skating World Team Trophy on Thursday. Russia leads six of the top figure skating nations with a total of 49 points after the first day of competition at the ISU World Team Trophy in Osaka, Japan.
In a three-country fight for podium positions between the powerhouses who took the medals at every one of the previous three World Team Trophy competitions – however consistently in shifting order – the United States trails by just two points (47), followed by Japan with 42.
Nathan Chen beat the men’s field Thursday (109.65, less than a point from his IJS personal best), recovery in the wake of completing a sudden third in the short program finally month’s world championships with a score 10 points lower, with his best performance to date of his short program to “Asturias” by Frida Lopez and “Cancion del Mariachi” by Los Lobos.
Aiding move the U.S. from third to second, Nathan Chen was followed by two-time Olympic and world champion Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan (107.12), who had a mistake on his triple axel, and U.S. team captain Jason Brown (94.86).
Nathan Chen, 21, winner of the previous five U.S. titles, opened with a quadruple flip and added a triple axel and a quad toe loop-triple toe loop combination for an aggregate of 109.65 points.
Local favorite Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan handled a quadruple salchow, a quad toe loop-triple toe loop combination, and a triple axel for 107.12 points.
Jason Brown of the United States landed every one of his jumps and completed third with 94.86 points.
A month ago, Nathan Chen became the first American since Scott Hamilton to win a third back-to-back World Figure Skating Championship men’s title in Stockholm, where he likewise beat Yuzuru Hanyu.
Nathan Chen has not lost a competition since the 2018 Olympics.
“World Team Trophy for me is always a very enjoyable and very fun event, something that I feel more relaxed going into,” Nathan Chen, a three-time World Team Trophy participant, noted. “Training between worlds and now was very relaxed because I just need to make sure I stayed healthy and kept my energy going.
“I’m friends with all my fellow U.S. skaters and we have a good sense of camaraderie and team spirit, so to be able to have your best friends at a competition that you’re competing at together as a group is just really special, so just trying to enjoy myself as much as I can and still get my job done.”
The biennial World Team Trophy includes the six best figure skating crews from the 2020-21 season.
Teams from Japan, the United States, Canada, France, Russia, and Italy are contending.
Russia acquired the vast majority of its points by having the top two women – reigning world gold and silver medalists Anna Shcherbakova (81.07) and Yelizaveta Tuktamysheva (80.35) – and top ice dance team in reigning world champions Viktoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov (76.79).
Russia led the competition after the first day with 49 points, two in front of the United States. Japan was third with 42 points.
World champion Anna Shcherbakova of Russia won the women’s short program with a score of 81.07. Comrade Elizaveta Tuktamysheva was second with 80.35 while Japan’s Kaori Sakamoto was third with 77.78.
Shcherbakova, 17, opened with a double axel and landed a triple flip as well as a triple-lutz-triple loop combination.
Reigning U.S. champion Bradie Tennell was fifth with 67.40, followed by compatriot Karen Chen with 62.48.
Victoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov of Russia won the rhythm dance event with 86.66 points. Charlene Guignard and Marco Fabbri of Italy were second with 82.93 followed by Americans Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker with 76.79.
Every nation sends two men, two ladies, one pair and one ice dancing entry. The points will be consolidated across the four disciplines with the highest point total winning.
The World Team Trophy was first held in 2009. Team USA has won four of the past six competitions with the other two won by Japan. The U.S. is the defending champion.
A predetermined number of fans were permitted into Maruzen Intec Arena even though Osaka is encountering a surge in COVID-19 cases.
On Wednesday, Japan’s second-biggest city recorded more than 1,100 cases, its highest total since January.
With less than a year to go until the Beijing Olympics, a significant number of the world’s top skaters are in Osaka, anxious to get in another competition after a few International Skating Union events were canceled this season because of the pandemic.
The competition proceeds with Friday with the men’s free program, the ice dance free program, and the pairs short program.
The rhythm dance commenced the event, with Italy’s Charlene Guignard and Marco Fabbri following the Russians (82.93) and Americans Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker setting third in their World Team Trophy debut (76.79).
The women were next, with Japan’s Kaori Sakamoto (77.78) and Rika Kihira (69.74) sitting behind the Russians, followed by Team USA’s Bradie Tennell (67.40) and Karen Chen (62.48), who both had under-rotated jumps plus a fall by Chen on her opening combination.
World Team Trophy includes a crowd of people of fans – a first for some skaters this season – all at least one seat away from one another.
“It felt great to be able to skate for people; I felt a lot more energy than I did at worlds,” Nathan Chen said. “Having an audience for the first time in a while brought a completely different sense of energy and sense of fun with skating. I personally enjoyed that a lot. I was happy people were there. That being said, I know safety is the No. 1 concern. Everyone was obviously wearing masks and distancing, so hopefully, that was enough to keep everyone safe.”
France, which supplanted China after the fifth-ranked country pulled out, is well back from the podium position in fourth (26), followed by Italy (25) and Canada (23), which selected not to send any of its competitors who contended at worlds in late March because of the country’s mandatory two-week quarantine.
The competition proceeds with Friday with the pairs’ short program, free dance, and men’s free skate, followed by the pairs’ and women’s free skates on Saturday. The biennial event is streamed live on Peacock with features airing on NBCSN.