The final competitive event of the Team Challenge Cup took place yesterday, April 23 with the mens and ladies free skate. Team North America was in the lead following the pairs and ice dance event. After a great night of skating, Team North America was able to keep the momentum going and walked away with the win and a check for $210,000.
In the first group, Denis Ten who was representing Team Asia in this event, prevailed against his opponents Team Europe’s Sergei Voronov and Team North America’s Nam Nguyen. Nam stole the show for a moment in the kiss and cry as he held up a poster asking American skater Polina Edmunds to prom. She accepted his prom proposal and posted her acceptance reply on Twitter, it was a pretty sweet moment for Team North America.
The next to take to the ice were the first group of ladies. Elena Radionova from Team Europe took the win in this group overcoming Team Asia’s Rika Hongo and Team North America’s Gabrielle Daleman. “Of course I wanted to perform well in my program and I didn’t want to let my team down like I did yesterday,” Elena said. “I think I skated very well in my free program; I could have done better but I thought I did fine.”
Gracie Gold dominated in the next round, nailing both of her triple lutz jumps. With only some minor mistakes it was a small taste of redemption for her that will hopefully help this season to end on a positive note. “It felt more free,” Gracie said in the Mixed Zone. “After I put my hand down on the triple loop, I just thought, that’s like points for the team. Everything you do in this event really is money in the bank.” Gold easily defeated both Elizabet Tursynbaeva from Team Asia and Roberts Rodeghiero from Team Europe, by almost 20 points.
The next group was owned by Adam Rippon who out-skated the new world bronze medalist Boyang Jin who represented Team Asia and overcame Michal Brezina from Team Europe as well. Adam was full of charisma and put out a great skate for the crowd and for his team. “I went for everything,” Adam said, following his free skate. “That’s what I’m proud of. I didn’t give up on any of the levels. I tried to fight my hardest right through to the bitter end.”
Shoma Uno, representing Team Asia, landed the first-ever quad flip in ISU competition on Friday and did it once again in the free skate, which earned him a nice score of 192.92 points. His performance included some minor mistakes, but it also sent out a clear message that he is a force to be reckoned with going into next season, as he finished in first place individually. “I might be lucky that I made it twice in a row, but I’m feeling a little more confident [in that jump],” Shoma said. “I was satisfied with tonight’s program, but I can’t be satisfied going into next season.” Uno became the clear leader in his group overtaking Team Europe’s Mikhail Kolyada and Team North America’s Jason Brown.
Brown fought hard and had a great skate, but it just wasn’t enough to fend off the three quads that Shoma had thrown down. Jason did finish with the second highest score for the men of the evening, which is a great accomplishment in this field. “I had really high expectations coming back [from injury] and I was super, super nervous going in because I had set such a high bar,” Jason said. “I had been off for so long and I wanted to make a splash, I wanted to make a statement when I came back. I didn’t want to be forgotten.”
The ladies were the last to skate and they brought down the house. Reigning world champion Evgenia Medvedev representing Team Europe, had a stellar performance that earned her first place amongst the ladies individually, and a standing ovation. “I think that I’ve done very well,” Evgenia said. “I’ve skated very cleanly and I’m very satisfied with my performance. Satoko Miyahara from Team Asia also had a wonderful performance finishing in second and Ashley Wagner finished in third overall.
Wagner had a quad strain prior to the World Championships and re-strained it at this event during a practice session. Ashley said that it did not affect her performance tonight, as she made some mistakes, but was looking forward to the off-season to allow the injury to completely heal. “Tonight, I really had to fight because I’m absolutely exhausted,” Wagner confessed. “Coming off such a great Worlds I knew that I had set the bar really high for myself and I wanted to end this program off on a very strong note. The triple-triple in the second half for me was amazing. I pulled that out of somewhere very deep inside of me, so I was happy that I was able to pull that off when I needed to.”
Though there was some confusion on how the Team Challenge Cup was structured prior to the competition, it looks like most of the kinks were worked out and the athletes were on board and were well rewarded. There is a strong chance that this event will make a return and will commence every other year on the off year of the World Team Trophy. Though many of the skaters showed signs of fatigue it was great to get a chance to see them compete once final time in the season, giving Gracie a shot of finishing the season well, Jason a chance to compete again this season and Shoma a chance to show off his quad flip and make it into the history books.
Team standings (FINAL)
1. Team North America – 892.42
2. Team Europe – 848.06
3. Team Asia – 820.22
Ladies free skate:
1. Elena Radionova RUS – 133.31
2. Rika Hongo JPN – 122.15
3. Gabrielle Daleman CAN – 115.93
1. Gracie Gold USA – 142.00
2. Elizabet Tursynbaeva KAZ – 123.61
3. Roberta Rodeghiero ITA – 105.00
1. Evgenia Medvedeva RUS – 151.55
2. Satoko Miyahara JPN – 145.02
3. Ashley Wagner USA – 143.20
Men’s free skate:
1. Denis Ten KAZ – 147.77
2. Sergei Voronov RUS – 132.79
3. Nam Nguyen CAN – 127.10
1. Adam Rippon USA – 166.68
2. Michal Brezina CZE – 158.30
3. Boyang Jin CHN – 156.71
1. Shoma Uno JPN – 192.92
2. Jason Brown USA – 181.50
3. Mikhail Kolyada RUS – 165.48