The United States took the lead on the first day of the inaugural six-nation World Team Trophy on Thursday with strong efforts from world champion Evan Lysacek and ice dancers Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto at Tokyo’s Yoyogi National Gymnasium.
The American team was in first place in the three-day event with 48 points, while Japan stands second at 43. Canada is third with 39.
Lysacek looked in top form, opening with a superb triple axel, and following that up with a triple lutz/triple toe loop combination, in a strong showing. Lysacek was rewarded with a season-best total of 83.70 for his efforts, which placed him second behind France’s Brian Joubert.
Lysacek felt he was not at his best after the journey from his base in Los Angeles.
“I was maybe missing a little bit of spark that I would have had in my own time zone,” he said.
Mao Asada was the top-scorer in ladies singles with 75.84, which gave her a commanding lead over world silver medalist Joannie Rochette of Canada (62.08).
Mao, the 2008 world champion, opened with a triple axel/double toe loop combo, had a beautiful spiral sequence, and no other major flaws.
“I’m happy with my performance,” Mao said. “It’s the last competition (this season) and I was able to have a higher level in the short. It’s wonderful.”
Miki Ando, who took the bronze at worlds, stands third with the same score at 62.08.
Ando began with a triple lutz/triple loop combo, but was downgraded for the latter jump.
Joubert, the 2007 world champion, had an auspicious beginning to his short program, landing a quadruple toe loop/triple toe loop combination jump, but had trouble with the subsequent triple axel, touching the ice with his hand on the landing.
Despite the miscue, Joubert (85.39) was in first place based on the strength of his combo jump.
“As far as the choreography and the skating go, this was my best short program,” said Joubert.
Nobunari Oda, who finished seventh at the recent world championships, landed a triple toe loop at the outset of his routine, skated clean the rest of the way and is in third place at 79.35.
Oda had been scheduled to open with a quadruple toe loop, but changed his plan prior to taking the ice.
“I wasn’t confident enough to try the quad today,” he said. “I didn’t do well at the morning practice. . . . My second combination jump was a little tilted. As the team captain, I really wanted to do well.”
Takahiko Kozuka, who was sixth at the worlds, had a calamitous outing, singling a planned triple axel, and then falling coming out of a triple loop. He is in 10th place at 65.25, which had a major impact on Japan’s tally for the evening.
Belbin and Agosto (64.27) are first in original dance, ahead of Canada’s Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir (60.98).