Episode 7: Asian Open Trophy - Transcript

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Introduction -

Evie: 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. This week’s hosts are Evie,

Nikola: Nikola,

Niamh: and Niamh.

Evie: Yay, it’s our first episode of the proper season! What a competition to talk about, guys! It’s gonna be crazy. Okay, so first we’ve got - let’s do a quick host intro. So hi, I’m Evie and I’m the the one still salty about the fact that the Chinese ice dance team Wang/Liu never made the free dance at PyeongChang. You can find me on Twitter @doubleflutz.

Niamh: Hello, I’m Niamh. I’m a university student in waiting, who is spending her free time yelling about Jason Brown’s Russian splits. You can find me on Twitter @tripleaxei with a capital I.

Nikola: Hi, I’m Nikola. I’m just an Australian trying to live my best skate auntie life. If I sound tired, it’s because I got back from Bangkok just a few hours ago. I’m on Twitter @notgneissatall. Gneiss as in the type of rock.

Evie: Okay, so moving on straight to the figure skating news of the last couple of weeks, since our last episode. I think the major story that came out over the past couple of weeks was the fact that the Chinese Pairs team Sui [Wenjing] and Han [Cong] withdrew from the Grand Prix series, which is a big, big deal. Pairs was already looking kind of empty, first with [Julianne] Seguin and [Charlie] Bilodeau breaking up as a team and then the other Chinese Pairs team Yu [Xiaoyu] and Zhang [Hao] also sitting out the Grand Prix. Now with Sui and Han not being there it’s looking a little empty.

Nikola: I don’t think it’s - well, in their case it’s due to injury, but I don’t think it’s also terribly uncommon for the post-Olympic Grand Prix series to look a little empty as well so, I mean -

Evie: Definitely, yeah.

Nikola: I’m hoping that they’re able to recover from that shortly, but it’s kind of - I guess it’s always - I’m looking on the bright side and I’m just like, well, if there’s lots of people sitting it out anyway, it’s not as if any great value was missed in the competitive sphere, they’ll be back with - they’ll be back and more prepared later in the season, which I think sometimes is overall better if you just have more time rather than starting the season super duper early with Grand Prix or even God forbid Challenger Series, so.

Niamh: If she’s focused on recovering from her injury, it means hopefully that they’ll be back stronger than ever later on in the season when it truly counts with Worlds and 4CC etc.

Evie: Well definitely. And the last time they sat out the Grand Prix series in 2016-2017, they ended up with the 4CC and Worlds wins. So you know, it’s maybe a good sign that they’re choosing to sit out, especially since Wenjing’s foot injury isn’t completely healed, so we wish them all the best and hope that they get better, or Wenjing gets better, and we hope that they come back stronger in the second half of the season. So the second piece of news is that we have another Junior lady leaving Eteri Tutberidze’s camp in Russia - Daria Panenkova. She left Eteri about two weeks ago and I think that makes her the fourth one to leave their coaching team.

Nikola: Yeah, I think it’s very - I’ve seen a lot of people speculating about it on Twitter and I think it’s very easy to jump to the conclusion that this is some kind of - since Evgenia left, a lot of the other people are like ‘well, screw it, I’ll leave as well, now is the time’, but I think ultimately, we’ll never know a lot of the decision making that goes behind some of the students leaving Eteri, I mean in Evgenia’s case it’s maybe a little less subtle, but for some of the other skaters I would be very wary about making any assumptions as to why they are actually leaving her, because I think it isn’t dreadfully uncommon for skaters to leave that group anyway, they do have quite a high turnover historically, so I think it’s just now because Evgenia’s left, ever since then now everybody else who is leaving or transferring, there’s a big spotlight on that group ever since Evgenia left. So yeah, I’m kind of, like, I’m very very wary about some of the stuff I see, the speculation I see surrounding Eteri’s group, because ultimately you never know the reason and they’re all very secretive about it and I know Russian Twitter and Russian media in general have all a whole host of reasons why they think these things are happening, but… I’m quite happy honestly, I’m quite happy not to know and I hope it just works out for the best for the people who have decided to leave the group. I think ultimately that’s the type of environment that some people do really well in and some people simply don’t. It’s clear through even some of this slightly, let’s just say slightly biased documentary and Russian TV specials, the kind of environment that Eteri’s group has when it comes to training, so yeah, I’m very wary just to put another blanket on “Oh, another person is having a bad time there, it’s time for them to leave.” It’s like, no, people have left there quite a bit in the past as well. I could only hope that Daria does well with her new team.

Evie: Definitely. It’s gonna be interesting to see her in the Junior Grand Prix this season. So another piece of news is that Grant Hochstein, the American Men’s Singles skater, has retired from competition. This isn’t really a super surprising bit of news, he’s in his late 20s, we kind of all expected this kind of announcement to happen, but we wish him all the best in whatever he chooses to do in the future.

Niamh: And there’s been a lot of program announcements for the 2018-2019 season. So for all announcements, refer to our Twitter @InTheLoPodcast.

– end segment – 6:12

START: Competition Segment

Evie: So this week’s main topic is of course about the first Challenger Series event, which is the Asian Open Figure Skating Trophy, which just wrapped up yesterday in Thailand. So it was - it’s the first proper competition of the season, which is kind of scary because - oh my god, off-season is finally over! I feel like it’s just gone by in a flash and we’re already in August and already finishing up the first competition - it’s kind of scary. So the first competition was Asian Open, and this is actually the first ever year since the start of the Challenger Series, which was in the 2014-2015 season, that an Asian competition has been included. Historically, all the other competitions in the Challenger Series have been in either Europe or America or Canada. So it’s really great to see that Asia and Asian figure skating is being recognized in this way by getting a Challenger. So for people that don’t know, Challenger Series competitions are ranked below the Grand Prix and they often allow skaters who don’t qualify for the more high ranked competitions to gain a lot more international experience. So especially with the later events, like the Alpen Trophy, Tallinn Trophy and Golden Spin, which all run during the Grand Prix. So it’s really good for people who are either just coming up in the Senior ranks or have been in there for quite a while but come from smaller federations who don’t get a lot of chances to go compete internationally to go to these events which don’t have set technical minimums or… It’s really good for practicing.

Niamh: So other events that are earlier in the season, such as Autumn Classic, US Classic, Lombardia, Finlandia and the Ondrej Nepela, often attract top skaters, because this is an opportunity for them to test out their competitive programs ahead of the Grand Prix Series.

Nikola: We ourselves have some contention over what to call this event, because Asian Open has been taking place for quite some years before, it has actually taken place in Bangkok before, however it wasn’t a designated Challenger Series event, this was the first year it’s become part of the Challenger series, but the event itself has been taking place for many years, so I was looking back and even a few years before, back in the day, Tatsuki Machida and all of these people have all competed there. So it’s funny because I feel like I haven’t watched Asian Open the past couple of years, whether it was because the entries weren’t as star-studded or something like that, but it’s really great to see, again, an Asian country coming into the Challenger series, because as someone who is obviously from the Asia Pacific, it’s really important to have a competition, especially outside of Central and North Asia, so outside of China and Japan specifically, that’s able to provide a platform for lots of smaller federation skaters during this period of time, because obviously it costs a lot of money and it takes a lot of resources to get to those other Challenger series, so to have at least one in Asia, especially in South East Asia, I think that’s a fantastic initiative by… I don’t know who put forth this decision, I wanna say just blankedly the ISU, so maybe occasionally they come up with good ideas like this…

Evie: The ISU having a good idea for once? What is this wizardry!

Nikola: Apparently it’s possible. So I mean yeah, thank you ISU, hopefully this does stick, they will keep a Challenger Series in Asia, or at the very least South East Asia would be fantastic I think, because putting something in Japan, a lot of people are like ‘oh, wouldn’t it be great to have this Challenger Series in Japan’, well…

Evie: Japan already has a bunch of competitions, do they really need it?

Nikola: Yeah.. it kind of takes away from the point of having one in this area, which is that it’s more accessible to smaller federation skaters. If you put something in Japan, I think conversely it becomes a little less accessible, simply due to the nature of the entries and competition in that area. So very very happy to have a Challenger Series and competition taking place in South East Asia.

Evie: And of course, it was a smaller event, it’s the first Challenger ever to be held in Asia, not everything there - from an international fan’s perspective - wasn’t running completely smoothly, we had a lot of issues with the livestreams - that they were flat out, basically weren’t working during the Novice and Junior competitions and they were intermittently working on Saturday, so mainly for the Rhythm Dance and the Pairs and Ladies’ short programs, Niamh and I basically had a harder time watching it. But we still managed to get fancams and so that’s how we are able to discuss it properly here on the podcast. We can excuse them obviously for having streaming troubles, because they’re not as well equipped as some of the bigger federations or just bigger hosts in general. But it was just kind of disappointing from a fan’s perspective to see that the streams weren’t working, but hopefully if they host the event again in the future they won’t have so many problems.

Nikola: I think from on a ground perspective, the actual running of the competition itself, and all of the facilities for it that were there, were great, and everything was beautifully organized, and there was nothing – from that kind of perspective, and from a technical perspective on the ground, there weren’t any issues. This stream is obviously a problem, and it’s quite difficult, but I’d like to point out that the stream, when it did run, would work quite well. Something to do with their Internet connection, I think, was quite funny, but because if you look at, say, other Challenger Series, even things like, for instance, Ondrej Nepela last year, which – the camerawork was absolutely horrible and done from like the third storey.

Evie: Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. That was awful.

Nikola: Or if you’re thinking about basically anything that’s run in Bergamo, in Ice Lab, they also don’t have really great, high-tech quality streams, either. Actually, from that perspective, their actual camera quality, of recording and stuff, and was actually quite good, relatively speaking. It was just the actual making the stream accessible itself that became a problem. From the ground level, though, I was actually quite pleased to see there was absolutely no technical difficulties – well, overt technical difficulties from my perspective being in the audience. I was very, very happy with that. And obviously, the facilities themselves are a lot smaller, if you’re used to watching events that are held in Europe or the US. As someone from Australia, it was absolutely unsurprising to me, because our facilities in our country are almost identical to these ones. I was quite comfortable. I didn’t have a problem with it. I know there were some issues around the temperature regulation in the venue. The outside temperature, outside the rink, was about 33 degrees Celsius, so it’s very, very warm out there.

Evie: Nice and toasty.

Nikola: Nice and toasty. The rink itself is in a mall, which is somewhat air-conditioned, but the problem is when you have a lot of movement of people coming in and out of the rink, it’s hard to control the temperature, so it was actually quite warm. As a spectator, it was quite warm to sit in the rink, which is unusual, because normally you’re there and you’re absolutely freezing. That did have some effect on the ice quality. And a few different skaters did bring that up, that it was quite inconsistent, and that there was a lot of dripping onto the ice and stuff like that, so you’re looking at little holes and stuff like that, but that’s honestly not unique to that venue, that’s something that happens – basically, if you’re in this type of this venue, if you’re in Southern Asian Pacific or anywhere where it’s warmer, and you don’t have these massive arena facilities, that’s something that does happen. All things considered, from a technical perspective, other than the stream, everything was actually quite great, given the resources they had. I’m hoping that the ISU will – I don’t know exactly how it works, but I hope they also saw that it was quite well-done and they’ll commit to keep doing it as a Challenger Series.

Evie: Definitely.

Niamh: And going back to the stream, when it worked, the score page they had – when the scores were being announced – was excellent, the details. They had the PCS and stuff come up.

Evie: Yeah, that was really handy. So the first part of the competition we’re going to discuss in this episode was the men’s competition. And I think I speak for a lot of fans in saying that the outcome of the event was very good. It made me personally very happy, since we saw the Japanese skater Sota Yamamoto winning for the first time at a senior ISU competition, which is really, really nice, especially after his short program where he came in sixth, he managed to rise up back up in the free and claim first place, which is just – especially as someone who has followed Sota for a while, it’s really nice to see him do so well in a competition like this.

Nikola: The quality of his skating skills really is the biggest standout for me, especially being there in person. He just rises above a lot of the other skaters in terms of some of his basic skills. He’s incredibly quick on the ice, his edges are beautiful, he’s very strong and he has a very good presence, I feel, on the ice, and that definitely comes across in real life as well as, I’m sure, in recordings. There’s a few inconsistencies between some of the judges for GOEs, but I am absolutely unsurprised at this. I feel like, because this is the first Challenger Series event of the season, and because we’re entering a new season with a new scoring system, I’m not surprised that there are inconsistencies in that, and I don’t think those will be resolved by the end of the season. I think it will take a couple of seasons for these to stabilize, so for now, given the result was still quite favorable. There was a few points where I was like, “I’m not sure if I would agree with that,” but honestly, the overall and the average spread of GOEs was fine, given that it was the first Challenger Series comp/bigger comp that this has been applied to. That’s just my perspective on that.

Evie: I agree with you on that. Especially with the new judging system and the +/- 5 Grades of Execution. With the fact that they’re upping the scale to 5s, there’s going to be a bit more inconsistency in the ranges that the judges are grading scores. You could see that throughout this event and in local competitions for the last couple of weeks, that some judges – the ranges of scores they are giving has widened a lot, if you were comparing it to the previous system, which is to be expected as the judges get settled into the scoring system, and I hope that as the competitions roll over, and like you said Nikola, in maybe a season or two, once they start properly getting used to – have gotten used to it, we’ll see a bit more even spread of markings. But especially with Sota’s scoring the short program, I feel there’s one – Judge 3, specifically, in components was giving him much lower marks than I personally would have expected to see. Everything except Skating Skills was 4.5 or below, and I think Skating Skills only got to a 5.25. And especially in comparison to what the other judges were giving him, when they were all giving him 6s and 7s, to see those was a bit like, “Uh, is Judge 3 okay?”

Niamh: In Composition, Judge 1 gave him over 3 marks more than Judge 3.

Evie: It’s a little bit inconsistent.

Nikola: I feel like it’s very easy to look at the protocols after the fact and go, “This judge did a better job at scoring than this judge” or “This judge was more inconsistent.” I think in some cases, statistically, there is a significant difference, but I think ultimately, there is a lot to do with how they experience it at the rinkside, and their opinions on the skaters themselves, especially considering the changes that have happened. Like I said, I’m not surprised at all that there is quite a large difference in that scoring, and ultimately, I don’t think it takes away from the performance or the overall score. I feel like the overall score is fair. Even for the short, honestly, given that range across the judges, I think it was quite a fair score. I’m not here to ???? the judges or the ISU scoring system, I have absolutely no credentials on that, but just from that perspective, I don’t think there’s any point in singling out a judge. Across the board, I think the judges actually did a really quite fantastic job of pulling everything together on the new system for this event, because I just think of the way it could have been. It could have been way, way more spread out and more crazy than it was, but everything was remarkably tight, so I was actually quite happy, all things considered. We’ll see what happens when we get around to, say, Lombardia Trophy, which is famously an event that has interesting scoring, but for this particular event, I’m talking from the perspective of looking at Sota’s protocols, I think everything was quite fair, if varied – but that’s only natural considering the nature of judging and figure skating.

Evie: And it was really nice to see in the free skate that Sota managed to land his 3A. For people who don’t know, for maybe newer fans who don’t really know Sota, he was the 2016 Youth Olympic champion, and he won a bronze medal at the 2015 Junior Worlds, and right before the 2016 Junior Worlds, he fractured one of his ankles, resulting in him having to withdraw from the competition. And he’s had real issues over the past couple years in regaining his jumps and getting them back, and it’s only since last season, when he went back to regionals and then nationals, he got his 3Lz and 3F back around February, and now he’s back with all of his jumps, including his 3A, at this competition, which is – it’s really good to see, especially since he’s had such a long recovery process from that injury.

Nikola: The question really is, will they give him that – all things considering, seeing as he did take gold in this event, will they give him that magic spot at NHK Trophy? And we will have to see, after Kinki Regionals, wink wink. That’s just my opinion.

Evie: And there’s not that many other senior men that could foreseeably get that spot. There’s Ryuju Hino, but apart from him and Sota, there’s – yes, there’s Daisuke, but there’s also the question of does Daisuke want to compete internationally, which we’re not entirely sure. He hasn’t said anything on the subject.

Nikola: Did he mention in his blog that he didn’t want to take opportunities from some of the younger skaters? I think that’s something that he did say. The JSF probably wants him to compete at NHK, but we’ll see if that ends up happening. What about Kazuki Tomono?

Evie: Deniss is at NHK, and because of the seeding rules, Kazuki can’t be there as well.

Nikola: Ah, I see. Because I was about to say, “How dare you, how dare you?” (laughs) You’re forgetting about Kazuki.

Evie: The skater that came in second, Chih-I Tsao, from Taipei, he came first in the short and he came second in the free skate, after a couple of issues on a few jumps in the free. But overall, a silver medal at a Challenger event this early in the season is really good. It’s a good motivator for the season ahead.

Nikola: An incredibly strong skater, incredibly powerful skating – again, very, very good skating skills, which isn’t something that you’re used to when you’re looking at smaller federation skaters. He’s from Chinese Taipei. And also great with fans, really good at waking up the crowd. Everybody was very, very hype.

Evie: We could hear the bloodcurdling fangirl screams from the stream.

Nikola: I believe a lot of those small screams came from the novice Thai skater group. They did love to have a good scream.

Evie: That’s always encouraging.

Nikola: I was blown away by the strength in his skating. He had a really good presence, quite like Sota, but maybe a different brand. It was very pleasing to see, because I wasn’t really expecting a skater from Chinese Taipei to walk away with a podium place, so it was – I was very happy withthis decision. And again, I thought the scoring for him was very fair, because sometimes when you’re at events like this and you do have a lot of skaters from small federations, you do see a lot of that questionable PCS stuff happening, because you have smaller fed skaters, they have less of a reputation, the judges are typically not inclined to give them as many marks, for whatever reason, for that. But I was very happy with the PCS scores that he was getting. I think they were reflective, at least from my perspective, of the quality of skating that he was giving. I was very, very pleased to see that.

Evie: Definitely. And hopefully we’ll see him later in the season, possibly at Four Continents. In third place from this event was Se Jong Byun from Korea. He was second in the short and third in the free. This was actually my first time seeing him skate at a competition, and I was decently impressed. I think he’s got a lot of talent, but I think that both of his programs – considering it’s so early in the season – were kind of empty in terms of performance standards, which is fine for August. Things are only going to get better from here.

Nikola: I don’t have too much to say about him, to be honest. I think it’s much in the same boat. It is very early in the season, so this is a testing ground for new programs. I felt that definitely was the case in his sense, as well. I’m not tuned in to the Korean federation, or Korean skaters in general, to be quite honest, but he was incredibly popular amidst the crowd. There were a lot of fans there – a lot of fans, as I mentioned, from Korea there, so I’m not sure if he’s considered to be an up-and-coming skater, whether he’s considered to have a strong future. I think his coach is actually quite famous; I’m not entirely sure. Someone was telling me this at the time. I’m hoping for – a lot of growth over the season would be nice to very see from him.

Evie: Definitely. You can’t really complain at an early-season competition if you get three personal best scores. That’s a really good showing. In fourth place at the event was Mitsuki Sumoto, a Japanese figure skater, who’s actually mainly competing on the junior circuit. He was 9th at Junior Worlds in this year. Fourth place at a senior event when you’re mainly competing on the junior level is really impressive, I find it. Mitsuki is definitely being one skater to watch over the last junior season, so I’m very excited to see how this showing, how this fourth place finishing will affect his movement going into the season proper.

Nikola: I didn’t find that he projected very strongly, and with programs like Tosca and stuff like that, I felt like that was something maybe more important, but again, it’s very early in the season, there’s a lot of development for that kind of stuff like that. I’m very happy to see his programs this season. I feel like they suit him more than his programs from last season did. Again, one of those situations where you’re like, “It’s very early in the season, it’d be very good to see him grow.” Something for him to work on, definitely, is some of that projection, just trying to have more expressiveness physically, so some of those finer details that a skater, for instance, like Sota, has a lot of experience in, and he’s able to project that very easily, with a lot of fluidity, whereas Mitsuki, yes, he’s quite young, obviously still competing around the junior level, that’s something that will take him more time to develop. But I think he has incredible potential.

Evie: A little bit of a shoutout right at the end for this is Kwang Bom Han, from the People’s Republic of Korea, aka North Korea. This is the first time that we’ve seen him at a competition, because there’s not that many skaters coming out of North Korea, and I think that the majority of us were pretty damn shocked at just how big his jumps were. I certainly was not expecting it. Especially in the short, the first – what, the first 3A that he did, that was just like, “Oh! Okay! This is what we’re in for.” It was freaking huge! I’m excited to see him later in the season. Probably not at Four Continents, since he didn’t get the technical minimum in the free program at this event, but who knows? He might enter another Challenger Series later and possibly score enough to get him in. It was just big impact.

Niamh: There was so much height he just didn’t have a lot of control. They weren’t consistent, but they were so high – spring-loaded.

Nikola: I found that during his program, as well, he didn’t lose a lot of energy, which I was very surprised at, because normally if you see large jumps like that, you’ll see a skater tire quite quickly into the end of the program. But he actually maintained the height of his jumps, lacking consistency in his landings, but he was still able to maintain the height of his jumps through the program, without superficially looking very tired or looking exhausted, which is something – even a regular skater who doesn’t jump multiple feet in the air has that kind of problem. It was quite amazing.

Evie: Definitely. And it’s also just really…it’s very strange especially coming off the back of an Olympic season to see a men’s event where there have been barely any quads attempted. I mean I know it’s a small competition with somewhat lower ranked skaters but at the same time, the whiplash, I’m just like ‘okay! Barely any quads and none landed successfully! Alright!’

Nikola: It’s refreshing. I was going to jokingly tweet out that it’s a triple only event and quads are banned (laughs) but it’s nice sometimes when you have - I guess - more consistency in landing jumps which I think is something because triples are considered, well, aren’t as difficult as quads, you have that sort of element where you can expect people generally to land things a little more consistently so it’s sort of nice to see an event where you don’t have that sort of overhead quad pressure, I guess that’s what you call it. So I was quite pleased to see that. I think if anything, this event was…the triple axel pressure because we didn’t see very many of those either. One of my shoutouts would be to one of the Australian skaters James Min. He’s very young and he just came up from juniors last season so he was doing both junior and senior events. He’s had a very inconsistently performing triple axel, he landed multiple of them during practices and during warm-ups and stuff like this but wasn’t able to nail any during his programs. But I think we have to remember that…I think a lot of the time we’re thinking about quads and all those high ranking skaters landing quads but simply, a triple axel is an incredibly difficult feat to perform so it’s really nice to watch an event like this and really sort of put that into perspective. I’d like to sort of give a shout out to him because he did a great job and he is quite young.

Niamh: So next we’re going to talk about ladies and I think we were all very happy when Eunsoo Lim from Korea won overall - she won the short and was second in the free. So she’s recent made a transition to Rafael Arutyunyan so I think we were all a bit excited slash nervous to see how that’s going to pan out but her short was very very clean, her free…um, not so much.

Evie: She definitely had some jumping problems in the free, yeah.

Niamh: I think her short program was a bit sombre, I think she’s more suited to the upbeat fun programs like her free skate. Chicago, the music cuts were a bit odd. I’m don’t know not sure if it’s because I’m not used to it so I wonder how that’s going to pan out later in the season as she matures into it.

Evie: I think Eunsoo…especially with the coaching change when the news came out that she was switching to Raf, I personally was a bit worried mainly because Eunsoo is known as being a pretty sturdy jumper, especially last year in juniors, she was quite consistent. And I was thinking why is she switching to a coach that’s pretty jump focused rather than going to someone who’s more well known for improving the basics and skating skills, which is what she kind of needs to really get the notch up upon the others. But I’m very happy with her showings here. Especially in her short, I wasn’t enthused by the music, it’s pretty - as Niamh said - sombre, it’s kind of one tone throughout the program and it doesn’t really build. But you know, that might change and her expression might change as we go further down the season. But overall, I think she should be really happy with a win here, especially since she’s a first year senior. Yeah, it’s pretty great, especially a personal best in the short as well.

Nikola: Yes, like you said, she’s a sturdy jumper. I was not there actually for the free program but I was there for her short and all of her practices and she was quite consistent. But in her free practice, she was also having trouble with jumps as well so I was surprised to hear that she didn’t manage to land many of those in the actual free skate event but yeah… I guess maybe I was more surprised by the difference between her short program and free program, even between the practices. So you know, it’s one of those situations where you’re like ‘well what happened, did you get a bad night’s sleep or…?’ you know, what’s going on there because it went from being incredibly consistent to sort of like ‘ahHHhhghh’. You never know, like, and that’s the thing. I know this is a little navel-gaze-y and a little esoteric but I think about this a lot: when you have someone who has a good short program and their free program isn’t as good, you think: ‘did you get food poisoning? Did you sleep okay? Was there a fire alarm in your apartment building or hotel?’ like you don’t know, so it was one of those situations where I was quite surprised that there was quite a difference between the two because as I said, her short was very tight. For so early in the season, incredibly tight short program.

Evie: Definitely

Nikola: I know people have been drawing parallels between her free program and Mariah Bell’s short program from last season - the Roxy short program - but I think honestly, Eunsoo does suit those fun programs and she did a similar program last season as well and I think they do suit her quite well. But that being said, I think that sombre program is also good for her as well so I actually do like having that sort of matched pair of short program and free program where she has that sort of range to show. If it were me, I’d probably swap them around and have the more serious program to be her free to give her more opportunity because we already know she can do this fun and upbeat stuff. So I guess that’s what I was surprised at: that the free program is where they chose to show off her strengths and give her that Chicago free program. It’s unfortunate that she wasn’t able to skate that to the best she could at the time but I have no doubt she will later in the season, unless there’s some issue with adjusting to the new coaching regime which is entirely possible because it is a big - no pun intended - jump to go to Raf’s camp.

Evie: Well we’ll see her on the GP and hopefully she’ll have a good showing at the one event she’s assigned to there.

Niamh: So in second place was Yuna Shiraiwa from Japan. She was fourth in the short and first in the free. Her short wasn’t clean, however I am kind of obsessed with it.

Evie: (laughs) I loved it, it was great! I love unconventional music choices and this sort of electro swing kind of fun short program I think really suits her. It was a shame about the technical issues in the short but she kind of managed to bounce back in the free even though she had a couple of issues with under-rotations. You know, being in such a packed senior ladies field in Japan, I think Yuna’s quite underrated as a skater. We didn’t really see her that much last season. Last season was her first senior season, she got two Grand Prix and then we saw her at Nationals and obviously she didn’t qualify at the Olympics or Four Continents or Worlds, so it’s fun to see her at this event and I really hope she has a good season this time and possibly gets more opportunities to go to bigger competitions and show off her skills because I think she’s definitely one to watch.

Nikola: The thing I was most struck by by Yuna was how similar some of the mannerisms and even down to stuff like her jump technique is similar to Satoko Miyahara simply because they have the same coach (Mie) Hamada. It really makes you wonder in general how much influence a coach does have on the style of skating because even down to the very small accents and gestures in some of her programs, particularly in her free program, the first thing I thought when I saw it was ‘ah, Satoko!’ but obviously that must be a remnant of Coach Hamada more, not Satoko. And similarly, her jump technique is a little reminiscent as well like edge calls and not very high jumps. It does make me wonder a little bit about how much influence the coach does have on that. But like you were saying, her short program was very enjoyable and she was able to sell that quite well. It was more out of the box and didn’t make me think about that kind of brand of skating that I guess Hamada’s sort of brought in the ladies field in Japan so I quite enjoyed it. It was really interesting to see her skate in real life because I didn’t know Hamada was her coach until I physically saw Hamada there and I was like ‘ah, it all makes sense now’. It’s remarkably similar.

Niamh: In third place was Mako Yamashita. She had a few issues, mainly in the lutz.

Evie: Mako’s a first year senior, she won bronze at Junior Worlds last season, really good showing there, she got scored personal bests at that competition. Coming here, there was a lot of expectations riding on her I feel and a lot of fans interested in how she would do. With the problems in the short - she missed the combo in the short - and in the free, she only had one combo. Her jumping technique itself, I feel, has gotten slightly…I wouldn’t necessarily say worse but it’s changed in the time the off-season started, the lutz especially. The consistency on it is down, the landings that we saw at the competition had either been really tight or she’s fallen, whereas that jump was pretty strong for her last season. So you kind of have to wonder whether the problems she’s getting from the jumps is due to her coaches changing her jumping technique or if it’s a puberty issue, which you know happens a lot in ladies skating. It’s just kind of worrying but as we said, it’s early season and early days so her consistency might go up as the season continues so I guess we’re just going to have to wait and see.

Niamh: And her flip was downgraded in the short program as well, I think.

Evie: I think her short program is very… you know, one of her coaches is Mihoko Higuchi, Shoma’s coach, who is very well known for out-of the box music choices and I think that her short program is kind of reminiscent of that. The song was Una Voce Poca Fa - I personally have never heard of it before - and when I was watching, I was like ‘ah yes, Mihoko’s music collection is definitely present in this program’. It’s good, I’m excited to see how Mako’s going to do in the Grand Prix with the move up to seniors.

Niamh: So Starr Andrews was in fifth from the USA. The last time I had see Starr really was US Nationals and her free skate there was outstanding, I think everyone who was watching it will agree. It was a shock to a lot of people. So her short program here was - I thought - kind of reminiscent of that, like I didn’t expect her to come second in the short and she did. It was a bit dull, in my opinion at least, but it suits her and I think it could be good in the future, it’s just early in the season and it will develop obviously as time goes in the season.

Evie: I wasn’t expecting her to go for the triple axel in the free program, I was completely shocked when she attempted it. I mean, it was unsuccessful and it was downgraded but it was definitely interesting to see. As we keep saying, early season, programs are looking a bit dull.. The free skate, I think, is definitely one that’s going to improve over the course of the season. Like by Nationals hopefully it should be very well developed. At the moment it’s kind of… nyehhhh….kind of unmemorable, in my opinion. The music choice though for her free skate…I don’t know what the title of the program is actually called. I tried to Shazam the music and there’s about four different pieces of African drum music in it. I don’t know exactly what the title of the program is because again, the ISU bio hasn’t been updated. But I’m all for unconventional music choices so I’m definitely looking out for how this program is going to develop over the next couple of competitions she’s at.

Niamh: I’m just glad there’s another face in US ladies, especially with Mirai and Ashley sitting the Grand Prix out. We don’t know if they’ll return later in the season but US ladies was beginning to get a bit sparse so I think especially with Bradie coming up and Starr, it’ll get start to get a bit more interesting as there’s more people who will actually be able to compete for a spot.

Nikola: I didn’t see US Nationals, but I did see Starr at Four Continents at the end of last season and I actually was quite pleased to see that some of her upper body movement - I don’t want to say issues but she was quite stiff at Four Continents and it was quite noticeable, particularly her arm movements - um, I think over the off season she had worked on those a lot, I think that maybe had been a priority for her. She still has a bit of that stiffness - it’s almost like a junior skater’s stiffness you know what I mean? - but she’s starting to lose that which is good because I felt like it put a dampener on her programs a little. I can’t say for US Nationals whether that was a bit better but at least in this instance, I’m glad to see there’s been progression in that. I was also surprised about the triple axel attempt, that was not something I was expecting from her. I don’t know if it was a YOLO moment or something like that. But I have no doubt that if she trains it, she could be one of the many ladies that are now coming up with potential triple axels. I loved her free skate music. I was surprised at her short program music - I thought given after last season where I believe she had Beyonce, that she would have something that wasn’t as strong pop music. Instead it was a little more subtle, which is totally fine. But I also think that honestly Beyonce really suits her and you can tell she really enjoyed skating to it whereas in this instance, the more subtle instrumental music is also good but you can tell it’s harder for her to project herself into it. But again, this is something that can be improved through the season. And again, when you watch her she is very much a junior skater still. I think that’s something that time will help with. But yeah, love the free skate music choice, I thought it was wonderful so I hope that develops further into the season.

46:00

Evie: So the next discipline that we’re gonna be talking about is pairs and obviously there’s not a lot to say because there were only two competing pairs at this event. Now that means obviously that when there are so little skaters competing at a Challenger event in one discipline, there are requirements for the amount of skaters from a certain amount of federations to be present at an event in order to get world standing points. That obviously wasn’t reached, considering there were only two skaters, so the results at this event for pairs aren’t counted in the world standings unfortunately. But that’s okay because you know, automatic medals! Yay! So the chinese pairs team of Peng/Jin won with a pretty big lead over Ryom/Kim from North Korea. Peng/Jin are gonna be the top Chinese pair on the Grand Prix this season now that both Sui/Han and Yu/Zhang are out, so definitely a first place at a Challenger event early in the season should be good motivation to really move them up to the top. I feel like, especially after they didn’t reach the free skate at the Olympics and they bounced back at Worlds and finished 9th, and hopefully the momentum going on from that is really going to help them. I’m not the biggest fan of them, I find that their programs are very fun – I like their short program from last season, the Assassin’s Tango one. But I find that a lot of their lifts – some of the positions of the lifts can be…not too aesthetically pleasing, just with their leg positions and overall body movements. They’re not as good in comparison to some of the other pairs. But that being said, they’re a Chinese pair, they’re still very stable on all of their elements. Their throws are really big, they cover a lot of space, and their twists and solo jumps are usually reasonably consistent too, so it’s definitely good that they won here and hopefully they’ll have a good Grand Prix series. I completely really enthused by their free skate music choice just because I think La Vie en Rose is a piece of music that is kind of warhorsey and used quite often so. I don’t know. Maybe the program will grow on me as the season goes, but yeah.

Niamh: I think suffer a bit as not being the top pairs in their fed, like, Chinese pairs is very stacked. Chinese pairs are famous for being -


Evie: A powerhouse?

Niamh: Yeah. So I think they kinda suffer a bit from being behind Sui/Han a lot. They’re kind of overlooked a bit so I think it’ll be interesting to see them on the Grand Prix circuit without having them, to how they go as being the top Chinese pair.

Evie: In silver, obviously out of the two pairs one has to come in second, is Ryom/Kim from North Korea. I think Ryom/Kim are one of my personal favorite pairs, and we don’t get to see them that often in comparison to a lot of others. Last season was definitely a breakout for them, the fact that they won a Four Continents medal, and they had a really really strong showing at the Olympics, and now they’re going to the Grand Prix for the first time; they’ve got two assignments. That’s really exciting. They had some issues with levels in the short program and in the free–and that’s kind of a common thing in their skating especially with their step sequences– but I think that their triple twist in the short only got a basic level, which means it didn’t hit any other level criteria, which isn’t the best. But they still scored really well and they’re keeping both of their programs from last season into this season- which usually I wouldn’t be completely crazy about, but the fact that we see them so little means that I haven’t gotten tired of the programs. Plus their short program is just fantastic.

Nikola: Incredibly strong.

Evie: “A Day in the Life” - yeah, it’s fantastic.

Nikola: Incredibly strong and they play it so well and when I saw them at Four Continents it was a phenomenal, it was amazing. So it was kind of funny to see them here and it was a bit more subdued, but still the same program. So it’s a little jarring but yeah they can definitely work on those two programs again. I think it’s absolutely no issue for them, so I’m hoping that they can peak this year even higher than they did last year because they did quite well last year all things considered.

Niamh: So next we go on to ice dance, and with this comes the new change to “rhythm dance” instead of “short dance” which is gonna take a bit of a while to get used to.

Evie: Yeah, just a blanket apology in case we accidentally say “short dance”: we’re sorry!

Niamh: Also with the Tango Romantica pattern, it’s a bit weird especially when there are sibling teams on the circuit like the Parsons here are a siblings team and it’s a bit awkward trying to watch them do tango romantica.

Evie: Especially with Tango Romantica, coming off Olympics season with a rhumba pattern, I think from a fan’s perspective, you had a lot of samey programs with Rhumba I feel and a lot of similar music choices. But overall, the pattern dance was on average pretty easy to understand considering there’s only one hold, there were only three key points to look out for. So from an ice dance fan perspective, Rhumba was fine. And then you have Tango Romantica coming in which is just like, “do you want some more things to look out for? Have two sections and eight key points in total! And multiple changes in hold!” So I think it’s gonna take a while for a lot of ice dance fans to get into Tango Romantica properly. The tech panel in the short dance was on fire with their calling - only one tango romantica pattern ended up getting a level 3 – the first section of the Parsons’ short dance. And everyone else was level 2 and below. It’s an early season thing, might take a few more months of practice before the teams really settle into the pattern and we start seeing the higher levels. Yeah it’s just a questionable choice in theme, especially when you have sibling teams.

Nikola: I’m gonna be the devil’s advocate here and say that I love Tango Romantica and I disdained rhumba. (Laughs) So for me, I was absolutely just like, “Yes! Yes!” So happy for that being the rhythm dance choice. So I was actually quite happy about it. And I think it is valid to saying that it can be more difficult for the sibling teams to be able to portray [Tango Romantica]. But that being said, I think the Parsons did remarkably well and I didn’t have any sense of – I feel like sometimes it can be more the fans projecting onto the skaters that it’s a problem than the skaters themselves. Like the Shibutanis, for instance, and them same with the Parsons. For them, I don’t think they have an issue with it at all and if they do, they do a remarkable job of covering it up during their skating. And I think a big part of it is because for sibling ice dancers, the nature of their relationship is generally, they’ve been skating for a very very long time, so they’re used to portraying this type of skating, which I think isn’t a problem for them. So again, maybe I’m just being a devil’s advocate, but I don’t see a problem in that kind of skating.

Evie: I appreciate you taking an opposite stance, but you also have to think about the fact that in the Tango Romantica guidelines, the literal first sentence in the description of Tango Romantica is the fact that is a “romantic and sensual dance.” And you kind of have to think that over the course of the season, how are the judges going to respond to skaters that can’t necessarily fit that kind of mold and how in bigger competitions with bigger fields, how sibling teams could be affected by that.  

Nikola: I mean, it is possible, but for me it’s maybe projecting a bit. I think the skaters themselves, and especially the judges, they’re absolutely used to this because sibling ice dancers and to a lesser extent pairs are very very common. And romanticism in ice dance is not new at all, so this is something that a lot of them have been dealing with for a long long long long long long long long time. And as much as I guess superficially you could say it is a struggle, to say, “skate sensually” with someone if they’re your brother or sister, I feel at the end of the day it comes across in skating and emotions in their skating; it’s not real. So yeah, I feel like again, for a casual audience it’s more difficult for them more so to get over that kind of fact, but for the skaters and the judges which are the number ones and the number twos of actually performing these types of programs, it’s basically a non-issue for them and because, like I said, sibling ice dancers generally have been skating together for a bajillion years; I’m sure they’re very used to having to skate programs that have them in the position where they’re meant to be lovers. That’s just my opinion, but that’s a different standpoint for that so. Yeah, I was really happy with the Parsons - like I said they did an amazing job with Tango Romantica I thought. And from a superficial point of view, as someone who doesn’t know too much about any of the required patterns and stuff, it was very much like looking at the Parsons who have grown up together as ice dancers and then looking at the other ice dancers who have come together later in their careers because that experience level shines through so so much. So it’s quite remarkable to see that. That was my biggest thing - looking at the way the Parsons skated was entirely different from the other ice dancers - which could be the result of the level of experience they have skating together, which some of the other ice dancers don’t have. But that being said, they came in second, so I think ultimately I think Wang/Liu did an absolutely amazing job so I’m very very happy for them to come in first.

Evie: Oh god yeah. Wang/Liu, they’re personally one of my top favorite ice dance teams; I’ve been following them since I got into figure skating. Being a fan of a mid-tier ice dance team is tough, but the fact that they came in first and did such a fantastic job in both segments – obviously, a lot of us were kind of confused with their choice of music for the rhythm dance with Pirates of the Caribbean–

Nikola: Hey I loved it! It had sword fighting! That’s what people want! Give the people what they want! They want sword fighting! Keep it interesting.

Evie: Especially after the off season that they had with rumors that the Chinese Skating Association were potentially gonna mix up the dance teams like they did with their pairs a couple years back-

Nikola: They can’t do that! Chinese fed, what are you doing!

Evie: When I heard that I was like, they can’t switch Wang/Liu up; they’re such a good team together. And instead of switching up, they sent them off to Montreal to Gadbois – you know, I’m perfectly fine with that. You know…get that edge. And now they’re coming back here for their first competition and just, their free dance was just FIRE; I absolutely loved it. And I’m so glad they kept in their straight-line lift from last season, the one where he picks her up by the foot over his shoulder, because that is probably my favorite lift in ice dance, period. So I’m very glad that they kept that in. And I’m going to speak it into existence that this program will at some point over the season score over 100 points for them. I’m just speaking it out! I need this! Please universe!

Nikola: Yeah, no, I agree the FD was amazing.  The music was incredible.  The costumes were simple, but they were effective - like you didn’t notice they were simple (if that makes sense).

Evie: I think that they’re probably just placeholder costumes and they’re probably gonna get new ones before the season, but it still worked for the music.

Nikola: Yeah even then a lot of placeholder costumes and stuff you can point out and you can tell which is gonna be, but this one it felt natural if this makes sense

Evie: But I also feel like they’re overall skating ability over the last couple seasons has improved, especially with their twizzles.  Like, looking back in the 15-16 season where they weren’t as strong a team, like they didn’t qualify for the free dance at 2016 Worlds and they kind of had a bit of inconsistency with that - looking at them now, after their off season in Montreal, everything’s looking a little bit more confident, and especially their twizzles are looking a lot more solid, so I’m really excited to see exactly what’s going to happen with them over the season, although that’s old news, everyone knows that I’m a massiva Wang/Liu fan.

Niamh: So the Parsons were in second, their free skate wasn’t as good as their short should we say - they were third in the free.  To Build A Home is very warhorse-y, a lot of people have done that, a lot of people have done it well.  Papadakis/Cizeron have done it not pretty long ago.

Evie: Yeah, I kind of questioned the choice in the music for the free dance, especially since we had Papadakis and Cizeron do it in the 15-16 season and scored a world record, you’re kind of - you think about, you know, especially in your second senior season of wanting to really build up your strengths and get noticed.  Choosing a program and a piece of music that’s very well known from another team is kind of questionable to me?

Nikola: I always, I think the same thing but I think in a lot of these cases they use it as a like a  homage so like the judges go. “Oh you guys have been watching the classics!  Good for you!”

Evie: Haha, the classics! That was 3 years ago!

Nikola: I have absolutely no idea if that is the case but that is always the question with warhorses, it’s just like, you know, it’s difficult to understand why people pick to do warhorses, because they are so, you know, I feel like in a lot of cases you’re never going to be able to perform it as, well, say, the classic performance of that warhorse that’s associated with a certain set of skaters but I think in that instance it’s definitely, it plays into the a) it’s a good piece of music and b) it is almost a homage in a way.  So, I agree that I feel like they could be stronger with different music but I mean their skating is quite strong so maybe they’ll grow into it a little more as the season progresses I’m not sure.  

So Misato Komatsubara and Tim Koleto did some absolutely wonderful programs, especially their, I thought their Rhythm Dance was just an absolute banger, and they really do sell it, and as it has been over the past few seasons, they’ve shown amazing growth and their reason - we’ve discussed this previously - their reason changed; moving to Montreal to work with Gabois I think has been a fantastic choice for them.  And it’s sort of almost remarkable  how much they’ve grown just over the off-seasons, so it is very very exciting to see them come into this season and of course they’ll be at NHK, which I think will be a fantastic opportunity for them, so I’m very happy that they came with a bronze at this event.  And of course the Rhythm Dance beat their personal best so I think they were very very happy with that and they also seemed very very happy with their Free Dance as well.  So, I’ve only got good things to say about them, and the costumes, which are delightful, they themselves are quite delightful.  I’m obviously very biased, but I think they honestly do have a very, they have a big future in ice dance for Japan. I think they can really sort of - they have a very strong upwards trajectory, I guess.

Evie: Definitely.  I feel like, especially with people sitting out of this season in ice dance which is the field being slightly less intense than it was last year, I feel like there’s definitely opportunity for teams to kind of rise to the top, especially with, I’m thinking of like, Kana Muramoto and Chris Reed at Worlds next year. They’re definitely in a position where they could quite easily get two spots for Japan in the next Worlds, and then, you know, Team KoKo could go to Worlds in the following year and it’s just really  exciting to see Asian Federation ice dance kind of rise up.  And, you know, coming off the back of a big coaching change to get three personal best scores at this event is really fantastic.   I mean, both of their programs are really really strong.  I think their free dance is very soft and pretty but also pretty strong choreography wise. And their twizzles are looking fantastic.  The lifts in it - in the free dance - were stunning, especially the rotational lift.  They did get a deduction in the free dance for one of their lifts was held for too long, which is, you know,  kind of not uncommon deduction seen throughout ice dance, especially early in the season when people are getting used to their music.  So, you know, I’m really excited to see what’s gonna happen to Team KoKo throughout this season.  Hopefully we’ll see them on the GP, and hopefully we’ll see them at Four Continents. So…very exciting!

Niamh: I know you love their rotational lift but personally for me their ending lift into the ending position was breathtaking, like I had to pause and go and re-watch it again - just to kind of rap my head around it

Nikola: It is very, yeah, I agree, that is also my favourite.  And they do - they sell it as well.

Yeah, so Chantelle Kerry and Andrew Dodds are Ice Dancers representing Australia.  Australia has not particularly varied history of ice dance so I am not sure how long it’s been since Australia has gotten a spot at Worlds for ice dance but basically

Evie: Quite a long time probably.

Nikola: Yeah quite a long time if ever.  I’m pretty sure they have in the past but it just hasn’t been for a significant amount of time.  So I think they started working together a couple of season ago, the catch being that Chantelle Kerry was obviously a singles skater.  Before this, her brother Brendan Kerry, who’s the current National Champion for Australia 6 years in a row.  Andrew Dodds again comes from a strong figure skating family and he’s still competing in singles, so he’s doing both at the same time - which is, you know, it’s just crazy.  So them coming together I think like for me personally like it depends from ice dancers to ice dancers, sometimes when you take skaters who do have that strong singles background, you put them together, sometimes it’s quite obvious that they’re both strong singles skaters that have been put together but for them I feel like they have very quite strong skating skills that kind of support their single skating background.  But they have very very very good chemistry and very good projection.  And I think of course because they are relatively new at ice dance together a lot of their fundamentals do need to be grown, and I think that will definitely come from experience.  So again I think they’ve developed a lot even from last year seeing that at this competition cuz I saw them a lot of times last year.  But I think they definitely have a lot of potential cuz both of them have strengths in expression and they can definitely sell their performances very very effectively.  So it’s just waiting for them to build those ice dance fundamentals and to hit all those points and be able to  upgrade some of their elements is I think is really what they’re really needing but that will come through experience I feel so I think, as they’ve mentioned one of their aims is to get the free dance at Worlds, and potentially, even coming way way into the future, trying to get a spot for ice dance for Australia at Beijing.  And I think if they continue to grow and continue to work on that, I think that is possible for them.  But yeah it’s just a matter of accumulating that experience because  it’s something, you know, I feel like ice dance is like a fine wine so you really just see it as you know skaters that have skated together for a long time they do have a different feel than skaters that have come together recently.  So I see, I’m hoping that using - playing - with your programs so they’re strong they’re able to develop through the season and soon come out in a strong spot for Australia in ice dance, which again, historically, you know, has a varied history, so…it would be very good if that could happen.   

Evie: Yeah.  And just speaking of their programs, in the Rhythm Dance, their Sweet Dreams program  

Nikola: I loved it

Evie: It did get a -2 deduction on the music requirement being that it’s not actually made explicitly clear in the protocols why that deduction was given, but my guess is that the judges maybe didn’t think it suited the theme of Tango Romantica because it did fulfill all the other criteria for music.

Nikola: Well yeah that’s why I was quite surprised about that because it’s kinda like, it raises the question: as long as the beat is their and you can make the key steps and sequences that you need, with the music that is in fact Tango, does the music itself need to be tango music? And that’s kind of, I don’t know, I feel like maybe it’s a little bit more vague in the ISU rules and I feel like that’s where the deduction came by.  I thought it was like, you know, and this is not me saying this because I like them or they’re Australian, I thought it was actually a really creative way around that: is to like bring in something that isn’t, because obviously this season we’re gonna have so many repetitions of the same or very similar music much like last year with Rumba and I was just like dying last year

Evie: Too many ‘Despacitos’?

Nikola: Yeah oh my god.  If I have to hear it one more time I’m absolutely gonna urghh anyway so we’re gonna get that a lot again with Rhythm Dances this season I suspect, but I thought that

Evie: I predict a lot of Moulin Rouge

Nikola: Yeah I thought that music choice was incredibly, I don’t know whether it was they themselves who made it or their coach had made it but I thought it was very very clever to pick a piece of music that wasn’t necessarily tango but alter it to fit the elements of the Rhythm Dance so I liked it. So I was actually quite disappointed that they got that deduction.

Evie: I think we’re just gonna have to wait and see maybe in other competitions how the judges will take it because obviously if they go into multiple and they keep getting that violation they’ll have to re-work it.  But overall, I think that it worked with the choreography and the thing that they were trying to me, I think that the program worked and I’m excited to see how it will develop over the season.

Evie: So Nikola was kind enough to assemble a special segment direct from the competition itself to go along with this episode, including some really interesting interviews with a few of the competing skaters there. If you’re interested in listening to those, they’re available right now as a bonus episode on all of our upload platforms. This is our first competition episode and we will be covering the JGP series, the GP series, and most of the Challenger series this fall! If you have any suggestion on what you would like us to include in future competition episode, drop us a comment on twitter, tumblr, or on our email. We’re still trying to find the best format for competition coverage so we’d love your comments and we’d love you to tell us what you’d like to see form us.

-end segment-

START: Shout Out of the Week

Evie: So our Shout Out of the Week for this week goes to one of the competitors at Asian Open, Kwun Hung Leung, who did a very peculiar free skate in the competition which could only really be described by us as figure skating fans as kind of Cyberswan 2.0. Of course, as we know, Cyberswan was Daisuke Takahashi short program from quite a number of years ago and this mashup that Kwun Hung Leung did was very hip hop-y, rap-y Swan Lake and it was just - especially because he was the first guy to skate in the free it was just like a “Oh! Okay!”

Nikola: It really set the mood, and honestly, it took me a hot second. He was skating for like 30 seconds and I was like “Wait… is this what this is meant to be?” I think it was quite admirable especially cause Misha Ge had just rocked up to the rink immediately before that and was watching over the competition. Legends supporting legends - tributes to legends, it’s all happening. It was very fun and I think it took people a little while just to piece it together what he was actually doing but at one stage I was like “Aww isn’t this wonderful.”

Niamh: I also think we need to give a shout-out to the announcer for his “Thank you, skater”

Evie: “Thank you, skater.” That’s drilled into my mind. I’m gonna be hearing that in my dreams for months now.

Niamh: I want him to do the announcing for all competitions from now on.

Evie: "Thank you, skater.”

Nikola: I thought it was quite interesting how at the first senior event introducing the judges, I don’t think he knew what ISR stood for. Israel, obviously, but the first couple of times he introduced that judge he said “From the ISR.” And I was just like “Oh no!” But he learnt - someone must have told him at some point because he did figure it out afterwards, so bless his heart.

Evie: We hope to see you again!

Nikola: “Thank you, skater.”

Evie: “Thank you, skater. Thank you, announcer!”

-end segment-

START: Outro

Evie: Some exciting news before we wrap up the episode, we’ve opened up a donations portal for those who want to support In The Loop. If you’d liked to help us out, please visit our ko-fi page at ko-fi.com/inthelopodcast.

Niamh: Thank you for today, we hope to see you again for our bonus episode next week about figure skating in fiction, and for episode 8 in two weeks about the medical side of figure skating - injuries and injury prevention.

Evie: If you want to get in touch with us, then please feel free to contact us via Twitter @InTheLoPodcast or on Tumblr at inthelopodcast.tumblr.com.

Nikola: We’re on Youtube as well, just go to youtube.com/InTheLoopPodcastFS and you’ll find our episodes there too. 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 Nikola,

Evie: Evie,

Niamh: and Niamh.

Nikola: See you soon!