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U.S. champion Max

Jeremy Abbott puts his best foot forward in his spy short program.

Gracie Gold gives her U.S. teammates a big boost with an outstanding free skate. She claimed bronze hardware.

Aaron, Jeremy Abbott and Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir. When they weren’t competing or warming up, team members sat in their respec- tive team boxes surrounding the kiss and cry to support their teammates. U.S. team leader Shawn Rettstatt and team

doctor Dr. Hans Schlecht decked out USA’s box in red, white and blue flags, confetti and noise- makers, while skaters and coaches provided the enthusiasm. Japanese fans, some of the most supportive

and knowledgable in the sport, supplied various spirit items including personalized fans, leis and traditional Japanese good luck charms. As for the competition, great skating was on display in each discipline. In their second season together, Chock

and Bates skated two beautiful programs, win- ning both segments and posting a personal-best 164.91 points. Teir Dr. Zhivago free dance also earned a personal-best mark of 98.37 points. “We’ve been working on this program since

July and we’ve seen it progress through the year,” Chock said.

Teir win came over Canada’s Kaitlyn Weav-

er and Andrew Poje, who finished ahead of the U.S. team at the World Championships. Russia’s Ksenia Monko and Kirill Khaliavin earned the bronze. Wagner and Gold made statements with each earning season-best scores in the free skate to perfectly position themselves going into the Olympic campaign. Wagner is the 2012 Grand Prix Final silver medalist. Between her and Gold, they earned a third ladies spot for the 2014 Olympics by virtue of their respective fifth- and sixth-place finishes at Worlds. To top it off, Wagner finished second at

World Team Trophy with Gold right on her heels.

“We’re here and we’re ready to fight,” Wag-

ner said. “We’ve been missing that for a couple of seasons. Sochi is anyone’s game but we are in the mix and that’s what I’m proud to say.” Te ladies competed last in Tokyo. While

Team USA built a five-point lead over Canada going into the free skate, Wagner and Gold want- ed to maintain their spots (fourth for Wagner, third for Gold) to ensure an American victory. Tey did that and then some. Wagner, skat-

ing immediately before her teammate, displayed a rock-solid Samson and Deliliah program. Her program featured a double Axel-double toe and six other triple jumps. She earned 128.83 points for the segment, finishing second overall behind Japan’s Akiko Suzuki. With her rowdy teammates watching from

the kiss and cry, Gold, the 2013 U.S. silver med- alist, took the ice. By the time she was done, her Life is Beautiful free skate earned 127.05 points. She started with a triple Lutz-triple toe combi- nation and continued with elements including a double Axel-triple toe and three Level 4 spins. “It’s a great way to end the season,” Gold

said. “Experience was important this year. Every competition from the beginning to Worlds to World Team Trophy, I’ve gotten better. It’s just experience on the senior level that’s helped me get my season’s-best at almost every competi- tion.” Japanese superstar Daisuke Takahashi won

the men’s event for the second straight year with 249.52 points. Second to three-time reigning World champion Patrick Chan after the short program, Takahashi easily won the free skate. Chan, Team Canada’s captain, struggled

through his free skate and suffered three falls. He was far enough ahead after the short program that his total score of 240.21 points was still good enough to claim the silver medal. His country mate, Kevin Reynolds, secured the bronze medal. Aaron, who came virtually out of nowhere to win his first U.S. title in January, has had re- spectable showings at three ISU championship events this spring. He finished fourth at 2013 Four Continents, seventh at Worlds and fourth at World Team Trophy. His signature free skate, which featured two quad Salchows and a pair of triple Axels, earned 159.24 points, good enough for third in the segment. “It was a learning experience, but yet again,

it was tough because I was up there with the top guys,” he said. “Tere was no learning curve. I had to jump in and represent my country.” Abbott competed for the first time since

winning bronze at the U.S. Championships and finished sixth. He earned a season-best free skate score of 151.60 points and feels his perfor- mance in Tokyo sets him up well for his all-im- portant quest to become a two-time Olympian. “It’s been a tough go for me this season,”

he said. “I’m finally starting to get things back together. I was pleased with the performance,

Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir perform a monster throw twist in their short program.

Aaron demonstrates his high-flying repertoire. Aaron finished fourth.

Madison Chock and

Evan Bates wowed the crowd en route to the gold medal.

not super excited, but pleased. It’s a start for next season. I feel I’m in good shape and I want to continue and not go down.” Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov,

one of two World champs competing in Tokyo, easily won the pairs event for Russia. Team USA’s pairs champs Marissa Castelli and Simon Shna- pir closed their most successful season to date with a fifth-place showing. Te highlight of the event for the Bos- ton-based twosome was attempting their first-ev- er quad Salchow in competition. While Castelli fell on the element, they took the confidence of putting into a competitive program with them. “I went for it, it’s been good in practice,”

Castelli said. “We are happy with how we skated overall.”







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