Episode 20: Grand Prix Final 2018 - Transcript


Tilda: 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: What’s up everybody, I’m Evie, and I’m extremely confused as to how it’s already halfway through the season - someone please stop the passage of time! My twitter handle is @doubleflutz.

Tilda: Hi, I’m Tilda, your friendly neighborhood political scientist and finals anxiety stressed grad student. You can find me on twitter @tequilda.

Kat: Hey I’m Kat, I just got back from Vancouver last night and up bright and early to record this episode! You can find all my GPF shenanigans on Twitter @kattwts.

Tilda: Let's start with some news. The first one is quite sad; the French coach Jean-François Ballester has unfortunately passed away of a heart attack at age 53 after returning from an international competition in Tallinn. So Ballester was the one who coached Aljona Savchenko/Bruno Massot (GER) to their Olympic gold medal in Pyeongchang this year. Our hearts go out to his family and friends, may he rest in peace.

Kat: In addition, Javier Fernandez of Spain has confirmed that he is going to retire next year, in 2019, and he wants to compete at the European Championships at the end of January, where he's going to go for his seventh consecutive title. He won't be competing in Spanish Nationals, but he will still skate in the exhibition gala.

Evie: And in some slightly frightening news, we have Ashley Cain, the American Pairs skater with her partner Tim[othy] LeDuc. During their Free Skate this weekend at the Golden Spin of Zagreb in Croatia they had a really bad fall. Ashley landed on the back of her head while they were exiting a lift. Tim stumbled and lost his balance and his grip on her. She fell to the ice headfirst and she seemed to be knocked unconscious briefly until Tim helped her up and they finished the program. She was checked out at a local hospital nearby, and she's going to continue her treatment from the injury back home, but it was certainly a scary moment and we hope that she gets better soon. Obviously, there were a lot of questions around the referee at the event not stopping the program after she suffered that really serious head injury - considering head injuries are really, really serious. And it's a question of whether the referee at the event or the officials, could be held accountable for something that could potentially have been life-threatening.

Kat: Yeah, that was definitely a really scary accident. Check out at your own risk, I guess.

Tilda: And also check out our medical episode (Episode 8) where we discuss this kind of situation and what should be done.

Kat: And to end this off on a really positive note, the Chinese pair Sui Wenjing and Han Cong have announced that they will make their season debut at Chinese Nationals this month and they will be debuting new programs. We're so excited to see them (Evie: Yay!) because it will be almost a year since they last competed, so [it's] very exciting to see their new programs.

Tilda: A few [pieces of] sad news, and one [piece of] happy news.

Kat: Well, Javi is like bittersweet.

Evie: Yeah.

Tilda: 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- 3:48

START: GPF 2018 Overview

Evie: So in today's episode we're going to be talking about the 2018 Grand Prix Final. Yay!

Kat: Can't believe it's over!

Evie: It's crazy that it's already at an end.

Tilda: The series is over!

Kat: Yeah, it was amazing like after the last event ended it was just like "Wow... it's over."

Evie: The season is going way too fast.

Tilda: It feels like it's lasted a year or something.

Evie: It's the emotional stress just compounding every single week for the past two months, and now it's finally over for now until you know, we get into the second half of the season with even more crazy things.

Kat: Yep.

Tilda: Can't wait.

Evie: Ah well. But Kat, you had the opportunity to go to the Final this year (Kat: Yeah, it was amazing) along with a lot of other people from the In The Loop team. What was the event like, on the scale of all the events you've been to?

Kat: I think that it was really good, actually. The venue was a lot smaller, I'd say. It was smaller than Skate Canada and there were less seats because there wasn't a second tier of seats. But the crowds were really really good and I heard that earlier in the week the reports of the ice were really good too. So that probably contributed to why we had a really high percentage of good performances like there weren't that many meltdowns, I think, across all the Juniors and Seniors - which is a lot of performances!

Evie: And that's good to hear especially since we've had so many competitions in a row [with] bad ice conditions.

Kat: Yeah, I mean if there's anything we can trust with Canada is that we'll have some good ice.

Evie: Well at least this rink was Olympic sized as opposed to Skate Canada, which wasn't.

Kat: It was built for the Olympics. It was interesting that it was on the [University of British Columbia] campus, so there were students wandering around too and I was just wondering what must they be thinking? You have Olympic figure skaters skating here. But in some regards, it was a little strange. Skate Canada has always had a pretty strict camera policy, but they never really enforced it, like at ACI, they cared for like 10 minutes and after that everyone just kind of got away scot-free for taking photos. Same thing at Skate Canada, [they] did not care at all until the literal last day, and by that point, everyone was like "Alright, sure" and then took photos. But at Grand Prix Final they did search for cameras pretty carefully after the first day, and some people had to erase all of their photos.

Evie: Yeah, I saw reports of that. That was really worrying.

Kat: Yeah, but at the same time, a lot of people got away scot-free. Some of us had to deal with security and our cameras, but then some of us just didn't get flagged at all. This inconsistency with the camera policy was kind of jarring, and it's not super clear either what they're going to allow and how they're going to deal with it, because some people did get flagged inside the rink as well but then as soon as [security] went away then no one cared. But then there was this one person who came around and was really strict about it, and I think they're usually volunteers. The actual security people don't seem to know very much about cameras. So yeah, that was a little bit strange, but overall the event was really good. The fans were really warm and the reactions were really good. I think we were really enthusiastic though. We did a lot of screaming, which is why my throat is a little bit hoarse.

Evie: We could hear you on the stream!

Kat: Yes, I know! My voice is obnoxiously loud, so if you go back you can definitely hear me in a lot of these replays. But yeah, great time.

-end segment- 7:38

START: Pairs

Evie: Okay, shall we talk about the Pairs?

Tilda: So, we have our gold medalists, first time Grand Prix Final champions, Vanessa James and Morgan Ciprès from France.

Kat: And then silver medalists, Cheng Peng and Yang Jin from China.

Evie: And in third place, we have Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morosov from Russia.

Kat: Wow guys, this Pairs event!

Evie: It was pretty insane.

Kat: It was so insane!

Evie: It was such a high-quality Pairs event and there were so many surprise results, I feel. In both of the segments we had results that were completely outstanding and it made the whole event such a fun thing to watch.

Kat: It's not even an upset, it was just like the best case scenarios, I guess, in certain instances.

Evie: Definitely, I mean we had, obviously, Vanessa and Morgan finally winning a Grand Prix Final, and it's the first time they've ever qualified for the Final, and they win it! (Kat: I know!) It's just so good to see them be able to bounce back like that after a somewhat disappointing Short Program to completely slay the field and score a season's best and a world record in the Free Skate. It's fantastic to see because they're such a wonderful team, they're so talented.

Kat: It almost felt like a culmination of the disappoint they had last year of just missing the Grand Prix Final and then just missing the European podium, and then ever since they got their World bronze medal, they've really capitalized on the momentum that I mentioned in the last episode as well. They're undefeated this season, which is incredible going into Nationals and the Championships part of the season. So I'm just so happy for them.

Tilda: So in the last episode I did talk about having my reservations about their Free Program, but I just have to say they completely sold it this time. They really sold it. I mean they were so strong and so confident, I could just feel like their projection, they were just like the definition of strength, you know?

Kat: Yeah, Canada really loves James and Ciprès. They got a standing ovation during the Free Program, and they were only the second skaters. Usually, the event builds and so the last skaters usually get all of the love, and when they were at Skate Canada, they skated last - that was like their moment. But I feel like they had another moment at the Grand Prix Final too, even though they skated so early. I still wish they would change the ending to their Free Program (Evie: Yeah). I feel like it looks awkward, I've already mentioned that I don't like when it ends with a lift, but they keep getting deductions on it.

Evie: Yeah, it's a bit of a mess. I don't personally find it that awkward to look at but just the constant time violations that they've gotten on it...

Kat: One point is a lot sometimes with these kinds of competitions. Don't forget they were off the podium by 0.1 at Euros last season. So, if that happens at Euros and the competition is a lot tighter than it was here, that could be pretty detrimental to them so, please rework the ending!

Evie: And, of course, we have to mention, I think, kind of the surprise silver medalists of the event - Peng/Jin. (Kat: Yes!) Oh my god, I was not expecting them to, for one, win the Short Program with a phenomenal program. It was perfect! I've never seen them perform that program so well - I don't think I've ever seen them perform a program like that so well ever. It's amazing.

Kat: Especially since she twisted her right ankle right before the competition. I think the reports came out after the Short Program, so everyone was like "Oh my god, please survive the Free Program!" But yeah, they looked really really good in both segments. I was so surprised, actually, at how warmly they were received by the audience here. I feel like the response was a lot more lukewarm at Skate Canada, but it might be because there were a lot more international fans at Grand Prix Final. But the crowd loved Peng and Jin, especially their Short Program, and you could just see as soon as they finished the throw during the Short Program they just really lit up and the crowd was so into it. They performed it so well.

Evie: They really did. Everything about it was perfect. I don't completely agree with the PCS they got (Kat: Oh, me either), I think it should have been a lot higher. I don't understand how [Natalia] Zabiiako and [Alexander] Enbert got higher than they did when their program was kind of (Kat: Flawed) flawed, it had errors in it. But, you know, that's kind of the constant struggle, I feel, when you're complaining about teams from Asian federations and their PCS is never as high as they deserve. But, oh well, it's so good to see them have such good skates, especially since in the Free Skate they have the base value disadvantage because they only have double Salchows, not triple Salchows. So they're going in with a disadvantage, but if they perform clean, and everyone else doesn't, then obviously they're going to- (Kat: They're going to capitalize) They're going to capitalize on it, and they did here! And it's just so good to see a Chinese Pairs team on the Grand Prix Final podium. I just love Peng and Jin so much, they've grown on me so much over this season.

Kat: Yeah, and as soon as they get those side by side Salchows they'll really be contenders for the top spot because that base value reduction really is a lot. If they can score 141 without another triple then they can definitely score mid-40s and even into the 50s if they get the PCS boost after this competition. So, really really hoping that happens maybe next season, they're really looking good. And I just wanted to say that I should have known that Peng and Jin would do really well at the Grand Prix Final because Vancouver is a special place for Chinese Pairs because that was where Shen [Xue] and Zhao [Hongbo], and Pang [Qing] and Tong [Jian] won gold and silver at the Vancouver Olympics 8 years ago. So it was really lucky that Grand Prix Final was there. And I also want to say that I saw Shen and Zhao in the kiss and cry area, in the coach area, and they were so excited after [Peng/Jin's] Free Skate. They were hugging and cheering really really loud. I think that Gabb might have a video of it, but yeah it was a sweet moment because they're one of my favorite Pairs ever, so yeah, a great moment.

Kat: So Tarasova and Morozov, this is the first time that I'm seeing them live and they really are just so pristine. That's the word that comes to mind when I think about them is pristine. We were sitting in the opposite corner — basically from the twist corner — but he launches her so high in the air it almost looks like it's twice as high. And he's like six feet tall. It's so massive and so impressive. Pairs already just looks more impressive in person, in my opinion, and especially if you're sitting in the front row, you're already lower to the ground so it just looks really high. But it almost seems like as soon as she made the mistake on the throw, they kind of gave up on the performance. It had the same feeling as when they botched their free at the Olympics, where they kind of gave up.

Tilda: Their faces at the end.

Kat: Yeah, they have that resigned face. The sigh, that happened. It doesn't seem to at least destroy them. They've kind of resigned themselves to it, and they should be really the top team because their elements are so so solid. They should be racking up the [technical score] like crazy but because they keep making mistakes and giving up on the performance, you leave so many points on the table and it's really unfortunate.

Evie: Hopefully they can regroup as a team, you know, assess what needs to be worked on because they've gotten Russian Nationals with a bit over a week now, and Euros next month. They really need to work on fixing their frame of mind when they have issues early in the program or towards the middle, so they can keep the momentum up even if they make mistakes and they'll be able to keep their performance level up. I think their Free Skate is a really strong program for them. It's probably my favorite of theirs in their entire career. The Short Program is not really my thing.

Kat [not sure]: Campy?

Evie: Yeah, too campy for me. It's no Candyman, but it's not my favorite. But I still think they performed that program pretty well. They're all kind of smiley. I think Evgenia's smile lights up the room in the Short Program because she's very expressive, but then again with the errors, that kind of faded away when they were so focused on just getting the rest of the program as clean as they can make it. I think, that's something that develops as a team progresses throughout seasons. They get better with coping with problems and things that go wrong. I really want to see them perfect both of these programs; I want to see them skate these programs clean, especially the Free Skate, which could be really effective.

Kat: Yeah, they have not put together two clean programs in a really long time. That hasn't happened this season. That didn't happen last couple competitions that I remember from them last season either, so I hope they can find a way to clean up their Free Program and maybe find a way to not resign themselves after one small mistake, because then the mistakes pile up and they keep losing points.

Tilda: That throw triple loop though in the free. That was pretty great.

Kat: It's great. She has such gorgeous lines and posture. Her air positions are fantastic. It's so frustrating they don't put it together. It can be a little more emotive, but aesthetically, they're so beautiful. We just want to quickly mention Zabiyako and Enbert, obviously. They placed fourth here. Their performance was definitely a surprise because they're another one of those teams that, like Tarasova and Morosov, they have such clean crisp elements, beautiful lines, but have not put it together. I remember being so surprised in the free, when they had an aborted lift, where he tried to pick her up and didn't, or mistimed it and then did it again, but then it got invalidated. And I remember gasping at that and saying to my friend next to me, the door is open for Peng and Jin right now. I've never seen that happen for them.

Evie: It's such a shock from such a pretty solid team to have an issue like that.

Kat: Yeah, that was also after they had a few couple scratchy landings from a throw and a side-by-side as well. Really really shocked here, but it was definitely a surprise.

-end segment- 19:45


Evie: So, the men's medalists at this event. In gold, we have Nathan Chen of the U.S.

Tilda: Then in silver, we have Shoma Uno from Japan.

Kat: And our bronze medalist was Junhwan Cha from Korea.

Evie: Keeping up that bronze streak.

Kat: Yes! It's a bronze blessing. Like, silver curse and a bronze blessing.

Tilda: Let's remember that Junhwan originally only had one Grand Prix assignment and he got his second assignment really late.

Kat: What a great result for him honestly. Great momentum and he's been doing so well. His consistency.

Evie: It's really good to see him rise up so much this season. I'm so proud of him, like being the first ever Korea man to medal at a Grand Prix Final is no small feat. The fact that he did that while also skating with a really persistent boot problem. He said that he's been taking prescription painkillers for the past couple of weeks, and being icing his feet pretty regularly as well because he's had this lingering boot issue for all of the season. It's so impressive to see him be able to skate as well as he is with those problems. And the fact that he has so much left to do this season, he's already back in Korea now and he has to go through the Korean national qualifying competitions, and then nationals.

Kat: Which is so strange.

Evie: Yeah, I'm confused as to why the Korean Fed doesn't have a system. Most other federations have that kind of system where previous champions or skaters of high merit don't have to compete in the qualifying competitions, like regionals or sectionals, or those kinds of equivalent competitions in different countries. Korea makes all the skaters compete in those every single year, and it's very confusing.

Kat: Especially considering he's the only men's skater they have right now that can bring in results. First Korean man to medal in the Grand Prix, win both GPs.

Evie: Get bronze medals at both GPs.

Kat: Yeah, get bronze at the GPF as well. This is such an amazing season for Jun. Korean Fed should definitely give him a pass. He's been competing so much, and he also went to two Challenger events as well.

Evie: Yeah, he did. He's currently first in the overall season's rankings because he's done the two Challenger series competitions, the two GPs, and the finals and he's gotten medals in all of them.

Tilda: Me and Evie talked a bit before about how the men's field is pretty open right now. Right? Because you have, obviously, the top three arguably: Hanyu, Uno, and Chen. But then you sort of have had some weak performances from Boyang Jin and [Mikhail] Kolyada. There's sort of an uncertainty about who will become the next top six.

Kat: It's a shifting of the guards, sort of.

Tilda: Right, exactly because you see like [Sergei] Voronov and [Michael] Brezina, they're older. So you're wondering who is going to be the next generation. And you know, Jun is there.

Kat: He fell on his quad toe in the Free Program, but that's like a new quad for him. Or one that he hasn't got a lot of mileage on. He's gotten really good with his quad Salchow. He still gets dinged on under rotations from time to time, but his form on them and his confidence in landing them has seemed to improve.

Evie: The fact that he could skate a pretty much perfect program after the pretty bad fall in the quad toe at the start of his Free Skate is really admirable.

Kat: It says a lot about his mentality and his ability to regroup after a shaky start, which is really impressive for someone so young. He just turned 17, so there's so much potential. So much potential.

Tilda: I do think that his relative inexperience and his youth shine through in his, not quite polished, skating. I think expression is a weakness for him, so that's why I'm happy he's using distinctive choreography that makes a lasting impact even if his expression is not as strong. It reminds me of Boyang Jin doing the Spiderman [program]. These highly engaging programs that capture the audience, even if the skater is not quite mature yet.

Kat: It's interesting that you mention his unpolished skating because Jun's appeal — I think he has a lot of natural charisma on the ice. He has a lot of open movements on his upper body and it really draws you in, especially if you have that funky EDM music going on in his Free Skate.

Evie: Disco Juliet.

Kat: Exactly. I know some people don't like that because it's bad posture and it makes him look noodle-ly and loose, but I think it works really well with the music, where he grooves out to it a little bit. It doesn't work for all skaters all the time, but at least for that program it worked really well.

Evie: I would prefer someone to be noodle-ly and loose than being overly stiff. That's my opinion on it.

Kat: He's using it to enhance the expression of the music, so it comes a lot better in that way as well. And after the Free Skate, Gabb made a custom Soohorang with Jun's Free Skate costume, and I tossed it at him. He picked it up and brought it with him to the Kiss and Cry and that was so so sweet.

Evie: That was so adorable to watch.

Kat: We have an entire little Kiss and Cry cam where he and Brian were talking about it while the replays were going on, and it was so adorable.

Evie: He's kept it too. There were photos of him arriving at the airport in Korea a couple hours ago, and it's like sticking out his luggage.

Kat: It's so sweet. I'm so happy for Gabb. She worked so hard on it too.

Tilda: Should we move on to talk about the gold and silver medalists?

Evie: For gold, we have Nathan for the second consecutive year in a row, and Shoma for silver, also in the second consecutive year in a row. Obviously, they were the favorites for the top position going into the final and it's not really a surprise that they occupied the top two spots on the podium. For the most part, it was always going to be pretty close, I feel. In the Short Program, it certainly was. They were within a point of each other at the end of it.

Tilda: With almost identical PCS.

Evie: It's kind of crazy. They both had mistakes in their programs as well. Nathan didn't have a combo, and Shoma had the really awfully landed quad flip.

Tilda: What's up with them getting the same PCS?

Evie: In the Short Program, with the way they both skated, I'm not surprised that the judges went with Nathan because he did have the higher TES, and his elements were a bit cleaner. Plus, Shoma didn't have the triple toe after the quad toe in his short, so I wasn't completely surprised they went with Nathan over that. I was really surprised how their PCS were so similar. Most of the components were within 0.25 of each other I think. That's very surprising, and I don't necessarily agree with that. In certain areas, they both have components in the Short Program that they succeeded more than the other, but I think Shoma has the better skating skills of the two, even if he doesn't have a lot of one foot skating in his program. He does have better flow across the ice, and his edges are cleaner than Nathan's. I think in performance, I would probably give it to Nathan in the Short Program. Especially here in the final, he performed Caravan so well.

Kat: It was much better than it was at IDF when I said I wasn't as into it. It might also be that I finally got to see it live. That kind of music also plays really well with the audience and over the loudspeaker, it was really groovy so the audience got really into it as well.

Evie: Even if he wasn't as clean as he was at Skate America — where he also performed it really well — after the error he had with a combo, I think he kind of flicked the switch inside like, OK I need to sell this program because I'm going to be a slight disadvantage if I don't have a combo. He wasn't skating last in the segment, so he knew there was still Shoma to come. He really went over the top and projected that smiley charm that Nathan has. It was really fun to watch.

Kat: For me, I was just so impressed by Nathan's overall composure. This is a test of his first semester at Yale. I expected him to be a lot shakier than he was at the GPF, just because this is finals season and I don't know what his training situation is, but he really improved to me. I know a lot of people had doubts after Japan Open, but he really proved that he can be among the best even being a full-time student and taking finals. It was just so impressive. I have a lot of respect for Nathan considering how hard it is to be a full-time student, not even a full-time student and a professional high-level athlete.

Tilda: One thing I was wondering was do you think their PCS have stagnated or is it because they haven't skated clean programs yet?

Kat: I feel like that's probably it. I feel like if Shoma and Nathan skated clean programs, they would definitely get more in the nines, like at Worlds, Nathan skated almost totally clean and then he got like 91 PCS or something.

Tilda: Also return of the quad Lutz for Nathan?

Evie: Yeah, I wasn't exactly enthused to see it back here, especially [because] it's a snake. I wish he would drop it because (Kat: Quad Lutzes are all snakes!) it's been inconsistent in practice a couple of events now, and he was nowhere near close to landing it in the free. It was just completely off; when you see the landing, you could kind of tell immediately he wasn't going to land that, and I really wish that he would, especially since he's studying full-time at the moment, kind of slack off on the technical content, change it to a triple Lutz because it's really important with this new system for skaters to skate cleaner, because if you make mistakes your [technical score] is just going to drop; it's going to plummet. I think it's much safer for him, especially in the point that he's at in his life, to not put so much stress on himself, to keep landing all of the quads that he wants to land and chill out a little bit, and maybe take the focus away from the quad Lutz and put it more into stabilizing the edge on his quad flip a little bit more, because again here, it was kind of iffy. I'm kind of surprised that it didn't get any edge warnings in either the short or the free, because he's been getting them pretty consistently throughout the past couple competitions, and his flip edges never been stellar. In the last couple times we've seen him, it's been flat, you know bordering - (Kat: Dubious) Yes, been very dubious. It was hard to tell here because the camera angles for us for both of the flips in the short and the free weren't fantastic to be viewing the edges, but just looking at the entry curve that he took, it didn't look particularly inside.

Tilda: The technical panel seemed a bit more lenient here. No one else got an edge call either, so I would think that it has to do with this specific type of panel as well.

Evie: Considering that most technical panels have been pretty strict with flip edges like the entire season so far, it's kind of shocking to see a men's event with no one got called for them.

Tilda: No one got any calls - underrotation calls, yes - but not as many as I thought there would be. They were definitely lenient on some borderline. I also think that Shoma’s underrotation issues and just general shakiness is really hindering him from advancing at this point. Him removing the quad loop was a smart choice, but then we have the new quad Salchow, and it isn't especially stable either.

Evie: I was so annoyed in the Free Skate because he did a perfect quad Salchow in the warm-up. It was really nice, like when they were doing the skater introduction and his name was being announced, and it was perfect, but he just couldn't get it together when it came time to actually do it.

Tilda: It was downgraded, so it felt just like the quad loop all over again.

Evie: I worry because he's been having quite a lot of issues with the quads both in practice and in competition. I worry about what's going on with that.

Kat: Yeah, and also because his program is really empty when his quads don't show up, like you really notice how empty it is. There's not that much else drawing you in so just the way that especially the beginning part of that Free Skate is composed, it's literally his three quads in a row.

Evie: That's what I felt. That program was the most effective at Skate Canada where he did land those jumps at the start.

Kat: Exactly what I thought as well.

Evie: It worked really well. I was immediately drawn into the program, but at NHK Trophy and here where he had problems, it made it harder for me to connect with the program. Although I will say that here, it was really nice to see that he did get three combos. I still question the hell out of him putting all three of them in the second half of his program with his track record of landing combos. I questioned the hell out of that, but it's good to see that he got them. That's pretty much at this point that all we could ask from Shoma is that he got his combos, so it's good to see that.

Tilda: I think his strength as a skater now is mainly that he can keep it together for an entire program, even if it is messy, right? When it comes to the real high scores, he's kind of held back a bit, but his ability to put together a program no matter what is still pretty impressive.

Kat: Shoma is really good at keeping it together at least just enough. Someday, he'll break that silver curse at major championships.

Tilda: Shout out to Michal Brezina, the potato king, doing it for all the uncles out there. His Free Skate to me is so much fun. He's extremely engaging, and I just have to mention Helsinki, because he was skating last directly after Yuzuru broke the world record, and he was absolutely killing it and managing to capitalize on the frenzy of the audience and just fueling his performance with it. He's so cool, and it’s just really like him to bring that energy into the Grand Prix Final.

Kat: He kind of exudes this “yolo” energy, like, he doesn't really - I don't want to say that he's flipping or doesn't care - but he's just very carefree, and he doesn't really let the results get to him.

Evie: It feels like he's skating just for the pure love that he has for skating. It doesn't feel driven by any other motive other than the fact that he loves what he's doing, and that's really authentic and charming, and I enjoy the hell out of both of his programs and his skating in general. I was extremely excited to see him qualify in the first place for the Final and now here he is, coming in fourth. That's pretty awesome considering his uncle status. He's such a fun skater to watch, and he just brings up the mood of every event he's at.

Kat: Also the coach camera, when it was between him and [Rafael Arutyunyan], that was really funny.

Evie: That was so cute.

Kat: I hadn’t noticed that they put it up on the stream, because I was just watching them in the kiss and cry, like when he was watching Rafael at the boards who was watching Nathan. I didn't even notice until everyone started laughing at the jumbotron.

Tilda: I just want to briefly say that I really enjoyed Keegan Messing. His skating is so fluid; his skating skills are so solid.

Kat: Incredibly solid.

Tilda: Yeah, and even though I'm not a fan of his programs at all, which you probably know, but I still really enjoy seeing him here.

Evie: I was surprised to see him pretty much land the quad Lutz in the Free Skate considering it's been inconsistent throughout this whole season. He put a hand down, but otherwise, it was great to see him get that on home ice in front of a home crowd. It must have been such a rush.

Kat: After this week, there was the earthquake in Alaska, so the fact that he was able to perform pretty well at his home Grand Prix Final, that was really great to see. Especially during practice during his run-through, when he did the quad Lutz, he fell so hard and hit the board so hard, and we were in the kiss and cry area sitting, so we didn't see him. We just heard a really loud thud, and that startled me so much, and he was falling on them like a couple of more times in that exact same quarter, I was like, “oh my God Keegan, please do not do the quad Lutz, like this is really bad for my heart”. That's why I was just so happy that he even landed it to some degree in his actual program because during practice he was not doing it well at all.

Tilda: Yeah, but then he hasn't really stabilized his quad toe loop, so that was an issue in both the Short Program and the Free Skate. It's been quite sometime now that he struggled with the quads, like with a quad toe loop, and I think if he managed to get a decent consistency with those quads and get some better packaging next season, I think he would definitely have something, but right now, I’m just looking at his quads and wondering is he going to be able to stabilize them?

-end segment- 39:14

START: Ice Dance

Evie: Moving into the next discipline, we have Ice Dance. I feel like this whole segment, it's just going to be us going, “Welcome to the salt mine, grab a pick and start mining” because oh boy, this event was kind of a hot mess all over. So for the medalists, we have in gold Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue of the United States.

Kat: In silver, we have Victoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov from Russia.

Tilda: In bronze, we have Charlène Guignard and Marco Fabbri of Italy.

Evie: I know that we just covered this in the last episode, Internationaux de France, about grades of executions on the patterns in the Rhythm Dance, but oh boy, there were so many issues here at the Grand Prix Final this weekend with a lot of high grades of execution being given to quite low level patterns. No one skated a perfectly clean pattern this weekend, but that's not really to be expected at this point, let's be honest, I don’t think anyone has, but we saw a lot of teams that have a kind of reputation going into the event, they're getting the really high grades of execution when they're not hitting the key points of the pattern as opposed to teams that don't have as much of a reputation as others, and they skating the pattern better, but they're getting lower grades of execution. We have Hubbell and Donohue, whose section one was a level one, and they got nearly plus 2 and 1/2 grades of execution, and then we have Italian team Guignard and Fabbri who had a level four [pattern], but they only got plus 2.

Kat: It just goes back to what I said, if you listen to my rant in the last episode about how levels don't even really seem to matter, especially with the pattern, because there's only like half a point difference between the levels. There's not very much differentiating them, and it doesn't give the teams enough incentive to perfect the pattern. At the same time, .5, that can be a pretty decent margin -

Evie: Especially in Dance.

Kat: Right, especially in Dance when every single point counts, but when you have such high fluctuations, or you have such a higher range of scores you can give with the goe now with the plus five minus five, you definitely have a lot more incentive to try to just improve the grades of execution and not work on the key points.

Evie: You look at the Official Guidelines for grades of executions for the patterns, and you're not technically allowed to award plus +4 or +5 if the team doesn't complete a hundred percent of the steps in the pattern, and we saw Hubbell and Donahue get multiple +4 on their patterns, and they got a level 1 and level 2. It's just really worrying, because they didn't execute the pattern very well, and yet they're getting way higher grades of executions than other teams that did, because we had both Guignard/Fabbri and Sinitsina/Katsalapov getting level fours on the section, and we had Zagorski and Guerreiro getting [level] fours on the second section, and all of those teams had lower grades of execution than Hubbell and Donohue had on their sections. Same with Hawayek and Baker, who continuing their trend from the past couple of competitions, they've been at low levels on the pattern, but still getting quite good grades of executions. Despite that, I really didn't agree with the scoring in general in the Rhythm Dance. I would have put the Italian couple first over Hubbell and Donohue, and I think out of all the teams there, they were definitely the technicians. They have by far the best edge control and skating skills. The way that they use their knees to push so effortlessly across the ice just makes their skating look so smooth and it's impressive how they can all of their lifts and all of the other acrobatic elements so well, considering they don't really have much of a height difference between them. It's certainly not a problem for them, and overall, they had probably had the best pattern out of all the teams there, especially when you're looking at the patterns of the first section with the rocker in the first bit, most teams do it completely flat, but they have such a clear edge both in entry and exit.

Kat: It is so clear.

Evie: It is so good to watch.

Kat: I remember watching them in practice for the first time. I am not super familiar with Guignard and Fabbri, I didn't really follow them that much; I remember seeing them, but I didn't really follow them. But my first time seeing them live, I immediately was like, oh my goodness, those rockers are so clear, no question that they would definitely get that key point. Their movements are just so fluid and crisp, like that is the one thing that I noticed about them is that they are definitely the technicians of this entire flight of dancers, although it is really ironic though, I remember during one of their run-throughs, I remember commenting to someone that they have such amazing skating skills, and as soon as I said that, Marco [Fabbri] completely wiped out during the step sequence -

Evie: You jinxed him!

Kat: I totally was like, okay well, better during practice than during the actual competition, and they did really well during the competition, so get that pancake out early.

Evie: I'm so glad that they did so well because starting [this] season I was really kind of neutral in my opinions to them. I knew that they were the second top Italian Dance team after Anna [Cappelini] and Luca [Lanotte], and I remember speaking on the Grand Prix Helsinki episode, I was not expecting them to get that rise in scores that they have over the past season. Especially at their Free Dance in Helsinki where they scored, I think, 118 in a program with a fall, and I didn't really agree with that there. But here, when then skated two pretty clean programs, their levels were pretty good throughout both of their programs. I was just really surprised at how effortless their skating is and how good they are. They're really an outstanding team, even if both of their programs aren't my favorite stylistically. Their Free Dance is, I mean, I'm not big on "La La Land" in general, I'm just glad their "La La Land" doesn't have "City of Stars" in it because I'm so sick of that song. But I do like the fact that they are really passionate about that program because last season I believe they were going to use "La La Land" for their Free Dance at the Olympics but then a couple of teams announced that they were going to do it, including, if you guys remember, [Madison] Chock and [Evan] Bates announced it early in the season, and then they scrapped that to do their "Imagine" Free Dance.

Kat: So now they get to use it!

Tilda: Yeah, and I think they're the only ones who are allowed to do "La La Land" from now on because I think it's terrible skating music. So boring, unless it's done by them because they can actually pull off that vibe - their sort of old fashion, smooth things. And I definitely think that "La La Land" would not work in any other discipline, as far as singles go it doesn't mesh. But when it's done by these really skilled Ice Dancer's then it actually works well.

Kat: Yeah. I mean, in general, I agree. I'm not huge on "La La Land" programs but they definitely performed it really well. I don't think, at least to me, it's the program best suited for them. I think they would definitely do better with something more dramatic. I think the tango suits them very well, even if it's not super memorable. Just because Charlene, in particular, has such sharp, dramatic features that they would do so well with, especially [with] how crisp their movements are, something more dramatic, which is why I think their Rhythm Dance is a stronger vehicle for them. Just in general, that entire second group in the Free Dance had better Rhythm Dance's, their Rhythm Dance was the stronger of their two programs, which is why I was a little less excited about the Free Dance in the second flight because of the way that the scores played out.

Evie: I loved Charlene and Marco's reactions in the kiss and cry with their coach.

Kat: Yeah! Barbara Fusar Poli's reactions! (Evie: She was so good) Like I said, we were sitting right by the kiss and cry, so I pointed out like "Do you see Barbara's reactions?" She was so into it, she even had like a timer, I think?

Evie: Yeah, she had a stopwatch. I think she was timing the lifts, yeah.

Kat: Which I thought was so cute, and she was just yelling "Yes! Yes! Yes!"

Evie: She's always so over the top. I love her.

Kat: Did they have a coach cam on her on the stream? Like did they show her replay?

Evie: I think they did, yeah.

Kat: She showed some great reactions, so that was adorable.

Evie: So, going onto Hubbell and Donohue, I wasn't surprised that they came away with the gold at this event but I was kind of surprised at the scores they were getting despite their base value. They had the lowest overall base value out of all of the teams there. Out of all six teams they had the lowest base value in both overall and the Free Dance. They had some pretty bad level problems in the Free, they had a level 2 spin and everything besides the twizzles was level 3 or lower and they scored a season's best with a huge score - it was 124. That was huge for the performance that they put out there and I'm not necessarily fond of the changes that they've done to both programs. I especially don't like the addition of "Yo Soy Maria" in the Rhythm Dance - I hate "Maria," I'm so sick of that song because it is in every second Rhythm Dance. You see it multiple times at every competition.

Kat: Yeah, I was so sad that they changed the twizzles, that was my favorite part of their program. Their arm variations in the twizzles at Skate America and Skate Canada are incredible, and they changed it for the Grand Prix Final and I'm really upset about that.

Evie: It didn't work as well. That was the one standout feature of their Rhythm Dance for me beforehand and now it's kind of become unmemorable.

Kat: Although their twizzles are very good, I will say that they're very quick. They have very fast twizzles and they have the leg at the 45-degree angle, which is really hard to do, but ugh, I miss their original ones!

Evie: And in their Free Dance, the changes they made to the first half of it I'm, again, not a huge fan of them and I think especially with the quite heavy, dramatic music Madi, in particular, her facial expressions were a little bit too over the top for me. They were quite intense to the point where I was just like "Ooh, calm down a bit, girl, please." It kind of made me distracted. I wasn't focusing so much on their skating, I was focusing on her overexpressing the [drama] of the music. Overall, I'm just not a fan of that Free Dance, I think it's, stylistically, a bad choice for them and kind of goes against their strengths as a team.

Kat: Yeah, it just feels so uninspired. (Evie: Yeah) I don't think that they did "Romeo & Juliet" because they really were passionate about "Romeo & Juliet."

Evie: They said earlier in the season that they chose the "Romeo & Juliet" theme because they wanted to skate to "Kissing You." That's fine, but I think their strengths as a team lie elsewhere. I think they do better on the more smooth, seductive style programs, like their Free Dance from last season. I think that was a good choice for them.

Kat: Right, yeah. Go for the more modern! I think that the modern programs suit them way better. So yeah, it will be interesting to see how they stack up at US Nationals against Chock and Bates, once we see them competing against each other. Because the Free Dance, they're still getting the scores. Clearly, the federation is ready to put all their eggs in the Hubbell/Donohue basket, I think. So it will be interesting to see what Chock and Bates will do and how their programs will look because this program I don't think is a good vehicle for Hubbell/Donohue at all. It's just not at their level, they're so much better than this program.

Evie: And, of course, we have to bring up [Alexandra] Stepanova and [Ivan] Bukin, the 4th place finishers at the event.

Kat: Very, very sad.

Evie: I think a lot of us are very sad about this. In the Rhythm Dance, they had a really hard time on the pattern, they scored a basic level for the first section. I don't know if this is due to a mental block from the last competition that they had.

Kat: I think it is because they scored pretty well in Helsinki, if I recall correctly, and earlier in this season they scored pretty well. I don't know what happened. It might just be because of that Sasha made in the first part at Rostelecom.

Evie: Yeah, so they were within a point of Sinitsina/Katsalapov in the Rhythm Dance and so with the 4th place placement in the Rhythm Dance they got bumped to the first group in the Free.

Kat: I think that was the kicker for them. That was it, the fact that they were put into the first group and then the PCS just weren't there for the first group.

Evie: Yeah, I was upset because I think, performance wise, they skated that Free Dance to the best of their abilities here. That is the best performance I've seen them do of that Free Dance.

Kat: Yep, I totally agree. We were so into that program, and I think the crowd was into it as well. I heard a lot of screaming and I don't know if it was just because we were all screaming but we were so into it. Man, it's just such a shame.

Evie: While their execution of the elements wasn't as smooth as Rostelecom was, I mean, in the twizzles-

Kat: Yeah, Ivan kind of stumbled out of his first set.

Evie: Yeah, he stumbled out of the first set, so he lost some vital GOE on that. But, apart from that, everything else was pretty smooth. I found that in a couple of sections, especially in the second half of the program, I think that Sasha's skating skills kind of dipped off a little bit. She kind of seemed a little bit more tentative in her steps, and she kind of has the problem where she doesn't use her knees as effectively to push her steps through and so some of her skating can look a little bit stilted.

Kat: I feel like it's also because her legs are so long.

Evie: Yeah, noodle legs!

Kat: It is even more noticeable when she is stiff.

Evie: But apart from that, the program was skated really well, and I was honestly expecting the score to be in the 120s because I was expecting them to get around the 56 mark for PCS, and then when the score came in right around 119 I was completely shocked. And yeah, I think it was the real kicker that they were unfortunately bumped to the first group because of their performance in the Rhythm Dance, and it makes me really sad considering they've had such a good trajectory over the season. They've taken gold at every event so far apart from this, and I really worry for them going into Russian Nationals especially since Sinitsina and Katsalapov had a better placement here and the Russian judges went with them in both segments.

Kat: That's what I worry about as well. Especially also going into Euros, because Euros is going to be just a bloodbath. Because Papadakis and Cizeron weren't even at the Grand Prix Final, so it'll be Papadakis/Cizeron, Sinitsina/Katsalapov, Guignard/Fabbri, and Stepanova/Bukin - so it's going to be really, really tough.

-end segment- 55:11

START: Ladies

Evie: So, let's move onto the Ladies now. In gold, we have Rika Kihira of Japan.

Tilda: And then in silver, Alina Zagitova of Russia.

Kat: And in bronze, Elizaveta Tuktamysheva of Russia. Okay, let's start with Rika.

Evie: That Short Program completely blew my mind.

Kat: Oh my goodness.

Evie: It was insane. The way that she executed all of her elements so perfectly and skated with such grace and perfect carriage, it shocked me how amazingly she skated. Even if that program isn't my cup of tea stylistically, I'm just so impressed with her and her skating.

Tilda: Yeah, I'm just impressed that a girl who was known for being inconsistent in Juniors has managed to create such a strong debut. Especially given that she had successes that no one could anticipate in the beginning of the season. I mean, she didn't even get two assignments, she got the host pick for NHK. So I was kind of thinking at the beginning of this season that she wouldn't really know how to handle the pressure, especially going into IDF after winning NHK and then going into her first final with strong medal chances. But she's kept it together so well!

Kat: Yeah, I just think that she comes across so mature, considering she's a first-year senior. She doesn't panic when things aren't going right and she just regroups so quickly. This isn't the first time that she's messed up on a triple Axel, but this was a really different instance because she was the last skater. There was a lot of pressure on her because she was finally leading going into the Free and, you know, the first slip on the triple Axel could have been so disastrous. In the replay, I was like "Oh my god, she was so close to banging her knee on the ice," yet she just stayed calm and then regrouped and just landed one of the most gorgeous triple Axel's I've ever seen. That was another jump that was right in front of me, so it looked so massive, and she also managed to put it into a combo. You can just see how well trained that program is, it's just a result of multiple full run-throughs and the training really pays off in competitions and I could even see during practice, you know, she wasn't perfect in practice. She landed maybe half or 60% of her triple Axel's, or just on her jumps, I remember she fell during a triple Lutz-triple Toe combo during one of her run-throughs. But it never seems to get into her head, it was just like "Okay, so that happened. Let's try that again." She's just incredible.

Evie: Especially since, for the majority of last season, when she's stuffed up jumps in the first half of her program the second half just completely falls to pieces. (Kat: It just went) Yeah, it just went, and consistently throughout these last few competitions, at IDF and here, when she's had issues at the start of her programs she's been able to keep up the momentum so well and so effectively and be able to deliver such strong performances. And even with the problem with the first triple Axel in the Free Skate, because of how good the rest of her technical elements were, she was still able to get a really high score, and I think that's such a confidence booster. To know that your skating overall so well-rounded that you're still going to be able to get the benefit the grade of execution on your other elements and you're going to be able to get those higher scores is really going to be good. I think that, you know, Japanese Nationals is only in a couple of weeks. She's coming in with a real gold streak, she's coming in with really strong programs. But she's also going to be coming in with probably the most pressure she's had so far in her career because she's got that expectation now built up over the past couple of months. So I'm going to be really interested to see if she'll be able to keep that mentality while under that kind of stress, if she makes mistakes, or if she'll be able to move past that and be able to skate good programs at Nationals. I really hope that she will be able to do that because I think that Rika is going to become such a prominent skater in the field if she keeps up the momentum that she's building.

Kat: The pressure especially is going to be so crazy because she is now the girl that unseated the Olympic champion, even when they both skated fairly well. But I just need to talk about the program again because we all know how much I love this program and I just need to say that just seeing this program, it's one of those moments that makes you so grateful to be in the arena. And it's so fascinating sometimes, just in general, to see how music comes across live across the speakers versus seeing it on the stream. The first time I saw Rika's program was at [Ondrej] Nepala - it was on the really bad stream, we were watching it at ACI and it was one of those ones where the music just got overlaid over the video so to me it didn't have a super-- I remember seeing it in ice shows but it's not the same as seeing it in competition, and being like, "Oh, okay that's a really nice program. I think this will be good." But then, seeing this live, it's one of those pieces that takes you to another place because the sound effects with the thunder and the rain feel so much more immersive when you're there live. It sounds so cheesy, but the sound of her blades complements the music so well too - those backwards staccato movements in the step sequence that I love so much goes right along the piano notes but then also the tapping of her toe picks also - again, it was right in that corner - it was so perfect and ugh I love that program so much. I'm obsessed with it.

Tilda: I feel like I must question her incredible PCS rise. I was looking at Skating Scores on Twitter -- they're doing great work with graphs and they published the PCS increase of the Ladies and she jumped from 67 and 66 at NHK and IDF [respectively], to 72 here. This is the sharpest PCS increase we've seen since Alina last season.

Evie: Yeah, that's exactly what I was thinking -- as soon as [Alina] won the Grand Prix Final, her PCS just skyrocketed.

Tilda: [She] and Alina were the only ones to get 70+ PCS, and I'm just wondering, is it justified that they're getting those scores? Or is this a case of the judges inflating scores to keep up with what they see as "the next big thing" in Ladies? I was wondering, would she have gotten that score, those PCS, if she hadn't won both of her Grand Prix events?

Kat: I felt like it was just more proof that judges are willing to reward consistency -- or high consistency with a high technical content. Because this is a trend that we've seen for a while with the men, right? Where the men that have a lot of quads or higher technical content also seem to get the higher PCS, even when some of the skaters with maybe no quads or fewer quads maybe should've deserved the higher ones. This is also only one competition; we've only seen Rika on the Grand Prix three times, and so it's very possible also that Rika's PCS were a result of skating last or in the final group because the crowd reaction to her Free Skate was completely insane. And skaters that skate last have that momentum, especially if they skate really well. So that also is another thing. But also, I just know that the PCS in comparison to some other skaters was very, very jarring. I think that's where the questioning lies with me at least, that's definitely the main issue. But it seems that Rika has really closed the PCS gap with Alina.

Tilda: Which is interesting to see how it's going to go during the second half of the season. And when we're talking about Alina, she got silver here -- she was the clear favorite going in. And I'm just wondering, her recent struggles - are they mental or physical? Because there was some issue of injury right?

Kat: Right. Ted [Barton] that she tripped on a TV cable and injured her foot or her ankle and was considering withdrawing. So it seems like it was a pretty big deal.

Evie: And she didn't skate a clean Free as well - she popped the first combo into a triple Lutz-single toe.

Tilda: But she's also seemed very stressed throughout the season, and she hasn't been able to keep the consistency that she was known for last season.

Evie: Well, she is coming into this season as the Olympic champion, while also coming in with -- she's been suffering from growth spurts and the associated medical problem with that, Osgood-Schlatter [syndrome] and so she's had problems with that and pain associated with it. And those issues surmount and we weren't expecting her to be perfectly clean here, because she hasn't been as clean and consistent as she has been last season. But it is kind of worrying especially to see at the end of her program, the look that she has on her face and how disappointed she looks in her performances. Because even if she had the issues, she still put out pretty good performances, I would say here.

Tilda: Yeah, I just thought that her performance, especially in the Short Program, seemed quite rushed.

Kat: She looked panicked, honestly.

Tilda: Yeah, and all of her movements, they don't feel quite finished and when I saw her live in Helsinki, I thought, she's very, very lovely. I think she's better live.

Kat: She absolutely is.

Tilda: But also I think her expression has deteriorated since the start of the season actually.

Kat: I will say that Alina is a lot faster in person than she comes across on the stream. One of my biggest gripes with her skating was that she was slow, or that she seemed a lot slower, and laggy, and hunchy. But in general, her speed seems more improved and also comes across a lot better in person.

Tilda: Also, I want to talk about my favorite lady who didn't podium. And some people were quite upset that we didn't talk about her when we were talking about the Grand Prix previews last episode. But Kaori Sakamoto -- all around great, but not on the podium.

Evie: I definitely would have put her a lot higher in the Short Program for what she put out. Her skating in that was perfect. It was so lovely to watch and I would've put her third, if not maybe even second in the Short Program - I think an argument could be made for that. But- (Kat: Her PCS) Yeah, to see her get fourth by such a small margin was quite disappointing.

Kat: Yeah, and Kaori's just- she's just such a breath of fresh air. Her skating is just so lovely and smooth and wonderful, and even when she fell on that three jump combo in the free, she just kind of laughed it off like, "Oh god, that was a fluke, that shouldn't have happened." I was also mentally screaming, "Why did you put on that double toe?!"

Tilda: Yeah! I thought she wouldn't go for it.

Kat: Ditch it! Just ditch it! And she was so happy and smiley and she just has such a lightness to her entire demeanor. And it comes across in her skating as well.

Tilda: Honestly, her Free Skate is my favorite program this season. Because you have the choreographic sequence, then followed by the triple loop. It's just such masterfully created moment.

Kat: Those spirals right in front of the judges...so beautiful.

Tilda: I'm seriously crying every single time she skated it this season.

Kat: She's just so wonderful.

Evie: Yeah. I definitely think that her GOE could be a bit higher on most of her elements because she's really such a talented jumper.

Kat: Yeah! They're massive! Her jumps are massive.

Evie: I think she definitely deserves to get higher GOE.

Tilda: And her double Axel

Kat: She has one of the best triple flips...but yeah, god.

Tilda: If you look at her protocol, it's filled with 3s? And I'm just wondering, her jumps are SO good. So why am I seeing a protocol that's basically only 3s and 2s, and not any 4s. That's why I'm wondering, Alina and Rika are getting the 4s (in GOE) but why isn't Kaori?

Kat: And just speaking about abhorrent scoring and PCS, we need to talk about Satoko's PCS, because they were criminal! I feel like it's criminal to give Satoko anything below a 9, or even just 9s. She should consistently be getting mid to high 9s if she doesn't make any major mistakes -- which she DIDN'T here. Yeah, she got dinged for under-rotations like crazy and those should be called, of course. But those aren't mistakes that take you out of a performance and should not affect your performance components, so seeing as she got less than 70, I was like, "Are you kidding me?" Especially since I was completely sobbing during her Free Skate. Like, I couldn't even take photos or anything, I was just crying through it the entire time and everyone was just so mesmerized by her program. It was another one of those situations where you see the scores pop up and then you hear the entire crowd go, "...Ohhh." Those are such uncomfortable moments.

Evie: You can see her in it in the kiss and cry as well as soon as the score comes up, and she kind of goes, "Oh..." It's just so heartbreaking to watch because she really deserved to be scored much higher than she did.

Kat: It even happened last year too! (Evie: Yeah!) Didn't her TES drop by over 10 points or something?

Evie: It dropped a humongous amount. Her PCS were just a mess in the Free Skate. I don't know why the judges didn't put her over 70, it was just shocking.

Tilda: I was wondering why not put Kaori in second as well? She's already improved a lot in her Program Components, and become a beautiful performer. So I was wondering, both of them, to me, should have earned 70+.

Kite: If we're going to reward consistency, Satoko is the definition of consistent. She has put out 6 pretty flawless programs, barring the underrotations, like she hasn't fallen. It's incredible. I'm just so so confused at why the judges have suddenly decided to drop her.

Evie: And she's doing this all while retooling her entire technical foundation. Which is incredible to see the results that she's getting while she's completely reworking her jump technique to get that extra height in her jumps so that she's going to be able to get the higher GOEs, because she's really not able to get past 1s and 2s most of the time because her jumps just aren't that big in comparison to a lot of the other Ladies. So it's just really astounding how well she can perform consistently throughout each of her competitions while still going through all these major changes.

Kat: If we're going to ding her on the technical, then at least give her the program components so that she can compete. She should be one of the podium contenders easily, if not gold medal contender.

Kat: We should talk about the bronze medalist, Elizaveta Tuktamysheva. What did you think?

Evie: I think that she did pretty well considering that she did have some issues in parts of her program. Her triple Axel overall this weekend wasn't completely stable.

Kat: Yeah, she turned out.

Evie: I think overall, her performances of her programs were really strong. I think they definitely have peaked so far here. In the Free Skate especially, the choreo sequence at the end? Her face was just so expressive.

Kat: It is so exciting. Although I don't like the reworking of the choreo in that section because I feel like it worked better when the cantilever was right on when the music was was starting to rev up a little bit. Like, she puts the cantilever now after that moment, and I don't think it works as well. (Evie: Yeah...) In general though, the choreo sequence is really great and is definitely one of the highlights. But I think it's really impressive how consistent she is besides the triple Axel. The rest of her jumps look fantastic. She brought back the triple Lutz-triple toe -- it is massive!

Evie: Yeah, and she did the triple Lutz-triple toe in the free with a Tano on both of her jumps, which was extremely impressive! I was not expecting her to put it on both of them, and to see it like that and see it so clean and perfect -- I mean, her triple Lutz is a dream. It's just beautiful.

Kat: It's just so so perfect. And I think that that technical consistency is what has been working for her this season because she's definitely got the lower end of the PCS, at least among the top Ladies. So having the triple Axel and being so consistent with the rest of her jumps-

Evie: She landed eight triples in the Free Skate. That's an impressive achievement.

Kat: So impressive. Like she just knows how to peak post-Olympics, I guess.

Evie: I have to say I love the sequence she did in the free - the triple Sal-double Axel. I love sequences.

Kat: Yes, yes. Oh man, she's just really really fun. She's definitely not one of the more polished skaters, at least skating wise, but she really does give a lot in the performance and expression, so I appreciate that.

Evie: It makes up for that. While I don't agree with her placement in the Short Program over Kaori, I think that her skating overall and her trajectory over this season is just so impressive to watch and I really hope that she'll do well at Russian Nationals and hopefully get spots on the European and Worlds team, and continue that really good rise over the rest of the season now, because it's just so impressive, it's so great to see her come back.

Kat: And just talking about Russian skaters that have been surprising me, at least, I really want to talk about Sofia Samodurova because no one expected that she would even make the Grand Prix Final and yet she nailed two really good programs and she was just so happy and excited with herself. She was so emotional after her Free Skate. It was just so lovely to see her come out and perform so consistently and I don't know, she has a really good shot of making the Worlds team I think now, considering how well she's done and how consistent she's been. So it'll be really interesting to see how the results play out at Russian Nationals and see if Zhenya comes back with a vengeance now that she's basically been able to take a month off since she just missed out on the Grand Prix Final. But what an event it was!

-end segment- 1:15:26

START: Shout Out of the Week

Evie: So, shout out of the week for this week -- it's been a couple of rough weeks for the figure skating fandom in general because we've had the onslaught of Youtube takedowns of figure skating related channels. A humongous amount of them have gotten deleted due to copyright violations over the past couple of weeks, and it's been really rough for the community. We've had so many content providers get taken down. It's been really hard to access footage from the Grand Prix and from other previous events. There's only a handful of the big well-known Youtube channels that still remain. And it's just really disheartening to see that kind of takedown of channels that are really doing good things for the accessibility of the sport.

Kat: Especially if you can't watch these events live. These Youtube channels are so quick to provide the programs and the replays and it's just so heartbreaking to see them get taken down because how are we going to grow the sport if we don't have a way to share the programs with the public. Shout out to all the channels that have put up a backup or started other channels or found other ways of sharing the content.

Evie: And shout out to the people on Twitter who are trying to (Kat: To save them!) get archives up. Good job to everyone trying to save all of those videos from all of those channels. Mass downloading channels before they got taken down.

Kat: And I want to quickly give a shout out to all of the people who came up to us during the Grand Prix Final and listen to our podcast and were just so friendly to all of us. We all had such a great time there and we thought that the crowd was amazing and warm and inviting and I definitely would love to go back to a competition like the Grand Prix Final again. So shout out to everyone!

-end segment- 1:17:33

START: Outro

Tilda: Thank you for listening, we’ll be back next week for an episode all about the Junior Grand Prix Final!

Evie: If you want to get in touch with us, then please feel free to contact us via our website inthelopodcast.com or on Twitter, Tumblr, or Facebook. You can find our episodes on Youtube, iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher and Spotify.

Kat: If you enjoy the show, and want to help support the team, then please consider making a donation to us on our Ko-fi page, and we’d like to give a huge thank you to all the listeners who have contributed to our team thus far.

Tilda: 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,

Kat: Kat,

Tilda: and Tilda. Bye! See you soon!