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New post-worlds competition kicks off in '09

ISU World Team Trophy to feature top six nations and $1 million in prize money

International Skating Union President Ottavio Cinquanta announced the creation of a new international competition, the ISU World Team Trophy.
International Skating Union President Ottavio Cinquanta announced the creation of a new international competition, the ISU World Team Trophy. (Lynn Rutherford )

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By Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(03/22/2008) - In Gothenburg yesterday, International Skating Union President Ottavio Cinquanta announced the creation of a new international competition, the ISU World Team Trophy.

"The event will consist of the six best teams of member federations, determined by skaters having obtained the highest number of points in [the previous] Grand Prix season and worlds," Cinquanta said.

"The teams will consist of two men; two ladies; one pair; and one [dance] couple. The first event will [feature] the host country, Japan, and five other [teams]."

The first ISU Team Trophy will be held in Tokyo, April 16-19, 2009. The second competition will take place in 2011.

In addition to the 2008/2009 Grand Prix and World Championships, it is possible the ISU will consider other major competitions, including the European Championships; Four Continents; World Juniors; and the 2008/2009 Junior Grand Prix Series, in determining the six top teams.

Skaters will perform both short and long programs. Prize money will total $1 million USD, divided as follows: $200,000 to the winning team; $170,000 for second place; and so on, in $10,000 increments.

"Of course, the ISU will distribute this money to the team federations, and then they will be so kind as to split it among the athletes," Cinquanta said.

He stressed that should a country be unable to field a pair, it would lose out on possible points.

"One of the motives behind this team competition is a kind of action to force member federations to create skaters of all disciplines," he said. "For example, I am sure, knowing the character of the Japanese, that its federation will quickly prepare a pair."

Actually, the country did enter a pair, Narumi Takahashi and Mervin Tran, at the 2008 ISU World Junior Figure Skating Championships last month. They placed 15th.

In addition, the ISU plans to establish a novice international competition for skaters of all types (figure, speed and short track) aged ten to 13 years, to help prepare member nations' athletes to compete at the junior level.

"Every two years, this will be a kind of festival," Cinquanta said. "This is in line with the recent deliberation of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which announced the formation of the Youth Olympic Games for athletes aged 14-18. We want our nations to take part (in the Youth Olympics) and have athletes ready to go at age 14."

The ISU president left open the question of whether the team competition might be expanded to include nations outside of the sport's top six.

"We want to check if the system works and if the format is correct, and if enough members are [capable] of providing teams," he said. "Whether [the competition] ever expands to more than six teams depends upon how successful it is."