Bonus Episode: 2018/19 GP Assignments - Transcript

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Yogeeta: 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:

Kite: Kite,

Niamh: Niamh,

Red: Red,

Yogeeta: and Yogeeta.

Kite: Okay, so… We’re just going to do a really brief host intro, so you guys can get used to our voices. So, I’m Kite, I’m a recent college grad and now I’m a lab technician, which means I study the brain by day and figure skating by night. You can find me on Twitter at @mossyzinc.

Niamh: I’m Niamh, I’m from Ireland. If you want some lame figure skating jokes and some hot takes, my Twitter is @rivrdance.

Yogeeta: Hi, I’m Yogeeta and I love language, data and figure skating. You can find me on Twitter at @liliorum.

Red: Hi, I’m Red, I’m from Texas and I have a lot of spite for the US Figure Skating Association and the ISU. You can catch my screaming on Twitter at @ironicbirbb with two B’s on the end.

Niamh: Okay, so we’re going to do the history of the Grand Prix first and how the seeding and qualification works, and after we’re going to look more in depth into the actual assignments of the 2018-2019 Grand Prix Series.

Yogeeta: Let’s start with a pretty condensed history of the Grand Prix. So, it began in 1995 as originally a series of five international invitational events, held in the US, Canada, Germany, France and Japan, between the months of October and December. Russia was added the following year for a total of six events and Germany was later replaced with China in 2003. China this season has been replaced with Finland and we’re not sure if this is going to be going on for the future or if it’s just happening for this season, we’ll have to wait and see.

Kite: Yep, and the events have been in pretty much the same countries since the Grand Prix started but their order can change from year to year. Skaters can compete in up to two events and they do earn prize money, depending on placement, but it’s pretty much peanuts compared to their training cost, so… For most skaters, it’s just for international exposure prior to the big competitions that happen later in the season, like Four Continents, Europeans and Worlds. And assignments are usually released in May or June preceding the start of the season.

Red: Can I say one thing - it usually is helpful for the countries that have big federations with, like, lots of skaters, because there’s no cap on how many necessarily - or there’s a cap, but it’s not as much, because in the Championships they can only send three [skaters or teams] in each division but in the Grand Prix they can send more.

Kite: Yeah, they can send as many skaters as they qualify, basically.

Yogeeta: Yeah, so in this season Japan has three ladies in every single event, so -

Niamh: And Russia does as well, I think?

Yogeeta: Yep.

Red: Gives them an opportunity to send more skaters to international events.

Kite: And that actually moves us pretty well into kind of how seeding and qualification work for the Grand Prix, because it can be pretty confusing. In a nutshell, skaters are seeded for their Grand Prix assignments based on how they placed at the World Championships in the previous season. The top 12 finishers at Worlds in each discipline are automatically guaranteed two assignments, the top 6 in each discipline are seeded, which means that first, second and third cannot meet on the Grand Prix series until the Final, and fourth through sixth cannot meet either. And that’s kind of just a way of spreading the wealth across all six competitions until the Final, if they happen to qualify.

Yogeeta: The top 24 in World Ranking and the top 24 in the Season’s Best scores from last season are guaranteed at least one assignment regardless of how they did at Worlds. So, this helps skaters who didn’t go to Worlds for some reason. Last season was especially odd with the seeding, because several of the top skaters couldn’t go to Worlds or had pretty low placements, like Yuzuru Hanyu, Evgenia Medvedeva, [Wenjing] Sui and [Cong] Han and Boyang Jin.

Kite: Yeah, and if you’ve looked at the assignments, you might have seen that there are some blank spots on the list that say TBA with the country’s name underneath. That’s because countries can actually invite their own home skaters to compete at the events. These are called ‘host picks’. No one really knows how host picks are decided and the good thing about having host picks is that they don’t need to meet score minimums to be invited, whereas the other skaters do, so this allows new skaters from the home countries to get more exposure on the international scene.

Yogeeta: National champions tend to be seeded to their own home countries’ events, so this season we have Shoma Uno going to NHK [Trophy], we have Nathan Chen going to Skate America, for example.

Kite: Up to three skaters from any country can be at the same event and at each event skaters earn points based on how they placed towards qualifying for the Grand Prix Final, so first place gets the most points, and then second place, etc. Ninth place or lower for Singles and seventh place or lower for Pairs and [Ice] Dance does not earn any points towards the Grand Prix Final. At the end of the six events, the six skaters in each discipline with the most points qualify for the Grand Prix Final. There’s a lot of tiebreaker rules in place, because two skaters can get the same placements at their respective events, and then it comes down to who had the highest score, basically.

Yogeeta: So, in addition to the Senior Grand Prix event, which is what we’ll be talking about primarily, there’s also the Junior Grand Prix, which starts - I believe - in August, and assignments there are decided by the federations and spots are allocated based on Junior Worlds placements. The Junior Grand Prix Final is also held at the same time as the Grand Prix Final.

Kite: And when assignments are released for the Junior Grand Prix, you’ll see news and updates posted on our Twitter account.

Red: And generally the Junior Grand Prix is livestreamed on YouTube for free, so it’s a very nice way to, like, get back into the figure skating season.

Kite: That’s true.

Niamh: And they introduce you to up and coming skaters, so, like, ones you may not have heard of, but you’ll be interested in seeing them - how they’ll go to the Senior Grand Prix.

Kite: Yeah, definitely good to keep an eye on that as well. So, now we’re going to go into some detail about the Grand Prix assignments for the upcoming season, and hopefully give you an overview into some interesting matchups and other things to look out for. The way we’re going to break this down is we’re going to break it down by discipline and within each discipline we’ll discuss the six events in chronological order. So, first up is Pairs and let’s start with Skate America.

Red: For this event, the likely gold medalist is going to be [Evgenia] Tarasova / [Vladimir] Morozov [from Russia] they’re the current World silver medalists, they have two European titles, they really are the front-runner for this event. Their main competition will most likely be [Xiaoyu] Yu / [Hao] Zhang from China, however they are inconsistent - but both of those teams did qualify for the final last year.

Kite: On the American side, you have the National champions, Alexa and Chris Knierim. They’re a pretty heavy podium favorite, they’re US champions, they’re on home ice, and also, they are training under Aljona Savchenko, who is the 2018 Olympic champion [with partner Bruno Massot]. And so it’ll be interesting to see how this coaching change affects their competitive strategy and their international standings. And, um - yeah, we’ll see.

Yogeeta: I’m very interested in seeing if the US will finally have a Pairs team rise after many years, because US Pairs is pretty… Bland. (Laughs).

Kite: Not the strongest discipline, for sure.

Red: And that’s also in part because a lot of times in the US, Pairs teams are comprised of people who didn’t make it in Singles.

Yogeeta: Oh, that’s true.

Kite: That’s true, you do see some Singles skaters kind of moving into Pairs later in their careers. Speaking of which, we actually have a new Chinese pair at Skate America. It’s Li Xiangning and Xie Zhong. They were just placed together - I think - over the off-season and interestingly, um, Li Xiangning is actually competing both as a Pairs skater and a Singles skater in Ladies’ during the Grand Prix season, which you don’t see that often, so it’s pretty interesting that the Chinese skating fed is trying something like this out. No one really knows why.

Yogeeta: I’m pretty surprised, um, Chinese pairs are pretty strong currently, I figured that in wake of Beijing, they’d want to try and bring up their ladies as well (Kite: Yeah, develop their Singles). So it doesn’t - it’s not a decision that really makes sense to me, but we’ll see what happens.

Niamh: It’s also part of a really interesting, like, package as such that the CSA [Chinese Skating Association] has had over this off-season, with sending Boyang to TCC [Toronto Cricket, Skating and Curling Club] and sending two junior skaters to America. So you can tell that they’re really starting to take figure skating seriously going into the Olympics.

Kite: Yeah, the Chinese fed has always been a little insular in how they keep their skaters, so maybe this is a sign of them branching out.

Red: But luckily for her, she only has one assignment in each discipline, so she only has one Pairs assignment and one Ladies’ assignment. So she’s still only going to have two events.

Yogeeta: So, next we have Skate Canada and, um, the front-runner there is Vanessa James and Morgan Ciprés coming off of their fresh World bronze medal at 2018 Worlds, which was exciting!

Red: I was excited about that, yeah, it was a nice surprise.

Kite: Yeah, very nice surprise.

Yogeeta: So, there isn’t really that much competition-wise for them at Skate Canada, so notwithstanding any super disaster there, they should win. They were in seventh - seventh- seeded for the Grand Prix Final last year, they were close but ultimately didn’t make it, so I’m very excited to see them and see what they bring this season.

Red: I think they have a really good chance of making it this season, especially because there are a lot of pairs that were present last season that aren’t this season.

Kite: Yeah, they’re really cementing their spot as kind of one of the top pairs teams coming off of the Olympics.

Red: Which I’m excited about, I love them.

Kite: And from the Canadian side, we have Kirsten Moore-Towers and Michael Marinaro. They are probably the top Canadian pairs team now that Duhamel and Radford have retired, and they’re gonna be on home ice, so it’ll be interesting to see what they can do. And we also have a Chinese pair, Peng and Jin, and those two most likely round out the podium. They’re a little bit inconsistent, so whoever has the cleanest skate of the day should take the silver medal.

Red: Let’s just move on to Grand Prix Finland. We still don’t really have a name for that event other than just, like, Grand Prix Finland, but – yeah.

Kite: Yeah, so this was originally supposed to be the Cup of China, but China pulled out of running all of its international skating events this year. The official statement is that they want to get their rinks and their resources ready for the Winter Olympics in Beijing in 2022. So now the event that was the Cup of China is being moved to Helsinki, in Finland. And, actually, the top Chinese pairs team will be competing in Finland. Sui and Han. They’re the heavy favorites going into the event. They’re the Olympic silver medalists. Sui is coming off of an injury, and so they actually missed the World Championships, so they were not seeded either for the Grand Prix, but they still did receive two assignments. Their main competitors, who were Savchenko and Massot, are taking the season off, so it’ll be interesting to see how they kind of rise as the top-ranked pairs team still competing.

Yogeeta: We haven’t heard much about them yet this off-season, so I’m hoping that everything is going well for them, because I’m really excited to see them come back.

Red: One of the other exciting things about the Grand Prix in Finland is that the North Korean pairs team, Ryom/Kim, they got two assignments. This is the first of their two assignments, and this is their Grand Prix debut. They definitely were big at the Olympics, and it’s always exciting to see, like, skaters coming out of smaller countries, especially ones like North Korea, and I’m excited to see – I’m excited to see what they’re going to be able to do this season. They’re really starting to, like, they’re really starting to rise through the ranks.

Niamh: And it’ll be interesting to see how they’re, um – they’re coached in Canada, so it’ll be interesting to see how that influences their skating, particularly their expression, because they do have nice skating skills.

Yogeeta: Cool! Well, next is the NHK Trophy, and we’ll once again be seeing Sui and Han. They have back-to-back events this year. They did as well last season, but last season it was Cup of China and NHK, which were closer together timing-wise, so we’ll see how these back-to-back assignments will affect their performance. But they are the clear frontrunners for gold here.

Kite: And actually there’s going to be an interesting competition between two American pairs. It’s Tarah Kayne and Danny O’Shea versus the Knierims – uh, Knierims? Is that how you pronounce their name?

Niamh: Knierims?

Red: I think so. Well, uh, we’ll go with it.

Kite: So, Kayne and O’Shea are actually the 2018 Four Continents champions, so we are seeing of a rise of the American pairs again, perhaps, and the Knierims were the team that that the US sent to the Olympics and the current reigning US champions. So we’ll see how the top two US pairs stack up to each other as well at the NHK Trophy.

Red: Especially with all the pairs that are missing this season, I think there is a chance that we might get to see an American pair in the Grand Prix Final. It’s a long shot, but it’s – I think it’s a possibility that’s out there.

Kite: Definitely, yeah.

Yogeeta: It’d be exciting to see US pairs rise again, because it’s been – it’s been a while.

Kite, Red: Yeah.

Red: Then after that, we’re going to have the Rostelecom Cup in Russia. Again, Tarasova/Morozov are going to be the frontrunners at this event. There’s not a whole lot of competition for them here, either. The Italian pair, Della Monica/Guarise, will probably be their biggest competition at this event, but Tarasova/Morozov should win easily, barring any major competitions.

Kite: Always a caveat that you want to insert when you’re talking about anything –

Yogeeta: That is the caveat for everything in figure skating.

Red: Especially when you’re talking about pairs or men’s. Like, those are the ones you wanna say, “Barring any complications…”

Yogeeta: We’re going to see another pair-off for the Americans, with Stellato and Bartholomay versus Cain and Leduc. They’re both on pretty equal playing fields here, so we’ll see how they do.

Kite: Yeah they’re relatively new to the international scene

Red: And I think, I think uh the Italian pair um Della Monica/Guarise will most likely podium and the other part of the podium could be one of the American pairs.

Niamh: It’s interesting that this is the second American pair off. That’s another sign of the beginning of such of the American rise in pairs with four on the Grand Prix circuit.

Yogeeta: Yep it’s definitely interesting to see them and I think that it could be a great opportunity to see how the international audiences will take the uh rise of more American pairs teams on the circuit and hopefully give them more exposure to other people and give them the opportunity to, to rise cause I’m really excited, I think we need more diversity in the pairs fields.

Red: There are actually, there are four American pairs this Grand Prix series that have two assignments and one pair that has one so there is five American pairs on the Grand Prix circuit this year.

Kite: Yeah and I think with kinda a new Olympic cycle always brings a rise in relatively new competitors to the scene so maybe this will be the cycle that America regains some of its pairs dominance that it did have at one point but it’s been a while since then

Red: Yeah this Grand Prix series definitely is going to be interesting because it is the beginning of a new Olympic cycle. And, like you said there’s always going to be some major changes. There’s going to be rises and falls in areas that were way different prior to this especially just because of all of the retirements and all of the new ones coming in. Anyways, the last event that we’re going to talk about for pairs is the Internationaux de France, I hope I said that right. Um which is the-

Yogeeta: It’s had too many names

Red: Yeah

Kite: Let’s just call it IDF

Red: Yeah IDF, IDF. Um and again we’re going to see Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres, they’re definitely the favorites for this event because not only are they the World Bronze Medalists that we talked about earlier but they have the home field advantage at this event.

Yogeeta: Well you’ll definitely also have, they’ll have competition here with Yu/Zhang who they’re both, both James and Cipres and Yu/Zhang are relatively inconsistent and they have their weaknesses so they could be competitive for a gold medal here. Ultimately, all that matters is whoever skates the cleanest.

Red: Yeah and some other pairs that we’ll see at this event, we’ll see the North Korean pair again Ryom/Kim, and the American pair Kayne/O’Shea, and the Canadian pair Seguin/Bilodeau, I hope I said that right. All of those placed very high at like the Olympics and at other events and er actually I guess Kayne/O’Shea wasn’t at the Olympics but they all have a chance to do well at this event as well.

Kite: The field has really opened up in pretty much all of these events for anyone to come in and kinda take the number one spot so yeah. It’s unpredictable but it’s… we’ll see how it plays out.

Yogeeta: A lot of the big names have retired or are taking a season off so it’s definitely opened the playing field for a more diverse range of pairs teams to just come into the field so.

Red: Two out of three of the Olympic podium aren’t in the Grand Prix circuit this year it’s very interesting. It’s a very open field for people to rise.

Niamh: So next we’re going to talk about the men’s discipline starting with Skate America

Yogeeta: So here we immediately see the top two USA men against each other with the face-up of Nathan Chen and Vincent Zhou, especially right at the start of the Grand Prix season. So this will probably, this is also a home field so this is definitely going to be the thing to watch to see how the US, how they’ll face off against each other and see who’s quads are really are going to win in this case.

Kite: Yeah I kinda think it goes without saying that Nathan Chen is a pretty heavy favorite to win here, reigning World Champion, reigning US champion. He is starting college in the fall, he’s gonna be at Yale. His training base is in California but he is going to Connecticut for college. So we’ll see how being a full time student influences his ability to train and to go to competitions and to perform. And also under the new scoring system that limits the number of quad jumps and back loading. It will be interesting to see how he approaches that from a layout standpoint.

Red: Yeah and also he hasn’t figured out what he is doing coaching-wise yet. Especially because Rafael is not moving to Connecticut with him. He said he’s found a rink like thirty minutes from Yale but he hasn’t said anything about finding a coach. I believe he said something about sending videos to Raf but that’s not the same as having a coach actually there so it’s interesting to see if he’s going to find a coach or if he’s going to try to do it by himself because I’m really concerned if he does do that. It will be interesting to see how like everything works out with him being all the way across the country from his coach, having to deal with an Ivy league course load, I’m just hoping that he can pull it off.

Niamh: And other podium contenders include Alexei Bychenko, who was fourth at Worlds, and Sergei, is it?

Red: Yeah Sergei Voronov

Kite: Sergei yeah

Niamh: Yeah, who won last year’s NHK Trophy and made the Grand Prix Final - which I don’t think many people expected.

Kite: Yeah definitely not

Red: He did pretty well on the Grand Prix circuit last year though I believe he had a gold and a bronze and that was how he qualified.

Yogeeta: Yeah so next we have Skate Canada and the top contender there is Shoma Uno. He is most likely the gold medalist here especially coming off of his silver medal at the Olympics that should definitely give him a boost score-wise so

Kite: And at Worlds he won the silver medal

Yogeeta: And at Worlds yes, all of the silver medals last year

Red: The eternal silver medalist

Kite: Oh boy, well this will be the year. This will be the year for him.

Yogeeta: Well he won gold at Skate Canada last year and then

Kite: Exactly, see yeah

Red: That is true, that is true, but when it comes to the major events like the Grand Prix Final, Four Continents, the Olympics, Worlds, he’s never gotten above silver

Kite: Look, it’s a new season. We can have hope.

Red: I am praying for him to get, I am praying for his silver curse to be broken and

Kite: At least in Canada, maybe he can only, I don’t know

Yogeeta: Maybe he can only win gold in America

Kite: In North America yeah

Red: He should get the gold here at Skate Canada. It should

Kite: Um yeah. He’s the top seeded skater. If he performs anywhere near his best it’s gonna be a pretty easy win for him. We also have Jason Brown who made big news with his coaching change to Brian Orser at TCC. We’ll see how that plays out for him he really moved pretty recently within the last couple weeks. And as of last season he did not have a consistent quad in either of his programs which has really affected his base value and his technical elements scores. So we’ll see what working with the technicians in Toronto does for his skating. Sometimes a skater’s consistency is affected when they change coaches and are in a new training environment.

Red: Yeah I don’t think he’s going to whip out a quad because he likes skating the way that he likes skating but some of his jumps may become more consistent

Yogeeta: Like his triple axel

Red: Yeah

Kite: Well he has a very nice triple axel

Yogeeta: When he lands it

Niamh: When he lands it!

Niamh: He’s attempted a quad toe before in competition so whether working with the coaches at TCC means that quad toe will become more consistent is yet to be seen.

Kite: Brian Orser has said that it takes about two seasons for their new students to really get in the groove of how TCC works so we’ll see

Red: We’ll see. Maybe not this-

Kite: It’s very much we’ll see with him

Red: This season may not be the rise of Jason Brown but a couple seasons down the road may be the rise of Jason Brown

Kite: He’s definitely taking charge of his career and really wanting to cement his spot as a top man this in this new Olympic cycle so it’s promising.

Red: Yeah which is good because he’s in the middle of his career most likely just based on his age so he’s still got time to rise up there but he needed to make a decision now and not a few years down the road and I’m glad he did.

Kite: He has all the makings of a top man I think

Red: He does he does

Yogeeta: Yes he has the artistry he just really needs to up his technical skills so I’m very excited to see what will happen to him. But he’s definitely a contender here to medal

Red: Another contender here is Kazuki Tomono who had a breakout skate at 2018 Worlds. None of us were expecting and he got 3rd in the free skate and 5th overall. He did so well at last Worlds like I said none of us expected it.

Yogeeta: Yeah

Red: And so we could definitely see a podium finish from him here

Kite: He did compete last season on the Grand Prix I believe he was at the NHK Trophy. This is the first season actually where he is going to have 2 assignments because he ended up being seeded

Red: 5th

Yogeeta: Yeah

Kite: for the Grand Prix with his fifth place finish at Worlds.

Niamh: And he was only there as an alternate. He wasn’t even originally supposed to be there he was an alternate for Yuzuru Hanyu. So

Yogeeta: He was a second alternate because Mura was originally supposed to

(Chorus of agreements)

Kite: The one thing that may hurt Kazuki Tomono’s chances are the fact that he only has the quad sal currently. And that might hurt his base value going forward or it might not. He’s pretty new to the scene so he really isn’t getting the high program component scores that some of his more seasoned competitors are so.

Yogeeta: I believe he is training the quad toe. I believe I’ve seen clips of him training that so he might be debuting that this season maybe.

Red: Possibly but with how unpredictable he was at last Worlds he could do anything here at Skate Canada. Some other unpredictableness we might see here at Skate Canada is we might see some good finishes from Jun-hwan Cha and Keegan Messing. Jun-hwan also trains with Brian Orser. He only got one assignment at this Grand Prix event er this Grand Prix circuit so he’ll probably be wanting to make a pretty big splash here at Skate Canada. And then Keegan Messing is the top Canadian man now that Patrick Chan is retired and he was top 10 at 2018 Worlds so he has a chance of making the podium here as well.

Yogeeta: Keegan is inconsistent. He has quads but he lands them like half the time so. But he is a very entertaining performer

Red: He is

Kite: Yeah for sure for sure

Yogeeta: and I do enjoy watching him so. I hope to see the rise of Keegan now that Patrick Chan has retired.

Kite: The Canadian men’s field is pretty wide open now because Patrick was just dominant for so long so it will be interesting to see who can carry on the glorious tradition of Patrick Chan going into the new Olympic cycle.

Red: Next, we’re going to move into the Grand Prix Finland which this is going to be a doozy.

Yogeeta: Yes oh god

Kite: Oh boy. Let’s just jump into it. The most glaring name on the roster is of course Yuzuru Hanyu. He is coming back after a pretty rough Olympic season I think we would all agree.

Red: Yes.

Kite: With his ankle injury he’s been doing rehab over the off season. This is his first big comeback following the Olympics, he didn’t compete at Worlds. And so it will, we’ll see how he shapes up. I mean if he has his jumps back and can land them that’s going to be a pretty easy win for him here I would say.

Yogeeta: As long as Yuzuru can skate cleanly even if he doesn’t have all of his jumps back he has the, he’s this great all around skater and the new scoring system works in his favor so

Kite: It does because he can do multiple types of quads and has a really nice triple axel
Yogeeta: Yeah so I think this is his competition to lose but he does tend to lose his first Grand Prix event every season so


Kite: It’s-yeah

Red: But the interesting thing about seeing Yuzuru here is he was not a seeded skater this Grand Prix season and so he will be up against Mikhail Kolyada here at this event who was a seeded skater due to his third place finish at Worlds last year. And also another big name, Boyang Jin will be here. Because Boyang Jin was not seeded either because of his ehhhhhh

Kite and Yogeeta: Nineteenth place finish

Kite: At 2018 Worlds

Red: Yeah at Worlds so this will

Kite: Coming off of a fourth place finish at the Olympics

Red: Yeah this event is going to be quite a lot because there’s a lot of big names here at this event

Kite: Yeah um Boyang is also maybe moving to Toronto with a coaching change? I don’t know if we ever got confirmation that that was actually happening

Niamh: It was never confirmed by the CSA

Yogeeta: But Brian Orser did say in an interview that Boyang was joining them so

Kite: But we don’t know if it’s going to be permanent or just like a summer thing. We’ll see. He has all of the potential here to win a medal

Red: I think that the podium is most likely, barring any major complications, is going to be Yuzuru, Boyang, and Mikhail. But Mikhail is very inconsistent so there is a chance that he might mess up and place off of the podium. In which case there would be room open for possibly Alexei Krasnozhon who was the 2017 Junior Grand Prix champion, Junior Grand Prix Final champion who is making the leap up to the senior level this year. He’ll be interesting to see. He’s also coming off of an injury from Junior Worlds. I don’t know if you guys watched it but it was-

Yogeeta: It was bad. It was not- It was bad

Kite: Yeah unfortunately did

Red: It was really bad so we’re hoping that his ankle is all healed and he will do well at this Grand Prix as well

Yogeeta: He also just had a coaching change as well so

Red: Yeah that is true

Yogeeta: Yeah he left his coaches that he in the US, that he moved to the US for actually. And so we’ll see what happens. But he announced his programs recently and they sound interesting so I’m excited to see what he’ll bring to the table. Also at Finland I believe is Alexei Bychenko so we’ll have two Alexeis there

Red: Oh yeah. He’s definitely a chance to hit the podium as well.

Kite: So we’re gonna be on our fifth stop of the Grand Prix series, which is the NHK Trophy in Japan. Again, here, big name – Shoma Uno. He’s the reigning Japanese champion, and he’s the only skater in the lineup to qualify for last year’s Grand Prix Final. So, again, barring disaster, it should be a pretty easy win for him. Other names coming out are Deniss Vasiljevs, who was 6th at 2018 Worlds and got himself seeded onto the Grand Prix, Dmitri Aliev, and Vincent Zhou from the United States.

Red: I think Dmitri Aliev definitely has a chance of placing high in the Grand Prix series. He was – I believe he was 7th at Worlds this year and 7th at the Olympics, so he definitely has a chance to sneak in there and qualify for the Grand Prix [Final].

Yogeeta: I think any of those three names could be on the podium. Ultimately, it matters who skates – who skates well. Vincent Zhou has all of those big elements, but he does tend to underrotate a lot, so we’ll see how the scoring system – the new scoring system will work on their behalfs.

Red: Yeah, and Dmitri – both Dmitri and Vincent are very tech-heavy, and if they mess up their jumps, they’re probably going to place fairly low. Deniss is a lot more consistent, so especially if the other two have issues, Deniss has a very, very good chance of making the podium.

Kite: And big surprise at NHK, actually – it’s the first time since 2014 that Yuzuru Hanyu was not selected for the NHK Trophy, and the first time that Shoma Uno is selected for the NHK Trophy. Kind of raised some discussion after assignments came out about why this happened. No one really knows, but it could be due to just how it came down to the seeding.

Yogeeta: Yeah, it’s also probably that Finland needed some incentive. They have both – they have both Yuzuru and Alina Zagitova, so both Olympic champions at their event, so I think Finland just needed all the incentives to actually host the event, so they got –

Kite: On four months’ notice.

Yogeeta: Yeah, so they – so the ISU gave them as much as possible, and so –

Niamh: And definitely scheduling, because unless the JSF wanted Shoma and Yuzuru to go up against each other, there wasn’t really much options other than Yuzuru not doing NHK.

Red: Yeah, that’s very true. And then, um, the next event is Rostelecom in Russia. But yeah, here at Rostelecom, we’re going to see Yuzuru Hanyu and Mikhail Kolyada go up against each other – again. For the second time. Yuzuru will be the favorite for gold, but again it’ll depend on what we talked about earlier, about how his recovery from his injury went. Again, Mikhail Kolyada is definitely a contender for the podium, but he’s also pretty inconsistent.  

Kite: He got really just hammered by his assignments this season.

Yogeeta, Red: Yeah…

Kite: He’s really shoehorned into competing with some serious challengers, and, I mean, depending on how he places, there might be – he might not make the Grand Prix Final.

Niamh: Definitely Kazuki Tomono will be a contender for the podium, especially after his free skate at Worlds. He’ll be interesting to see.

Yogeeta: I’m very excited to see the rise of hopefully another big Japanese skater. Because really, we have Yuzuru and Shoma, and then Japan doesn’t really have that strong of a men’s field, especially compared to their ladies.

Kite: Oh, boy.

Yogeeta: Oh, boy. So –

Red: We’re going to talk about that later.

Kite: That’ll be a time.

Yogeeta: So – so I really hope that we, we get that – like, these upcoming few seasons, we definitely can see the the rise of another big Japanese skater, and I’m very hopeful that Kazuki could be one of them.

Red: And then our last event for, that we’re gonna talk about with the men’s is IDF, the French Grand Prix. I’m not gonna try to say it again.

Kite: It was a valiant effort.

Red: Yeah, this one is probably going to be – I would consider it the second most difficult one after Grand Prix Finland, because you’re going to see a ton of big names here, like Boyang Jin, Nathan Chen, and then you’re gonna see Jason Brown, Dmitri Aliev, Deniss Vasiljevs. There’s just a lot of names at this event, as well. A lot of big names.

Kite: Super-stacked field.

Yogeeta: So here, we’re definitely gonna see a fight for the gold between Boyang Jin and Nathan Chen. They’re both very – I think they’re pretty equal skating-wise, technically and, like, skating skills-wise, so ultimately it’ll come down to who skates the cleanest.

Kite: Yes.

Yogeeta: But, once again, they also have been – we’ve seen them flop very badly before, as well. So ultimately, anything can happen here. I’m really excited to see Jason Brown and see how he’ll do here. This is the last stop of the Grand Prix before the Grand Prix Final, so at this point he’ll have, like, some decent amount of time to have, like, gotten his programs here. And he does score pretty highly in performance scores. He usually gets high-90s – lower 90s, I mean. But he gets up here. So I’m very excited to see them compete there.

Kite: Yeah, um, Nathan Chen actually is competed in the first and the last stop of the Grand Prix.

Red: He did that last year, though.

Kite: That’s true. But with – this is kind of a more, more of a necessity for him this season.

Red: Yes.

Kite: With the way his school schedules work out. I believe IDF is during one of Yale’s fall breaks.

Red: It’s during – yeah, it’s during the Thanksgiving break. He was hoping for it. Yeah, he was hoping for IDF to be his second. He knew he was going to get Skate America, but he was hoping for IDF to be his second for that very reason.

Kite: So we’ll see how he maintains his momentum throughout the Grand Prix, because he’s competing six weeks apart, basically, and again how just being a student is gonna affect his performances. Okay, so – we’re gonna move into the ice dance discipline, and let’s just start right out with Skate America. Um, there’s not really much of a deep field at Skate America this season. Um, again, there’s a lot of people sitting out the Grand Prix after the Olympics, there are retirements, so we’re missing a lot of big names just on the circuit in general, like Virtue and Moir, and Weaver and Poje, and the Shibs. And – so the big name to look out for here is gonna be Hubbell and Donohue, who are skating for the United States.

Yogeeta: Yeah, they’re – they’re probably going to win. Whoever else is gonna be on the podium is pretty much up for grabs here. Ice dance is – is not the most exciting field right now, given there are so many retirement at the end of last quad, so it’ll be interesting to see who ends up rising and taking advantage of the opportunity that all those retirements have left behind.

Kite: Yeah, for sure.

Red: Well, there’s a lot that are just sitting out for a season. The Shibs said they’re gonna come back, um, but they’re just not doing this season. I believe Weaver/Poje said that they were still planning on competing, they’re just not competing on the Grand Prix –

Yogeeta: Yeah, they’re gonna be coming back for Canadian Nationals.

Kite: Yeah.

Red: Yeah, yeah. They’re just not competing on the Grand Prix this year. Um, yeah – here at Skate America there’s not a lot of competition for Hubbell/Donohue. The other podium contenders are possibly Zagorski/Guerrero. That’s not Russian, but – or, I mean, it might be. I don’t know. It’s hard to say. But they are a Russian ice dance team. They were eighth at Worlds last year. And then there’s also the Italian team. I’m not – [laughter] – Guignard/Fabbri, possibly? They were 9th at previous Worlds. Those are probably going to be your other podium contenders here at Skate America.

Yogeeta: Moving onto Skate Canada, we once – we see Hubbell and Donohue once again. They have back-to-back events this season, and right at the start of the season, too, which is interesting. Notwithstanding any issues, they will most likely have gold, but they have literally fallen from top placements before, so we’ll see what happens.

Kite: They’re going to be the US’ main hopes for a dance team to get into the Grand Prix Final as well, so having assignments this early in the season could pose a problem for their momentum going forward, because they have about a month and a half between Skate Canada and when the Grand Prix Final is gonna be held, so we’ll see what happens for them with regards to that. We also have Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier. Um, without Weaver and Poje, they’re the top Canadian dance team right now, so they definitely have a good chance of getting onto the podium, especially on home ice.

Yogeeta: I really like them. I think they’re very interesting, they have fun programs, so I’m really excited to see them hopefully rise this season.

Niamh: So, moving onto Grand Prix Finland, we have Stepanova/Bukin – is that right, Red?

Red: Yeah, no, that was actually really good.

Niamh: – and Chock and Bates, so Chock and Bates are the second American team on this Grand Prix, especially with the sitting-out of the Shibutanis. So this will most likely be a race between Chock and Bates, and Stepanova and Bukin, for gold.

Yogeeta: Yeah, they’re pretty evenly-matched skill-wise, so it’s ultimately who skates the cleanest here.

Kite: The fourth stop, at the NHK Trophy, is where things start to get a little interesting. You have the reigning World champions competing here in their first event of the season, Papadakis and Cizeron from France. Um, they are the clear leaders in ice dance after the retirement of Virtue and Moir after the Olympics, so there’s not gonna be a lot of competition for them, probably, going forward.

Red: Like the pairs discipline, two out of three of the Olympic medalists from last season are not present in this Grand Prix series. Papadakis/Cizeron are the only Olympic medalists that are in the Grand Prix series, so they are definitely the clear frontrunner to win just – win all of it.

Kite: Yeah, win it all. We also have Hawayek and Baker, an up-and-coming American dance team. They have a pretty good shot at the podium with the field at NHK, yeah.

Red: Definitely. Hawayek/Baker have always been, like, fairly strong, but there’s just been a lot of strong US dance teams, and so they were kind of pushed to the side for a while, just because they weren’t in the top three, but now there’s some space for them to rise and I’m really excited to see what they’re gonna be doing.

Niamh: And this is the first time they’ll meet Papadakis/Cizeron. Both of them meet again at IDF, so it’ll be interesting to see how that goes.

Yogeeta: I’m also really excited to see Muramoto and Reed skating for Japan. And they were also the Four Continents bronze medalists. They were the first Japanese ice dance team – Asian ice dance team, actually, to win a medal in ice dance at Four Continents, which was very exciting, so I hope to see them continue to rise this season. I’m also excited to see Wang/Liu there, a Chinese ice dance team. They had a pretty strong season last season, and I am excited for, in general, for the rise of Asian ice dance. I think we need to see more – ice dance has been a very Western discipline, so I just want to see more ice dance teams from Asia rise.

Red: Asian ice dance rise.

Kite: Yeah.

Yogeeta: If you can’t tell, I love ice dance and I love Asian ice dance. I’m also excited to see the rise of Parsons and Parsons, another sibling team from the Americas – from the US. So, taking – hopefully, they will give us some interesting programs now that the Shibutanis won’t be taking part in this season, and I’m interested to see how they are planning on tackling tango romantica.

Kite: Oh, boy.

Red: Also at this event, there’s another Japanese ice dance team, who’s – that are very near and dear to our hearts.

Kite: Yogs – very much so.

Yogeeta: Also, this is their second Grand Prix event for Komatsubara and Koleto, so Team KoKo, for those who are fans. So, I’m really excited to see them this season and see what they can do. They moved to Montreal at the end of last season for training, so – as all the ice dance teams did.

Kite: Yeah, apparently.

Yogeeta: So, I’m looking – once again looking forward to the rise of more Asian ice dance. I will say that Japan did not take – gave away their third ice dance spot when they had an ice dance team that could have taken it, and I’m very mad at them for it, but –

Red: I’m really glad that Team KoKo got at least one assignment, though. It’s – it’s good to see more – like, I just want to see more Asian ice dance on the field, just go.

Yogeeta: Yeah, well, they – they, they got the minimum technical level scores last season, so they can now take part in more international events, so hopefully we’ll see more of them.

Red: Very exciting.

Kite: And moving onto the Rostelecom Cup, it’s gonna be basically part two of the Helsinki event. Your two big names here are Stepanova and Bukin, and Chock and Bates. Depending on how, I guess, who gets the upper hand at Helsinki, we’ll see if their competitive strategies change at all. They really only have two weeks between – between meetings, but something could change.

Red: I feel like the ISU just kind of copy-pasted the Grand Prix Finland to Rostelecom, because they did the same for the men’s. You have Yuzuru Hanyu and Mikhail Kolyada at both of those, so I think they just copy-pasted.

Kite: Well, with dance especially, it’s obvious because so many teams are sitting out or have retired after the Olympics.

Yogeeta: Yeah, and dance is also a smaller discipline in general, so there’s only so much –

Kite: Yeah, in general, there’s like eight teams per discipline – per, per event, or something.

Yogeeta: There’s only so much you can, like, switch everybody around.

Red: I was just gonna say, join us this season for Grand Prix Finland 1 and then the sequel, Grand Prix Finland 2.

Kite: The beta version. Finland got two Grand Prix events this season. Lucky them.

Yogeeta: Can you believe?

Red: Just copy-paste.

Yogeeta: Speaking of copy and paste, next up is IDF, where we see Papadakis and Cizeron facing Hawayek and Baker again.

Kite: Yeah, I mean..

Yogeeta: Also featuring Gilles and Poirier this time, so.

Kite: Yeah. It’s in France so it’s going be an easy win for the French team, for sure.

Red: Definitely.

Yogeeta: Yeah and silver/bronze is going to be going to Hawayek/Baker and Gilles/Poirier, it just really depends on who gets what.

Kite: We’ve been saying, like, anything can happen basically for the whole episode, but especially in ice dance, there’s such a big power vacuum now, with so many of the top names gone that it really is, it’s a free for all. And, whoever can rise to the challenge, especially early in the season is going to set themselves up for hopefully good results at the big competitions.

Niamh: And especially with the new scoring system, we don’t totally know how that’s going to work so it’s hard to specifically predict what will happen, because anything could happen, depends how much they actually use the new scoring system.

Kite: Now, for the event that everyone’s probably been waiting for, we’re gonna discuss the ladies.

Yogeeta: Aka, the bloodbath of the Grand Prix season.

Kite: Yeah, so ladies is probably the most congested field in this post-Olympic season. Not a lot of retirements.

Yogeeta: Were there any retirements?

Kite: Um…

Yogeeta: I don’t think there was.

Kite: No, I don’t think there were retirements, but some people are sitting out. Like, Kaetlyn Osmond is sitting out.

Yogeeta: Yeah, that’s true.

Red: You also have to keep in mind that Japan and Russia literally took half of the available spots for all of the Grand Prix events. Like, there are three – there are three Japanese girls and three Russian girls at every single event. That’s the absolute max that they could have, and that’s half of all of the spots. Like, that’s wild.

Yogeeta: Why, why even bother going?

Kite: Yeah, exactly.

Red: We have – we have the potential to see Russian or Japanese sweeps in any of these events.

Yogeeta: Yeah, especially at Skate America.

Kite: I’d challenge you on the Russian sweep. We’ll get into that.

Yogeeta: Yeah, but especially at Skate America, we have Satoko Miyahara, Kaori Sakamoto, and Marin Honda – is what I’m expecting to sweep the podium, notwithstanding a complete disaster, which is also possible.

Kite: We just need to add an asterisk to this episode – “barring complete disaster.”

Red: That’s a good title.

Yogeeta: Barring complete disaster – like Worlds 2018.

Kite: Well, yeah – it’s happened before. It’s a perfectly valid concern to have. Yeah, um, I would really give the edge to Satoko Miyahara here, just being fourth at the Olympics, third at Worlds –

Yogeeta: And the reigning Skate America champion.

Kite: Yeah, and the reigning Skate America champion, and just being the most consistent of the lineup, probably by far.

Niamh: Bradie Tennell could be a podium threat. She broke out on the circuit last year to become the top USA lady and won the USA champions, so that’s gonna be interesting to see how she fares up against the Russians and the Japanese.

Red: Yeah, and she also has the home-field advantage here.

Yogeeta: Well, she – she faced off against Satoko and Kaori last year at Skate America as well, and they came out on top in that scenario, so –

Red: Yeah, I don’t think she’s going to win, but she did get bronze at this event last year, so there is a chance she could make the podium.

Yogeeta: We’re going to see the comeback of Elena Radionova and Polina Tsurskaya – is that correct, Red?

Red: That’s – yeah, yeah, that was good enough.

Yogeeta: Okay. Um, so –

Kite: Good enough.

Yogeeta: Good enough. I can’t pronounce Russian; I apologize.

Red: Tsurskaya. Tsurskaya.

Yogeeta: Tsurskaya. Tsurskaya. Um, so, it’ll be – they are also potential podium contenders, they’re inconsistent, but could potentially medal if anything goes wrong with the Japanese ladies.

Kite: Tsurskaya also did have a coaching change pretty recently, she left Eteri, and so we’ll see how that affects her consistency – again, being in a new environment, it’s hard to say, um –

Yogeeta: Speaking of other coaching changes, Marin Honda also switched to Rafael Arutunian, so that’s also an interesting move, and we’ll see how that is going to work out for her this season, because last season was not very good for her.

Red: Also, speaking of coaching changes – at Skate Canada, we have the major –

Kite: A lot.

Red: Yeah, we have, well, we have the major coaching change of Evgenia Medvedeva from Eteri to Brian Orser, and that’s going to be a very interesting factor in this entire Grand Prix series, but definitely at Skate Canada.

Kite: Especially with Evgenia, she does have some noticeable technical issues that are gonna be addressed in her new coaching situation, so with the retooling of her jumps, especially her lutz, sometimes the consistency of other jumps can also be affected, so –

Yogeeta: Also, with the new skating rules, her backloaded programs are no longer going to give those bonuses that she used to get, as well.

Kite: Well, she didn’t really rely egregiously on backloaded programs, I think.

Yogeeta: Yeah. Well, for the short programs, she did, but we’ll see what happens. So it’ll be up against her and Wakaba Higuchi, our World silver medalist and the top-seeded skater here.

Kite: The top-seeded skater overall, actually, without Osmond.

Yogeeta: Oh, that’s true. Um, so, I’m excited to see her. As all of you probably know, I’m a huge Japanese ladies’ fan, so I’m –

Kite: Aren’t we all?

Yogeeta: Aren’t we all? So, I’m excited to see her finally win one this season.

Red: Didn’t she – didn’t she barely miss out on the Grand Prix Final last year?

Yogeeta: She went to Grand Prix Final, actually.

Kite: She did.

Red: She did – sorry, it wasn’t – it was someone else.

Yogeeta: Yeah, because Evgenia had to drop out.

Red: That’s right, yeah, that’s right. She wasn’t – she was the first alternate.*

Niamh: Gabby Daleman will be the top Canadian lady in this Grand Prix circuit, with – the only Canadian lady to have two events with the withdrawal of Kaetlyn Osmond, so she’ll be the only chance for Canada to get a lady into the Grand Prix Final.

Kite: Definitely big – big potential for her to get on the podium, I think.

Red: Definitely.

Kite: If she can land her jumps.

Yogeeta: So, Gabby Daleman hasn’t won a Grand Prix medal, I believe, but –

Kite: She has won a World medal, though.

Yogeeta: She has.

Red: She has.

Yogeeta: But she hasn’t won a medal along the Grand Prix. She tends to peak in the second half of the season, so it’ll be interesting to see if she’ll really step into that position of the top Canadian lady, and like, do well in this Grand Prix series.

Red: She’s very inconsistent, but when she’s on, she’s on, and she does very well.

Yogeeta: She’s so good when she’s on.

Red: Yes. Another possible podium contender here is Elizaveta Tuktamysheva. I tried. She’s making a return. We don’t know what all jumps she does, but she might have a triple axel and possibly a triple lutz-triple toe. She was the 2015 World champ, but she’s had a few rough seasons since then, so it’s really hard to tell how she’s going to do, since she’s making a comeback.

Kite: She has been landing the triple axel in practice, is what reports seem to suggest. And she’s the only lady who’s ever landed four triples in a short program, so if she can set herself up after the short to be in gold medal position –

Yogeeta: Moving onto Grand Prix Finland, which gives us another packed – Grand Prix Finland in general is just –

Kite: Stacked field.

Red: I think all the ladies are very stacked, but Finland also in the other disciplines is very stacked, so –

Yogeeta: We have Alina Zagitova, the Olympic champion, at her first Grand Prix event at Finland. She was the dominant skater last season, but she was one of the ones who – she was the only skater who would backload her entire free skate, which she no longer can do, based on the new rules. So we’ll see what she will be doing instead.

Red: But I think she’s also had a season now to mature a little, and so she might do better PCS-wise. I don’t know, we’ll have to see. But she’s at least not, like, fifteen, brand-new off the junior level, she’s had a season of senior under her belt.

Kite: Yeah, and she was undefeated last season prior to the World Championships.

Niamh: What we’ve seen from her new programs – her free program looked really interesting. It’s a lot more mature choreography, it looks like, so it’ll be interesting to see how that pans out throughout the Grand Prix circuit going into the later competitions as it develops.

Yogeeta: Her biggest competition here is Carolina Kostner and Kaori Sakamoto. Carolina, if she skates clean, has those PCS scores and can definitely win over Zagitova, but she struggles in the free skate. Kaori Sakamoto is definitely a podium contender. She is very consistent. I don’t think we’ve – we rarely have seen her mess up.

Kite: She won Four Continents in her first senior season, and was named to the Olympic team for Japan.

Yogeeta: And she was in sixth at the Olympics, so she did very well. We also have the return of Karen Chen this season. She is a very artistic skater and she is one of my favorite US ladies, but she does often underrotate her jumps, and that is a very big issue for her. She’s working with a jump coach this season, so hopefully that’ll work out for – with her. And she has new boots, so –

Niamh: So, going on to NHK Trophy in Japan, it’s obviously a stacked lineup, as is all the events. So the main names here are Satoko Miyahara, Gabby Daleman, Mai Mihara, Elena Radionova, um - I’m not gonna try to attempt - Red!

Red: The other big - the other Russian names - are Maria Sotskova and Elizaveta Tuktamysheva. It comes close - I messed up but. But yeah it’s really gonna be a battle between Japan and Russia and the one Canadian lady. Good luck Gabby! A lot resting on her. But Japan also only has - also still has their host spot - TBD here. We don’t know who they’re gonna pick yet - it’s likely gonna be Rika Kihira or Rika Hongo -

Yogeeta: Or it could be Yuna. Yuna Shiraiwa.

Kite: Yeah it’s true.

Red: It could. It could be one of those because each of those only got one Grand Prix so it would be smart for the Japanese fed to try to get one more chance at the Grand Prix Final.

Kite: It’s a little bit of a rahashing of Skate America. Satoko Miyahara, still the favorite, here to win. She’s the reigning Japanese champion - you know Mai Mihara, she’s the Four Continents silver medalist - could easily challenge for a podium spot. And it’s just like in the Japanese corner. In the Russian corner it’s-

Yogeeta: And the single Canadian-

Kite: Just kinda -

Red: If Gabby skates clean - again - she has a chance to podium. She’s very inconsistent so we won’t really know until - until it happens.

Yogeeta: Gabby doesn’t have like the strong combos that a lot of the other ladies have. For her three - her 3T+3T combination has like the highest GOE of any lady combination so she - she has very nice jumps when she lands them.

Kite: Yeah. I don’t know, maybe she’ll bring 4T in at some point, she does train it.

Yogeeta: Ooh that would be exciting!

Kite: Yeah.

Yogeeta: Moving on to Rostelecom, we have the - Alina Zagitova up against Wakaba Higuchi. Wakaba didn’t really have the best assignments this season. She’s facing Evgenia and Alina.

Niamh: RIP

Red: But she has a good chance of still doing very well in both of those events.

Yogeeta: Yeah. She’s - she’s definitely highly likely to podium at both competitions. I’m very excited to see what happens here, especially between her and - this will be a rehash of Cup of China last season where she also went up against Alina. They 1-2ed the podium so.

Kite: Yeah. But of a surprising name her - Gracie Gold is making a comeback to competition after taking last season off for some health reasons. She was actually given this spot through the returning skater provision in the rules which basically says that if a skater sits out a season but they were ranked highly enough the last season that they competed that they can get at least one Grand Prix event.

Niamh: And there’s still the American host spot, so it could possibly go to her? Just depends on when they announce it and who they annouce it for.

Red: That is true yeah. But some dark - some possible dark horses of this event, Karen Chen as we said earlier, if she skates well, has decent boots, we could see some great things from her. And also - also - Polina Tsurskaya, another possible podium contender here.

Yogeeta: Moving on to IDF - and, once again, we have Team Japan versus Team Russia-

Kite: And Carolina Kostner.

Yogeeta: Plus Carolina Kostner. So-

Kite: Also Bradie Tennell.

Yogeeta: We do have Bradie Tennell.

Kite: But I don’t know about her- in this field it’s

Yogeeta: So anyway - in this field it’s -

Red: I think she has a chance to medal at Skate America but I don’t think she has a chance here.

Yogeeta: You have Evgenia Medvedeva who is the clear gold medal contender here, notwithstanding- but we also don’t know what her training at TCC is gonna do to her skating skills right now but. We have - this is Rika Kihira’s only Grand Prix event - it surprised many when it was announced but she is highly likely to get that second spot at NHK. She has the triple axel - she’s definitely been seen as more consistent in doing that. She’s had issues with consistency - and like choking with nerves, so hopefully it’ll be better. But with that triple axel means that she gets those points so.

Red: But also this is her first season at the senior level-

Yogeeta: It is.

Red: Right? Yeah so there - like we don’t know what that’s gonna mean for her yet - so we’ll just have to wait and see.

Kite: It’s just kind of unfortunate. This is her first senior event and this is the field that they put her in.

Yogeeta: Well - the other - she’s probably gonna get NHK too, and that’s also a field that anybody would -

Kite: There’s no like, easy situation for the Grand Prix, for any of the ladies this season.

Yogeeta: Yeah.

Kite: Every single field is stacked. Like there’s five or six ladies at each event that could - who could possibly make the podium so.

Yogeeta: Yeah.

Kite: Stay tuned!

Red: Which is - it’s nice to see that after - like, it’s not to see that after like some of the other disciplines, like pairs and ice dance - are emptied out. Yeah. Where they’re very emptied out. This field is not emptied out, it’s gonna be exciting and it’s gonna be intense.

Yogeeta: Very exciting, it’s definitely gonna be exciting for the rest of the quad, because we still have all those Russian juniors who are gonna be coming up, lots of Japanese juniors coming up as well, so…

Red: I believe there’s like three major Russian girls who could jump to senior next season, so it’s going to be wild.

Kite: Yeah. Stay tuned for a feature on the Junior Grand Prix, which will be something, I promise.

Red: So that about wraps it up for the - for going through all the events but we do wanna take a moment to talk about about some of the major skaters missing. We did kind of refer to a lot of them throughout the thing but we kinda wanna talk about who’s missing, what they’re gonna be doing, and why they’re not gonna be in the Grand Prix this season.

Yogeeta: One of the major ice dance teams sitting out this season is the Shibutanis, they are Olympic bronze medalists, they have expressed the desire to continue, to go to Beijing, so I think realistically they’re only going to be sitting out this season and will hopefully make their return next season.

Niamh: And a major name missing in the men’s is Javier Fernandez - unlike Patrick Chan he hasn’t officially announced retirement. He will be competing in the Japan Open and should be competing at Europeans and then he will likely retire.

Kite: I think that’s his plan.

Yogeeta: Who knows at this point.

Red: I’m honestly surprised he’s still going but I’m glad that he is.

Yogeeta: The men’s field will heavily miss Javier.

Kite: It’s the first time in so long that I’ve looked at Grand Prix assignments and not seen his name, it’s just… He’s such a sentimental favorite, I think, for a lot of people, but…

Red: Yeah, and it’s always good to see a top skater from a small fed…

Kite: Make it big.

Niamh: Yeah, definitely.

Red: It’s very big. He has a nice legend to him though. He’ll be down in history.

Kite: We also have Maxim Kovtun from Russia, he wasn’t included on the Russian Federation’s list of skaters who are getting funding from the national fed, so he wasn’t given any Grand Prix assignments; his future is unclear, as far as competition goes, not really a lot else is known but he hasn’t really been around for a few seasons now.

Red: And then some top American ladies, both Ashley Wagner and Mirai Nagasu, are sitting out the Grand Prix series - we don’t know what they’re doing. Neither one of them has officially retired but they also haven’t said what they’re going to be doing in the future… so they’re both on the older side when it comes to figure skaters, so their competitive future’s very unclear.

Kite: We also mentioned Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje, they are the top Canadian ice dance team who are not competing on the Grand Prix circuit, but they have expressed that they’re gonna return for Canadian nationals, maybe to make an attempt at the World Championships, so definitely stay tuned for their return.

Yogeeta: Kaetlyn Osmond also said she won’t be competing at the Grand Prix this season but she will be competing later on, so we look forward to her return.  

Red: Another name that is very uncertain is Anna Pogorilaya, we’re assuming she didn’t get placements because of her poor performance at the early end of her season last season - we’re hoping that we’ll see her return at Russian nationals, it’s also possible that she could get the host spot at Rostelecom but with how stacked the Russian ladies’ field is that’s very uncertain.

Kite: Yeah, and she has struggled with injury for the past season.

Niamh: Another skater is Han Yan, there was rumors of him retiring at one point and then it was announced he was having a coaching change, but there’s no assignments so it’ll be interesting to see whether we see him around during the season/at Chinese nationals, hopefully for Worlds. Do they have two spots?

Kite: No, they have one.

Yogeeta: They only have one spot, and that’s probably, most definitely going to Boyang.

Niamh: R.I.P.

Yogeeta: I don’t know how to speak Italian or say these names. Marchei and Hotarek? Are not competing for the Grand Prix, but they’ll probably return later on this season? They’re taking a break, so they will be missed. I do enjoy their programs.

Kite: And another heavy hitter in pairs, Savchenko/Massot, are also taking the season off. Aljona is working as a coach, we mentioned, for American team the Knierims so we’ll see what they decide to do. This would be their, I think, fifth Olympic cycle? It’d be Aljona’s fifth Olympic cycle if she decides to come back.

Yogeeta: Well, we already know Aljona has no fear whatsoever, so.

Kite: She could do it. I would put good money on her to come back for 2022.

Niamh: And win.

Kite: And win, yeah.

Yogeeta: I don’t think Sui and Han would appreciate that.

Red: Yeah, I’m all for Sui and Han, OGM 2022. Anyways, so the Grand Prix series will end with the Grand Prix Final which is December 6-9 in Vancouver, the Junior Grand Prix Final will also take place at the same time and place.

Yogeeta: And we’ll see the top six skaters overall for each discipline compete, so hopefully it’ll be a good time.

Kite: We’ll see, it’s gonna be interesting for sure, especially in singles.

Yogeeta: Especially in ladies.

Kite: Especially in ladies. No one really knows what’s gonna happen. That’s what makes it fun!

Niamh: It could be any six, there’s no - like in all the other disciplines there’s a certain six that you expect, but in ladies it could be anyone.

Kite: In all the other disciplines there’s a pretty clear front runner in every single event, but with ladies it’s just like… Well.

Yogeeta: Anyone could take this spot, theoretically. That’s true also for the mens, but that’s because of a whole other reason.

Kite: As the series starts, you’ll definitely hear more from In The Loop about how the events are going and if our predictions came true. So, stay tuned for that for sure!

Yogeeta: Well, our next episode will be hosted by Lae, Tilda, Gina, and Evie, and they’ll be discussing gender stereotypes in figure skating.  

Kite: If you wanna get in touch with us, then please feel free to contact us on our twitter, @InTheLoPodcast, or on our tumblr, at

Niamh: We’re also on YouTube, just search for “In The Loop Podcast” and you should find our episodes there too.

Red: 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…

Kite: Kite.

Yogeeta: Yogeeta.

Niamh: Niamh.

Red: And Red. See you soon!