The inaugural Team Challenge Cup kicks off tomorrow, April 22 in Spokane, WA where figure skaters will compete in teams to win not only bragging rights, but a large sum of money. The event is somewhat like the World Team Trophy, but the breakdown and the way it plays out is structured very differently. Three teams will be competing against each other: North America, Europe and Asia and all four disciplines will be included, but of course with a team-scoring format and for $617,000 in prize money.
Now a reigning world silver medalist, Ashley Wagner is riding the momentum of her recent victory into the Team Challenge. “I’m just on cloud nine still,” Wagner said on a phone interview on April 21. “I think it’s an admirable trait for anyone to be able to push through over the years, but to kind of do that myself and then reap the benefits…I think that I was just so happy to see that this was all for a reason and I definitely think that my career is one that nothing has been given to me and I’ve really had to fight for so much. To have all of that pay off in such a big way was so incredible.”
Since winning her silver medal, Ashley has been on the go training not only for this new team competition, but also performing in Stars on Ice. “The show is absolutely incredible,” Wagner said. “It’s so intricate and entertaining and there’s just so many different aspects of it that are exciting, it’s a great show.”
Also performing on Stars on Ice is national champion Gracie Gold. Gold had a tough showing at the World Championships, but has received a lot of support from her fans and she loves meeting them in person during the Stars on Ice meet and greet sessions. Gracie is also set to compete at the Team Challenge this weekend. “This event [Team Challenge Cup] isn’t about any personal goals or achievements, it’s strictly about Team North America and what I can bring to the team,” Gold said during a phone interview on April 21. “Nobody knows what to expect, but as a team event it’s no longer about me or how I want to skate or perform, but you just want to get as many points for your team as possible and every point counts.”
After a long, and somewhat grueling season for most of these skaters, this event serves as the last major international competition of the season.“I think that for us to be competing so late in the season mentally it is probably just the toughest out of all aspects,” Ashley said. “I think we’re all exhausted.The good news is that everyone is coming into it just as exhausted. The fact that it is a different competitive set up makes it fresh and definitely it’s helping all of us compete this late in the season.”
Though many skaters are tired from this season, the Team Challenge Cup is a chance for them to win some much needed prize money which is most likely needed for their training for next season. For some skaters it will be their final time performing their programs, while others are on the hunt for redemption following the World Championships. Either way it is stacking up to be a very enticing event as fans get to watch their favorite skaters compete one final time this season. “I’m excited for the team aspect,” Ashley added. “It’s nice to be able to just let your hair down. It’s a competition and obviously we’re in this to win it but at the same time to be able to compete in a relaxed environment, it’s going to be really great.” The Team Challenge will be streamed live on IceNetwork and CBS will be covering the event as well, so check your local listings and watch as the final event of the season takes flight.