Many of the very best in the world debuted their free skates today at the 2013 Japan Open, and it was Team Japan that came out on top in the team-based free skate-only competition. Individually, World bronze medalist Javier Fernandez and reigning Olympic silver medalist Mao Asada took the men's and ladies' events, respectively.
VIDEOS/PLAY-BY-PLAY: Men's free skate
Fernandez relied on three clean quads - two salchows and one toe - to defeat the field by almost 20 points. Second and third were separated by less than one point, with the home team's Takahiko Kozuka just edging out three-time U.S. champion Jeremy Abbott by 0.72 thanks to a clean quad toe. Olympic bronze medalist Daisuke Takahashi finished fourth after struggling with his triple axel.
On the ladies' side, Asada turned out of a cleanly-rotated triple axel but hit four clean triples to easily win the ladies' event with a 135.16. Team North America took the next two spots thanks to solid efforts from Olympic bronze medalist Joannie Rochette and U.S. champion Ashley Wagner.
VIDEOS/PLAY-BY-PLAY: Ladies' free skate
Rochette, who confirmed that she is not looking to make a return trip to the Olympics this season, proved that she can still hang with the best in the world with six clean triples. Wagner had a strong debut of her new free skate with four clean triples. But two underrotated triples and a two-foot landing on her salchow kept her from finishing above her teammate.
Team Japan's victory makes it two in a row for them. Though not in the same format, the team competition for the Japan Open serves as a preview for the new team event at the Winter Olympics next February.
TEAM (final standings)
1. Team Japan - 544.85
- Takahiko Kozuka JPN - 158.42
- Daisuke Takahashi JPN - 149.12
- Mao Asada JPN - 135.16
- Kanako Murakami JPN - 102.15
2. Team North America - 528.89
- Jeremy Abbott USA - 157.70
- Jeffrey Buttle CAN - 127.43
- Joannie Rochette CAN - 123.99
- Ashley Wagner USA - 119.77
3. Team Europe - 477.84
- Javier Fernandez ESP - 176.91
- Michal Brezina CZE - 125.74
- Adelina Sotnikova RUS - 105.95
- Irina Slutskaya RUS - 69.24