Episode 13: Finlandia Trophy, Japan Open, JGP Ljubljana, and Interviews with Elizaveta Tuktamysheva and Alexei Bychenko - Transcript



Clara: 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 weeks hosts:

Tilda: Hi, I’m Tilda, I’m from Sweden, you might remember me most recently from the Q&A minisode and the FS in Fiction bonus episode. I’m @tequilda on Twitter.

Evie: Hi, I’m Evie, the perpetually tired Australian who has watched Nobunari Oda’s “YMCA” about twenty times since Japan Open happened. I’m @doubleflutz on Twitter.

Clara: I’m Clara, I’m now back in London but I was in Finland up until about three hours ago. I’m @daejangie on Twitter and you last heard me, probably, on the JGP Bratislava episode.

Evie: Okay! We’ve got a lot to cover this week, there’s been quite a number of exciting competitions over the last couple of days, but we’ll go straight into the news. It’s been a pretty dry week in comparison to some, we’ve only got just a couple of things to highlight. The first piece of news is the fact that Tatsuki Machida has skated for the last time in his professional skating career this weekend at Japan Open and Carnival on Ice. We’re really all very sad to see him leave the circuit. Surely his skating will be missed.

Tilda: He’s focusing on his academic work, which I approve of, but it’s -

Evie: At the same time it’s just like, “Tatsuki, no, come back!”.

Tilda: Yes, we won’t get to enjoy his skating, but we will soldier on. The next news is Alena Kostornaia, she has reportedly broken her finger. It was during her Free Skate last week at the Junior Grand Prix Ostrava, after trying to stop her fall with her hand, which we didn’t know at the time when we were watching it.

Evie: I was completely shocked for the news hearing about that. I didn’t even realize that she had broken it until I saw it. I was absolutely just shocked.

Clara: Yeah, she really soldiered through that, didn’t she? But I guess you’ve got so much adrenaline that --

Tilda: Yeah, yeah. It’s amazing.

Evie: Well, she’s certainly got plenty of time to recover considering the next time we will see her will be in December at the Junior Grand Prix Final. Some news in the Grand Prix assignments, we have Xiangning Li, from China, who has withdrawn from her spot at NHK in Ladies’ and also has withdrawn from Skate America and Grand Prix Helsinki in Pairs with her partner. We hope that she’s okay and that she’ll come back strong later in the season. Sad to see her withdraw.

Tilda: I also want to say that we have a listener’s survey on our website, inthelopodcast.com/listener-survey. We’d love to hear your thoughts about the pod and our future direction. Please go in there and take a few minutes to answer the survey. Thank you.

Clara: And finally we also publish a Weekly Roundup of news stories you might have missed during the week on our website. Just go to inthelopodcast.com and you’ll find all our articles there.

– end segment – 0:03:24

START: Finlandia Trophy Segment

Tilda: So let’s start with Finlandia -- I think it was the biggest one this weekend. Clara, do you want to report to us since you were actually there in person?

Clara: Yes, I was at Finlandia. I think this was my first live skating competition as an adult who understands how scoring works, so this was a momentous occasion for me. It was so much fun.

Evie: And it was the first time you’ve been there as media.

Clara: Well, yes.

Evie: Fancy fancy media person!

Clara: They were kind enough to let me pretend to be a journalist, which was great. Look, I think my two big takeaways -- I think most of them are about specific skaters, so we’ll touch on that later, but my two big takeaways overall were the sort of hometown crowd quality to it. I don’t think it came across quite as much in the recording, but I saw they were so into all of the Finnish teams. There were banners, there was screaming throughout and after while we were waiting for the scores. Really supportive nice crowd for everyone, but really, really, really rooting for their home guys. And in no segment was that more obvious than for synchro skating.

Tilda: Yeah, I saw when we were watching the livestream, it was crazy! The crowd really went wild. Much wilder than during the other sections.

Clara: I had literally never seen anything like it. Apparently the whole club comes and all the friends and family come, so already the arena was much fuller than it was at any other point during the competition. All the teams have their own official merch, so everyone comes in decked out with scarves and stuff, there were flags that get waved around that are bigger than a man is tall, there were cowbells, there were trumpets -- not vuvuzelas, like, actual trumpets! There were team chants, like, it was amazing.

Evie: That’s so awesome.

Clara: We’re going to talk probably about trying to combine Synchro with normal -- I shouldn’t say normal, with Singles, Pairs and Ice Dance, and I think for the atmosphere alone that would be a fabulous idea. (Laughs). So I think that was my first big takeaway. My second takeaway, this might just be because -- last year I was working and I wasn’t able to watch the Junior Grand Prix, but this year I have, and it feels like we’ve been talking about the Junior Grand Prix and the Challenger Series for a while now, and I sort of ended up forgetting just how early in the season it still is.

Evie: Yeah, I get that a lot.

Clara: Yeah. And so, like, [Evgenia] Tarasova and [Vladimir] Morozov have had their Short for ten days, we know that. [Marie-Jade] Lauriault and [Romain] Le Gac, the French Ice Dance team, told me that they basically completely revamped their Free two weeks ago, Alexander Johnson was doing an internship this summer, so he started training -- let alone his programs -- his training resumed three weeks ago.

Evie: Oh my God. That’s insane.

Tilda: That’s insane.

Clara: And then the Synchro teams, they only did their Short Program here, and there are logistical reasons for that -- but they also considered at one point maybe having them do both their Short and their Free and the Synchro teams were saying “Well, sorry, our World Championships are in April, our Frees are nowhere near ready yet, we can’t do them”. I think that is the main thing that stuck with me. We are going to talk about how all of these performances went and I think we tend to forget the fact that they’re making any of these jumps, in some cases, is incredible, given how little preparation time they’ve had.

Tilda: Wow, I’m impressed. And from our side, we were talking about the stream, that it was really high quality. I’m very unused to watching high definition livestream competitions, so that was great. I think one of the advantages of having a paid stream is that we can, as paying customers, expect a certain quality level that we just can’t when it’s a free livestream on YouTube.

Evie: The stream was definitely of fantastic quality. All the graphics looked very professional. There were very few issues overall. I’m just worried that, personally, myself being a bit of a cheapskate, I found that the prices for the stream, especially just for the weekend, were a little bit high. And I found that, especially as Finlandia is the only Challenger that doesn’t have a free livestream, it kind of felt a little out of place. Not that I’m complaining, because the stream was amazing, I couldn’t have asked for a better quality stream, it’s just that the price point wasn’t exactly fantastic, in my opinion.

Tilda: But I do think it’s great that it’s available worldwide, because I think that’s the main barrier to accessibility -- if it’s country-blocked. So that’s great. But last year they had the Short Programs, or Friday they had for free, so I think that’s a nice compromise, because I was able to watch the Short Programs last year without paying. That was good enough for me. But then again, probably it’s not free this year because a lot of people only watched the free day and then didn’t pay for the rest of it.

Clara: Not having experienced any of this, I just thought at that price point, maybe it would’ve been nice to have a commentator explaining what the elements were.

Evie: I think after watching so much of the Junior Grand Prix in the last couple weeks, I always expect Ted to come on at the end of every performance and when he doesn’t I just get shocked out of it and I’m like, “Oh, that’s right, he’s not here” and then I obviously get sad because…Ted.

Tilda: Yes. Okay, let’s move on.

Clara: We were lucky enough to be able to get an interview with the Ladies’ gold medalist at this event, Elizaveta Tuktamysheva of Russia. We talked to her on the day before her Free Program and we had a short chat with her about her goals for the season, her new programs, and her, as you must all know by now, really fun presence on Twitter. Here’s the interview now -- hope you enjoy it.

– pause segment – 0:09:21

START: Interview with Elizaveta Tuktamysheva

Clara: So, here with the Empress -- the Czarina. (Laughs).

Elizaveta: (Laughs). Thank you.

Clara: I first wanted to ask -- we love you on Twitter, you’re really fun.

Elizaveta: Oh, thank you.

Clara: Why did you start this season?

Elizaveta: Because I found a friend who helped me with Twitter and finally I can release all my things on Twitter for American people, Canadians, Asians -- because my Instagram was more for Europe and Twitter is more for you (Clara: Makes sense). So that’s why I think it’s a good idea to start doing Twitter with my friend -- he helped me with some posts and I think it’s a good idea, because my English is not so well but I have so much things and now I can show it. It’s fun and I hope in the future my English is going to be so good and I can do it by myself.

Clara: Well, it’s pretty good already, it’s pretty good already.

Elizaveta: Thank you.

Clara: I was watching you in some interviews talking about your programs for this season and you were saying you’d collaborated with dancers from Vova Varnava.

Elizaveta: Yes, yes.

Clara: I was wondering, how is it different making the choreography with a dancer and making it with a skater?

Elizaveta: Actually it’s so interesting and I really like it, because it’s new for figure skating. Before, I worked with Vova Varnava and he did my Indian program, my best season, 2014-2015. I really like the idea that we can dance off-ice and after we can find more movements in the ice, and doing with Alexei Mishin and Tatiana Nikolaevna some steps, and finally in the end it’s going to be a good program, not like a figure skating program, more modern. I like so much working with dancers, because I think it improves sportsmen. This season when I listened to “Assassin’s Tango”, I thought that I don’t want to do classic tango in this program, I want to do some more, and that’s why I asked Mishin to work with a modern dancer. I think it’s going to be pretty cool.

Clara: Yeah, it’s really fun. It’s great, because there are so many tangos this season, everyone is skating to Piazzolla --

Elizaveta: Yeah, that’s why I wanted -- not like this, more feelings, woman with man, something like that.

Clara: And so how does it work, the dancer makes the choreography for you, when you then transfer it on ice, do you do it with Vova Varnava still or with Tatiana…?

Elizaveta: Actually this season my choreographer was Polina Mitryashina, a woman who works with Vova Varnava. We started off-ice and when we had a whole program without ice, I started to do it with my coaches first, to understand where is going to be the first jump, the combination, something like that, we do the program. After, my choreographer comes to the ice to see what’s happening with the program and do something more. It’s cool because they have so much ideas, so much movements off-ice, and you can’t imagine what you can do in the ice. But when you go to the ice and start to do something, it looks so interesting, and that’s why I love the combination.

Clara: Yeah, I was watching you yesterday, it’s a really cool mix. And the music for your Free, which is this really fun jazzy mix, did you choose that at the same time as you were making the choreography or did you already know you wanted to use it?

Elizaveta: Actually at the end of last season I realized that I didn’t want to think so much about my new programs and I just put out all my feelings, all my thoughts about this, and stayed free and did nothing for this. Because I was tired every time to think about this, my programs: what I want, maybe it doesn’t work yet or something. When I went to the seminar with Mishin I met a girl, a coach, from Poland, she’d worked with Mishin already. Alexei knows she’s a very good skater and they talked about -- “Maybe you want to do the Free Program for Liza” and she said yes. She’s a little bit like me: dark hair, funny girl, some sexy movements. She listened to this music first and thought, “Oh, I think it’s going to work” and she showed me, and after the first three seconds I said “Yes, I want to do this, it’s really me”. I think this program is very good because I feel it, because it’s me, I’m not showing another person. It’s a different program but it’s a different me, that’s why it’s going to work.

Clara: It suits you really well, being playful like that. You mentioned thinking too much -- you’ve said before that it stops you from jumping, it stops you from -- what do you do now to manage that? It seems to be working, congratulations on Lombardia!

Elizaveta: Thank you. I just understand how to stay calm, in bad situations and good situations. Now I’m free, a more open person, and I think that’s why. I just say “It doesn’t matter what’s going to be in the future, I’m just here, I just want to do what I love, I love my program -- just enjoy, Liza, and we’ll see what’s going to be”.

Clara: Great mindset. I also saw that you’re bringing back lots of old combos from four seasons ago, the triple Lutz-triple toe and the double Axel-triple toe. Have you had to relearn them or were you still training them throughout?

Elizaveta: I am training them and in the free program I will try tomorrow the triple Lutz-triple toe combo and the double Axel-triple toe combo.

Clara: Have you had to get them back or were they there all the time?

Elizaveta: With double Axel-triple toe it was more easy, because I feel this combination, but with triple Lutz-triple toe I didn’t jump it for three years and it was difficult to feel it again. I didn’t feel it as good as the double Axel-triple toe-loop, the triple Lutz-triple toe-loop, because it’s more difficult. But I was training, training, training, and now I think it’s much better than in the start of the season. But it’s difficult -- it was difficult to realize what you need to do again, triple Lutz-triple toe in the program.

Clara: And I saw -- was that a triple Axel-triple toe on your Instagram?

Elizaveta: Yes, I did it a few times. It’s an unbelievable combination because I just land a triple Axel and with landing go “Hm, do a triple toe-loop” and I did, but if I want to do this combination, I need to do the triple Axel really well, with a really good landing, but now I am not in the best form for that.

Clara: Well, I hope we get to see it!

Elizaveta: I hope too!

Clara: So now we’ve got multiple ladies in Seniors this season jumping triple Axels for the first time in a while, we’ve got Shcherbakova and Trusova in Juniors, is this the technical revolution in Ladies? Is it happening?

Elizaveta: I think yes, because everything has revolutions and figure skating too, of course. Men are starting to do so much quads in the Free Program. I did the triple Axel in the World Championships in 2015 and I think when skaters see that, everybody wants to be a champion, and that’s why the small ladies are starting to do more quads, and in ten years or so [ago] they start to do triple-triple combination. It’s okay, it’s working -- if you want to win you should learn more. I think people do not know their power 100%. I think one day some guy or some girl will start to do five [revolutions] -- I think it’s possible. And everybody else will start to do five too, because they know they can do this. It’s only on your brain, I think. (Laughs).

Clara: You were saying that you think the new rules will let people skate longer, because if you can do simpler elements but better you can still podium. If you put that together with this technical revolution and the fact that more women will be trying quads and triple Axels, do you think it will even out or do you think the technical side is going to win out?

Elizaveta: It’s a good question. I think the technical is going to win, but [only] if you do stability, good technical. If you do quads -- quads in the first competition, in the second, and it’s going to be easy for you, then you are going to win, because technical is more important, I think, in figure skating. Yes, you should skate beautiful, you should stay more a combination [of technical and artistic] on the ice, but if you’re going to do two quads in Ladies’ and another lady is just triple-triple, I think it’s going to be work to [be on top of] small ladies. But I prefer very difficult technique and very beautiful skating.

Clara: Okay, we’re almost out of time so I just have to ask at the end: “Toxic”. Tell me about “Toxic”.

Elizaveta: I thought about this idea, I talked to my friend and he said “Oh, it’s such a great idea, I’m already full of love for this program”. I really hope to do it and to do it so powerful, so sexy, so flirty -- I think it’s going to be so cool, but first of all I should stay in the exhibition! (Laughs).

Clara: I’m sure you will!

Elizaveta: Every time if I do the gala it’s “Mambo Italiano” or now “Toxic” and I love to dance, I love to give more power to the arena. I prefer more dance exhibition than classical.

Clara: Which of your programs this year does Andrei [Lazukin] prefer?

Elizaveta: He loves all my programs, but I think more the Short Program, because it’s more -- maybe it’s more me? It’s more sexy, maybe. He really likes my short when I do it clean, with my power, he said “Oh my God, my woman is so fantastic!”. (Laughs).

Clara: It’s great that you like each other’s Short Programs, it’s nice and symmetrical. Okay -- 14 minutes. Spasiba bolshoi, sorry it was in English!

Elizaveta: Thank you so much.

Clara: Thank you.

– end interview – 0:24:08

CONT’D: Finlandia Trophy Segment

Clara: So coming off that interview, let’s dive into the programs themselves. Elizaveta won the event with 202.85 points. Her programs, as a reminder since we already saw them at Lombardia, are “Assassin’s Tango” for the Short and a really cool, jazzy mix of “You Don’t Love Me”, “Petite Fleur” and “Cat Groove” for the Long.

Tilda: Her Free Skate gave me life! She was hands-down the most expressive skater at the event and I just love that she went with sort of over-the-top sassiness in both of her programs. I thought they were great choices for her. She’s a very dynamic performer and it made me really happy to see high energy performances and I think they have improved in that department since Lombardia, so that’s great to see. And also her triple Axel, which she did in the Short Program as well this time, so it was really cool that it’s at that level where she can confidently put it in her Short Program. So yeah, just…the landing. She gets great height and speed on it, so it’s just about controlling the landing a bit better at this point. She did look a bit tired in the second half of her Free Skate, so I’m not sure if it was the rather hard fall taking its toll or stamina.

Clara: She said after the Free that she was sick this week -- she’s been sick since before the Short, so I think that’s why she looked tired and even seeing it live, she did look a bit slower than we’re used to seeing from her, which I think makes it even cooler that she landed both her triple Axels with the height that she did.

Evie: Yeah, I definitely think that her Free Skate is going to be the program that’s really going to develop as the season goes on, because obviously the triple Axel, plus the opening combination, the triple Lutz-triple toe, and then the triple Lutz right at the start, it really grabs your attention and pulls you in, especially because obviously hardly any women are doing triple Axels, so obviously you just go ‘boom!’ and get right into it. And of course, her amazing triple Lutz, because Liza has one of the best triple Lutzes in the entire Ladies’ field. Her expression in both her Short and her Free Skate were just out of this world -- I think she’s one of the most expressive and charismatic skaters, to me at least. But yeah, as you said Tilda, her expression and her performance was kind of hampered down a little bit towards the end. Could’ve been the fall, could’ve been being sick, but I’m hoping as the season goes on that she’s going to be able to keep the momentum up in this program even if she does make a mistake or two. But I’m just super happy to see her win here.

Clara: Yeah, I agree with both of you, it’s all about the face with her. She really had it going in the Free, it was really fun, and the crowd loved her, they were rooting for her almost as hard as they were rooting for Viveca Lindfors and Emmi Peltonen, which is saying something. And I think we touched on this in the interview, but she’s bringing back two combos this year that she hadn’t used for a while: the double Axel-triple toe, which was gorgeous at Lombardia, in my opinion, and the triple Lutz-triple toe, both of which I really loved when she was doing them way back when, so I can’t wait to see them landed again this season. But both of her programs are really fun. I like them.

Evie: In silver at this event, we have Elizabet Tursynbaeva of Kazakhstan. She scored a total of 200.74 and she came second in the Short Program and first in the Free Skate. I think probably Elizabet’s move back to Eteri [Tutberidze] over the off-season -- from TCC and Brian Orser to Eteri -- was one of the most troubling things for me to come out of last off-season. She wasn’t a very consistent skater when she was at Cricket. Her jumps and her consistency in her programs consecutively over the last couple of seasons wasn’t fantastic. But I worry that the competitive environment that Eteri’s team is focused on might have a negative effect on her and her skating. But it is good to see that some of the Eteri girl consistency has rubbed off on her. And actually, I don’t mind both of her programs this season. I think the second half of her Piazzolla Free Skate really is strong for her. It really caught my attention -- her expression really lightened up the whole program, because it kind of, at the start, didn’t have that much in the way of performance, and then right towards about the halfway point she started smiling and really throwing herself into all her movements and I think it really had a great effect on the whole performance in general.

Clara: Yeah, just to your point very quickly about the consistency while she was at Cricket, my understanding, and you guys correct me if I’m wrong here, but my understanding is that for visa issues she wasn’t able to be in Toronto all that much to train anyway, right? So independent of the Eteri camp methods, probably just having a stable training base and more ice time with her coach is going to be super helpful.

Evie: When she was originally moving to Toronto, she had issues with visas and halfway through the 2015-2016 season, she had completely different programs, because she just couldn’t get to Toronto to get them choreographed.

Tilda: I kind of agree with Evie. I quite like the step sequence in her Free Skate, because it’s a bit quirky, but throughout the entire performance I wish she would be more expressive, because it felt like she forgot to perform at times and then had to remind herself to perform. So I think most likely she was just focusing on landing her jumps, but she didn’t seem very pleased by the end, so I was a bit sad that she had a good performance but she didn’t seem very happy with it. I mean, she was first in the Free, so it was a good skate. I’m not so sure about the Short Program though, because I thought it felt quite rushed and disconnected from the music, so we’ll see if I change my mind later on.

Evie: But rushed and not matching the music is Daniil’s [Gleichengauz] specialty at this point in terms of choreography, so what do you expect?

Tilda: I don’t know, I don’t know. Yeah, but I thought her jumps looked good. Especially her triple Lutz looked great, I thought.

Clara: It’s been interesting for me, because -- much more than what I’m used to watching on the stream -- my perception of how people did was colored by how the people before them were doing. I don’t know if that makes sense. Everyone except Viveca [Lindfors], previous to Lilbet, had had a really tough time of it, was falling all over the place, and it was so delightful to see her landing and having a good time and therefore I loved it. Completely agree, when she started smiling and being a bit sassy in the second half of the Free Skate, I got really into it. Her Short especially reminded me a bit of [Anna] Shcherbakova’s Short Program, which I know we discussed at least on the Bratislava episode, inso far as -- I guess by normal standards, it’s quite rushed, but by Daniil standards, on the spectrum of transition packing, they feel relatively calmer, sort of in that area, which meant I could appreciate it more. I agree that she projects less in it, so let’s see if she can carve out enough room for herself to do that in the program over the course of the season or whether it’ll stay that way.

Evie: I just wonder throughout all of this where her mom is, because she was always in the kiss and cry with her for the last couple of seasons. I miss her crazy reactions. (Hosts laugh). That was the highlight of all the -- at Worlds last year, when her mom completely loses it in the kiss and cry, it’s those great moments that really stand out to me. I was just like, “Bring back your mom, Elizabet!” (Hosts laugh).

Tilda: The bronze medalist is Viveca Lindfors from Finland. She scored 187.19 and her Short Program was from Phantom of the Opera.

Evie: Your favorite! (Hosts laugh).

Tilda: Her Free Skate was from Les Misérables, so quite the musical theater experience here. I love Les Mis and I hate Phantom of the Opera, so it was a bit of a mixed bag for me. (Hosts laugh).

Clara: I mentioned this earlier, but cannot overstate how hyped the audience were for this. I think they were really rooting for Emmi [Peltonen] in the Short, because she had a great Short, but then Viveca came out and skated this nearly clean program, to all intents and purposes clean program, on home ice, and they were like Synchro skating levels of excitement. It was fabulous.

Evie: I couldn’t help but think during her program how her Free Skate -- how very un-Les Mis it was. Mainly because the first part starts quite strong, but then it fades into “I Dreamed a Dream”, but her choreography and expression stayed in that intense and dramatic state throughout it. It wasn’t quite what I was expecting from that sort of program and it felt pretty disconnected to me in that sense. Tilda and I, when we were watching it, I said something along the lines of the fact her costume didn’t scream Les Mis and then Tilda said that the program doesn’t scream Les Mis. I was like, “You’re right, you’re right.” But on the technical side of things, she did a really fantastic job overall and you could definitely tell even in the stream how hype the crowd was getting, so I’m sure it must be a really great feeling to skate pretty much clean on home ice in front of a home crowd.

Clara: I completely agree. Even in the arena -- she starts the program on an excerpt from an instrumental of “Look Down, Look Down”, which is this, as you said, really intense and dramatic piece, which would have worked a bit better with her choreo and her expression, even though still it’s a song about poverty and she’s basically wearing a ball gown, so I’m not really clear on what that’s meant to mean. That being said, everyone was so into it that you forgot after a certain point that there was this mismatch, you just got carried along in it. She really sold it to me, being in the crowd, I stopped minding after a while, but you’re right that there was a bit of a gap there.

Tilda: Also, I just wanted to quickly talk about Ivett Toth from Hungary, because she has two really fun programs and I really loved seeing them, especially the Free Skate is fabulous, especially the step sequence. I really hope we can see that skated cleanly at some point in the season, because it’s very exciting. And also, her Bruno Mars Short Program, the “Uptown Funk” step sequence is so much fun. They’re very much a work in progress at this point, I think she needs to be a bit faster in the step sequence. She seems quite elements-focused at this point, but it’s going to be fabulous as it evolves.

Clara: One more shoutout from me. Hanul [Kim] did a hydroblade (Hosts: Woohoo!) and it was awesome. I love Kim Hanul in general, I think she’s gorgeous and does incredible things for someone who is, now that I’ve seen her in real life, possibly the smallest human. It was just really cool to see her drop that into her choreo sequence, I hope this becomes more of a trend.

Evie: Moving on to Ice Dance. The medalists for this event were Alexandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin from Russia in gold, they scored 200.78. In silver, we have Olivia Smart and Adrian Diaz from Spain, who scored 180.07.

Clara: Then in bronze, we have Marie-Jade Lauriault and Romain Le Gac from France, with 176.46.

Tilda: Brilliant French, Clara.

Clara: It’s the least I could do.

Evie: A round of applause. (Hosts laugh).

Clara: Before we get into their programs, I just wanted to mention ConfettiGate. (Hosts laugh). It was quite unclear, I think, both on the stream and for people in the arena, what was actually happening. There were two interruptions during the Short Program, um, the Rhythm Dance, not the Short Program. Stepanova and Bukin and [Carolane] Soucisse and [Shane] Firus both had interruptions, and what we discovered had happened was the confetti dispensers, which I believe is the technical term, that had been used either previously during some kind of gala or after a hockey game -- do they use confetti in hockey? I don’t know, is that too stereotypically… no idea, either way, the dispensers had not been emptied out, and so during the Rhythm Dance confetti would occasionally come sort of gently snowing down to the ice, which caused the initial interruption, and then Stepanova/Bukin had the additional bad luck of, one, the guys couldn’t get their music to start playing again from the right timestamp, and then while they were waiting the bird came in. (Hosts laugh).

Tilda: No, not the bird!

Evie: Ah, the Finlandia bird.

Clara: The bird hung around on the ice for three programs after that, on or around the ice, and the staff then spent most of the rest of the day trying to chase him out, but one of the journalists there told me that this was better than the last place had been which had had this problem, which was a Worlds competition in Paris, so I assume it must have been 1989, when they had to go in with a gun at the end of the first day and shoot the bird down. (Laughs).

Evie: Oh my God!

Clara: So, programs. I know Evie has a lot of thoughts about Stepanova and Bukin, so I will let her go off. From my ignoramus standpoint, I loved their tango. I’ve been struggling a bit with Tango Romantica this season just because so many Singles skaters are doing tangos anyway, so it’s a lot, but this was amazing and the only one that I will accept in the future. Really sharp and fierce and skating with so much abandon. I was standing at rinkside trying to take pictures and they were flying past, they were so incredibly fast compared to everyone else there. Free was great, rotational lift at the end was really fun. And then, on a much more shallow level, Alexandra is possibly the leggiest human I’ve ever seen, she’s like an insanely gorgeous flamingo. So whenever she extends her free leg, it’s like, “Oh, wow!”. Those extensions man, I couldn’t look away. (Laughs).

Evie: Last season Stepanova and Bukin weren’t allowed to skate at the Olympics, they were one of the Russian teams that were barred from competing and that was honestly one of the worst things that happened to me, personally, in the Olympic season. They’re definitely one of my favorite European Ice Dance teams. Their programs this season so far are looking so good, I cannot emphasize enough how good they are so far. Their Rhythm Dance is so sharp and the choreography just works perfectly with the music, especially in the opening section when they’re doing the kicks and the leg extensions to the beats of the music. It worked so well. They did these really awesome sit twizzles in the first section and even though they only got a level 1 for them, it was so innovative and it really caught my eye. Obviously, it must have been extremely annoying to have that interruption in the middle of the -- right before they were going into the pattern, but they managed to get right into it. They did have some problems in the pattern, I’m pretty sure it was Alexandra who messed up the second section of the first bit, which mainly has to do with that rocker, because a lot of skaters mess up the rocker and they don’t go on the proper edge, and then they also messed up in the second section where Alexandra again didn’t step onto the right edge in her choctaw, so they lost some levels on that. Sorry, I’m going off on an Ice Dance tangent. (Laughs).

Clara: No, this is great.

Evie: I learned the Tango Romantica a couple of weeks ago and now I’m like, “I need to talk about this.” (Laughs).

Clara: It’s good. We’re learning, we’re learning.

Evie: You’re learning, fantastic. Their Free Dance is absolutely amazing. Because of timezone differences I wasn’t able to watch their Free Dance live, but I caught up on it this morning and oh my God, it definitely deserved the World Record score that it got. I’m personally not really a fan of the Montreal, Gadbois, modern dance-y style programs that seem to be really popular choices in the field right now, especially in Seniors, so I’m glad to see that Stepanova and Bukin are doing a program set to contemporary and rock music. Everything about it caught my eye and they have such superb skating skills, they’re definitely some of the best in the field currently. Their edges and their speed and their control over it -- their one foot step sequence in the Free Skate is insane and I really urge everyone listening to go watch their Free Dance, it’s just so good.

Clara: Agreed, agreed. Two other elements shoutouts, just stuff I noticed while I was watching, Lauriault and Le Gac have this fun, pop mash-up Free and there’s this move in there, which is sort of a traditional spinning knee slide, but then it turns into a side plank slide, which is really cool, so go watch that if you have a moment. And then -- I sent this to Evie this morning, [Anastasia] Shpilevaya and [Grigory] Smirnov, which was another of the many Russian Dance teams at this event, has a sort of odd sci-fi gladiator costume vibe going on, but an amazing stationary lift right at the top of their Free. So they start -- I’m going to describe this really badly, but they start spinning, holding hands across from each other, and he hooks his leg into hers and uses that as one of the anchor points for the lift, so he’s holding her by her wrist and by the leg that he’s hooked into her leg. I’m not explaining it well as I said, but it’s really cool, so go check it out. It’s about twenty seconds into their Free and it’s up on YouTube, so it’s worth having a look at.

Tilda: Let’s talk about Pairs. We have Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov from Russia with gold, they scored 198.98. Then there’s Kirsten Moore-Towers and Michael Marinaro for silver, they’re from Canada, they scored 193.93. And for bronze, we have Aleksandra Boikova and Dmitrii Kozlovskii from Russia, with 188.54.

Evie: So, for Tarasova and Morozov, overall I’m really happy with how both of their programs are looking so far. Their new Short Program, which is literally brand new, they weren’t happy with how it was received after the Russian Test Skates, when they got the feedback back from that, and they decided to completely rework it and change it to “I Feel Good”. It’s campy but it’s still enjoyable. It’s not to the point of camp of, say, “Candyman” from last season. (Hosts laugh). That was hard to sit through sometimes, but this program is much better. I was quite confused at the end to see them lose in the Free Skate to Kirsten Moore-Towers and Michael Marinaro, just because I thought their PCS would win out in the end, even though they did have mistakes. But I’m not at all surprised they won here, they were the clear favorite going into the event, so congrats to them!

Clara: I’ve gotta say I’ve not really been that into them previously. “Candyman” obviously didn’t help… (Laughs). Also, they’re not the most… they don’t give you that much face, in terms of Pairs teams. They’re not the most facially expressive, even though they can be in the way they move, but I was really impressed by their elements in person. You’re not looking at heights or distances in the [Aljona] Savchenko and [Bruno] Massot kind of range, but it’s a lot of ease and easy competence to the way they do them that was really nice to see. The Free had some really cool choreo I thought, I really liked the opening where they’re mirroring each other for a while, and so even though it was, again, quite introspective from them, I felt like the choreo really brought out an interesting mood in the music that I probably wouldn’t otherwise have noticed.

Tilda: Let’s move on to our last discipline, the Men. In first place we have Mikhail Kolyada from Russia, with 250.58. His Short Program was to “I Belong to You” by Muse and his Free Skate was to Carmen. I have to say I really like his “Carmen”. It has personality and it shows off his nice skating skills and overall, very well packaged. It was too bad about the pops and the fall here, and also some struggling with footwork, but anyway, his triple Lutz was amazing, so high and it really makes me long for his quad Lutz, which hopefully he will bring back at some point, I hope so. (Laughs). I also really liked his Short Program. I think it’s a good choice, because it feels like a more refined version of him but that is still interesting, especially in the step sequence when he engages more with the music. In the past I have found some of his programs to be lacking in sophistication -- either too weird, like his “Nightmare Before Christmas” program, which I personally loved, it was a great program, but it’s not so refined, perhaps, or his Free Skate from last season was a bit bland. This season I think with both of his programs -- I think he struck the right chord this season and we’re seeing two programs that can be very good vehicles for him.

Clara: I think the only place where I’d have to disagree is the Short Program, which to me feels like a sort of recycled, rehashed version of his Short Program last year in a slightly different costume.

Tilda: Well, that’s your opinion, Clara.

Clara: That is my opinion. (Hosts laugh). God knows I usually love Stéphane Lambiel’s work, I’m a raving fan, but this -- you know, it was fine, it’s not that I didn’t like the program, but it didn’t blow me away. The music is different from last year obviously, but the way he moves to it is basically the same. And the costume… again, it’s a white and black onesie, sure, the patterns are a bit different, he’s wearing the Elvis belt in the Short instead of the Free, but again, I’m not really seeing a strong difference. On the other hand, I love, I really, really love his “Carmen”. It’s so much fun, it was so atmospheric in the room, and I was sitting around trying to photograph all of these guys and it was so nice to have someone doing -- we make jokes about arm choreo, but it was so nice to have someone doing interesting, dynamic things with their arms and their body in between the jumps, as opposed to, like, being on the back outside edge.

Evie: +5 for arm transitions!

Clara: Yes! Yes! And I think he channels that kind of paso doble, smooth machismo thing really well. The Lutz, as always, as Tilda said, is a thing of beauty. I think this is my favorite program of the season. Sorry Hanyu. (Hosts laugh)

Evie: I have to say with the triple Lutz, the height and the distance he gets on it is unreal -- you know, credit to the quad Lutz -- but at the same time I’m kind of glad that the quad Lutz has been taken out for now, because I got so sick of last season seeing him pop it every single time except for once. I know it’s beautiful when he lands it, but the axis is kind of bleh and he barely gets on the edge when he lands, so I’m fine with him keeping just a triple Lutz in here at the moment. And to reject Clara’s opinions, I love the Short Program, I think it’s a really good choice for him. I really like both of Mikhail’s programs this season! He’s definitely got some of the best packaging so far and I’m just really excited to see where they’re going to go from here, especially since we’re only a couple of weeks away from seeing him at the Grand Prix. It’s exciting times.

Tilda: Anyway, let’s move on to the silver medalist, Junhwan Cha, from Korea, who scored 239.19. We saw him at Autumn Classic just recently and I guess not much has changed, but I haven’t given my opinion yet, so I want to do that. I feel like I quite like his Short Program, but he starts performing a bit late in the program, so I think that he really needs to work on just the performance aspect of it. The clock choreo I find quite charming, so just work on that. But the Free Skate -- I know that the people on the Autumn Classic episode really praised it and I just have to say that I am not used to it. It’s so confusing. I’m not sure what is happening. It’s fun, but I would like it to be more sophisticated for him, so I think it would help him more to not have so many voiceovers and confuse the viewers, basically.

Evie: I see -- my reasoning is I only just recently came on board with the Free Skate. During Autumn Classic I really wasn’t feeling it, but then I rewatched it a few times at a couple people’s insistence and I just -- I come to the conclusion that it’s better to have a slightly wacky program that keeps your attention rather than something that’s completely one-note and lacking a standout moment, which we’ve seen quite a lot of this early in the season.

Tilda: Of course, of course. It’s memorable. (Clara laughs). I always like memorable.

Evie: It’s memorable in its craziness.

Tilda: So maybe -- no, I’m not going to say “get rid of the Juliet voiceover”, because everyone will kill me. So that was my unpopular opinion time. But yeah, I’m really hopeful for his future, because overall, I think his skating looks good.

Evie: We can’t forget the spin fail at the end, though.

Tilda: Oh, right, he fell on the entry to his camel spin and that was wild!

Clara: He looked really surprised, he stayed down for quite a while, right? (Hosts laugh). Sort of looked like he was going “What just happened?”.

Evie: It was really funny. I’m kind of sad that I laughed so much. (Hosts laugh). I’m sorry, Jun.

Clara: Let’s move on the the bronze medalist, Morisi or Moris, depending on what romanization you use, Kvitelashvili from Georgia, who scored 231.19 total, with a Short to “Bloodstream” by Tokio Myers and a Free Skate to my favorite wacky French musical Mozart L’Opera Rock. So take it away, what did you think?

Evie: Morisi, he’s never been the most consistent skater, so it’s good to see him perform pretty well at a second Challenger event. He was at Nepela a few weeks ago where he placed fourth. I’m not a big fan of either of his programs, I think they’ve got a bit too much miming in them for my taste. I wish he would project a bit more in his performances emotionally and expression-wise, because they both have some moments in the program itself, in the music, where he could really have interesting expression or connect with the rises in the music more, but he just kind of doesn’t, so the whole thing feels a bit flat to me, but that might change as the season goes on. We don’t know yet, it’s so early.

Tilda: Yeah, I agree with Evie. The expression -- the music is great, but I think that’s his biggest weakness, his expression.

Clara: Yeah, I think broadly, I found the music cuts quite jarring as well, which didn’t help, but the one thing I did notice is “L’Assasymphonie”, which is the first half of the program musically, there’s a bit right at the end of it, right on the climax, where he tried to jump a quad toe and didn’t land it there, that has the potential to be an amazing climax right on the accent and a really memorable bit of the program. Other than that I agree that it didn’t -- nothing much stood out to me, though I hope I get to see him nail that once this season, because I really want it. So unfortunately, Alexei Bychenko had to withdraw before the Free Skate at Finlandia due to injury. We don’t yet know much detail about what happened there. But I think his return to competitive skating after the Olympics was a fabulous surprise for all of us, so we sat down with him after the Short Program to discuss how that came about, his goals for the season, and his programs.

– pause segment – 0:51:37

START: Interview with Alexei Bychenko

Clara: First thing I wanted to -- congratulations, that was a bit difficult, I saw. How did it go? (Laughs). What did you think?

Alexei: Nothing to say! It was a disaster. I was totally dizzy on the ice, I don’t know why, actually. But anyway, like all of the things about this program today, it’s nothing. It’s basically nothing to say.

Clara: Okay, that’s fair enough. So, try again next time and see if it goes better?

Alexei: No, it’s definitely going to go better. I was really surprised [with] what was happening. Basically I came here to the ice rink and I was feeling dizzy, I don’t know even right now. Whatever, maybe it’s jet lag or something. Any reason, I just need to find out what’s happened, that’s it.

Clara: Because yesterday you looked a bit more comfortable than…

Alexei: Listen, yesterday was warm up day. This morning we were completely 100% practice, which was fine, and like in a few hours, maybe [I took] the wrong nap before, I don’t know. Whatever, every day is an experience.

Clara: So I wanted to ask, we’re all thrilled that you’ve come back after the Olympics, but it’s a bit of a surprise, because you were saying over the summer that you weren’t sure. I was wondering what drove the decision?

Alexei: Yeah, it’s really funny, because basically after World Championships I already decided and basically I retired, actually. And in one moment I went right away to Florida for a two week vacation, just to try to, you know, hang out a little bit. The moment when I came back to New Jersey I had a conversation with the coaches, with the President [of the Israeli federation] and they told me that it’s a really bad idea to be done. First of all, I was like “Why is it a really bad idea?”, because we decided, even during the whole previous season, about my ending and nobody was saying I should correct [my decision] and nobody was saying “You have to still skating”. So the decision was really, really rushed, just go for meeting, have a forty minute conversation and that’s it. Let’s continue skating.

Clara: Oh, wow.

Alexei: From nothing, right away. But I don’t know how long it’s going to be, because I really want to skate, but from other way unfortunately I recognize it’s getting, for me, harder and complicated. First of all, I don’t want to say anything about age, because I feel like a twenty year old guy, but it’s a different level right now. Because everybody’s growing, they learn it, they grow up already with the whole new system, like understanding [it], and technique. I kind of have really old school skating, so for me, it’s more complicated. But I’m never afraid about that, so we’ll see.

Clara: Do you think the rule changes will change anything to do with that?

Alexei: Absolutely, absolutely. So you can it [back] to two Olympic Games before [PyeongChang], the people skating there, the top 3 places, the medalists -- the first three place guys, right now for this Olympic Games [they would have placed in] tenth, eleventh and twelfth place. So, for example, I reached this score which was at the previous Olympic Games already third place, which is impressive for me and nothing like a high score for this season. So I don’t know what to expect for the next Olympic Games, if we’re looking that much ahead, and especially this season and next season, because the rules changed and they provide new system about the numbers -- how’s it called -

Clara: GOE?

Alexei: GOE, yeah, exactly. So I don’t know what it’s going to be. Because, on one side, it’s a really smart idea, because everybody grow, like, quad jumps are not that special right now for most people. So [there’s] some chance to make it balanced, but I don’t see a reason for this GOE system, because the people who’s going to do a +5 spin can beat the people who will take the risk and go for the quad, which is a little bit weird for me.

Clara: Do you buy the theory that it will help people keep skating longer? That will it lead to longer careers, if there’s less emphasis on quads?

Alexei: I have no idea. For me basically I don’t feel it’s a good way. It’s one of the questions [reasons], like, why it’s so complicated to continue. Even this season we want to see how it’s going to be, because you never know. My way of jump, it’s a couple of strong jumps, like powerful technique about the element. I’m basically able to learn new quads, but I don’t think I’m going to use that. So for me, this system is not that well, because like I’m going to take it maximum what I have. Like I’ll do a few quads, a few triple Axels, and the rest of the triple. And the number of quads, which is already lower, it’s going to be compared to the spin with the +5 -- for me it’s not work.

Clara: Got it.

Alexei: And especially my spins. (Both laugh). Whatever.

Clara: We were never going to say anything.

Alexei: No, of course, because things are getting better, but yeah. Again, from the other side, it’s a chance for the people who don’t have quads, which is also fair. So we’ll see. Let’s pass this season and then we can talk about it, right now it’s really difficult.

Clara: So what did the President of the federation say to convince you to come back?

Alexei: Nothing, they just asked me to skate. They say, like, “Right now at that point at your rank, it’s more about [it] working for you, to continue skating”. So that’s one of the reasons, and secondly, again, I’m a little bit sick of this figure skating -- I hate figure skating, but parallel with that, I love figure skating. So nothing I can do. (Sarcastically) It’s like a drug, you know?

Clara: Yes, fair, anything you work that hard on...

Alexei: It’s a good example, maybe. Nothing about the drugs, just understanding! (Both laugh). So this way, it’s only two reasons, they asked me to [keep] skating, and because I really love this.

Clara: And you were talking, I think, after 2017 Worlds about trying to grow the Israeli Federation and develop Israeli skating. Is that something you want to keep doing even after you retire?

Alexei: Yeah, exactly. For me, main goal right now is [to] leave something after me. Make sure it’s going to be still a strong team, because we have young skaters which need [to] grow a little bit more, get more experience, and then basically I finally can retire and go somewhere. But right now, yeah, it’s the point why I’m still skating, because we just need to make sure that there’s like a basement of the Israeli figure skating that’s supposed to be strong.

Clara: What do you see as your role? Is it attracting public attention so that there’s more funding that goes towards [it]? Like, how do you think about what your role is?

Alexei: That’s a good question. You know, I don’t know actually what to say.

Clara: There’s time to think about it.

Alexei: I’m not going to think about it.

Clara: Would you coach after your deserved beach retirement vacation?

Alexei: I’m already coaching. I have already worked about a few years. So I helped the young kids of our team, like, I work with the Juniors, Seniors, like a Pairs team, Singles skaters. Parallel with that, it’s like my hobby -- my coaching. But I know for sure that when I’m going to be done I’m going to get more deeper about the coaching. Definitely I’m going to be head coach. (Both laugh).

Clara: I can see it.

Alexei: (Laughing) Why not?

Clara: What would you say the key challenges are, coming from a smaller federation, compared to like… you had Ukraine before that, so you’ve got double the experience.

Alexei: Listen, with Ukraine I have one, unfortunately, bad experience, because the people they don’t even care about sport and especially about figure skating. For months it was a bad experience, but it also is good, because right now I can recognize and appreciate what I have right now about what the Israel federation make it. Nobody will make [it] the same way [as the Israeli fed]: how they care, how they support, how they try to push it and grow and develop the high level, which is impressive. For any other federation, I don’t want to say something good, because then they’re going to be comparable to us.

Clara: Okay, okay. Noted.

Alexei: Noted, yeah.

Clara: You looked like you were having amazing beach holidays, I saw on your Instagram. Daniel [Samohin] did too, actually. Is that the Israeli way: work hard, play hard?

Alexei: I kind of deserved a long vacation, a long holiday, which is like I used to. And I felt like we [should] just not even try to rush for the season, basically. Even after our conversations we have a point and a goal to make this season to not be prepared from August like it’s usually happened. Let’s go a little bit late, because it’s tough, it’s really tough. For example, for me, the worst two seasons, it was the qualification for the Olympic Games and especially Olympic season, because these two in a row seasons which [were] really responsible [t/n: I had a lot of responsibility], for me. And the point of all of that it’s a lot stress, physically tiring, mentally tiring -- so basically I need to somehow recover myself. So yeah, why not?

Clara: Okay, another random question. If you could bring back an old combo from your youth, because I know you used to do a triple Lutz-Euler-triple Salchow, if you could bring back any old combo that you haven’t done for a while, is there one that you would?

Alexei: The coolest thing I saw at a competition, I’m not going to say I’m going to do that, but that guy from the Russians, [Artur Dmitriev] he did an incredible combination. He made a triple Lutz, landing on the left foot, and make a triple flip. Triple Lutz-triple flip.

Clara: That is -- that. Wow! (Both laugh).

Alexei: I saw that and I felt like he popped somehow and then he rushed for the triple flip, but no, it’s exactly the combination. So I would like to try it, but I don’t think you guys are going to see that at a competition.

Clara: Already the Lutz-Salchow combination would be cool.

Alexei: Yeah.

Clara: I saw that you said that there were extra quads that you were learning or you could learn, but you weren’t going to add them in. Is there anything you’re training still?

Alexei: I’m don’t want to say I do this consistent but some days, depends if I have time and feel good enough, I’m working for the quad Salchow and quad flip. The quad Sal, the landing [is] not consistent, and the same thing happened with the flip, couple of times when I go. But the reason why I’m not working straight is that it would affect my lower back, which is injured, blah blah blah, grandpa. So yeah, that’s why I couldn’t promise you, it’s the way it works. Again, you never know what’s going to be tomorrow, so maybe. Maybe. I wish, really I wish, I want to make improvement, like, [be] over 30 and come with the new quad! It’s going to be ridiculous, I think, so. (Both laugh).

Clara: Who knows? Could you tell me just a bit about your programs this season, your costumes -- what makes a good costume in Men’s skating?

Alexei: If I would know that... (Both laugh). No, it’s really funny, this music for this season, [for] maybe two or three years I’m already thinking about this music, I really like this music and it was kind of like a dream to skate it. But Galit, Roman, Nikolai, they never give me a chance to skate to this music. And this season, for some reason, everybody was like, right away, “I agree, let’s do this music.”

Clara: They were so happy you came back!

Alexei: Yeah, yeah, might be. This old music, everybody knows this really famous music, but I know for sure that maybe it’s time for me to skate this one, because I’m more understanding, [I have] more of the ability to somehow skate it.

Clara: Yeah, absolutely.

Alexei: I try not -- every time when we pick the music we try not to destroy the music with the skating. So we try to adapt the music and my skating style. So maybe that’s the reason why we choose this year “Requiem for a Dream,” unlike previous, because it’s already time, and maybe I’m already somehow [grown] up enough for that. And for the Long Program, it’s always a complicated question, every single time we can complain with Galit, with Roman, with Nikolai, with everybody, no one can exactly understand one idea of what we want for the Long Program. This year, I don’t know how it’s happened -- usually it’s about one month to pick the music for the Long Program, even more, [but this time in] like two days we picked the music?

Clara: Wow.

Alexei: Like, is that not weird? (Both laugh). So yeah, it’s going to be “Dracula”. We will see how it’s going to be. It’s also about the character, drama, story, whatever.

Clara: Nice.

Alexei: Which is, like, I really love this. I hate skating any programs with the plain soundtrack or one of the famous music, whatever. Every single time, what I used, it has to be with the idea of a character, which is how we become every single time for the music.

Clara: And what about your costumes? Do you have a costume designer that you work with usually? Tell me about the Short Program costume this year.

Alexei: Plain style, like, I didn’t try to make it something marked, fancy, or whatever. The music -- it’s kind of like a trance for some of people and the costume’s supposed to be a parallel to this music, so we’re not going for a special design. I said it has to be plain with a few stones, it was not a few, but a couple of stones on my sleeves. Not fancy, I never like too fancy. But for the Long Program, it’s going to be kind of more interesting, because it’s the music of the Dracula -- it’s supposed to be what people recognize about Draculas. Of course, it’s the blood, it’s the very kind of like old type of shirt, so yeah.

Clara: Oh, amazing. How active a role do you take in designing your costumes?

Alexei: We have the guys in Moscow, we’ll work with them. And they have a design, they send any options they have -- somebody will make it, the design for the beginning, and then send it. With Galit we sit down and say “We have to take it out, and here we supposed [need] to add it,” and then send it back. They try to provide what exactly we want, send it again to us, we already decided on a yes or no -- so yes by email we can communicate.

Clara: So to and fro and to and fro -- how many times does it take until you’re happy?

Alexei: Not so -- for the Short Program, again, I don’t know how this happens, always the Short Program is easier. But for the Long Program it could be a few weeks.

Clara: Even with the Dracula one, so the music was very quick but the costume was hard.

Alexei: Yeah, that’s the point, and again especially I don’t want a typical Dracula that will become, you know, like, with the collar.

Clara: Big collar, yeah.

Alexei: And the white shirt -- not me. I was looking for some idea which is exactly not what I want, but I was waiting, like with any design they send options and as soon as I find something we try and have it created. That’s how it becomes. And they have, of course, all the measurements, so they…

Clara: They know it, yeah. They can do it.

Alexei: They know me already, yeah.

Clara: Well, look, thank you so much for being so generous with your time.

Alexei: No problem. Pleasure.

Clara: I look forward to seeing the costume tomorrow, it’s going to be amazing.

Alexei: For me, it’s like one of the best ones.

Clara: I hope it goes as well as you want, as does the rest of the season. I’ll look forward to watching you.

Alexei: Let’s [keep] working on for that! Let’s [keep] working on. Anyway, thank you!

Clara: Thank you so much.

– end interview – 1:10:09

CONT’D: Synchronized Skating Segment

Tilda: Okay, so we had one unusual thing at this event, which was Synchronized Skating! Sort of the forgotten discipline or ugly stepsister -- but very beautiful. So it’s interesting, because Synchro is not promoted a lot by the ISU and people frequently forget that it is figure skating, because it’s separate from figure skating, because they never hold the competitions at the same time. So I thought it was great to see Synchro at a Challenger event, to get to combine the audiences. Because it is extremely popular in Finland and in Sweden as well, as [made] evident by the crowd going wild at the event, right?

Clara: I mean, I talked a bit about this at the beginning and I just want to add to the general madness, and I’ll try to post a clip on Twitter so you can see what I’m talking about, but there were some figure skating magazines in the press area and by far the nicest Finnish magazine was the Synchro magazine. It was like 200 pages thick, it had amazing Vellum paper, and I was like “Okay, I see what the respective statuses of these sports are now.” (hosts laugh)

Tilda: Yeah, it’s still a very new event because the first ISU Worlds was held in 2000. So it has been like gaining popularity for a while now and I think we hopefully will see this develop as a natural part of the figure skating landscape.

Clara: Yeah, and I think as we were watching it we were wondering what the practicalities would be of including it with other figure skating disciplines because I know there was a lot of discussion, especially during the Olympics of including it there. One thing that we mentioned was ice time, so you can have six figure skaters or three pairs at once practicing on the ice. You can only have one Synchro team, and they carve that stuff up so that you need to resurface it after they’re done. So that means that if you’re one competition, with one practice rink and one main rink, that really limits your ability to have them all on, especially if there are more than -- in this [competition] there were relatively few teams competing, but if you’re in a bigger competition, that really creates the need for multiple training locations, which is obviously logistically difficult. At Finlandia, even, they were just doing their Short and each team -- the only ice time they got on location was two run throughs of their Short Program. So that’s about 6 minutes of ice time.

Evie: Yeah, you can definitely see there would be some severe logistical issues if they tried to combine Worlds for Singles, Pairs and Ice Dance with Synchro. But I guess they could theoretically like stretch it over a longer period of time, like say, having a whole week of Worlds and doing the Synchro competitions on one side of the week, and then everything else on the other. But then there’s also cost about that- there’s just so many logistical issues at this point, But I think, personally, a goal more than combining them at Worlds is to just get Synchro into the Olympics because I really want to see Synchro get onto the Olympic stage because I think that the teams are so talented and they deserve to be there. I just hope that once Beijing rolls around, or even the next Olympics, that we’ll see them there.

Tilda: No, but they applied to become an Olympic sport, but they were rejected.

Evie: Yeah.

Clara: I’ve been told that one of the hurdles is that there’s a cap on the overall number of athletes that participate in the Winter Olympics and I don’t know if that’s really just historically driven or if it’s also about like how much accommodation you need to build to house them, et cetera. Obviously, that’s adding a whole bunch of people all at once in a single sport. And then the other push back that I’ve heard, that makes a lot less sense to me, is that the sport is dominated by Finland, Sweden, Russia, the US and Canada. But I mean, most winter sports are.

(everyone laughs)

Evie: That a very weird argument to be making but you know.

Tilda: I mean if we look at figure skating as a historical sport then it has started in like few countries dominating and then moved as the sport gets more popular, with more countries so, it’s just a new sport.

-end segment- 1:15:35

START: JGP Ljubljana

Clara: So then, the other event that we wanted to touch on, that happened this weekend was JGP Ljubljana, which is the second to last event. So, starting with the Ladies discipline, our winner was Anastasia Tarakanova of Russia with 190.05 points and she has a short program to “Querer” by Francesa Gagnon and a Free Skate to “Moonlight Sonata.”

Tilda: Yeah, I’m not sure if it was a good idea to switch her Free Skate because we saw some clips from her “Believer” Free Skate and it looked very exciting. So, I was a bit disappointed too, that she ended up with this Free Skate which is quite generic and didn’t seem like she was enjoying it herself but yeah I’m glad that she managed to perform well here. But, I just wish that she would have kept her old Free Skate.

Evie: Yeah, I agree but I was really disappointed when I saw her at Junior Grand Prix Canada a few weeks back and saw that she’d switched, because I saw the clips of her doing “Believer” and it was like, this is a really cool music choice for her. That being said, she did have a really fantastic Free Skate here, much better than her first showing and I hope that since she had a coaching change over the offseason from Eteri’s camp to Evgeni Plushenko. I’m glad to see that some of her consistency is slowly getting back so, I’m excited to see how she’ll perform in December at the final.

Clara: Yeah, just on that consistency point, she is very tall for a fourteen year old, so I’m assuming that she’s had a pretty recent growth spurt, which makes it all the more impressive that she’s as consistent as she is. As to the rest of it, I agree with you, I didn’t find either program particularly engaging but the consistency was really impressive.

Evie: And in silver we have Anna Tarusina of Russia. She scored a total of 188.24. She was the silver medalist back in week one in Bratislava and she had another solid set of performances here at Ljubljana. Her place isn’t set yet for the Junior Grand Prix final, it’s going to depend on next week, mainly with how [Alexandra] Trusova and [Alena] Kanysheva are going to place.

Tilda: The first time I watched her Free Skate, I wasn’t at all a fan of the program but it really grew on me because she’s working really hard on her expression throughout the program and really trying to capture the music which worked awesomely in her step sequence but then lost it at some parts of the jump intensive sequence. There are parts where the music swells but then she doesn’t change her skatings so it fails to capture those highs, but I think it’s a very good base for her to build on. If we get to see her at the Junior Grand Prix Final which I hope, I think it can be really nice. I like the music and the choreo because it’s quirky but interesting, and she’s working with her whole body and a lot of arm movements and I just think that the movements need to tighten up a bit. My favorite part, besides the step sequence was when she landed the triple Lutz and it just worked really well with the music.

Clara: And then in Bronze position we have Haein Lee of Korea who scored 180.48 with a Short Program to Never Enough, and a West Side Story Free Skate.

Tilda: I thought her West Side Story was quite Kazuki-esque. I think she should work on her projection. I think she does have good quality and good flow but feels rather disconnected from the music.

Evie: Her jumps and all her elements are really, really solid. I’m really loving the trajectory of the Korean Junior ladies so far. There’s so much talent there, it’s just really exciting. I think, like you said Tilda, overall she could engage with the music and project a bit more. That’s something that’s hopefully going to come with time and experience on the circuit, this is only her first Junior season so it’s something that’s going to develop as she develops as a skater.

Clara: I liked her short, a lot actually, I think it has sort of exhibition skate kind of feel to it. There’s room for it to be a very emotionally compelling piece, she just needs a bit of time to relax into it and let herself feel it a bit more, so I hope we get to see that.

Tilda: Just a shout out to Tomoe Kawabata from Japan. She led after the Short Program but fell to fifth overall after the Free Skate. Her Short Program was so good though.

Evie: It really was.

Tilda: I mean, to me, she was the revelation of the Junior Grand Prix. I really hope she’ll gain experience from this and just gain more consistency because her potential is just incredible.

Clara: I have to say I’m not a huge fan of either of her music choices. I’d go so far as to say I hate “Scheherazade” but, it says something that I loved watching her. She is just such a pleasure. You can tell how much she’s enjoying what she does. She moves with this fabulous ease. I mean yeah, I agree with Tilda, she is just incredible.

Tilda: And then we have to mention the freak power outage that turned the rink black when Rion Sumiyoshi skated. I think it’s baffling that it happened and right in the middle of her step sequence only for a couple of seconds but that could be dangerous. What would they have done if it had been out for longer than that?

Clara: That’s when you do all your jumps.

(everyone laughs)

Tilda: Yeah!

Clara: When it’s dark.

Evie: When the tech panel can’t see. When we were watching it, I was thinking it was a camera problem. I didn’t realize it until Ted said afterwards that the lights went off in the rink, and I was like, oh my god. You don’t see that kind of thing happen very often except you know Four Continents earlier this year when the gala lost power completely.

Tilda: The crazy thing is that it it could have derailed her Free Skate, but she was incredible. She just soldiered on.You couldn’t even tell if she had noticed that it went dark because when the lights came out she was like, in the middle of it. She was just going on, it was incredible. Good for her.

Clara: Okay, so then moving onto the Men. Our gold medalist is Petr Gumennik of Russia, who scored 219.25 with a “Czardas” Short Program and a “Romeo and Juliet” Free Skate, like many others.

Evie: I don’t think his performances here were as solid as they were a couple weeks ago at Canada but they were still pretty damn strong and still, every time in his Free Skate when he does the triple Axel-triple loop, I get scared because you don’t see that combo very often but even though he didn’t hit it perfectly here, it’s still and awesome combo to be doing so I applaud for his guts for going for it.

Tilda: He opened his Free Skate with a huge triple Axel and I was kind of shocked at how big it looked and right after he did the triple Axel-triple loop, I was like, “Woah! It’s pretty nuts.” I feel like he’s trying to be expressive and use his entire body and, although it does fall a bit flat here, I think with refinement and improved skating skills he would be such a lovely skater. Let’s move onto the silver medalist, Tomoki Hiwatashi from the USA. He scored 215.16 with a “Cry Me A River” Short Program and “Fate of the Gods” Free Skate. So I have to say that he is my favorite man here. Some great moments in his Free Skate, though he needs to work a bit on the overall interpretation and composition. So I felt like his Free Skate music was lacking a little bit and he would do better with music that would have more high notes etcetera and do more for him. His Short Program was a lot stronger and showcased what a powerful skater he is. And, I just have to say, the highlight -- His cantilever into split jump into triple Salchow, wow.

Evie: That was amazing. I think, to borrow the phrase from Gina from last week, his program to “Cry Me A River” is sung by Michael Bublé, the plague of figure skating. So I was kind of a bit bored the music choice itself but, I think, especially in the second half of his Short Program he really pulled it off really well like his expression completely shifted after he got all of his elements out of the way and I really enjoyed his program. I think Tomoki is a really enjoyable skater to watch overall and he’s super solid so I really like him.

Tilda: He opened his Short Program with a kick, a high kick and I was just like, “Yeah!”, get it out.

Evie: And in bronze we have Koshiro Shimada of Japan. He’s got a total of 212.95. He had two slightly shaky programs and he really only got onto the podium by the skin of his teeth. It was like, he was 0.1 points over Conrad Orzel in fourth place, you know, that’s as tight as you can get in terms of getting onto the podium. It was kind of crazy. But, you know, will he get into the final, we don’t really know, it’s going to probably be pretty close and it’s going to be left up to how the remaining men next week are going to do in Armenia, so we just have to wait and see.

Tilda: So let’s move on to Ice Dance. We have for gold Avonley Nguyen and Vadym Kolesnik from the United States with 165.63. I think their Free Dance is my favorite. Their expression is amazing and props for using a different type of music. “Demons” is a very unusual choice and they have an innate ability, it seems, to bring out the feeling of the music. Especially their rotational lift was a “wow” moment. And this is actually only the third Junior team to break 100 in the Free Dance this season, so that’s pretty impressive.

Evie: I didn’t watch the Free Dance live, but when I woke up and I saw that they’d won, I was just so happy because they’re one of my absolute favourite Junior teams. I just, I can’t say this enough, how great junior Ice Dance in general is, but they are absolutely stunning. Their Rhythm Dance, I feel, wasn’t quite as solid as it was at the Amber Cup a few weeks ago, back at the Amber Cup they got perfect scores for the key points in the pattern and they didn’t here, there was a tiny error, it doesn’t really matter. They were still so smooth, all their edges are so clean and beautiful, and their Free Dance, like you said, Tilda, is absolutely stunning.

Clara: Yeah. I mean, I’ve got nothing of substance to add to this, their Free Dance at the Amber Cup blew my mind and I showed it to everyone I know, and I will continue to do that.

Evie: In silver we have Sofia Shevchenko and Igor Eremenko of Russia with a total score of 161.67 -- they were the gold medal winners back in week two at Cup of Austria and they have definitely secured their ticket to the final with their performances here. Their component marks were actually higher than the team in first place, but the level issues as well as the extended lift in the Free Dance kind of just knocked them off the top of the podium here in Ljubljana. But they still did a really fantastic job.

Tilda: I thought the extended lift was really nice, though. It was like the “wow” factor when watching the Free Dance.

Clara: And finally we have Polina Ivanenko and Daniil Karpov of Russia with 151.69 points. So this is their second bronze, they got bronze at JGP Canada as well.

Evie: Yeah, so their chances of making the final are pretty much up to what happens next week. But they had really strong skates here. I’m glad they got two medals on the circuit since they’re such a strong team.

Tilda: Yeah, they had quite cheesy choreo at times in the Free Dance but it’s still very very cool, like they opened strongly with the rotational lift which just like grabs your attention right away, so overall I really liked them.

Evie: We’re not actually going to be doing an episode next week on the last Junior Grand Prix at Armenia but I can’t stress enough how fantastic the competition is going to be, you know, the lineup is really looking strong — we’ve got Alexandra Trusova, Alena Kanysheva, Yuma Kagiyama, Yuto Kishina, Andrei Mozalev, and we also have [Arina] Ushakova and [Maxim] Nekrasov. So it’s going to be definitely one to watch even though we won’t be talking about it on the podcast.

Tilda: We will have a written recap.

– end segment –

START: Japan Open Segment

Tilda: Let’s move on to Japan Open. So this was great fun, thank you so much to the JSF for organizing a competition that’s all about fun and also giving us some old faces. I just thought the atmosphere and the crowd seemed incredible. It’s quite similar to World Team Trophy, except this opens the season and World Team Trophy is closing the season.

Evie: For a lot of people, I think, especially newbies, people get confused about what Japan Open is all about. It’s a yearly competition that is organized by the JSF, not the ISU, and it features three teams of four skaters, from Europe, North America, and Japan. It’s unusual in the fact that it’s a free skate only competition, and retired skaters are often present in the lineups, as we saw this year. So because it is a JSF event, and not an ISU sanctioned international competition, the scores given here don’t go towards Personal Bests or World Records, and the skaters don’t receive any World Standing points for their placements here. Basically, it’s a good way to kick off the season, or a good way to have some fun, a competitive experience if you’re retired or semi-retired. The final results for this competition were with gold, Team Japan with a total score of 621.91, Team Europe in silver with 558.14, and Team North America with 516.45. And that’s the total of every single skater in the team’s Free Skate scores added together. That’s why they’re so high — it’s not just one person that scored this high, (laughter) don’t worry guys, the scoring system hasn’t changed that much.

Clara: Before we dive into this, I wasn’t able to watch it live or in full, so someone just explain to me how Stéphane Lambiel ended up in Team Japan’s kiss and cry because that’s everything I’ve ever wanted.

Evie: Oh don’t you know, he had to be Nobu’s fake coach!

Clara: Oh, amazing!

Evie: That’s the whole thing. ‘Cause, you know, Nobu doesn’t really, he is a coach, so...


Evie: Someone had to pretend to be his coach and Stéphane was already there for Deniss so of course that happened.

Clara: Amazing. That made my morning.

Tilda: So let’s just do, like, very quick opinions on the skaters we saw there. Let’s start with Shoma Uno, who was in first among the men. I feel like his “Moonlight Sonata” is really growing on me, it’s almost, like, trance-like in the interpretation. So, yeah, I think it really heightens the music when he skates it. Which is a big compliment. It’s quite minimalist, to say the least, but I think it goes beautifully with music so it’s quite stunning. I hope he improves the step sequence though.

Evie: I don’t know, I’m still not completely sold on this program. I think the first half kind of seems pretty empty to me -- or as you said, Tilda, “minimalist.” It’s pretty much just jumps at this point, and the second half of the program I like a little bit more, but I think the movements aren’t as sharp and they don’t match up with the intensity of the music as well as they could have. I think it’s kind of a similar problem that I had with his Short Program when we saw it in ice shows and stuff earlier in the season with kind of an empty first half and a busy second half, but when we saw “Stairway to Heaven” at Carnival on Ice the program’s looking much more balanced now and I think that’s looking fantastic so I hope that kind of trajectory will also transfer over to “Moonlight Sonata” because if he can kind of fix that- not really a kind of choreographic issue, but just filling it out a little bit more, I think it could be rocking by the end of the Grand Prix at least.

Tilda: Me and Evie are opposites, I’m a fan of the first half but not the second, and she’s the other way.

Clara: I sort of fall in the middle, I agree with Evie that the first half is still really not doing it for me. I was getting traumatic flashbacks to Finlandia and waiting desperately for a skater to do something that I could photograph. But the second half, we know that Shoma’s never been particularly good at that kind of sharp, intense movement, like he did it best I think in “Loco.” But it’s not his natural way of doing things, and bearing that in mind I thought that he was actually doing pretty well at that intensity and sharpness -- obviously not as naturally as you might see other’s just do it, but still I was impressed by the work he’s done on that.

Tilda: Let’s talk about the real highlight of this competition (Clara: Yes!) which was Nobunari Oda from Japan who finished in second and it’s amazing how he can still compete like that at 31 years old.

Clara: With positive GOE on like almost all of his elements.

Tilda: The Free Skate was a dream, it made me so happy. Like it was pure skating joy.

Evie: I was laughing so much during it- I couldn’t stop laughing with happiness. He has such an infectious joy to his skating that’s just so great. I actually watched the program before we started recording to hype myself up for this. It’s such a good program. Please, Nobu, come back to competitive skating! You can do it! Please!

Tilda: The spin! The spin where he did the [YMCA] movements? Pure genius.

Evie: That’s the only valid choreographic sequence from now on, if you’re doing the YMCA arms. Only valid one, I’m sorry.

Tilda: The back counter triple Axel just because he can-

Evie: Yuzu watch out.

Tilda: And the quad toe loop, which was perfect. It’s just amazing. Everyone, please watch this every day, like when you wake up in the morning. Let’s talk a little bit about Nathan Chen as well. This was our first look at his Free Program [in competition] and right now I’m not quite a fan of it because it felt quite monotone, the music, which doesn’t really play to his strengths. I think Nathan does better with stronger music that shows off his charisma because I feel like his natural charisma is one of his strongest points which can carry him through even when the program is lacking. But this music felt more introspective and so I think that was the wrong way to go for him, but on the other hand it can also force him to develop artistically, so we’ll see how it goes.

Clara: I personally have no program with one note programs, which is why I will defend Dmitri Aliev’s Modigliani Suite Free Skate to the death. I think one thing we just need to bear in mind though is that, I think, when it comes to Nathan and introspective pieces, even more than usual, the subjective rules apply. Just because I remember how many people were really moved by his “Mao’s Last Dancer” program last season at the Olympics, and it left other people completely cold. I think, even more than the average skater, he’s someone where there’s not really an in between- it either works for you or it doesn’t. So I suspect, having seen it, that this is going to be another one of those.

Tilda: Yeah I just feel like Nathan works better with stronger types of music, so that was my worry. I think his Short Program is going suit him much better.

Evie: I really like the look of his Short Program so far.

Clara: Yeah, it looks really fun.

Tilda: I think Nathan is really good at projection, and it didn’t really come across in this program in particular. So I just hope that he can bring those skills he has to this program as well. Let’s move onto the Ladies! The winner here was Alina Zagitova. If this had been an ISU competition, she would have broken the world record, so she had a really good skate. We already talked about this program in the last episode, so let’s just skip to Kaori Sakamoto, who was in second place.

Evie: I think she had a really fantastic Free Skate here, but there’s just one thing that really nagged me in that thing, the fact that she got an edge call on her flip when it was very clearly an inside edge. It just puzzled the hell out of me because the Technical Controller of the event was Fabio Bianchetti- who is the head Technical Specialist of the ISU. So I’m just so confused as to why they called it as a clear wrong edge, when it was very clearly an inside.

Tilda: Yeah, it’s completely puzzling. But anyway, I love this program. The ease and flow she has made this whole program feel like one continuous movement, like everything flowing together. She wasn’t completely clean, but if she skates this clean at a competition I might actually cry because that build up towards the end of the program and the climax is going to make such an impression. Absolutely stunning.

Evie: And in third place here we have Satoko Miyahara, also from Team Japan. This program for her is a fantastic choice, I think Piazolla really works for her. That fire and sass that the program music kind of requires, but also it really shows off that refined grace that she’s known for. I think it’s a really perfect match. Although I have to say that, seeing the program here and at US Classic, I’m kind of worried about her Lutz because it is kind of looking pretty out of whack like technique-wise. Because it used to be pretty consistent for her, besides occasional underrotations which she’s kind of known for, and she mentioned in an interview that she’s training to get more height out of her jumps -- so a change in her technique could possibly be the because of the issues that she’s having with it. Hopefully those will be ironed out because I can really see this program having a really big impact on me if she skates it clean.

Tilda: And then in sixth place we have Maria Sotskova from Russia. I think this is a lovely program for her, I think the music choice is great. I think it’s much more sophisticated than last season, it’s like a more grown up and elegant version of her, while still feeling fresh, and young, and modern. So I was very impressed with the packaging overall with the costume and everything, definitely a good choice.

Evie: I think she has a lot of room to grow in this program. I feel like the classical music choices of the last couple of seasons didn’t give her that sort of freedom, and kind of made her expression stagnate. This program really reminds me of her Junior Short Program back from 2015-16 to “Black Magic Woman,” it’s kind of sassy and fun. I’m really looking forward to it because I honestly didn’t enjoy her programs last season, so having programs that look really strong from the get-go is really great for Maria.

– end segment – 1:37:14

START: Kinki Regionals Segment

Evie: Another competition that happened this weekend, y’know there was so much going on, it’s kind of hard to keep track of everything but one thing that was definitely on the minds of a lot of figure skating fans was that Japanese Kinki Regionals where Daisuke Takahashi competed for the first time since his return from retirement. He placed third at the event and scored a total of 195.85. He won the Short Program, and unfortunately had some mistakes in the Free Skate which put him fourth in the Free and third overall. But still, he advances to Sectionals, and hopefully he’ll have a good performance there and go to Nationals. But yeah, what do we think of his programs so far?

Tilda: So I just have to say that his programs, his expression is so wonderful and his step sequences are so beautiful. I’m so impressed because both programs sort of feel like work in progresses, but his fluid skating is to die for. I was just mesmerised. And I was just impressed that he got a clean Short Program, because I didn’t really expect him to put two great performances back to back since he has been away for so long. But yeah, I really hope he’ll make it to Nationals and have the skates he’s hoping for.

Evie: Yeah, I think his Short Program is absolutely beautiful, like you said. I’m kind of obsessed with it. His jumps, while they weren’t perfect, he had kind of a shaky landing on the triple Axel and an under-rotation on the second jump in the combo- they were still looking really solid considering how long he’s been training since he made his announcement. And the step sequence in the Short absolutely took my breath away. I’ve missed Dai’s signature brand of innate musicality and his spins in the Short weren’t the greatest, and they weren’t either in the Free because that’s just a running theme with the Men in general this season it seems. It’s kind of expected, Dai never had the best spins. And his Free Skate, while it did have quite a lot of errors in it, he had an under-rotation, two downgrades and two falls, both on triple Axels. I think the program itself is already looking really strong. That opening combo was perfect, and while he completely lost it on the next triple Axel it didn’t stop him from completely rocking out in the step sequence. It was electric. He kind of did run out steam after the second fall and his expression I felt was kind of hampered down by those error, but nevertheless I think this is one of the programs where you can just see the potential. Like if it’s skated clean it’s going to rock the house down. I’m not sure if that’s going to happen soon, especially if he wants to try adding quads into it like he said he wants to, but this program- both of his programs are so awesome, and I’m so glad to see him back.

Clara: Well I’ve not even actually seen his Short Program yet but a Japanese fan at Finlandia was appalled that I hadn’t seen his Free Skate so she showed it to me on her phone. But yeah, his step sequence was just a joy. I think it’s a bit like seeing Javi[er Fernandez] again at Japan Open after all this time. You realise how much you’ve missed that particular style of skating, so it was just great to see him again.

Tilda: Yeah, but it’s been a bit longer for Daisuke than Javi.

Clara: True!

Evie: Just a little!

Tilda: Just a little bit longer.

Clara: Just a bit.

– end segment – 1:40:37

START: Shoutout of the Week

Tilda: Alright, let’s end this with the Shoutout of the Week.

Clara: And the Shoutout of the Week, for me at least, is for Finlandia bird -- a beautiful little blue tit. I’m very sad that my zoom wasn’t good enough to get a better close up of him, who had a great time flying past the judges, landing in the middle of the ice, and then eventually disappearing into the rafters where he was followed by a stream of Finnish fed people holding nuts. So, congratulations to him on a great competition.

Evie: And, of course, another shoutout has to go to Clara for truly doing the most this week. Updating the Twitter account with so many great photos, including photos of the Finlandia bird, we can’t forget about that.

Clara: Yes, high quality pictures. If we’re doing shoutouts, then I’ll just add thanks to Kat and Lae for helping me edit, because I was stuck without Lightroom and my pictures were pretty appalling in their raw form, so thanks to both of you.

– end segment – 1:41:32

START: Outro

Evie: Thank you for listening, there will be no new episode next week like we said, but we hope to see you again for our next episode in two weeks, which will be all about Skate America -- the first Grand Prix event!

Clara: 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.

Tilda: 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.

Evie: You can find the links to all our social media pages, our ko-fi, and our listener survey on the website.

Clara: 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:

Evie: Evie,

Tilda: Tilda,

Clara: And Clara. See you soon!

Evie: Bye!