US wins skating’s World Team Trophy in Japan

FUKUOKA, Japan — Russia’s Elizaveta Tuktamysheva won the women’s free skate but the United States held on to its huge overnight lead to win figure skating’s World Team Trophy for the fourth time on Saturday.

The U.S. topped the team standings with 117 points, with one-two finishes in the men’s short and free programs in recent days by two-time and reigning world champion Nathan Chen and world bronze medallist Vincent Zhou. Defending champion Japan finished second overall with 104 points and Russia was third with 102.

American Bradie Tennell finished second to Tuktamysheva’s 153.89 points with a season’s best 150.83. Kaori Sakamoto, Japan’s national champion, was third with a season’s best 146.70.

Tennell performed to “Romeo and Juliet” and landed seven triple jumps.

“This was an extremely successful event for Team USA,” said U.S. captain Madison Hubbell, who combined with Zachary Donohue to finish third in both the short and long ice dance programs. “Everyone had beautiful performances. The highlight of course being Bradie Tennell’s season’s best. An absolutely great way to finish the event for us.”

Tuktamysheva opened her free skate with a flawless triple axel, followed it up with a triple lutz-triple toe loop combination and added three more triples, two more combinations and a variety of maximum level-four spins and steps.

The 2015 world champion and the runner-up to Japan’s Rika Kihira in the short program on Thursday, Tuktamysheva skated to a medley that included “You Don’t Love Me.”

“Our girls proved that they are real fighters and turned in two excellent performances,” Russia team captain Nikita Katsalapov said. “Our pair gave a great performance, too.”

The 16-year-old Kihira, who won the Grand Prix Final and Four Continents titles this season, finished fifth with 138.37 points after falling in her opening triple axel and during a triple-triple combination.

Sakamoto turned in a solid performance of her program to “The Piano” that featured seven triple jumps.

“There is no way to describe fully what we felt as it is the end of the season,” team captain Misato Komatsubara said. “We wanted to make sure we are able to finish with a big smile and I think we were able to do that. So I’m very proud of all our skaters.”

European champions Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres of France won the pairs free skate with 152.52 points. The Russian pair of Natalia Zabiiako and Alexander Enbert finished second with 141.32 and Canada’s Kirsten Moore-Towers and Michael Marinaro, the Four Continents silver medallists , were third with 131.84.

The competition among the best nations has been held six times as a season-closing major figure skating event since 2009. The United States also won the title in 2009, 2013 and 2015.

Japan took top honours in 2012 and 2017.

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