Akiko Suzuki came from behind with her best free skate of the season to capture the women’s singles title and help Japan earn the bronze medal at the World Team Trophy on Saturday night.
Suzuki thrilled a sellout crowd at Yoyogi National Gymnasium with an elegant performance to “O” from Cirque du Soleil.
She began her routine with a triple flip/double toe loop/double loop combination jump and then proceeded to hit six more triple jumps on the way to victory.
Suzuki’s winning total was 199.58, which was more than 10 points better than American Ashley Wagner, who finished second with 188.60.
Wagner’s compatriot, Gracie Gold, took third with a mark of 188.03.
The United States won the gold in the biennial six-team competition with 57 points. Canada (51) took the silver, while Japan (49) finished third.
“I feel relieved that I was able to skate with everything I had,” said Suzuki. “My willpower carried me through at the end. It was a difficult season, but I skated with all my heart.”
Japan’s chances of retaining its title were hurt by the lack of an entry in pairs. Narumi Takahashi and Mervin Tran helped Japan win the title last year, but split up earlier this season following her shoulder injury.
“We did not have a pairs team here so third is a very good finish for us,” said Japan captain Daisuke Takahashi. “It is tough on all of us with training after the worlds, but everybody did their best.”
Wagner, the captain of the American team, saluted her teammates following their second World Team Trophy title.
“I could not be more proud of the U.S. team,” she said. “Every member contributed to this victory and I am proud to be the captain.”
Three-time defending world champion Patrick Chan was pleased with his squad’s showing.
“The silver medal is a silver lining for us,” noted Chan. “We have a rookie team. This is an improvement from last year when we were third.”
Russia’s Adelina Sotnikova, who led after the short program, struggled in her free skate and wound up fourth on 183.10
Two-time world champion Mao Asada, skating to “Swan Lake,” again was bedeviled by the inability to land her opening triple axel and wound up fifth.
Mao underrotated three triple jumps after the opening mishap, and was unable to execute the back end of a planned double axel/triple toe loop combo.
Mao’s performance here raises many questions ahead of the coming Olympic season, where she hopes to mount a challenge to Kim Yu Na for the gold medal at the Sochi Games.
“I was shaky at the beginning, but got better as I skated on,” commented Mao. “My legs felt heavy in the second half of my program and I could not control my body well.”
Russia’s Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov claimed the title in pairs with a tally of 74.41.
Canada’s Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford were second with 69.94, with France’s Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres (58.73) taking third.
The U.S. won the inaugural World Team Trophy in 2009, while Japan reigned last year. Tokyo has hosted the event each time it has been held.
The format for the first team event at next year’s Winter Olympics will differ from the one used here. In Sochi, each country will have only one entry each in men’s and women’s singles, pairs and ice dance. The team competition will be staged before the individual disciplines at the Olympics.
The World Team Trophy concludes with the exhibition gala on Sunday.