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Suzuki, Japan withstand U.S. surge to win WTT

Japanese victories in men's, ladies too much for Americans to overcome; Canada climbs to bronze

Like her teammate Daisuke Takahashi, Japan's Akiko Suzuki knocked off the world champion.
Like her teammate Daisuke Takahashi, Japan's Akiko Suzuki knocked off the world champion. (Getty Images)

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By Adam Spunberg
(04/21/2012) - Team USA put forth a valiant effort on the final day of the 2012 World Team Trophy event, but Japan withstood the charge and captured gold before the home fans in Tokyo.

Pairs Free Skate

There was plenty of movement Saturday in the pairs discipline. Japan's Narumi Takahashi and Mervin Tran entered the free skate in first, but Russians Vera Bazarova and Yuri Larionov overcame them with 180.70 total points, and Canadians Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford also slipped ahead for second; Takahashi and Tran's 177.56 points were good enough for third, just a whisker behind Duhamel and Radford's 177.62 final score.

Duhamel and Radford's second-place finish proved especially important for Team Canada, as the extra point vaulted the whole team into third place, ahead of France (by way of tie-breaker).

Americans Caydee Denney and John Coughlin climbed to fourth overall, riding the third-best free skate.

"It was a lot of fun," Coughlin said. "We wanted to leave the season with a good taste in our mouths. In front of such a big crowd, to skate like that and stay composed even as the crowd got excited that we were skating well, was a big wave of momentum we can ride into next year."

Ladies Free Skate

The story of the day was Akiko Suzuki, who managed to accomplish the same feat that her teammate, Daisuke Takahashi, completed Friday: She knocked off a world champion.

On the heels of her gold-medal showing at the 2012 World Championships, Carolina Kostner looked poised to continue her dominant season, but she could not carry her lead from the short program into the free skate. She posted 185.72 points overall, putting her in second behind Suzuki.

Skating to Die Fledermaus, world bronze medalist Suzuki landed a double Axel-triple toe and four more triple jumps, but doubled a Lutz and singled a loop at the end.

A humble Suzuki credited the Tokyo crowd for her result.

"I moved up to first place, but my performance wasn't so good, so I 'm a little bit surprised," she said. "The audience was so amazing; they really pushed me forward."

She was also thrilled to aid Japan in taking the whole event.

"The Japanese team was aiming at winning this competition," she said. "We could achieve this goal. I have no other words other than I am so happy."

However, the finest performance in the segment belonged to Ashley Wagner, who channeled the same brilliance that captured her golds at the U.S. championships and Four Continents Championships. Her 122.29 points in the free skate catapulted her to third place overall.

"That performance was just the way I wanted to end my Black Swan program," Wagner said. "It's one of my favorite programs by far, and to skate it clean is quite extraordinary. To top it off, I had a great double Axel-triple toe. Overall, it was a solid program."

As for the competition itself, Wagner relished her time in Japan.

"This was fun," she said. "It's completely different than anything I have ever done before. The U.S. has a great team. We get along really well. The overall atmosphere, watching with everyone, was fun ... It's a competition, but at the same time we're all in this together. I definitely enjoyed this competition very much."

American Gracie Gold, who made her senior international debut in Tokyo, finished a respectable fifth place with 169.65 points, just 0.04 points behind Russia's Adelina Sotnikova for fourth.

"Most of the pressure was from myself to come out and prove myself," Gold said. "I did that in the short program. I was a little disappointed in this free skate, but I still think I put out a good performance."

Gold truly enjoyed being part of the Team USA experience.

"I was glad I had the opportunity to compete here in my senior debut," she said. "It was exciting, and I was happy to compete with all of the skaters I look up to at the senior level."

FINAL TEAM STANDINGS

1. Team Japan - 55
2. Team USA - 53
3. Team Canada - 42
4. Team France - 42
5. Team Russia - 39
6. Team Italy - 39

Note: Canada finished ahead of France for third place because it did better in individual events. Russia placed ahead of Italy for the same reason.

Information from U.S. Figure Skating and the International Skating Union was used in this report.