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Russian pair skaters Natalia Zabiiako and Alexander Enbert took an important step forward this past season, winning their first gold medals in the ISU Grand Prix Series and their first World medal—a bronze. Looking ahead to the upcoming 2019-20 season, the duo is aiming higher and wants to establish themselves as the number one Russian team.

Both skaters feel that having more confidence and consistency was key in terms of their success.

“I can exactly say that it was very important and great for us that we started to skate the free progam as easily, calmly and consistently as the short program,” said Enbert. “Apparently, we needed some time for that. The short we’ve been skating almost always clean ever since we’ve skated together, from the very first season. We only a few times made serious errors. In the free, sometimes errors happened that probably stopped us from achieving the placements we would have liked to achieve.”

“This year, even in practice, all run-throughs [of the Free Skating] were almost clean,” Zabiiako agreed. “I never was too nervous, but just to know that we can skate clean not by chance and to know that it is easy to skate the way we needed, helped.”

However, there was one setback. Just after Russian Nationals, Zabiiako and Enbert withdrew from Europeans due to medical reasons. As it turned out, Enbert was not cleared to compete by the doctors.

“Tiredness accumulated,” he revealed. “Basically, the only recommendation of the doctors when I asked what I need to do to be able to go to Worlds was just to rest.”

At first the doctors ordered him to rest for three months, which would have meant their season was over. However, after further consultations with physicians specialized in sports medicine, Enbert was allowed to train following a specific plan.

“The experts gave me more detailed advice, such as that my pulse could not exceed 140,” the skater, who turned 30 in April, explained. “I had a pulsometer, so no matter what we did in training, I watched my pulse. When it got to 140 or higher, we stopped immediately, waited for it to go down to like 90 and then then continued. We did that for a month. So, I recovered and my body recovered and that made it possible for us to compete at Worlds without risking my health.”

The NHK Trophy champions were able to keep in shape following their training plan. The 140-pulse rate was just enough to set up and do an element.

“In the gym, I can run eight or nine kilometers per hour on the belt, which is quite fast, and the pulse is around 90 or maybe 105,” said Enbert. “When I do weight-lifting, the pulse is about 110, but when you go out on the ice, do a circle of crossovers, then it is already close to 130. Then I thought that figure skating probably is a hard sport, because after 15 seconds – doing a circle takes about 15 seconds – the pulse goes up to almost 140. Nevertheless, it allowed us to stay in shape.”

It was still not an easy time for the 2018 European bronze medalists as they didn’t know if Enbert would be declared fit to compete in time for Worlds. In fact, it was upsetting for both skaters as well as the whole national team.

“When we came back from the New Year’s holidays, and after some time had passed and we had hope that we could go to Worlds, we started doing something,” Zabiiako said. “Then we were told we had to wait longer and it was always like that—we started to get close into competition shape and then we were told to wait again.”

One week prior to the event, the skaters finally got the green flag before they left to Japan for a training camp. Enbert wants to make sure he does not run into similar problems next season.

“We’ll have some more rest in the off season,” he said. “We’ll have a little longer vacation than the usual two weeks. The main goal for the season is to recover.”

“The Olympic cycle is long,” Enbert pointed out. “When we teamed up, we did a sprint, because we had to start from zero as a new pair to get ready for the Olympic Games in Korea within three years. Each year, we tried to learn something new. We didn’t have the lifts, the twist or the throws ready [when we started]. We had to rush, and therefore, probably that led to the exhaustion. We practically didn’t have a break. We did all training camps to the maximum—we went to our limits. This now showed after the Olympic Games. Apparently the body can’t work like this all the time.”

Zabiiako and Enbert helped out at the ISU Pair Skating Seminar in Novogorsk as a demonstration team in early May before going on vacation. Now, they are working on an idea for their new short program.

“We are currently formulating the idea, then we’ll select the music for it and mount the program,” Enbert said.

In the meantime, the skaters are debating on keeping the long program for last year and will make their final decision in next month. As for the short program, they want to select the choreographer once they finalized their idea.

“First, we think of the idea and the character all together and then look for the choreographer,” Enbert explained. “Petia (Petr Tchernyshev) did a great short program for us and I don’t think anyone else could have done it that well, because he understood the idea and the character. Pasquale Camerlengo mounted a great free skating for us, because the lyrics were in French and he feels that. If let’s say Petia would have done the free and Pasquale would have done the long, it probably would not have worked out as well. Therefore, we’ll first formulate the idea and then maybe ask Petia or Pasquale or someone else.”

“We probably won’t have such a contrast as it was this year [between the two programs],” Zabiiako added. “The new short most likely is not going to be as powerful and martial as it was in the past season. However, we’ll try to have two contrasting programs.”

The World bronze medalists are thinking of keeping their successful long program to “Toi et Moi” by Russian composer Igor Krutoi for the upcoming season.

“We like it and the spectators like it and it’s great that it came together that way,” Enbert commented. “We should like it, because we’re skating to it the whole year, the spectators should enjoy it and the judges should say, ‘this is great, this is art.’”

Natalia Zabiiako and Alexander Enbert — Photo Courtesy Tatjana Flade

Off the ice, Zabiiako, 24, who always seemed a bit shy and reserved, changed her look a year ago when she began sporting a new short haircut. She then got engaged to Russian movie director Danil Grinkin, 23, last fall. She feels her fiancé has had a positive influence on her as she has begun writing and publishing poems on the internet and is interested in possibly writing a movie script.

“Natasha definitely has become more confident,” noted Enbert. “She basically was always confident and she knew what she was doing and what for, but still, she is shining more and you can see that in the performances and off the ice, which is great.”

Grinkin accompanied the skaters to the training camp in Fukuoka before the World Team Trophy and filmed a documentary on them, along with U.S. Champions Ashley Cain and Timothy LeDuc, who joined the camp.

“The most important topic is the life of people,” Zabiiako shared. “Everyone has the same goals and dreams, independently of your nationality, and the same problems. The sport unites us.”

The documentary should be released next winter or in early spring.

The skaters are gearing up for the 2019-20 ISU Grand Prix Series and want to become the number one pair in Russia.

“We felt this season that we’re if not better, we at least are not lagging behind,” Enbert said. “We can fight and we will fight for it and we’re confident in ourselves. We know we’re working with the best team and we have everything for it [to become number one]. Obviously, it’s sport and it depends on many factors, but we can do it and we’ll go for it.”

The World bronze medalists are not thinking about adding a quad throw or throw triple Axel to their repertoire as they feel the injury risk is too high. Three years ago, Zabiiako suffered a serious head injury when practicing the throw triple Axel. The skaters point out that they already have a competitive technical content with a throw triple flip and loop, plus side-by-side triple toes and Salchows. However, they are not ruling out the possibility of another side-by-side jump or a quad twist in the future.

“We’re trying to improve what we can do,” Enbert said. “There is still a lot to work on the death spiral, the lifts and the throws. We are confident about the [throw] flip and the jumps that we’re doing now, so we can go to the next step. However, I think for next year our content will stay very similar to the one we have.”

The Russian national silver medalists are looking forward to the upcoming season and are confident in their abilities to do well again.

“Everything is going step by step and as it needs to be, starting with the technique and beyond,” Enbert summarized. “It is a fun process that we enjoy. We’re going in the right direction and everything goes the way we want it. Our technique, programs, confidence, and expression is improving, and that is great. Everything is falling into place for us.”

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USA’s Tomoki Hiwatashi ended this season with a high note when he won the 2019 World Junior title in Zagreb, Croatia—three months after a disappointing result at the 2018-19 Junior Grand Prix (JGP) Final.

“I was definitely disappointed with the results,” said Hiwatashi of the Final. “I wasn’t expecting that. I expected myself to do better than that, obviously, but it also made me kind of think about how I should approach Nationals, Four Continents, and Junior Worlds.”

In hindsight, it was a good learning experience for the skater who wasn’t expecting to see such a large and international crowd in Vancouver, Canada, in December.

“I really think that I was just too excited going into the competition,” he said. “I wasn’t really mentally focused. I was excited to be there, but just was not mentally ready to compete. I was ready going in, but when I actually got there, I just kind of lost myself. There were so many things going on that I just couldn’t keep myself focused on the competition itself.”

After the Final, he settled down and learned to balance his emotions so that he could both relax and focus at the same time.

“In the past, I have found that focusing too much can make me mess up too,” he said. “On the other hand, I never thought focusing on the competition was going to work and that it would have the same effect.”

The following month, Hiwatashi finished fourth at the 2019 U.S. Figure Skating Championships, improving from a 15th and 12th place finish from 2017 and 2018, respectively. He then went on to debut at the 2019 Four Continents where he placed a respectable eighth with a new season’s best in both the free skate and Total score.

In Zagreb, at Junior Worlds, the 19-year-old earned a new season’s best for his short program. He admitted that he felt he could improve on the step sequence but was generally really happy overall with the performance. His free skate featured a quad toe-triple toe and six more triples. While he placed second in both segments, his overall score of 230.32 kept him at the top of the podium over Russia’s Roman Savosin and Daniel Grassl of Italy. The win, however, was bittersweet as he was disappointed about doubling his second quad.

Throughout the season, the skater had been thinking about when to add the second quad. The last time he attempted two quads in his free skate was at the 2017 U.S. National Figure Skating Championships where he underrotated and fell on both jumps. He didn’t want to risk using the second quad at Nationals or the Four Continents this season. However, after the Four Continents, he felt that he had put out the best result he could, which motivated him to try the second quad at Junior Worlds.

“Going into the last event of the season, my motivation went down and I just felt really done with the season,” Hiwatashi admitted. “I just couldn’t seem to get myself hyped up for Junior Worlds. I told myself that maybe if I had some other goals, then I would be motivated, so I put it in. I told myself, ‘this has to work.’ After Four Continents, I practiced it for three weeks and finally decided to put it in. It was a fifty-fifty chance, but I had the confidence to do it.”

Unfortunately, he popped the second quad in Zagreb, but the 2018 CS Alpen Trophy bronze medalist still took the gold and felt that attempting the jump helped in terms of taking his skating to the next step as a senior.

Despite winning the Junior World title, Hiwatashi still feels his free skate at 2019 Four Continents was his best this season. Although he only did one quad (in combination with a triple toe), he still earned a higher technical and program component score at this event than he did in Zagreb. The Four Continents was his first major senior ISU international event.

“This was different than the CS (Challenger Series) event, because there were so many international skaters and the audience was larger than what I’m used to,” he said. “There were people coming from all over, like Japan. “It felt like a nationals and I think it really helped me to get that eighth-place result.”

“It just felt great to be on the ice since the Four Continents was here in America, in L.A.,” Hiwatashi added. “I felt like there was a lot of people who cheered me on. I was surprised when they called my name when I finished my long program. I’m really glad that I did the greatest program I’ve ever done in my life there!”

The skater, who is coached by Christy Krall and Damon Allen, plans to continue working on a second quad for next season. Although he’s toying with the quad Lutz, his second jump will more than likely be a solo quad toe.

“I’m not actually able to land it yet (Lutz). I’m not like Nathan (Chen) or Vincent (Zhou), I’m just taking baby steps,” he explained. “I really love how Jason (Brown) and Yuzuru (Hanyu) skate. There are many styles to many people, and the way Nathan and Vincent does it, it matches their style, and the way Jason and Yuzuru does it, it matches their style, too. The way I’m trying to go is slowly take my step into the quad and focus on my skating skills and presentation that I’ve always been kind of lacking. It’s really nothing that can be done fast.”

“He spent this last year very dedicated to improving his technique and that was sort of a two-fold thing,” said coach Krall. “He really was diligent about his off-ice training, strength conditioning and recovery plan. Therefore, he was able to get his body very fine-tuned so that he could respond to the major emphasis of power that he needed to have in his jumps.”

In addition to improving his training, the skater vastly improved the landings of his jumps. The previous year, Hiwatashi had somewhat of a “square landing and a swinging free leg” according to his coach.

“When a skater lands, the impact is that of ten times their body weight,” noted Krall. “Tomoki is now able to absorb that intense energy and translate it into a fantastic landing.”

While Hiwatashi comes to the senior table with five Junior Grand Prix medals and a Junior World title, he still admits to being nervous about the transition. It’s still too soon to see if he will be assigned a Challenger Series (CS) event, but he is counting on at least one Grand Prix and keeping his fingers crossed for a second.

Last season, Hiwatashi skated to “Cry Me a River” for his short program (chosen and choreographed by Mark Pillay), while he personally picked the “Fate of the Gods” for the long, which was choreographed by Ben Agosto.

“We never had an idea for the long. I was searching on the internet and it was just random,” the skater recalled. “I found it on YouTube and I thought it sounded really good. It kind of fit me and I felt I could skate to it as soon as I heard it.”

For the upcoming season, Hiwatashi is working with Tom Dickson on his new free skate to Igor Stravinsky’s Petrushka in which he will portray a puppet. The short program music is still to be determined, but the skater will have opportunities to go to Canada to spend time with Mark Pillay again.

Although the skater has taken ballet before, he was never very serious about it as he felt he was never “really good at it.” Now, however, it plays an important part given the theme of his new program. Hiwatashi is also motivated by how good Nathan Chen is at ballet.

“I never got to those levels,” he said of Chen, “so I’m a little bit scare of doing it, but I think I will be able to manage it. I’m still trying to find my way in this program and purify it a little bit. I’m not even half-way done with the program, but it feels really good! I really want to give a performance that reaches the audience.”

In terms of improving and who he looks up to, Hiwatashi says that 2002 Olympic champion Alexei Yagudin of Russia is one source of inspiration, pointing out his routines to “Winter” by Bond and Nick Glennie-Smith’s The Man in the Iron Mask.

“I loved his skating, I loved how he went and did the quad toe,” said Hiwatashi. “His program at the Olympics was the best program that I have ever seen and I don’t think anyone has done better. There are also Yuzuru, Nathan, and Shoma Uno—they are all going for new things, getting records, and it is amazing how they can keep up the great work. I haven’t been able to do that consistently, so I am inspired by them. Vincent is a skater who skates at my rink and he does a quad Lutz, quad Salchow, quad flip, quad toe and he inspires me. Mao Asada has been an inspiration since I was little. While I did not know Yagudin, I do know Mao Asada from when I started staking and she inspired my mother to get me to skate.”

In fact, he was able to see Asada perform in her “Thanks Tour” when he went to Japan for a few weeks to visit family after Junior Worlds.

Hiwatashi, who is noted for his extreme flexibility, is also one of the few skaters known to jump and spin clockwise after training with his first coach, Oleg Podvalony, who felt the skater was a “lefty.”

“I just kind of went with the flow,” he chuckled. “I’ve been doing everything right-handed and I never bothered to think about it too much. In hindsight, maybe I really am a lefty, but my mom always taught me ‘righty.'”

Podvalony also introduced the Biellmann spin to the skater who is known for his extreme flexibility.

“The Biellmann is just this one thing that not many men can do and I want people to think that it is my thing now,” said Hiwatashi. “I want when people see other male skaters do the Biellmann to think ‘Tomoki can do it better!’ I want everyone to think I have the best one. I have been doing it since I started skating, since I was five, so a long time!”

Over the past season, one area that Hiwatashi feels that he’s improved in the most is consistency.

“I got better at that,” he said. “I tried to get better at landing my jumps, getting the correct levels, and I feel like my skating skills in general have improved over the past few years. I also think I’ve gotten better with expression and performance.”

Expression is was one area that Hiwatashi felt Ben Agosto really pushed him in, especially after the 2006 Olympic silver medalist created his exhibition routine prior to the JGP Final.

“It was not something I would normally do,” said Hiwatashi of his 90’s dance-theme routine. “It was music that required dance as well as confidence and a little sarcasm. I was really embarrassed trying to do it, but I also felt that it might help my confidence, so I didn’t argue with Ben’s choice. In the beginning, I felt very awkward and didn’t want to do it in front of other people. After the JGP Final, I didn’t think I would need it, so stopped practicing it.”

After winning the Junior World title, however, the skater found he wasn’t quite off the hook.

“After I won, I was thinking, ‘Oh my God, I have to do the exhibition!'” recalled Hiwatashi. “After the victory ceremony, it was the only thing I could think about. I hadn’t practiced it in a while. There was a small gym at the hotel and I got changed right away and started practicing for like three or four hours. I was trying to look at videos Ben and I took and trying to get the dance moves right.”

During the exhibition practice, he received encouragement from other skaters, so he felt less abashed. He recently did a show in Denver and Chicago and now feels a bit more confident.

“I feel like I have more ideas that I can possibly use in the future,” Hiwatashi said, while recalling that at event at banquets, he was the one who always sits and eats. “I’m not really the guy who goes out and starts dancing.”

For next season, one of his goals are to show the world his versatility as a skater, especially with his new free skate.

“I want to show people that I have a lot of variety and that I can do more than what I did last year and the year before,” said Hiwatashi.

The fact that he has proven his consistency time after time this past season is a big part of how the skater grew in confidence. He grew in the belief that his training and consistency has really helped him know that he has the capability of being in the top echelon in the world of figure skating.

“That consistency grew in the confidence which has allowed him to now say, ‘I can develop into a very mature, artistic, pleasing athlete to all types of different music,'” said Krall. “It was like a progression, like climbing the rungs of the ladder, and I think that’s why he is able to say, ‘I am willing now to set myself into a new mode of training which is more artistic, because my technical and my training are really a part of me now.'”

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2018 Olympic silver medalist Evgenia Medvedeva (Евгения Медведева) of Russia talks about what she has learned since last year, her music for the 2019-20 figure skating season, her tour with Stars on Ice, and more.

Evgenia Medvedeva - 2019 Interview (Stars on Ice) - YouTube

The post Evgenia Medvedeva: ‘This year was more important than last’ appeared first on Golden Skate.

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France’s Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres skated from one success to the next this past season, becoming the first French pair team to win the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final and the first French pair in 87 years to claim the European title. The duo won every competition they entered with the exception of the World Championships. James collided with Italy’s Matteo Guarise in the warm up for the short program and was obviously hurt and rattled by the accident. After mistakes in the program, the European champions and top favorites ranked only seventh. With a strong free skate, they pulled up to fifth overall.

“I feel we had a good season, because we never had such good results,” said Cipres. “It was amazing! I am happy with our performance at Worlds—in the long we skated almost clean. It was difficult in our minds, but overall, I’m very happy with what we’ve done.”

While the accident and finishing off the podium in Saitama was a setback, this team has a history of coming back even stronger.

“It [the accident at Worlds] was a shock, but we’ve had so many in our career,” said James. “We fell on the twist in the short program, we’ve done it in Shanghai, at the end of the lift, I fell … I mean, many things have happened throughout our career. Having that experience and knowing that every year we come back stronger after something like this happens just gives us motivation. For us, it is time now to say, ‘okay, we didn’t get it this time, which means next time we’re coming back and we’re going to be stronger.'”

Not winning the world title is, as the 31-year-old pair skater puts it, “maybe a hidden blessing,” because if they had won, they might have retired from competing.

“It’s not only been an up and down season, it’s been an up and down career,” said James. “Now we’re heading towards where we want to be and I think with Worlds if we had won, we would have thought about maybe this is the time [to stop]. But it was a sign saying that we need to come back and be stronger and that we still have things to give to figure skating.”

“Yes, we’re definitely very motivated now,” said Cipres, who turned 28 last month. “We’re going to try our best, but everybody is trying their best and it’s really close with the Chinese and the Russians. Everybody is coming up, so it’s kind of hard [to stay on the top].”

Nevertheless, the six-time national champions keep going and hope to go for that elusive World title in Montreal next year. Following the World Team Trophy, the team took part in a show in Paris and then went on vacation.

“I think we’re going to take a good four weeks off,” said James. “[The 2017-18 season] was long with the Olympics and this year was long, so we really need to relax our bodies, minds and souls a little bit and then start to pick music,” James said.

James also needs some time with her family after her paternal grandfather, Carlton Leroy James, passed away on April 16, only a few days after his 84th birthday and just after World Team Trophy.

“I am still lucky to have my paternal grandmother and other grandfather and both my parents,” she said.

Last season, the  skaters really enjoyed working with teammate and ice dancer Guillaume Cizeron, who choreographed their short program to “Uninvited” by Alanis Morisette. However, and understandably, the French federation wants him to focus on his season this year.

“It was a lot of time, energy and stress for him watching us at competitions and maintaining a long distance work relationship,” James pointed out, adding that they have two other choreographers in mind. “This year we will expand our team. We know we still have a lot of work to do to become World champions, but we are ready to work and will have a number of experts around us to get us there.”

The team, who is coached by John Zimmerman and Silvia Fontana is open to everything.

“We’ve never always stuck to one thing and I think this is what makes us a different team,” James offered. “We have a couple ideas for music. Morgan and I would like to skate to a French song this season. He has gotten a few ideas from fans.”

The 2018 World bronze medalists are also thinking about what comes for them after they finish their competitive career. One important thing on their minds is to develop pair skating in France.

“We would love to develop pair skating in France,” said James. “The difficulty is that France is a very small country and figure skating is not like the national sport. We need to find single skaters so that we can make them pair skaters. We’re starting from nothing right now. I think France has to figure out how to get skating more popular and keep them lasting long enough in seniors.”

“It’s going to take time for our country to develop pairs,” Cipres added. “When we stop, we want to do something to help, because I think we have a lot of things to give.”

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Russian figure skater Andrei Lazukin has been around for a while, but over this past season, he has skated out of the shadows and right into the limelight. The long-time student of Alexei Mishin got into the 2019 ISU World Figure Skating Championships in Saitama as a substitute for Russian Champion Maxim Kovtun, who withdrew citing medical reasons (and who recently has announced his retirement from competitive skating). Lazukin finished a respectable 10th with solid performances and setting season best scores.

Just two weeks later, Lazukin was called up again on short notice to replace Mikhail Kolyada, who fell sick, at the 2019 ISU World Team Trophy. Once again, Lazukin skated well, setting a new personal best in the Short Program and Total Score and helped Team Russia to secure the bronze medal.

The skater from St. Petersburg seized these opportunities and made the most of them, feeling that the 2018-19 season was a certain breakthrough for him.

“Actually, I always did a lot of competitions, but they were a bit different at the end of the season,” Lazukin said with a laugh.

In the past, while his teammates went to the larger international competitions, Lazukin was competing at national or smaller international events instead.

“I think I got a lot of useful experience,” he noted. “I know what it is like to compete at the World Championships and the World Team Trophy. I’m really happy with what happened and how it went, it is a great opportunity fate presented to me.”

Lazukin remained calm when he was sent to World and the World Team Trophy events, not feeling much pressure since he was coming in as an alternate.

“I tried not to let down the team at Team Trophy,” he said. “I just tried to show what I can do and maybe not the maximum, but to do what I’m ready to do at this point. Therefore, there weren’t too much nerves and I was able to deal with it. At Worlds, I was also quite calm, honestly. I thought it would be more nerve-racking. I was just confident in myself, knowing that I am able to do this, that I’ve done it a million times in training and therefore it came out that way.”

The Russian skater sees his biggest progress this season in gaining more consistency.

“I messed up the short once probably in the season, and this was the same situation. I came in as a substitute and I hadn’t yet overcome the Grand Prix in Finland that didn’t go too well for me,” the 21-year-old explained. As for the free skating, I made mostly mistakes on the triple Axel, which is not the most consistent jump for me. It wasn’t that I was lacking confidence, I was always confident in myself, there were only mistakes in the middle of the program, but this is probably more a technical question. I proved that I am mentally ready and that I can do it.”

Following World Team Trophy, Lazukin went back to St. Petersburg with his teammates from the same training group, Sofia Samodurova and Elizaveta Tuktamysheva (who happens to be his girlfriend). They’re scheduled for a training camp in Estonia in the beginning of May before going on vacation right after that. Tuktamysheva and Lazukin are headed to Cyprus for their vacation. After that, they’ll continue their preparation for the upcoming season in various training camps in Europe and also in Florida this summer.

Lazukin, whose best result at nationals so far was fourth place in 2019 and 2017, is looking ahead now for the next season.

“I plan to include the quad Lutz in my program,” he revealed. “I’ve done it in the beginning of the season and last year I tried it in competition in St. Petersburg. There probably wasn’t just enough time to prepare this element because I was thrown off due to some health problems—I caught a cold and I was often sick this season. Therefore, I was not able to prepare the quad Lutz that was consistent or that I was confident about. Now, consistency is very important. I did it in practice and I am basically ready for it mentally and physically.”

The athlete wants to change both programs, but is still in the process of searching for music.

“I am always suggesting something, but my ideas don’t get realized every time,” he said. For example, in the first half of the season, Lazukin skated to a Prelude by Sergei Rachmaninov in the Free Skating, which was his own idea. However, coach Mishin didn’t like the program and the skater had to dump it and came to Russian Nationals with a new program to Tchaikovski’s Romeo and Juliet.

“I think the Rachmaninov program would have developed together with me as the season went on. Then I got the order [to change it] and there was nothing I could do about it,” Lazukin recalled with a laugh.

In regards to his goals next season, Lazukin just wants to “skate clean programs” and understands how important that is. “I want to continue to progress,” he said. “I don’t want to talk about placements, I just want to grow. A lot.”

While figure skating is hugely popular in Russia, the female skaters are at the center of attention with stars such as Olympic and World Champion Alina Zagitova, two-time World Champion Evgenia Medvedeva, and Tuktamysheva, who came back strongly this season to take bronze at the Grand Prix Final and to win the Ladies Free Skating at World Team Trophy. The men are in the shadow of the ladies “and I’m in the shadow of the Russian boys,” Lazukin added and laughed again.

The Russian media and fans criticize the men skaters quite harshly for not achieving the same results as the ladies. However, Lazukin tries not to let that criticism bother him.

“I am very relaxed about that,” he said. “I think it’s even funny to read comments like ‘Lazukin can’ skate, why was he even sent.’ This is entertaining for me. This even fires me up and motivates me. The higher you get, the more criticism you receive, and it gets worse. They’ll always criticize you for something. We’re not (Evgeni) Plushenko and (Alexei) Yagudin. I’m calm about that. I know myself and I can judge myself adequately. In skating, I think I can achieve quite good results if I continue to progress.”

Lazukin also doesn’t mind being in the shadow of his popular girlfriend.

“I’m cool with that. I am happy for her, especially that it went so well at World Team Trophy, because this whole situation with the World Championships affected her,” the skater said.

Lazukin and Tuktamysheva enjoyed competing together at a major event for the first time in Fukuoka.

“Obviously, we feel each other’s support and it is a different feeling. You feel that you are not alone,” he noted while admitting that he was very nervous watching Tuktamysheva skate. “Everyone stood up at the end, while I was still sitting there, tense. I just wanted to watch until the very end. She just skated lights out and I am proud of her.”

Lazukin, who is originally from the Samara region, but moved to St. Petersburg in 2010 to train in Mishin’s group, is currently studying in his third year for his sports diploma at the Lesgaft University.

“Next year, I’ll have to write my diploma thesis and I’m trying not to delay it because I like to protract things,” he shared.

The athlete would like to expand his studies after graduating from Lesgaft University and has an interest in journalism.

“I like to listen to people, to find out new things and to write about something,” said Lazukin. “Maybe I’ll be a journalist in the future, I’d like to, but I haven’t chose my path yet. I still have time to think about it.”

For now, however, his focus is on skating and he is not only eyeing this Olympic cycle, but the next one as well.

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The 2019 ISU World Team Trophy concluded on Saturday with the Pairs’ and Ladies’ Free Skate in Fukuoka, Japan. Team USA placed first with a total of 117 points, followed by Team Japan (104) and Team Russia (102). It was the fourth time Team USA has taken gold in the six times the event has taken place. Team Japan won last year in Tokyo.

Team USA (117 points)

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Performing to music from the W.E.soundtrack, Ashley Cain and Timothy LeDuc produced a triple twist, throw triple flip and throw triple Salchow. However, he fell on the opening side-by-side triple loops and both skaters struggled on the side-by-side triple Salchow-double toe loop-double loops. Otherwise, the 2019 U.S. national champions delivered strong spins and lifts, and finished fifth in the free skate (125.24) and overall (192.15).

Bradie Tennell topped all of her season’s best at this event, finishing second in the free skate (150.83) and overall (225.64) points after her performance to “Romeo and Juliet.” The 2018 Internationaux de France bronze medalist was solid, landing a total of seven triple jumps, including two triple Lutz-triple toe combos, while displaying level 4 spins and footwork.

Mariah Bell fell on an underrotated triple loop and received edge calls on both triple Lutzes, but was otherwise clean in her flowing routine to The Piano, which featured level 4 spins and footwork. The 2018 Golden Spin bronze medalist finished sixth (135.17) in the free skate and overall (206.06).

“This was an extremely successful event for Team USA,” said team captain Madison Hubbell. “Everyone had beautiful performances including today, the highlight of course being Bradie Tennell’s season’s best, an absolutely great way to finish the event for us. We were lucky enough to send all of our best skaters and highest ranked skaters to this competition. We feel like it is a priceless opportunity to practice for the team event in Beijing (2022 Olympic Winter Games).”

“At the Olympics, they should allow two entries for all of the events, because I think there are many teams with an abundant amount of talented skaters,” Hubbell said when asked about the format. “I know that my federation would have loved to put two more skaters on that team and give them the chance to come home with a medal. That is something I would like them to consider for Beijing.”

Team Japan (104 points)

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Riku Miura and Shoya Ichihashi finished sixth in the free skate with a new season’s best of 92.98 after their performance to “Warsaw Concerto” and were sixth overall (137.91). Two of their lifts were graded a level 4, as was the combination spin, but there was a fall on the side-by-side double Axels and the back end of the triple toe-double toes was called underrotated.

Rika Kihira finished fifth in the free skate (138.37) and fourth overall (222.34) after underrotating and falling on both her opening triple Axel and the back end of a triple Lutz-triple toe. Nevertheless, the 2019 Four Continents champion still showed spectacular level 4 spins and footwork which garnered many positive GOEs.

Kaori Sakamoto hung onto the landing of a triple flip and triple Lutz (edge call), but pulled through to land four more clean triples. The Japanese national champion also racked up many high GOEs for her level 4 spins and strong footwork, scoring 146.70 for third in the free skate and overall (223.65).

“There is no way to describe fully what we felt as it is the end of the season,” said Team Japan’s captain, Misato Komatsubara. “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 and I hope to come back to this competition. Everyone on the team is very talented and made huge efforts in their performance.”

Team Russia (102 points)

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Natalia Zabiiako and Alexander Enbert produced a dynamic routine to “Toi et Moi” which featured solid side-by-side triple toe-double toe-double loops, but he doubled the jump on the side-by-side triple Salchows. The team was otherwise solid, executing a throw triple flip and a throw triple loop, and showing good spins and footwork throughout. The 2019 World bronze medalists earned 141.32 for second place in the free skate and overall (217.12).

Elizaveta Tuktamysheva was solid throughout the event, earning new personal bests in all segments. The 2018 Skate Canada champion produced a triple Axel and seven other triple jumps in her performance, displaying strong level 4 spins and footwork throughout. She scored 153.89 points for first in the free skate and overall (234.43).

Sofia Samodurova was fourth in the free skate (138.84) and fifth overall (207.45). The 2019 European champion landed seven clean triple jumps and showed quality spins and footwork in her sassy routine to Burlesque.

“It was a great competition day for us,” said team captain Nikita Katsalapov. “Our girls proved that they are real fighters and turned in two excellent free skating performances. Our pair Natalia and Alexander gave a great performance, too. Unfortunately, they were second to the French team, but Vanessa James/Morgan Cipres, were simply the best today. We are glad that we remained in third place. However, it is a little regrettable that we were not able to move up, the gap was only two points. Everyone stuck to their original plan and everything turned out great.”

“Both formats are very interesting,” he added regarding the Olympic team format. “I agree with Madison and I think on our national team we have some more strong skaters that could show very strong results, in pairs and ice dance for example. It would be similar to the Olympic format, I guess. These competitions are different from each other. But in both, the atmosphere is indescribable. You are not responsible only for yourself when you go out on to the ice, but you are fighting together with your team.”

Team France (75 points)

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Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres were spectacular in their routine to “Wicked Game” and “The Last Feeling.” The 2019 European champions produced solid side-by-side jumps: triple toe-double toe-double toe-double toe combo and triple Salchows, as well as two strong throw jumps: triple flip and triple Salchow. They racked up many positive GOEs and earned level 4 on most elements to finish first in the free skate with a new season’s best of 152.52 and first (226.00) overall.

Laurine Lecavelier struggled on most of her jumps today, falling on a triple flip and underrotating several others. The 2019 Cup of Tryol champion finished ninth in the free skate (107.71) and 10th overall (170.24). She had a collision with Gabrielle Daleman during the warm up.

Mae-Berenice Meite put a hand down on a triple loop and  fell on an underrotated triple Lutz, but otherwise landed a triple Lutz-triple toe and showed good spins and footwork. The French national champion finished eighth in the free skate (114.22) and overall (173.57).

Team Canada (73 points)

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Kirsten Moore-Towers and Michael Marinaro scored 131.84 for third place in the free skate and fourth overall (200.22). Their routine to selections from Pink Floyd  featured solid side-by-side triple Salchow-double toe-double toes, a throw triple loop, and throw triple Salchow, however, he fell on a triple toe. The 2019 Four Continents silver medalists also displayed good lifts and spins.

Gabrielle Daleman stepped out of triple Lutz and then underrotated and fell on a double Axel-double toe and triple Lutz. She placed 10th in the free skate (107.48) and ninth overall (171.81).

Alaine Chartrand rounded out the ladies, finishing 12th in the free skate (94.91) and overall (147.27). The Canadian champion suffered two falls (loop and Lutz) and underrotated several jumps.

Team Italy (69 points)

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Nicole Della Monica and Matteo Guarise opened their “Tristan and Isolde” routine with solid side-by-side triple Salchows, as well as a triple twist and throw triple loop, but she doubled the first jump (and singled the second) in the side-by-side triple toe-double toes. The 2018 Rostelecom Cup and GP Helsinki silver medalists otherwise earned a level 4 on two lifts and spin.

Marina Piredda finished seventh in the free skate (120.22) and overall (180.55). The 2019 Mentor Cup champion doubled a Lutz but was otherwise clean, landing a total of six jumps while showing good level 4 spins.

Roberta Rodeghiero received an edge call on a triple Lutz, but landed a total of five more triple jumps to place 11th (106.64) in the free skate and overall (155.09).

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The 2019 ISU World Team Trophy continued on Friday with the Pairs’ Short Program, Free Dance, and the Men’s Free Skate in Fukuoka, Japan. Team USA currently leads with 91 points, followed by Team Japan (79) and Team Russia (70).

The ISU World Team Trophy format is based on a competition consisting of the six best national teams from ISU Members with a special provision for the host ISU Member to be included as a Qualified Member. Competing in this sixth edition of the event, are: Canada, France, Italy, Japan, Russia, and the United States. Each team is composed of two Men and Ladies’ single skaters, one pair team, and one ice dance team. Each team nominates a Captain who represents the team.

Team USA (91 points)

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In their jazzy short program to “Bella Belle,” Ashley Cain and Timothy LeDuc were nearly solid landing a throw triple Lutz, and triple twist, however, Cain put a hand down on the side-by-side triple loops which were called underrotated. They finished in fifth place with 66.91 points.

Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue gave a dramatic performance to music from the modern-day Romeo and Juliet soundtrack. The team was solid, earning level 4 on nearly all elements (Hubbell received a level 3 on the one-foot steps) along with high GOEs. The 2019 World bronze medalists finished third (127.11) in the free dance and overall (209.97).

Nathan Chen gave his version of a scaled-down yet powerful routine to “Land Of All” by Woodkid which featured three clean quads: Salchow, toe, and quad toe (with triple toe). The 2019 World champion also nailed five triple jumps, but stepped out of a solo triple Axel . He earned 199.49 points for first place in the free skate and still broke the 300-mark total score with 301.44 points for first overall.

Vincent Zhou finished second in the free skate (198.50) and overall (299.01), earning three new season’s bests at this event to cap off his year. The 2019 World bronze medalist nailed three quads: Lutz, Salchow, and toe, along with six clean triple jumps. His routine to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon also featured level 4 spins and footwork, and all elements were awarded positive GOEs.

Team Japan (79 points)

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Riku Miura and Shoya Ichihashi struggled with their jumps in their routine to “Cry Me a River,” the triple toes were underrotated and their was a step out on the throw triple Salchow. The lift didn’t quite make it, but the team earned a level 4 on their combination spin and footwork, placing sixth with 44.93 points.

Misato Komatsubara and Timo Koleto earned a new season’s best of 99.31 (sixth place) for their free dance to “Une histoire d’amour.” Their routine was highlighted by difficult level 4 lifts and they finished with 160.24 overall, another season’s best.

Shoma Uno took third place in the free skate (189.46) and overall (282.24). The 2018 Olympic silver medalist underrotated his a quad Salchow, but landed a quad flip-triple toe and quad flip. He attempted a rare triple Axel-quad toe combination, but fell hard on the back end. While his footwork was a level 2, all spins were graded a level 4 with high GOES in his modern version of “Moonlight Sonata.”

Keiji Tanaka earned all new season’s bests at this event, finishing sixth in the free skate (169.79) and fifth overall (258.84). The Japanese national bronze medalist landed a quad toe as well as a total of seven clean triple jumps. All spins and footwork were graded a level 4 in his routine to William Tell Overture.

Team Russia (70 points)

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Putting out a powerful routine to Alexander Nevski, Natalia Zabiiako and Alexander Enbert landed solid side-by-side triple toes, a throw triple loop, and triple twist. Their lift, spin, and footwork all received a level 4 and the 2019 World bronze medalists scored a new season’s best of 75.80

Performing to Suite in D “Air” and “Praeludium and Allegro,” Victoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov earned high GOEs for all elements, showing more improvement since last month in Saitama. Katsalapov’s twizzles and one-foot steps received a level 3, but all other elements were graded a level 4 in their expressive routine. The 2019 World silver medalists finished second in the free dance with a new season’s best of 130.63 to and overall (215.20).

Andrei Lazukin finished in eighth place (160.37) in the free skate and overall (249.33) after his performance to Romeo and Juliet Overture. The 2019 Dragon Trophy silver medalist showed good effort, landing a quad toe and five triple jumps, but put a hand down on his opening quad toe-double toe. All spins and footwork earned level 4 and the only other error was a foot down on the landing of a triple Lutz-double Axel sequence.

Alexander Samarin scored 158.53 points (ninth) for his free skate to The Greatest Showman which featured a quad toe-triple toe and five triple jumps. The only major error came when he stepped out and put a hand down on a triple Axel. The 2019 European silver medalist placed 10th overall.

Team France (59 points)

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In their “Uninvited” routine, Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres produced a solid triple twist, but then James put a hand down on the side-by-side triple toes and the team later lost sync on the side-by-side flying camel change spin. The throw triple flip was good and they earned a level 4 on the steps and lift to finish second with 73.48 points.

Olympic silver medalists Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron scored yet another season’s best, breaking the record score for the free dance with 135.82 points for first place, as well as the Total Score (223.13). The lowest GOE received were two +3s, the rest being +4 and +5 across the board. All elements, including the twizzles, lifts, and steps were graded a level 4 in their moving routine to “Duet” and “Sunday Afternoon” by Rachael Yamagata.

Kevin Aymoz had two falls, a quad toe and triple Lutz-Euler-triple Salchow, in his routine to “In This Shirt.” The French national champion also stepped out of triple flip, but otherwise landed two triple Axels and showed strong level 4 spins and footwork. He finished 10th in the free skate (153.83) and ninth overall (239.05).

Adam Siao Him Fa also had two falls, one on quad Salchow and another on a triple Lutz-Euler-triple Salchow. The 2018 JGP Armenian champion struggled on several other jumps in his routine to “Take Me to Church” to finish 12th in the free skate (132.11) and overall (204.67).

Team Canada (54 points)

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Canadian champions Kirsten Moore-Towers and Michael Marinaro came in fourth in the short with 68.38 points with their expressive routine to “First Time Ever I Saw Your Face.” The triple twist had a bit of messy catch and Marinaro held on to the landing of his triple toe. Moore-Towers had a slight hand down on the throw triple loop and there were some sync issues in the side-by-side change combination spin, but the lift and footwork were graded a level 4.

Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje earned a new season’s best of 124.18 for fourth place after their lyrical free dance “S.O.S. d’un terrien en détresse” which featured strong1 level 4 lifts and twizzles, however, the one-foot steps were graded level 2 and 3. The 2019 Four Continents silver medalists also received many positive GOEs and rose from fifth to fourth overall with 203.78 points.

Nam Nguyen doubled his opening quad toe, but otherwise had one of his best free skates of the season. His routine to La La Land featured a quad Salchow-triple toe, quad Salchow, and five more triple jumps. The Canadian national champions got a level 2 on his footwork and flying sit spin, but he still managed a new season’s best of 164.60 for seventh in the free skate and overall (251.97).

Keegan Messing finished fourth in the free skate (178.04) and sixth overall (257.79) after his upbeat “Charlie Chaplin” routine. The 2018 Nebelhorn Trophy champion landed a quad toe as well as 7 solid triple jumps, earning high GOES along the way. All elements received a level 4 except for the footwork (level 2).

Team Italy (52 points)

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Nicole Della Monica and Matteo Guarise placed third in the short program with 69.77 points. Guarise had to hang onto the landing of the side-by-side triple Salchows in which Della Monica slightly bumped into him on her flow out. She had a slight touch down on the throw triple loop, but the 2018 Rostelecom Cup and Helsinki silver medalists were otherwise solid in their routine to “Never Tear Us Apart” by Joe Cocker.

Performing to music from La La Land, Charlene Guignard and Marco Fabbri earned level 4 on all elements except for the one-step footwork (level 2 and 3). The 2019 European bronze medalists earned a new season’s best of 122.29 for fifth place in the free dance and overall (202.54).

Matteo Rizzo landed a quad toe along with seven other jumps, but doubled his last jump, a triple Lutz, in his otherwise flawless routine to music by Queen. The 2019 Winter Universiade champion also displayed level 4 spins and footwork, earning a season’s best of 172.89 for fifth place in the free skate and fourth overall (260.53).

Daniel Grassl finished 11th in the free skate (148.68) and overall (228.36). The 2019 World Junior bronze medalist landed a quad loop, but took a fall on a quad Lutz and struggled with several other jumps. However, he displayed good spins and footwork in his routine to music by Philip Glass.

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Nathan Chen of the United States performs his short program at the World Team Trophy figure skating championship in Fukuoka, southwestern Japan, on April 11, 2019. (Photo by Kyodo News via Getty Images)

The 2019 ISU World Team Trophy kicked off a three-day competition with the Rhythm Dance, followed by the Ladies’ and Men’s Short Program in Fukuoka, Japan, on Thursday. Team USA currently leads with 50 points, followed by Team Japan (48) and Team Russia (38).

The ISU World Team Trophy format is based on a competition consisting of the six best national teams from ISU Members with a special provision for the host ISU Member to be included as a Qualified Member. Competing in this sixth edition of the event, are: Canada, France, Italy, Japan, Russia, and the United States. Each team is composed of two Men and Ladies’ single skaters, one pair team, and one ice dance team. Each team nominates a Captain who represents the team.

Rhythm Dance

Olympic silver medalists Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron earned 87.31 after a solid tango to to “Oblivion” and “Primavera Porteno” in which they earned level 4 for the twizzles, curve lift and both Tango Romantica patterns. The four-time and current World champions also met all eight key points in their patterns and earned many high grades of execution (GOE) on all elements. While they showed good connection and deep knees, the team only earned a level 3 on the midline steps (it was level 4 at Worlds last month), but with their first place finish in this segment, scored 12 points for Team France.

Victoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov were strong in their tango performance to “Verano Porteno,” earning level 4 on all elements and meeting all eight key point in their patterns. The 2019 World silver medalists showed good speed and ice coverage throughout, earning high GOEs on most elements to score a new season’s best of 84.57 and 11 points to Team Russia.

Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue also displayed good speed and attack in in their traditional Tango to “Alevare” and “Tangata del Alba.” They earned a level 4 on the twizzles, curve lift, and midline steps, but the patterns were a level 3 and 2 and not all key points were met. The World bronze medalists finished with 82.86 points to earn 10 points for Team USA.

Charlene Guignard and Marco Fabbri earned a score of 80.25 for their Tango, earning level 4 on all elements and meeting all key points in their patterns. The 2019 European bronze medalists pocketed 9 points for Team Italy.

Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje scored 79.60 for eight points for Team Canada, while Misato Komatsubara and Timo Koleto earned 60.93 and seven points for Team Japan.

Ladies’ Short Program

Rika Kihira, who held the Short Program record score from 2018-19 Grand Prix Final, broke her own record with a new season’s best of  83.97, contributing 12 points to Team Japan. The 2019 Four Continents champion nailed a solid triple Axel, triple flip-triple toe and triple Lutz, earning level 4s on all elements with many high GOEs in her expressive and lyrical routine to “Clair de Lune.”

Elizaveta Tuktamysheva managed to top her season’s best from 2018 NHK Trophy with 80.54 points after landing a triple Axel, triple toe-triple toe, and triple Lutz in her routine to “Assassin’s Tango.” The 2018-19 Grand Prix Final bronze medalist also earned a level 4 on her spins and footwork while racking up many positive GOEs throughout, pocketing 11 points for Team Russia.

Kaori Sakamoto also edged past her season’s best at Worlds with a score of  76.95. The 2018 Skate America silver medalist earned Team Japan 10 points after her poetic routine to “From My First Moment” which featured a triple flip-triple toe, double Axel, and triple loop. All elements were also graded a level 4 with positive GOEs.

After a rough Short Program at Worlds, Bradie Tennell redeemed herself  at this event with a new season’s best of 74.81. The 2018 Internationaux de France bronze medalist landed a solid triple Lutz-triple toe, double Axel, and triple flip in her routine to “Rebirth,” earning a level 4 on all spins along the way, and adding nine points to Team USA’s score.

Teammate Mariah Bell earned 70.89 points (eight points for Team USA) with her short to “To Love You More.” The 2018 Golden Spin of Zagreb  underrotated the front end of a triple Lutz-triple toe, but landed a solid double Axel and triple flip.

After a solid and sassy routine to “Nyah,” Sofia Samodurova pocked seven points for Team Russia after scoring 68.61 points. The European champion landed a triple flip, triple toe-triple loop, and double Axel, earning level 4 on all elements.

Gabrielle Daleman of Canada popped a triple Lutz, but landed a triple toe-triple toe and double Axel to score 64.33 points.

The 2019 Cup of Tyrol champion, Laurine Lecavelier, had to hang on to her triple Lutz, but the French national silver medalist managed a solid triple toe-triple toe and double Axel for 62.53 points.

Italy’s Marina Piredda, who debuted at Worlds this year, broke the 60-point mark for the first time in international competition with a new season’s best of 60.33 points. The 2019 Mentor Cup junior champion landed a triple toe-triple toe, triple Lutz, and double Axel.

Mae-Berenice Meite of France underrotated the back end of a triple toe-triple toe, but landed a triple Lutz and double Axel for 59.45 points.

Alaine Chartrand of Canada and Italy’s Roberta Rodeghiero rounded out the top 12 ladies with scores of 52.36 and 48.45, respectively.

Men’s Short Program

Nathan Chen earned Team USA 12 points after scoring 101.95 points for his routine to “Caravan.” The two-time and current World champion was solid. After a busy season, he opted for a solo quad toe instead of a Lutz and a triple Lutz-triple toe instead of a quad toe-triple toe. He also landed a triple Axel and earning level 4 on all spins and footwork.

Teammate Vincent Zhou landed his opening quad Lutz-triple toe and a solid the quad Salchow in his short to “Exogenesis Symphony Part III” by Muse. The 2019 Worlds bronze medalist also produced a triple Axel, showing level 4 spins, and despite receiving a level 3 on his footwork, earned a new season’s best of 100.51, adding 11 points to Team USA.

Shoma Uno hung on to the landing of his quad flip, but turned out of the first jump and stepped out of the second in a quad toe-double toe, but his triple Axel was pristine in his routine to “Stairway to Heaven.” Nevertheless, the Olympic silver medalist showed strong level 4 footwork and spins to earn 92.78 points, contributing 10 points to Team Japan’s score.

Teammate Keiji Tanaka put a hand down on his triple Axel, but otherwise showed a good quad toe and triple flip-triple toe in his performance to “Memories” by Gary Moore. The 2018 Ondrej Nepela Trophy bronze medalist also earned a level 4 on his footwork and two spins, topping his score from Four Continents with 89.05 points. This added another 9 points for Team Japan.

Andrei Lazukin put out a solid routine to “I Put a Spell on You,” which featured a quad toe, triple Axel, and triple flip-triple toe. All elements received a level 4, and the 2019 Dragon Trophy silver medalist earned a new season’s best of 88.96 for 8 points to Team Russia.

Matteo Rizzo of Italy landed a quad toe, triple Axel, and triple Lutz-triple toe, but the Lutz received an edge call. Two spins and the footwork were graded level 3 and the 2019 European bronze medalist was awarded 87.64 points.

Skating to “That’s Life” by Sinatra, Nam Nguyen landed a quad Salchow-triple toe, triple Axel, and triple flip, however only one element received a level 4 (flying camel spin). The Canadian national champion still topped his score from the World championships last month, earning 87.57 points.

Kevin Aymoz lost some points when he found himself hanging on to a quad toe and triple Lutz (in combination with a double toe). His triple Axel was solid, however, and the French national champion earned a level 4 on all spins and footwork for a score of 85.22.

Canadian national bronze medalist Keegan Messing had a disappointing skate after struggling with his jumps. Two of his spins and footwork were graded a level 3 and he scored 79.75 points.

Italy’s Daniel Grassl underrotated his opening quad loop and received an edge call on his triple Lutz (in combination with a triple toe) in his routine to “Rain, In Your Black Eyes.” The 2019 World Junior bronze medalist scored 79.68 points.

Adam Siao Him Fa of Team France and Alexander Samarin of Team Russia scored 72.56 and 71.84, respectively.

Team France sits in fourth place (27), followed by Team Canada (26) and Team Italy (24).

“This is my first time at a team event and what a great way to start,” said Team USA’s captain, Hubbell. “Team USA had all very strong performances. We have a team of Olympic (team) members, national champions, world medalists, all world(team) members. We knew we were strong going in and we wanted to fight together as a team and it just shows how strong we are.”

Some skaters were not trained up to par for this event due to a long and exhausting season. Some skaters were even sick after the World Figure Skating Championships, which took place less than a month ago. Despite this, some skaters still managed a season’s best.

“But the atmosphere of having such a fun event that really seems like it’s just for the appreciation of being here,” noted Hubbell, who was honored to have been voted as the team captain. “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.”

“I knew everybody in our team is very talented and there was one great performance after the other, said Japan’s team captain, Komatsubara. “Personally, even though we (she and partner Tim Koleto) gave our best, we still were in last place, but I think it is a stepping stone for tomorrow.”

She added that she was nervous about the event, coming in with strong skaters. “My best performance is maybe not yet nice, but when I see Shoma (Uno) cheering for us, I am like, ‘yes, we can do it.’ It was definitely a positive emotion. It is really entertainment and I hope that everybody enjoyed it, the public and the judges enjoyed it. I really like this competition.”

Since seven of the eight team members of Japan are competing at this event for the first time, Komatsubara was surprised to be nominated as the team captain. “I expected Shoma to be the captain, but he somehow got out of it, so I think it was decided by the order of age.”

“It was a good day for Russia,” proclaimed Team Russia’s captain, Katsalapov. “We did a few great run throughs. I am very happy for Liza Tuktamysheva to come back on to the ice and put out that kind of strong performance and also Andrei Lazukin did a great job. What about Alexander (Samarin)–maybe his coach could tell him to do a little more simple content and play it safe. But still, we have the free dance tomorrow and a great pair team. We’re ready to fight and play this game to the end.”

Regarding some of the skaters earning new season bests, Katsalapov  said: “Each team member tried to stay in shape for this competition. I think I was at this competition eight years ago, with my previous partner and I have forgotten everything. Now as the captain, I have to cheer up my team and motivate them for good performances, and together with Vika (Sinitsina), we managed to do that. I didn’t think I would be that nervous, because the major competitions are all done, but here it is a different responsibility–you aren’t fighting only for yourself, but for your team. Everyone is contributing something to this game. Therefore, I couldn’t relax and have one hundred percent fun, but I enjoyed it nevertheless. ”

Katsalapov was appointed team captain by the Russian Skating Federation. “I don’t think there was a vote by the team, but I think it is a very honorable position and I’m trying my best to motivate and to help them morally, but I cannot skate for them. I’m doing everything for them that depends on me.”

The post Team USA grabs lead in World Team Trophy appeared first on Golden Skate.

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The 2019  ISU World Team Trophy kicked off a three-day competition with the Rhythm Dance, followed by the Ladies’  and Men’s Short Program in Fukuoka, Japan, on Thursday. Team USA currently leads with 50 points, followed by Team Japan (48) and Team Russia (38).

The ISU World Team Trophy format is based on a competition consisting of the six best national teams from ISU Members with a special provision for the host ISU Member to be included as a Qualified Member. Competing in this sixth edition of the event, are: Canada, France, Italy, Japan, Russia, and the United States. Each team is composed of two Men and Ladies’ single skaters, one pair team, and one ice dance team. Each team nominates a Captain who represents the team.

Rhythm Dance

Olympic silver medalists Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron earned 87.31 after a solid tango to to “Oblivion” and “Primavera Porteno” in which they earned level 4 for the twizzles, curve lift and both Tango Romantica patterns. The four-time and current World champions also met all eight key points in their patterns and earned many high grades of execution (GOE) on all elements. While they showed good connection and deep knees, the team only earned a level 3 on the midline steps (it was level 4 at Worlds last month), but with their first place finish in this segment, scored 12 points for Team France.

Victoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov were strong in their tango performance to “Verano Porteno,” earning level 4 on all elements and meeting all eight key point in their patterns. The 2019 World silver medalists showed good speed and ice coverage throughout, earning high GOEs on most elements to score a new season’s best of 84.57 and 11 points to Team Russia.

Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue also displayed good speed and attack in in their traditional Tango to “Alevare” and “Tangata del Alba.” They earned a level 4 on the twizzles, curve lift, and midline steps, but the patterns were a level 3 and 2 and not all key points were met. The World bronze medalists finished with 82.86 points to earn 10 points for Team USA.

Charlene Guignard and Marco Fabbri earned a score of 80.25 for their Tango, earning level 4 on all elements and meeting all key points in their patterns. The 2019 European bronze medalists pocketed 9 points for Team Italy.

Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje scored 79.60 for eight points for Team Canada, while Misato Komatsubara and Timo Koleto earned 60.93 and seven points for Team Japan.

Ladies Short Program

Rika Kihira , who held the Short Program record score from 2018-19 Grand Prix Final, broke her own record with a new season’s best of  83.97, contributing 12 points to Team Japan. The 2019 Four Continents champion nailed a solid triple Axel, triple flip-triple toe and triple Lutz, earning level 4s on all elements with many high GOEs in her expressive and lyrical routine to “Clair de Lune.”

Elizaveta Tuktamysheva managed to top her season’s best from 2018 NHK Trophy with 80.54 points after landing a triple Axel, triple toe-triple toe, and triple Lutz in her routine to “Assassin’s Tango.” The 2018-19 Grand Prix Final bronze medalist also earned a level 4 on her spins and footwork while racking up many positive GOEs throughout, pocketing 11 points for Team Russia.

Kaori Sakamoto also edged past her season’s best at Worlds with a score of  76.95. The 2018 Skate America silver medalist earned Team Japan 10 points after her poetic routine to “From My First Moment” which featured a triple flip-triple toe, double Axel, and triple loop. All elements were also graded a level 4 with positive GOEs.

After a rough Short Program at Worlds, Bradie Tennell redeemed herself  at this event with a new season’s best of 74.81. The 2018 Internationaux de France bronze medalist landed a solid triple Lutz-triple toe, double Axel, and triple flip in her routine to “Rebirth,” earning a level 4 on all spins along the way, and adding nine points to Team USA’s score.

Teammate Mariah Bell earned 70.89 points (eight points for Team USA) with her short to “To Love You More.” The 2018 Golden Spin of Zagreb  underrotated the front end of a triple Lutz-triple toe, but landed a solid double Axel and triple flip.

After a solid and sassy routine to “Nyah,” Sofia Samodurova pocked seven points for Team Russia after scoring 68.61 points. The European champion landed a triple flip, triple toe-triple loop, and double Axel, earning level 4 on all elements.

Gabrielle Daleman popped a triple Lutz, but landed a triple toe-triple toe and double Axel to score 64.33 points.

The 2019 Cup of Tyrol champion, Laurine Lecavelier, had to hang on to her triple Lutz, but managed a solid triple toe-triple toe and double Axel for 62.53 points.

Marina Piredda, who debuted at Worlds this year, broke the 60-point mark for the first time in international competition with a new season’s best of 60.33 points. The 2019 Mentor Cup junior champion landed a triple toe-triple toe, triple Lutz, and double Axel.

Mae-Berenice Meite underrotated the back end of a triple toe-triple toe, but landed a triple Lutz and double Axel for 59.45 points.

Alaine Chartrand of Canada and Italy’s Roberta Rodeghiero rounded out the top 12 ladies with scores of 52.36 and 48.45, respectively.

“This is my first time at a team event and what a great way to start,” said Team USA’s captain, Hubbell. “Team USA had all very strong performances. We have a team of Olympic (team) members, national champions, world medalists, all world(team) members. We knew we were strong going in and we wanted to fight together as a team and it just shows how strong we are.”

Some skaters were not trained up to par for this event due to a long and exhausting season. Some skaters were even sick after the World Figure Skating Championships, which took place less than a month ago. Despite this, some skaters still managed a season’s best.

“But the atmosphere of having such a fun event that really seems like it’s just for the appreciation of being here,” noted Hubbell, who was honored to have been voted as the team captain. “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.”

“I knew everybody in our team is very talented and there was one great performance after the other, said Japan’s team captain, Komatsubara. “Personally, even though we (she and partner Tim Koleto) gave our best, we still were in last place, but I think it is a stepping stone for tomorrow.”

She added that she was nervous about the event, coming in with strong skaters. “My best performance is maybe not yet nice, but when I see Shoma (Uno) cheering for us, I am like, ‘yes, we can do it.’ It was definitely a positive emotion. It is really entertainment and I hope that everybody enjoyed it, the public and the judges enjoyed it. I really like this competition.”

Since seven of the eight team members of Japan were competing at this event for the first time, Komatsubara was surprised to be nominated as the team captain. “I expected Shoma to be the captain, but he somehow got out of it, so I think it was decided by the order of age.”

“It was a good day for Russia,” proclaimed Team Russia’s captain, Katsalapov. “We did a few great run throughs. I am very happy for Liza Tuktamysheva to come back on to the ice and put out that kind of strong performance and also Andrei Lazukin did a great job. What about Alexander (Samarin)–maybe his coach could tell him to do a little more simple content and play it safe. But still, we have the free dance tomorrow and a great pair team. We’re ready to fight and play this game to the end.”

Regarding some of the skaters earning new season bests, Katsalapov  said: “Each team member tried to stay in shape for this competition. I think I was at this competition eight years ago, with my previous partner and I have forgotten everything. Now as the captain, I have to cheer up my team and motivate them for good performances, and together with Vika (Sinitsina), we managed to do that. I didn’t think I would be that nervous, because the major competitions are all done, but here it is a different responsibility–you aren’t fighting only for yourself, but for your team. Everyone is contributing something to this game. Therefore, I couldn’t relax and have one hundred percent fun, but I enjoyed it nevertheless. ”

Katsalapov was appointed team captain by the Russian Skating Federation. “I don’t think there was a vote by the team, but I think it is a very honorable position and I’m trying my best to motivate and to help them morally, but I cannot skate for them. I’m doing everything for them that depends on me.”

The post Team USA grabs lead in World Team Trophy appeared first on Golden Skate.

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USA’s Nathan Chen performs his Free Skate at the 2019 World Figure Skating Championships.

USA’s Nathan Chen defended his title in the Men’s event at the 2019 World Figure Skating Championships on in Saitama, Japan on Saturday night. Two-time Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan moved up from fourth place to take the silver—his sixth world medal, while USA’s Vincent Zhou earned the bronze in his second appearance at this event.

Last to skate, Chen had to perform right after crowd-favorite Hanyu laid down a brilliant free skate.

“It is a huge honor to even be at this event with Yuzuru in Japan,” said Chen. “I was fully expecting him to bring the house down and bring everyone to their feet, and have this crazy atmosphere. And that was exactly that.”

“Fortunately, the ‘Poohs’ were on one side of the rink, so I could sort of skate in the middle,” he added. “It was all central to one side. It is amazing to see how much the audience cares for us and how much they truly love skating. The ice being covered in Pooh bears was truly representing for how passionate they are for it. For him, they had such huge reaction, and subsequently I skated and they supported for me in the similar manner, although a little bit less.”

Chen was flawless in his powerful routine to “Land Of All” by Woodkid which featured four clean quads: Lutz, flip, toe, and quad toe-triple toe. The 2018-19 Grand Prix Final champion also nailed all triple jumps, including a triple Axel and earned a level 4 on spins and footwork, racking up may positive grades of execution (GOE) along the way. He earned a record-breaking Free Skate score of 216.02 and maintained first overall with another record Total score of 323.42.

“It is amazing feeling to be up here with these two guys!” said Chen at the press conference. “I am so proud of the U.S. We have two medalists now. The competition was awesome. It is always a great pleasure to be able to compete in Japan. It so so cool and awesome to compete in front of such a loud crowd. I skated two programs here, and I am ultimately happy with how it worked. I want to have more experiences like this.”

When asked about the Beijing Olympics in 2020, Chen noted that is around the corner.

“There is still a lot of skating to be done before that,” the 19-year-old acknowledged. “I think it is a little premature to think what it will be like. Ultimately, I mean, I am doing this sport because I want to represent U.S. in the end. Fortunately, I have had such an experience, but I want to have that feeling again. As for now, I would like to embrace this moment, because I am so happy that I am down here in this competition.”

“As for the plans for the Olympics, the conversation must be made with my coaches, my team, with everyone,” Chen said. “I do not even know what is our plan right now for the next season, so it is hard to say now. I am excited that there is going to be a lot of amazing skating till then.”

The only error Hanyu made in his dynamic routine to “Art On Ice” was underrotating a quad Salchow. The 2017 World champion otherwise produced a quad loop, quad toe, and quad toe-triple Axel sequence. His triple jumps were solid and he earned a level four on all spins while the footwork was a level 3. He scored a new season’s best of 206.10 for second place in the free skate and moved up from third to second overall (300.97).

“I was disappointed gaining only silver, but I am thankful that I have got a chance to compete with such distinguished athletes and got a motivation to get stronger from them,” said the 24-year-old. “I will try my best to improve and to catch up with these two great athletes I respect so much.”

The 2018 Rostelecom Cup and Grand Prix Helsinki champion does not currently have a plan for next season, much less the 2020 Olympics.

“I will check the condition of my ankle first before thinking of it,” said Hanyu. “I want to consider many things from now on. I have won the Olympics two times in the past, and I think that the Olympics itself is an amazing event. I feel that the Olympics is the ultimate goal every figure skater should go for. With getting the gold in Olympics, you are becoming the true champion. I am looking forward to know who is going to be the champion at the Beijing Olympics.”
When asked about the possibility of a quad Axel, Hanyu replied, “Of course, I want to land a quadruple Axel. I feel that there is no meaning if I land it on an ice show, it has to be a competition. There will be meaning once it is done in the competition and the (positive) GOE is added to it. Of course, I have to consider my condition when doing it. I will think about all the jumps, loop, Lutz, flip. As for edge jumps, the quality of ice has a great role in doing them. And toe jumps like Lutz and flip are worth more points. So, I am planning to practice both toe jumps and the Axel.”

Zhou, who was 14th last year in his World debut, left it all out on the ice with his dramatic routine to music from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. The 2019 Four Continents bronze medalist underrotated a quad toe and the back end of a triple Lutz-Euler-triple flip, but was otherwise solid, landing a quad Lutz-triple toe and quad Salchow. All spins were graded a level 4 and he also scored a new season’s best of 186.99, placing third in the free skate and overall (281.16).

“It is still hard to believe that it has actually happened,” said the U.S. silver medalist. “That it is the best result I could possibly hope for, and to share the podium with Nathan Chen and Yuzuru Hanyu is unbelievable! I admire these guys so much and all of other competitors, too. To be able to compete and perform here in Japan was such an honor.”

“I do not think there is one stone left unturned when it came to the organization itself,” said the 18-year-old. “Everyone here has been so kind and so supportive. I am super proud that I was able to put together two strong performances, and I built upon what has been made on the nationals and Four Continents. To end the season like this is really incredible. It has been the first time since 1996 since two Americans have been on a podium, and I think it is really noteworthy. I am really honored to compete here and having the opportunity to skate here in Japan.”

Japan’s Shoma Uno, who stood in sixth after the short, finished fourth in the free skate (178.92) and overall (270.32). The 2018 Olympic silver medalist underrotated his two opening quads (Salchow and flip), but landed two quad toes (the second was meant to be in combination). All footwork and spins were graded a level 4 for which the 21-year-old received high GOES in his modern version of “Moonlight Sonata.”

“I am very disappointed with myself,” said the 2019 Four Continents champion. “I think I lost confidence and I lost to myself. I didn’t have a good image of those first two jumps (quad Salchow and flip), although I landed them successfully during the six minutes warm up. From this experience, I think I don’t have the mentality of the top level skaters. Other than that, it was okay overall.”

“I really admire Yuzuru Hanyu who always seeks for high scores and good results, which made me realize I am still immature,” said the current Japanese champion. “Overall, I am still disappointed in myself. I need to become mentally much stronger. I want to skate better next year so that when I look back at this World in the future, this would be a good lesson for my skating career.”

Boyang Jin of China moved up four places to fifth overall (262.71) after finishing fifth (178.45) in the free skate to music from the Hable Con Ella soundtrack. The Four Continents silver landed a quad Lutz, but underrotated A quad toe in combination with a double toe and later stepped out of a solo quad toe. He was otherwise clean, landing a total of six triples while displaying level 4 spins throughout.

“The program looked like a good performance, but there are several areas that I lost additional points and some levels,” noted the Chinese champion, who was 19th last year. “So this is not an ideal performance, but at the end, I skated till the end, so I guess I am satisfied with today. I actually felt better, more relaxed for the short program, but it didn’t lead to actual good performance.”

“I did these mistakes in the past, but I just want to skate better and show clean performances in the future,” the 21-year-old added. “With the new rules from this season, I need to continue to improve in things like speed, technique, style etc. My training gave me a lot of confidence, but once at the competition, I guess I couldn’t quite keep my confidence. My coach keeps telling me that I just need to be myself and try my best. Takeaway of this season is that I finally gained good feeling in the last few competitions, and I tried to skate my best. I just need to skate better in my next competition.”

Russia’s Mikhail Kolyada, who has been struggling this season, placed sixth with a new season’s best (178.21) with his “Carmen” free skate, and moved up from 10th to sixth overall (262.44). The defending bronze medalist landed a quad toe-triple toe, but stepped out of a solo quad toe and later received an edge call on a triple flip. He otherwise landed a total of five solid jumps and earned a level 4 on two of his spins.

The Russian silver medalist said it was hard to prepare for the free skate after a disappointing short program, but managed to take the ice with a clear mind.

“Obviously, there were some little technical issues, but overall, I am pleased with how I did,” said the 24-year-old. “The audience was very supportive and I felt that.”

Italian national silver medalist Matteo Rizzo finished 10th (164.29) in the free skate after falling on his opening quad. While he had to hang on to a triple Axel, he was otherwise solid, landing a eight triple jumps total, while showing level 4 spins throughout his routine to a Queen medley. With a total score of 257.66, the 2019 European bronze medalist slipped from fifth to seventh overall.

“I am a little bit upset, because the first quad (toe) was not good, so I lost my concentration and I had to fight through the program,” admitted the 2019 Winter Universiade champion. “At the end, it is a great result. Of course right now I am upset, but I will be happy tomorrow being in the top ten at the World Championships. I would like to be in the top three next year. I am going to work hard. I need to work on more quads of course, to achieve my dream to be a World Champion.”

Michal Brezina of the Czech Republic finished eighth in the free skate with a new season’s best (167.32) and overall (254.28) after his rock routine to “I’m a Man” and “Thunderstruck.” The 2018-19 Grand Prix finalist took a fall on an intended triple flip combo, but otherwise landed a solid quad Salchow-double toe as well as five more triple jumps. All spins and footwork were graded a level 4, however, the flying camel combination spin received a “V.”

“From the get go, it felt really good out there, “said the 2018 Skate America and Grand Prix Helsinki silver medalist. “When I started, I had in my head, ‘just do it,’ and I kept repeating it throughout the program and it felt really good. Just one stupid mistake towards the end of the program (fall on triple flip), but you know what, I am happy the season ended the way it did. It was a really good competition. I got two standing ovations, which especially in Japan is really amazing.”

The skater said that since his move to work with Rafael Arutyunyan, the environment has helped motivate him in practice and feels that his skating has greatly improved.

“I became more confident,” said the skater who will turn 30 next week. “I am definitely going to take a break, I need it. I am not sure if I am going to keep going, Rafael really wants me to. If my body can take it, if my mind is ready for it, and if it is completely on the ice and prepared to work, then I will keep going. If there is even a little bit of a doubt in my mind, or my body is not working the way that it needs to, I don’t think I am going to continue. Everyone wants to finish with a great performance.

USA’s Jason Brown, who stood in second after the short, took a fall on a quad Salchow, and finished 14th (157.34) in the free skate. With a total score of 254.15, he placed ninth overall.

“To be honest I feel great,” said the ever-exuberant skater. “It is not the performance that I had wanted, but I am so proud of the fight that I put out there, the growth that I made this year. Also I am so proud at my teammates. It feels amazing to perform here, I love the Japanese crowd, I love the feeling of performing out on that ice, especially in Japan. So I just kind of row on that wave of love and encouragement during the whole program.”

“This season, I was constantly pushed out of my comfort zone, we are constantly changing things, adapting things,” noted the U.S. bronze medalist. “Every time we go out to compete, it’s like we are trying something new. That has been the steps along the way, and I took another step today. Next season, I hope everyone will see how much progress I have made thus far, and this was kind of a glimpse what to expect in the future.”

Andrei Lazukin of Russia rounded out the top 10 (248.74) in his debut at this event.

“This season I have got a lot of experience and learned many things I can use in my future career,” said the skater, who recently finished fifth at the 29th Winter Universiade. “I feel I have found the good mood for the competitions, and managed to make my quads more consistent. I still need to fix my triple Axel, though. I am dreaming to win all the competitions I take part in. I think every athlete thinks the same. I promise I will work hard for it.”

The post Chen defends World title with record scores appeared first on Golden Skate.

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