Nina: Happy Halloween! You're In The Loop - we're here to discuss the spooks, scares and frights of the sport of figure skating, and maybe give you -5 GOE along the way. Let’s introduce this weeks hosts:
Kat: Hey, I’m Kat. Sorry I sound a little sick but I’ve been sitting in a rink for 3 full days straight and dry air and screaming is a deadly combo. You can find me on Twitter @kattwts.
Kite: Hi, I’m Kite. I went to Skate Canada and I’ve spent about 30 hours, and my voice, watching and photographing live figure skating in the past two days. You can find me on Twitter @mossyzinc.
Gina: Hi, I’m Gina. I’ve been enjoying the sunrise while watching figure skating. You last heard from me in episode 12. You can find me on Twitter is @4ATwizzles.
Nina: And I’m Nina. I’m still in the process of emotionally recovering from having been at Skate Canada, and from the full effects of rink exhaustion but it was 100% worth it. But it was definitely worth it, and you can find me on Twitter @yonkaitenpooh.
Kat: Alright so I guess we’ll start off with recapping a little bit of news that happened this week. So first, Elena Radionova withdrew from NHK Trophy.
Kite: Yeah it looks like her - I think it was a hip - injury is still bothering her a little bit so wishing her a very speedy recovery from that. Alexia Paganini, who represents Switzerland, has been added to Internationaux de France.
Gina: Also Hanul Kim from Korea has been added to the Grand Prix in Helsinki, so we’ll be able to watch her next week.
Nina: That’s really nice, I’m always happy to see Korean skaters rise.
Gina: I really like Hanul Kim. She’s so small, but she just really goes for it.
Kite: So that’s just a pretty brief overview of the news from this week. We do publish a weekly roundup of news stories that you might have missed during the week on our website, so you can just go to inthelopodcast.com and you will find all of our articles there.
-end segment- 2:18
START: Skate Canada overview
Kat: I guess before we start recapping the skaters, maybe we’ll talk a little about being at Skate Canada live - since Kite, Nina and I have been there for three days. Well, Nina for two days. Any thoughts, guys? Being here for your first GP?
Kite: I want to say I was not super impressed with some of the audience not really cheering for the non-Canadian skaters. It was something I noticed. I mean, it is an event in Canada, it’s called Skate Canada, of course you’re gonna be going all out for your home skaters.
Kat: Either the Canadian skaters or the French they were really enthusiastic about. Like Vanessa [James] and Morgan [Cipres] got-
Kite: Well we were in Quebec.
Kat: Yeah, Vanessa and Morgan got a huge standing ovation and they got a lot of cheer, and obviously, they deserved it. And also Evgenia got a lot of cheering as well, but I guess she’s been adopted into the Canadians, kind of?
Kite: Well she’s also just so well known and I think she has become a pretty beloved figure for a lot of fans post-Olympics.
Kat: Yeah, I guess so.
Kite: So yeah, it was either if you were a very well known skater, or if you were a Canadian/French skater.
Nina: I wish the well-known points would have counted towards some of the Men’s skaters.
Gina: Yeah, it was really obvious when streaming that the crowd was just so half-hearted who wasn’t either really well known or Canadian. But I also saw some reports that people booed Shoma [Uno] after the Short Program? Did that really happen?
Kat: I did not actually hear or see any of that.
Kite: That wasn’t in our section, but Maryam, who is our team member who was volunteering at the actual event, she said that she heard some of the audience booing after Shoma got his scores for the Short Program because he went ahead of Nam [Nguyen], because he was mostly clean.
Kat: To the naked eye.
Kite: They could have been booing the judges, and not Shoma. Like booing the judges is a thing that happens at competitions - it’s not great, but I don’t necessarily want to read too much into that. But either way it’s not really good etiquette for being at a competition. You’re here to support the skaters, you’re not here to necessarily wage war on the judges. Even if you’re not booing the skater, they don’t necessarily know that, so it can really affect their attitude going into the competition, if you feel that energy from the crowd.
Gina: Reading that made me quite angry. You can complain about the judging and disagree with scores, but booing is just really disrespectful to the athlete. Whether your booing the judges or the athlete, the athlete doesn’t know that it’s directed at the judges.
Kat: Exactly, that’s my thing. When you’re booing, you don’t know who it’s at, it just makes the entire atmosphere feel a little uncomfortable for everyone. It’s not a good look.
Nina: So there were moments when it was very uncomfortable. I remember during Mariah Bell’s Free Skate she did this gorgeous spiral sequence, and afterwards it was very silent and I remember a couple of people in my section clapped, and I heard some audience members behind going “Is no one going to cheer for that?” Like the crowd was aware of it.
Kat: And also, so I sat by myself for some of the disciplines, and I remember I was sitting by myself for the Rhythm Dance and the Pairs Free Skate today. And I was cheering for Wang/Liu or Peng/Jin, and the people next to me were just looking at me like “Why are you cheering for them?" I don’t know it was really bizarre. I felt really awkward.
Gina: That’s so strange. That’s so weird to me.
Kite: You get quite a mixed bag at competitions anyway. You get some fans who are really just hardcore there for their home skaters, but I think a lot of the fans were also very lovely. There were these two Japanese fans sitting across the rink from us who had brought flags for every one of the skaters who was competing, so that when they were bowing to the audience at the end of their program they could look into the audience and see their home country flag flying. And so things like that kind of balance out some of the discomfort that I think was brought by people just being very aggressive about their favourite skaters.
Kat: I think that people need to remember that the skaters kind of take energy from the audience as well. There’s no harm in cheering if you’re not being distracting. Like cheering after the skaters do a cool element or they really gave their all in their Choreographic Sequence or their Step Sequence. Like when Wakaba [Higuchi]’s music started to pick up, we started to clap along. We kind of got the crowd into it, I think? We started the clapping when the music started picking up, and I think it really did help her performance a little bit, she started skating a little faster.
Kite: We started a lot of clapping this weekend.
Gina: Also when an athlete falls, or makes an error, clapping is a really nice way of saying “Hey, it’s okay.” and to cheer them on to carry on with the program.
Gina: I’ve only been to a couple of events, but every one that I’ve been to, everyone clapped for any element whether it was successful or not. And clapped and cheered for every skater because they’re there to compete, and they’re there to entertain you. Thank them for that, and support them!
Kat: And to be fair I think everyone was very supportive to the skaters that made some mistakes, especially some major mistakes or unexpected ones. So I do give them that. There’s definitely a balance in etiquette for live figure skating viewing. I guess it’s also different depending on the demographics as well, a lot of the figure skating live audiences are on the older side so they are less likely to yell and scream. Then there’s young people there yelling and cheering. It balances out eventually.
-end segment- 8:51
Kat: Okay so, I guess let’s start off with the Pairs event. So overall, I thought that the Skate Canada Pairs were pretty good to watch. Like it was fairly pleasant? I remember watching Skate America and all the Pairs were falling everywhere. So during the Short Program I think maybe one or two teams had one fall, but for the most part it was relatively clean as far early GP Pairs events go.
Kite: Yeah, did not necessarily expect that but not gonna complain if people go clean.
Kat: I’m just always shocked when back to back go clean in side by side jumps, because that almost never happens - especially in the first group. So props to the Skate Canada Pairs. So I guess we’ll just start off with Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres winning gold by like 20 points. They were undoubtedly the class of the field at this event.
Kite: Head and shoulders above any of the Pairs here. They have amazing chemistry and they’re perfectly in sync with whatever they do on the ice. Vanessa, I think, she did seem a little bit tense on their technical elements, especially in their Short Program, she was really fighting to land the throws. But even then, just technically performance wise they were just far beyond any of the Pairs currently competing, or really, most of the Pairs in the world at this point.
Kat: I think that Vanessa and Morgan, they exude this really powerful presence. I’ve always enjoyed their programs because they tend to skate to more modern music, and their aesthetic is less like “Small lady, giant guy.” They have less of that going on, and so it lends really well to the programs they choose. My only thing is that Vanessa gets so much height on her throws, but I do wish that she did a better running edge and speed coming out of her throws. But otherwise, she looks amazing.
Kite: She does kind of skid to a halt, she lands a little bit on her toe pick when she comes down on the throws (Kat: Right, yeah.) so it just kind of halts her right there. I would like to see more flow coming out.
Kat: It’s definitely a residual of practicing the quads. He’s throwing her so much higher to that she can get enough time to finish the fourth rotation, and so she kind lands down instead of going outward, like her trajectory is less outwards. But I’m really glad that they decided to ditch going for the throw quads, because they never really landed them, they weren’t consistent on them and their instead opting for cleaner programs to maximise the GOE. And yeah, I guess there is an argument to attempting them in program, but in general, I think, in Pairs it’s not worth the risk considering how dangerous they are. I still remember her falling from them at Worlds and being like “Oh my god, no.”
Gina: The Short Program wasn’t flawless, which is fine considering it’s the beginning of the season. Vanessa seemed to catch an edge, or something, going into the throw flip, but she landed it fine so that’s all that really matters. I really like that Short Program.
Nina: They had that quality where you notice something like the kind of jerky landings off the throws, and then a second later it’s completely wiped from your memory because you just get that pulled back into their program. And I really liked that they had much more original lift positions than a lot of the other pairs, it seemed like.
Kat: And like I said before, they got massive support from the home crowd. They got standing ovations, it was really sweet to see Vanessa hugging her family after both of her programs. And her reaction in the Kiss and Cry was so sweet and adorable. They definitely set the World Record. They got 145 [in the Free Skate] and [Evgenia] Tarasova and [Vladimir] Morosov came nowhere near that because they were not clean in either of their showings in the past couple of months. So, yeah, really good start to them. They really have a chance to make a move in the Pairs standings, especially this season considering how many teams are sitting out.
Gina: I think we can look forward to seeing them really have a great season and solidifying themselves as a top team. What was really funny for me was on British Eurosport, the commentators were lamenting that Vanessa had once represented Great Britain, and we let her go. Oh no!
Nina: What could have been!
Kat: The British Pairs scene is sobbing.
Gina: (laughs) What British Pairs scene?
Kat: The non-existent British Pairs.
Nina: It’s like running into your ex, like “Ah, that could have been so good for us!”
Gina: But they were also having a lot of praise for Morgan at the end of the Free Skate, when he’s just like fist pumping whilst holding her over his head. They were just like “Christ, he’s strong.”
Nina: Wasn’t his celebration at the end of their Free Program what got them a deduction?
Kite: He didn’t put her down in time, so yeah, they got a deduction for that.
Kat: I really do think that they should change the ending to that, I always feel like it’s kind of awkward.
Kite: Well Morgan gets overlooked a lot, especially in this team because Vanessa just kind of shines. (Kat: Oh yeah.) Like she’s just this ray of sunshine, and she’s so lovely to look at.
Kat: You can’t take your eyes off her.
Kite: But you don’t want to overlook the fact that Morgan is probably one of the best male Pairs skaters in the field right now.
Kat: He’s definitely improved a lot, I gotta say. Especially stamina wise, he used to look like he was really struggling to keep it together at the end of their programs, because he’s so tired, but he looked pretty good here. I was impressed.
Gina: He’s very complementary (Kite: Oh definitely.) That’s a good thing in a Pair.
Kat: They have very similar lines as well, so they look aesthetically pleasing.
Nina: It astonishes me when I see the height difference between them, that they’re able to match their carriage so perfectly.
Kat: Overall, definitely highlight of the Pairs event.
Kite: In second place we had Chen Peng and Yang Jin from China. I liked them.
Gina: The Short Program was so cute and fun to watch. It’s maybe not as complex as some other teams, but they get good speed and they put on a really good performance.
Nina: They have that entertainment quality for sure.
Kat: Yeah, I’m so happy these two made the podium. I’ve always had a soft spot for them, they just barely missed out on making the Free Skate at the Olympics and they’re also coached by Zhao Hongbo. I think that Peng has so much sass and she’s got this spark to her, and they’re definitely one of those teams that are on the rise because their elements are fairly solid. Chinese pairs always tend to have pretty good elements, throws especially. They’ve got pretty decent side-by-side jumps, the triple toes were totally in sync. I think she skidded on one of the landings, either in the short or the free, or no - she put her hand down in the free. And then, Chinese pairs always have a questionable second side-by-side jump. But she gets amazing height and distance on their throw jumps, she can save them pretty well, I saw her save a couple of them during practice. But their performance needs a little bit more refinement, and maturity, and I do feel they could be a little bit faster. But they’re faster than I remember them being, so they’re improving on that. But give it time! It’s all about the slow burn with team China, Beijing, keep your eyes on the price, Beijing 2022. I’m looking forward to seeing them grow in the next couple of years.
Gina: She’s got amazing knee bend.
Nina: She does, it’s how she saves those jumps.
Kite: I was just going to say, when we realized that they were going to be on the podium, I just looked over at Kat - I was like “is Kat crying yet? Is she okay?” We were all crying.
Kat: I was totally freaking out.
Kite: We were pulling so hard for this team, to carry on the great legacy of Chinese pairs.
Nina: They were one of those teams that I started cheering for, and the people around me were like “Who are you? Why are you cheering for them?” Like looking at me.
Kite: We were the Team China hype squad in the stands.
Kat: We definitely were. They deserve though.
Nina: In third place for the bronze medal we have Kirsten Moore-Towers and Michael Marinaro. Honestly, the biggest thing I can say about them right off the bat is that they got such an incredible response from the crowd. They have really good energy. I can’t say that I necessarily connected the most with their skating, but I noticed that they had some really good performativity and that even though I felt that their lift positions were a little on the simpler side, she had really good extension when she was being held.
Gina: I am going to get banned from Canada, I’m never allowed to enter, I find Canadians so boring.
Kite: Go off!
Gina: I’m sorry! I found the performance-
Nina: I was trying to be diplomatic.
Gina: Really one-note and really dull. I think they rely, especially in their Free Program, they rely a bit too much on the music to provoke a response in the audience rather than working with the music to create something themselves.
Kat: I agree.
Gina: I just find them so dull.
Kat: A note on the music: So they skated to Pink Floyd in their Free Skate, and that is such… A lot of the Canadians, I’ve noticed, pick oldies to skate to-
Nina: So Canadian…
Kat: Yeah, they pick oldies to skate to. That elicits a response from a certain demographic.
Gina: I think I’m about 30 years too young for Canada.
Kat: I’ve seen this Free Program at least 6 times, because I saw it at ACI, during ACI practices, here as well. I saw it three times during practices and during the-
Nina: Are you telling me they were at ACI because I do not remember that.
Kite: Yes, they were at ACI. They were struggling a lot with their lifts at ACI, especially. So they did a lot better here. They’ve shown some improvement in the past month, which is good to see.
Nina: I didn’t remember them from ACI, so the fact that I remember them standing out here is definitely a sign of improvement.
Kat: I definitely feel bad for ragging on them, they’re a perfectly fine team. Their elements have gotten a lot better. They’re definitely going to be benefitting from the fact that Julienne and Charlie unexpectedly split, because they were neck and neck with them, fighting for that top Canadian pairs spot now that Duhamel and Radford have retired. I was really impressed at the way she was able to save some of her throws. Kirsten always gives me a Kristen Bell vibe, I don’t know, she’s this tiny blonde that definitely has a lot of spunk even if I can’t really connect with any of their programs.
Kite: She definitely has that killer instinct. All pairs ladies have. You can just see it in her eyes when she’s coming down from the throw that she is going to land this.
Kat: And do you remember even at ACI after the Free Skate, she goes like “what was that?” or something at Michael, right after, like “excuse me?”. It was really adorable.
Kite: I could see her talking to him while she was in the air. But yeah, something went wrong with their throws and their lifts last time. But they got that squared away, everything looked good, but I agree with Gina - I don’t think anything looked amazing or spectacular or exceptional.
Kat: They did get a really big rousing response from the audience, so.
Nina: I’m just always happy when teams have a really good moment on home ice and this was definitely one of those for them, so that was really good.
-end segment- 21:20
Kite: Now we’re going to move on to the men of Skate Canada. In first place we had Shoma Uno from Japan, who made a pretty good comeback in the Free Skate after struggling a little bit in the Short Program, to get all his jumps in order.
Kat: I feel like Skate Canada was all comeback stories. Comeback in the free!
Kite: Watching Shoma live definitely puts his program components scores in a new perspective. Because I’ve seen people say on a steam that “he seems a little bit slow when he is moving around the rink”. He is not slow, watching him live. He speeds around the ice.
Nina: He’s just small. He gets a lot of coverage.
Kite: He has great ice coverage. He was going so fast that I couldn’t take pictures of him. My shutter speed was not equipped to deal with how fast he was. So in all of my pictures of him, he’s just a blur when going through. Same thing with his jump size and his distance, he doesn’t get really good height on his jumps, probably as a function of how physically small he is as a person. But he does have very good air position, he rotates super fast. He gets them around without much of a problem as far as I can tell. And the distance of his triple Axel - it’s world class. It cleared like 10 seats. Measuring the distance across the ice was like 10 seats in the audience. It was insane.
Nina: And I know that people, of course, rag on him for arm transitions and stuff like that, and it’s definitely true, but the effect of his arm movements is very powerful in person. And I knew to expect that because I’d seen a lot of people say that after they see him live for the first time, but it really comes through.
Gina: Yeah, he has a way of making it look like he’s doing a lot, even if he’s not really doing a lot below the waist.
Kat: It’s all about disguising the feet, or distracting what’s going on with the feet with the upper body. It’s not unique to Shoma, certainly, I have a similar criticism for Nathan.
Gina: I think Shoma is more effective.
Kat: Yeah, in certain programs.
Gina: Mostly for me, is that Shoma has a much better carriage. His upper body and his core in general is a lot stronger, for me, than Nathan. Nathan’s chest seems to be towards the ice a bit too much and he really needs to roll his shoulders back. I think that would improve a lot.
Kite: When we talk about components scores making more sense, is not to say that he should necessarily be getting 9.5, 9.75 in transitions because the transitions aren’t there, but seeing him more from the judges’ perspective by being physically in the rink does help the scores make a little bit more sense. Because this is definitely not something that is captured on camera. He does not look this fast on camera. Right now, Shoma’s Short Program is still pretty empty of meaningful transitions and choreography, other than the clapping and the hair pushing which I’m sure a lot of people in the audience appreciated, but it’s not really actual choreography. He spends about the first minute to minute thirty just skating from one end of the rink to the other and jumping. And unfortunately for him, the jumps just really weren’t happening, especially on the fall he took on the triple Axel. He fell pretty hard, but I think I was one of the only people who was pretty calm about it because I was like “oh, that’s the same way he fell during the Grand Prix Final last year in the Short Program”, where he just kind of skidded off the edge and slid down the ice.
Kat: Didn’t he go foot first though, at the Grand Prix Final? I don’t remember exactly, it plays in my head-
Gina: At the Grand Prix Final he kind of did the splits, so it was kind of funny-
Kat: Yeah, exactly!
Kite: But he slid off his edge was the issue, he fell differently but the reason for the fall was the same.
Kat: But it looks, it was more amusing I guess, during the Grand Prix Final-
Nina: Also at the Grand Prix Final, he was smiling afterwards-
Kat: Exactly, it was like “oh that happens, that shouldn’t have happened”.
Kite: He said he was just a little too calm, so when the jump started to fail him he was like “well”, I guess he kind of gave up on it.
Kat: Shoma’s competition mentality will always be a massive question mark to me. I am so endlessly fascinated by him and his view on nerves before competitions, you do you kid, it works.
Nina: But that fall was one of the instances where I’ve definitely felt the difference between being there in person and over a stream, because I think the reason I and a lot of people were more worried was because it was loud in the rink.
Gina: Well on the stream you could see that he hit the back of his head on the boards.
Nina: Yeah, you could hear that from 20 feet away.
Gina: That was what made me really worried, I was genuinely quite upset because we were all quite worried that he may have banged his head quite hard, it looked like he had some speed on the ice. It was really commendable that he got up as fast as he could, and he went straight into the step sequence like nothing had happened.
Kite: It was fire, that step sequence is fire. In person, again, with the transitions and generally not being on one foot a lot of the time, that is something that definitely needs to be worked on, but it just had great snap, it had great rhythm, he was projecting to the audience which again, was really impressive considering how hard he came down on that fall.
Nina: His competition switch mode, to go on and off, is very impressive. You can see him dust himself off and then switch his face back into game mode.
Gina: I think the problem with this Short Program is that it is a whole load of nothing, and then the step sequence happens and he sells it so well, and the steps is always where he really shines for me in programs. This wasn’t his best step sequence, because he had just whacked his head against the boards, but it was still the highlight of the program. He got quite excessive GOE though. Especially the grade of execution for his quad flip in both programs, was really excessive. His quad flip should struggle to get a +3, nevermind above that due to his technique problems.
Kite: He got a +4 in the Short Program which I’m really struggling to see how he hit the bullet points for +4.
Gina: My thing is, he should not be able to get the second bullet point at all, which is good takeoff and good landing. He doesn’t have a good takeoff, so he shouldn’t be able to get above +3.
Kite: And not a good landing either.
Gina: His landings have improved, I can see improvement in his jumps, and you can really see it in his landings, but his takeoff is poor.
Kite: Especially on his toe jumps. His flip entrance is really strange. He doesn’t have great flip technique so he goes into what is called a mule kick. So basically you swing your free leg around you really rapidly and aggressively and you just jam your toe pick into the ice to get the lift off that propels you into the jump, but it doesn’t give you as much lift as a clean picking technique where you’re not trying to muscle through it. It does looked very muscled in person, I will say, it doesn’t look natural. He seems like he’s really trying to get those rotations around.
Which I give props for him being able to do it at all because, watching it, I didn’t see how that should have been possible. +4 definitely not. +1, +2 yeah I could him getting that but anything above that I think you’d have to have a pretty good argument to justify why you gave him that. Moving on to his Free Skate, first of all, a new costume.
Nina: Love it.
Kite: Which felt a lot more appropriate for “Moonlight Sonata” than what we had at Lombardia.
Nina:It looks a lot like a starry night so it makes sense for moonlight.
Kite: The Free Skate, I feel like there’s not really much to say about it that wasn’t said in the Lombardia episode.
Nina: I have to admit that, I guess I’m coming down with Tilda on this one, but I actually enjoyed it, considering I stayed away from trying to watch too many renditions of it. So I did like it but it doesn’t excuse the fact that it is empty.
Kite: Yeah it’s such a slow melodic program but it’s also so empty. So it’s just so slow and it just highlights how empty it is.
Kat: That’s my main issue with it.
Nina: There were times in the runthrough practice where I’d be like, “He’s just doing his stroking. Oh wait, this is his music; he’s doing his runthrough.”
Kat: With the “Stairway to Heaven,” in the beginning he moves his arms to the music with the guitar strumming, and that kind of distracts you because it gets you in the mood of the program. Because “Moonlight Sonata” is so, so quiet the movements don’t really do anything for you. You’re just watching him move his arms around to nice piano music. There’s no musical accents that you can
Kite: Unpopular opinion, maybe, I don’t think “Moonlight Sonata” is a great piece of music for a figure skating program generally because it is pretty monotonic like Kat said. And that’s definitely a contributing issue here, everything feels so one-toned that it feels emptier than it already is. But, I think, on the bright side his jumps were a lot easier and more relaxed in the Free Skate. He came out of the gate ready to play, you could tell. Sometimes you just get the sense from a skater that they’re gonna nail their jumps. And he kind of nailed his jumps I guess, he was jumping the same way he did in practice. So he looked pretty good.
Nina: His first jump was actually was one of the better jumps that I’ve seen from him in a while.
Kite: Well it was called under, so it definitely wasn’t one of the better jumps. I mean it looked fine in real time. But they called it under, so I guess that’s a sign that the tech panel is doing their job and they’re reviewing rotations pretty carefully.
Kat: We always support tech panel doing their job.
Kite: Yeah for sure. And he lost steam, and I don’t think it was due to nerves, it really looks like he was out of stamina, he was really gasping for air.
Nina: Oh my goodness.
Nina: And if Shoma is gasping for air after the Free Skate, and Shoma has pretty consistently good stamina...
Gina: I do wonder if maybe the Free Program is on the emptier side, with a lot of the action in the last few minutes, so that Shoma can develop the stamina for the four minute programs because everyone is being wiped out by them. And if he can get that stamina up, then maybe more complexity can come in later. I know he’s working really hard on improving his jumps, and I do hope that he continues with this improvement because you can start to see the work is paying off, but I almost don’t care about his takeoff. I would prefer that he still has an ugly takeoff on his toe jumps but is doing and landing them out of steps, because I want to see more complex programs from him. He’s never going to have clean, perfect technique - it’s just not gonna happen. They’re just working to tidy up as much as they can. And I would rather see his kind of rubbish jumps in a complex program because his strengths of steps and the musicality and I would rather seeing them playing on the strengths more.
Kite: So in second place we have Keegan Messing who represented Canada, and of course got a very warm welcome from the home crowd so that was, it was nice to see how much they were supporting him. As for his programs, like eh.
Nina: He performs them well.
Kat: Guys we’re going to get banned from Canada.
Nina: Okay, no no no I supported Nam so I feel like I have that going for me.
Kite: Both of his programs feel very generic and very campy because he’s skating to Chaplin so of course it’s going to be a character sketch. Especially in the Free Skate, you get the sense that he’s channeling the ghost of Javier Fernandez. He’s not even dead yet guys, don’t do him like this.
Gina: Yeah Keegan gives me strong off-brand Javier vibes.
Kat: But he doesn’t quite have the charisma that Javi has. It played well in Canada, obviously, but I don’t know if this would work as nicely if he were competing elsewhere I guess.
Nina: Oh, I’m very curious to see what his scores will look like at other locations.
Kat: Yeah because our crowd obviously got really, really into his programs.
Gina: I don’t understand Canadians. I will say that I was correct last time that his Short Program is much more enjoyable when I mute the music.
Nina: This just in, Gina doesn’t like oldies.
Gina: I’m sorry. I still don’t think it’s a particularly good program. The choreography is pretty forgettable. He doesn’t really deliver much of a character in it. His own personality is there, but it’s just a generic Keegan program. And I’m not buying what he’s selling.
Kat: I think this is just a style. This is just a subjective style, it’s not like we hate on him. I think that his skating skills are really great, I’ll give him that. There’s only so far that good skating skills can take you. I kind of zoned out a little bit during them.
Nina: It’s not like he’s bad because he’s got the skills he’s got very nice jumps. His triple Axel is huge he has very nice jumps, he’s got good skills.
Gina: I mean, I say that but I disagree with some comments I’ve seen that his component score was ridiculously inflated. I disagree. I don’t dig his style, but what he does he does it well. And I thought his component scores were fine.
Kite: I think, relative to the rest of the field, I don’t think that the gap, between him and Jun especially, should have been nearly seven points.
Gina: Oh god no.
Kite: I’m trying to figure out where those missing seven points are because Jun also put out a clean program and I don’t see where the difference is. But again what he does he does extremely well, his jumps are very good. His triple Axel is just huge - height, speed, distance just flawless - textbook triple Axel. He’s saying about how he wants to maybe try a quad Axel in the future. Seeing his triple Axel live, I’m like, “Yeah he can land a quad axel. He could definitely do it.” If there’s anyone who could do it - maybe two men in the world could do it - I think he’s one of them.
Nina: If there’s anything that I hate, it’s the fact that I live in a world where the sentence, “Yeah he could land a quad Axel” is a perfectly viable sentence.
Kite: Okay so moving on to the bronze medalist in the men's’ event, we had Jun Hwan Cha from Korea. And first of all, big congratulations to him. He is the first Korean skater since Yuna Kim to medal at a Grand Prix event. And he’s the first Korean man to ever win a medal on the Grand Prix circuit. He made history this weekend, and looked like he had a great time doing it. In terms of his program progress, there really haven’t changed much since the last time we saw them. I think both of his programs - the “Cinderella” and the “Romeo and Juliet” - they both kinda feel like growing pain programs because now that he’s been to the Olympics, he’s started to make a splash on the world stage, his team is sending out feelers to see what his style is because he doesn’t really have a brand yet, he doesn’t have a style that you associate with him. But he doesn’t project very well to the audience, or at least he hasn’t learned how to yet. And I’m not really sure if super super dramatic music is the best choice for him in terms of developing his expression moving forward.
Kat: I don’t know, I always feel like sometimes the more dramatic music is a little bit better in helping skaters develop expression just because the drama kind of influences your movements as well. If you have the drama built in, you can kind of put your skating on top of that and the expression kind of builds. It definitely does scream junior-ish though, like that’s one of my criticisms sometimes of the Junior skaters. Sometimes they rely a little bit too much on the music, and you don’t just want to rely on the music to pull your programs through.
Nina: I did think that he has some improvements. I felt that in the Free Skate my criticism before had been that in the disco sections his movements weren’t very snappy and didn’t generate the party mode enough and I did feel that he’s quite a bit crisper and more party in this time - in this competition.
Gina: Yeah I did think that he does need to work on his performance in the interpretation side of things, but in his Short Program specifically, I had a problem with his component scores. Mostly in his skating skills, he got mostly 7.75’s and 7.25’s and I’m like “But why though.” Vincent Zhou got higher skating skills in the Short Program than Junhwan and that is not right. Junhwan in this program I think he utilized his edges more than Vincent, displayed more variety in steps, he had more speed, he had better flow throughout the program. There was quite a bit where he stood out as being better than Vincent at Skate America last week.
Kat: Especially the upper body, Vincent’s upper body is so stiff. Jun definitely has a lot more range of motion I think.
Gina: They both did come out from seniors around the same and they are kind of in that same tier in the field of young, upcoming skaters. Vincent kind of does have a technical edge because he does go for it and try more quads even if he doesn’t rotate them. Jun Hwan should be getting more than him in components and should have that edge over him.
Nina: So one of the skaters that we also wanted to talk about in the men’s discipline was Kazuki Tomono because he had a really beautiful Short Program. He looks very mature, very refined.
Kat: I just gotta say that I love that costume.
Nina: It’s beautiful.
Kat: It’s gorgeous. I’m a sucker for the blue-white ombre costumes, so
Nina: Also his free, it wasn’t his best day for the Free Program. You could tell that he was very tense throughout the entire time and very tentative and I’m pretty sure that where his jump errors or his falls came from. But even by the time he got to the step sequence… it wasn’t as good as it has been in the past but you can tell that it has a lot of potential.
Gina: He really does need to look at the step sequences ‘cause he dropped a lot of levels on them. In the Free Skate I hope he can fix that step sequence level 2 situation without taking out the best part, which is obviously the Irish dance in the middle. That Free Program has so much potential. If he gets it together for Nationals and Worlds I think he’s going to be a real shining moment in the season. So much fun to watch, even and he does have the showmanship to pull it off.
Nina: Well he’s very charismatic.
Kite: Yeah, he’s such a tiny skater but he projects so well that his presence just fills the rink and he grabs the crowd - he did grab the crowd - during the catchy bit, during the step sequence when the music gets really catchy he can focus on emoting and he does his step sequences extremely well in my opinion. But unfortunately I think the pressure of being relatively unknown from last season to suddenly being seeded for the Grand Prix and having two assignments and kind of being expected to carry on this grand tradition of Japanese men that we currently have can be a little overwhelming, I think, when you’re suddenly a contender and I hope that he can get both of these programs at least polished up a little bit more in preparation for Japanese Nationals and hopefully getting sent to the couple of the championships in the spring, because I want to see this program again.
Nina: And I want to see his programs get the PCS that they deserve.
Gina: Oh yeah he’s another one that I’m like, “his components should be a quarter of a mark to half a mark higher across every component.”
Kat: Yeah and then poor Jason [Brown]. I think that we probably should mention him real fast. I really love his Short Program. It feels a little bit more mature and less campy than some of his previous programs and I really like that. I dig the new hairstyle. It goes along really well with his programs. He probably was just feeling a little bit nervous and a lot of pressure to perform well, especially since he’s made this huge coaching change. I don’t know, I’m not too worried, it’s definitely disappointing and a tough result for him but it’s a new season, a new coach, lots of changes. I’m not totally worried, I think it’s just growing pains.
Kite: Unfortunately he is not going to make the Grand Prix Final this year because he finished in sixth here, which I think actually is going to be a good thing for him cause he’s pretty clearly not ready. He’s still adjusting to his new coaching environment and he’s having his jump technique overhauled while he’s competing.
Kite: So I'm hoping it's going to work out for him like in his favor though and preparing for US Nationals and having from basically from his second event until the end of January to just get in shape for Nationals and hopefully make it to one or more of the Championship events in the spring.
-end segment- 43:18
START: Ice Dance
Kat: So I guess we're moving on to Ice Dance. Yeah, I guess we really learned that Canada loves Ice Dance. I wonder why. It was by far, (Kite: I can’t think of any reason) by far the most attended discipline, I think.
Nina: Oh yeah, they clearly sold most of the single event tickets.
Kat: The most enthusiastic crowds for sure, like most of the front row seats were pretty filled for ice dance considering it was - they were both like early evening events as well, like they started at around six or seven. It's not super late either, so a lot more people were able to attend their, you know, it's like off work hours. I guess Canadians come watch Ice Dance when that happens.
Gina: It's a shame because it's kind of unlikely that a Canadian Ice Dance team is going to make it to the Grand Prix Final.
Kat: And the two main Canadian ice dance teams had some unexpected errors. Definitely really unexpected.
Nina: So, the thing is the Ice Dance discipline at this event was just kind of frustrating throughout. There were a lot of teams that had some rather subpar basic Skating Skills and edge work, and they were getting points when they really shouldn't have been getting points for them. Skating Skills are kind of, or should be or used to be, one of the major defining hallmarks of the really top tier Ice Dance teams to really separate them from the rest of the pack, but it seems that now people are getting rewarded when they're not quite up to that par.
Kat: Especially like - so we all knew that scores were going to be - it's going to take some time to adjust properly to the new scoring system, and like the range of scores in all the disciplines. Ice dance in particular, there has been a pretty significant four to five point increase on average from previous seasons, like a 120 in the Free Dance is like [Tessa] Virtue and [Scott] Moir, like Pyeongchang, like you put your heart on the ice. And you know that that's the best that you can do kind of Free Dance, but now, we saw three 120 scores in the Free Dance at Skate Canada, which is... again, we expected the increase, but I don't know if 120 still is like a reasonable score for some of these events, especially here at Skate Canada and the second Grand Prix. So I don't know how the judging is going to be like for the rest of the season if some of these teams are getting 120s already and, you know, we haven't even seen some of the other top teams yet compete.
Nina: The top team that was here, for sure, the name that a lot of people were expecting was the gold medalists Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue. Hubbell/Donohue were definitely some of the favorites going into this, and they did very well.
Kat: Yeah, and they basically just booked their tickets to the Grand Prix Finals since they got two first-place finishes. Hubbell and Donohue are definitely the best or the team with the best skating skills at this event. Their edge quality and their speed is better than most of the other Gadbois teams. I don't know if it's necessarily like top-level, like I said, 120s level, like they got - although this week, they got lower scores than they did at Skate America. I think they got 122 last week, and they got 120 this time, and they didn't win the Free Dance and Madi changed her Rhythm Dance dress so that they could prevent the costume violations that they got last week on the Rhythm Dance.
Nina: I felt that their Free Dance, it's been - we've discussed this before on the podcast, but it feels very much like there's a weird disconnect between their performativity and the drama and performativity that the really aggressive music is calling for.
Kat: To be fair, I do like Hubbell and Donahue quite a bit, but I feel that their program, especially their Free Dance to “Romeo and Juliet,” I think a lot of people have voiced their criticisms on it already, but to me, it just feels like “Romeo and Juliet” for them, it's like they're such a mature team. They've been together for - they've been competing together for quite a while now. “Romeo and Juliet” just feels a lot like a program that you'd probably give to like a Junior team or a Junior skater to help them with their expression, because like I said, it's got the drama and the emotion built into it. It's not really like they aren’t dramatic enough for the “Romeo and Juliet” music, and I don't know, it just felt a little bit too light hearted and doesn't like build up enough to the ending.
Gina: Yeah, I was confused at the ending. I was like, wait, she's dead now? How did that happen?
Nina: So, let’s move on to the second Dance team here. So it was Victoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov from Russia, kind of making a return to competition for them. Well, they won their first event this season by a pretty big margin.
Kite: They’re a technically pretty strong team, like Victoria is just beautiful. She's a beautiful performer. She has beautiful Skating Skills, and she just kind of floats across the ice and, you know, Nikita's just kind of there.
Gina: Just dragging her around.
Kite: Yeah, like he doesn't really contribute to the performance that much, like he's basically there to show her off. But even then I feel like they don't really have enough chemistry for that to actually work if the man is kind of a little bit in the background of the program.
Kat: I'm just not used to seeing them together still. I'm still getting used to that.
Kite: Yeah, they're pretty newish team.They got together after the Sochi Olympics, but they haven't been competing consistently since then, and we haven't really seen them around in a while, and I think in the Free Dance, it looked like he actually dropped her during a lift. It was like near the beginning where he kind of had her on his knee I think, and then it seemed like he slipped or something, and I couldn't tell if it was like choreographed or not, which doesn't say a lot for the choreo, if you can't tell like what's a mistake and what was intentional.
Kat: Which is why I'm so curious why they added all of those choreographic knee slides, like [as if] it's a requirement now for all the dance teams to do choreographic knee slides, (Gina: Everyone, stop) and they lead to so many mishaps and errors.
Nina: And in this season too, where every other skater’s like, “Oh cool. Let me touch the ice with my knees.” It's like -
Gina: What's going on? Everyone's got a knee slide. Everyone needs to stop. Kévin Aymoz is the only one who's allowed to do knee slides now; everyone needs to get that memo and just stop.
Kat: Yeah, I don't know. I felt like I wasn't really connecting to their program as much as the other teams, but it does seem like they're on the rise, and they're probably going to be one of Russia's top dance teams along with [Alexandra] Stepanova and [Ivan] Bukin, and you know, with the scores being as they are, like they beat Hubbell and Donohue in the Free, which was I guess pretty unexpected, like definitely unexpected for me. You know, we could see them also rising to the top ranks as well.
Gina: The Free Dance was boring.
Kat: I zoned out.
Nina: The Free Dance seemed like it was supposed to be clean, and glassy, and very elegant, but they didn't really have the tech to back it up-
Kite: No, they do, they have good tech, like their tech is fine. It was just boring, like it didn't connect to the audience.
Nina: I feel like this will make no sense but it felt like their program wanted to be very lyrical- not lyrical, but like balletic, almost? Like the vibe-
Kat: That’s very Russian.
Nina: But they felt crunchy. Like their tech felt crunchy, it didn’t mesh well with the vibe they were trying to give off.
Kat: And then our third place team was Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier from Canada. Definitely another crowd favorite - probably the biggest crowd favorite that I saw at the entire event. It was such a shame, that fall, that fluke fall during their pattern in the Rhythm Dance. That was completely unexpected and so tough to watch because the crowd was so into them. It just looked like her toe pick caught on the ice and she tripped. But they have really great Skating Skills and gorgeous lines so - oh man, what a shame.
Gina: Yeah, that mistake was really unfortunate, and they were saying in the Kiss and Cry later that “We need bigger rinks!” because it wasn’t an Olympic sized rink.
Nina: Yeah, it was an NHL-sized rink, so everyone was closer to the boards.
Gina: They weren’t the only ones to have a problem with that because, I think I remember, it was maybe in the Men’s someone went into a flying entry for a spin and I saw members of the crowd recoil to not get hit. That’s not good.
Kat: I noticed just in general a lot of the jumps were super close to the boards. Like Elizaveta [Tuktamysheva] during practice almost ran into us.
Kite: She did run into the boards.
Kat: Yeah, that’s what I meant, she basically ran into the boards after landing her triple Lutz-triple toe. Definitely an interesting choice to not hold the event in an Olympic sized rink. I think that their Rhythm Dance is great, she is so beautiful. Like I can’t even explain, in person Piper is so beautiful. I was just so sad for them because they had such a good chance of making the Grand Prix Final if they held onto the silver medal. But it’s looking unlikely, I think, that they’ll make it. They’d have to win their next event.
Nina: Paul needs to keep his moustache shaved.
Kat: Oh god, yeah.
Kite: He kept it out for the Rhythm Dance and shaved it for the Free Dance, I didn’t even recognise him when he came out for Free Dance practice. I was like “Oh my god, that’s Paul.” He looked like 15 years younger than he did 24 hours ago, just because he shaved his moustache.
Kat: Please do not do that, Paul, if you’re listening. Please just get rid of the moustache.
Nina: Paul, more flower crowns, fewer moustaches.
Kat: But yeah, it was great that they made a great comeback in the Free Dance.
Nina: [Shiyue] Wang/[Xinyu] Liu. What happened to them this competition? And I mean, what happened to them because I’m not sure they did anything…
Kat: Yeah, we had a lot of discussions about what happened with Wang/Liu. We were like the Wang/Liu hype squad, by the way, at Skate Canada.
Kite: If you heard screaming in the crowd, that was us.
Kat: That was definitely all us, I’m pretty sure.
Nina: She definitely looked at us and giggled because we were screaming so loudly.
Kat: Especially during practices. Practices are pretty empty and then there’s just this one row of girls screaming at them.
Nina: (pretending to scream) Shiyue!!!
Kat: But yeah so, Wang/Liu. I love their programs, both of them, but they were hit pretty hard on the levels and deductions. They got an interruption call in the second part of their pattern [in the Rhythm Dance], and I was so confused about this. I had to ask friends what was happening there. So basically the rulebook says that an interruption of less than 4 beats gives you a loss of one level in the pattern. So Wang/Liu got a level 2 on the second part of the Tango Romantica, but due to the interruption they ended up with a level 1 and then lost half a point because it lowered the base value. And watching back the video it just looked like Xinyu, he kind of messed up the timing for some of his steps. So, for the Tango Romantica pattern, the holds and the steps have to be on beats and if they’re off then you can get an interruption or a timing call. It seems like he should have gotten a timing call, because he didn’t hold a step long enough and it kind of messed up some of the timing. So that’s why I feel like the judges probably made a mistake, because Piper and Paul got the same call on their Tango Romantica section 2 because of the fall. And I was just thinking that maybe the judges were thinking of Piper and Paul and put the same violation on their protocol, but then didn’t bother changing it to a timing call because the timing call leads to a loss of level.
Gina: It does make me wish for a system for the skaters to contest those kind of calls. But if they were going to get a call that did exactly the same thing anyway, does it really matter?
Kat: Yeah, exactly. I think that was probably the justification. They probably just didn’t notice. And also they had an extended lift in the Free Dance. I think this is such a stupid rule, by the way. The limit is 7 seconds, and I think their straight line lift, which I really love that lift, it was 8 seconds so they got a one point deduction. I just hate this rule because I feel like it’s just them trying to differentiate between Pairs and Ice Dance more but like… come on. Really? Really???
Gina: The difference is that in Ice Dance they don’t get thrown!
Nina: It’s not like she’s doing a split above his head on his hand like a pizza platter. It’s very clearly not the same thing.
Kat: The lifts are so different already between Ice Dance and Pairs. Anyone who doesn’t recognise the difference obviously just doesn’t watch figure skating that much, and you don’t need to change the rules for them.
Kite: I just think generally they have really great charisma, and they have great projection. They’ve very recently broken into the elite ranks, so it’s pretty impressive to see them have this connection with each other already. And yeah, their [Rhythm Dance] is a little campy, like it’s kind of divisive.
Kat: I love the “Pirates of the Caribbean.”
Gina: See I don’t understand it.
Nina: It’s not a tango!
Kite: It’s just after you’ve heard 10 tango’s in a row, they all start to sound the same. I’m not exaggerating at all, they do sound the same.
Nina: I mean I’m very happy to not hear the same generic accordion and violin (sings tango). But like, what is “Pirates” doing here?
Kite: I do like their Rhythm Dance it’s very unique, it’s fresh. And they have fun, you can tell that they have fun skating to it. But the one thing- because I watched them pretty extensively in practice - the one thing that concerned me was how he kept running into other skaters during practice, like I saw it happen four times- not running into them but having really close calls with them. It happened four times while I was watching and I don’t know if he lacks awareness of his place on the ice because he’s so tall-
Kat: He just doesn’t look down
Kite: Maybe it’s hard for him to tell in relation to other people where he is, or in relation to the ice, but I worry about this affecting them as a couple- like skating - like losing connection or breaking out of sync or something.
Kat: Yeah he definitely does look like- his height is very apparent. I’m surprised his posture is still relatively decent considering how much taller he is.
Kite: He is so tall- he was so tall that it’s hard to get them in one shot so I’d get a beautiful picture of her and then half of his head is just gone at the top.
Kat: Love them, wish that they didn’t get underscored but what can you do.
-end segment- 58:41
Kat: Alright so next is the ladies event. In first place we had Elizaveta Tuktamysheva.
Kite: Her triple Axel is actually amazing.
Kat: It is
Kite: She goes into it with basically no speed
Kat: And it was perfectly- I saw that it was cleanly rotated live, in real time.
Kite: Yeah, you can see how powerful she is because of how almost calmly she goes into it. She doesn’t need to do a lap around the rink to set up for it. It’s within the first 10 to 15 seconds of her program, she has landed the triple Axel. And she landed multiple clean ones in practice- or she had a little turn-out- but she was on her feet. I think unfortunately in the Free Skate she did tighten up a little bit going into it, and she had even less speed than she usually has going into it and she just didn’t get enough height to get the rotations all the way around. So she took a fall on that. It wasn’t called under-rotated but it was very clearly under-rotated, even in real time like watching from the rink you could tell she was actually pretty close to the one-half rotation mark coming down. So I don’t know why it wasn’t called for her, maybe the angle wasn’t good or something, but it definitely should have been called.
Nina: The one thing is- I feel that sometimes she’s- I don’t know if it was her today or this weekend or her style, but she was definitely a bit more slow and halting at times.
Kat: Oh for sure, that’s probably my main gripe with her skating.
Nina: That makes it difficult for me to get into some of her skating.
Kite: She doesn’t get a lot of ice coverage- so she got 31 PCS in the Short Program, which should seem a bit low, max for ladies is 40. She had a clean skate so I think a big part of it is definitely attributable to her- she’s noticeably slower going across the ice than Evgenia or some of the younger skaters.
Kat: I’m definitely more partial to the Free Skate just because I really love that last 30 seconds where the music really picks up and she does that cantilever fist pumping move. But in some of her programs- especially the beginning of the Free Skate drags a little bit towards the beginning. It’s kind of like that smooth, sultry- but it drags so I’m not as into it. Although generally I do like the program, I just wish she moved a little bit faster- put a little bit more finesse into her motions as well.
Gina: Yeah I wish there was more harmony between her upper body and lower body. In the Short Program sometimes they look kind of disconnected and in the Free Skate her upper body was kinda there- it just existed. And I think that probably hurts the components too.
Kite: I mean she didn’t get a huge score here actually, I thought they were quite reasonable with her scores for the ladies champion at a Grand Prix. But she is such a powerful skater that I think she can’t get enough speed to really be show-stopping. So I hope that’s something they look into moving forward for her, especially since she always seems to peak in post-Olympic seasons which as a fan of her is the most frustrating thing.
Kat: Good on her for continuing though. A lot of skaters give up if they don’t make the Olympics.
Kite: Twice. She didn’t make the Olympics twice.
Kat: Right. Yeah if they don’t make the Olympics twice and she’s still out here putting out great programs and performing so well.
Kite: And the rest of her jumps are just beautiful too. Best triple lutz in the ladies field hand down.
Kat: Her triple lutz-triple toe, it looks like she just lightly taps into the ice and she just flies across the rink. It’s massive, it’s incredible, there’s no muscling, it’s just a gentle tap and she just goes.
Kite: She’s technically excellent. She just needs to get a little bit faster and then I think she’ll be one to watch for the major championships. So in second place, we had Mako Yamashita from Japan. Talk about a dark horse medalist. In her first senior season-
Gina: Thank you for saving my fantasy team.
Kite: Rest in peace my fantasy team, I’m so happy that it was sacrificed for her.
Kat: Yeah we all bet on the Russians.
Kite: Yeah always bet on the Russians - no that’s a lie. She actually lost the gold by .26 of a point because she got negative GOE on her triple loop on the Free Skate. And she got an edge call on the flip but that wasn’t really the contributing factor, it was the negative GOE.
Nina: Would she have gotten gold if Liza’s under-rotation had been called?
Kat: Probably yeah.
Kite: But yeah I don’t think anybody- even people who picked her for their team- I don’t think anybody saw her actually being on the podium. I think she was the only ladies skater here to have two clean programs which again is just a testament to how well she’s trained. And she is one of the few non-Russian skaters who has two triple-triples in the Free Skate. She’s coming out ready to claim a spot in the Japanese ladies field.
Kat: The already completely inundated one. Like how many Japanese ladies have we got here?
Kite: Well we had three- there’s three at every Grand Prix.
Kat: No I just mean in terms of Japanese ladies in general the field is so, so packed already.
Kite: It’s packed.
Nina: It’s like she took one look at the crazy deep Japanese ladies field and she just floated in with this ethereal, beautiful style and was like “I’m here”.
Kite: Well to me her programs still felt pretty juniorish, which is fine because this is her first senior season, but this is definitely not something that should become a consistent brand for her moving forward, because the drawback of having so many Japanese ladies and having such a deep field is that she needs to distinguish herself stylistically from the rest of them to realistically be a contender to be sent to championships.
Kat: Yeah I don’t know about the choice of doing “Madame Butterfly” for her Free Skate, especially the year after Satoko - the top Japanese lady- gave such an iconic “Madame Butterfly” program. It’s definitely not Satoko’s program but it’s not going to help distinguish her at all.
Kite: Exactly, and she trains with Mihoko Higuchi- who also coaches Shoma - and I think Mihoko maybe just has a thing for operatic programs at this point. She just has a binder full of operas and she flips through them and assigns them to her skaters. But, it’s honestly fine for her first senior season to be skating to something that- I’m sure she likes the music, she looked like she was having fun skating to it.
Kat: For me her jump technique looked incredible. I was not really that familiar with her before Skate Canada, and I remember watching her during practices and her jumps look so massive proportionate to her body size. She is not large at all, she basically looks the same size as Satoko, and yet she just launches herself into the air so easily. Her picking technique is so great.
Kite: I found her jumps to be a little bit on the small side because she’s very small, so proportional to her size-
Kat: That’s why I was so surprised that her jumps weren’t like Satoko’s.
Kite: But she gets the rotations around with plenty of room. She has this gorgeous running edge coming out of it, I’m like “You’re 15 where did you come from? Can you stay around a while?”. But generally I think no one really saw this coming so we’re all kind of like “Oh cool”. She did amazing, hopefully she continues this and she can have a strong showing at her next assignment.
Nina: So then in third place we had Evgenia Medvedeva which I think was definitely one of the more dramatic arcs over the course of the weekend. Her Short Program— I think she must have fallen victim to some nerves on her first GP.
Gina: I feel like it was a better performance than the Autumn Classic, especially in terms of her feeling the music and executing the choreography. Obviously she had problems with her flip and invaliated that. (Kat: The combo). Yeah she really had the Hanyu experience at Skate Canada.
Kite: It’s the TCC brand.
Gina: You’ve got to invalidate something at Skate Canada (Kite: To have a good season).
Kite: It seems like she panicked a little bit going into the flip because they’re clearly retooling her technique and so they’re trying to get her to not do as much of a blade takeoff on the flip, but then she kind of reverted to old habits a little bit. When you’re under competitive pressure like that, you fall back onto the technique that’s gotten you through your career so far. She did this weird half-blade assist and there was just no way she was going to get that jump around, she just wasn’t going to get the height for it.
Kat: It definitely was a mental thing with Evgenia because she basically looked flawless in practice. I don’t think I even saw her step out of anything.
Kite: I didn’t see her miss a single jump in practice.
Kat: Yeah for three days I don’t think I saw her miss anything in practice.
Nina: Her competitive spirit, her competitive energy, it faltered in the short. But in practices, and then in the free you could see that she was on.
Kite: Yeah she practices like she competes which is very impressive.
Kat: Yeah I was so impressed watching her practice especially- even when her music isn’t playing she’s practicing her step sequence and her choreo sequences as if it were. Her movements are so sharp, she’s so in the zone, she’s not half-assing anything. It’s just so, so impressive to watch her focus.
Nina: Although there was a great bit in one of the practices, where it was for the Free Skate so she was in the first group of practices, and we think it may have been because they had forgotten she was in the first group this time but she went into the middle of the rink for her run-through (Kat: The pleading hands) and nothing happened! Just nothing happened, she was standing there with her hand up waving to him.
Kat: So at the end of practice they announced “There are six minutes left in this practice session” when all of the skaters go through their run-throughs and they have a little bit of time to practice whatever for a couple more minutes. They said that and Evgenia is just standing in the middle of the rink like “What’s going on?” and was giving pleading hands to the announcers and the music people.
Kite: Yeah that was funny. Well she did come back very strong in the Free Skate. Again, sometimes you just get the sense watching a skater come out you’re like “Oh they’re gonna hit today”. And she definitely- I mean she won the segment.
Kat: Yeah she definitely did seem tentative though. Especially going into her first couple of jumps. Her landings weren’t quite solid, but she gritted them out like “I’m going to land this no matter what happens, I have to land them”. She definitely loosened up after a couple of jumps went ok.
Gina: I think the Free Skate music is a really good choice for her because that really focused slightly pissed off expression she had going into the Free Skate really fit the music. It was kind of femme fatale-ish. She’s gotten a lot better at getting the tone of the music and moving in a way that complements it, and getting the expression on her face in a way that’s organic and not over the top miming, which is great. She’s really not getting that Eteri girl bonus anymore though.
Kat: Yeah which is- can we now say that that is a thing now? (Gina: Definitely) Because this is such an unique circumstance where we get one of Eteri’s top students competing and not getting the super, super high scores. Even though a performance like this- she’s probably given worse performances than this and gotten far better scores.
Gina: And the judges are really not giving her any freebies anymore. I suppose it’s a good thing because now she knows what her real score is, and she can work up and really earn the points that she used to get so easily. But it’s going to really suck for her especially when she does end up going up against Alina.
Kat: Another stand-out performance- not necessarily in a positive way - was Wakaba Higuchi. Man I love that Short Program, that Energia Short Program. I do feel she probably could have put a little more energy into it but I think the choreo is so great, and the energy of the song is fantastic for the crowd.
Nina: Considering that she’s injured and apparently very close to a stress fracture she did very well in the Short Program.
Kat: Yeah, she finished second in the Short.
Kite: She was landing all her jumps in practice for the most part. The Short Program is fantastic, beautiful, like the music was written for her. But I do think that she’s not very fast across the ice, she doesn't get a lot of ice coverage. I don’t think that’s actually related to her injury because she was pretty slow at Worlds too.
Kat: Her steps tend to be slow, yeah.
Kite: So I think she kind of needs to break out of the pack a little bit there, because it obviously is not good to have the reputation of being a lethargic skater. It’s just such a strange contrast with how expressive and how well she emotes- the fact that she’s not getting a lot of speed as she moves across the ice.
Nina: I feel like this is something that her team could be retooling, giving her programs that help disguise the fact that she has the speed issue while she works on it. Similarly, I feel like the triple flip that they insist on having for her, or the fact that they keep giving her these very awkward spirals…
Gina: With the flip I just wish that they would take it out of the Short Program, and just leave it for the Free Skate. Just swap it out with something else. I do know that she needs the flip to be competitive, but in the Short I just wish they’d swap it out for a loop, or something. Just put something else there. Especially this season because the technical committee has decided they hate flips.
Kite: It doesn’t matter if it’s actually wrong, they’re just going to call it. They’re like “Oh, a flip. You guys know what to do.”
Kat: There are skaters with questionable flip technique, and Wakaba has always had an issue with it.
Kite: Kind of unfortunate in the Free Skate that she struggled a bit with her jumps. Again, with the injury, she was probably kind of nervous (Kat: Oh for sure.) being second in the Short Program, and just didn’t look like she had the stamina to get through that program. Overall, the Free Skate is still kind of generic, a little cookie cutter-ish to me.
Kat: I feel like the nerves were also kind of due to the fact that she’s now a World medalist. She’s the reigning World silver medalist, so that does put a little bit of a spotlight on you. Especially since she still has to keep trying to stand out amongst the other Japanese Ladies.
Kite: I think she does stand out quite well. I think her style is very unique. It’s very her. Stylistically, I don’t think she has an issue with holding her own against the rest of the Japanese Ladies, but I think, technically, she’s gonna have some issues moving forward, after seeing what Satoko [Miyahara] and Kaori [Sakamoto] did at Skate America last week.
Kat: The Short Program I think stylistically suits her so well, I think it works great. But the Free Skate, (Gina: Not so much, yeah.) I’m struggling with this choice still.
Nina: “Four Seasons” is suited to someone who’s just so much more soft and lyrical.
Gina: Yeah, she’s more of a powerful skater.
Kite: She’s so powerful. Her jumps are huge! Her triple Lutz-triple toe combination just flies out of the rink.
Kat: Yeah, I’m just really sad for her because I wanted her to make the Grand Prix Final.
Kite: Again, I think it might be good because she does seem to be struggling a lot this season. I think it will be good for her to go home (Nina: Rest.) and be with her team, and heal, and train.
-end segment- 1:15:19
START: Shout Out of the Week
Nina: So now it’s time for our Shout Out of the Week, just something we loved from this competition that we wanted to give a little commendation to.
Kat: Shout out first to Maryam (@luckyyloopss) and Neel (@figurefifteen) for giving Zhenya the flower crowns in the Kiss and Cry. That was such a sweet moment and I’m glad that she enjoyed it. I think they tried to give one to Brian [Orser] as well but-
Kite: He was like “No, I’m not wearing that.”
Nina: Zhenya should have asked him to wear it.
Kat: Zhenya should have, yeah. And also for Paul Poirier for tweeting about the flower crowns that I gave to him and Piper during the Victory Ceremony. That was really cool of him.
Nina: And he was wearing it in Piper’s Instagram story!
Kat: Which is really cool as well. So yeah, shout out to you, and maybe we’ll just keep doing this from now on?
Kite: It’s gonna be our brand.
Kat: We’re gonna bring a tonne of flower crowns to the Grand Prix Final.
Gina: I’ll have to get one for Korean Nationals.
Kat: Yes, do it!
-end segment- 1:16:21
Kite: Thank you for listening, we hope to see you again for our next episode which will be about Grand Prix Helsinki!
Gina: 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, Stitcher and Spotify.
Kat: 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.
Nina: You can find the links to all our social media pages and our Ko-Fi on the website. 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 Nina,
Kat: And Kat. Thanks for listening!