Iman: 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: Iman,
Lo: and Lo.
Kat: Alright! (Chorus of whoo).
Iman: Second episode, baby.
Lo: Episode number two. This week’s episode is on commentary and also iconic programs. So we’ll be talking about some of our favorite programs since the year 2000 or so.
Kat: This week’s episode might be a little bit different from the last one, just because of a very distinct lack of international accents and considering the number of people that responded saying that they couldn’t tell Lae and Evie apart I’m a little concerned about… (Chorus of yeah).
Lo: We’re all pretty generic Americans.
Kat: Yeah, sorry about that, guys. (Kite: We apologize. Really. Truly) We will rectify that in future episodes but we thought we would do just a quick little intro so that maybe you could just familiarize yourself with our voices, um, alright.
Iman: So, my name is Iman, I’m an 18 year old gremlin who knows what an axis is.
Kite: I’m Kite, I’m 21, I’m in New York, and I use my STEM degrees to yell about figure skating protocols.
Kat: I’m Kat, I’m a 23 year old Chicago implant, I’m originally from New York, I work as a lab technician and yet I spend most of my free time screaming about figure skating.
Lo: I’m Lo, I’m 27, and I am a teacher in the Midwest. I have been crying about Michelle Kwan’s spirals since 1998.
START: News Segment
Kat: We’re just gonna start off by quickly summarizing some of the biggest news from the past few weeks and there’s a lot to cover, but we don’t really have a lot of time, so we’re just gonna list a couple of them. Okay, so last weekend, Yuna Kim, skating for the first time since 2014 at All That Skate.
Iman: The queen, back at it again.
Kat: Amazing. She looked so beautiful.
Iman: Her costumes, completely - they are so gorgeous.
Kat: Like every single - she could wear a paper bag and look amazing.
Iman: But the pictures didn’t do her justice. When you saw her - like, when you actually saw her perform, it was like, ‘oh, it’s like an angel’.
Kite: Bless the Korean fancams, thank you. Yes.
Iman: God bless fancams. God bless fancams.
Lo: Korean fans are amazing. They’re amazing.
Kat: The quality - ugh, so beautiful.
Kite: I was amazed, I was like ‘this is professional, I don’t believe that’.
Iman: Honestly. They have better footage than some actual networks. But, I mean, (Lo: Most of them) we’re getting there. They don’t have a sky cam there.
Lo, Kat: (Laughs). That’s true, that’s true.
Kite: We’re spared the sky cam. For now.
Iman: Someone brings a drone into the rink. (Laughs).
Kat: Alright, next piece of news. Aljona Savchenko to coach the Knierims, who left Delilah Sappenfield.
Lo: Pretty interesting.
Kat: I will be very fascinated. Aljona… she’s a tough cookie.
Iman: It could - it could go either way, honestly.
Kat: Like I could 100% imagine Aljona, like, jumping over the boards, screaming at the judges, and like…
Kite: Maybe that’s what we need. That’s what the sport needs.
Iman: I mean, I wanna see that. I wanna see someone fight the judges. It’s gonna be great.
Lo: I think it really shows some commitment from the Knierims, that they really want to solidify themselves as the top US pairs team. They’re not going to quit, even though they’ve had a rough season, they’re gonna keep going, and I think that’s really admirable.
Kat: Yeah. A lot of respect to them. Okay, third piece of news. Tarasova and Morozov, another pair, they’re leaving Nina Mozer to work with Maxim Trankov. Which is really interesting considering Trankov and Volosozhar were Aljona and Robin’s biggest rivals for, like, an entire quad.
Iman: See, I feel like that’s the best way you could say it, it is interesting.
Kat: It is fascinating. And also because Trankov’s working with, um, I think he’s working with Robin Szolkowy.
Iman: We’ll just have to wait and see what this brings about. The outcomes of this.
Lo: Very interesting. I hope they get better packaging, I do not want to see another Candyman from them, please, they deserve better, they’re very talented.
Kat: They’re really solid in a lot of their elements.
Iman: Let’s hope they get good programs, because Candyman made me want to wrench my eyes out. It was just - awful.
Kat: I can’t believe we ended both the Olympics and Worlds with Candyman.
Iman: That’s just - it’s not a good way to end! It’s not a good way to end.
Kat: The last piece of news - so, yesterday, the ISU released proposals for updated element base values, scale values and level guidelines for singles and pairs! Um… (Chorus of oof).
Iman: We’re not gonna get too into it, because um, we don’t have enough time at all, so next week’s episode, they’re gonna dive into that more.
Kite: We’ll wait for the Congress to actually happen before we say anything definitive about that.
Kat: We thought we’d also mention that the ISU Congress is running from June 4th-8th and it’ll be livestreamed on the official ISU skating YouTube channel, which will be a lot of fun, I think all of us are going to be watching that.
Lo: It might be a drinking game, maybe, maybe not, we’ll see.
Kat: We’ll see.
Kite: It could. It could - that could be dangerous, actually. Let’s not do that. Don’t drink and watch the ISU Congress, guys.
– end segment – 5:32
START: Commentary and Its Impacts Segment
Lo: Now for our next segment, we will be talking about commentary. First of all, we’d like to acknowledge that commentary is a super difficult thing to do. It’s hard to make the balance between pleasing long time fans and more casual fans, who might just be checking in for big competitions like Nationals, or the Olympics, or Worlds. So - it’s not easy, folks. It’s very difficult.
Iman: You can cut them some slack, but then again, there’s some things that you just sort of can’t forget - or forgive.
Kat: I think the important thing is that we don’t wanna paint commentary specifically as uniformly bad or good. I know we probably all have a couple of commentators that we’re like ‘oh, we don’t really want to listen to them’ or we’re not a huge fan of maybe the way they express their opinions, or the opinions themselves - but everyone messes up and says stuff wrong, but they might have some insight in other aspects so we do wanna be fair to those people. Like - not everyone is perfect, even commentators that I like.
Iman: People are bound to mess up. And you know, sometimes you might just not like a person because of their voice or sometimes - oh, they said this thing, and you might have a bias against that person. You just have to find - either you don’t watch, or watch without commentary, or you find that one pair of commentators who are perfect for you.
Kat: Yeah. I mean, it’s really hard to strike that balance I think. We do have to acknowledge that commentators have a difficult job in that they are catering to their own specific audiences - they’re catering to their own specific nation’s audiences, so it might sound biased to people who aren’t in that country, but ultimately they’re TV commentators who wanna make money for their network.
Lo: I mean, it’s their job to sell a product, and the product is the skaters from their home nation, assuming this is kind of a national broadcaster, so it’s their job to sell certain narratives that their feds are pushing. That’s what they do. It’s their job. So you can be upset with it, you can not like that narrative, but it’s how it is. You don’t like it, then find a different commentator.
Iman: Also, bias is bound to happen because it’s human nature, sometimes you might like a skater and it can be very blatant when they like a skater versus when they don’t like a skater and that’s - it’s not nice hearing that. One second they’re just praising a skater to high heaven and then sort of ignoring another one like - ‘oh they’re great, but this other skater, wow they’re amazing, and they’re gonna rule the world’ and whatnot - so it can be annoying, but it’s sort of understandable, I guess.
Lo: It’s human nature. We all have our own biases, and non-favorites, for lack of a better term, and it’s natural that commentators are like that as well, although it should be their job to have some measure of objectivity, but that human bias is still gonna creep in and I think that’s okay to a certain degree. It’s a problem when they’re just blatantly ignoring certain flaws, or are overly criticizing the skater while worshipping another.
Kite: Yeah, it’s important to remember that commentators are kind of like a new viewer’s gateway to figure skating, in a way. Because when you tune in, if you’re a new fan, chances are you don’t really know what’s going on with the sport. It’s a really technical sport and so you really rely on the commentators to ease you slowly into that and to explain what’s actually happening on the ice. And that’s why it’s so important I guess to address this, because that can really make or break viewership, which is, let’s be honest, not doing super great in the US, like, in the 90’s and the early 2000’s figure skating was on TV every weekend. They show Nationals, maybe the last group or last two groups of Worlds, the Olympics, and that’s pretty much it for the year, you really don’t get live events anymore.
Iman: It’s disappointing. It’s disappointing because you have people who want to be able to see all of these competitions but if they’re not getting any traction, then what’s the point, you know, if there’s no money in it then what’s the point.
Lo: You got to make money, they’re trying to make money, but unfortunately it’s not a money generating sport.
Iman: Also another, as to what Kite was saying about newer fans, or people who are, you know, more casual. It can be very helpful, because you know sometimes you may watch and you think ‘oh, this person, they’re doing amazing’, but the commentator says ‘oh, no! They did this wrong or they did that wrong or their technical score is going to be high because of this or it’s going to be low because of that’, and they, like, for example they say the jump - ‘oh, that’s a quad sal’ and you’d look ‘oh, that’s what it looks like’, you’re not going to think ‘oh, everything is a triple axel’ because everything is a triple axel in the beginning for everyone.
Kat: Yeah, that’s a good point. The commentators’ jobs are kind of to highlight what is important, what you’re supposed to be watching in figure skating just because from an outsider’s perspective, figure skating is pretty technical and for the most part everyone looks similar, they’re all skating on the ice but you know, talking about skating skills, jumps, all of those things, they don’t really mean anything to most new viewers, and it’s also a matter of most commentators also have to find balance - simplifying figure skating terminology for the sake of these casual viewers but also trying to be as informative as possible without overloading.
Kite: For people who are interested in learning it, yeah.
Iman: Sometimes, like some technical aspects, trying to explain that is going to take a lot longer, and it will be, like, if they went into that, people who don’t know much about figure skating will be completely lost and that will be off-putting for them. It will be like ‘oh, what’s the point of me watching it if I can’t understand what they’re saying?’.
Kat: Also, I feel because a lot of new viewers tend to focus in on jumps, especially for Singles and Pairs, that’s what the commentators also tend to highlight as well - they tend to point out a lot of the jumps, mentioning whether or not someone did well with the jump, I guess. But at the same time, because you’re a new viewer, and you don’t know what’s important and you just think the jumps are the only thing that’s important, without highlighting the other aspects of figure skating that, you know, make it more complete - not just jumping. So, I think that - my personal favorite commentators are some of the ice dancers in the US, like Tanith [White], Charlie [White] and Ben [Agosto], they all do a really good job. They’re constructive and they’re informative at the same time, but they don’t always just focus on the jumps, they focus on a lot of the other aspects, like skating skills, musicality - that kind of thing.
Lo: They manage to keep things very positive as well, they’ll be critical of skaters when they mess up but in a way that is constructive and informative to the viewer. So it’s very pleasant as a viewer, to me at least. I don’t like it when they pile on certain skaters, like, we know they messed up if they’ve fallen four times, you don’t need to go over and over it again - maybe explain why they might have fallen, where did they go wrong, was their axis crooked, etc.
Iman: It’s distracting when they start, you know, spewing negative comments instead of informing how they could’ve possibly made the jump or what might be the reasoning behind them falling, they just start criticizing them for missing that jump, it’s like ‘oh, he’s gonna lose so many points for this’, ‘is he gonna be able to make this or that?’, and it’s like -
Lo: Okay, why are they losing points? What went wrong going into the jump? Could you please tell us instead of just saying they’re a disaster?
Iman: Instead of belittling the skater for their mistakes, they should be more subjective and be like, you know, ‘this is what happened, they still have this left in their program’.
Kite: That’s why I think the TES box that they’re putting in the top corner of the broadcast is a good thing, I think it is and it goes in real time.
Kat: The one for Worlds? (Kite: Yeah) Amazing. I like that you can see the element names and then the GOE and everything.
Iman: That’s very, that’s so - I feel like that’s going to be so helpful for newer fans and that’s why newer fans this year have been able to grasp onto elements so fast, because you have that there and you’re able to say ‘oh, so that’s what they’re doing?’, and you’re able to follow along with the sport and not just sit there, you know, with your mouth open like ‘what is going on?’.
Lo: You expect commentators to tell you everything - which they can’t, they can’t do that, so it’s really nice, like - I didn’t really learn the jumps until 2007, because we just didn’t have the technology back then, which sounds like I’m talking about the Stone Age and 2006 wasn’t the Stone Age - but it might as well be, you know?
Kat: I feel like it’s also easier on the commentators to have the TES box, because you don’t have to be like ‘oh, beautiful quad sal’, or, you know, you don’t have to keep naming all of the elements if they’re already being shown to you in real time. It is an issue of ‘when should you be talking during a figure skating program?’ or ‘at what point do you step back and just let the program speak for itself?’.
Iman: There are some commentators who speak at the worst times, like, you’re trying to focus on a program and the music is beautiful, the skater - they’re really into it, you’re watching them express themselves through, you know, figure skating, and then you just have this voice talking about the most irrelevant stuff -
Lo: This is what this person was like when they were ten, whatever, it’s like, I don’t really need to hear about this right now.
Iman: It’s so annoying.
Kat: The bantering, like, (Iman: Oh, yeah, no no no) random banter during programs is one of my pet peeves, I just absolutely hate it.
Iman: There’s no point in making jokes.
Lo: That’s not what we’re here for, it’s not what we’re here for.
Kite: I feel like it’s especially difficult when the commentary is in a different language, so a lot of people watching don’t even know what they’re saying but they’re talking a lot. Honestly, shout out to the fans who go to the trouble of translating that commentary for the rest of us. (Chorus of agreement and thank you). You guys are awesome.
Kat: I mean, I sometimes watch the Russian Youtube videos, if I need to see replays after performances that I’ve missed and man, some of the Russian commentators, like (Tatiana) Tarasova, she just - she just goes off, she really loves to talk through programs. I have no idea, (Kite: Like ‘what are you saying?’) I love that you can hear her in other people’s commentary, like in the CBC commentary you can hear her yelling in the background. (Laughs). Iconic.
Lo: What is she saying? What is going on in her brain? I would pay to know.
Iman: I feel like with some commentators, they have so much enthusiasm and emotion, (Kat: I love it) even if you may not understand what they’re saying, you’re enjoying it, because you’re just like ‘you know what, I feel the same thing’. Sometimes commentators get choked up or they start laughing because they’re like ‘oh, this is so amazing, how are they doing this?’, and you feel that emotion with them, you’re like ‘you know what, me too, man’.
Lo: I just like commentators that you can tell enjoy their job and care about the sport they’re talking about, because honestly in some other sports that I follow the commentators do not care. They don’t care about learning the rules, they don’t care about the athletes and it’s incredibly frustrating as a viewer to watch. So what’s one of the things I look for in figure skating commentators - do you care about the sport you’re following? Most of them do, to their credit. Pretty much all of them do. In some other sports that’s not the case.
Iman: Speaking about not caring for a sport, some commentators do not care about getting pronunciations right and that is such a big pet peeve. (Kite: Oh my God) It’s so annoying, because sometimes - like, Shoma Uno is not a hard name.
Kite: It’s four syllables, y’all. It’s four syllables.
Kat: I feel like it’s the bare minimum. Not only that, sometimes it’s just so infuriating when the commentator gets the name wrong after hearing it over the speakers, you know what I mean? It’s just so jarring, like, did you not just listen to them say the name?
Kite: You’re doing this deliberately.
Iman: Sometimes the pronunciation is not even a pronunciation, they just create a completely new name, like, freaking Yazunori? (Laughs).
Kite: Syllables that didn’t exist.
Kat: Kite and I definitely feel that solidarity - that Chinese name solidarity, though. The poor Chinese names. Listen, we’re not too picky, I think we’re not too picky. Saying Han Cong, like, even acknowledging that the C is not a hard K sound, that’s the bare minimum. Shout out to Terry Gannon who’s so far the only one - I’m not sure, correct me if I’m wrong - but Terry Gannon so far is the only commentator that I’ve heard actually make an attempt at his name.
Kite: I don’t think anyone expects him to get it perfectly, (Kat: Yeah) because it is a different language, but at least do your research. Wikipedia can help you.
Lo: His name is not Han Kong.
Iman: Han Kong, that’s… amazing.
Lo: That is a city, that is not a name.
Kat: Sueey Wenjing, oh boy.
Iman: I feel bad because I always thought her name was Sueey and now it’s like, ‘oh, it’s not?’, and when you find out later on - and that’s misleading towards newer fans, too.
Lo: You’re not a commentator, you’re not getting paid to read people’s names.
Kat: Yeah, you should do your research. It’s the bare minimum and it’s just, you know, disrespectful to any person to not at least make an attempt.
Iman: Imagine you’re going off to skate and you’re nervous and you’re like ‘oh, I have to do this’, and they completely butcher your name. It’s just so off-putting.
Kite: It’s really, like, insult to injury, not really, but like -
Iman: It is. It’s like, ‘oh, great, they don’t know how to say my name’. And some of the names they mispronounce - like Javier, that’s not a hard name. (Chorus of agreement). That’s not a hard name, but then it’s just like ‘Javiey’. It’s not even - it’s an accent thing, at least respect the accent of where the name is coming from. It’s a Spanish name, don’t turn it into an English thing. That’s just something that bothers me, personally.
Kat: Just in general, I think that commentators should be held accountable for doing proper research. Even things like mentioning injuries or other strenuous circumstances around the skaters - I mean, most do, but sometimes they skip it and those kinds of small things, even minor injuries do provide a lot of context for someone’s performance if you don’t know who they are.
Lo: Personally, I also think it’s important that they should mention any conflicts of interest, for example, if they coach any skaters who are currently performing or if they’ve ever trained with them in the past or choreographed for them in the past. Sometimes that does not get mentioned and you can tell, there’s a difference in their commentary. Some are able to keep it professional, some are not.
Kat: I’m always conflicted about this, because coaches and skaters are pretty common knowledge, so maybe they just assume that people know it and that they don’t have to mention it. I know that Carol Lane has mentioned offhand that she coaches Piper and Paul, but I don’t remember if Tracy Wilson ever mentioned it.
Iman: No, she hasn’t. I don’t think she has.
Kat: She hasn’t, right? But she commentates them all the time and it’s just a casual thing.
Iman: It is but it should be, you know, ‘that’s my skater right there’.
Kite: For casual fans, I think it might still be a good idea for this to be mentioned, because you can’t expect them to know which skater is coached by which coach or whatever.
Kat: That’s true, that’s true.
Iman: If they do say ‘oh, this is my skater’, the viewer might be, like, ‘oh, they might have a bit of bias in this’, you know. It might be like ‘oh, that’s their skater’, but they might be a little more lowkey and be like ‘oh, no, that’s fine’. Or actually no, they’re the coach so they will be a bit more critical about it.
Lo: So obviously the things that we like the least in our commentators is genuinely and truly problematic behavior. For example, questioning the gender of skaters is not okay. Making extremely stereotypical and racist comments about a skater’s nationality is also not okay.
Kat: Yeah, there’s some pretty terrible and egregious examples of racism and sexism in commentary. Not only does it cast a really awful negative light on the skaters themselves, but also on the sport, you know?
Iman: It does, it does. This is supposed to be, as people say, more of an accepting sport, but then you see commentators saying such awful and nasty things and you’re like ‘is it really, though?’.
Kat: Yeah, sometimes I feel like figure skating does have some negative stereotypes, you know, a lot of male figure skaters face a lot of negative stereotypes, and then to hear commentators - people who are deemed experts in the sport - reinforce the stereotypes, it’s just the impression that the viewers are going to have as well.
Iman: It’s something they don’t have a right to question - something like ‘what’s their sexuality?’ or ‘what’s their gender?’, they shouldn’t have an input in that because that’s not what they’re commentating (Lo: They’re commentating on the performance), they’re commentating their skating and for them to make rude, egregious comments about a skater or about something that has nothing to do with their skate, it’s disrespectful, it’s rude and it’s unnecessary.
Kat: And unprofessional, too!
Kite: It’s ultimately uninformative and the point of a commentator really is to be informative about figure skating and to tell us what’s going on on the ice. It’s not relevant at all.
Lo: That’s the ultimate sin as a commentator, in my opinion.
Iman: You see some examples of what some commentators say and you just think ‘how did they get away with this?’, because they’re just - it’s disgusting because it’s homophobic, it’s sexist, it’s transphobic and you don’t need this from a commentator. That’s not their job.
Kat: It doesn’t do anything to advance figure skating viewership around the world - perpetuating awful negative stereotypes or even, like, lies about skaters and those kinds of things.
Iman: Or bringing in, like, scandals and stuff - or rumors, not scandals, rumors.
Lo: Yeah, rumors, just gossip, petty gossip. It’s completely unnecessary and has nothing to do with the sport.
Iman: ‘This skater might be gay’, ‘this skater might be this’ - that doesn’t matter. If you’re really trying to fill in the time while you’re commentating, just don’t say anything. Just let the viewer enjoy the skate.
Kat: To be fair, I think that the vast majority of commentators are overwhelmingly positive about skaters and about the sport.
Lo: They don’t make it personal.
Kat: Yeah, it’s not a personal attack or anything but, you know, these kinds of egregious comments do exist. We’re not gonna pretend like they don’t exist.
Kite: Yeah, it’s hard to talk about commentary without talking about things like this.
Kat: Sometimes it’s not even the really, really blatantly sexist stuff - like some of the stuff that was said about Johnny Weir - but just offhand comments that sound kind of vaguely, you know -
Lo: This skater’s a man’s man kind of thing.
Kat: Right. Or saying stuff like, you know, ‘Japanese skaters tend to portray wilting flowers’, that’s like -
Iman: It’s such a stereotypical and downright racist thing to say.
Kat: Exactly, it just makes you scratch your head.
Iman: It just makes you go ‘um, no’. It makes you feel uncomfortable, because that’s not right.
Kite: It’s not. It’s not accurate, either.
Iman: It’s not accurate at all.
Lo: It’s very tired, it shows that they didn’t do their research.
Iman: If you’re gonna tell me, you know, ‘Wakaba Higuchi is a wilting flower’, I’m going to scream at you (Kite: Skyfall would like a word with you) and tell you ‘are you blind?’.
Kat: That comment that I was mentioning was actually during Wakaba’s Skyfall, it was like ‘most Japanese ladies portray wilting flowers and it’s nice to see Wakaba portray someone strong. We haven’t seen someone like her since Miki Ando’.
Lo: Oh boy.
Kite: Mao Asada would like a word with you.
Kat: My thoughts exactly. But like I said, the majority of commentary, I think, is constructive and it is informative, but obviously there are some, you know, improvements (to be made) - I personally do still learn a lot from commentators. I think Ice Dance is probably one of the more abstract disciplines to watch (Lo: Definitely, I need this). Like, my mom was watching the Team Event Short Dance and she was texting me like ‘oh, I thought that this program was really good’ and then the commentator was like ‘nope, she did this wrong and this wrong and this wrong’, so I was like ‘oh, okay’.
Iman: Ice Dance on its own is really hard to interpret though, (Kat: Thank you Tanith White, I love her) you see these skaters gliding, floating around and you’re like ‘this is so beautiful, I love it, it’s so graceful’, and then you hear commentators saying ‘oh, this is disrespectful to the sport, what are you doing?’ and you’re just sitting there like ‘oh, nevermind’.
Kat: I respect Tanith (White) a lot actually, just because she’s pretty constructive to everyone but she’s not afraid to voice her opinions as well. I remember during the Free Dance [Correction: Short Dance], (Tessa) Virtue and (Scott) Moir got a level 2 on their rhumba (pattern) and she was explaining that Tessa had a flat choctaw and the judges may have called it, so they got a level 2, but she couldn’t see it from her angle… Those kinds of things are really, really informative, so respect to her.
Lo: Genuinely insightful stuff and it’s very necessary for me as someone who doesn’t know Ice Dance as well as Pairs and Singles, it’s super good to have that level of expertise for Ice Dance in particular.
Iman: It just gives you background knowledge, and you’re able to sort of keep it with you for the next time when you’re watching, so you can be like ‘oh, they called that out and I know what they’re talking about now’.
Kat: Yeah, agreed.
– end segment – 29:43
START: Iconic Programs From the 2000s Segment
Kite: And now we’re gonna talk about some of the most iconic programs from 2000 and beyond.
Kat: Yeah, so we each picked one program from each discipline, which meant a lot of our faves got cut, but for the interest of time - we know that we didn’t get everyone’s favorite programs on this list and, you know, we’re sorry in advance but we had to limit it.
Iman: Iconic is a pretty loaded term - because, you know, figure skating is subjective, so our favorite programs might not be yours and that’s perfectly fine, because everyone has their own opinion.
Kat: My program for the Ladies’ was Yuna Kim’s 2010 Olympic Free Skate “Gershwin Rhapsody in F”. Oh man, I have so many favorite Yuna programs, like, I was thinking between this one and also Danse Macabre, but then I ended up picking Gershwin just because - I just think that this particular piece of music is just so incredibly abstract, which I think makes it so much harder to interpret and yet I love it so much. I’m usually not such a huge fan of really, really abstract music, but Yuna’s skating to it just highlights her musicality and her incredible interpretation skills so well. She just sells every moment and she just looks like she’s freestyling through some of it, and, you know, on top of doing some of the most difficult elements, like the Ina Bauer into the double axel, it’s just amazing. And then considering the circumstances of that moment - we talk about iconic programs in terms of the program itself but also in terms of the circumstances, like, why are they so well known through history? Maybe it’s at the Olympics, it was an Olympic moment, this was an Olympic moment for sure. You know, she was under so much pressure -
Lo: One of the best Olympic performances ever.
Kat: Yeah, I’m pretty sure that’s what Sandra Bezic said too, you know.
Lo: It was and it - it genuinely was. It’s one of the most memorable for me. She had so much pressure on her, she was the unanimous favorite going in, she had her entire country watching her and she just delivered on the best possible -
Iman: Oh, what a way to deliver. What a way to deliver.
Kat: Yeah, I always thought that Yuna was like the definition of how technique lends itself to artistry, she had perfect jumps, gorgeous spins, incredible musicality, (Kite: Textbook jumps) textbook, yeah.
Kite: Her opening triple lutz triple - oh my -
Iman: The height on her jumps is just phenomenal.
Kite: She doesn’t hesitate, (Kat: Yeah) it’s incredible.
Iman: She really doesn’t, that’s another thing that I love about Yuna is how seamless her skating is, like you’ll see - it doesn’t seem like this is choreographed, it just seems like she just got on the ice and it was just off the top of her head (Kat: Exactly) and she’s just going.
Kat: Interpretation through the roof.
Kite: It feels like she’s painting on a blank canvas, is the way I view that program.
Kat: I totally agree with that metaphor just because, like, the abstract nature of the music and the way that she moves across the ice, you know.
Kite: And to see her face at the end, like, Yuna was always a pretty stoic competitor, you know, back in the -
Kat: You knew that that was a big moment, yeah.
Kite: Yeah, like, just watching her finally break down was - it’s indescribable.
Kat: Still the benchmark to me for a 150+.
Kite: Absolutely, like, yeah, the scoring system has changed since then, but -
Lo: It holds up, it holds up.
Kat: It held up for 6 years, right?
Iman: I feel like if she performed that today she would still have been able to, you know, hold up against the newer skaters. And that just shows how good she is, (Kite: Timeless) if she went back into competition today, she would be able to hold up against these, you know, younger girls and that’s just so amazing and I just love Yuna - I’m sorry, ok, continue.
Kat: No, I think we’re good. (Laughs).
Lo: Ok, so, for the men I chose Daisuke Takahashi’s “Swan Lake”, aka Cyberswan (Chorus of cheers). Basically I could’ve chosen literally anything Dai ever did because he is just the best, but I went with Cyberswan just because - if there is one program that I love to show people who aren’t really into figure skating, this is the one. It’s so entertaining, it’s so unique, the step sequence is obviously just - it’s iconic - and there are two of them. There’s two different footwork sequences and they’re both just - he’s a rockstar. He just completely owned it, it’s so innovative, there’s never been anything like it before, there hasn’t been anything like it since, nobody can do that but him. He’s the king, I love him.
Iman: That’s something I love about his program, it’s because he added a variation - a hip hop variation to a classic and he made it work, it wasn’t cringy. You see some programs where they try to mash in different types of music and it just doesn’t work, and, you know, his costume, (Kite: Yep, that was a lot, it was a lot of costume) and obviously his footwork. Listen, the hair? The hair was amazing. (Kite: But it worked!)
Kat: It worked so well, yeah. You don’t see a lot of hip hop in figure skating, let alone hip hop variations.
Kite: A hip hop warhorse? Amazing.
Lo: He literally remixed it with Beyoncé. God bless him. And he looks like a Johnny’s idol. Everything you could want, so entertaining, so genuinely good, his jumps were at his best at that point, in my opinion.
Iman: And just his charisma (Lo: Unparalleled), his charisma throughout his whole performance, because I feel, like, had anyone else done that performance it would’ve been so strange, because he had that smug look on his face and he was just like ‘you know what, I know what I’m doing right now and I know that I’m amazing you’ and that just makes you enjoy the performance even more, because it’s just, like, this dude is doing that and no one else can do that.
Lo: One of my favorite things about it is just the crowd, it’s just - they’re just losing their minds like they’re at a concert or something and it’s so cool, he just brings that reaction out of you, he was so special.
Iman: It’s so amazing. You know, honestly, if I was in that crowd I would have lost it as well, I would’ve cried.
Lo: Wouldn’t we all? He deserves it, he deserved every single thing. He’s the king of musicality. Whenever someone asks for a definition of musicality in figure skating, I find it hard to say, so I’ll just say ‘just watch a Dai program and you’ll understand’. He feels it, he feels it in every movement. God bless him. I love him.
Kat: My favorite pair of all time, everyone who knows me knows that they’re my favorite pair of all time, it’s Shen [Xue] and Zhao [Hongbo]. Their 2003 World Championship Free Skate to “Turandot”, it’s, like, it’s iconic. It’s the OG Turandot, I think.
Lo: The best.
Kite: It should’ve been retired after this, honestly.
Kat: Yeah, honestly.
Lo: Except for Shizuka [Arakawa], Shizuka could skate to it too.
Kat: True, true. But, like, Shen and Zhao deserve a royalty every time it’s skated to.
Kite: Yeah, you gotta credit them.
Kat: Shen and Zhao are probably the most iconic pair of the 2000s, they were dominant for so long. I mean, it was basically - this was the program that introduced me to Pairs, when I was eight years old, seven years old. I didn’t know Pairs was a discipline until I saw Shen and Zhao. They have such incredible chemistry - they did eventually end up getting married, but this was before they even started dating. I feel like they were one of the most complete pairs of the 2000s - they had amazing throws, amazing musicality - honestly, anyone who says that East Asian skaters are not expressive, like, go watch that program and come back to me.
Iman: Honestly, the quality wasn’t even - the quality [of the video] was not good and I could still see that they were very expressive.
Kite: It was, like, filmed on a potato and it’s -
Kat: It’s so unfortunate because this was the same program that they used the previous year, in 2002, and there’s a high quality version of that video on Youtube.
Kite: That’s infuriating.
Kat: Yeah. But the program itself - I really enjoy that they use a unique music cut, actually. They include the kind of Chinese influenced music in the middle of that track, that people very rarely include. It allowed for a lot - for a little bit more creativity with the choreography. The lifts, so gorgeous - I think that 6.0 lifts were a lot more aesthetically pleasing, I’m not really a huge fan of the whole grabbing blades thing, I like the open look, you know, with the legs out, (Lo: I agree) whatever, I’m not gonna get too salty about that. And then the Nessun Dorma part, oh my God, gets me so emo.
Kite: Just the music gets me emotional.
Iman: Honestly, as soon as the Nessun Dorma part hits, I feel like - I get chills and I get emotional, it’s so beautiful.
Kat: And the crowd’s reaction - they start applauding and they get a standing ovation, like, thirty seconds before they even end, and you can hear them - once they finish the program, you can hear the crowd chanting ‘six, six, six, six’ in the background - and this was in D.C., so it wasn’t even a hometown crowd, you know? And, like, this skate - this piece was so legendary that Sui [Wenjing] and Han [Cong] used it for their Olympic skate, obviously - and they even had to ask permission to skate to it! And Zhao Hongbo said “yeah, you can skate to it, but you have to skate to it better than we did”. (Laughs). That’s why I really didn’t mind that Sui and Han were using it, I knew that this piece was so integral to the Chinese Pairs legacy, and, like, Wenjing said that she was inspired to skate by watching them skate Turandot in the 2002 Olympics, so that just shows the magnitude, and, like - before we even move on I just wanna quickly go on a Pairs spiel because they make me super emotional for so many reasons, but their coach, Yao Bin, was the first ever Chinese Pairs skater and he learned to skate through photographs, because, you know, China was censoring Western images and all of that, so they really couldn’t get a lot of material to learn. He was bad, he was pretty bad - he went to Worlds three times in the 80s and placed dead last each time - it was really really sad. There were stories about how they were laughed off the ice and they were actually really really funny, but after he retired he was like ‘nope, screw that, I’m gonna turn China into a Pairs powerhouse’, and then twenty years later, Shen and Zhao became the first Chinese pair to ever win an Olympic medal in Pairs and the first to win a World title, so, you know (Lo: Yes!), even though the 2003 Worlds - where they won their second World title - is the most famous iteration, it feels like the culmination of all of their hard work, because they kind of messed up in 2002 a little bit. I just really love the image of Yao Bin crying when they finished, it just really gets me.
Iman: I just, when you see, you know a grown man like that cry after seeing that performance, like, ‘you know what, this is beautiful, this is amazing’. After you see that performance and it’s just, you know you’d just blown away by the chemistry between those two, like you know i’m not surprised that they got married but the use of music, their musicality, their jumps, spins, everything, it’s just so, just the whole package is just so robust like, you know what, this is pairs skating should be like.
Iman: And that’s saying something.
Lo: I have to say that this program also gave me my all-time favorite commentating moment, when the British E(uro)sports guys saw that one of the judges rank them second in ordinals and threatened to spank them. So good! Completely right, amazing. So, yeah, that’s my favorite commentary moment ever, it probably will never be topped. It’s just the most accurate.
Kite: So, my favorite (Ice) Dance program is actually [Meryl] Davis and [Charlie] White’s Scheherazade from the Sochi Olympics. I mean, they were dominant for two seasons, undefeated prior to the Olympics. And just - I mean, from the very beginning that opening curve lift, I think they said that they actually trained that for about two years but they never put it in a program because it was that difficult. (Kat: That entry is so crazy, yeah) He grabs her by the wrist and like (Kat: Just holds her on his back!) they make it look effortless like you were saying and it’s - I mean.
Iman: Again it’s like she just flew into his - you know, it’s amazing.
Kat: The choreography in the beginning is also so gorgeous.
Kite: The changes in music are really good, I think.
Iman: Also Meryl looks like a Greek goddess. (Kat: She does!) (Lo: She looks like Megara) She does! Yeah.
Lo: Megara from Hercules.
Kat: Charlie is also such a good performer, I feel like he gets overlooked a little bit, he’s a very, very good performer.
Iman: He’s fantastic, and I feel like people sort of - I get why - Meryl is just, she is sort of like, again like with Sui.
Kite: He, like, shows her off very very well yeah.
Iman: He does show her off very well.
Lo : He knows exactly how to frame her.
Kat: You know, he exudes a lot of charisma himself.
Kite: It’s like, they were the first American (Ice) Dance team ever to win an Olympic gold medal.
Lo: They left a real impact. I miss them, a lot.
Kite: Yeah, it’s like an Olympic program. Like when you think of an Olympic program, that’s kind of what you think of. It’s fitting that it happened with Scheherazade - that they won the Olympic gold.
Iman: Meryl and Charlie, please come back, we need you. Dance is dying.
Kite: I mean, they haven’t officially retired - it could happen!
Kite: If you’re listening.
Iman: Can they please come back? Honestly, I would cry.
Kite: So, for our grand finale, we have collectively decided on one program that we believe to be the most iconic of the 2000s and that is…
Kat: I mean, [Yuzuru Hanyu’s] Seimei.
Iman: Seimei. It’s Seimei. Ugh, what to say, where to start.
Kite: Can we just, okay, we will start on like the opening note of when the music, when the program starts (Kat: That look on his face!) that’s his breath on the recording!
Iman: Even before the music starts, he deliberately put in his own breath, (Kite: Because it calms him down) it calms him down and it sort of helps him focus and that’s just such - (Kite: Like, who does that?) he’s so calculated, he knows what’s gonna help him and the fact that he edited [Correction: helped to edit] the music himself.
Kat: It’s just the amount of detail that he put into the construction, every single part of it - the choreography, the music edits, the costuming. You know all of these things that - this was his passion project, he personally put in so much of his soul into this program. Like you could really, really feel it, yeah.
Lo: He met the actor from the movie, (Kat: Yeah!) Shae-Lynn Bourne watched the movie for him so she could get an idea of what he wanted to portray on the ice.
Kat: Yeah, and it’s just so representative of the Japanese culture, which he really, really wanted to portray. Japanese music is not that often used, or at all (Lo: No, never used almost) used in figure skating and it’s so representative of his culture, which is so minimalist, I think. You know, doing the most with the least.
Iman: And that’s such a bold move to sort of, y’know, stray away from Western music, which is obviously - (Kat: Yeah, he knew it was a risk!) it was a huge risk because if he strayed away from - like, for example, there’s an entire segment that’s just drums, right? The step sequence.
Lo: Just drums.
Kite: It’s a masterpiece, a masterpiece in using suspense.
Iman: That’s such a difficult thing to do, to not have music to back you up and he just went with it, and you see - it’s just so perfect. You could see how much effort he put into it - the musicality, the step sequence, the choreography - ugh, everything is just phenomenal.
Kat: And yeah, the choreographic sequence at the end always gets me.
Lo: Iconic, the hydroblade.
Kite: Especially in the Olympic skate, oh my God.
Kat: Breaking character just for a moment! Like, right after his spin, you could just see the smile exuding, he just knew he did it.
Iman: You could see him grinning and it’s like he knew he did it.
Lo: It was special - who cares if it wasn’t really in sync, it didn’t really matter.
Iman: That’s another thing I really wanted to add. Despite the fact that it was not a perfect - it was not a clean skate, right? He did stumble, you know, his jump -
Lo: Missed the combo.
Kat: Yeah, we still remember it! It’ll hold up [to] the test of time.
Lo: It’s still my favourite performance of that program.
Kat: Mine too.
Iman: Same, it’s my favourite performance. It’s just such a memorable performance, because you see the road to the Olympics and all that he’s been through and the fact that everyone was just like ‘oh, he’s not gonna win it’.
Kite: ‘He’s not going to be on the podium’.
Kat: It really felt like a victory, in every sense of the word. I think Brian Orser said that it felt like a victory - not just because he won the gold medal, because he conquered himself, you know, he conquered the injury.
Iman: He proved himself to everyone who was like ‘he’s not going to be able to do two OGMs, you know, that’s not been heard of for so long’.
Kite: ‘No one’s done it in 66 years and he’s doing it with recycled programs (Lo: With a watered down layout) and he was injured, like, three months ago. You know, he’s not going to be on the podium’ and then just to win with that program specifically.
Iman: It was perfect in its imperfections - I feel like that’s the best thing.
Kat: There’s something so fairytale-like about him winning with his passion project, you know. It’s in his blood, that performance.
Kite: It’s like every program, obviously, is designed to get the maximum amount of points it can get, right. But this is one of the few that felt more than just a means to an end.
– end segment – 48:05
Kite: Since the hosts realized they wanted to talk a good deal more about iconic programs, not everything could fit into today’s episode! Stay tuned for a bonus episode next week with the programs that we couldn’t fit into today’s.
Kat: Alright, the next episode will be hosted by Tilda, Yogeeta, Gina, and Red, and they’ll be discussing the proposed rule changes that may be approved by the ISU Congress, which, again is June 4th through 8th and will be livestreamed on the ISU skating Youtube channel.
Kite: 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.
Lo: We’re on Youtube as well, just search for In The Loop Podcast and you’ll find our episodes there too.
Iman: If you’re listening on iTunes, please consider leaving a rating and a review if you enjoyed the show.
Kite: Thanks for listening, this has been Kite,
Kat: and Kat. See you soon!