Episode 11: Autumn Classic International and Ondrej Nepela Trophy - Transcript

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

Gina: Hi I’m Gina, and I’m tired because this season is made of suffering if you live in the Asia Pacific region. You can find me on Twitter @4Atwizzles.

Niamh: I’m Niamh and I’m neglecting my real life responsibilities to watch multiple skating competitions at the one time. You can find me on Twitter @tripleaxei.

Maryam: Hi, I’m Maryam, I’ve been in a constant state of delirium the past couple of days as the result of three hours of sleep. I’m on Twitter @luckyyloopss.

Nina: And I’m Nina, and I spent my weekend running away from medical school to Toronto to watch Autumn Classic in person and crying over Yamato Rowe. You can find me on Twitter @yonkaitenpooh.

Nina: This episode we’re going to be talking about Ondrej Nepela Trophy and Autumn Classic International. But first, we’ve got some news announcements in the sport of figure skating.

Gina: Our first news is that Yura Min has a new partnership with Daniel Eaton. He was the 2014 Four Continents bronze medalist. So that’s nice, after her split with Gamelin. She has a new partner. Yay!

Nina: We wish her the best.

Gina: Yes.

Nina: Alina Zagitova withdrew from Ondrej Nepela Trophy this week due to some issues with her travel documents. She has now been assigned to compete at Nebelhorn next week. I hope that works out.

Maryam: So there have been many updates to the entries for the 2018-2019 Grand Prix series. Kevin Aymoz from France has been assigned to Internationaux de France. He has competed at this past Autumn Classic this weekend.

Niamh: And for more news and further updates on the Grand Prix assignments and changes in competitions, program announcements, and stories you might have missed during the week, make sure to check out our website inthelopodcast.com for weekly roundups of figure skating related news.

-end segment- 2:38

START: Ondrej Nepela Trophy and Autumn Classic International

Gina: Alright, let’s move on to our main segment. So first we’ve had a few competitions now, a couple of the Challenger Series events and the Junior Grand Prix. What are our impressions of the season so far?

Nina: I mean, I hope it’s not that I’ve been Stockholm Syndrome’d just after this whole weekend but I’m enjoying this season. I think it’s been really good to give us a sense of where everyone is and it does seem like a lot of people are in similar states of having promising starts, which is really good to see, but everything is still a bit unfinished as it always is at the beginning of the series.

Maryam: So far in the senior circuit we haven’t seen any Grand Prix series events, we’ve only seen Challengers and those are usually more relaxed because they don’t have as much weight as the Grand Prix series do. So it’s nice to see skaters relaxed and ready to debut their programs no matter how they go. It’s to get your feet wet at the beginning of the season, test out your programs, and see what you need to work on for the rest of the season. So I’m excited to see all these programs develop.

Niamh: I do think there has been a lot of, we’ve only had a few competitions, there has been a lot of discourse and discussion on scores and how we can compare them. Especially with the new scoring system, no one is really completely 100% certain on how everything is working out so I think that especially has been plain. None of the judges are completely confident.

Nina: I think it’s come up a lot because we just had Lombardia Trophy last week which seemed to be rather lenient on the scoring, and then we’ve just come off of Autumn Classic which seems to be quite a bit in the opposite direction. People have been talking a lot about whether or not you can compare scores across competitions.

Gina: I think everyone’s been told at some point that you’re not supposed to compare scores from across competitions. I got told that yesterday by someone-

Nina: I got told that last night.

Gina: Yep. So there is a lack of consistency in standards in judging and I have a problem with people saying that you’re not supposed to compare scores because I do think that does endorse a lack of standards. Scores across competitions should be comparable.

Niamh: I agree. Scores should be comparable, and an ideal situation where judges are completely competent and ISU knows what it’s doing. Hi everyone, you have a competition where the technical panel is calling every single Lutz, every single flip, whether it warrants a call or not, versus a competition where the technical panel is ignoring every wrong edge, ignoring every underrotation, giving spins that were invalid +5 GOE. It becomes hard to compare. So whilst we should be able to compare, it raises the question - can we? This applies especially to the judging panel, the difference in scoring between for example Lombardia and Autumn Classic was ridiculous. Especially even just in the competitions this weekend - in Ondrej Nepela, Mikhail got 91 in PCS compared to Yuzuru’s 87. Whilst Yuzuru’s program wasn’t completely perfect, Yuzuru would generally tend to score a lot higher than Mikhail in PCS so it raises the question if scores should be comparable - why does stuff like this happen?

Nina: There’s just a lot of inconsistency overall. So looking at cross-competition scoring, Shoma Uno’s Free Skate is incredibly empty but he got a transition score in PCS of 8.85 and then Yuzuru Hanyu got 8.70 for his Free Skate which I think was almost - I hate to say overstuffed with transitions because they’re important but it felt like he had poorly paced them. So the fact that that was ranked as lesser, and if I recall correctly, someone actually gave him a 7.75 in transitions. It feels like the judges are not at all on the same page as how they’re supposed to be grading these things, and it makes it very odd when you look at the protocols and you’re trying to gauge how the skaters are doing versus some of their peer competitors that they haven’t met on the circuit yet.

Gina: But on that note, it is important to remember that the score for transitions is not just of quantity, but it’s on quality as well. When you do have overstuffed programs where they are rushed, they shouldn’t necessarily be getting high scores because the quality isn’t there. But the thing with Shoma’s program is that he doesn’t have any of the other criteria for getting transition scores.

Nina: It’s very easy to do a nice spread eagle when it’s the only thing you have.

Niamh: A 20 second spread eagle.

Maryam: I feel like both Autumn Classic and Lombardia were Challenger Series competitions, so they both have the same tier of judges. The judges are the same skill-level, probably have the same level of training. So you would think that the scores would be similar. Of course if you had Nationals where everybody is - if it’s Canadian Nationals, everyone is Canadian - versus Worlds, that’s gonna be different judges. But for these events, you’d think the judges would have a more similar mindset, but that doesn’t happen to be the case. You guys mentioned all the discrepancies, and it’s like, for Satoko Miyahara for example, in her Short Program they called two of her jumps under-rotated, and then in her Free Skate they pretty much ignored the under-rotations. It’s the same exact tech panel, so this really confuses me. The tech panel should be consistent whether they choose to be harsh or they choose not to, and it should be consistent across all the Challenger Series, not just one. It’s not like you can just choose to be harsh on this competition and the other tech panel choose to be nice, because that’s not fair for the skaters that are going to be judged by the harsher tech panel. So I do hope that we see more consistent scoring when it comes to the actual Grand Prix series, and Four Continents and Worlds, but we’ll see how that plays out.

Nina: I really hope so, because looking at the Short Program protocols from Autumn Classic, Junhwan got a -1 from one judge and a 4 from two other judges on the exact same spin, and when you see that scoring you’re just like, “are they even aware of what they’re supposed to be checking off?”

Gina: I don’t think they are.

Nina: And when I’m looking at it, I’m like, “how do you go from -1 to +4 on the same spin?”

Gina: It’s because they’re not thinking about what they’re actually scoring.

Nina: I mean this is why I’m not a judge, because I’d just be like, “I like you and that looked pretty, +5”.

Gina: That’s what they do! Apparently, that’s fine!

Nina: And even Jun’s fall - a bunch of them gave him -4, and some of them were like, “mmm... -1”.

Maryam: Ah, yeah.

Gina: What?

Maryam: It’s supposed to be an automatic -5. I’ve seen -5s for even two-footed, so to not give one for a fall is ehh.

Gina: Yeah, I think I remember seeing someone get a -5 and it wasn’t even… I think it was Wakaba? She got a -5 that wasn’t even a fall.

Maryam: It was a two-footed, yeah.

Gina: Yeah. And it’s like, “then why do you not give -5 for an actual fall?”

Maryam: I know!

Nina: I mean, I guess if you fall gracefully.

Gina: The only fall that I think should’ve got positive GOE was Shoma’s in Four Continents last year [2017], because it was exactly on the music. It was right on that clatter in the sound in his music, it was amazing!

Nina: I think we should give a shout out to that split fall when he landed that one jump.

Gina: That wasn’t a fall, that was a creative exit.

Maryam: +5 GOE for a harder exit!

Gina: So the explanation of how to use the +5/-5 GOE scale was really abysmal. How many of you watched the webinar?

Niamh: Me.

Nina: Parts of it.

Maryam: Yeah, I saw some videos, especially the ones comparing Satoko’s spin and the 3A jumps.

Gina: Fabio Bianchetti should never take on teaching, because that was the worst explanation of how to use it. There are instances of such wide variation between judges and it suggest to me that the judges aren’t really thinking about how to apply the grade of execution. I’m going to give an example that’s going to make me really unpopular:

Nina: Go ahead.

Gina: At Autumn Classic Short Program, for the Men’s, the GOE range awarded to Yuzuru Hanyu’s quad toe-triple toe was between -1 and +3. My understanding of it is that we should picture every jump starting at zero, starting at the base value, and then we weigh up the positive and negative features to find the grade of execution. So for positive features for this element, I would say it met bullet 1, which is good height and length; bullet 4, the steps preceding; and bullet 6, that it matches the music. That would give it a positive value of +3. For the negative features, there was a loss of flow and rhythm between the jumps in combination, which carries a negative value of -2 to -3. The rotation on the triple toe was also suspicious, because he took off from a near stand still so the landing was a little questionable. So to a stingier judge that could be an additional -1. So for this element I would say that an acceptable range of GOE would be between +1 and -1. Three judges gave him +3 for that element, and I find that really puzzling.

Nina: It was me. I was the judge.

Maryam: Yeah. I think it would help the judges if they maybe had bullets to check off what they saw in the jump. That way you can hold the judges accountable for the GOE that they give. Because right now what they do is just they look at the jump, they say “oh, that looks like a +5 GOE jump,” but what does that actually mean? So if they had bullets to check off, like Gina was mentioning, for good height, for difficult entries and exits, and that kind of thing, then you can see that the bullets they check off - and if they had a bad landing, if they had an underrotation, they could check those bullets to subtract the points. Hopefully they could maybe consider this sometime in the future, because I feel like it would increase the consistency a lot on the scoreboard.

Niamh: I just find that we’re having the same issues that we did with the +3/-3 GOE system where judges would be giving scores that make it look as if they’re watching completely different things. So a judge that gave, for example, Shoma’s Axel +3 and another one that gives it -2. And it’s like, how are you watching the same jump?

Nina: I think that was a +3 for presence of an Axel. It’s Worlds 18 Men’s all over again. You didn’t fall, get all the points!

Niamh: The new system just highlights the issue even more.

Nina: It definitely does. And I would really enjoy seeing the bullet points, I feel like they’d offer a lot of accountability and transparency in judging, which is something that people often feel is lacking. I just am not sure if it would actually lead to any changes in behavior or if they’d just start then, like picking a number out of a hat, it feels like they’d pick bullet points - “I think that that was well matched to the music. That’s my opinion.”

Niamh: Another issue I think we’ve seen so far this season - this isn’t a new issue, this has been going on for years and years and years, season upon season. There is a certain cap on scores, if there are multiple serious errors and there are very vague, insufficient definitions of what this means: is a fall a serious error, is a stumble or a step-out a serious error, what about an invalidated spin? It is recommended that an obvious error in a program warrants a cap of 9.0. But does that, for example, mean a fall in a jump really affects a skater’s skating skills or their musicality? Why does a fall on their Axel mean that their skating skills is damaged?

Nina: There is another issue I have with the 9.0 cap, where it feels like some judges will take that to mean, “I would give him a 9.25, but it’s capped, so I will give him a 9.0”. Or is other judges would feel like they completely shift all of their points down by one. So you end up with a weird thing where some of the judges will give them 9.0 because they’re capped and others will give them 7 point something.

Gina: I think that’s what we saw at Autumn Classic!

Niamh: I think there’s a trend in judging where if one a section of the PCS mark is low, they all have to be low and this isn’t even for the cap. For example, if their transitions are bad but their musicality is good. Judges will boost up their transitions to 9.5 purely because the musicality is 9.5. It should be where they’re judge specifically on different sections and not just on an overall spectrum.

Gina: Isn’t that Eteri’s entire strategy? Like she stuffs the programs full of transitions to boost that transition score so that everything else will be scored high. Isn’t that her entire strategy?

Nina: Also, just my opinion on the topic of what a serious error is...I feel like a fall, a stumble, a step out should count, but I personally don’t think an invalid spin or under-rotations should count. Cause I feel like when it says “serious” I believe it said it affects the technical prowess and the artistry of the program itself. So as long as it’s an error you can see without looking at it with slow-mo or replay then it should be apparent.

Gina: I believe that the actual definition is anything that interrupts the flow of the program….

NIna: Yeah that’s what I meant. So like an under-rotated jump, if it’s right on the edge it doesn’t interrupt the flow. Neither does an invalid spin.

Maryam: Some falls don’t necessarily interrupt the flow of the program. Some people position their jumps such that they land on notes of music. And especially if the music is dramatic, if they fall on a dramatic note of music, it’s not actually bad. It kind of matches the music. But I don’t think they should subtract from skating skills. I think they should subtract from musicality because it does affect the musicality a little bit, especially when the skater has to get up and get back into their interpretation of the music. But I just don’t think it should affect transitions or skating skills.

Niamh: I think what you were saying about the falls not affecting the flow of the program…if we look back at Yuzuru Hanyu from Sochi Olympics where the first two jumps in his free skate were a fall. But if a viewer had to tune in straight after those jumps you would not have known he had fallen because the rest of the program was completely perfect.

Maraym: And people watching the Olympics…”Oh he fell, why should he get gold.” Falling is a normal part of figure skating, you see it quite often.

Nina: People watching the Olympics don’t necessarily know that.

Niamh: My dad thought that if you fell in a program, you were automatically disqualified. And I turned ‘round and said there would be…..

Maryam: That means all the top men are disqualified.

Niamh: There would be zero skaters!

Gina: Junhwan won the Pyeongchang Olympics!

Maryam: Pretty much.

Niamh: I support that!

Nina: I support this.

Gina: Something that I think we all noticed at this weekend’s competitions is that a pairs and ice dance in particular are kinda dead. I was under the impression that there being a power vacuum in ice dance would make it really interesting. But so far this season, I was incorrect.

Niamh: From what I’ve learned from watching the Junior Grand Prix, junior dance is where it is at.

Maryam: It really is. A lot of junior dancers have so much better choreography, way better lifts, speed, and their programs are way more entrancing then the senior ice dancers, so it really says something about the skill level of the ice dancers left this season.

NIna: We’re going to talk about our first competition of the weekend now: Ondrej Nepela Trophy. Guys what were your general impressions of the competition?

Niamh: The streaming was bad, the livestream was not great. Although it was on YouTube, which is nice especially as an international viewer because other then the Grand Prix Series, especially in the U.K. we don’t really have much access, there isn’t anything in the U.K. for example to go out and see. So it’s nice that there is a YouTube stream, but the livestream wasn’t great, the camera would be constantly going out of focus, there was a hand covering the actual skater for a good five minutes. Someone had a hand in front of the camera.

Nina: I mean we say someone, but that’s almost certainly the camera operator.

Niamh: And if you weren’t able to watch the stream live there wasn’t a way to catch up, because copyright claims on the music blocked the stream replay. And still now there are a lot of….I know for example Keiji Tanaka’s Free Skate was only uploaded this morning. The uploads of individual programs has been delayed, so it’s been hard to catch up on what you’ve missed etc. from an instant angle.

Gina: Not to whine, watching from Korea was really difficult. The events that I could watch tended to start at 8 P.M. and run until about midnight, and I couldn’t watch on work nights. On the days where I couldn’t stay up all night; I could catch up on Autumn Classic quite easily but I could not catch up at all on the Nepela Trophy because the streams were blocked and nothing was available. So it was really difficult to watch this one from Korea.

Niamh: I think it’s important to note that pairs and ice dance was really empty at this competition. So we’re not really going to talk about them in detail in comparison to the single events because there were a lot more depth in these disciplines.

Maryam: But we will mention the medalists at the event. For the pairs what we have is: for gold we have Ashley Cain and Timothy Leduc (USA), for silver we have Deanna Stellato and Nathan Bartholomay (USA), and for bronze we have Lina Kudriatseva and Ilia Spiridonov (RUS).

Niamh: For ice dance we had Victoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov (RUS), and in second we had Lorraine McNamara and Quinn Carpenter (USA), and in third we had Betina Popova and Sergey Mozgov (RUS).

Gina: So let’s talk about the men a little bit. In first place we had Mikhail Kolyada (RUS), he got gold with 274.37. In silver we had Sergei Voronov (RUS), he got 239. 73. And in bronze we had Keiji Tanaka (JPN) with 221.92. How did we feel about the men’s competition?

Nina: I’m impressed that Keiji got bronze, given that almost every jump was popped.

Maryam: It wasn’t that bad, he did pop a few jumps but overall he did land his triple Axel. Which is more than we can say for some men.

Nina: Seems some men didn’t even attempt. I really need to stop giving Dima crap.

Gina: Not it’s fine. First I would like to thank God and also Jesus that Mikhail has ditched the quad Lutz for now, cause I’m really sick of seeing him fall on it.

Nina: I do hope that his team is working on it.

Gina: I think it will come back.

Maryam: He has one of the prettiest quad Lutzes ever, and some of the prettiest quads just in general. He has really good height and his landing are really airy, but as he gets such height and distance, the falls are kinda hard to watch.

Nina: Especially when they’re every competition.

Gina: I like his short program a lot more than his free skate; his short program was to Muse I Belong to You. Not my favorite Muse song, but it's fine. There are some areas where his score for his short program did seem a bit on the low side compared to other competitors in previous competitions. For example his transitions score was 8.65, compared to Shoma Uno who got 9.05. I think Mihhail deserved to get the higher score there. The criteria for transitions is: continuity of movement, variety, difficulty, and quality. In my opinion, Mikhail hit those criteria a lot better then Shoma if we’re just comparing those two performances. Even though I prefer Shoma’s skating, and I do think his program has the potential to be the better program of the two, I do think Mikhail deserved to get the higher score there. It’s not so much that I think that Mikhail should’ve got in the nines, but that Shoma should’ve been scored less.

Nina: But, Lombardia.

Gina: Yeah, Lombardia. So on the note of scores, judge 6 gave Mikhail a 0.5 in interpretation in his short program. Nitpicking individual scores from individual judges is usually a pointless task, unless you’re noting evidence for bias. Because usually that one score judging differently doesn’t make a difference to the average score that their actually given. But this one was clearly a mistake, and it should’ve been flagged either by the computers or by the referee.

Nina: There could be like a button that says “Are you sure you wanna submit this?”

Gina: Something should pop up and be like “Are you sure? Is that really your score?” This was thrown out as the lowest score. But it’s a little bit different if a judge had intended to give something more in step with the other scores given, say 8.5, that score wouldn’t have been thrown out as the lowest score. And it would’ve changed his overall score for his interpretation from 8.85 to 8.9. It’s not that big of a difference but that 0.5 really makes a difference.

Niamh: Wasn’t Worlds 2014 something like 0.33? Something ridiculously close?

Gina: Especially at Worlds, because at the moment Worlds can be really tight in the short program. It can be the difference between like 0.1 so be more careful.

Niamh: I really liked his short program choice, I’ve often had a had issues connecting to Mikhail’s skating in the past. But I do think that this music style suits him and I think it’s the most comfortable, or at least close to the most comfortable I’ve seen him. Especially this early in the season, as it is only the first competition he’s done. Unless you count the Russian test skates. This program does have some really interesting choreography moments. And I do hope it grows during the Grand Prix season, however I don’t have much hope considering he is assigned to Helsinki and Rostelecom.

Gina: So unlucky.

Nina: Oh Rus Fed is not in a good mood with him. Which is a pity. It’s true I didn’t like either of his programs last year, and I felt that he kind of looked very uncomfortable in them. But he just seemed to be skating freely at Nepela, and it was a good look for him. I think that the short program...I prefered the short program to the free, but I do think they both have potential to be pretty good programs.

NIamh: Another thing that was noticeable at Ondrej Nepela was Sergei Voronov. Over the last I think especially he really...like he has been to and through if you know what I mean, but last season he won the NHK and made the Grand Prix Final. Which I know I especially wasn’t expecting. Sergei is 30 years old and not only landing, but also attempting not only quad Toes, but also quad Loops. This definitely adds a different perspective to the idea that skaters have to retire at 24/25 because they’re too old. Sergei and Alexei Bychenko are both proving that age doesn’t automatically mean you must retire. There are skaters successful at older ages. For example, Carolina Kostner set a personal best of just over 80 points at the 2018 Worlds and she’s 31. Aljona Savchenko was 35 when she won Pyeongchang. Consensus: Javier Fernandez come back.

Gina: Yeah don’t leave us!

Maryam: Please.

Gina: You’ve still got like ten years! It’s fine.

Nina: He’s living his best life in his furry costumes.

Niamh: I really hope he turns up at Japan Open just dressed as an orangutan.

Nina: But no it is very cool to see Voronov doing quads at 30, and I’ve always enjoyed watched Bychenko skate. He skates with a lot of joy, and feel like there is a level of maturity and happiness that older skaters can bring to the table. And I think it’s always good to have that around. For the ladies the gold medal went to Rika Kihira (JPN) with a score of 218.16. The silver medal went to Elizabet Tursynbaeva (KAZ) with a score of 192.30. And the bronze medal went to Stanislava Kostantinova (RUS) with a score of 180.02.

Gina: So, Rika Kihira.

Nina: I love her. Her Free Skate is A Beautiful Storm by Jennifer Thomas, is now the current world record holder. For the Free Skate...she had two triple Axels in the free, she eight rotated triples, the first lady to land a triple Axel-triple toe in a senior international comp. She did a really good job.

Gina: She has a lovely style of skating. It’s both light and airy but also really powerful and I really enjoy watching her. All of her jumps have lovely height and really quick rotation. She’s got beautiful spins. I’m really looking forward to seeing her in the Grand Prix Series.

Nina: I’m really happy she’s in the Grand Prix Series.

Maryam: She deserves to be in it. She’s really talented, she has a lot of just raw talent. This was a really good start, a really good senior debut for her. So I’m excited to see how she grows over the rest of season.

Niamh: I think also Elizabet, it was her first competition under Eteri again after leaving Brian Orser and the TCC camp. And also, an actually choreographed Moonlight Sonata. Wow who would’ve thought?

[30.04]

Gina: Amazing! It’s her first competition back with Eteri and she has exceeded her previous performance component scores best in both programs. Just throwing that out there.

Nina: I mean, I don’t know if it’s that she happens to mesh better with that style of camp - of training camp - if it’s an issue of (Gina: it could be!) having maybe more attention now that she’s been like a returning or a new skater at that camp versus at TCC.

Gina: Yeah, some people just don’t, like not every coaching style is going to be right for everyone.

Niamh: You can’t send every skater to Brian Orser, as much as people may try. The Chinese Fed can try, doesn’t mean it will work.

Gina: Okay, so our next competition this weekend was Autumn Classic International (Nina: Oh boy was it). What were our general impressions of the competition?

Nina: Judges were harsh. It felt like the technical controller called everything. Lots of edge calls, lots of underrotation calls. It was pretty consistent though, which was nice.

Maryam: Exactly, like I don’t have a problem with them being harsh, but that’s like, if and only if, they’re not selectively harsh - they’re not like harsh on some people but then give leeway to others, which they didn’t, so that was good.

Niamh: I thought the judging was pretty accurate. There wasn’t any scores that I was particularly shocked at; I know some people, there was some discourse, shall we say, on certain skaters scores but personally, I felt all the scores were pretty fair.

Gina: Yeah same, I thought that the scores were fine. I didn’t have a problem. So I think one thing that I took away from Autumn Classic International is that a lot of people really need to get better at tempering that expectation when it comes to early season competitions, especially when it comes to the big name skaters, because there was a lot of people who maybe expected perfect performances from your World Champions, your Olympic champion (Nina: It’s the first competition). Not everyone can be perfect, it’s September.

Nina: Just because they are an Olympic champion or an Olympic medalist doesn’t mean that they’re never going to fall.

Niamh: Although I do think there’s a difference between an unclean program and an underdeveloped program, if that makes sense (All: Yes).

Gina: I think from a lot of the skaters, especially in the singles discipline, pretty much everyone was in that stage of not being fully cooked.

Maryam: Like a lot of them just got their choreo this summer, you know they haven’t had that much time to work on it. They still have a long way to go in terms of their packaging, but it will naturally progress as the season progresses.

Nina: I don’t know if it was just that Autumn Classic is the only one where I’ve really given full attention to the choreography of each and every skater, because I was there in person, but it felt like there was a lot of repetitive choreography this year across all the disciplines. The thing that stood out to me was basically that this is the season of knee slides

Gina: Oh my god, yeah.

Nina: Like I was counting, Jason Brown has four knee slides in his short program.

Niamh: I mean in fairness, Jason Brown has had knee slides in every single program.

Nina: Yes, but he came later in the competition, and I was like, this is the twelfth knee slide I’ve seen in the men's event today. Wakaba Higuchi has them in her free skate off of the top of my head.

Gina: The ice dance! I think even the commentators mentioned that oh, there’s a knee slide, another knee slide, there it is.

Nina: So it was just very tiring to see in person over and over, I was like oh and there’s more sliding around on your knees.

Gina: You’re supposed to be skating!

Niamh: A Jason Brown program is not complete without a Russian split and the knee slide. (All: Yes, true) I remember I was watching the - it was the official practice of his free skate, and I was like - because the Russian split is at the very, very, very end, and I was like, if David Wilson has given him a program without a Russian split, I will go to Canada myself and make sure there is a Russian split in it.

Nina: Yeah, and it’s very apparent when you’re watching every single skater, every single discipline for an entire day straight that not just the choreo recycling, but also the music recycling. I never want to hear a Libertango again. Or a Schindler's List, but that’s a different reason.

Maryam: So, for the pairs at this event, the medalist that we have are gold medalists Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres. They got - they’re from France and they got 210.21. In second place, we have Kirsten Moore-Towers and Michael Marinaro from Canada. They got 176.32. And in third place, we have Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier from USA. They got 164.43.

Gina: Okay so, an important thing when watching the pairs is often what will come up is chemistry between the pairs. What is it? What does that mean?

Niamh: Well personally to me, what makes a good pairs team at least is the feeling that they are skating together as a team rather than two separate people that have just been shoved together by their parents, which is an issue I often find with the juniors, which is fine; they’re young, and they still have to mature as individual skaters before they can fit together as a working pair.

Gina: For me, that’s why Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres work so well together, because they have so much chemistry.

Nina: They are so good.

Gina: And another really important thing, not just chemistry, but also utilizing your music well, and that’s another thing that James and Cipres do really well. I was particularly impressed with the triple Lutz throw in the short program, because it was landed exactly on the music, and it was just so satisfying to watch.

Niamh: I mean, James and Cipres really stole the show here. They were some 30 plus points ahead of the rest of the field, and it showed in their skates. They had two mostly clean skates here, barred the triple salchow throw in the free skate. I personally preferred their “Make it Rain” short program from last season, in comparison to this.

Nina: This year they are skating to ‘Uninvited’ by Alanis Morissette, which is...It’s good, but it’s not quite the same.

Niamh: I like it, I just though their ‘Make It Rain’ program, at least for me, was one of the more iconic pairs skates.

Gina: I mean, it is early days.

Nina: Yeah, it’s only ACI. It’s hard to compare that to programs we’ve seen mature over one or more seasons.

Maryam: But overall, when you compare them to the rest of the pairs at that competition, they’re really something else. They stand out to you. Their speed was insane; watching them practice and watching the other pairs, their jumps had a lot of ice coverage, they zoomed down the ice and they rotate really, really quickly -- especially in their rotational lift. And they have really interesting positions, which is really nice to see because some of the lifts can get really repetitive, time after time.

Niamh: Denny and Frazier had a really snooze-worthy cover of ‘Billie Jean’ by Michael Jackson for their short program. I got really excited when Ted said they were going to be skating to ‘Billie Jean’ but then it just got really dull. So, it was kinda boring. But they did have a really nice lift at the end, it was really nicely timed to the music and I think the positions they hit were really interesting and innovative.

Gina: Unfortunately, I think that was the only element that was really timed to the music at all.

Niamh: Yeah pretty much.

Gina: And boring covers of fun songs need to die. It’s always so disappointing when you think you are getting a program to a really great song, and then discover it’s a coffee-shop version of it.

Nina: I feel like this happens a lot with songs that are unconventional for skating and I’m always just like ‘Oh! I’m really interested to see how they do that one!’ and then they just don’t.

Niamh: It happens a lot with Queen. They’re like ‘Oh, they’re going to be skating to Queen’ and everyone is like ‘Woo yeah!’ but then it’s like ‘Oh, it’s a Soundcloud rap version’. Why?

Nina: That’s how I felt with Yamato Rowe’s ‘Take On Me’ cover in the free skate.

Gina: I was so disappointed!

Nina: Yeah! I thought it was going to be, like, 80’s synth pop!

Gina: On that note; let’s move on to the men! For Gold we had Yuzuru Hanyu of Canada!

[All laugh]

Nina: Correction! From Japan!

Gina: Oh, wait a second, he’s from Japan! So, gold was Yuzuru Hanyu from Japan, he won with 263.65. For silver we had Junhwan Cha of Korea, he got 259.78. And Bronze went to Roman Sadovsky of Canada and he got 233.86.

Nina: So, what do we want to talk about?

Niamh: I think we should just go straight into it and talk about Yuzuru’s short program.

Gina: There was a lot of talk.

Niamh: There were thoughts and discourse surrounding it.

Nina: I just want to get out there before we talk about the discourse, before we talk about any scoring; I really liked it. It was pretty enthralling to watch in person -- I don’t know how it was on video, but I just want to put out there that is was a good time.

Gina: I think it needs to grow on me.

Nina: I think it needs to grow on him.

Niamh: I think with more work...he did say there’s still stuff to do. So I think it will get there, just at the moment it’s a bit underwhelming.

Nina: Agreed, I just thought it was a promising start.

Maryam: I feel like, for this program, I really do like it. Just because, yes, the beginning is kind of empty but it does build up in the middle and then towards the end it builds up really nice.

Nina: Although the scores were...there was a lot more discussion about the scores than the program itself which I think is almost, kind of, disappointing.

Gina: A little bit. I did put it like...maybe, the program starts simple with the music, and it’s simplicity growing into complexity. Which isn’t a bad concept - it’s not a bad thing! Because simplicity is not necessarily it being empty.

Nina: We saw that with Chopin--

Gina & Maryam: Yeah.

Nina: --That was beautifully simple up until the step sequence.

Gina: There was a lot of discussion about him being underscored, though. So...Do we think he was underscored? I, personally, don’t. If you’re viewing the scores in isolation, rather than thinking about other competitions, his scores make perfect sense. He had multiple errors, he had areas where he was just going through the motions for the choreography, he had very little projection and engagement which was why his performance score was below 9 -- and it’s not necessarily a bad thing. This is fine, it’s normal, it’s September! It’s not Grand Prix Final, it’s not World’s, and Yuzuru has a very set pattern to his season; he grows throughout the season. He hits his stride around his third competition.

Nina: He needs that first pancake.

Gina: Yeah! Well, he has two first pancakes. And this was actually a good [first] short program for him.

Niamh: I agree. His [sit] spin was made invalid and the other spins weren’t great; they were pretty...awful to be honest.

Maryam: I saw some people wondering why the spin was invalidated, it was basically because he didn’t get enough rotations on his right leg, when he was doing a back sit spin. He was supposed to do 3 full rotations before he switches feet, but he did not. This rule was added recently, people are still getting used to it, so that’s probably why, in his mind, it didn’t register that he had to do the 3 rotations. It’s definitely something… If you know Yuzuru, you know he’s going to work on that before the next competition.

Niamh: Also, all of his jumps, he jumped a quad Salchow, a triple Axel and a quad toe triple toe combination, they were all in the first half. So, he wasn’t awarded an extra bonus for having second-half jumps. For the performance he gave, I think the score was completely fair.

Nina: I think the score itself, like overall, was fair. But I think the spread of the score was questionable. It seemed that the grades of execution...I felt that some of the GOEs were pretty generous, but then I felt that some of the PCS was a bit low. So, it actually evened out in terms of the score itself. When we were sitting and waiting for the scores to be announced a lot of people were saying maybe a 98~99 range, maybe as high a 101, so a 97 didn't seem absurdly low when we heard it but when the protocols came out more people were confused about the PCS scores in particular.

Niamh: I know, personally, for me -- I wasn't at the competition obviously -- but during the wait for the scores, 97 was what I had said as what they would probably give him. So I think, looking at the performance, 97 was a fair score for that.

Maryam: I think that some people were expecting a world record just because he landed all his jumps, but just because he landed his jumps doesn’t mean he landed them well, or as well as he could. It doesn't mean he interpreted the music as well as he could...I feel like the past few seasons, just the rise of inflation in PCS and GOE in general has people expecting way higher scores. But this season is going to be different in term of scoring.

Gina: Yeah, I think if you’re putting his score in comparison to other competitors at other competitions, like Lombardia, it does seem a little bit weird. The problem is the inconsistency in the judging. The problem is that other people are being overscored, not that Yuzuru is being underscored. I don't think he deserved more points, I think that some of his other competitors deserved less points. For example; Shoma’s short program, I think when I worked out what I would have scored him...I wouldn't have given him 104, I would have given him around 98. So...that’s more of the problem.

Niamh: A consistent ISU judging panel is a dream we could only hope for.

Nina: I also wonder if some of it is there is standards based on the skaters themselves, so for example for anyone else this would be a very good short program showing - but there were alot of parts where for Yuzuru it felt very flat and needed some substantial work.

Gina: I think I might agree with you with that. He does seem to have his achievements held over him a little bit, and he is expected by judges and by fans to be more or less flawless every time.

Nina: And this was not flawless.

Gina: No, no it wasn’t. I do think that, to an extent, some other skaters do benefit - as well - from there being invisible other criteria for the grade of execution and PCS that is ‘better than expected’. Some of the judges maybe need to remember that is not a valid reason to give extra points.

The program does need some work. I think in particular a reason why the beginning part maybe feels a little bit empty is because he doesn’t use his arms much. And ISU judges love arms. He does disengage his upper body quite a lot, and he did this in the free skate too. Particularly if you think about the spread eagle, on the outside edge spread eagle before he changes to the inside edge, his upper body was completely disengaged, his arms were just flopping at his side, and it just looked like he was chilling. It didn’t look like he was doing choreography. It looked like he just decided to stop skating for a moment.

Maryam: But it’s something to work on for the rest of the season. It’s something that naturally develops during the rest of the season.

Niamh: I think if you didn’t know this was a competitive program - not competitive program because the program itself, as a structure, is competitive but a competitive performance - if you didn’t know it was based in a competition you would have thought it was a warm up just judging by some of the disengagement in the arms, but then it is only the first competition and he’s been made aware - he is aware of the issues he had here and I completely trust in him to ube able to use them during training to show a better showing going into the Grand Prix.

Gina: It’s a small detail and I think he was maybe just a little too focused on landing the jumps and forgot about the details - it’s just a case of just bringing some tension into the upper body because there were other areas of the Free Skate as well where his arms are just limp at his sides and it makes him look a little bit too casual about the program. It’s a good quality to have to look effortless whilst you’re skating, it’s not so great to look like you’re not trying and you don’t care. In the Short Program, it’s actually mildly worrying to watch as a fan.

Niamh: He did say in the media zone after the Short Program that he was very nervous for the competition and from watching the videos from the media day held in the [Toronto Cricket Club] rink over the summer and the official practises here at Canada, I think there is a lot more we still have to see from this program. He said in an interview with the Olympic Channel that he wasn’t happy with how he skated to the music and that he wants to use it more, so I’m hoping this is more of a nerves and a first competition issue, which I think it is, rather than a program issue or a choreographic issue. I agree with Gina that certain parts of the program like the crossovers and the long spread eagle seem a bit casual. Later on in the season, I do wonder if he will swap his flying camel spin and his combo just in order to get the bonus. I know he has said prior to the competition that he isn’t skating now for records and for scores, which I completely understand - I’m sure two Olympic golds are pretty fulfilling enough. But if there is a chance for extra marks, I don’t see why he doesn’t go for it, but then again what I personally want Yuzuru to do, and what Yuzuru wants to do himself are two completely separate things. Following the Free Skate here though, he has said that his competitive side is more engaged and that he does - his need to win, he thinks has been re-inspired so I do wonder if going into Helsinki he will be more attackful during the entire competition. I think that is one thing I did notice, he didn’t attack his skates like he usually does.

Gina: You could see the difference between the Short Program and the Free Program. The Free Program had a lot more fire to it. I do hope he does maybe consider swapping the elements in his Short Program. Those ten seconds or so of crossovers really bothered me because that’s usually something that holds Yuzuru apart from his competitors - is that he doesn’t have moments like that where you feel like the music is completely unutilised and he's just doing crossovers when he should be maybe doing a little bit more.

Nina: It did feel really unbalanced in person. I remember it was like, okay so we just did 3 jumps in a row with nothing in between and now we have multiple spins back-to-back and I find it especially when you have spins back-to-back, because since they’re long and sustained, it's very easy for you to start to realize that there's nothing else in between.

Gina: I did time it - the start of the crossovers and the end of the jump where he exits the jump is about 13 seconds, and the entry to the flying camel spin and the end of the flying camel spin is also about 13 seconds - so they could be swapped, I think.

Maryan: For one-footed skating, maybe he doesn’t have to add too many complicated things but if you just do some turns - between those crossovers, he does do some turns so you can just do those on one foot, I think that would improve the performance.

Gina: I don’t think the problem is that he is lacking one foot skating, it’s just that he does the crossovers on a change in the music which highlights that he's doing the thing, and I think if you swap the elements, that little piece of music where he's currently doing the spin would be much easier to, kind of, hide the crossovers in.

Maryam: But then again, it's a program that builds up and I think he wants the busier part towards the end [Nina: Oh, that step sequence] - so that’s just his choice.

Niamh: That step sequence is nice.

Nina: It was honestly quite stunning, except I really don't like the hydroblade in the step sequence.

Niamh: I really liked it during the media day and I really liked it during the practices. I didn't like it in competition, but then I think -

Nina: It was very short, and it kind of felt like he was just checking it off - ‘oh, I have to do a hydroblade.’

Niamh: The leap - no-one really knows what the leap’s official title is [Nina: The not a stag leap-leap.]. I didn't like it here but I think, it was, it wasn’t as high, it wasn’t as - in media day and the videos we’ve seen in practices he explodes out of hydroblade, and he didn’t do that quite as much here but then I think that, just like the rest of this program, was a performance issue rather than a program issue.

Nina: Yeah.

Gina: I’m pretty glad we do have that other footage of him practising it, because it does kind of reassure me that those parts that I have problems with - in those practice videos, they’re a lot different. So it's not a problem with the program itself, it's just a problem is how he performed it and it was probably down to nerves.

Niamh: So, shall we talk about the costume.

Gina: I hate it.

Niamh: I hate it too.

Maryam: I love it.

Nina: I’m going to be the moderate voice and say that I like it.

Niamh: Nina, you’re a Shoma stan, of course you like it. [Laughs]

Nina: Okay, okay. Any costume with a deep V and a high waist is going to do it for me.

Niamh: I didn’t like it before the news came out, and then the news came out that it was literally a rejected design from Shoma Uno.

Nina: That's not official, it's just that like it looks almost identical to Satomi Ito’s old practice design, but it’s not officially a thing.

Niamh: I don’t… I like the costume as a costume. I’m not sure if I like it on Yuzuru’s body type. If it was a costume on a mannequin or a different skater, I think it would be nice. I'm not sure..

Gina: If it was a costume on Shoma, it would be fine. Because the reason he has that cut is because he's got tiny little short legs, and Yuzuru doesn’t!

Nina: Here’s the thing about it; Yuzuru is not a stranger to having costumes that are really high-waisted to show off his legs, I mean, Let's Go Crazy exists. But I think my issue with it is this one is really high waisted and has the reverse V to draw the eye up into the rib cage to make his waist look really high -- or, to make Shoma’s waist look really high -- but he puts the massive ruffle around the entire waist hem and it’s really weird to have the waist highlighting the slimmest part of your body and then stick a giant ruffle on it. It just makes him look very stick-like because it cuts out the curve of his body.

Niamh: I understand that it wouldn’t be a Yuzuru program without an insanely unnecessary ruffle or sparkles or feathers. However…

Nina: It’s very sparkly! And feathery! They can take off the waist ruffle.

Niamh: It’s already very sparkly, you do not need the ruffle!

Nina: I think he got all his ruffles out in Haru Yo Koi, he really doesn't need anymore.

Gina: See, I was really hoping for an autumnal red and gold kind of costume, maybe like Requiem but red.

Nina: That would have been beautiful but Johnny Weir’s Otoñal -- which was the inspiration -- was also blue, so it’s not terribly surprising.

Gina: Yeah, but instead he just looks like a cross between Elsa and Shoma and it’s just weird.

Niamh: Speaking about Yuzuru’s Free Skate, I personally much prefer this program. He is skating to Origin -- which is the name of the program -- it’s inspired by Plushenko’s Tribute to Nijinsky program. I’m not sure if my preference for this program is down the actual performance of it, the performance of his free skate was of a higher standard than the short; there was a lot more attack and fire which I feel was a result of the short. So I think that this shows that throughout the season there is… He will grow. His ‘I don’t care about the results’ attitude has already changed. He said in an interview with the Olympic Channel again, after the free skate that his want to win has been re-inspired so...I think we all knew that--

Nina: I like imagining that his want to win was ever gone.

Niamh: Yeah, I think we all knew that the ‘I don’t care about results’ facade was never going to last. It’s Yuzuru.

Gina: Hmm...That was a good 5 minutes, well done!

Niamh: Would it really be Yuzuru if he didn’t do everything in his power to win and physically scare his competitors with his death eyes?

Nina: How much of your enjoyment of Origin was because of the costume?

Niamh: Eh, I’d say…

Gina: A lot of it. It’s gorgeous.

Nina: It’s so beautiful in person…

Gina: The details are beautiful.

Nina: You could see it sparkling from across the rink.

Niamh: And the sparkles are multicoloured, from the photos they were like blue and purple which is--

Nina: Yeah they were purple...He looked like a dragon.

Gina: I love that it’s all feathers? Ugh, it’s just beautiful. Well done, whoever made that.

Nina: Although it does also...match Shoma’s old costume…

Gina: Look...he’s just showing appreciation of his teammate.

Niamh: He’s got two tribute programs, he can do two tribute costumes, it’s okay!

[Laughter]

Niamh: His spins were even a tribute to Javier Fernandez--

[Laughter]

Niamh: He did say his quad Salchow was a tribute to Javi, and I was like...you’ve done the quad Salchow your entire senior career. Why is it only now his Salchow a tribute?

Gina: Javi’s not even dead yet!

Nina: Sometimes I can still hear his voice....

Gina: He’s going to come back right before Spanish Nationals and Europeans! It’s gonna be really awkward.

Niamh: He’s probably back in TCC at the moment, he has Japan Open next week!

Gina: Yuzuru’s just like ‘I can still see him...sometimes...just from the corner of my eye…’

Niamh: I do think the step sequence of this program will be amazing. It wasn’t perfect here, I did find it rather slow, or at least slower than what was seen in practices, but then that was kind of a general theme across all Men’s here, it wasn’t just Yuzuru. So, I do think this program has a lot of potential and I am really excited to see it at his next showing which is GP Helsinki.

Gina: Yeah, I think overall it was a really good first showing for Yuzuru because he doesn’t typically do well in his first competitions. He has a really clearly laid out trend that has him skating at his best at precisely the right moment which is usually the Grand Prix Final, Worlds and, when it’s relevant, the Olympics. So, it’s fine. I don’t mind him having a slightly weak first showing; he always gets motivated by his early season flops, so…

Niamh: Also, back to the scoring discourse, which I think is just a general thing to be expected when Yuzuru skates at this point… there was a lot of conversation about the PCS of the program -- which I agree was...it was low, but I think the PCS marking across the entire competition was low. Yuzuru was awarded 87.9 for his PCS including a 8.7 in Transitions and Performance. I do think this was valid for his performance as such, because it wasn’t completely perfect and there are aspects that need to be worked on, but I do believe that he’s in a stable enough position. Yuzuru’s free skates at Autumn Classic are never good. If we remember the disaster of last year…[laughs]

Maryam: He did get gold in Autumn Classic before, again, because his competition wasn't that high. This wasn't his best performance.

Niamh: And, again, Yuzuru wasn’t the only one to have abnormally low PCS; Jason Brown received 83.7, and whilst his performance wasn’t...shall we say...perfect, Jason’s PCS are never usually that low.

Gina: So, talking about other men, I think it’s time to move on. Another skater to get some attention was Junhwan because...his program is a bit weird. His free skate is a bit weird. So, he’s doing his free skate to Romeo and Juliet, but with a disco twist!

Niamh: It’s weird but it’s perfectly amazing.

Maryam: I know, I quite like it, I feel like it brings out the fun side in Jun, and it’s just a really interesting program to watch from beginning to end. It’s just like you’re not expecting the music cuts at all and it just throws you off. You’re just entranced into watching how the rest of it progresses.

Niamh: The music cut is both the worst and best thing I think to happen to Senior Mens’ this season, and I kind of love that for it. There’s insane cuts between soft ballads of Romeo and Juliet, and “Cyber-Disco” that I didn’t even know was in Romeo and Juliet, mixed with random voice-overs with Leonardo Di Caprio screaming “JULIET” at the top of his lungs.

Maryam: Yeah, we didn’t really need that, we didn’t really need the voiceovers but I mean if it makes him happy then it’s whatever.

Gina: I think it’s more of a tribute to the Baz Luhrmann film, so it’s not just the Romeo and Juliet, he’s also thrown in all the Mercutio club moments from that film as well - which I enjoyed cuz I’d like to be reminded that in that film Mercutio is introduced to us dressed in drag at a disco.

Niamh: I agree with the voiceovers could be taken out, however I don’t think the program would be the same without the Juliet scream, so I say keep them in.

Maryam: True

Gina: “JULIEEEET ...Let’s go to the disco.”

Nina: I feel like without the voice-overs it would actually be a lot worse, because the voice-overs are what push it from weird, bad, into so much so that you can only really love it.

Gina: Which I think is really Junhwan’s brand now.

Nina: I mean he’s got the weird clock-hands in the Cinderella Short Program, he did the Peanut Butter Jelly EX. This is his brand.

Niamh: I did see someone say Alina and Jun fight for who has the worst music cuts and whilst they are both-

Nina: Daniil only wishes.

Niamh: Whilst they are both equally as bad, Alina’s are just cringey annoying, whereas Jun’s are hilariously annoying - so I think that says who wins.

Nina: I think it has a lot to do with the energy. The crowd seemed to be really loving Jun’s skate. People were jamming, I was jamming.

Gina: I think it comes down to personality as well. Alina - we’ll see next week - her program, she kinda skates like she’s being forced at gunpoint to skate it, whereas Junhwan is skating this like he’s having a great time.

Nina: Although that being said, there’s definitely stuff that he can work on. I felt that it was really good for showcasing his extensions - he’s got some great lines. I love the clock hands in the Short Program. But he was very much too slow for some of the disco parts of the Free.

Maryam: Like his speed and him matching the music will evolve more naturally as the season progresses, and as he gets more comfortable performing this program and pulling it off.

Gina: I’m really happy for Junhwan, I’m really proud of him. He had a pretty rough season last season with injuries, and struggling with a growth spurt. So it’s great to see him have such a strong start to the season now.

Niamh: And another skater I think we need to talk about is Jason Brown. So this was Jason Brown’s first international competition under a different coaching team. He has used Kori Ade, which was his coach last year, for 20 years I think, and he moved to Toronto to join Brian Orser and Tracy Wilson at TCC. I think this was a necessary move after his season last year. It was a pretty rough season. He did make the Grand Prix Final after Boyang Jin had to withdraw. He had a disaster Free Skate at the US Nationals, and I think after that it was obvious that he was never going to be able to continue to push for one of the top spots if he didn’t get a coaching team with technical specialists, which he wasn’t having. First I’d like to talk about the quad Salchow: he didn’t land this in competition, he doubled it in the Free Skate, which was sad, but he did land it in the Free Skate practice run-through. I know he was having issues with it before the Free Program, but he did land a beautiful one [in the Short].

Nina: I’d just like to point out that it’s a really good thing that TCC even felt comfortable saying that he should have it planned in his Free Skate, cause that indicates that it’s really gotten a lot more stable and a lot more reliable.

Niamh: I definitely didn’t even know he was training a quad Salchow. I knew he had a quad toe - he’s landed it in competition once at 2016 Skate America I think, which was called underrotated, but I had no idea he was training a quad sal, nevermind it was stable enough to be included in his layout. His Short Program, which is “Love is a Bitch” by Two Feet was insane. I loved it. I know some people don’t like it as much, I’ve seen on Twitter, but I personally love it. Rohene Ward, I think, is the perfect choreographer for Jason. I think it’s good that he’s branching out. His Free Skate this year is by David Wilson. It’s the first time since 2009 from what I could find that he’s not using Rohene. But Rohene is an award-winning choreographer for Jason, his Riverdance program remains, in my opinion at least, one of the most iconic programs in our skating generation, if not history. So, I think that says a lot about their partnership. I think it’s good that he’s branching out with different choreographers but I do think, from what we’ve seen here, that Rohene’s style is more - it matches more with Jason’s skating style. But then, that could be changed with better performance and cleaner program for competitions.

Gina: Yeah. I mean you can see in the Short Program that he seems a lot more confident, and he has matured in a way, I guess? And he seems a lot more comfortable in his own skin. I think that “Love is a Bitch” Short Program would not have worked maybe last season.

Nina: I think he needed the short hair.

Niamh: I think it’s definitely the haircut.

Gina: Yeah.

Nina: The haircut did a lot for him.

Gina: He looks really hot, I’m sorry.

Nina: I mean, you’re not wrong. Mature is definitely is a good word for it.

Gina: Jason usually has really strong labrador puppy vibes and I could never take any kind of sexy program seriously from him before, because labrador puppies don’t really do it for me. But now?

Nina: But now it’s like, “Dang love is a bitch.”

Niamh: Moral of the story: a good haircut solves everything.

Nina: Oh yes. Although I wish it could’ve saved the Free Skate.

Niamh: Yeah. He did say during his interview with the USFSA fan zone that he feels lighter when jumping after the haircut. I don’t know how physically accurate that is.

Nina: Maybe the ponytail would whip around when he jumped?

Niamh: I don’t know the physics behind how accurate that is but that’s what he feels. I think his axels, especially here, has especially improved since last season so maybe it is true. Maybe it is the haircut. His Free Skate this year is a selection of music by Simon and Garfunkel, choreographed by David Wilson. This was not a good program, shall we say. The program’s actual structure of it, I like - I didn’t think I would like when listening to the music. I know some people don’t like it, but I think parts of it do bop, and I think when he skates it clean it could be a nice program, but I’m still slightly heartbroken just thinking about his face in the kiss and cry.

Gina: He looked so disappointed.

Nina: He looked really sad. Although I still, I actually disagree, I think that the program does him a lot of favours. I think it’s kind of very close off and difficult to get into. And the costume is really cheesy looking.

Niamh: I don’t like the costume.

Nina: I don’t think it’s good i they want to showcase his sexier side in the Short Program, and then his Free Skate, if they’re trying to do something softer. I don’t think it works great for that sort of contrast.

Gina: He is kind of going from being hot young man to your granddad.

Nina: At a bowling alley.

Niamh: I did see that the Free Skate costume is similar in colours to the Short Program. They’re both the same black, blue, light blue, navy, so I wonder if they did get them in a two-for-one dea, and the Free Skate was just the cheaper option.

Nina: Oh boy.

Gina: A couple more shoutouts for the men. So Julian Yee from Malaysia became the first South-East Asian skater to land a quad. He landed a quad Salchow, clean, in the Short. It was downgraded and he did fall in the free, but good attempt and he did land a clean one so well done.

Nina: I was very happy for him.

Maryam: He was amazing.

Nina: Speaking of other shoutouts that were amazing, we should talk about Harry Mattick.

Gina: I love him.

Nina: What the heck

Gina: My home boy

Nina: What was that? That was...

Gina: He’s really entertaining. He was really entertaining last year at Autumn Classic as well.

Nina: I heard he had a Jack Skellington one?

Gina: He did, he skated to “Nightmare Before Christmas” last year.

Maryam: The ‘Pumpkin King.’

Gina: And it was also very entertaining.

Nina: This was just like I didn’t know what to expect cuz I didn’t know who he was and then he showed up for his practice run through in a Batman muscle athletic shirt and I was like, “Okay,” and then he came out in the full on purple velvet, and I was like, I can definitely kind of dig this, but I do wonder if he’s secretly into BatJokes, as a ship, because that song is very interesting.

Gina: Brilliant. And he’s such a good entertainer. He doesn’t really have the technical there, he doesn’t really have the jumps, but he did his best and he made up for it by pure character and force of personality. He’s very enjoyable.

Maryam: He’s very natural too, like all his movements - nothing is forced at all, he just matches the music perfectly, and he just - whenever he looks at the judges or looks at somebody, it’s just really natural and adds so much to the music.

Gina: I really like the part where he crashes into the judging panel.

Maryam: I thought, “Are you okay?” but no, that was intentional.

Niamh: As someone who is from the British Isles, and I know Gina might also be able to relate, usually we are kind of...there isn’t usually a lot of British skaters, at least in single disciplines, there is quite a few in Ice Dance, and especially Irish skaters, they’re very….they’re a rare diamond to find in the dust. So I did like that there was three Irish skaters here and there was a British skater, so it was nice to have someone that I could actually support, that I could relate to to an extent rather than having to support all the American and Japanese skaters because I have no one to support in my patriotic sense of nationalism.

Gina: It is rare to have a British skater to be a little bit nationalistic over, but we do have Philip Harris who does have two Grand Prix spots this year. And our last shoutout is to Kevin Aymoz for being amazing.

Nina: He blew me away. Also just like wow his positions are so creative. He did the catch-foot twizzles and really amazing sit spins, a really good cantilever, but also that reverse-Ina Bauer-hydroblade? That was really, he was incredible. The crowd was so into him.

Niamh: So moving onto ice dance we had Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje in first place from Canada, with a score of 197.27. We had Olivia Smart and Adrian Diaz in second place from Spain, with 171.41. And from Canada as well, we had Carolane Soucisse and Shane Firus in third place with a score of 166.24. I think we can all agree and admit that Weaver and Poje’s Free Dance was I’d say maybe the highlight of the competition.

Nina: It was lovely. It was beautiful.

Gina: It was a genuinely touching tribute to Denis Ten, and it was really obvious that that’s what it was from the very beginning - not just choosing the music.

Nina: I’m getting chills down my spine just talking about it.

Niamh: And thinking about that ending pose with their hands reaching up to the heavens - it was really phenomenal.

Gina: It was beautifully emotive. I really liked the part where they were kind of embracing each other, like they were helping each other grief. I thought that was really beautiful. I did see someone saying that they found watching the program to be quite healing, which I completely agree with. It made me cry, but it was also just a really beautiful moment to think about. Because that music is one of my favourite [programs] from Denis Ten as well, it was a privilege to be able to watch him skate to that, and it really highlights to me the importance of embracing the artistic side of the sport. If you just go for pure athleticism, you’re celebrating what your body can do, but when you embrace that artistic side and bring it together, it becomes kind of a celebration about everything about human life and I think that’s a really wonderful thing that this sport can bring to us and it was very, very deeply touching.

Niamh: It was emotional, but it wasn’t sad emotional. It wasn’t a happy emotional obviously, because it’s not a happy subject, but it was more a celebration of his life and his career rather than a memorial in a sad way, if that makes sense. And even without context to the situation, it’s a wonderfully beautiful program in its own right - the structure, the choreography of it and their connection is something I’ve always admired. Their “Je Suis Malade” program from Canadian Nationals last year has remained my favourite dance program ever I think, other than Virtue/Moir at the Olympics which is a given. So I think it was nice to see them, they’re not gonna be on the Grand Prix circuit, so it was nice to see them here and it was nice to see them clean, and it was nice to see them giving a performance.

Nina: Doing this program.

Niamh: Yeah. And doing it justice. For a first skate program, it looked as if it had been at Worlds’ and they had the entire season to build up.

Nina: Speaking of other dance teams, like the ones who were on the podium, they were enjoyable to watch, but I feel like one of the ones that stood out a lot was Wang/Liu’s Free Dance, and Wang/Liu in general. But they’re very enjoyable to watch, they have beautiful lifts, but I was honestly very sad to see them not on the podium.

Niam: I think that honestly they just had a really nice, easy presence on the ice. It just made them nice to watch. I didn’t find myself thinking about the elements and saying, “Was this right? Was this wrong?” I was just enjoying the performance. And they were the first Asian Ice Dance team to break a 100 points in the Free Dance, both in this system and the old system. Muramoto/Reed from Japan had scored close, they had 98.73 at 2018 Worlds but they never broke a 100 internationally, so I think this is a good thing for Asian Ice Dance as a whole, and may Asian ice dance rise.

Maryam: Yeah, they’re really special.

Gina: They’re a really easy team to like because they skate like they’re really enjoying themselves, and that’s what I really enjoy about figure skating.

Maryam: Technically too they were really good. Their twizzles were all really nice, their spins were absolutely beautiful, especially their layback. They both give a lot of face, you can see Shiyue just mouthing some of the words as she was skating along, and just giving a lot of face and expression. And also, one last thing, I’m really glad that they changed their dress from Asian Open. They just had black, plain costumes at their first showing of this program but they did change it, so at the actual Grand Prix they’re gonna have these costumes, which were really beautiful for this program.

Nina: We also want to talk about Ladies, because there was a very deep field for the female skaters at this event. So gold medal went to Bradie Tennell from the USA, she got a score of 206.41. Silver medal went to Evgenia Medvedeva of Russia with 204.89. The bronze medal went to Maé-Bérénice Méité from France with 178.89, and it was actually Maé’s birthday on the day of the Free Program, so happy birthday to her,

Gina: What a gift!

Nina: There were some interesting points about the Ladies program, specifically Evgenia’s PCS have dropped significantly since last season, and I don’t think her program was different enough to account for all of that.

Maryam: Yeah, she dropped by eight points. It’s quite a significant change, we’re not sure what to attribute it to.

Gina: I saw some people trying to attribute it to maybe some political issues. I think is a little bit too early to call any trend for Evgenia vs. any girls who stayed with Eteri, or went back to her. It can be said though that the Russian girls are very well scored usually, and the highest scored of all are Eteri’s girls. I think this is due to strategy, more than the actual quality of what she teaches.

Nina: The transitions spamming, or the constant jump variations - stuff like that.

Gine: Yeah, but it is important to remember that Evgenia is dealing with a lot of change at the moment. She’s dealing with coaching change, a change of environment, a change in training style, and a change in the style of programs she’s skating to. She needs time to adjust, and this is her first competition. And even though her performances weren’t her best, they weren’t very good, and there were some faults exposed, there is also a very clear demonstration of how she can grow in those programs.

Nina: Yeah, I think she clearly was having a little bit of trouble connecting with the tango aspect of her free skate. But I think that she definitely has potential. She even said in interviews that she’s like, “well there’s...we know what we need to work on” and stuff like that.

Niamh: I know that it’s too early to discern whether moving from Eteri has truly impacted her PCS for the entire season. However, the difference between Elizabet’s PCS last season and this season are remarkable for not much different happening in her programs, at Nepela at least. Her PCS has risen. Whether this is a factor of moving back to Eteri or not will remain to be seen throughout the season.

Gina: But even with that taken into account, I feel pretty positive for Evgenia going forward this season. Again, I can see quite clearly where she’s going to grow in these programs and I believe her coaching team can take her there. By the end of the season, I can predict her skating more maturely with more organic interpretation of music, better use of her natural charm and personality to make her programs come to life instead of relying on the rather shallow surface-level miming stuff that Eteri’s team usually brings up.

Niamh: I did really enjoy her short program here. It’s set to Orange Coloured Sky by Natalie Cole. It’s a completely different style from everything we’ve seen her compete in the past, even down to the costume [which] is completely different. I think she’s still getting used to it, she’s still a bit slow, especially in the faster bits but she has said herself that this is something that needs to change; she’s still getting used to the style and she has a month before her next competition that she has to work on that. She’s said herself that she’s confident she’ll be able to work on it so… I trust her, I trust her team now - Brian Orser and Tracy Wilson. They have Gabby and Gabby Daleman is one of the top -- she’s inconsistent but she is one of the top Ladies in the world so I do trust them. It’s not as if they’re going into this completely blind, never having coached a lady skater in their life, which was what some people were reacting like when it was announced that she was coming to TCC and I felt like saying, “did you forget Yuna Kim?”

[chorus of ‘Ohhh.’]

Nina: Oh, that’s a crime in this sport.

Gina: Talking about Bradie. She won, so well done her. She had two very good programs but there’s a little pet peeve of mine in both of them: she starts both programs the same way, which is standing in one spot and cycling through various poses. And this is something I really hate when skaters do.

Nina: Not just that but her poses… she doesn’t hold positions very well, I find that she doesn’t fully extend, and she has a lot of limb so it’s very apparent when she doesn’t fully extend into her lines.

Maryam: Yeah like she could have really really good lines. If she could pay attention to their placement and just hold her positions a lot longer, they would be quite nice.

Nina: However, she definitely has improved from last year. Her interpretation and musicality especially were noticeably better. Her Free Skate to Romeo and Juliet, I’ll admit I actually quite liked.

Gina: Yeah, I didn’t think much of her programs last season, but I think these were a huge improvement from her, and I really enjoyed watching her actually.

Maryam: This short program, she’s stepping a little bit out of her comfort zone. Like last season, she was skating to Cinderella, which was kind of like a junior-ish program, but now, she’s gaining little bit more maturity as she’s exploring new types of music to skate to.

Nina: So then coming in fifth - so off the podium but she was really really enjoyable. We want to give a shout out to Wakaba Higuchi. She is a joy to watch and she was just really...she’s really a fighter; you can see that in her Free Skate for sure. And given that she only had her free skate for a month because she changed the song, I think that she did pretty well and I’m excited to see what she does in the future.

Gina: Her Short Program is extremely interesting. I think after she’s settled with the choreography a little bit more and starts to really bring out her personality and put some energy into her choreography, it will be a really amazing short program so I really look forward to see how that grows.

Niamh: Wakaba take us to the club.

Nina: With Jun.

-end segment- 1:22:48

START: Shoutout of the Week

Maryam: So shout outs of the week. One of out shout outs of the week goes to Ghislain [Briand] for Zhenya and Jason’s axels, they’ve improved quite a lot in just a really short off season. So thank you Ghislain.

Gina: You’ve worked hard, well done.

Nina: I’m a big fan of your work.

Gina: Our other shout out goes out to Ted Barton, the camera operator at Skate Canada for Autumn Classic*. Thank you very much.

Nina: So thank you for listening. We hope to see you again for our next episode, which will be about the Junior Grand Prix events and Challenger series events which are happening over the next two weeks.

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

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

Gina: You can find the links to all our social media pages and our ko-fi page on the website. 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 Gina, Niamh, Maryam and Nina. Thank you, bye!

*This is a joke, based on the fact Ted Barton was seen multiple times at the camera during Autumn Classic International. Ted Barton is actually a commentator for the Junior Grand Prix and commentated on Autumn Classic International 2018.