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Bates bits: An American perspective from WTT

U.S. silver medalist ice dancer blogs about adventures in Tokyo

Evan Bates has earned celebrity status in Tokyo, thanks to his curly blonde hair.
Evan Bates has earned celebrity status in Tokyo, thanks to his curly blonde hair. (Renee Felton)

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By Evan Bates, special to icenetwork.com
(04/10/2013) - As U.S. dance silver medalists Madison Chock and Evan Bates represent Team USA at the 2013 World Team Trophy, Bates chronicles his adventures in Tokyo.

Wednesday, April 10

Hello from Team USA at the third World Team Trophy!

The enthusiasm for this rather new event is widespread among the athletes, officials and -- of course -- the fans. As figure skaters, we are accustomed to competing as individuals. For many of us, the concept of competing as a collective team is new and exciting. The camaraderie among the skaters is at an all-time high, as our fate as a team is dependent on each individual's performance. Needless to say, we are rooting like crazy for one another.

In fact, the World Team Trophy is not the only award at stake this week. In addition to the World Team Trophy, an award is given to the country displaying the most "team spirit." Last year's most spirited country was Italy, and -- as they are not competing at this year's event -- the U.S. team is hoping to take their crown. This will require A LOT of USA flags, wigs, hats and anything else red, white and blue. (To give you an idea of what we are up against, take a look at this YouTube video of highlights from last year's event.)

Never before has a figure skating event seen the competition extend into the kiss and cry, but that is what you should expect this week at the World Team Trophy. Tokyo is a wonderful host city for the Team Trophy, as most skaters would agree that the Japanese fans are some of the most knowledgeable and respectful in our sport.

My only real problem with being in Tokyo is that my inability to use chopsticks is on full display. Within minutes of my first meal here, the waiter saw me fumbling and brought me a fork without my even asking. I would have felt embarrassed had I not just stepped off of a 12-hour flight, which left me in some zombie-like state and seemingly unable to feel human emotion. I replied with my finest Japanese, "Arigato gozaimasu," to which my partner, Madison Chock, laughed. It seems like I'm fitting right in.

In reality, I am a sore thumb in this Asian metropolis. At 6-foot-2 with blond, curly hair, the mere sight of me caused Japanese schoolgirls on the plane to point, giggle and reach for high-fives. Of course, I embraced it and ran down the aisle high-fiving Japanese strangers before proceeding to wash my hands profusely in the small-quartered airplane bathroom. I will take this small amount of attention with a grain of salt, as I know when I return to Ann Arbor, Mich., next week and slip back into complete anonymity, I will feel comfortably at home. Until then, I'm expecting a fun week of skating and cheering for my American teammates here in Tokyo.

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Sayonara,
Evan