Lae: You’re In The Loop! We’re here to discuss the ups, downs, and sideways of the sport of figure skating, and maybe give you +5 GOE along the way. Let’s introduce this week’s hosts: I’m Lae. I’m an Australian who stayed overseas an extra month for figure skating and it was so worth it. I’m @axelsandwich on Twitter.
Iman: I’m Iman, I’m an 18 year old gremlin from New York who knows what an axis is. I’m @uvuwier on Twitter.
Gina: I’m Gina, you might remember me from last week’s episode. You can find me on Twitter @4ATwizzles.
Gina: Okay, first let’s go over some news that happened this week in figure skating. So the first thing we’re gonna talk about is Polina Edmunds. She has decided to take the season off due to injury, but does plan to return next season. Also, Carolina Kostner is out of Japan Open next week, but she will be replaced by Maria Sotskova. Gabrielle Daleman has also withdrawn from Japan Open due to “poor physical condition”. She will be replaced by Mariah Bell.
Lae: And finally, Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron debuted their Rhythm Dance at French Masters, which is an early season domestic competition. Unfortunately, the livestream was cut off for their performance, but they earned a score of 88.31. They didn’t perform their Free Dance, citing a head injury that Guillaume sustained practicing new lifts, and it was revealed they only seriously began training at the beginning of August. So, oof, we hope that they’ll be okay and yeah. Will be exciting to see what they come up with.
-end segment- 1:51
START: JGP Ostrava
Gina: Okay, so let’s move on to our main segment. So first we’ll be talking about the Junior Grand Prix in Ostrava. Do we have any general thoughts about this competition?
Lae: Yeah, so this is the fifth out of the seven Junior Grand Prixs in, so we’re really starting to see people secure their places in the Junior Grand Prix Final by now. I know the Pairs discipline has already wrapped up and so we have all the qualifiers. So not only is it exciting to see who’s qualified and will be going to Vancouver in December, it will be a good thing to observe how certain skaters have improved between their two assignments and what they still need to work on. So the men in the Junior Grand Prix: the gold went to Andrei Mozalev. He was second in the Short Program but managed to win overall with some nice jumps - he had really good, tight air positions, leg wrap, was a fast rotator. I think he could have used a little more attention on the engagement in his hands, his posture, and his general projection. This is something we’re going to cover a little later in this entire podcast, but something I wanted to comment on was the music choices that his team made for both his programs. So I think we’re going to talk about this a little bit further later on but, but I do think that music choices especially at the junior level can sometimes hamper the skaters’ interpretation and performance ability. Especially when you have something like his Short Program which was, honestly, it was a bit of an old song like it sounded - just really old timey, really old fashioned music. And...I don’t know…
Gina: Yeah… wasn’t it a Frank Sinatra song?
Lae: Yeah. Like… he’s 15!
Iman: I think if they gave him - he should have much better music, something that he’s able to connect to more because if he had music that he liked it would come through in his performance. Because if you’re giving him such an old song, he didn’t perform it in a way where it looked like he was enjoying it, I guess? And that is a factor that could make a good performance into a great performance.
Gina: You can definitely tell when a skater is really enjoying their music, and when they’re not.
Lae: Maybe that’s his thing? Maybe he’s a Frank Sinatra fanboy or something but I don’t blame any 15 year old boy for struggling to interpret that music or perform it effectively while also trying to remember his steps and everything. So it is a little comment that I think we’re going to expand on a little bit more later on music choices and how it interacts or can hamper a skater’s ability to perform. And I think that segues nicely into the thing we wanted to talk about a little bit in relation to Junior Men that I’ve observed throughout the Junior Grand Prix so far. And it’s what sets some Juniors apart from others, apart from obviously their jumps and their technical ability. And I think what’s really, really coming through is the expressiveness and responsiveness to music and the ability to perform. So I think it’s very natural for Juniors to still need to work on this, and this is often the last step in a skater’s ability to be an all-around performer, because you have to be confident enough in your steps and choreography. You have to really internalize your program in order to start performing it to the crowd and projecting it outwards from you. But I think for Juniors who have competed for a while, especially on the circuit who are maybe a little bit older like 17-18, I think it’s often a crucial step in elevating them from being a Junior-ish competitor into someone who is ready for the Senior ranks, I suppose. And the people who have the potential to break into the top Senior echelon. They do often show really good performance and expressiveness skills.
Gina: And I think you can see that in the silver medalist, Camden Pulkinen. He’s a good example of what it means to express outwards with your movements. And compared to the bronze medalist, Joseph Phan, he does show a lot more expression.
Lae: Yeah, in his face, and how he performs.
Iman: I feel like with Camden, you can really tell that he’s really trying to be more expressive with his performances. Even in his Free Skate, where he did struggle with his jumps, he was feeling the music and you could tell that he was enjoying the music. He was singing along to it and again, that really adds to the performance because figure skating is also an artistic sport. And I feel like that’s what made his performances a bit more enjoyable than some of the other men. Because some of the other Junior men were a bit more restricted when it came to expressing themselves. Body language, their posture, or just their expression. Some of the young men are pretty stiff when it comes to it, like their posture, the way they move their arms -- there’s a stiffness instead of them being flowing. Instead of flowing, I guess they’re not going with the music? They’re not feeling the music. So when you see that, it becomes really jarring when you watch the performance because you can really tell and instead of highlighting their strengths, it points out their weaknesses because you can see in moments where, oh they lost a jump, because of of their “expressionlessness” it’s more highlighted. Like oh, he messed up that jump, instead of them going out and keeping a specific expression with their program and the mood of the program.
Gina: I think that one of the skaters that, for me, kind of stands out for that is Mitsuki Sumoto.
Lae: Oh, Mitsuki…
Gina: There’s a lot of moments where he is kind of relying on the music to do the work for him. And he’s doing the choreography, but there’s no mental engagement in what he’s doing with his body and there’s no tension in his arms, so he’s throwing his “why” hands up with a dramatic flair in the music, but there’s no tension there and there’s no engagement -- while Camden does have that engagement through his whole body where he’s really thinking about how his movements express the music. And that’s the difference between the two of them.
Lae: And it’s such a pity with Mitsuki because, to his credit, that calmness and that collectedness contributes to his ability to remain on his feet and he’s usually quite reliable in that he does skate well and he has really good skating skills. But there’s a certain point where it really does detract from that performative aspect. And it often, unfortunately, makes the performance not stand out as much. It’s the memorable, emotional performances that tend to stick in judges’ minds, and that’s also what will elevate their performance and interpretation marks. So, it is a shame because it just feels like he - I just want him to just yell or something, just show something other than that collected calmness, and that will elevate or make him break out in the minds of the audience and among the field as well.
Iman: Definitely. If he improves upon his expression and how he does everything, it would really improve his skating overall and it would make him a lot more enjoyable to watch and a lot more memorable. So he won’t be just another skater that people might forget, which would be really disappointing because he’s a good skater.
Lae: And it’s not just Mitsuki. It really, again, is I think something that really you would see in a very precocious Junior male skater, and with male skaters in particular it is something that -- emotional expression, wearing your heart on your sleeve and freely sinking into the drama of the moment, isn’t something that naturally comes to them, and a lot of them are shy -- they’re hesitant in their movements. So it’s all the process of learning. But that is something that I think separates the really distinctive ones who can master that from the rest of the field.
Iman: Also, they might hesitate because they don’t want to look bad I guess, because there are some skaters -- they know how to present themselves, they know what they look good with. Because they’re so young, because they’re still exploring that, they’re sort of hesitant. They don’t want to be like, oh let me do this because, they might think it’s not going to look as good, I might look dumb, they might take points of from-
Lae: Which is totally so natural for a teenager, I think we forget that sometimes. But if people can master that a little bit more, especially the junior men, I think that would elevate a couple of really decent skaters with good basics.
Iman: So let’s get into Ice Dance. Picking up right where they left off at Bratislava, Elizaveta Khudaiberdieva and Nikita Nazarov took their second Junior Grand Prix Gold with a total score of 161 flat. Both their Rhythm Dance and Free Dance showed off their class of the field edges, speed, and performance ability. Their rotational lift to end the Rhythm Dance was a particular highlight.
Gina: Maria Kozakova and Georgy Reviya nabbed the silver medal with quality performances. They did go out of synch in a few twizzles, but their total score was 154.17. Their Rhythm Dance showed off a lot of charisma and musicality from both of them.
Lae: Yeah, and finishing with bronze was a newer team: Diana Davis and Gleb Smolkin and they finished with 148.62. They are new, but their lifts were really smooth and well choreographed and I think the rotational lift on the crescendo in the Rhythm Dance was particularly effective, so well done to them.
Gina: Moving onto the Pairs. In first place with 184.73 was Ksenia Akhanteva and Valerii Kolesov from Russia. They came back from a second place Short Program to win their Free with a solid showcase - they really showed off effortless elements within their current skill level. Really good job. Just like at their first event in Bratislava, their highlight element was a perfect side by side spin to cap the end of their “Interstellar” Short Program.
Lae: And our favorite upside-down finishing pose team, Polina Kostiukovich and Dmitrii Ialin from Russia, were unfortunately not able to repeat their Free Skate from the Cup of Austria, because Polina did fall on the triple Salchow and there were some scratchy throw landings, so they finished second with a total score of 180.88.
Iman: Finally, in third place were Sarah Feng and TJ Nyman, the first and only non-Russian pair to medal on the Junior circuit. They had minimal mistakes and their twist was really well executed, which is a staple of their coach Dalilah Sappenfield, and they earned a total score of 163.44. Since this is the last event for Pairs on the Junior Grand Prix, this means the roster has been set for the Final in December. The lineup includes all three medalists here as well as Anastasia Mishina and Aleksandr Galliamov, Apollinaria Panfilova and Dmitry Rylov, and Anastasia Polvianova and Dmitry Sopot.
Lae: Yeah, so upshot is basically all Russian Grand Prix Final for Pairs except for the US team, so, really huge credit to the consistency of the Russian skaters. It’s not easy to maintain that level throughout all of the Junior Grand Prix competitions across so many weeks. And I also wanted to give a quick shoutout to Cleo Hamon and Denys Strekalin from France. They had this “Hunger Games” Free Skate, which had surprisingly interesting music cuts with really good thematic choreography, you could really tell they were evoking “Hunger Games” references in there. And I think given it’s the Junior Grand Prix, we forget that these kids are teenagers, so it’s really good to see music that they would actually be following maybe or really connect with. And I thought that really showed in their Free Skate.
Lae: Let’s move on a bit to the Ladies. So the gold for Junior Ladies went to Alena Kostornaia, who is also through to the Junior Grand Prix Final. She won gold in both of her events, so great job to her. Uncharacteristically, she did make a mistake in both her Short and Free Programs, and it was a really rough Short Program to watch, because it looked like she was struggling to keep up from the music after that uncharacteristic mistake. And it was so upsetting because she was crying, and it looked a bit like she was fighting back tears while she was skating as well. It was really unfortunate, because her performance was still great overall, really high GOE on all her elements, apart from those mistakes.
Gina: Yeah, in the Short Program the error really did seem to shake her but she managed to keep it together until the program was over, which I think is what - if she’s going to take anything from this competition and be proud of, that’s what it should be. She made errors, but she carried on, she did her best, she managed to hold the program together and perform really well overall. That’s really the important thing for her to take away from it - it is that she can make mistakes, but still save the program and still deliver two good programs even though she did have errors.
Iman: You know, seeing her cry, it was heartbreaking - it was worrying, because when you see younger ladies look so sad and disappointed after performances where they make one or two or many mistakes. It’s really disheartening, because they are so young, and you know -
Lae: You’re just like, it’s okay, baby! Like, don’t cry! (Iman: Don’t cry, please) It’s okay!
Iman: It’s understandable, because people are perfectionists, and it is a competitive sport, so you don’t want one mistake to ruin your whole entire chance. But there have been rumors - because they’re rumors, they aren’t verified - that she had a fever and allergies, which could be simple explanation for the fact that she had really red and puffy eyes even before she started her skates. It may just be because of fever and allergies, but she was crying at the end, which was really just sad, because you don’t want such a young skater to cry.
Lae: Yeah, she did have some tape on her hamstring in her Free Skating program, so it could also potentially have been an issue. When she jumped her triple flip, she did have a bit of a delay in the way she jumped it, because I think she was a bit slow unwrapping her leg, so it could potentially be something to do with that. We just hope that she’s okay and healthwise, she’ll be healthy for the Junior Grand Prix Final. She does have a bit of a rest, so fingers crossed for that.
Gina: And in silver, we have Yelim Kim of Korea, and she had a clean skate, which was nice for her. She did a really good job - it was a really good competition for her. I hope she continues to develop. She does need to work on her projection and vocabulary of movement that’s required to suggest emotion and engagement with her program, but she’s got very nice elements, and I’m proud of her. Well done.
Lae: She has a good shot at the Junior Grand Prix Final too. It will all depend on how the remaining skaters do, but I think apart from a little bit of work to do with emotional projection just like we were just talking about with the Junior Men, hope that she will continue to improve on that. And coming in third place was Viktoria Vasilieva from Russia. She’s fairly new on the Junior Grand Prix circuit and - (Iman: She’s only 14) Yeah, she’s only 14, so decent basics I think. Just like Yelim Kim and a lot of other Junior skaters, still has a bit to go with projection of her programs, but a decent set of basics is always a really good starting point, so fingers crossed that she will also continue to improve.
-end segment- 18:53
START: Nebelhorn Trophy
Iman: Next up we have the [Challenger Series] Nebelhorn Trophy. So overall, the Ladies field was pretty packed with good performances in general, especially the final group. Overall, the Ladies, it’s pretty good, but there’s this one specific thing that has been coming up in discussion when it comes to figure skating, and Ladies especially, which is PCS. And we’ll get into that later, but that’s something that’s really been in the forefront of most discussions when it comes to Ladies.
Lae: We’ll be doing a detailed breakdown just shortly, but first we’ll run through the Ice Dance, Pairs, and Men before we get to all of that.
Gina: So winning their first Challenger Series gold with a score of 194.12 was Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier from Canada. They were really great in the Rhythm Dance and the Free Dance. Their Tango Romantica pattern in the Rhythm Dance showed off perfect posture. They have really lovely shapes in their holds that I really enjoyed. Their Free Dance was perfectly matched to fit the way that their music built up, so that was really nice too. Well done to them.
Iman: Next up we have Rachel and Michael Parsons who earned their third Challenger silver, and the sibling team has earned a total of 180.95 and a seasons best. They did their Free Dance to “To Build a Home”, and it shows a lot of, you know, they had great edges and great speed.
Lae: Props to the Parsons for their third Challenger. I feel like we've seen them basically every week since like the start of the month.
Gina: And it's been nice to see them improve.
Lae: Yeah, absolutely. And earning the Bronze with the total score of 177.49 was Christina Carreira and Anthony Ponomarenko. So this was their second Challenger or a second, I suppose, competition of the season following the US Classic. They showed off an ethereal Free Dance to a mix of “Clair de Lune” and “Bloodstream” and “Angel” by Tokio Myers, and I really love their stunning curved line lift. That was a real highlight moment.
Iman: Okay, so next we'll get into Pairs which was very very very unpredictable. It was anything but predictable. The first place team of Alisa Efimova and Alexander Korovin of Russia came back from a fourth place finish and an unexpected step sequence fall in the Short to win the free and the event overall with a score of 178.94.
Lae: Yup. So they beat Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Chris Knierim from the US, who are making the season debut of new programs and their new coach, who is Olympic champion Aljona Savchenko, so I thought this Short Program was such a departure from their more traditionally, classic style. It was quite edgy; it was a new style with, I think, really really good choreography. So it's really promising to see them take a completely new direction in terms of their image and style, but unfortunately, old issues with side-by-side jumps in the Free Program did rear their ugly heads, so there was a bit of a struggle there. But yeah, I'm just really excited to see how they progress with this new program style.
Gina: Rounding out the podium with a score of 174.91 were Deanna Stellato and Nathan Bartholomay of the USA. They continue to show improvements on their pair elements; their twist especially was much improved. And they did a good job. Well done.
Lae: Okay, so again moving on to the Men's for Nebelhorn, we had Keegan Messing from Canada winning gold overall. We're going to talk a little bit about his Short Program in a second, but I just want to put it out there that he's keeping his Free from last season. I do think it suits him much better than his Short Program because it does have dynamics, rise and fall in his program, and Keegan rotates superfast in all his jumps, so it's really pleasing when he lands them, because it's just this whirl of rotating man landing really well. So yeah, props to him for getting those jumps in.
Gina: Keegan is admittedly not to my taste, which is fine. Not everything has to be for me. He's just not my cup of tea. I prefer skaters that are more on the abstract and lyrical side, than kitschy and character-based, but his style is his style. It’s fine. His Free Skate to Chaplin does work for me a lot more than his Short Program. I saw it at the Olympics, I really enjoyed it. He's a really good performer. He has good skating skills. He's got good technical skills. It's really nice to watch him when he's on. He's really entertaining. His Short Program is a cover of “You've Got a Friend In Me” by, the plague of figure skating, Michael Buble.
Lae: Gina will tell us how she really feels in a second. It's also the “Toy Story” song which seems oddly fitting for Keegan for some reason.
Gina: I would maybe like it more if he was dressed as a cowboy.
Lae: That's true. Keegan, you dropped the ball completely.
Gina: You’ve got that cowboy hat. (Lae: Oh my god, he does!)
Iman: Imagine he came up with actual cowboy boots as his skates. That would be fantastic.
Gina: That would be so cute.
Lae: If you're going to go for disco Romeo and Juliet, you might as well like go the entire way, like come on.
Iman: I was just - here's the thing, I like Keegan, but I'm just really disappointed, because I find most of his programs pretty boring. For example, the choreo for the Short Program. It didn't go along with the music most of the time, and it just sort of was jarring to watch him skate to that, because it was like he wasn't with the music, right? It didn't match well. His Free Skate was much much better. And it sort of matched Keegan as, you know, as we know him.
Gina: I disagree that he's boring. I think he can give the impression of being boring, because a lot of his programs are very similar. I wouldn't say he was boring though, because he does have really good performance quality when he's on. He’s very expressive in his face, and he does carry it through his body. My problem with the Short Program is it's so disconnected from the music. The music is pretty like, it's almost incidental rather than part of the performance, so it completely takes you out of it.
Iman: Yeah, I didn't completely mean Keegan is boring, because a lot of his performances are very entertaining. He himself is a very entertaining person. He's goofy. He's silly, and it's really fun to watch him skate, but it's just sort of like the monotony of his programs and how so many of them are very, very similar throughout his entire skating career. It's sort of gets dulled down, because you're like, “I've seen this before.” You want him to have something newer.
Lae: I think Keegan really exemplifies the question of is there such thing as like character typing for figure skaters, right? Because it's like, when you have a certain actor who's always playing like one type of character. I think there is such thing in figure skating and sort of being boxed in by a style of music, and I would say like, to an extent, I think the style of music really embodies Keegan's image, right? He tends to go for quirky, funny, like a little dorky in terms of his programs, and that might actually just be who he is, and it's not like we're saying he should become someone completely different. But I think, for example, his Short Program, it's, you know, it's crooning. It's like slightly dated in terms of the vibe, and it is something that (Gina: It’s very Canadian) - somehow, it's very Canadian. So yeah, and maybe that's something what he likes and is comfortable with, and I think his Free Skate really lets those best qualities shine, but I think in some ways, it also keeps him into the sort of middling section of, especially like performance marks, where I really can't see how his performance and choreography, interpretation PCS can increase without some sort of drastic transformation, because he does it all very reliably, but like Iman said, it kind of does a point where you're like, I've seen it before, like what is really grabbing your attention? I don't think his Short Program music - the way it's caught, the way it's structured really does anything for him there, and to his credit, there was an attempt to keep up with the music, but he kind of kept missing the music accents and part of it is there wasn't much musical accent for the program to give. It was like this very laid-back, like soothing piece that it didn't have the sort of rise and fall that you really need to kind of make an impression.
Gina: Yeah, I don't think it's good music to skate to.
Lae: Yeah, so, I don't know. It's something that we're going to discuss a little bit more with the Ladies as well, because I see similar problems there. But just quickly let's move on to Alexander Majorov from Sweden, who won the silver in Nebelhorn, because I have such a soft spot for Swedish uncle Alexander and his sparkly tie color change. If you have not seen his Free Skate, you really need to go watch it right now, because he completely - like Keegan, take notes - because if you're going to go full uncle, like, go full uncle. He totally did that, and I am so happy he did, because despite his terrifying jump axis, he saved them somehow, and I think he deserves more in performance and interpretation skills.
Iman: Yeah, I agree. He's such an entertaining skater to watch, and he's 27, and he still, you know, he’s still competing. Which is really -
Lae: With a quad as well! It’s like, he handed his quads.
Gina: And someone who is 27. 27 is not old. (Lae: He’s not old!)
Iman: In skating age, because you know, (Lae: It's like dog years) Yeah, it’s dog years.
Lae: He’s actually 82.
Iman: He's actually way older, but it's really nice to see him, considering in skating years, he's a lot older, you know, he's an uncle as we say. But he did have a bit of a nasty fall in the first combo, but I love that he didn't let that stop him from going all out in his performance. That was really, really nice to see and I think he's been here for such a long time, so I feel like he doesn't let that get to him. Maybe that's just me, but he's just such a fun person to watch, and you want him to succeed, because you're like, you know, “go Alexander, you can do it!”
Gina: So for bronze we have Artur Dmitriev of Russia, he caught everyone’s attention by doing a triple Lutz-triple flip, which -
Lae: The cursed combination.
Gina: Everyone else says “Why?”, he says “Why not?”.
Lae: And that’s the sort of attitude that we need in figure skating.
Iman: He’s a rebel.
Gina: I mean, he is the other guy that, um, that has made quad axel attempts.
Iman: Oh, dear. The cursed jump.
Gina: I’m glad he didn’t try it here.
Lae: His figure skating M.O. is just - chaos.
Iman: He’s a chaotic child. He’s here to make everyone scream.
Lae: People were a little confused about whether that was even a valid combination. Yes, it is still a Lutz, even though he landed on the inside edge, essentially, to take off for the flip. The jump is called on the edge you take off from, not the edge you land on, so it was a valid triple Lutz. It’s not against the rules to land on your inside edge, but under the ISU guidebook, it should warrant minus GOEs. We can really only conclude he put it there because he could, again, chaos skater, I kind of support that.
Iman: It’s a lovely way to tell the ISU that he does not care.
Gina: It’s a really ugly combination, it’s not pretty to look at. (Hosts laugh).
Lae: Maybe he’ll improve on it.
Iman: It looks wrong, it looks wrong and complicated.
Gina: Part of that is because I think he lands on his left foot, not his right foot, which is, again, not against the rules, you can do that, but yeah, it looks kind of ugly.
Iman: I rewatched the video of the combo on loop and every single time when I saw him landing on his left, it just looked so wrong. Also, his knee bend was a bit concerning, the landings were - they weren’t awful, but they were a bit wonky, and if he does polish this combo up, I don’t know how he would do that but if he does, that would be very, very impressive.
Lae: With minus GOE technically, but… (Hosts laugh).
Iman: Again, as I said, he’s a rebel. He does what he wants.
Lae: Chaos skaters, we love them. There aren’t too many of them nowadays, but that’s fine. Moving on to the Ladies, the gold went to our newly minted Olympic champion, Alina Zagitova, with a pretty monster Free Skate score and a total of 238.43. I think she has said in a recent interview that she’s grown about 7 cm since the Olympics -
Gina: Shoma Uno wishes. (Hosts laugh).
Iman: Leave him alone, okay.
Lae: This is an attack on poor Shoma. But in light of all of that, I was just impressed that she has successfully kept her jumps, first of all, and I remember that she was trying her back Charlotte spiral into back counter double Axel at the beginning of last season, she dropped it around the middle of the season but it’s back and she’s executing it successfully, so it’s good to see that improvement. I think in general all of her elements were fairly solid, her jumps could use a little more flow coming out of them, but they’re solid jumps, she’s a very good skater in general, so basically all we’re going to say from now on is - as the underlying understanding, my issue with a lot of Alina’s programs is to do with the way the programs themselves are choreographed and structured, and not so much on her own skating and the skills that she has. Her Short Program, I think, is the most controversial, because it is her “Phantom of the Opera” Short Program. I’ve talked about the fact that this program’s music cuts are really, really atrocious, in my opinion. It has this particular tendency to be chaotic and dissonant, I think I’ve seen this in quite a few of Eteri’s team’s programs in general, but there is a part where the music is so chaotic and dissonant that I wonder if it’s to mask the fact that she either can’t or just is not able to skate to the music properly, because it’s just - there’s chaos, you can skate whatever skating skill you want. And the last triple flip was not landed to the change of music at all, so there were little timing issues there that I couldn’t figure out if it was just the way the program was structured or if she was missing her cues or behind the music or something, because it was so chaotic, it was like ‘I don’t know what is happening, is she skating to music? Who knows?’. So that is just one of the problems with her Short Program that we’ll talk about a little bit more.
Gina: There were parts where I thought that maybe the cuts were to specifically house certain elements. It really jumped out to me after the step sequence and when she goes into the spin, the music changes for the spin and it struck me as they picked that specific piece of music for the step sequence and then that piece of music for the spin. But for the jumps it really doesn’t work, because there are some parts where the jumps just aren’t on any part of the music in particular, it’s just there. The triple Lutz-triple loop looked underrotated and it was noticeably tight on the landing of the loop, but the technical panel didn’t call it. I don’t mind technical panels siding with skaters on calls that are unclear as long as they’re consistent across all skaters in the competition and I’m not entirely sure this technical panel was.
Iman: I feel like overall, even from the start, as soon as we saw this skate - the music cuts are really bad and you could see that she’s trying really hard to keep up with it, even though there’s nothing to keep up with, because there’s no consistency with the music, it’s just a weird jumbled up mess. It feels very weird to see her skate to that, because it just looks off.
Lae: For her Free Skate, she performed it to “Carmen.” I actually enjoyed the program more than I thought I would. It was a striking opening and you can really see that facially she was trying to channel the mischief of “Carmen.” The program itself is structured similarly to her “Don Quixote” program last season in that it really relies on the fact that she will land her jumps on the music beats and it is really quite striking when she does, so it’s a formula that works, but it is very much reliant on her to be clean so that she can hit all of those jumps. It really is quite unforgiving if she does miss anything, as we saw last season at Worlds. I thought the triple Lutz-triple loop also looked a bit borderline underrotated, but it wasn’t called and, again, camera angles weren’t the best, so… It is very much a case of wanting the technical panel to be consistent, but it was something that I noticed in real time.
Gina: My cause of death this season is going to be “Carmen.” (Hosts laugh). There are so many programs to it and I hate the music.
Iman: It’s the season of “Carmen”s.
Lae: After “Moulin Rouge” last season.
Gina: Oh, God. The first section has some good jump placements and really nice choreographic touches on the exits and the entries of the elements, they’re really linked well together and are matched to the music pretty well, but it does seem to go downhill after the second double Axel. Some of her jump landings in the Free Skate did look unbalanced and lacked flow. I think the Grade of Execution in that triple Lutz-triple loop and, to be honest, all her other jumps too, especially the triple flip-double toe-double loop and the triple flip, were a bit generous. She was losing balance at points in the step sequence as well and her spins weren’t as controlled. Her skating seemed slower and more labored overall in the Free Program. I do think her performance in the Short was much better.
Lae: It’s early season, too. It’s her first competition, so it’s not necessarily surprising. What is surprising is the scoring, which we will go down to later. Coming in silver was Mai Mihara from Japan. Her Short Program we will talk about, because I have many opinions on it, but she has kept her Free Program “Gabriel’s Oboe” from last season and I’m really glad she did, because I love this program for her. It’s light but it has the pathos that she needs in her program, it gives it a sort of weight and it makes it very compelling. I love the build up, and sweep, and the ending. I love Mai’s jumps in general, they’re so lovely and light and effortless and it really flows with the entire program and with her style of skating.
Gina: We’ll get into this more, but what really stood out to me was spiral positions that were held long enough and with the extension to be completed. Amazing! Her skating was really light and quick and it really suited the music very well. It’s a good program for her.
Iman: This is a side note but I really, really liked her costume. I generally really like the costumes overall, but this costume, first of all, the color is so pretty, it’s like a light, blue-ish, almost periwinkle color. When she went into jumps and spins it flowed so beautifully and it’s one of those moments where costumes are so important when it comes to a person’s skate, because it can add so much more. It made her jumps look better, it made her spins look better. It matched the music.
Lae: She looked angelic.
Iman: Exactly, she looked angelic. And on top of that, her skating is so smooth and soft and so effortless looking, overall she executed everything so well and it was really pleasing to watch.
Lae: The bronze medal went to Loena Hendrickx, with her Short Program to Celine Dion. I noticed Loena from Milan Worlds last season, so I’m so delighted that she did so well here. She really has this alert intensity to the way she skated both her Short and Free Program, and I really think there’s this sort of pleasing maturity to the way she moves that should be rewarded in Performance and Interpretation. She has really nice use of her upper body, her flexibility and arms, and she really tries to match the fast tempo of the step sequences in a way that took the intensity of the music and ran with it, which is something that I really value in a skater’s ability to perform and interpret the music.
Gina: The music is going to be stuck in my head for roughly a million years.
Lae: The Short Program music, yes!
Gina: Yeah, it’s not something I really enjoy, but I am compelled to sing along. She has really lovely spins, and I think her’s is the only A spin that doesn’t look terrible. She has a few moments where I really wish she would extend a little bit more and really feel her positions, but overall - really good. Looking forward to seeing her development over the season.
Iman: I didn’t really like the music much, but then again that’s personal preference. Overall, her performance was really solid. As you said, she has really nice spins, but with her jumps - again, as you said, I feel like her extension could be better. If she works on it more, I feel like this could be a much, much better program.
Lae: She did come across a little labored in her steps, in the Free Skate especially. It’s something to work on, it’s early season and there is definitely potential for growth. Another notable performance, and hotly anticipated, was Marin Honda. Both her Short and Free Skate were quite interesting choices for her. I think her Free Skate music in general was, again, gentle and ladylike to reflect her skating, but it had that element of pathos and depth in it. I do think the melody for both her Short and Free Skate repeat itself a little, and it lacks a bit of highlight moment or build-up, but there are some really nice subtle choreo details. She has moved to a new coach, in the US, Rafael Arutyunyan, so it is a period where we should expect to see a bit of teething issues. She did struggle with her jumps throughout her Short and Free Skate, but again - having gone through such a huge coaching change and a huge country change, it is worth keeping that in mind and being being patient and seeing hopefully that she’ll improve on all of those elements once she adjusts a little.
Iman: But again, changing a coach doesn’t necessarily always mean mistakes and someone having to take time, it’s fixing their skating because of the new coach, because compared to Zhenya, she really improved her Axel and her toe pick. But then again, everyone works differently and every coach works differently. So with Marin maybe it’s going to take her a little longer to get used to it, but let’s hope for the best.
Gina: I do think both of her programs will be - it’ll be nice to see if it really extends her repertoire a little bit and gets her doing different kinds of expressions. Her Short Program especially is quite different to things she’s done before so it’ll be nice to see how that develops.
Lae: I could see the teething issues in her Short Program, because Marin’s naturally a very graceful, soft skater so there were moments where I was like “Tougher arms, girl! You’re in leather!” There were moments where I could definitely see where her old style was leaking through. So if she can fix that, and be able to channel the full feeling of her Seven Nation Army program, I think if she can do that it will really expand her range. So it’s mastering that variety of expression that I think will hopefully be a focal point for her.
– end segment – 44:31
START: PCS Segment
Iman: So we need to talk about PCS. In this next segment we’re going to hopefully be able to break down a couple of problems we’ve encountered in this season and previous ones. So to quickly explain PCS, there are five categories: there is Skating Skills, Transitions, Performance, Composition, and Interpretation of Music or Timing.
Lae: The last one is one category. And for the sake of, I suppose clarity, I personally divide these into hard PCS categories and soft. By hard I mean things like Skating Skills and Transitions, where there is to an extent, you can kind of quantify them in that you can assess the quality of edges and of speed, multi-directional skating and flow for Skating Skills. You can probably count the number of Transitions that were happening in a program, and the quality of them. And then I would say there would be the softer PCS categories, like Performance, [Composition], Interpretation. The reason why I say they’re softer is because, at the moment, given the guidelines that we’ve been given by the ISU, it seems to just be purely a matter of subjective interpretation. Because, as we will discuss very briefly, there are many problems with the way that PCS are defined under the ISU system.
Iman: So let’s just jump into the problems. There isn’t even an official ISU guide, apart from a very, very basic definition on the ISU figure skating page. The two more detailed sets of criteria we could find were from the USFSA and the Go Figure Skating blog. Which is a bit concerning considering the official ISU guide can’t even help people who are trying to get into it, so how can you learn about PCS when the actual governing organization doesn’t have a basic outline to how-
Lae: It does! It lists the criteria, and it’s like a sentence for each category.
Iman: It should be more in-depth though, considering how these things can be graded, and as you said before it’s very subjective with some of them, so I think there should be more from their part with their definitions and their explanations of PCS.
Gina: Yeah, the categories and criteria are very vaguely defined, especially for the more subjective categories. When it comes to Interpretation of Music, how are the judges supposed to measure it? It’s not entirely clear, they don’t add additional descriptions, just literally one bullet point after another, “this is what you’re looking for.” It’s difficult.
Lae: And it’s words like “personal, creative, and genuine translation of the rhythm, character, and content of music to movement on ice”. I literally just read that out from the ISU page. And it’s like, what does personal mean? There is a sort of working unofficial understanding of what this means. So for example, with Interpretation, if a skater lands the jumps to the beat of the music, that’s usually “oh, that’s good Interpretation!”. But like, how many jumps do they have to land to the music? What if they miss the timing for half their jumps, but then succeed really well for the other half? What separates a 9 in Interpretation from an 8? Basically that’s the issue that we take with the way that PCS are defined in that it very much is just very vague, it’s very subjective. And logically I think you should conclude then, that they should be comparable between performances across different events. Or that there are certain performances that can be held up as baseline standards. Here are the qualities you should have for a 9.5 in Performance, or a 9.5 musical Interpretation. But then, often you’ll find in skating fandom there’s a common saying that you shouldn’t be able to compare the scores across the different judging panels. So what is the truth?
Gina: I mean really, the assessment for any program should be purely in what is presented on the ice at that time, at that competition. So there is going to be some variety. But when words like performance - if a skater gets a standing ovation should that indicate that they had a strong connection to the crowd? Because that is one of the criteria of the Performance category. What about skaters that will get standing ovations depending on the contexts, so when an Italian skater in Milan gets a standing ovation because they performed cleanly?
Lae: Which did happen! With Matteo Rizzo, he brought the house down. And I don’t know if that warrants a 9 in Performance, but intuitively you wonder. If the crowd is on their feet and cheering completely because he pulled off that program, what more are the judges looking for when it comes to the emotional involvement of the skater as they deliver the intent of the music?
Gina: Projection and connection to the crowd is only one criteria of that component, it’s not the whole thing.
Iman: Even with that, there could be bias when it comes to a crowd. Say for example, an American skater in front of an American crowd might garner standing ovations even if their program was okay, or a Japanese skater might garner an ovation in front of a Japanese audience. And it’s obviously not always like that, but you have to think about that. Because with bias, it comes to what would be fair when it comes to that, because something that most people might find okay might be absolutely amazing to a certain crowd. So how do you differentiate between that?
Gina: Certain skaters are just more popular.
Iman: Definitely, certain skaters are just a lot more popular.
Gina: There’s always going to be early group skaters that skate really well and do project really well, but don’t get the big rounds of applause because most of the crowd just doesn’t know who they are.
Lae: Yes. Kevin Aymoz at ACI deserved way more applause. We’re not trying to say that PCS can be rationally broken down into these very neat scientific categories. There’s a reason why they’re the “artistic marks.” There is a certain point where you can’t define them more. But surely there has to be some sort of standard and baseline? And I think there is, because there is a certain tier of PCS categories that you seem to feel that skaters fall into, and they rarely break out of that. So if they’re constantly getting 7s, or getting 8s, or getting 9s in PCS. Only certain skaters seem to have the ability to raise their PCS constantly, or at a steady rate, whereas some skaters seem to constantly be stuck there no matter how different or great or how iconic their performances compare to their past. So it is something worth inquiring about, especially now that there’s a new rule where falls or serious errors impose a cap on PCS that can be awarded in a program. So 9.5 or higher should not be awarded for Skating Skills, Transitions, and Composition. 9.0 or higher should not be awarded for Performance and Interpretation. But our issue at the ISU Congress was the failure to define “serious errors.”
Gina: We did discuss this last week, but the definition the ISU has given on the communication that includes that guideline, is that a serious error is anything that causes disruption to the flow of the program. So they don’t give examples of what that means, but I would assume that it would be a fall or a stumble.
Lae: Well what if you do like one spin? Like what if you stumble so hard on your Illusion Entry that you do one spin and then you move on to another spin - doesn’t that technically cause a disruption to the flow of the program? The fact that the communication guideline doesn’t include any further guidance on how to define these really crucial terms is frankly- that’s where all the controversy happens. Obviously the priority is that the judges know how to judge, but part of what makes figure skating accessible is the fact that the audience can follow along to exactly what is happening in the program. And with the scoring, if the audience can’t tell what constitutes a serious error the same way they can tell “oh that’s a fall, we should expect lower marks then”, that strikes me as a huge problem.
Gina: I don’t think that the ISU really fully realizes how important it is to have the scoring be understandable by the viewer. When I decided that I really wanted to get into figure skating and follow it seriously, I read through the technical handbook, I put in the work to make sure that I could understand what was going on in the scoring. But while I understand what’s happening on the ice, and I understand how the scoring system should work, there are times when I look at a protocol and I just don’t understand what the judges are seeing that I’m not.
Lae: Absolutely. And so we’re going to briefly go through a couple of the key issues that we come across when it comes to PCS. So the first thing is that the scale of scoring in PCS obviously ranges from 10 for Outstanding, 9 for Excellent, and all the way down to basically, 5 is meant to be average and 4 is fair. But does the application of the scores really reflect what the numerical values stand for? That’s the key issue here.
Iman: Most of the time? No.
Lae: Nah, Iman’s answered that already! The first thing that you often hear people talk about when it comes to scoring is the PCS corridor.
Gina: The PCS corridor is probably the thing in judging that irritates me the most. This is when certain skaters get stuck into a certain category of PCS; so they’re always in 7s, they’re always in 8s, or they’re always in 9s. The rest of their PCS tends to follow the same trajectory, regardless of whether they’re particularly outstanding in one or another. For example, last season I got really irritated with Alina’s scores because while certain areas of her PCS should be in the 8s and the 9s, there are other areas that should be in the 7s. And there is no differentiation between components. If you earn 8s and 9s in one category, you’re gonna get 8s and 9s in everything. Because the judges don’t seem to like having that differentiation between categories.
Lae: I think it’s particularly noticeable when it comes to skater like Mai Mihara. So I would say that with Mai, I think she still has a bit to improve on when it comes to her Performance and Interpretation of Music, and her way of projecting to the audience. She has this tendency to stop performing in the lead up to her jumps, and you can really see when she’s concentrating because it shows on her face. It’s not always that she’ll embody the music in the tension in her arms. So while I wish that she was a bit more invested in that, her skating skills are really, really strong. When you compare directly the quality of her turns, the quality of the speed that she can gain in her skating elements, I don’t understand where that consistent--and she’s consistently scored around the 8s and sometimes even high 7s if she falls a lot more. And it’s baffling to me. And it’s the same I supposed with Marin Honda as well. If you compare the ease and speed of which they take turns and step, it’s really hard to see how there’s a 2 to 3 points gap in skating skills between them and, for example, Alina or Evgenia, who tend to get the higher skating skills PCs. So again, that’s the corridor in work. I would say even if I would agree in 7 or 8 in performance sometimes for someone like Mai, I don’t really agree that means that her skating skills should follow on to be the same thing.
Iman: Yeah, it definitely doesn’t reflect upon their scores well, because in some aspects they might be really strong and they’re not getting the points for those aspects. It wouldn’t necessarily destroy their scores, but it really could be a difference between 1st and 2nd place if it’s a really, really close competition, and that would really suck if someone doesn’t get the points that they deserve because the judges just sort of give them just 7s and just 8s rather than give them 7 in Performance, 9 in Skating Skills, and an 8 in Transitions, so it doesn’t reflect on their scores well, and it could harm them when it comes to competition.
Gina: Yeah, I mean in Alina’s Short Program, I thought her scores in Skating Skills and Transitions were reasonable. I’d maybe knock her Skating Skills down by a little bit, just barely into the 8s, because she did get 9.05 - I would maybe just knock her down to 8.75, not by a lot. For Composition, Performance and Interpretation, I would've scored her about 0.5 to 0.75 points lower for each category, that would have brought her PCs down to about 34. That wouldn’t have made a huge [difference].
Lae: She would have still have won.
Iman: Again, it comes with Skating Skills. When you see Mai skating, her Skating Skills- she's a lot more effortless when it comes to her movements on the ice, her turns, every single thing. Her footwork - it’s a lot more soft and a lot more natural, whereas Alina, who generally gets much higher score than her in Skating Skills, her skating is a little bit more jagged. It's not bad, obviously - she's a good skater, but her Skating Skills [marks] definitely are...I guess inflated in a sense, because when you see Mai skating, it looks smoother, and I feel like she isn't getting awarded for her Skating Skills, whereas Alina is getting more points in that territory, even though she's not the best in that one. I'm not saying that she should just take away all her points, that's obviously not what I'm saying. She does deserve at least an 8 for her skating skills right? But I don’t see-
Lae: There has to be a differentiation. I think there, when you look at the way Alina sometimes goes about her turns, she engages her upper body a little bit more, and it's a little bit more like she will kind of go the turn through her upper body, as opposed to someone like Mai who engages her edges a little bit more and that makes the turn more smooth. It's these little details which I think the PCS should reflect and...don’t at the moment. And I think another issue to think about is also the way that PCS across competitions are held against past records. So for context, Alina's PCS for her “Carmen” Free Skate in Nebelhorn was 74.96. She got 75.03 for her her Olympic singles Free Skate, and 75.02 for her team event. So there is a 0.07 difference between those two, and we're comparing her Olympic “Don Quixote” Free Program, which she's refined over two seasons, with her first performance in the new season. I know the scoring system changed and all that, but it is kind of like...can you make that comparison? I know that people say you can't compare PCS across competitions, but even just holding those two together in context, would you say that the Performance, Interpretation, and the Composition were comparable? That's another question.
Gina: The scoring system has changed in areas, but the program components have not changed at all. The scoring of them hasn't changed apart from a rewording, because previously 10 was outstanding and 9 was also outstanding. And they changed it so that 10 is, I don’t know, shinier?
Lae: But it was like a typical competition, 1st competition skate with shaky aspects. It wasn't bad. I mean, it was very good for a first competition, but was it comparable to something she's chipped away at and worked on for two years, right?
Gina: I generally dislike really generous scoring early in the season. I think the first few competition, the first few Challenger Series - the scoring should probably be harsher because it's their first test run of their programs. They want the feedback from the judges. (Lae: Absolutely) I think the tech panel should be harsher. I think that the program component scoring should be harsher. I think it would be better to give them a baseline to build from, rather than giving them really high scores. She was scored on her program component as if it was one of her best performances to date, and it wasn't. And I think that makes it really hard for her to build up from that without her relying on the judges continuing to overscore her.
Iman: Then again, there's the whole entire thing where like oh, it's a different competition, it gets scored differently. It shouldn't be like that, because there's other competitions, say for example, Autumn Classic, where people thought the scoring was a lot stricter, but it should not be like that. It should be a singular grading system. It shouldn't be different from across competitions because then, what do you have to compare?
Lae: It suggests that the standards aren't uniform at all, right. And that's not what you would want out of the scoring system.
Iman: For an entire sport. Then you're like, which one is more reliable?
Lae: The other thing that I think we can talk a little bit about is whether or not the PCS reflects equally like the gaps between the competitors abilities. So we’ve sort of alluded to this before when are talking about the PCS corridor.
Gina: I think in Ladies especially, the PCS gap should be much smaller in this competition. I do not think that the difference between Alina and the other Ladies on the field is as pronounced as the scores suggest. If you think about the Men's field, if you were to see Vincent Zhou or Nathan Chen skate right before Yuzuru Hanyu or Shoma Uno, it would be immediately obvious why one skater is scored in the 7s or 8s in their PCS and why the other is scored in the 9s. It's not so obvious with Alina. For her Free Skate, why was her PCS in the 9s, when Mai's was in the 8s? I don't really know. I can't really answer that.
Iman: You know, the Men's field does have its own problems and it mostly has to do with jump base values, which they seem to increase PCS, even when Skating Skills remain the same- unless you're Chinese or your name is Boyang Jin. But it sort of has a correlation like more jumps, more PCS - which should not be that way, because Skating Skills aren't necessarily about jumps. They're more about how a person moves in their program and how their footwork is, how they work their edges, and their speed throughout the skate. So the men don't really have the same problem with the PCS gap, they do have a problem when it comes to jumps because jumps are so emphasized in their field.
Lae: I mean, it's not just the Men. So this brings me to another question which is, is Skating Skills and Transitions directly connected to falls? Because for me, I think you can maybe make a case of Performance and Interpretation being impacted by falls, because obviously like falling means that you are interrupted in your performance, right? But Skating Skills and Transitions - are they really affected by falls that much? Because it seems as though, if you look at, for example, in Worlds 2018. Alina - again, she was scoring in the 9s for the Olympics, and then all her PCs dropped to the 8s after her falls at Worlds. So it's kind of like, well, I guess you could say that, if you fall, you don't really have good Skating Skills. But what if you were showing amazing Skating Skills before you fell?
Gina: I think it’s where you have less chance to display them. And it depends on how long it takes you to get back into the program. If you have a hard fall, and it takes you two or three seconds to get back up and then you're doing your crossovers or progressives or whatever, back to catch up with the music, to get back into your program, that's up to 6 seconds of time lost, where you could have been displaying your Transitions or displaying your Skating Skills.
Iman: And that genuinely disrupts the program, so cutting points off for that would be more valid than say, for example, if someone stumbled out of their jump and they right off the bat get right back on there, and they don't miss a beat and they just go right back into their step sequence, or whatever is next. Then you would sort of be like- that shouldn't take points away from them because they were able to sustain themself despite a fall or stumble.
Gina: And I think that's why at the same Worlds - at Worlds 2018 - Shoma Uno had quite a few falls in his Free Skate, but he would get up very quickly and get right back into the program, and I think that's why his score was not hit as hard as Alina or Boyang Jin.
Lae: But my point is, we don't have an answer to these concretely, because you can't tell any of this by reading any guidelines and there isn't a clear set of standards or baselines for any of this right? Because you could argue, well, is this double dipping, since -1 is already deducted for falls? Or is it an accurate reflection of what happens on the ice? If, for example, a fall looks like it's part of the choreography, does that interrupt the performance? Does that interrupt the Interpretation? It all is a very amorphous set of criteria here. And I think it's worth inquiring about, whether or not there deserves to be something more concrete as a guideline. Because a lot of the time, you have no idea how much the PCS will be impacted because with some skaters it might stay steady. Some skaters, it might go down drastically, and then some might have the skate of their lives and their PCS still don't rise in any category past their usual.
Gina: Because there is an element of reputation in it as well, you do get some reputational scoring going on. So if you’ve won a title lately, you can expect your PCS to rise.
Iman: But here's the thing: we don't have a concrete answer for this because the ISU doesn't impose guidelines. Their grading is really, really choppy and strange, and it changes based on the skater. Some skaters get scored more, some skaters get scored less based on whatever it is - they’re from a smaller federation, they won something, yada yada, all that stuff.
Lae: And this is all working knowledge from watching skating as well. This is just based on past incidents that have happened. There hasn't been any studies or any data collected about what exactly happens to PCS like - is there a correlation or anything like that? So it is just kind of all over the place. But let's briefly move on to music and basically the question of how much does a program, its music cuts, and its style and vibe make or break a program. So, I would separate this into two things. The first thing would be music programs with poor cuts, right. So things where the music is just cut in a really awkward or noticeable or really just bad way. The question is, should that be reflected somewhere in the PCS? Should that go towards the definition of “Composition” or “Interpretation” if the music is so bad that the skater struggles to interpret the music? Case in point, I would say is Alina's “Phantom Of The Opera,” as we've already touched on. Not to rag on the poor girl, but really more her team. But is it a good Composition for the program to have two completely different segments of music be transitioned by a glass shatter - is that awkward or lacking in finesse? Or is this the style of storytelling via the program that the judges like? It certainly seems to be the case, judging by the PCS that they're awarding. But in my opinion, is that the case? Or should it be the case? I don't know.
Gina: Music cuts, in my opinion, should enhance the skating, not distract from it, and for Alina's “Phantom Of The Opera,” I feel like it's outright distracting, and the music cuts are so discordant that I think it's impossible for Alina to form any character around the music or have any hopes of effectively interpreting or performing the program well. I don't really see how she's going to grow in those areas when the music and the program structure is so busy. It does seem like the cuts are built around elements, but I don't think it works, and I don't think that she should be given points for attempting that, because not all of the elements fall on musical cues.
Iman: Also, the music cuts should be something that a skater should be comfortable with. When you can see that a skater is not comfortable whether because the music cut is jarring, or its just two songs that don’t flow well together, it could also take the audience out of the program. Say, for example, you have one second where there’s all this beautiful music, and it’s flowing, and it’s great, and then it just goes into metal, right? It would be really strange and it would be jarring, and the overall tone of the performance would be affected by this, and how the skater interprets the music would be affected by this, and also how the skater is able to execute the performance because if there’s tonal inconsistencies throughout the performance it can be really weird and hard for the skater. If you’re soft one moment and then the next moment you have to be weird and aggressive, obviously it depends on the program, but it could be very jarring and it could take people out of the performance - which is not what you want. You want it to be completely immersed in a performance, because that’s what it is, it’s a performance. But let’s define what Composition is. “An intentionally developed and/or original arrangement of all types of movements according to the principles of musical phrase, space, pattern and structure. In evaluating the Composition, the following must be considered: Purpose (idea, concept, vision, mood); Pattern / ice coverage; Multidimensional use of space and design of movements; Phrase and form (movements and parts structured to match the musical phrase); and Originality of the composition.
Lae: The point here is that if the composition of the music makes for an awkward composition of the skate, because the skating program has to music, does that detract from the composition? Where does that factor into things.
Gina: I think it should.
Lae: I mean, we’re saying that we personally don’t like the composition of their music, maybe the judges are like “This is so innovative.”
Gina: I do think that the way that particular program is cut is supposed to meet that phrase and form part, the movements in parts are structured to match the musical phrase, and they’re kind of tweaking it by cutting specific pieces of music that they think will best fit specific parts of the program and, for me, there’s areas where it really falls flat and doesn’t quite work. I think the part where it maybe does work, again, is the music from the step sequence which I think matches what she’s doing, and the spin that follows. But that cut is awkward to listen to, and that should have a negative effect on how the judges mark it, I think, because it doesn’t flow together naturally.
Iman: It’s like even if there is a positive part in the program, you don’t really see it because you’re busy seeing how weird the cut is, so it’s sort of on the backburner, like “I really enjoyed that part” because you were busy thinking “Oh, that cut was really weird though.”
Lae: And just to quickly touch on Transitions as well, this is another element of PCS that people often debate because it is a question of quantity vs. quality, so should more focus in Transitions marks be put on the quality of the steps and movements and positions executed, and in linking the different elements of the skate? Or is this component more of a tally score of how much you can do between elements?
Gina: If we think about how a lot of, especially the ladies skaters, especially Eteri’s girls, are marked it does seem that the judges are going for quantity, not quality. Alina’s half a second spirals are going to frustrate me this season, like they did last season. She gets her leg up but she doesn’t extend, she doesn’t hold it, nothing happens. There’s a part of her Free Skate where she has a sequence where she has the spiral, and then an Ina Bauer with a little bit of a layback, and then it goes into a Besti squat, and it would be a really nice sequence if she held any of those positions for longer than half a second, and actually extended her spiral, really engaged her back and laid back in that Ina Bauer, and held that Besti squat - but she doesn’t. It’s just one after the other really fast, rushed through, and it just looks messy instead of looking really rad.
Lae: And watching that I was thinking like the positions themselves, it’s so impressive that she can execute that in a row - but is that interpreting the notes of the music correctly? Is that detracting from her performance? It very much seems that some of her positions seem to be thrown in there for the sake of those Transition marks, and it’s like, should there also be a quality element in there? Should a program that’s structured with giving these elements room to breath be acknowledged in the PCS, or taken away because of the lack of finesse in some of the way that the program is structured to not really show off all of those elements to the best quality?
Iman: Again, with her spirals, her Ina Bauer, and her Besti, those moments should be impactful but they weren’t because they were so short and almost rushed. They were short and rushed and you weren’t able to enjoy those aspects of her performance. It’s supposed to be more drawn out to have impact, and I feel like that’s one of the things that’s missing in her performance - impact of these components. She shouldn’t be rewarded just for having half a second spirals, so that later on she could improve upon this and extend her spirals, or her Ina Bauer, or her Besti squats.
Lae: So, the last thing that I think we can touch on before we wrap up this segment is the issue of safe music programs that lack moments. So, for me, I think there’s a certain strategic need to have a declarative program, especially if you’re a skater who is either stuck in a certain category of PCS, or you’re an up and coming skater, and so I see this very clearly with Mai’s [Mihara] Short Program which is set to “It’s Magic.” I think it’s a program that really does nothing for her, unfortunately. I think it’s soft, it’s pretty, but it’s not remarkable, there’s no “moment,” and I think that you really need that kind of highlight moment in every program to leave a memorable impression on both the judges and audience. So it’s a lady crooning that “It’s Magic” over and over again, and the music really stays exactly the same, there’s no dynamics to it, there’s very little rise and fall. It makes me question, does this kind of program, it’s something pretty safe and kind of expected with her image and style of skating, does it set a ceiling on her Performance, Interpretation and Composition marks if she isn’t surprising the judges with something?
Gina: I think so. I don’t see how she is going to grow in that program at all, it is a program where I see it and I’m bored by it, and I can’t see any areas where she can really grow to fill out the program. It’s a program for her to stagnate on.
Lae: Yeah, and I think in someway I call it “the tragedy of her Libertango” because I really loved that Short Program for her last season. I thought it was a great thing for her to work towards, she wasn’t quite there yet with that fire and attack that it really needed in the program but I think, unfortunately, that it scared her off because she could never skate it clean and she never felt like it was really her. I just think that even if you have to stick with what you feel is true to you and your style of skating, there really needs to be more conscious thought paid to the way that a musical program is composed and structured to kind of build that program into something with a highlight moment and that will stay in the minds of the judges and audiences. Because otherwise it just becomes background music for the skater to stagnate in, as Gina said.
Iman: Also, this really brings up how, like Gina said, it was boring, I guess. I really wish that she would try to go out of her comfort zone and take a risk when it comes to a program - go for something that she wouldn’t go for, because it would help her improve upon her Performance. If she just sticks to her more soft, pretty, subtle skating style she would, like as you said before like Keegan, she would be boxed into that sort of style. She doesn’t have to go for something that’s really out there, she doesn’t have to go out in bedazzled spandex and skate to Queen, but I feel like if she sort of strayed from what she usually goes for and if she sort of left that monotony in her programs it could really help her with her expression, it could her help just become a better skater because she wouldn’t be stuck in that one specific style.
Gina: So, I think that’s enough of that for today, so let’s wrap it up.
-end segment- 1:22:01
START: Shoutout of the Week
Gina: Our Shoutout of the Week will go to Daniel Samohin who, last week we didn’t get to talk about him, we ran out of time, but he did an amazing thing at Ondrej Nepela Trophy, where he had a 3 minute and 17 second long Short Program, and he got 5 time deductions.
Lae: We’re not sure what happened there.
Gina: I have no idea! I think what he did was he did the step sequence from his Free Program in his Short Program.
Lae: By accident? I’m genuinely like I don’t know how that happened.
Gina: I don’t know.
Iman: He was still stuck on that.
Gina: It was amazing anyway. But he has fixed the timing issues in his Short Program so well done.
Iman: Good on you, Daniel.
Gina: He did also try his quad toe but his axis, rest in peace. Good try, though, you’ll get there.
Lae: You fixed the timing, that’s the most important thing. No more -5 time deductions.
Gina: One thing at a time.
Lae: So, Shoutout of the Week to improvements.
-end segment- 1:23:07
Iman: Thank you for today, we hope to see you again for our next episode which will be about Finlandia, Japan Open, and JGP Ljubljana. If you want to get in touch with us, then please feel free to contact us via our website inthelopodcast.com or on Twitter, Tumblr, or Facebook. You can find our episodes on Youtube, iTunes, Google Play, and Stitcher.
Lae: If you enjoy the show, and want to help support the team, then please consider making a donation to us on our ko-fi page, and we’d like to give a huge thank you to all the listeners who have contributed to our team thus far.
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Gina: If you’re listening on iTunes, please consider leaving a rating and a review if you enjoyed the show. Thanks for listening, this has been Gina,
Iman: and Iman. See you soon!