For everyone else, the World Team Trophy caps a long figure skating season. For Canada's Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje, it's another precious chance to compete in a season that was cut too short.
The ice dancers are in Tokyo to skate as part of the Canadian squad, four months after Weaver broke her ankle when she slid feet-first into the boards.
The Waterloo, Ont., skaters, perennial national runners-up to Olympic champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, rebounded to finish fifth at the world championships last month in London, Ont. — impressive considering Weaver had returned to training just a couple of weeks beforehand, and was competing with a plate and five uncomfortable screws holding her fibula together.
"It was such an amazing experience to be [at world championships] given the circumstances of the season and my injury, and comeback," Weaver said after a recent practice at their Detroit training base. "To come in fifth in the end was very overwhelming. It was just an incredible moment and I think really speaks of our determination and our love for what we do to be able to come from what we do and come back to that."
Now the Canadians, who will skate the short dance Thursday and free dance on Friday, are the favourites in a field that's missing the four teams that finished ahead of them in London, including Virtue and Moir.
"Whatever the competition is, we're really happy to be able to get out there one more time, and finish off the season with a bang," Weaver said.
Three-time world champion Patrick Chan of Toronto leads a Canadian team that also includes 17-year-old Kaetlyn Osmond of Marystown, N.L., and world pairs bronze medallists Meagan Duhamel of Lively, Ont., and Eric Radford of Balmertown, Ont.
Canada, the top-ranked country this season based on international results, is the favourite in the team event that will make its Olympic debut next year in Sochi, Russia. The other countries that qualified for the World Team Trophy, based on rankings, are the U.S., Japan, Russia, France, and China.
Each country has two entries each in men's and women's singles and one each in pairs and dance. The winning country, based on overall points, earns $200,000 US.
While the event makes for a long season for most, Weaver — who broke her ankle Dec. 14 — and Poje are just rounding into form. The 23-year-old Weaver said she's had at least as much training between London and now that she had between her injury and London.
"So we feel very strong, we feel comfortable and confident, and being able to do what we did at worlds gave us so much more confidence and it just proved to us that we could do literally anything that we could set our minds to. Because we didn't have a lot behind us going into that competition," Weaver said.
Weaver is about to be sidelined again — she'll undergo surgery to have the plate and screws removed soon after returning from Tokyo.
She could have delayed the surgery until after next season, "but it's too much of a bother in my skate to leave it in," she said. "If the bone is healed enough, then I'm going to get it out as soon as I can. I don't want to be dealing with it for another whole year, because the screws are right underneath the skin, it's not very pleasant to skate with it."
Weaver and Poje should be considered threats for a medal in Sochi, despite their shortened pre-Olympic season. If anything, Weaver said the past few months have given them a whole new outlook on their sport.
"We really have learned just how precious every day is, and every moment that we're able to do what we love to do and we do this because it's our passion and because it's fun, and we enjoy it, and that makes things much more fun and it's a more positive environment," Weaver said. "I think having that feeling that everything can be taken away from you is a great learning experience."
Kevin Reynolds of Coquitlam, B.C., will also skate men's singles for Canada, while Gabrielle Daleman of Newmarket, Ont., is the second women's singles entry.