Episode 17: NHK Trophy 2018 - Transcript


Lynn: You're In The Loop - we're here to discuss the ups, downs and sideways of the sport of figure skating, and maybe give you +5 GOE along the way. Let’s introduce this week’s hosts:

Evie: Hi, I’m Evie, and I’m happy that we’ve finally had a GP event near my time zone, and I’m dreading that next week we’ll be back to those late nights again. My Twitter is @doubleflutz.

Lynn: I’m Lynn, NHK was in my time zone but I still had a hard time keeping up with it. My Twitter is @lynnneposts.

Gina: Hi, I’m Gina, and I can’t think of anything interesting to say! You can find me on Twitter @4ATwizzles.

Evie: Okay, so let's start off by going through the figure skating news of the last week. The first big announcement that happened over the last couple of days was Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron, the French Ice Dance team and current World Champions [and] Olympic Silver Medallists, they withdrew from NHK Trophy citing a back injury that Guillaume sustained in training last week. They're still planning to compete at their second GP event, which is Internationaux de France in two weeks. It was kind of sad to see them withdraw from NHK, especially since we haven't seen them yet this season and we're not going to be able to see them for a bit and they won't be able to get to the Grand Prix Final with only one assignment. So that's kind of a bummer.

Gina: Yeah, a little bit.

Lynn: Yeah, and Wakaba Higuchi withdrew from Rostelecom Cup due to a right lisfranc injury, and Yuna Shiraiwa has been assigned in her place.

Evie: It's good to see that Yuna's got a second assignment, I'm really happy that she got that. I hope Waka takes some time to heal, rest up before Japanese Nationals next month and come back really strong.

Gina: Also Madison Chock and Evan Bates withdrew from Rostelecom. Madison is still recovering from the foot injury she sustained last season. Too many injuries.

Evie: So many Ice Dance withdrawals, what's going on with Dance?

Lynn: They're not going to make it to the Grand Prix Final either, it's like, what is happening?

Evie: Hopefully Chock and Bates will heal up. They also have to deal with the fact that they changed coaches over the last season, they moved to Gadbois. So hopefully we'll see them at US Nationals, and hopefully, they'll have some great programs to show for us then. And another sad withdrawal is Karen Chen from the USA, she's also withdrawn from Rostelecom. We 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- 2:42

START: Pairs

Evie: Let's go on to discussing the competition for this weekend, which was NHK Trophy - we're finally in the second half of the Grand Prix Series, which is kind of insane. The season is going by way too fast!

Lynn: We only have two more left, I can't believe it.

Evie: Two more left, and then Grand Prix Final, and then we'll be watching Nationals. The season is going too fast for me to comprehend.

Gina: It didn't feel this fast last season.

Evie: I know, I think like last season especially everyone was so focused on the Olympics and like all of the competitions were going at a snail's pace because we were all just so excited for it. And this season there's nothing big like that to work towards, so it's just rushing through crazily.

Lynn: Yeah, and last year I didn't stay up for most of the events, and NHK, I actually watched most of it live.

Evie: Yay! We love it when competitions are close to our time zones since we're all in the Asia-Pacific region, what with Cup of China not being held in China this year, we only have NHK in our time zone. And the Grand Prix Final is in Canada, so it's nowhere near close to us, so NHK is our one reprieve in this Grand Prix Series. So, let's start off by talking about the Pairs event. In Gold in we have Natalia Zabiiako and Alexander Enbert of Russia, in silver Cheng Peng and Yang Jin of China, and in third place, we have Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Chris Knierim of the USA. So, Zabiiako and Enbert - what did you guys think of their programs? Cause I saw them last week at Helsinki and I already talked about them on the podcast last week, so yeah, what did you guys think?

Lynn: They're quite something.

Evie: I feel like their programs are not for everyone.

Gina: I find them quite fun, I like them. I think their Short Program is quite entertaining. I'm quite happy with that. It's a little bit weird, it's kind of Crusades-y and they've got sword fighting.

Lynn: Yeah, that's exactly Prokoviev, I'm so glad they're using it. They're basically capturing the heavy atmosphere as well as including the battle, and it was really unique. For some people I guess, including me at first, it was rather hard to get into it.

Evie: I felt like kind of with the costumes that they were taking us to the renaissance fair. But I think their Free Skate, personally, I didn't get a lot from them emotion-wise but you can't say that they didn't do an amazing job here. They were very solid technically. They've got very solid elements, their twist is absolutely huge, their side by side jumps were looking much better this week than they were last week, because last week they did have a bit of a tough time on those. It's good to see that they got two pretty clean programs out here, and with two Grand Prix golds they're going to be at Vancouver next month, so that's really awesome. Although I do have to say that I do really enjoy their sword choreography in the Short Program, even if it is very campy.

Gina: We need a bit of camp, we need it in figure skating. They do have some choreography that I find a bit awkward. I don't like the beginning of the Short Program, I find that really odd, where she's lying on his back. (Evie: Oh yeah.) I don't really like that, but the rest of it is fun. I don't remember a whole lot of their Free Skate, to be honest.

Lynn: I remember that it was the one program that I did not feel tired watching.

Evie: Okay, shall we move on to the silver medalists then? So we've got Peng/Jin from China. I'm really happy that they had another good set of performances here. I think that they've got a really good chance to break into the top teams in the field now that they're getting very consistent. They did really well at Skate Canada, and they did really well here as well. The only thing that's kind of holding them back, I find, is that they don't have two consistent triple jumps. They only do triple toes, they don't have triple [Salchows], they only do the double [Salchows] at the start of their programs here. Which is kind of blocking them from kind of breaking into the top at the moment, but I think if they got those triple [Salchows] they could really be contenders because their PCS was quite similar to Zabiiako and Enbert. I think it was only a point difference between them, so you know, that really shows that if they keep working on their elements they could really get up there. And it's just good to see another Chinese Pair do well and we're gonna have at least one of them in the Final this year, which is nice.

Gina: I talked about them in the last [episode] I was in. I still really like their Short Program, I think it's really fun. I really like watching them skate, and I think their Free Skate, their performances of it improved from last time. I found it a lot easier to get into the program this time.

Lynn: I didn't really get a lot of things from their programs. It's enjoyable to watch, but I don't find it the most fascinating thing. But they're great.

Evie: And, in a bit of surprising turn of events, in bronze we have Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Chris Knierim of the USA. When I was watching the Pairs event I was actually kind of surprised to see them end up with a podium finish because only a couple of weeks ago we heard about all their coaching drama and their split from Aljona Savchenko. Now they do have new coaches listed, they're currently being coached by Todd Sand and Jenni Meno. I'm really glad they managed to skate a decently Free, for them. They did have some issues on the side by sides, which isn't an uncommon thing with them or American Pairs in general. I'm happy that they did well here and that they got on the podium considering their outing at Skate America wasn't the greatest.

Gina: It's great that they've managed to get themselves together after all the coaching changes and all of the disruption. They managed to pull themselves together and really deliver here, which is nice.

Lynn: Yeah, they seem to be doing well, and their Short Program was actually really engaging. It was so great to see skaters in character. Generally, I felt like a lot of the programs seemed like movie trailers, they just go really smooth, but this one wasn't like that.

Evie: I like their Short Program, I think that it's going to be very effective if they manage to skate it clean. Their next competition will probably be Nationals, so if they manage to skate it clean there I think it will be a real crowd pleaser with the music.

Gina: Yeah, I can agree with that. I think they take a little bit too long to start moving at the beginning of their Short Program. I don't like that much standing in one place and posing, but once they actually start skating, I really like it.

Evie: And I think their Free Skate is nice too. Especially the fact that they have back to back throw jumps in the last half of their Free Skate is quite astounding. I'm surprised that they have enough stamina, and confidence in their stamina, to put them both in that part of the program. And I think with the way that the music builds in that program, it works really effectively with the throws landing on the accents of the music. It works really well, and I'm glad that they had that moment and that it worked in the Free Skate here. Good luck to them going forward with all the coaching drama, I hope they get back to doing some good work and I hope they do well at US Nationals.

Gina: They're certainly moving in the right direction.

Evie: And just a quick shout out to Tarah Kayne and Danny O'Shea for their crazy and incredible entries into their throw triple Salchows in the Free Skate. Danny like flipped her round, and it was very acrobatic. You don't see a lot of interesting entries to throws like that, so good on them.

-end segment- 10:40

START: Ladies

Evie: Okay, let's go into probably the most exciting discipline at NHK.

Lynn: The best discipline at NHK!

Evie: The best discipline by far at NHK, which was the Ladies. I think this was so much fun to watch. It was just crazy the amount of talent that we had. Not only did we have an extremely deep field, we had a lot of Ladies either skating clean or skating really close to being clean. So it was a really fierce competition to watch, and just great viewing all around.

Gina: Probably the best competition of the Grand Prix Series so far.

Lynn: Yeah, and it was the one competition where you couldn't guess who could possibly end up on the podium at the end.

Evie: It was really going to be close, and definitely there were some turnarounds from the Short to the Free. We had some amazing performances in both of them. Firstly, let's go over the medalists. So in gold we have Rika Kihira of Japan, in silver we have Satoko Miyahara, also of Japan, and in bronze we have Elizaveta Tuktamysheva of Russia. So, our gold medalist, Rika Kihira - oh my God.

Gina: Wow.

Evie: She is a powerhouse! I was astounded by her Free Skate here.

Gina: It was beautiful.

Lynn: I was so impressed.

Gina: I think I cried.

Lynn: She was fifth in the Short, and then she pulled up to first in the Free and then she won the whole thing.

Evie: It was extremely impressive. When I saw her in the Short Program, and the fall on the triple Axel and underrotated it. I was really upset, but I was hoping that she was going to come back strong the day after and fight back in the Free. And that's exactly what she did! She landed two triple Axels, one in combination, she's the first woman to ever land a triple Axel-triple toe in a Senior Grand Prix event. She's got the highest technical score in Senior Ladies. She scored over 150, it's just insane for a first-year senior.

Gina: At her first Senior Grand Prix - amazing!

Evie: I think that Rika is one of those skaters that really could grow into becoming a complete package. She's definitely got at the moment those amazing jumps, not only does she have the triple Axel, but her triple Lutz is beautiful. All her jumps are technically amazing, and she's got really good basic Skating Skills. Credit to her coaches, like Mie Hamada. Her spins are also fantastic.

Lynn: Her layback spin! They're amazing.

Evie: Her layback is gorgeous, yeah. If she can keep consistent, if she can keep improving on her component scores, she could definitely be a threat going forward to a lot of the other top Ladies. Which I am honestly all for, I love Rika, I'm really a big fan of her and her programs this season. I'm just excited to see what she's going to bring us.

Gina: Yeah, it is exciting to see more Ladies stepping up to the plate to really threaten the Russian dominance in the Ladies field.

Lynn: At first it took me a while to get into her Free Skate this year cause last year her "La Strada" program was one of my favorites, and this year [her programs] got really mature. And that's what [she needs], she's going into her first Senior year. It took me a while to get into it but now I see it definitely working for her.

Evie: Yeah, I think when I first saw her Free Skate at ice shows over the offseason I was not completely sold on it. But here, and when she was at her Challenger event, [Ondrej] Nepela Trophy, I think it really worked. All of the movements to the specific piano chords in the music, the whole program works so well as an entire package - especially since she skated it clean twice. Once you see everything kind of come together, it works so well. Obviously, we've got a lot of Ladies in the field, in both Juniors and Seniors, trying to push the barrier when it comes to technical advances. We've got Rika, we also have Liza here doing the triple Axel, we've got all the Juniors attempting quads, and we've also got Seniors that are training quads as well.

Gina: Well Rika did say that she was thinking about trying a quad next season.

Evie: I'm kind of excited to see if she will implement that next season.

Gina: I think she could. She's got the technical skills for it.

Evie: Definitely.

Lynn: Does she need it though?

Evie: Well, I guess it kind of depends on how the season goes and how the judges reward her skating. I actually thought that her component scores, especially in the Short Program, they weren’t exceedingly high, but I think they were a bit higher than I was expecting for a Japanese lady fresh out of juniors, which I’m not complaining, because even though she did fall in the Short Program, she did skate extremely well all-around. Especially since we have a competition like NHK, where we have both Rika and Liza here, who are both doing triple Axels, it’s interesting to see the differences in the triple Axels. You can see that Rika’s setup time is pretty short in comparison. She maybe takes around three, four, five seconds to build up enough speed and get into the edge to go into the triple Axel, whereas Liza takes a lot longer, around six to seven [seconds]. I think with Liza, she is a little bit noticeably slower than Rika in terms of skating skills, so her longer setup time could be affected by that.

Gina: I think that’s maybe why her [Liza’s] triple Axel can give her problems, like in the Free Skate, she did have to turn out of it. I do wonder if it’s because she doesn’t quite get that speed into it that Rika does, but Rika also had a problem.

Evie: And Rika -- all of her jumps, not only do they have really solid setups, they also have really beautiful running edges coming out of it. Her speed just keeps on going, everything looks very fluid. Should we move onto Satoko?

Lynn: Yes. Yes.

Gina: Satoko Miyahara.

Evie: Yay, Satton! She’s gotten second in the short, second in the free, and with a silver medal here and a gold at Skate America, definitely on her way to the Grand Prix Final next month, which is great to see.

Lynn: I was actually surprised to see her come in second.

Evie: I was kind of surprised to see her come second in the Short Program. It’s a common thing to see Japanese Ladies, their program component scores not being as high as other Ladies’ when they skate clean. I was kind of surprised to see Satton in second. But I do agree that she should have been second in the Free Skate, because she did have some underrotations, and a couple of edge calls. She had some unclear edge calls on her Lutzes in the Free Skate, which is kind of surprising to see. Over the last couple of episodes, the last couple of times we’ve seen her, we’ve talked about her retooling her jump technique, trying to get more height out of her jumps, and so is the Lutz edge becoming a problem for her with the retooling of her technique? Is it something that’s suffering in order to get her jumps higher than they currently are?

Gina: It could just be a teething issue. It could just be a temporary problem. Personally, I don’t know if everyone agrees, but I can actually see her retooling of her jumps paying off already.

Lynn: Oh, really?

Gina: In her Short Program, especially. Her triple Lutz-triple toe in her Short Program, I immediately thought, “Wow, she’s getting a lot more height on her jumps.”

Evie: I found that too.

Lynn: I’m sure she’s working hard on it, and I’m sure she’s improving, I just wish we’d have a clean protocol, at the point where she would.

Evie: Obviously, we’re trying to fix the under-rotation issues. There’s kind of a ceiling she can hit with regards to GOE on her jumps. She’s obviously not, at the moment, going to qualify for the +4s and +5s on her jumps because they don’t get the height required to hit the bullet points for good height, good air position, at the moment. She’s actively aware of this because even though she does have better skills in components than a lot of the other girls, her skating skills are way better than a lot of the other Ladies in the field, she does kind of suffer in regards to her tech not being as high as some of the others’. I’m glad that she’s prioritizing retooling her jump technique, because going the way she’s going with the height and the under-rotation problems, getting those fixed, I think she could really be a top contender, even more so than she already is. And also, she’s got new costumes here.

Lynn: Do we like them? Do you like them?

Evie: Eh...I don’t hate them.

Gina: I like her Short Program one.

Evie: I think her Short Program one makes her look like a princess.

Lynn: I think it makes her look the same color as the ice, maybe a bit darker.

Gina: That is maybe the problem with it.

Lynn: Her old costume was so good. Why?

Evie: I’m not a fan of her new Free Skate costume, though. I really liked the past two versions that she had. The one that she wore at ice shows earlier in the off-season, the purple one with the gradient mesh, it looked so good, and then obviously the one she had over the last couple competitions with the one black sleeve.

Lynn: That one was really pretty as well.

Gina: I didn’t like it.

Evie: You didn’t like it, Gina?

Gina: No.

Lynn: That’s alright, that’s alright.

Evie: The new she has, it’s good, but in comparison to the others, it’s not as good.

Lynn: I just don’t think she needs new costumes.

Evie: Yeah... In bronze, Elizaveta Tuktamysheva.

Lynn: Oh my God, we’re going to talk about the “Empress.”

Evie: Yes, we are. She’s definitely also going to the Grand Prix Final, since she won gold at Skate Canada, and now she’s got bronze here. First in the Short Program and third in the Free Skate.

Gina: These programs are just working very well for her. I’m really enjoying watching it. Both in her short and in her free, you can see how much she’s enjoying them. I just like how much confidence she oozes as soon as she hits the center and gets into the starting position. Apparently, she was feeling nervous before the short, but you couldn’t tell.

Lynn: She did not look like it.

Evie: I’m personally not the biggest fan of her skating, but her confidence and her charisma on ice completely makes up for that. She’s just so appealing and entertaining to watch that I don’t really care what’s going on with her feet. Both of the programs this season are such a good vehicle for her. It’s astounding how this is the second time she’s had such a great post-Olympic season bounce-back. It’s impressive. But at the same time, it’s like, ugh…

Lynn: Impressive and sort of like … uh? It’s a year late, but still, it’s great she’s doing this.

Gina: It would be nice to see her pick up a bit more speed, and maybe have a little bit more going on with the feet, but I enjoy watching her anyway because as you said, she’s got so much charisma. She’s a great performer.

Lynn: She always has this look when she goes on the ice, as if she owns the entire arena. And I love it so much. [Evie: Dislike this, I dare you.] I’m not the biggest of her programs, but she’s always getting results out of it, that’s great.

Evie: Mai Mihara, she was in fourth. She had two pretty clean skates here as well. Her Short Program this season is not one of my favorites. I think it’s a little bit [Lynn: Generic?] one-tone, generic. It’s cutesy and it works, but at the same time, it doesn’t have a lot of build to it or a lot of substance. I feel like it’s a very standard David Wilson program in that you could change the music and it wouldn’t really matter, the program would look the same.

Lynn: Sort of like a feel-good program. It’s really flowy, it suits her really well.

Gina: She performed it better than the last time I saw it, but I’m still not a fan. The elements don’t seem to hit any musical highlights, but that could just be that the music doesn’t have any highlights to hit [Lynn: It doesn’t, really.], which is a bit of a letdown because I really like Mai.

Lynn: I liked her programs last season.

Evie: Me too.

Gina: I feel sad. I feel like she tried something a bit different with her Short Program last season, and I guess she felt it didn’t work out for her, and I feel like she maybe lost a bit of confidence and has gone back to --

Lynn: But it worked for her. I totally think Libertango worked for her last year.

Gina: So did I.

Evie: I think it worked. But I don’t think she ever performed Libertango to its peak. She performed it well, but I don’t think she really got into the mind of a tango and really threw her all into it. I would’ve preferred her to recycle Libertango for this season, just so she could keep working towards performing it well. We didn’t see her that many times last season because, of course, she wasn’t selected for the Olympic team. We saw her at the Grand Prix, Nationals, and Four Continents, but she didn’t get selected for the Olympic team or the Worlds team. I love her Free Skate, Gabriel’s Oboe, it’s a beautiful Free Skate, but I would’ve actually preferred her to keep her Libertango Short Program and get a new Free Skate, because she was really onto something with that Libertango Short Program, whereas the Gabriel’s Oboe already had its time. It had its peak at Nationals or Four Continents when she really performed it to her all.

Gina: Yeah, I agree.

Lynn: I would’ve preferred her keeping both. [Hosts laugh]

Evie: The double recycle?

Lynn: Her programs were so great last year, and they didn’t get as much attention as they deserved. She didn’t yield as many results as she could’ve, with not making the Olympic team and all, and I’m just glad her programs, her Mission Free Skate, is seeing the light again.

Gina: I really like her Free Skate, and I’m glad that we’re getting to see more of it. But I agree that I wish she had Libertango, because it would’ve been nice to see her expand upon her repertoire and continue to build upon that.

Evie: It’s sad to see her results here in relation to the first half of the Grand Prix series, because she did so well here and her scores here would have gotten her on the podium at any of the other previous three Grand Prix events, but she’s been assigned to NHK and also to France in two weeks, both with extremely packed Ladies’ fields. It makes me sad that she’s gotten these two assignments because there’s a very slim, if any chance, now that she’s going to be able to make the Final, which is really disappointing as a fan of hers. It makes me question the Japan Skating Federation’s choice to send her to those two events, where they could’ve mixed it around and given her a better chance to qualify for the Final.

Lynn: She’s always so unlucky with Grand Prix assignments.

Lynn: Eunsoo Lim. Eunsoo Lim. Oh my God, we finally have a Korean skater.

Evie: Gina: Yay!

Lynn: Just like Junhwan [Cha] last week, it’s worth mentioning that Eunsoo also has back-to-back Grand Prix. She was at NHK this weekend and she’s going to be at Rostelecom next week, and I’m sure that’s going to take a toll on her performance and her time to prepare and everything. And she also collided with Mai Mihara.

Evie: That was so scary.

Lynn: I know, during the six-minute warm-up.

Evie: I didn’t the collision when it was happening because the cameras weren’t showing it, but I heard the gasp of the crowd, and I was like, “What the hell happened?” And I looked on Twitter and I saw someone who was at the event say, “Oh yeah, Eunsoo and Mai collided.” And I was like, “Oh no.” In the Free Skate, I think it made her performance a bit more tentative.

Lynn: I think it hurt her a lot. I was looking at the slow-motion video, and she was sort of running into Mai, except she couldn’t stop herself, and then Mai got out of the way, ish. Mai looked fine. And then Eunsoo totally fell with the full force on her back. And it must have hurt a lot, and I’m sure it had something to do with her performance in the free.

Gina: I saw someone say that she had bruises on her thigh afterward.

Evie: That’s a shame. I think her performance in the Free Skate was muted a bit because of that. We’ve seen it before, where she was using the playfulness of “Roxie” in the Chicago music, and that’s really what she does well, that kind of playful charm. She’s got a beautiful smile and a really good way of expressing herself to the music, but I think because of the fall, it impacted that. She wasn’t performing to the full extent of her ability, I feel, in the Free Skate.

Lynn: It’s such a shame. She ended up being sixth overall.

Evie: Her Short Program was gorgeous, though, I felt.

Gina: It was beautiful. I was so proud of her. With her Free Skate, she really has the personality to pull it off, she really sparkles when she’s on the ice. I really love watching her for that reason. We got to see that in her Short Program, but I do think she was affected in her free.

Evie: It was kind of weird to see, looking at the protocols after the Short Program, how crazy her ranges were in terms of PCS. The judges were really fluctuating in their markings by something like 2 to 1.5 points in between each judge. The ranges of 7.5 to 9 in Skating Skills and Interpretation, gaps of one point or more in every category, which you don’t see a lot of PCS ranges going to that extent a lot. It was quite confusing.

Gina: One judge was really going hard for her. It was like, 9s! [Hosts laugh]

Evie: That judge was a mood.

Gina: I was that judge.

Evie: There was a similar one for Mai, who gave her all 9s in all of her components, and I was just like, that judge and I, we can jam.

Lynn: I like that judge. I like that judge.

Gina: That was me. It’s really strange when you see judges that disagree that much. You have some disparity between judges, there’s a reason why the judging panel is nine people, not two, and the highest and lowest are thrown out before making the average. It was really strange to look and be like, “Huh? One judge is giving her 7s and one judge is giving her 9s. What’s going on?”

Evie: It's a big gap. And it's definitely very strange to see that kind of thing. Especially since you don't expect a first-year senior to be capable of scoring 9's and stuff - you don't see a lot of 9's in those kinds of performances. She definitely skated amazingly in the Short Program.

Lynn: Yeah, it's just uncommon to see 9's in the first year.

Evie: So, one of the standout performances I feel in the Free Skate in the Ladies' event at NHK was Mariah Bell from the USA. She did so well!

Gina: She really did. I'm really enjoying her this season. She - I really didn't think a lot about her previously, I didn't like her Chicago program at all, I could just never buy into her being a performing flapper girl. Because she has this kind of girl next door kind of quality.

Lynn: She seems like your classmate.

Gina: She's so tiny, she's got such a baby face. So yeah, the Chicago thing didn't work for me, but her programs this season I think fit her so perfectly and she just is so charming in both of them and she's really grown on me and her Free Skate is so beautiful.

Lynn: And she's performing them so well.

Evie: Her Free Skate was just amazing. I especially loved the choreographic sequence in it, when she was just doing the spirals, and her face was - she was smiling, it was just breathtaking to watch. If you're listening to this and you haven't seen her Free Skate yet, I encourage you to go find it and watch it, cause it's just amazing.

Lynn: That's one of the things I really like about her. She always seems so happy to be on the ice and so happy to be skating, it just makes me happy seeing her.

Evie: I really want her to get on the podium at US Nationals this year.

Gina: Fingers crossed.

-end segment- 31:59

START: Ice Dance

Evie: So let's move on then to my favorite discipline, Ice Dance! So, for the medalists, we have Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker in gold, in second place we have Tiffani Zagorski and Jonathan Guerreiro of Russia, and then in third we have Rachel Parsons and Michael Parsons, also from the USA. So, Hawayek and Baker... oh my God, just, I'm so glad that they did well here. They were definitely kind of an unknown going into this because they did withdraw from their one challenger series assignment, this is the first time we're seeing them this season, and they're just coming off the back of a coaching change - they've moved - like a lot of other teams - they've moved to Gadbois in Montreal and in the Rhythm Dance they kind of got hammered on levels, I think their pattern dance - the first section got a level one and the second section only got a basic level.

Lynn: Ouch.

Evie: Their PCS kind of made up for it, and they came in second, but their Free Dance was absolutely stunning, I found.

Gina: Yeah, I thought the Free Dance was really beautiful.

Evie: I found it kind of similar - it reminded me of Papadakis and Cizeron's "To Build A Home" program, it was lyrical, it was that Montreal modern dance style with the low lifts which I am not usually a fan of but I think for this program - and for them - it really worked. I always get surprised when I watch them skate together because there's no height difference between the two of them and Jean-Luc is quite short in comparison to a lot of Ice Dance men, but he's so strong and manages to do all the lifts and all the other elements so well, so it's always great to see them skate. They were the Four Continents champions earlier this year, I really hope that they do well in their second assignment which I believe is France, which is a bit of a packed field for dance there, but I really hope that they keep the momentum up after this - because this is their first Grand Prix when - so we're gonna hopefully - I hope we get to see them at the final next month because they're just, they're such a talented team.

Lynn: I don't know, I don't know why I loved their Free Dance so much, it was really pretty except it - I like the Shibs, and it reminded me of the Shibs' "Fix You" program, the flow and everything.

Evie: They're just a really great team. And I also just have to say that I love their exhibition program to Austin Powers, I'm glad to see that it's back for the season.

Gina: It's a good time.

Lynn: I've still yet to catch up with the gala for the NHK.

Evie: It's a fun time.

Gina: This was the only gala I actually got to watch so far,

Evie: Same. They've been at such awkward times for me and I don't see the point in staying up that late just for the gala.

Gina: Yeah, I don't really know much about Ice Dance, I'm just here for a good time, and they're a good time. I like watching them. That's all that matters to me.

Evie: Okay, moving on to the silver medalists. We got Tiffani Zagorski and Jonathan Guerreiro of Russia, they were the bronze medalists back at Skate America in week one, and with a silver medal here, they're gonna be going off to the final! I'm glad to see them do so well this season, especially since Tiffani had a really bad knee injury in the offseason and it prevented them from starting their training, they missed the Russian test skates two months ago, and so their programs here aren't - their Rhythm Dance is looking really good, their strengths lie in the Rhythm Dance, their edgework is really, really good, they were the highest scoring team in terms of the pattern, I think they got a level four and a level three. So that's really, really good.

Lynn: Yeah, I really liked watching their Rhythm Dance as well. It really works and it hits all the beats and it manages to be consistent, but then it also manages to be lyrical, and I find that it's a fine line but they manage to do it well.

Gina: Tiffani's kind of saucy and I like that.

Evie: I think that their Free Dance - we've seen it twice now, here and at SkAm, I think it's still a bit of a work in progress, because as I said they haven't had as much time as the other teams to prepare and train because of the injury, I think that it's a little bit all over the place but I do see the possibilities in it, like obviously "Blues for Klook" is a great music choice, but I think there are some points in the choreography that at the moment look a little bit awkward, especially I don't like the ending choreographic lift where he's sticking his leg out and gliding and she's leaning on his leg, it looks really awkward and they've kind of stumbled or had issues with it from the past two competitions they've done the program at, and I think they should just take it out or work on getting it a bit more solid because right now it just looks really strange in comparison to the rest of the program which is quite slick and smooth.

Gina: Yeah, and I don't like the beginning, the starting position. Watching them awkwardly get into that starting position just makes me wonder: why. Why choose that position to start on if it's so awkward. Surely there was a better way to choreograph the beginning of the program?

Lynn: Including the beginning, their Free Dance just confuses me so much. I'm sure "Blues for Klook" is, Evie loves it and all, I just did not understand the music, I did not get the program.

Evie: I think that at the moment, it's kind of hard to judge what the program is gonna be, because it's at the moment very much not finished, but hopefully, they've obviously got a month until the final, they've got time to work on all their elements and hopefully get the program more polished up so hopefully we'll see it a bit more together at the final, and then at Russian nationals a couple weeks after that. And then, with the bronze medal, we have Rachel Parsons and Michael Parsons, the sibling team from the USA. They were third in both segments of the competition. We saw them quite a lot in the early season, they were at three different challenger events, and they got silver...

Lynn: At practically most of them.

Evie: Yeah, they were practically at most of them - it felt like every other week we were like, "oh the Parsons are here again! Okay!" But you know, they got silver medals at every one of the events that they entered in the challenger series and they're currently one of the middle-tier US teams trying to get to the top now that there's a couple of positions that have been vacated, obviously we've got the Shibs sitting out for a season, and now we have Chock and Bates who are kind of a question mark in the lead up to nationals, so I think the Parsons, Carreira and Ponomarenko, McNamara and Carpenter, you know they're all teams in the middle of the US field that I think could have - do have the potential to rise up and get the podium places and get assigned to different events later in the season. So I think a bronze medal at a GP event - their first medal on the Grand Prix series ever - that's a good sign for them. So I still question their Free Dance choice, because you know, "To Build a Home" - I think I talked about this before when they were at Asian Open - we've already got a very iconic program, a very iconic Free Dance to "To Build a Home" already, I just question why, as a team that's trying to rise up in the rankings, why they're choosing a song that's already so well known for being a world record Free Dance just a couple seasons beforehand.

Lynn: Yeah, the music itself doesn't really have any highs or lows, it's just kind of slow all the time.

Evie: But you know. A bronze medal here is still a really good achievement for them.

Gina: A shout-out to the Great British team, Fear and Gibson, for having a fun Free Dance I would actually willingly watch again.

Evie: They're so good, I love them. They were one of the standouts at Skate America and I really - they didn't skate their Free Dance clean there, I think they messed up on the twizzles, so seeing it clean here was just really good to see and their score was awesome! I think it was like, 113? Which was way higher than I thought it was actually gonna get, I was predicting like, 108-109 and then when the score came out I was pleasantly surprised, so if they can keep consistency up going forward in the next couple competitions - which, since they've already finished their assignments will be Europeans and then Worlds - if they keep their consistency up with these programs, there's definitely a chance that they can really rise up to the top level teams - which I'm all for, I really like them.

Lynn: Yeah, I really enjoyed watching their Free Dance. I couldn't watch Ice Dance live, and then Evie recommended me - thank you so much for that.

Evie: Haha, no problem. I've been telling everyone to go watch their Free Dance since Skate America happened, I'm just like "Do you like disco? Watch this! They dance to September, it's a lot of fun! You'll jam to it!"

Gina: I did, I actually did.

Evie: It's so much fun. I'm just glad there is a team out there that is choosing actively fun music for their Free Dance because a lot of teams aren't taking that opportunity, so yeah. It's a good time. Everyone go watch their Free Dance.

-end segment- 41:46


Lynn: Okay so for the men, for the gold medalist we have Shoma Uno from Japan, and in silver we have Sergei Voronov from Russia, and in third we have Matteo Rizzo from Italy.

Gina: This wasn't a great competition for the dudes, for the short and the free.

Lynn: Especially the free.

Evie: The free was hard to watch.

Lynn: It did not go well.

Evie: Yeah. I heard somewhere that - I think the British Eurosport commentators were saying that the ice conditions weren't great for the free, which kinds of explains what was happening.

Gina: I was watching the British Eurosport stream and Chris Howarth was mentioning that it was quite warm in the arena before the first group started.

Lynn: If I remember correctly, the Korean commentators also talked about the ice quality as well, it was not good.

Gina: He suggested that maybe the ice was getting a bit soft and that's why so many men were having problems with their Axels, because when the ice is softer it's harder to get a grip with the edge and your edge will slip a lot more.

Evie: And this is the second week in a row that we've had a competition with ice issues, because last week at Helsinki they were reporting similar problems in the men's event there, like we had reports of Yuzuru Hanyu saying to the media that he was having trouble with his edge jumps because the ice was softer. Obviously the ice wasn't as bad as, say, Boston 2016 worlds when there was the visible lake in the rink or the big water patch on the judges side, but you know, you have to think about how ice quality really affects the skating and the skating quality of all the men, because it's really worrying when you see that many guys splat, for lack of a better term.

Lynn: Yeah, this event was like - the person who messes up the least wins.

Evie: Yeah. Let's move on to our gold medalist, Shoma Uno of Japan. So with two golds, one from here and one from Skate Canada, he is definitely going off to the Grand Prix Final next month. And obviously, as we said, the men's event was kind of a mess and he was not clean in either of his performances here, but he still grabbed the gold.

Gina: Who needs combos.

Evie: Combos are overrated.

Lynn: I really wish he would do his combo first. He has two quad toes and he always puts the combo in the second one, and I'm just like... why does he do that.

Evie: Well probably for... points. I heard reports of Shoma saying that he was struggling with his quad toe-triple toe combo and has been, and his coaches were talking about the possibility of changing it out for something else.

Gina: But he's being stubborn.

Evie: He's being a bit stubborn, I guess.

Lynn: He wants more time to fix it, I guess.

Evie: I am glad that we didn't get another - even though he did obviously have a fall in the Short Program - I'm glad that he didn't have such a scary fall like at Skate Canada, where he slid and almost hit the boards after his triple Axel. So, it was still distressing to see, obviously, but slightly less scary than Skate Canada.

Lynn: He did do so much better in the free, so, he sort of made up for it.

Gina: Yeah, his free program does seem to be improving in performance at the very least. His stamina seems to have stabilized so that second half and the step sequence and everything in the third movement is a lot better and he looks a little bit less like he's about to die.

Lynn: About stamina, apparently the British Eurosport commentators did say that he sometimes substitutes the triple Axel-quad toe for a bunch of his jumping passes just to increase his stamina. And he's really working on it.

Gina: Yeah, I didn't hear that part - I obviously wasn't listening to Chris at that point. But I can imagine Shoma doing that. He's obviously worked very hard on his stamina and his strength overall, and you can see that starting to pay off. I will say that, in his free program, his step sequence is not the best.

Lynn: It is not impressive.

Gina: No, which is really sad because Shoma's step sequences are usually so good.

Evie: Especially since we have such a great step sequence in the Short Program, where that's really the highlight. And yeah, I think the Free Skate, in general, is just...not my favorite. I'm really not a huge fan of the choreographic sequence in it because it's just one spread eagle and a Besti squat, and that's about it. And, I'll give it to him, it is a really beautiful spread eagle - he holds it really really nicely - but it's very clearly empty and I think if it wasn't pointed out to me or if the judges didn't have their planned program content in front of them, I don't think it's that obvious that that is meant to be the choreographic sequence - you get what I mean?

Gina: Oh, I completely agree. I always need to look at the technical score box in the upper left corner because I would have no idea that that was a choreographic sequence. I always forget, I just always think 'Oh, there's a transition. ' And he relies so much on spread eagles; he really needs more variation.

Evie: I am kind of starting to enjoy "Moonlight Sonata" a little bit more than I did at the start of the season. I'm very very slowly being won over by it. I think it's more effective when he does land his opening jumps in the program, because - we've talked about this a lot - the first half of his Free Skate is kind of empty, I think it's exemplified [when] he doesn't land the opening jumps. But here they were pretty decently spot on, so it was good to see that.

Lynn: I was so impressed to see him land the first few quads. It seemed so much smoother than usual. There's just not much going on in the program, and if he falls on the jumps then it's just a chaotic program.

Gina: I do wonder if maybe he could benefit from working with different choreographers for his competitive programs, either in collaboration or otherwise. And I understand why he wants to stick with his coach, but at the same time I'm like, well maybe you can try different Japanese choreographers instead?

Evie: Yeah, I wouldn't mind him working with someone like Kenji Miyamoto, Nanami Abe - choreographers that really excel in giving skaters unique and interesting and difficult movements to their bodies.

Lynn: Yeah, his programs are always so similar. My problem with Moonlight is that if we change it to completely different music but with a similar genre, then it could work for basically any other classical music program. That's my main problem with it. There's just not much going on. It just feels like another program for the Olympics, such as - he brought Turandot back for the Olympics and he also did "Winter" from Four Seasons so it was two warhorses, two very well known programs, and two programs with not very much going on. (Gina and Evie: Yeah.) I just don't really think he needs to do "Moonlight Sonata" right now since the Olympics are over, and he doesn't need to do programs that are well known, and I just really think this is the time to branch and try new things, new styles, and everything. I know Shoma did say that he's been trying a lot of new things like new styles, new choreographic positions he said? Because he said some parts of his body were hurting because of it.

Evie: He's definitely exploring different styles for his exhibition skates this season, and I really want him to think about, in the next season or the season after that, extending that same line of thought to his competitive programs. Although I will say that I definitely have been completely won over to Stairway. Even if the first half is a little bit empty, the second half makes up for it with that step sequence - it just rocks.

Gina: I feel like Stairway could do with some tweaking so that instead of being kind of flat and then coming to life at the step sequence, it being a bit more of a gradual build-up because at the moment it kind of...doesn't. With both programs, I feel like, in his competitive programs he does need to extend his repertoire of moves because it is a lot of the same. And there are things that he can do that we just don't see in his programs. Like, he has a really nice Ina Bauer. We never see it in his competitive programs, so I do kind of wish that maybe with the choreographic sequence, instead of it being a spread eagle into a Besti squat with a dab, maybe change it. Instead of a spread eagle, do his Ina Bauer, which he does well and would be more variation of movement.

Evie: That's the Nam Nguyen approach to a choreographic sequence-

Gina: Just do a dab!

Evie: So silver, we have our reigning uncle, Sergei Voronov. He was the one who won NHK last year and he's back on the podium again this year with an amazing Short Program. He skated cleanly in the short, which was really great to see. And he did have a couple issues in the free, as we talked about with the ice problems and everyone was kind of falling all over the place. There was no exception for him. But getting another medal and getting a ticket basically to the Grand Prix Final while being 31 is kind of impressive!

Lynn: He's 31 and he's staying for longer! How does he do this?

Evie: It's really crazy. I can understand why he didn't go for the quad loop, especially with the ice quality at this event. At the same time, I really want to see him go for it at the Final. I think that's such a baller move to be 31 and introducing a new quad into your Free Skate.

Gina: And he is one of only 5 men that has produced a clean program so far this Grand Prix. (Evie: Damn, that's impressive.) I'm just so happy watching him; he makes me so happy. It's just so much fun to watch these older guys doing well because they seem to just stay out of a love of the sport and love of competing. And it's just nice to see that being rewarded.

Lynn: Especially at the end of his Short Program, he had such a great Short Program this time. He was using Rachmaninoff and he was actually not using Piano Concerto No. 2 and he did so well and he knew it at the end. You could see it from his reaction. That just made me so happy looking at it.

Gina: It's the best feeling.

Evie: You could just see him visibly extremely happy with his results in the short. And I am glad we're going to have two uncles in the Final. It's going to be Voronov and Michal Brezina.

Gina: I did see that Daisuke Takahashi did have an interview and talked about watching NHK and did kind of suggest that watching Sergei may have inspired a little bit more determination in him to land a quad at Nationals, and that he quite likes the idea of trying to get into a Grand Prix next season.

Evie: Oh my god, I would love to see that happen.

Lynn: Wait, Daisuke is staying for another year?

Gina: He could've just been being facetious.

Lynn: I'm okay with that! I'm very happy with that.

Gina: But he was like, 'Oh I can see myself at NHK next year,' and I'm like, okay great!

Lynn: You just never know what's gonna happen in skating.

Gina: Please!

Evie: Please, I would love that to happen.

Gina: We support you!

Evie: And our bronze medalist, Matteo Rizzo from Italy, which was a bit of a surprise, but a welcome one! Back at it again with another surprise bronze. We have junior worlds where he also got the bronze medal. I'm really glad that he got on the podium here because I really love his skating. I think he's got such a great ease of movement. He's so fluid on the ice. His presentation, performance, and interpretation of the music is a little bit junior-y; I think he doesn't really use all of it to his advantage. But that's something that can grow over time. I'm still not a huge fan of the harsh fade-out of the music right at the end of his Free Skate - I think it's kind of jarring. But that step sequence at the end though here was just fire. It was so good, especially after we saw so many men have issues and then fail to keep up the momentum in their programs. It was just really great to see.

Gina: It was. I think he's got a lot of potential to really shape up to be the European entertainer we need since Javi is ghosting us.

Evie: I'm glad that he did get such a good result on his - well this is his second Grand Prix, he was at Skate America - that's really strong for his first senior season. I'm really excited to see what he's going to bring at Europeans and hopefully Worlds later in the year. Do we want to talk about Vincent?

Lynn: Yes we do, yes we do.

Gina: Oh, Vincent...

Lynn: I was such a big fan of him...I think I'm still quite a fan?

Gina: I remember watching when he had a previous out at the beginning of last season of him doing a Romeo and Juliet and I really liked it...and then he didn't keep it. He changed it, and then I wasn't that much into the program he replaced it with, though I did find his meerkat head-turn really funny.

Lynn: I first really got into him at the Free Skate at the Olympics last year, because he skated Moulin Rouge clean.

Evie: I think especially this season, Vincent's kind of suffering from the increased vigilance that the tech panel has on under-rotations. They reasonably consistently, throughout the season, have been pretty strict and his scores have really been reflective of that. We had the whole under-rotation drama of Skate America.

Lynn: He's also coming back from an injury, he's got that back injury thing going on. And right after NHK ended he uploaded this Instagram post where he was like, 'oh, I dislocated my shoulder last week and I couldn't practice for a week' and then we were like...Vincent!

Gina: On British Eurosport, Chris Howarth was repeatedly saying that he hadn't trained for a week because he had an injury, but they didn't know what the injury was. So it does make a lot of sense that he did not go really wild with the quads in his Free Skate and did have some struggles. Which is a real shame, it sucks when skaters are injured and they can't practice.

Lynn: It's really impressive that he stayed in for NHK with all the injuries going on. And he almost got the bronze medal, he was like 1.29 points away from Matteo Rizzo, so he could've gotten the bronze here.

Gina: Just those under-rotations. It is a persistent problem for him, and he did have this problem last season as well. I think maybe last season he got away with a couple here and there because he tends to be right on that quarter-rotation.

Evie: Yeah, I think he benefited last season from the fact - we had a change in the rules about the quarter-rotation, how last season it needed to be greater than a quarter and now it's on the quarter or greater, so I think he's suffering a bit from that.

Gina: Yeah, because call where the technical panel maybe would have sided with him, they're now not and that's just the way it is.

Evie: I hope that he regroups with his coaches and he's got quite a bit of time until US Nationals in January. He needs to recover from the injuries that he's currently suffered, to the best of his ability, and I think that going forward, fixing his under-rotation issue is going to be the key to him succeeding in the US Men's field.

Gina: I would like to see him work on his projection and his engagement with the music and his engagement with the crowd a bit more as well. Because I think he does have some potential there. There was a period where I did kind of prefer Vincent over Nathan because I could get a little bit more connection with him - whereas with Nathan I really struggle. But Vincent I think is maybe suffering from having so many injuries holding him back. He's not really developing.

Evie: Just a little quick shout out to Deniss Vasiljevs of Latvia. He didn't have the best outing here - he ended up in eighth place overall after two kind of shaky programs. But I think they're both looking really good, especially his Short Program with the bright yellow pants that he's sporting. (Lynn: Banana pants!) It's definitely a look-

Lynn: He pulls it off!

Evie: I kinda wish he would go full banana and go for a bright yellow top and lean into the disco!

Lynn: I'd be into that.

Evie: Bejewel the hell out of the pants, flared legs - I'd be down for that.

Lynn: Stephane is really having an impact on him.

Gina: I really appreciate Deniss. He's so much fun.

Evie: Even if his Short Program wasn't clean, the charisma and the enjoyment factor that he brings to the program is so good. I love him.

Lynn: Deniss's Short Program was my favorite from the men's and it was the one program I think I rewatched six or seven times after - I liked it so much.

-end segment- 59:49

START: Shout Out of the Week

Evie: Shout out of the week for this week goes to NHK Trophy...because they actually had proper metallic medals as opposed to the last three weeks where they seemed like plastic.

Lynn: Apparently it was glass, but it did not look like it.

Evie: You know, NHK with their fancy metallic medals and everyone kind of looking like cheap drink coasters.

Lynn: And NHK has that pretty red-white ribbon.

Evie: Yeah, and they also get the trophy and they get the wreath. It's a good moment. I especially like the juggling act the gold medalists had to do with the trophy and the flowers - when Shoma was getting his awards presented to him and he had the trophy and the flowers in both of his hands and he put the trophy down on the podium.

Lynn: Yeah that was such a funny moment.

Evie: And then he was about to pick it back up, and then they announced the handshakes and he was like, 'nope never mind!' It was a really cute moment.

Gina: Also shout out to Javi for having a sold-out ice show in Spain!

Evie: That's such a good thing to see.

Lynn: I know, and the show goes until December - the last one's December 29th I believe. I'm actually going to the last two shows. (Evie & Gina: Ooh!) I'm really looking forward to it.

Evie: Let me guess why you're going, Lynn.

Lynn: I'm a big fan of Javier Fernandez!

Evie: It does also help that one Korean Ladies Olympic Champion is going to be there.

Lynn: I wonder who she is...

Evie: Oh, I wonder!

-end segment- 1:01:17

START: Outro

Evie: Thank you for listening, we hope to see you again for our next episode which will be about Rostelecom Cup!

Lynn: 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.

Gina: 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. You can find the links to all our social media pages and our ko-fi on the website.

Evie: 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,

Lynn: Lynn,

Gina: and Gina. See you soon!