Russia still dominant at World Team Trophy; Nathan Chen ends season with personal victory

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With both its reigning world champion pairs’ team and ice dance team displaying winning programs on Friday, Russia continues to lead the standings at the ISU World Team Trophy in Osaka, Japan.

The dominant nation has a 91-point total and eight-point margin over second-place United States that will be nearly impossible to catch up to with only the pairs’ and women’s free skates remaining on Saturday. The U.S. and Japan (78 – five points back from Team USA and more than 20 ahead of the rest of the field) are all but guaranteed to continue their streak of finishing on the podium at every World Team Trophy dating back to its start in 2009.

France (56), Italy (53) and Canada (42), without its top athletes, round out the six-country field at the biennial event.

Pairs entered the competition to kick off the day, with Anastasia Mishina and Aleksandr Galliamov winning the short with 73.77 points to add the maximum 12 points for Russia. Just 0.41 points separated the next three teams, with Americans Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier coming out on the tail end of that mix. In their first season together and at Frazier’s World Team Trophy debut, their 65.68 points came in fourth (adding 9 points to the team total) after Knierim fell on her throw triple loop landing.

“It was uncharacteristic because that was the only [throw] so far this week that we missed, so it’s always unfortunate when it’s the one in the [competition] program, but I think it just helps us get more experience,” Knierim said. “We haven’t fallen in a short in a competition, so how do we rally after? … The program was well skated and it didn’t change once the fall happened.”

Italy’s Nicole Della Monica and Matteo Guarise (66.09) and Japan’s Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara (65.82) were second and third.

The free dance results mirrored Thursday’s rhythm dance placements with Viktoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov taking the win (130.15), followed by Italy’s Charlene Guignard and Marco Fabbri (124.75) and Americans Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker (110.16; 10 points for the team).

Three-time reigning world champ Nathan Chen won the men’s free skate (203.24) over Japan’s two-time reigning Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu (193.76), just as he had at world championships three weeks prior. Chen had four quadruple jumps in his program, while Hanyu had three (and singled a planned quad salchow).

“After worlds were cancelled last year, to be able to have a competition truly means a lot as an athlete; to be able to perform, to be able to compete in front of people,” Chen said. “I’m truly grateful.”

After placing fifth in the short, Russia’s Mikhail Kolyada was third (180.72), earning 10 valuable points for his country’s total. Jason Brown was third in the short program but placed eighth in the free (160.33; 5 team points) after errors that included falling on his triple lutz, popping a triple axel and under-rotating his opening quad salchow.

“I’m very proud of my team’s fight today,” Brown said as U.S. team captain. “You know, we really fought out there… I cannot wait for tomorrow, I’ll get to be there the whole day with my teammates, so we’re going to go crazy in in the kiss and cry and cheer on our teammates. It’s going to be an awesome day.”

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