Episode 18: Rostelecom Cup 2018 - Transcript


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

Kite: Hi, I’m Kite, and I’m very happy to be exiting the wild ride that was Rostelecom Cup. You can find me on Twitter @mossyzinc.

Sam: Hello, hello, hello! I’m Sam and I never want to hear the phrase “ligament damage” again in my life. You can follow me @quadlutze.

Karly: Hi! I’m Karly and my first time hosting in a while has been this chaotic competition. I’m on Twitter @cyberswansp.

Kite: Okay, before we get into the meat of this episode, we're just going to go pretty quickly over the news of the past week. Our first piece of news is that Li Zijun, who competed for China in the Ladies discipline has announced her official retirement from competition. She actually had an unofficial announcement back in February, but she was at a Team China training camp earlier this season so there were some rumors that she might be coming back to competition, but now it sounds like she's done for good.

Sam: And in a bit of more sad news, Andrew Torgashev has withdrawn from the Junior Grand Prix Final citing an injury. Stephen Gogolev of Canada will be replacing him as the first alternate.

Karly: This is not how I wanted Gogolev to go to the Final.

Sam: It's sad.

Kite: What can you do.

Karly: And in more withdrawal news we have Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier from the USA withdrawing from IDF, and we also have Chafik Besseghier from France, also withdrawing from IDF.

Sam: In some happier news, finally, Javier Fernandez has confirmed he will be returning to competition at 2019 Euros, which, unfortunately, is likely to be his last competition.

Kite: I just want him to go for the seventh European title.

Sam: Honestly, I might be okay with him not winning if that means we get him next year.

(Hosts laugh)

Kite: He just keeps coming back till he wins!

Sam: Exactly, just keep coming until you get it, Javi! It's okay!

Kite: And, finally, Yuna Shiraiwa from Japan announced a crowdfunding campaign for her training costs this week, and in very happy news, she met her goal in under a day. Very happy to report on fans being able to support skaters through the costs of the sport. 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- 2:37

START: Injuries at Rostelecom Cup

Sam: Alright, time to move on to the meat of the episode. Starting off, we have a bit of a content warning. We will be discussing skater injuries and talking about bodily harm in some detail, if that bothers you please refer to the description below (or the comments on YouTube) to check out the time codes. We've already covered this more comprehensively in episode 8, our medical episode, but it felt a little bit more appropriate to bring it up again considering the amount of injuries we've had at this competition, skaters competing injured, and also withdrawing. To start off with Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morosov from Russia in the Pairs discipline. Evgenia took a really hard fall in practice on the morning of the Free Skate and crashed into the boards head first. She was taken off the ice immediately to check for a concussion, and then was later brought to the hospital where she got stitches on her chin. She returned later to compete, and they got gold. Also in Pairs, Deanna Stellato-Dudek and Nate Bartholomay ended up withdrawing because Deanna was sick before the Free Skate.

Karly: And then in some Singles, we had Yura Matsuda of Japan. She revealed at the beginning of the week that she has a recurring ankle injury that needs surgery, but she put it off so she could compete here. So in the interim, she’s been avoiding jumps that aggravate her ankle, like the flip and Lutz. So because of this, she had a tough Free Skate with some falls and pops that dropped her into last. And then, also from Japan, Mako Yamashita was apparently skating with an illness and boot problems and this caused her to struggle a fair bit with her jumps. And finally, also from Japan, Yuzuru Hanyu aggravated his injured ankle ligament from a year ago after falling on a quad loop in practice. Although he says the injury isn’t as severe as last year, he still needed painkillers to get through the FS, changing his layout to compensate for the injury, and was seen on crutches after the event. Preliminary reports indicate that he’ll need three weeks of rest, putting both the Grand Prix Final and Nationals into question.

Kite: So given that all of this has happened basically in the past 48 hours, let's go briefly through what actually happens backstage when a skater is injured because there's been a lot of speculation and some emotions running high on Twitter and in the figure skating fandom in general following the news of all these injuries - specifically following the news of Yuzuru's injury. So at each practice and competition, the ISU requires that there is at least one physician, and a medical personnel team, able to give emergency first aid at rinkside. The physician and at least three medics have to be present at rinkside during the competition. And in the event that a skater does sustain an injury, either in practice or in competition, the event has to offer what they call “pre-hospital” care. So they do preliminary assessments and treatments of injuries, and they also have to have an ambulance on call within 10 minutes, if the skater need to be transported to the hospital for further treatment or assessment. And in the event of an on-ice medical emergency, the skater has to be evaluated, either by their team physician that's on their personal team or that their countries team brings to the event, or, failing to have one of those, they have to be evaluated by a physician who is part of the event committee. The physician then has to give their assessment to the referee and timekeeper of the competition regarding whether the skater is fit to compete or not. The referee makes the final decision on whether the skater can continue, and then the physician, skater, and referee all have to complete an agreement form basically agreeing that the skater was medically cleared to compete. If the skater is under 16 years of age then their guardian also has to sign the clearance form. And so, in a nutshell, the procedures outlined by the ISU for dealing with injuries that happen in competition or in practice state that regardless of the opinions of the skater’s coaches or their guardians, any skater over the age of 16 can still be cleared to compete with the agreement of the physician and referee. And obviously, the kind of grey area here is that 16 and 17-year-olds are still legally minors in most countries and if you're over 16 you don't have to have a guardian consent to let you compete if you sustain some kind of injury. And so this kind of necessitates that coaches should have the responsibility of still advising their skaters on whether from withdrawing from a competition might be a good idea, regardless of the assessment of the physician and of the skater themselves, but unfortunately they don't really have any procedural might in enacting this advice. So it really does come down to how the skater and the physician and the referee feel on the day of the competition.

Karly: Moving on to how competing through injury is perceived slash portrayed in the media, in the case of Tarasova, practice reports said that Evgenia hit her head on the boards as she fell, raising the very real concern of concussion. The medical evaluation indicated she was good to compete. The team scored a seasons best, despite Evgenia having some trouble with her elements, we're not sure whether this was due to the injury or not. Article titles about their victory are pretty tone-neutral, making little or no mention of the fact that she skated with an injury. This is to be expected, given that Pairs is less popular than singles.

Sam: Moving on to Yuzuru Hanyu, as news of the injury trickled out, so did articles calling him “brave,” “courageous” for “defying” injury en route to his victory. The ensuing firestorm seemed to split fans into two groups, one arguing that this glorifies competing through injury and sets a bad/dangerous precedent, and the other saying that it requires a certain degree of bravery to put one’s health on the line despite the irresponsibility of the decision. Yuzuru himself said that he particularly wanted to skate "Origin" in Russia as a tribute to Plushenko, so he insisted on competing despite doctors fearing he might be unstable. It's important to remember that Yuzuru isn't close to the only skater to have competed on injury; last season, we witnessed multiple examples of that in Men’s. He obviously gets more attention, and therefore blowback, because of his popularity and the fact that he’s done this multiple times in the past, often hiding how serious the injury actually is as to not worry his fans or even his coaching team. That said, the injury this time around seems serious enough that it needs more than a few days of rest and recovery, so the Grand Prix Final and Japanese Nats are now unlikely pending further examination that’ll happen either in Japan or at his base in Toronto.

Kite: Yeah, a lot of opinions, a lot of emotions running pretty high yesterday especially following the news that he was probably going to be out of the Grand Prix Final and Japanese Nationals, and the fact that he skated on painkillers again in the Free Skate. A lot of opinions.

Karly: There's the debate between "we want to see him skate, but we don't want him to skate on an injury," "we want to see him happy, and skating makes him happy," "we don't want him to further inflame it." So there's just so many different options going around and everyone's picking different sides, and it's just a mess.

Sam: I think the important distinction to make is that he's an adult, and he's obviously allowed to make his own decisions and decided what is best for him personally. And I feel like we have a right to be upset and affected by the fact that, for fans of his, we're watching somebody that we care about once again go through an injury at a time when he has specifically said that he is continuing to skate because he loves the sport and he wants to be able to do what he wants to do and be happy about it. We can say, hey, maybe don't say things like "this is the epitome of bravery and so awesome that he is skating through pain," and skating really well considering the circumstances, but also understanding that he's allowed to make his own choices, and even if that upsets us, at the end of the day it's his choice to make.

Karly: It's his choice as an adult, are we allowed to criticize that choice? Questions like that.

Sam: I think for me, personally, I'm not going to judge him for deciding to skate. I will roll my eyes a little bit at people saying "This is brave" because I think it's a bad cultural touchstone that we are all ingrained with, to think that "I'm doing a sport, even though this really hurts and I probably shouldn't be doing this, but I'm going to do it anyway because everybody will think better of me if I do that" and that's something that I genuinely believe that we're all taught really young, and we should strive as best as we can to get away from that language when we're talking about situations like this. But to me, it crosses a line when you start to criticize him for doing it. You can think to yourself, "Hey, I don't think this is the best idea," but then not tell him, "You shouldn't be doing that" when we're not completely informed on all of the decisions he's making and what he's weighing while he's making that decision.

Kite: Personally, I think it is pretty damn brave for someone to go out there having sustained an injury, obviously being in a lot of pain despite the fact that he was on painkillers, and be able put out the performance that he put out, knowing how many eyes were on him and knowing that most people weren't aware that he was injured at that point. They just thought he took a nasty fall in practice because that's what it looked like. But at the same time, I don't think that the other side of this bravery coin is necessarily cowardice. Personally, I would never say that a skater is a coward for choosing to withdraw from a competition if they sustain an injury, and to focus on healing and resting and getting better. I think really it just comes down to the importance of the competition for the skater personally, like Yuzuru obviously has a connection to Russia because his Free Skate was inspired by a Russian figure skater, and he wanted to perform it as a tribute for one of his idols, and I completely understand that. I think as fans, and as spectators of the sport, it's valid for us to give criticism regarding these decisions despite the fact that we're not necessarily in this position. But at the same time, I agree with Sam, we should keep in mind that we don't have most of the information, probably, regarding what happened [and] that he and his team are going to do what's best for him, and we have to trust that they're making the best decision with the information that they have and that's all, as viewers and as fans, we can really do.

Sam: And the same goes for Evgenia [Tarasova]. I was personally less worried about it considering that she did go to the hospital and was, for all we know, checked out to make sure [if] she had a concussion and cleared anyway. That's still iffy because concussion symptoms don't always show immediately after you've sustained a head blow. She could be feeling a few days later from now and be in a completely different situation than she was this morning. But the fact that we know that she went to the hospital and was looked at makes it not as worrying to me personally because, again, we know Yuzuru was checked out by a doctor but we don't know what kind of testing they did to figure out how severe it was. So that's where the split is for me concerning these two injuries. But that said, I've been following him since 2012 and I went over it the day of the Free Skate and realised that, of all the years I've followed him, there's only been three seasons where we didn't know of some injury that he had while competing. And it's really difficult at this point to sit there and hear, "Hey, he hurt his ankle again" and not immediately have the thought in my head, "How long can this keep happening? How long can he keep pushing himself past the point of his body before he finally breaks?" And it's heartbreaking, and it's really sad, and I don't know how to personally think it about it all and compartmentalize it in a way and be able to separate what he wants to do, and my own fears. I just want him to be happy at the end of the day. He's giving me more than I could ever fully express, and it's just really difficult.

Kite: Yeah, I think some people said it pretty well, that at this point he has nothing left to prove. He's done everything that he's set out to do from the beginning of his career, and so all the skating and all the competing he does from here on out is just for his own enjoyment, and it's a gift for the fans. And yes, it's difficult, obviously, to see him get injured season after season, after season, after season. And see that the injuries that he's sustained in the past are still continuing to bother him, like this is the same ankle injury that kept him off the ice for two months last year in the lead up to the Olympics. To some extent I think this is something that anyone who follows sports just has to accept, is that as you get older your body is not going to be able to tolerate these overuse injuries as much as when you were a teenager. And I think just moving forward the only thing that we can really do or say to this effect is that you just have to trust that the skater and their team are going to make the best decision for themselves, and they're going to know when it's time to hold back or when it's time to kind of push through these things. I agree, I wish it didn't have to be like this, but it's the reality of competing in such a high impact sport is that these things are going to happen.

Karly: I think the reality of all sports is that it's heartbreaking, but like you said, it's the reality. I feel like injury is the one thing that connects people who are fans of other sports to other sports, because they can all understand how it is when someone you love is injured.

Kite: As a last note on this, there has been some concern floating around about whether Yuzuru is still going to get a spot on the Worlds team if he doesn't compete at Japanese Nationals in December. The answer is yes, almost certainly. There is a clause in the qualification scheme for Worlds that gives one spot to a skater who has "significant international achievements," even if they didn't compete at Nationals, and this is how Yuzuru was assigned to the Worlds team in 2017 and 2018, despite missing the preceding Nationals. If he's in good health, he's going to get that spot regardless of whether he shows up in December. I think the reasons are pretty straightforward. Worlds are in Japan next year, he's pretty popular, he's going to sell a lot of tickets. Understatement of the decade: "He's pretty popular in Japan." [Hosts laugh] They want to hang onto three men's spots at Worlds going into next season, so they'd be hard-pressed to find a reason not to send him. I don't think that's an area where we have to worry about him, provided that he's healthy and is able to compete.

Karly: Exactly. It's not the first time.

-end segment- 16:50

START: Pairs

Sam: Okay, moving on into some actual skating. [Hosts laugh] For Pairs, our medalists were Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov of Russia in gold, Nicole Della Monica and Matteo Guarise from Italy, and Daria Pavliuchenko and Denis Khodydin from Russia. STarting off with Evgenia and Vladimir -- I was on Skate America episode. If you haven't listened to that, go ahead back and get my thoughts there. For me, they improved a ton since then. They had way more issues on their side-by-side jumps. Obviously, Evgenia didn't have a great time on the [Salchow] in the Free Skate here, but overall, it was a better performance in both programs. With their Short Program, I still find it a little cheesy, especially the opening with her smiling and they're in hold, and Evgenia looks like a 13-year-old taking a school picture, like, "Smile! Time to be happy!"

Karly: Figure skating school pictures!

Sam: Exactly. And then James Brown comes in finally as the music is picking up, and they throw their arms out and jazz hands, and you can tell that they're totally half-assing it, like, "Yeah, we gotta do this! Let's have fun!" That said, their speed in comparison to everyone else still makes the program something you're looking at. They have all the natural skating skills, ability, and such good elements that even though the program itself is a little bit "Ehh," it's still enjoyable to watch. And their Free Skate, especially, was the best they've done it because, again, they had better elements and it felt more cohesive. It's not something that's ever going to be magical, because I don't think it has the built-in moments where you point that out and you remember that specific detail that they did, but it does have the ability to be something nice and lovely, and it is by far their best program.

Karly: They're very technically sound and you can tell they have talent. You can't deny it. Maybe they don't have that thing that grabs you, like other teams, but you have to admit they're talented.

Kite: [Vanessa] James and [Morgan] Cipres, right? They're not quite at the technical level that Tarasova and Morozov are. Especially at Skate Canada, where we last saw them, they struggled a little bit on their elements. They still won by a country mile. They do have the fan-favorite programs season that grab you in and get the audience involved, and that does go some way towards influencing the scores and the standings that they get. Trying to balance between the technical talent that the Russians have and the charisma of the French is something that's going to be pretty interesting to see going into next week's event and into the Grand Prix Final for sure.

Sam: They're very clearly the two top Pairs currently competing. Obviously, that's going to change a little bit when [Wenjing] Sui and [Cong] Han come back.

Kite: I miss them, please!

Sam: We all do. When they come back later on in the season. But like you said, James and Cipres have that magic that I was saying Evgenia and Vladimir don't. Their programs are masterpieces and when they skate them clean, you feel every little bit that they're trying to make you feel. They don't have the same synchronicity, they don't have the same skating skills, but that said, I want to see them win everything. [Hosts laugh] And I feel bad saying that because obviously, Tarasova and Morozov are the best team technically in the field since [Aljona] Savchenko and [Bruno] Massot, and Sui and Han are not competing right now. It'll be really interesting to see how close they are together, with each other, if they both skate well at the Grand Prix Final, because looking forward to Grand Prix Final predictions of who will make it and who will not, Tarasova and Morozov are in, they're going to make it, and James and Cipres are almost guaranteed to make it. They just need a fourth place at IDF, and that shouldn't be an issue, they should be winning that event easily. It'll be interesting to see how they actually stack up against each other when they're actually competing against each other.

Karly: Grand Prix Final is going to be a fun time.

Kite: I think I would still give the edge to Tarasova and Morozov right now. I think if both teams are completely clean, which is not something that we can realistically expect, but given that hypothetical, I think that Tarasova and Morozov still have the edge now, given that they have more momentum over the past few seasons going into this, they are the technically stronger team. But I think it would be really, really close. And that's exciting, to see that there's a rivalry sprouting in Pairs again, despite the fact that the field kind of died this season.

Karly: I like the rivalry in that they have such different things going for them. It's nice to see those duke it out, even though you might be on one side or the other. It's just interesting.

Sam: And it's been a really long road for James and Cipres. This isn't something that happened overnight. They've been together for a while now, and it took them a really long time to find their thing, and they got it a couple years ago with the Sound of Silence program. They've just been riding that ever since. It's wonderful to see them finally be a top team.

Kite: With just one Grand Prix event left next week, IDF, in France, we're going to give a quick overview for each discipline of the picture of the qualifiers going into the Grand Prix Final next month. In Pairs, Tarasova and Morozov from Russia, [Natalia] Zabiiako and [Alexander] Enbert from Russia, [Cheng] Peng and [Yang] Jin from China, and Della Monica and Guarise from Italy, have already qualified for the Grand Prix Final. They've had their two events and they've racked up enough points that they are guaranteed to be seen in Vancouver in a couple weeks. On the bubble right now are [Alisa] Efimova and [Alexander] Korovin from Russia, and Pavliuchenko and Khodydin from Russia. They have had their two events, but their scores are such right now that it's going to depend on what the teams do next week in France to see whether they make it to the Final or not. Of course, we're going to see James and Cipres of France, in France next week, and the baby Russian team [Aleksandra] Boikova and [Dmitri] Kozlovskii, who still have a shot at making the Final at this point.

Sam: Numerically speaking, it's going to be difficult for Boikova and Kozlovskii to make it. They would need to win and then have James and Cipres be in third or off the podium to be able to do it. Numerically, it's possible. In all likelihood, Pavliuchenko and Khodydin are probably going to be there in Canada.

-end segment- 22:59

START: Ladies

Sam: Moving on to the Ladies event. In gold, we have Alina Zagitova of Russia; in silver, Sofia Samodurova, also of Russia; and in third, Eunsoo Lim of Korea. That said, first of all, we're actually going to start talking about Gracie Gold, who, for me, is the most important moment of this event. She is coming back to skating after entering treatment last year for an eating disorder, and decided that her first competition back was going to be a Grand Prix event, and I salute her to the nth degree. It's absolutely incredible to say, "Hey, I've been away for a while, I'm just coming back, I might not be all the way there yet, but I'm going to put myself out there on the international stage." It's incredible.

Kite: A brief history on Gracie: She was a rising star in the United States over the past Olympic cycle and before that. She was the 2014 and 2016 national champion and she finished fourth at the Sochi Olympics, and she was known for her excellent technical skills. She had gorgeous, big jumps, probably the best jumper that the US has ever had. I would make that claim, probably without any hesitation. And unfortunately, she did struggle a lot with competitive nerves in her career, and then at the beginning of last season, she announced that she was going to be skipping the Olympic year to enter treatment for mental illness and for an eating disorder. Even to put herself out there and to come out and to be public and say, "These are the issues that I've been facing, and this is what I'm going to do about it," takes no small amount of courage, obviously. But also, the example that sets for other young skaters in the sport and other athletes in general is incredible, because this is not something that's talked about openly or frankly enough, in my opinion. There's so much image still involved in the sport of figure skating that you don't want to expose your imperfections in this way, right? You fear what that might do to your reputation internationally or to the way that you're perceived in the competitive field. I remember Adam Rippon did an interview with The New York Times where he came out and talked about his own struggles with an eating disorder, and how it was cited as an extremely uncommon thing for a skater to come out and be open about it. Seeing this door be opened and seeing high-profile names in the sport being very honest and genuine about their struggles, I hope would inspire others who might be going through similar things to also be able to seek the help that they need and not be ashamed of it.

Sam: She took it a step further when she unfortunately withdrew after the Short Program to say, "Hey, I'm doing this for me, I'm doing this so I can be in a better mental place before Nationals." Admitting that, in and of itself, just goes to show you how brave and incredible -- again, incredible, I'm going to say that a million times -- incredible she is for this. It was her choice to step away from skating, and it's her choice to come back. And she's taken ownership of that in a way that I don't think I ever expected from her when she was competing before. She always seemed like a skater who would listen to what her coaches wanted her to do, to what her choreographers wanted to do, and who didn't necessarily always have her own vision. And to see that now -- the practice video I saw of her Free Skate genuinely made me cry, because it's her story. And I can't wait to see where she takes us next.

Kite: Her plan is to stick it out for the next four years with the 2022 Olympics in mind, and I think that if she can get back into the condition that she was in pre-2017, I think she has a very, very good chance of becoming number one in the US again.

Sam: No question. She's the most talented skater technically, again, like you said, that they've ever had. It's not going to be easy for her to do, obviously. This is going to be a long road and she's going to struggle before she finally makes it. But if she sticks it out, I don't see why that wouldn't be possible.

Karly: We have all mentioned how incredible it is to come out and say that the reason you're taking off time is mental illness, and it's especially because of the image in the sport. You talked about inspiring younger skaters, but even currently competing skaters. I wonder, would Gabby Daleman have taken off time, which we all applauded her for, if Gracie hadn't done this a season earlier? Or if Adam Rippon hadn't come out and talked about it? Even currently competing, same-age skaters can be inspired, and it's never too late to start taking care of yourself. I think that's a really strong message she's sending.

Sam: On that very well-put note, we're going to move on to what happened in competition, starting with Alina, who is having a bit of a struggle post-Olympics. She obviously won here, she got her world record in the Short Program, but there have been changes to her technique, things that I've noticed personally is that she's starting to jump using her arms more than she was with her legs, which is throwing off her height and her ability to fully complete rotations, which is why she's starting to get under-rotation calls actually called, which is very nice to see. But also, that we're seeing them in real time. And her Lutz edge itself is shaky to the point that it looks like a flutz while you're watching her skate. Her skating skills have also suffered, especially her crossovers. They're a bit hunched and she's only using one skate to push into the ice to generate speed, so she's starting to get that rocking motion where she's going up and down, up and down as she's pushing, which personally to me is a little bit unsightly. Her transitions are all still there, she's still able to do them. Her edges are still on par. They're not incredible, but they're not bad. I actually don't think her Short Program is as bad as I thought it was in the beginning of the season.

Kite: No, Sam! What are you saying?

Sam: I don't think it's good by any means. There are problems with it that drive me insane, like the Ina Bauer. I don't know why Daniil [Gleichengauz] decided that the musical accent that she should be listening to is the drum crash instead of the orchestra itself, so she's going back into the layback as the drum's crashing, but then she's immediately letting go because the only thing she's supposed to be listening to is the drum crash, instead of hitting it out, so you're losing the emotional impact you're supposed to be getting from seeing this beautiful moment, because she's not holding it and she's intentionally not holding it and that drives me crazy. But when I first heard that music cut, I thought it was the most offensive thing in the world, and now I'm kind of like, "Oh, it's POTO [Phantom of the Opera]. We're okay.”

Karly: You're just like, a history of POTO in two minutes.

Sam: Thankfully there is no “Edge of No Return,” so.

Kite: “Point of No Return…”

Sam: Yes, “Point of No Return!”

Kite: “Edge of No Return!”

Sam: Did I say “edge”? Excuse me! “Point of No Return!” It's only my favorite song in the whole musical, so of course I'm gonna screw it up!

Kite: Small mercies, that song does not feature in her program.

Sam: And in third, Eunsoo Lim of Korea.

Kite: She did a great job in the Free Skate. She is the second ever Korean lady to place on a Grand Prix podium, after, of course, Yuna Kim. Big congrats to her just for being able to make history over the weekend, especially in a field that was relatively packed for ladies.

Sam: It was a difficult event...

Kite: In many ways.

Sam: In many ways. But it was definitely one not short on talent, so it was a little bit frustrating to see not many clean skates, and Eunsoo having one - her Free Program was my personal favorite of the event. It's not necessarily age-appropriate, she is only 15. That said, I appreciate that it's not a Free Skate necessarily built on sex appeal, but more being cheeky.

Kite: It's very playful.

Sam: Which makes it easier to sit through, and the fact that they - again, thank you for not including “Cell Block Tango,” whoever cut this program. If that had been there, that would have changed the whole thing for me. But she's a really great performer, she obviously enjoys the music and that was nice to see. Same thing with Sofia Samodurova, our second place medalist here. I might not necessarily think that “Burlesque” is a great choice for someone her age, other people might think differently, but you can tell that Sofia enjoys skating to it and she's having fun, which is really all you can ask for.

Kite: At this point.

Karly: Yeah, I like watching when they have fun.

Kite: It's okay if you're not clean, just go out there and enjoy yourself, that's all I want at this point.

Karly: That's exactly it!

Sam: If we can more of that, skating would be a much happier place.

Karly: That's all we deserve.

Sam: I also wanted to give a quick shout-out to our fourth-place finisher, Alexia Paganini, who is someone I really admire for having the courage to leave a large federation in the United States, and go ahead and skate for Switzerland, a small fed in every way. And then be successful! She does not have the technical content to really push for medals, but she's a solid consistent skater and has been since Euros last year.

Karly: Switzerland is a small fed... Stéphane Lambiel would like a word with you.

Kite: Stéphane would be proud of his legacy!

Sam: Stéphane would admit that it's a small fed!

Karly: You're right, you're right.

Kite: There's quite a battle going on for the remaining spots in the Grand Prix Final in the ladies. There's three more spots up for grabs at the event next week in France, and there are no less than eight contenders for said three spots. Currently qualified, so they've gotten their points already, we have Alina Zagitova, Elizaveta Tuktamysheva, and Satoko Miyahara. On the bubble right now are Kaori Sakamoto and Sofia Samodurova. Kaori and Sofia both have a silver and a bronze on the Grand Prix already so it's gonna come down to their raw point totals, and Kaori wins the tie breaker if it comes down to that. Still to compete at IDF are Evgenia Medvedeva, Stanislava Konstantinova, Rika Kihira, Mai Mihara, Alexia Paganini, and Bradie Tennell. All of those ladies have a realistic shot at getting a spot into the Grand Prix Final, I would say.

Sam: Probably not Alexia, she would have to win.

Kite: Bradie and Mai would also have to win.

Sam: I just mean technically speaking, what they're able to score, it would be very difficult for Alexia to win, considering the level of the other skaters she's competing against. I don't think a clean Alexia would beat a Rika that fell on a triple Axel. You know what I mean?

Kite: That's fair, that’s fair.

Sam: To a lesser extent, same thing with Bradie. I don't realistically see her winning, I think she could medal. But again, they would both need to win to be able to get it, they're probably on numerically possible but maybe not likely. I'm interested in Stanislava's scores, like was talked about in the Grand Prix of Helsinki episode. They were a little bit controversial for us as a team.

Kite: Just a tad.

Sam: Rika, again like I said, if she continues the consistency she could vault up rankings pretty easily with her tech content and if her PCS starts to rise. Mai, I think, it's gonna be difficult but she could get a medal, maybe bronze or silver depending on the level of cleanliness. And then Evgenia, I want to see if she has had a little bit of a mental shift. I feel like she hasn't been as consistent and I haven't seen the competitive drive necessarily that you would used to see with her when she would skate. I think we got it in the Free Skate at Skate Canada, but it hasn't been there on a consistent level as it was before. I'm interested if she herself has flipped that switch and she's back to "What do you mean, I'm going to win" machine that she was.

Kite: Well, she doesn't have to win at IDF. It's going to come down to her points.

Sam: Yeah, she doesn't. And I don't know if I necessarily expect her to win, I'm just curious to see how she's attacking her programs, if that makes sense.

Kite: Yeah, because we haven't seen her in... almost a month.

Sam: Wow, the Grand Prix has been going on for a while, guys!

Kite: It's only been five weeks and it feels like it's been six years.

Karly: I agree.

Sam: Well, that's the life of a skating fan.

-end segment- 35:09

START: Ice Dance

Sam: Alright, moving on to Dance! In gold we have [Alexandra] Stepanova/[Ivan] Bukin of Russia. In silver, [Sara] Hurtado/[Kirill] Khaliavin of Spain. In third, [Christina] Carreira/[Anthony] Ponomarenko of the United States. I would like to start of this section by saying ice dancers of the world - fix your damn patterns, guys! I'm going to give a little bit of a break to Stepanova and Bukin considering that unfortunately, Stepanova had a bit of a stumble in the middle of the first section of theirs, and they were just completely off for them and got two interruption calls because of it, because they couldn't get their timing back together. But everybody else, you have no excuse, it's November! You've all competed multiple times! There were no level 4s, only two teams got higher than a level 2 on both sections of the pattern, and only three got a level 3. Guys, I realize it's a hard pattern, but you're ice dancers - you're supposed to have edges! Use them, please!

Kite: “The Edge of No Return,” listen to Sam!

Sam: Exactly!

Karly: I can't believe POTO is about skating.

Sam: As for the actual skating, programs themselves, I love Stepanova and Bukin's programs so much. They have the two best programs of any team, as both programs. The Rhythm Dance, I was about to say Short Dance, the Rhythm Dance opening is incredible, where he lifts her up on the accent and she kicks her back leg up and then they immediately get out of that and they are shuffling their skates back to the clapping on the music, and it's just like 'Ahh!'. I can watch stuff like that all day, it's my favorite thing. My issue with the Free Dance is - they did get a World Record here, yay for them - but my issue with the Free Dance is sometimes Stepanova isn't using her knees as she's gliding across the ice and it can get a little bit messy. When you've got long legs like that, it's real noticeable when you're not doing that. So I would love to see her really work on pushing her knees into the ice and getting a real nice running edge as they're doing steps, but that's eh, incredible. A little bit on the sexual side for me, I am a Shibutani stan, I don't necessarily always need that in my Ice Dance, but it is blast to watch.

Karly: Yeah, I agree, I much prefer watching their Free Dance the second time around. I think it takes getting used to because the first time I was just hit with sexuality and I was like, "What is going on? This is too much for me". But then I got used to it and I was like, “This is actually incredible.” I love how they hit the musical accents. My favorite part is when she sings three times "Am I the one" and that's when they do their twizzles. I love it.

Sam: Yeah, and then they get out of it and they point over in the corner of the crowd, it's so great. I love stuff like that.

Karly: I liked that moment. It really stood out to me.

Kite: I'm going to be a bit of a devil's advocate and say that I don't really mind the fact that they're flaunting their sexuality in the Free Dance, despite the fact that it is very explicit and in your face, and a lot of it is right in front of the judges' table. Because I think their charisma as a team, it works for them. It's not awkward. If it was awkward, or if it felt like they were forcing it, then I think I would be like "Uh guys, maybe err away from you know...".

Sam: I think for me, it's just the explicit moment when he's grabbing her butt and she's sticking it out SpongeBob style, bring it around town. [Hosts laugh] I don't necessarily need that, they obviously have chemistry, and a great intensity with each other, but I don't necessarily need explicit moves like that.

Karly: Yeah, I agree with that.

Sam: It's stuff like that it took me a minute to be like, "Okay, I can deal with this". But otherwise, I agree with you completely.

Karly: Just the stuff that took getting used to, that I didn't like when I first saw it.

Kite: You can't deny that it really reaches out and grabs you.

Sam: Definitely!

Kite: Up until that point, I was not super super sold on their Free Dance, and then that happened and I was like, "You have my attention".

Sam: But yeah, I was never necessarily the biggest fan of them, for the NBC Olympic Channel commentary, Tanith White, Charlie White, and Ben Agosto would always rave about them and say how incredible they were, and I would always feel like, "What are you guys seeing that I'm not?". They were never the team that I was keeping my eye out to jump up and grab me eventually, one day. And this season they have! It's such a weird turn-around. I do want to give a quick RIP to their sit twizzles...

Kite: They were so good!

Sam: ... In their Short Dance. I'm really upset about that, they were so creative and innovative and they did them really well. Brian Orser actually talked about it in an interview, where he said he thinks it's because they had the same tech caller here as they did at Finlandia, where they only got a level 1. And also at the Grand Prix in Helsinki, they got really low GOE for it which is just upsetting to see, because guys, reward the innovation. Make things more interesting!

Karly: I remember the first time I saw it, I was like, "Oh my god, this is a twizzle, but it's fun!".

Kite: It's the innovation, but also you have to appreciate how technically demanding that is, that it really shows of their skill, the control that you have to have over your own edges, but also to be constantly aware of where your partner is, because you're taking up more area on the ice when you're doing a twizzle in a sitting position. It upsets me.

Sam: Especially when you've got long legs, like Stepanova, she's really got to be careful because like I was saying, having those long legs you can either be the most gorgeous thing you've ever seen or a little bit on the messier side depending on what you're doing. And with those sit twizzles, it just looked absolutely incredible next to each other.

Kite: Alas, always in our hearts.

Karly: Gone but not forgotten.

Sam: And like I said, them getting the World Record here in the Free Dance, really makes things interesting. Because coming into the season, most people who follow Ice Dance pretty closely thought that [Madison] Hubbell and [Zachary] Donohue were the for sure number two team, and there probably weren't gonna be many teams that challenged them right out the gate. And Stepanova and Bukin are challenging them, and they're challenging them in a major way. I wouldn't be shocked depending on what happens at the Grand Prix Final if they actually usurped them, because as I said, Stepanova/Bukin have better programs. They have more intensity, there's more fire. They're way more engaging, so if they continue - it's like the Rika thing - if they continue to be clean and they show up at the Grand Prix Final and they outskate Hubbell and Donohue, or Hubbell and Donohue have a mistake, they should be worried.

Kite: It's a pleasant turn-around after so many teams dropping out after the Olympic season to see that there's actually a real rivalry sprouting again in Dance. I definitely didn't think it was going to happen this quickly, but I'm not going to complain about it.

Sam: Definitely not either. Moving on to the Grand Prix [Final] picture, IDF for Dance is just as messy as IDF for ladies. There are three spots up to get, with four teams competing at IDF who could numerically make it, along with [Gabriella] Papadakis and [Guillaume] Cizeron. Having qualified already are Hubbell and Donohue, Stepanova and Bukin, and [Charlene] Guignard and [Marco] Fabbri. On the bubble are [Tiffany] Zagorski and [Jonathan] Guerreiro, Hurtado and Khaliavin, and [Lorraine] McNamara and [Quinn] Carpenter. And at IDF are [Piper] Gilles and [Paul] Poirier, [Victoria] Sinitsina and [Nikita] Katsalapov, and [Kaitlyn] Hawayek and [Jean-Luc] Baker, and the Parsons [Rachel and Michael]. Of those, the Parsons are the ones that probably, while they have a numerical shot, probably don't realistically have a shot considering how stacked this is. Sinitsina and Katsalapov won the Free Dance at Skate Canada, Gilles and Poirier are a consistent medaling team, Hawayek and Baker are on the rise this season and have been since they won Four Continents last year, and again - Papadakis and Cizeron are making their season's debut!

Karly: And again, P/C are there.

Sam: It's a mess! Anything can really happen. Gilles and Poirier really need to beat Sinitsina and Katsalapov and get a higher score than them, Hawayek and Baker just need a fourth place, anything could realistically happen.

Karly: There are so many names.

Kite: Anyone who tries to predict that has no fear of God, so...

-end segment- 43:14


Sam: Our final event, the Men's event.

Karly: Oof.

Sam: Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan winning gold, Morisi Kvitelashvili of Georgia with the silver, and Kazuki Tomono of Japan with bronze.

Kite: First of all, I have to ask - what was up with the ice quality at Rostelecom Cup for the third event running? We got practice reports from fans and the skaters that the ice quality was “bad,” which usually means that the ice was soft and so the skaters can't get as much of a grip with their edge jumps when they're going into the jump. And as a result, we did see some pretty uncharacteristic struggles from the skaters. And again, this is the third Grand Prix event in a row to have subpar ice conditions. It's like, yes, we get that it's obviously a lot of work to arrange an elite figure skating competition, to have skaters and teams from all over the world coming here to compete. But I feel that the least that you could do as an organizer is just try to ensure that the skaters have the best ice conditions to show off how hard they're working, because it's just sad when you see the skaters train so hard and they come here ready to compete and they're derailed and they can't give their best performance for circumstances that are entirely out of their control. Especially when it's been happening back to back to back.

Sam: It's more upsetting considering it's not like these federations have never hosted skating competitions before.

Karly: Exactly!

Sam: The US has been holding Skate America for a very long time, so has Skate Canada, so has RusFed, they all should know how to make sure the ice is okay for people to skate on and there isn't a concern that, hey, maybe my edge jumps won't be here this weekend because the ice is crap.

Kite: Let's keep the ice in our thoughts and prayers going into IDF, and into the Grand Prix Final especially. Canada did a good job at Skate Canada, at least the bare minimum, of making sure the skaters actually had decent ice to skate on. I guess we'll have to see, but it is a shame to see skaters struggle that much for a reason that is preventable, and should be probably pretty high on the list of priorities of things you want to make sure are good going into a competition.

Sam: One might even say, priority number one! (laughs)

Karly: The ice that they're skating on!

Sam: Moving on, we're gonna start with Yuzuru Hanyu. Specifically, unfortunately, some more controversy surrounding the commentary of his Free Skate.

Karly: If you want our full opinion on commentary, on our second episode of In The Loop, we did do a feature on commentary and you can get our full thoughts on that but we also have some more words to say here. So as we know, Yuzuru Hanyu set a world record in the Short Program with a world record of 110.53. There was a lot of talk about what French Eurosport had to say about it, so we had commentary translation by the lovely, multi-talented Clara from the ITL team (Kite: Thanks for our lives, Clara.) We truly owe her our lives. To preface this, it sounded a lot worse when fan reports were coming in, so a lot of people got riled up about this topic. The actual content was a little bit tamer although still inappropriate. The commentary was done by Nathalie Péchalat, who was fourth in [Ice Dance at] Sochi, and Alban Preaubert and a third woman whose name that we, unfortunately, don't know. Nathalie said during the short program, "Maybe it's an ego-trip where he thinks I will sweep away all these famous programs. You get the impression that he wants to tell you, 'everything that's good comes from me.'" In general, they go on to say that they criticize him more harshly because he's so far ahead of the rest of the field, so their expectations are higher. These comments about the ego trip are in reference to how he's doing tribute programs to Johnny Weir and Evgeni Plushenko. It’s just...not a good look.

Kite: Even though the hosts' comments are framed as their personal opinions - they're very explicit in saying 'This is how I feel about it' - I still think it's extremely inappropriate and disrespectful for television hosts in any capacity to be making these assumptions, especially when they're negative and unflattering about skaters who they presumably don't know personally. And it also shows a pretty shocking disregard for facts that should be pretty well known to people giving figure skating commentary, especially former skaters, the fact that Yuzuru personally approached Johnny Weir and Evgeni Plushenko and got permission from both of them to skate these tribute programs to music they'd already used. Furthermore, I think the implication that doing tribute programs sucks all the personality out of his skating is pretty ridiculous. You can see he made his personal mark on them in the difficulty of the transitions, between the jumps, into the jumps, and out of the jumps. And even in the way the programs themselves were conceptualized and choreographed - like in "Origin," the choreographer, Shae-Lynn Bourne, said that rather than envisioning it as a tribute to Nijinsky, which was Plushenko's intention of skating to this music, she envisioned it as a Japanese creation myth. And also, the implication that skaters can't make a program a personal work if they're using music that was used previous is pretty ridiculous, like this happens all the time in skating. That's why, you know, we rag on warhorses so much, that's kind of an extreme example, but that's definitely not an issue that should be an issue in skating. Music is reused all the time - it happens.

Sam: It's also worth pointing out that Yuzuru Hanyu doesn't skate anything like Evgeni Plushenko. (laughs) Like, at all! [Plushenko's] obviously his favorite skater, he's obviously one of the reasons Yuzuru started skating, but to make the comparison that he is trying to personally make sure that people don't remember Plushenko or he's trying to emulate him in some way is fairly ridiculous just by watching him skate.

Kite: Especially since Plushenko actually said, I think during Helsinki, he was like, "I really wish 'Origin' was a little bit more like mine."

Sam: Exactly. They're blatantly not necessarily doing the research before they're making comments that should be informed, not just your initial impression watching it. That's not something you say when you don't know what you're saying.

Kite: Basically, yeah.

Sam: Moving on, unfortunately, British Eurosport also had some choice words for Yuzuru during this competition, after he struggled with some elements in the Free Skate - again, because he was injured - having a shaking landing on a quad toe-Euler-triple Sal, falling on a triple Axel, and popping the second triple Axel. The B.ESP commentators decided to say that "Origin" was empty, there were no transitions, and that Shoma's "Moonlight Sonata" was a better, more packed program, with better jumps. Obviously, they probably didn't know he was injured as they were watching it, which, in and of itself is suspect considering it should be their job to make sure that they know what's happening at a competition they're commentating about. Clearly, the injury in and of itself shaped the way he skated, and that said, I think that was the best step sequence he's had in a performance so far of this program, despite the fact that he was injured.

Kite: I agree with that. (Karly: Yeah.) Amidst the whole hilarious mess that the program actually was with us not knowing his jump layout, or really, what the hell was happening the whole time. Yeah, the step sequence was pretty good.

Karly: It was a glimmer of light in a dark time.

Sam: I don't know necessarily if I thought it was dark watching it - I just thought it was funny.

Kite: Oh yeah, no no no. It was hilarious until we realized that he actually was injured.

Sam: In the moment, we knew he was hurting but in the moment it was honestly a little bit exhilarating to watch him go into a flip where a quad toe should be and then having the quad toe-Euler-triple Sal instead of the quad toe-triple Axel - which I was looking forward to this competition because he's doing a high kick out of it. But yeah, the idea that it has no transitions, compared to Shoma's "Moonlight Sonata"? Okay, my first thing with that is I agree that there are issues with this program choreographically. But I don't think it's a lack of transitions - it's just structure. The second half of the program isn't structured correctly to build with the music in a way that I think is really effective until you get to the Ina Bauer-hydroblade into the final spin. I feel like if it started earlier on in the program, if he's building up the jumps, after he does that section where he takes his free leg and he slowly moves out - that part was a little bit more controlled, I guess is the word. I think the program would have a completely different feel in the end, but the hype moment should come earlier than the choreographic sequence. But that said, “Yuzuru Hanyu has no transitions?” A choice. Moving away from what commentators had to say. I need to talk about his Short Program really quick because it was amazing. I think it is a much more fully realized program than "Origin" - for the reasons I specified about having a lack of structure in the second half. That said, "Otoñal" is miles and above put together excellently with three jumping passes going back to back. The Ina Bauer into spread eagle into the quad Sal, the back counter triple axel-twizzle going into the quad toe-triple toe with a spread eagle out of that. That's all great. And then you get to the step sequence and it's one of those things where it's the moment where you're like, you're at the end of the boards and everyone is going into the step sequence and he just tilts his head back to be like, "Yes, acknowledge me." And it's great, and he moves into the step sequence and he comes out of a turn, he does again, a shuffle to the music before going back into the step sequence. He held the hydroblade for a little too long here, which I want him to do, but because he did it here, he lost the music a bit when he went to do the kick out of it on the beat - which, that's my favorite part of the program, the little kick on the beat, I love it. And then I noticed, finally, in the camel spin position on his last spin, the piano keys start to drip, and his fingers as he has his arms spread out are dripping with it, and it's the stuff like that I'm just like, "Everyone should do this."

Kite: Something he does exceptionally well is the attention to every single musical note in the program, and the ability to just build a program that the final step sequence is usually the climax. You're emotionally invested in the buildup to the step sequence, and you're kind of able to release those emotions as it begins, and I mean, what else can be said, really. Not too many other great things happened in men's unfortunately, throughout this competition. Mikhail Kolyada, who was skating at home in Russia, came in as I wouldn't say heavy favorite but a pretty strong favorite to win some kind of medal here. I think a lot of people were predicting he was going to win silver and unfortunately in both programs we saw the same issues that we've been seeing from him over the past few seasons. He usually misses one of his first jumping passes and then for the rest of the program kind of just loses confidence in his ability to execute the elements and ends up either ends up popping all the jumps or falling on the jumps. It's so disheartening to see this happen again and again and again. knowing that he is solidly the second most well-rounded skater in the world in terms of skating skills, in terms of transitions. His programs this season are masterpieces, and the fact that he's never to put it together because of his jumps and his seeming inability to dust off his mistakes and keep going is just so sad and feels so unnecessary to watch.

Sam: It's so frustrating because he has all the ability in the world. If he skated clean, it'd be a lot closer to gold than I think people would expect, considering his inconsistency. But it's all there, waiting for him to just grab it and take it and run. But seemingly because of his own lack of confidence in himself because of the way in which his programs fall apart because, again, his Free Skate here he started off fabulously. The Sal, the [quad] toe-triple toe were all amazing, textbook, great jumps. And then he pops an Axel and things just slowly start to slide downhill. It's just the hardest thing in the world to watch, when you know a skater is capable of everything and something is holding them back.

But seemingly because of his own lack of confidence in himself because of the way in which his programs fall apart because, again, his Free Skate here he started off fabulously. The Sal, the [quad] toe-triple toe were all amazing, textbook, great jumps. And then he pops an Axel and things just slowly start to slide downhill. It's just the hardest thing in the world to watch, when you know a skater is capable of everything and something is holding them back.

Kite: I feel like Mikhail is this generation's Jeremy Abbott, but with better jumps. He has all the talent in the world to be a multiple-time Grand Prix medalist, he should have qualified easily for the Grand Prix Final, and the fact that he fell short both in Helsinki and then here at home is just really difficult to see. And moreover, I worry about what this is going to do to his reputation, or what it has done to his reputation to the judges already. If he ever does end up getting his jumps in order, is it even going to help him at that point? Knowing that he had such a reputation for inconsistency for so long.

Sam: And it doesn't help that commentators, I believe it was Johnny Weir on NBC, are specifically putting out there that the reason why quad base values were dropped and the GOE intervals were changed was because he was winning with very difficult jumps and beating out clean skates, despite the fact that he was falling. You don't want to have that over your head, and it's hard to say "Hey, you need to make a quick turn around" because it's obviously not an easy thing to do, but there's something in his training environment, I'm guessing. Or maybe even just getting someone to talk you through these kinds of things and teach you how to be a better competitor is necessary almost at this point. Alright, moving on to happier news, but also a little bit bittersweet considering the circumstances, Kazuki Tomono got a medal!

Kite: Woo!

Karly: I was so proud of him!

Sam: That said, we need to have a conversation about his PCS.

Karly: Can I just say that Misha Ge in the Kiss and Cry is something I didn't know I needed.

Kite: Yeah, well, unfortunately, Misha Ge also happened to pass on his getting very lowballed on PCS to his young charge.

Sam: There is absolutely no reason in the world why he is not getting 9's in Performance and Interpretation for this Free Skate.

Karly: I agree.

Sam: [It's] criminal that he's not getting 9 and above straight from every judge. I understand Skating Skills, I understand Transitions, but all of the "artistry" sections of it - are you kidding me? Are you kidding me? What more could he do? He's engaging, he's wonderful, he's got a sunshine smile that you could just stare at all day - that step sequence is fire.

Karly: (sarcastically) Sam, he has to get Irish nationality.

Sam: Yeah, exactly. How could you not love that program and think to yourself "I'm giving you everything and throwing the book at you because that was fun."

Karly: I loved that performance. It wasn't technically clean but he didn't fall so...

Kite: I just want everyone to have fun.

Karly: Exactly, and he looked like he was having fun.

Kite: So he's not going to the Grand Prix Final, unfortunately, because he was 9th at Skate Canada, but I think this is going to give him great momentum nonetheless going into Japanese Nationals, really gunning for that third Worlds spot that the Japanese men have. And hopefully, this is a big confidence booster for him, to know that he can come out and skate two relatively clean programs and have decent results.

Sam: We also want to talk about Artur Dmitriev, (hosts laugh) who tried a quad Axel! And, from all of us here, seeing quad Axel on the TES box was the funniest thing of the weekend!

Karly: It was a whole trip!

Sam: He wasn't even close to landing it, he was very forward, but just the idea that he was like "Hey, I've got nothing else to lose, why not chuck it?" is just insane! And, unfortunately, ended up killing everyone else's triple Axel's after that! I don't think there was a single clean triple Axel, like really clean, perfect triple Axel, following that - maybe Kazuki? I think Kazuki and Morisi probably had some good ones, because they skated relatively clean. But like everybody else's like what happened? It's even more funny considering Yuzuru's also stated that he wants to do a quad Axel, and here's this guy trying a quad Axel, and then [Yuzuru] goes out and messes up both of his. Again, obviously, the injury played a part in that, but just the mental picture of it is like... oh wow, that's something.

Karly: But like seriously the funniest thing about this weekend was the curse of the quad Axel attempt.

Kite: So the event usually publishes the planned program content for each skater, and Artur Dmitriev in his Free Skate planned content had three triple Axel's listed because one of them was supposed to be the quad. I just spent like most of the event just laughing about that.

Sam: Did you guys also see he was on, I believe, the Olympic Channel's Instagram story and he was like "Yeah, before nobody did quad Axels, but after I started doing quad Axels everybody's doing them." And it's like, Artur, people have said that they want to do it but who else is trying it?

Kite: Don't break yourself in the process. Go live your best life, my dude.

Karly: Go get em, tiger.

Kite: So going into our final Grand Prix Final forecast, with one event next week there's two, potentially three, spots up for grabs depending on the state of Yuzuru Hanyu's injury. There are five contenders for those spots. So already qualified are Shoma Uno, Yuzuru Hanyu, Sergei Voronov and Michal Brezina. And on the bubble right now is Jun Hwan Cha, so he's competed twice already, he has two bronze medals. So whether or not he makes it depends on how the men do next week. And still to compete in France are Nathan Chen, Boyang Jin, Alexander Samarin, and Dmitri Aliev.

Sam: For me, personally, I'm curious to see what Nathan Chen's layouts are. I don't necessarily expect the ones he writes down on his planned content to be the one that he skates, but I'm curious to see if he's added more quads in. I'm not necessarily banking on it because, again, he's at school. But I'm curious to see if anything's changed there. I expect him to qualify. Boyang needs to win, which might be difficult considering the way he's been skating lately, he hasn't necessarily been the most consistent [in] the past couple of years despite getting close to being on the podium at the Olympics. Samarin's a wild card, and then Aliev is probably the one least likely, maybe, to make it.

Kite: Yeah, given the field I would agree with that,

Sam: It's not as mind-bending as looking at Ladies and Dance, thankfully. But it's still not completely like a "we know what's going to happen" kind of scenario. Nathan or Boyang could win.

Kite: Or someone else could win!

Sam: Depending on how everybody skates, they're both perfectly capable.

Karly: Wildcard Jason Brown?

Sam: Yeah, I would throw him in there. Especially to medal, he could get a bronze.

Kite: He's not going to qualify for the Final at this point, but he's definitely a medal contender I would say.

-end segment- 1:02:17

START: Shoutout of the Week and Outro

Sam: Alright, that does it for us! Our shoutout of the week goes to Yulia Lipnitskaya, Elena Radionova and Alena Kostornaia for taking time out of their day to go ahead and cheer on the other skaters at Rostelecom. Thank you for listening, we hope to see you again for our next episode which will be about the final stop in the Grand Prix, IDF!

Karly: 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.

Kite: 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.

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

Karly: 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 Karly,

Sam: Sam,

Kite: and Kite. Bye!