Karly: 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: Hi, I’m Karly, and I’ve been finding myself waking up at ungodly hours to watch small children skate recently. I’m on Twitter at @cyberswansp.
Evie: Hiya, I’m Evie, and I’m the tired Australian who has stayed up way too late watching figure skating for the last two weekends. You can find me screaming on Twitter at @doubleflutz.
Sam: Hello, hello, hello, I’m Sam and it took me two hours to take notes on three Junior pairs and I never wanna look at a toe jump takeoff again. Want some more of that kinda quality? Hit me up at @quadlutze with an e for edge call on Twitter.
Clara: Hi, I’m Clara, I’ve been here in London this week rewriting our scoring database to include Pairs and Ice Dance, and right now I’m crying about the fact that Ice Dance basically becomes an entirely new sport every four years. You can find me on Twitter at @daejangie.
Evie: So we’re just gonna jump right into the news, considering we don't have a lot of extra time, considering we have two Junior Grand Prixs to discuss this week. And I think that probably the biggest piece of news in the last couple weeks since our last episode was the fact that Yuzuru Hanyu, two-time Olympic champion that we all know and love, has announced his programs for next season, and collectively broke the internet a few days ago.
Clara: I was checking this morning and NHK World put up a less than one minute clip of his free skate training from media day and it had a hundred and thirty thousand views in two days, so the internet is definitely broken.
Evie: God bless the Hanyu economy. (Laughs). So his short program for the season is based off Johnny Weir's 2004-2005 free skate “Otoñal” and it's choreographed by Jeffrey Buttle, who has done his short programs for quite a number of years now. And his free skate is called “Origin” and it's based off [Evgeni] Plushenko’s famous free skate “Tribute to Nijinsky” and that's choreographed by Shae-Lynn Bourne. So we're going to see those programs in a couple weeks at Autumn Classic International. We’ve got quite a few people on the team going to that competition, so that's going to be a lot of fun.
Karly: Kaetlyn Osmond has announced that she's sitting out of the 2018-2019 season, which I find a little weird.
Sam: I actually wasn't surprised at all. She's doing the tour all fall, she just came off a really emotional season, not only getting Olympic medals but then winning Worlds. I'm not surprised she's taking time off to explore what else is out there for her.
Evie: I wasn't surprised that she decided at first to just take the Grand Prix off, because a lot of the skaters are doing that, especially the Canadian skaters, like Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje, they're sitting it out too for the Thank You tour. And when she announced that she was taking the whole season out, again, wasn't super surprised but I'm just curious as to how she's going to be when she comes back hopefully next season.
Sam: That's always the big question after the Olympic season, because there are tons of people who say ‘oh, I'm coming back, oh, I'm coming back’, but you never really know until they actually do, especially when you've had such a big high like that.
In some other news, [Ksenia] Stolbova and [Fedor] Klimov have officially announced their split. For me this isn't that surprising, she has posted multiple times on Instagram with a new partner going back a couple months. He was just in Colorado Springs with Nina Mozer working with the US pairs without Ksenia. They obviously didn't have the greatest season last year after being barred from the Olympics based on supposed doping on her end. So you can definitely tell that there was a little bit of tension there, just because of all that was going on. Excited to see what she does, not really sure where he's headed but maybe into coaching? Maybe he is also looking for a partner? But yeah, it's a little sad.
Clara: And finally, there have been lots of changes in Grand Prix assignments over the last few weeks, and lineups for three of the Challenger Series competitions, so Autumn Classic International, the Ondrej Nepela Trophy and the Nebelhorn Trophy are now out. For more news about competition lineups, program announcements, and other news stories you may have missed during the week, make sure to check out our website, inthelopodcast.com, for our Weekly Round-Ups of figure skating related news.
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Evie: So in today's episode we are going to discuss the goings-on at the first two Junior Grand Prix events in the season, JGP Bratislava and JGP Cup of Austria. So the Junior Grand Prix is an annual series of events that runs from late August to early October and it's the counterpart to the Senior Grand Prix series. It culminates in December with the Junior Grand Prix Final, this year taking place in Vancouver, Canada, alongside the Senior events. So we’ve had two successive weekends filled with figure skating after several months of barely anything and -
Karly: It's been so nice!
Evie: It’s been nice but also I miss having sleep, I miss being able to sleep. (Laughs). Because European timezones and Australia do not mix well.
Karly: The European timezones don’t mix well with anyone other than Europeans, because I've been waking up at like 5 am.
Sam: Not to mention they're in the middle of the day, so it's hard to find time to watch them anyway. (Laughs).
Clara: They scheduled the Olympics for you guys, you can't have everything. (Hosts laugh).
Sam: Hey! We barely get anything during the regular season, it was nice to have one thing for once.
Clara: I know, the Olympics were great.
Sam: I am so happy we have three major competitions in North America this year, it’s exciting.
Evie: Meanwhile now that Cup of China isn’t a thing, I have only one Grand Prix event close to my timezone. And then Worlds and then nothing else because Four Continents is in America this season, so, you know, I get nothing! (Hosts laugh). Which is fine, I guess! So we’re going to start off by talking about the Pairs event at the first Grand Prix, which was last weekend, which was in Bratislava, in Slovakia. So there was a Russian sweep, which is a common theme for the two competitions. All three of the podium places were taken by the Russian pairs and the winners of this Pairs event at Bratislava were Anastasia Mishina and Aleksandr Galliamov, who were the 2018 Junior World bronze medalists. And this is their first Junior Grand Prix season.
Sam: So my biggest issue with Mishina and Galliamov was they had these really high energy, fast-paced programs, but their speed and movement quality weren't exactly up to par to match it. They definitely were trying, they had performance quality, they were emoting outward and making it fun and all that stuff, but what they were actually doing felt a bit rushed and unconnected from what was going on. Like I said, the elements were all super solid, although a bit labored in places - especially compared to the second place team, [Apollinariia] Panfilova and [Dmitry] Rylov, who were effortless in most of their elements -, but what they did have though were the jumps. They did all triples in their free skate, which nobody else did. They did get an underrotation call on a triple Salchow-euler-triple Salchow sequence [Correction: It’s a combination] -
Evie: Nice use of the word “euler”.
Clara: With a noticeable hesitation. (Hosts laugh).
Sam: Hey! Hey! We’re gonna get there eventually. Not there yet.
Evie: Euler and rhythm dance, euler and rhythm dance.
Sam: Rhythm dance is going to take a minute. Anyway, which is definitely what put them over the edge, because like I said, the quality and their twist and their throws wasn't exactly the same.
Clara: I agree with what Sam said, they had some really nice quality elements, especially the triple twist in the short really impressed me and the throw triple Salchow in the free. I thought the sync on the side by side spins was pretty good as well, not as on point as the bronze medalists Kseniia [Akhanteva] and Valerii [Kolesov] who we’ll discuss later, but sort of comparable to what you would see in Seniors, but the rest of the elements you could feel a bit the labor, especially the lift you could see that Aleksandr was working pretty hard on those. Outside of the technical points, yeah, they had fun programs, I'm still really taken with the fact that their short is called “Party Like a Russian” even though I don't actually enjoy the music that much, but in general I think they looked a little bit closed off, a little bit concentrated and sort of lacking in the ease of expression that you see in a few of the other pairs, so that will probably change over the course of the season as they grow into their programs, but for now I didn't find them to be the most engaging of the pairs that we saw.
Evie: Yeah, I agree with that. I was excited that they did keep their short program, because I remember seeing it at Junior Worlds earlier this year, but at the same time I thought that it already kind of made its performative peak at that - their performance at Junior Worlds was really solid. The only thing that's changed over the season is last season they were just doing double Lutzes in the short and now they’ve moved on to triples this season, which is obviously giving them a leg up over the field. But yeah, they’re a solid team, I like their performance overall. I wasn't completely sold on their free skate, I thought the choreography at times was a little bit pantomime-y and I wasn't completely sold on it, but yeah, I guess as the season develops, if they get a second Junior Grand Prix assignment which I'm sure they will now that they’ve got a gold medal here, both of these programs could evolve into something that's more universally likeable, I guess.
Karly: I was definitely interested when I heard my lord and savior Ted Barton announce that their short was called “Party Like a Russian”, I was like ‘wow, that's an interesting name for this Russian pair’. And I think I was kind of expecting something more fun, because it just didn’t - like, I agree with what you guys have said about their expression and how it could improve. It didn't really captivate me that well. Their elements were nice, their sync was nice on most of their elements, but I think they just need a little bit more connection to the music to sell it to me completely. And as they grow they can get that, but as of now it just wasn't enough for me to fully catch on to it, I'd much prefer the second pair, I think.
Evie: Yeah, I think in comparison to the second pair they don't have as much synchronicity with the music, they don’t really express it to their fullest potential. So the team that ended up getting silver, Apollinariia Panfilova and Dmitry Rylov of Russia again, in comparison with the first place team, I felt like they had a lot more connection to the music and they really expressed both their programs to a much wider potential, even though they didn't have the technical content like the first team did.
Sam: But not only that, they had a big ticket element that made you sit back and go ‘wow’. That throw loop is huge and she checks out so early, especially in the free, and just lands with that perfect kick out edge landing that you want to see in a pair’s throw. And I feel like in comparison, the first place team just didn't have that one thing that was like ‘okay, that's really special, what you're doing right there’, where it was just kind of like the solid all-around win because you have higher technical content kind of deal. But really, with Panfilova and Rylov, the difference music can make, because I did not like that short at all. You can obviously see that they had musicality and performance quality, but I do not want to hear I Put a Spell on You in 2018 (Karly: I feel that), we should be over that, we are past this, you have all the music out there that you could possibly use now, but we’re picking these tired old programs.
Evie: I feel like this is a common theme in most Junior programs that we’ve seen over the past competitions.
Sam: Just a common theme in general. (Hosts laugh). You don’t need to do this, guys, we can move on now.
Clara: I can’t believe you’re doing Annie Lennox dirty like this, she is a timeless classic.
Evie: She might be a timeless classic, but there is a time and a place. (Laughs).
Sam: Like I said, you could see the performance quality, but it's just covered up by this music that you just don’t want to listen to. Unfortunately she had a step sequence fall that was just heartbreaking to see, but even then it's like ‘aw, all right, I feel bad’, at the time, like, I feel bad, but like was it really that engaging that I'm going to freak out and be worried about you potentially winning or medaling? And then you watch their free skate and it's just a complete turnaround, they’re engaged with the music, they're engaged with each other, everything is matching perfectly, it accentuates their lines and shows off their speed and flow between each element, and then the throw loop, the loop just caps it all off, it's just so good, I love it.
Evie: It's one of those just jaw-dropping elements that you just go ‘oooh, boy!’.
Sam: Yep, it's like a Chinese throw flip, you see it and you know.
Karly: I agree with Sam, what you said about how to have that performance quality. They had a similar sort of fierceness about them that I liked and I really like how they skated to the music, even though I Put a Spell on You is none of our favorites, maybe Clara's -
Clara: I stand by it.
Karly: And I really like the height that they got on their throws, they were my favorite free skate of the Pairs medalists and I think they were my favorite overall, I would say, with musicality and expression.
Evie: I agree with that.
Karly: What I really like - so I am a big person on how the costume accentuates the program, so I’m kind of going off in my little costumes tangents right now. The short was very classy, you know, they went for that classy look with the music and the black and white was very classy and went along with the feel of the music. He wasn't as interesting, she was what caught me. I really loved her dress. Their free skate costumes were gorgeous and graceful in movement and it really helped with the effect of the skate for me, it was very - it was just overall very beautiful.
Clara: I think, you know, I'll just echo what everyone else has said. All of their throw jumps and the triple twist to be honest were big, but the triple loop was absolutely massive, like jaw-dropping. You can see how new I am at watching Pairs, because in my notes I have written that “Apollinariia caught an edge on the step sequence, which is unusual”, whereas now that I've watched JGP Linz I realize that it is tragically normal. (Hosts laugh). That being said, yeah, again, free - absolutely gorgeous, it reminded me a bit of [Aljona] Savchenko and [Bruno] Massot’s “La terre vue du ciel” free program from last season, it had this kind of quiet lyrical intensity, it was really fluid… Yeah, definitely my favorite program this competition.
Sam: And finally of the medalists, we have bronze place finishers Kseniia Akhanteva and Valerii Kolesov. For me they were the least noticeable of the pairs, it wasn't anything major, I just didn't really find anything stand-out-ish, except for their side-by-side spins, which are incredible. They're better than most Seniors, I don't understand how unison in side-by-side spins works to begin with, so whenever anybody actually does it in unison in every position it blows my mind, but other than that I honestly couldn't tell you what happened in one of their programs outside of the fact that I thought their Interstellar short had too literal costumes, too space-y, like, we don't actually need to go that hard in on the astronaut look, guys.
Karly: Yeah, I agree that they were the least noticeable of the medalists and what I remember most is their music choices, glad I wasn't the only one who noticed how literal they went with Interstellar. For the free they had fun colors, they were matching -
Evie: The matching thing too, with the bow and the waistcoat.
Karly: Listen, I just get really excited whenever a girl is wearing a color and the guy is actually wearing a matching color.
Sam: We’re calling you out, Alex Shibutani. Wear pink next time.
Karly: Exactly. (Hosts laugh). And then their most noticeable - they had this one lift where he carried her like a baby while she was upside down - obviously I'm very good at describing lifts -, other than that nothing really stood out to me, other than their costumes.
Clara: Yeah, agreed. To be honest I think the one thing that really stood out to me as Sam said was the sync on the spins, it was better than most of the Olympic medalists, I would say. I think I did.
Sam: That was completely fair.
Clara: But all of the rest of it was a bit scratchy. The lifts were good. There were, as Kar mentioned, a few interesting and unusual positions, that I'm not sure how I feel about. In general, again, sort of not projecting as effectively as some of the other teams we saw, especially on the Interstellar short, which was a bit quiet and introspective anyways, I think they really needed to be a bit more expressive than what we saw. On the free, same story to be honest, shout-out for using Czardas, I love it, it's awesome, it's fun, it's fast, it's Hungarian, it's great, but again they felt like they were concentrating a bit too hard on getting their elements down to actually sort of help the audience connect to the music.
Sam: Yeah, and that was just a confidence thing. It's usually - you see that a lot with people who aren't exactly always comfortable on their edge, they're not used to the elements they're doing yet, so they're always honed in on getting from one element to the next instead of projecting, because they're not there where they can just shut off and let the music tell the story.
Karly: So now we’ll be introducing the Men's medalists and we have to start with gold, which is a name everyone knows - Stephen Gogolev. Yeah, he sure was something! So I always type out my little cheer which is “Go, go, let's go, let's go Gogolev!” - and that's something anime fans will get. (Hosts laugh). He did the thing. That thing will be mentioned later. Programs wise, I really liked his short, which I think is partly because of the music chosen. He has nice speed on the ice, which is something I always look out for, and obviously with Juniors you don't get good speed a lot. Which is something I understand, you know, Ted has helped me to understand that they will grow. He had a nice step sequence in the short - I just really much preferred his short to his free and he has a lot of things that he can improve on, which we will definitely go more into because I am not the best with details. But you can tell he's better than his age - they made a point of noting out that he's been ready for the Junior Grand Prix, it's just his age. He could very much go for some more interesting costumes, which I think everyone will agree with me on. Especially in the short, it's all black except for this tiny part of the shirt.
Sam: It’s the Nathan Chen “Vera Wang” look.
Evie: Yeah, it’s Vera Wang!
Clara: He got Vera Wang’d.
Karly: It does nothing for the program, although I guess maybe they didn't want to distract from whatever it is he is doing on the ice. You know, whatever he finds himself doing.
Sam: Look, we've heard about this kid for years now. We haven't really seen him skate, but we've all heard his name. We know he has quads, we know he's supposed to be very talented and he is very young and I can't help but be unimpressed after watching him. I was expecting more, I was expecting better basics. I didn't necessarily need the musicality, because, again, he is a 13 year old boy, that's something that's not always there with them, because they're not really sure what they want to skate to at that point yet. But what I can’t excuse is poor posture. I can't excuse the prerotated triple Lutz, when we're also trying a quad Lutz. That shouldn't be happening. We should not be graduating up into a terrifying quad Lutz takeoff where we’re taking off with our entire blade and staying on the ice for a full half-rotation when we know that our triple Lutz technique is not there yet either. Especially when we are 13 years old and we probably maybe shouldn't be doing the stuff anyway, no matter how talented we are. For those who have not followed me on Twitter before, I am someone who is firmly against especially the Eteri Tutberidze girls from doing quads and lots of people have criticized that stance, saying “Well, why aren't you talking about Stephen? Why aren't you talking about Stephen?”. And my response always was: he's in a better training environment. I trust the people who are there with him more there than I do Eteri and I'm sorry to say that, but it's true. I just think that they have a better intention out for them and I still believe that. But after seeing that quad - if you can call it a quad, because it's really not, it should be dinged for an underrotation as much as somebody who lands quarter rotation short on a landing. It's something that's completely missed everywhere, it's not just Stephen, we'll talk more about prerotations later - but essentially what it is, is that your blade is still on the ice as you are already starting to rotate up, which shouldn't count. It's not a part of the rotation, you are not up in the air, you are not off the ice. And combine that with a full blade takeoff where you’re using your edge instead of your toepick to go down and vault yourself up - it's honestly, frankly inexcusable and I can't stand by it.
Evie: Yeah, it’s not like the judges are actively looking for prerotation and actually punishing the skaters that do have excessive prerotation, it’s just -
Sam: They don’t, and I’m not saying that - obviously this is something that they should be thinking about, because obviously nobody does it. I'm talking about from a safety standpoint. This is a 13 year old boy who does not have a good triple Lutz technique and we are sitting around and we are letting him try the quad Lutz before he is ready, despite the fact that he isn’t making it around and he is landing it. You know what I mean? And like I said, I do still trust them more than I trust Eteri, but…
Evie: It's disconcerting, definitely.
Sam: It's disappointing to say the least. Mixed with all of the other issues going on, again, the poor posture… For me, the short program - the music was a bit one-toned and it doesn't really help when you're not there, emoting-wise, to be able to pull that off. When you're staying at one level, there aren't natural rises and falls with the music, so it makes it a bit less engaging to begin with…
Clara: I sort of agree with Sam, I think to an extent he's just a victim of the hype that he's been the object of, we all had really high expectations… And again, as other people said, I don't want to be too down on him. He’s a Junior man, he's quadding. There's a bunch of stuff that we shouldn't be expecting to see at a Senior level yet, especially on the expression side. Yeah. The technique issues did surprise me a bit, even his Lutz edge is not clear, which, again, is surprising given his training environment… And then the programs... We all said: Vera Wang. I minded his short program costume less than his free, to be honest, because that was Vera Wang with screen printing, which was impossibly worse. (Hosts laugh). But yeah. “Run Boy Run” was fun, the rest of the expression wasn’t really there for me, there was lots of arm flinging, which you’ll hear me complain about later on as well. A lot of skaters are told to put in a certain arm movement and they just do it wildly, at speed, irrespective of what the actual mood of the music is and whether the movement should be sharp or soft, slow or quick, etc. - not a lot of thought goes into that sometimes.
Evie: Yeah. He is just a first-year Junior and hopefully these things are going to develop, but again the problems with the quad Lutz - technique wise, it is really disappointing to see. But on the bright side, his quad Salchow that he did in the free I thought was looking really solid, the height and distance he gets on it is fantastic.
Sam: And that’s an example of: yeah, he’s 13 and he’s doing a quad, but he’s 13 and he’s doing a quad correctly.
Sam: There's a world of difference between those two things.
Evie: Again, I much preferred the short to the free skate. I think he's definitely going to be one to watch for the rest of the season in terms of how he's going to develop.
Karly: Next we have the silver medalist Mitsuki Sumoto from Japan. Well what I have to say is that I didn't know much about him going into this event, but being small and being on team Japan means that you are now my child. I really liked his musicality and I liked his upper body movements in the choreography for both his short and his free and especially was a fan of his spins. I just like that he had a good spread eagle, because you don't see a lot of good - of those minor elements in Juniors, I've seen a lot of half-done Ina Bauers. Also as Sam will mention later, I caught the Michelle reference, which was very nice, with Tosca, which was his short. He had a nice dramatic costume for the short. Having mainly black - you can work with it, this is where Gogolev can learn. It had some nice, intricate detailing on the back and it was dramatic enough to fit with the program.
Sam: For me, admittedly, it was really hard to engage with his Tosca program just because - Michelle. The intensity in her opening is ingrained in my brain. So when you see somebody, unfortunately for Mitsuki, who’s not exactly the best at emoting, it's just a tiny bit of a letdown. That always happens with warhorses, you have this image of the program in your mind, so when somebody else does it you’re like: I want that, though. It's not a him problem, it's a me problem - but Michelle. Really though, he has improved a lot in his posture and carriage. Between him and Andrew Torgashev, easily the best skating skills in the event. He may not have the emoting ability yet but going back, he does have the ability to emote with his movement, which is something that I always appreciate, because not everybody's programs are matched to their music. His free was definitely the best performance of the night, and honestly he should have gotten first in the free program, because he was just on a completely different level, choreographically, than everybody else in that event who medaled.
Clara: Agreed. Lovely ease and flow, especially when he's going into his jumps, that was really noticeable. I actually kind of liked the slower Tosca, except it had really weird percussive sound effects in the background that confused me, but the change of tempo I liked. And yeah, as Kar mentioned, that FS costume was… not a great plan, this draped ombré kind of pyjama top thing, I don't know what's going on…
Evie: I feel like a lot of Mitsuki’s costumes from this season and last season just need to be taken in a little bit at the shoulders. It's the shoulders and arms that get me, they just make the whole thing look boxy.
Clara: Yeah, maybe you're right, maybe you’re right. But that aside, it was a lovely, lovely program, he did a fabulous job.
Evie: Definitely, it was my favorite performance of the night by far. I think he looked a lot more refined and relaxed - because he was at Asian Open a couple weeks ago, where he placed fourth at a Senior event, and now going back to a Junior event: he was looking a lot calmer and everything was looking really, really nice in comparison to a lot of the other competitors at the event. As other people have said, his skating style is a lot more refined and he's much more mature and his free skate completely won me over that night, it was just so good.
Clara: So then the bronze medalist, Daniel Grassl. This is his third JGP season but the first time he’s podiumed, so congratulations to him. I really enjoyed him actually, I don't think I saw him last season. But I did find him very compelling, he had really nice extensions, he had really nice spins - he gave me a donut spin which I don't get to see that often in the Men. I found him a bit less compelling in the free and with another shocking ombré drapey costume -
Kar: Oh, God, it was so bad.
Sam: For those of you who might not have seen it and are just listening in to catch up, it was basically Patrick Chan’s A Journey, but orange and purple.
Evie: It was certainly a look.
Clara: He also - he does this arm flinging thing again and also he has these really color contrasted, sparkly gloves he wears. He does drama hands, but he also has quite noticeably spread fingers or just very noticeable hand positions, which are made all the more noticeable when your gloves are black against the white ice, so that was kind of distracting for me. He has a few technical issues on jumps, he has a flip edge issue, he has a bit of a leg wrap - but I did really enjoy watching him, so I'm keen to see how those programs grow throughout the season.
Sam: I agree. He had issues. They were all very noticeable, everybody can see that he was hunched going into some of his jumps. For those that may not be all that keyed in on jump technique, he is also a prerotator, he also takes off not that well on his pick, just like Stephen does, but I think for me the difference between the two of them was that you could noticeably see that Daniel was trying. He was trying to perform out with the music, he was trying to project, and there was an earnestness there that I couldn't help but love despite all the basic issues that he has. Again, he needs to work on the lines, agree with Clara about the hands, they’re a little bit grabby, they kind of look like a claw, which is not always that great to see. You want your lines to be extended out and straight, to show off your extension and how beautiful they are. He's not there yet. He also kind of sits back on his heel when he’s skating and it can kind of look like he's rocking back and forth, but other than that, the programs were not that great, his quad Lutz was also not that great - again, hunch going in, he's got a leg wrap - which just means that his free leg is not completely tightened up into his support leg as he’s up in the air, so you can see a big gap and it looks like it's wrapping around the other leg, hence the “leg wrap” term - there very noticeably until about the third rotation and a half and then he lands - in the free skate here, he landed about half [a rotation] short and was directly on his blade with his legs still tangled together, which made him fall over pretty terrifyingly, it was not that fun to watch. But I really appreciated how much he was trying, it was very nice to see.
Karly: Exactly - like whatever else said, there was something compelling about him, even with all these basic issues. He did have some nice speed which is something I noticed, but for me his overall skating seemed very wild and I feel like it could use a bit more control, which is something he can gain over the years. I liked his short, I was not a fan of the free program, it seemed like the choreo was trying to be artistic and it just did not come off that way for me. And of course the costume is very distracting, but hey, the gloves did point out his drama hands, so there's something to look at.
Evie: For me, the number one thing was that his posture was really distracting for me, especially when he was about to take off for his jumps as it was very noticeably hunched over, and like Sam was saying with the quad Lutz technique, that was obviously a problem that kept being visible in my mind. I did actually enjoy his short program a lot. He has very intense facial expressions throughout both of his programs, almost angry, and that kind of emotion - it’s better than showing no emotion, so I’ll take what I can get. I'm excited to see what Daniel is going to do later in the season. He was at both Bratislava and Linz, so obviously with both of his placements we’re not going to see him at the Grand Prix Final, but maybe at World Juniors, later down the line, we’ll see him then, and it's exciting to think about how those programs are going to develop in that span of time.
Sam: One quick little discussion point that I want to hit on is the fact that, as we pointed out, Stephen Gogolev and Daniel Grassl have very similar issues. Like we said, they both have prerotation issues, their quad Lutzes are not great, they have poor posture and their skating skills are not all the way there yet. But there is a difference there and that difference is Stephen’s got everything going for him. He's got the big fed behind him, he's got one of the best coaching teams in the world to help him, he's young, he’s talented, and we've been hearing his name forever. We know who he is coming into this, we all have a sort of endearment to him naturally built-in and so do the judges, because, again, he's got every infrastructural advantage possible. When the judges see him and they see him doing those quads, they’re naturally more inclined to maybe give him a little bit more of the benefit of the doubt in comparison to somebody like Daniel, who, yes, is a little bit older, but he also comes from a small fed. He's not getting the same support, he doesn't have the team of coaches and choreographers there to help him and yet, frankly, sometimes we’d criticized him a little bit more naturally than we would somebody like Stephen and I was wondering is that fair? Should we then be more inclined to point out what's going on with Stephen and maybe give Daniel, not necessarily a little bit of a break, but also a little bit more of a nuanced perspective where we understand that he doesn't have every advantage? It’s not naturally built in, where everybody's telling him he's so talented. Maybe say, like, “Yeah, you have these posture issues, but I also see you there trying and I also see that you are giving me actually a little bit something more than somebody like Stephen, who’s having the book thrown at him because he landed three quads”.
Clara: Absolutely, I think you pointed out, Sam, about the skating skills scores and the PCS in general actually being a good reflection of that. So you see Mitsuki and Andrew, who had the highest skating skills scores for both the short and the long, actually, were sort of above 7 on average. Then Gogolev with a little less than that, on the short he got 6.64 to Mitsuki’s 7 and Torgashev’s 7.1 and then Grassl gets 6.2. Again, in the free skate, you've got Mitsuki and Andrew with 7.36 and 7.21, Gogolev with 7.07 and then Daniel half a point below at 6.54 - and I didn't see anything in their skating that would warrant that level of difference.
Sam: But not only that, Stephen’s skating skills jump almost half a point between the short and the free skate. What changes outside of the fact that he's doing three quads? His skating didn't magically get better in a day, it's still the same. Junior PCS isn’t scored correctly to begin with, they're all locked in to about that six, six and a half to eight point range. You’ll rarely see somebody get higher than an eight - which we’ll see with Camden, he just barely got it. But is that correct? Should there be a higher gap, because, like I said before, Mitsuki had the best program of the night. He didn't have the technical content that Stephen did, but he skated better. Should he have been awarded more in PCS based on what he did? Throw out that idea of Juniors can't score higher and give the correct gap in PCS that is actually there, because in these skating skills marks there's more than a half point difference between Stephen and Mitsuki. There isn't and there was less than a two-tenths distance between Daniel and Stephen. It just all goes back to, again, Stephen’s got everything. He's got everything going for him and it's kind of a little sad for me sometimes to see this kid. They're both super talented, they both are amazing for where they are, but Daniel’s not going to get what Stephen’s got. Ever. Never in his life - Carolina [Kostner] only got to where she was after years of work. The Carolina Kostner’s and the Javier Fernández’s are exceptional because they're rare, not because they happen every day. And we can sit around and we can say that skaters are going to get better with time and they're going to get musical and their basics are going to get better, but sometimes that doesn't happen and I feel like we need to really point them out when they do.
Evie: So, one of the standout performances other than the medalists at this event was Andrew Torgashev of the US. Andrew definitely is one of the Junior skaters in the field currently that has some really fantastic skating skills - his speed and flow and ice coverage are all exceptional, especially in comparison to a lot of other Junior skaters and, like, everyone else in this competition. You can see the difference in quality overall. I'm glad that he kept Moulin Rouge, his free skate from last season, especially since I don't think it really reached its potential last season. If you go back and watch his free skate from this competition, the last half of it completely pops off - it’s just crazy.
Clara: He also has beautiful edges and really reminds me of Patrick Chan.
Karly: It was just incredible to watch, it was so good. So now we’ll be introducing the Ice Dance medalists and with gold we have Elizaveta Khudaiberdieva and Nikita Nazarov from Russia. This is their second Junior Grand Prix season, they won silver last year at Junior Grand Prix Poland and bronze at Australia.
Sam: For me, I really like this team a lot. Both their programs had these really cool opening choreographic lifts that just match perfectly with the music, it was really nice. Her core is absolutely fantastic, especially in those lifts, she's nice and straight. She’s strong, you can obviously see that she's well controlled. She’s an incredible performer, she uses her body excellently to accentuate all the musical accents that are going on in both programs. The shimmies at the start of Humans in the free dance, while she's looking back at him as he’s skating forward, just got her hand on his shoulder, was just great - I loved the intensity in her face there too. He's good, but it's a support role to help her shine out and be the focal point - they’re really well matched though. The free dance cuts were not great - they felt like two completely distinct programs separated from each other. I did like the start of the Nemesis cut, though, where they're doing the pair’s spin, but then immediately right after that it's cutting straight to the bridge, it was not great.
Karly: Yeah, the music cuts were not nice. I did like the music for the rhythm dance, I just always approve of Tango Amore, which is a whole jam. And I love the beginning of the rhythm dance and just, like, how they placed their elements. I agree with Sam, she really impressed me overall throughout both the rhythm and free dance, which is usual for me in Ice Dance. I'm usually one who notices the girl more. Especially in the rhythm dance, her dress was absolutely gorgeous. It was beautifully stoned, it was made for a fun watch and I loved how beautiful it was, but he was just there, just letting her stand out. They did match well, but you want to get more of a balance in Ice Dance and also in Pairs. I know that Ice Dance is more about the guy showing off the girl, but you do want some balance.
Same: Not always! There are some teams where the guy is better, like [Gabriella] Papadakis and [Guillaume] Cizeron. Guillaume is the one you're watching.
Karly: Yeah, that's true.
Sam: I don't think I necessarily mind when somebody's standing out a bit more, especially when they're a better performer. I mean, if you can be there and you can do what you need to do to make them be the focal point and shine and be engaging, then go for it.
Evie: Definitely and I think that with Ice Dance especially that because of the roots that it has in ballroom dancing, where that's definitely one of the main things with the man dressed in darker or black clothing to really let the girl stand out and do all of the performance work, basically. That's one of the main key themes and it kind of does carry over especially into Junior Ice Dance, I find, where the girl is so much more expressive than the guy.
Clara: I agree with both of you, I really enjoyed their choreographic lifts at the start. I enjoyed their rotational lift even though they had a bit of stumble there and their straight line lift had an insane amount going on in the free. It was a bit messy here, but I'm excited - I hope I get to see them try it again. As everyone else said, I really love Elizaveta - she's 15 and he’s 20, so there's a massive age gap there. But you really can't tell from the point of view of her expressiveness or her maturity or anything else. Accented the music really well in the tango, I thought. Quite impressed by the levels on the pattern dance as well - I know nothing, but from their protocols I could tell that they did considerably better than anyone else. All I could tell was that they had nice edges. And then, yeah, just again - music cuts - terrible, particularly in the free where they decided to cut Benjamin Clementine mid-lyric to move to a completely different lyric, which is never recommended. But yeah, I really enjoyed them.
Karly: So now we have the Ice Dance silver medalists, Elizaveta Shanaeva and Devid Naryzhnyy.
Sam: This pair… Had some face going on with both of them. Really great commitment with their movements, tons of speed across the ice. Their edges weren't as deep as the other pair, but still very good quality. It's just that they're not pushing with their knee as much into the ice, so the flow isn't as great. But again, speed is incredible. The straight line lifts in both programs were really impressive. They were not matched to the music, which is a little bit of a letdown. Position change is nice, but when there's nothing going on with the music to match that position change, it kind of loses its effect a little bit for me. It's not the classic [Meryl] Davis and [Charlie] White, like, really athletic lifts mixed in with everything going around. When that music hits like with their Notre-Dame de Paris curve lift, where she is changing a position with each chime that goes on and it just captivates you instantly and you’re like ‘that's cool’. That's not happening here, that's okay. They’ll get there eventually, but for right now it's just not as impactful as it could be. They’re matched really well together, they're on par with each other in quality and performance ability. Like I said, performance ability is there in spades. I really like the Samson and Delilah remix, it was interesting. Definitely the kind of program that gets you hyped at 5 o’clock in the morning when you may not be completely awake, so I appreciated that. The high kick out of their twizzles was a very nice touch.
Karly: I very much agree with Sam, with serving face. It was - made their rhythm dance very fun to watch, because with tangos, you get a lot of opportunities to commit to the expression of the program. I will say their rhythm dance - to me it struck me as a little too saucy for the Junior scene and I think that really had to do with the mesh cuts in her dress. It's the same issue as all the plunging necklines we saw in the Junior men. I was like ‘this is not for the Junior scene’, but they were very dramatic and expressive and I really appreciated that commitment they had. And they seemed very close together throughout the programs and they had really nice speed and in their rhythm dance, their straight line lift which was, as Sam said, unmatched to the music, but it was very impressive, I really enjoyed.
Clara: Yeah, I love them as well. It’s their first Junior Grand Prix and I think their first international medal, so I think they're amazing, given that it's basically their first time out. I had a similar Victorian moment to Kar, except it was more about the opening pose with her between his legs, but then it got really reassuringly less saucy than I thought it was maybe going to be. I love Elizaveta - so much commitment as you both said, I really liked her dresses. Devid I think took a bit more of a traditional role in the rhythm dance as sort of a support and letting her shine in a very ballroom kind of way, but then I thought he really shone in the free dance, actually he was very expressive, he was really into it - you could tell he was having a good time, I really enjoyed that. Lifts, agree again with Sam and Kar, they were really good but weirdly placed with the music. And really liked their twizzles in the rhythm dance, even though they were slightly out of sync, but they were really fast I thought - I enjoyed that a lot.
Evie: I think that these two were definitely the standouts for me in this competition. Well, in the rhythm dance they were in the first group and they really just captured my attention right from the start. They both have really great chemistry with each other and they're both quite expressive. And like - especially since, yeah, this is their first Junior Grand Prix season and it’s their first medal, this is crazy. Their expression is definitely at a whole nother level compared to other teams that might have been on the circuit quite a bit longer, so it was really striking to me how good they were. And yeah, their Samson and Delilah free skate - right in the remix change halfway through just completely went off and I just really enjoyed it and, you know, as myself being the resident [Shiyue] Wang and [Xinyu] Liu Ice Dance stan, I'm a really big sucker for a really good straight line lift. Even if it didn't match the music, I just appreciated it. All the position changes were so nice and they held it fantastically and just, yeah, I think I'm definitely going to be looking out for them later on. And I hope that the Russian federation gives them a second Junior Grand Prix assignment, even though they just placed silver here so, yeah. I really enjoyed them a lot.
Karly: And now we have the bronze medalists in Eliana Gropman and Ian Somerville from the US. I personally didn't really have a lot of thoughts about this pair. They didn't really stand out that much to me. I will say their free dance was interesting, the music specifically was interesting to me, although I will say it was kind of boring.
Sam: Yeah, I agree on that front. It just lacked the maturity level, both choreographically and projecting wise or emotional wise as the other two teams. They have quality elements the same as them, there isn't that much of a gap between their skating skills and their elements as there is between the two Russians. It's just, it looks a little bit more immature, which is honestly a little bit strange, because Eliana and Ian have been doing the Junior Grand Prix a little bit longer than them. And it's also just really weird to see them all stand next to each other, because, like I said, they've been doing the Grand Prix longer, but they also look like they're 5 years younger than them. It could just be the fact that they just look so much younger, even though the programs really are not up to the same snuff as the Russians’. Yeah, they have the same issue with really interesting lifts, but maybe too many positions or change of position for a change of positions’ sake, that really didn’t serve much of a purpose outside of looking cool.
Clara: To Kar’s point, as the resident French person, I should probably say - they were skating to one our trademark weird-ass musicals called Mozart l’Opéra Rock. As Sam said, they were actually neater on their elements than some of the other teams, but yeah, I still found them less engaging, especially in the rhythm dance, where I didn’t think they were as successful from an expression perspective at sort of selling their performance. They weren’t moving as sharply as the other two teams were, etc. I did actually like them in the free dance a bit more, especially the first half of the weird Mozart musical that was a bit quirkier and more lyrical. They had a quietness that I thought went relatively well with that, but yeah, I gotta agree they were, for me, the least memorable of the medalists.
Evie: Yeah, I think that’s kind of a theme in both the Pairs and Ice Dance bronze medalists, that they were both the least memorable ones out of the bunch. It’s just, nothing about their performances really grabbed my attention. They’re a really talented team and their elements are looking really solid, but they just don't have that kind of ‘wow’ factor for me that really gets my attention.
Clara: And then in terms of the other teams who competed, the one that really stood out to us was [Loicia] Demougeot and [Theo] Le Mercier. So they’re a French team and they had this amazing ‘dad metal’ program set to a medley of Rage Against the Machine, Metallica and Steppenwolf. They had this kind of quiet cool fierceness that we didn't think worked that well in the rhythm dance but, oh boy, did it work in the free dance! And it was an awesome music choice, so I just thought that was really fun.
Sam: Moving on to the Ladies, we have miss Anna Shcherbakova in first place. She is an Eteri Tutberidze student, we have all seen her before. At the start of last season, there were lots of training videos being posted of her doing quad Lutzes and all various different kinds. Unfortunately, she did have a pretty bad leg break, so we didn't really get to see her much last season. I believe she did come back in time for Russian Nationals, but still very unfortunate. Here, she did not do a quad, but what she did do was showcase that despite the fact that she was given programs where she's never allowed to truly hold the position, she really can't hit a bad one. (Hosts laugh). She is just innately gifted with extension and loveliness that's unfortunately buried in some rushed bit of movements that, especially in the free skate, do not match her qualities. That program, especially, felt very heavy. It weighed her down a lot. Unfortunately made the fact that she has some tech issues much more noticeable, because you're not allowed to fully engaged with her, despite how talented she is in a performance aspect. Really start to notice that there are issues, despite the fact that it looks like she’s got a really quick snap up on her jumps and nice landings. Her takeoffs are not great, just like going back to the Men - this is a very similar issue where she is prerotating pretty heavily on her toe jumps. She does also have a bad leg wrap, and in this case, she also has something called a hammer toe, which essentially makes it - what it is, it's that instead of elongating your back leg out and subtly picking into the ice, you’re lifting your leg up pretty high and slamming it down so you can get your vault up, which is not the correct technique. Her Rippon position - which is a position in which, during a jump, you bring your arms straight up over your head and what you're supposed to do is really get them up there straight, so that your core, especially around your clavicle, is lifted up and it changes your center of gravity - is not the best. She's a little bit slouchy, so it's not giving the correct lift up that - it's supposed to make her jumps look bigger, because they are on the small side, you don't really get. She's relying on quick rotations to make it around, but it does also help create that snap that I was talking about earlier. And then again, because of the choreography, she's never truly allowed to just hold an edge out through a jump, so you can see the nice speed she could potentially be getting, but because she's constantly grabbing her back leg to, like, mime a spiral, because it's not a real spiral if you're not holding it, you never really get the full impression.
Karly: She's such a small skater, she's such a tiny girl and it kind of freaks me out sometimes. But she's very light and flowy or it seems like that would suit her best. Her small stature quickens her skating and her spins, so that was what really stood out to me. Her programs, and I think you mentioned this Sam, they seem to be very heavy and loaded with complex entries and exits to her jumps and her elements, and while it makes for a more technically difficult program, it just kind of seemed sort of overdone at some points. Her program, just like you said, seem very heavy and sometimes I just want to see the more simple beautiful elements done and letting her hold her positions.
Clara: Yeah, I mean, I agree with both of you. And it was a really good surprise for me actually - I didn't know that much about her outside of the quad Lutz combinations that we had seen on Twitter. But I was really taken with her maturity, her expression, especially given how young she is. I thought she was really graceful, really light, really musical, and that was showcased to a decent extent in the short, I thought. But it really, really wasn't in the free. I mean, I agree with both of you - there was a heaviness there, it was over full, it just wasn't letting her shine. Again, in a very typical Eteri way, I felt very, very full from a transitions perspective, very rushed, none of the positions held, which was a shame.
Evie: I really enjoyed her short program. I think the light and flowy style of the music really suited her style of skating. Yes, as you all have been saying, her free skate kind of got bogged down by the fact that it was so heavy in the transitions and just all of the elements. And I was so focused at the start of it, because obviously going into this event, as soon as we found out that Shcherbakova was going to be there, we were all like ‘is she going to attempt a quad Lutz, is she's going to be the first lady to land a quad Lutz in a competition, is she going to do it in combination?’ - you know, there was all those question marks - to the point that I wasn't even really focusing on her free skate itself or the program or the choreography. I was just looking out for the jump entries, because I’m like ‘is she going to do the quad Lutz?!’ and then as soon as she went in for the first combination and I was like ‘well, ok, that’s a reason to stop paying attention, I guess’.
Sam: And it didn’t help that afterwards you’re just so relieved, well, on my end, you're just so relieved it didn't happen that you just kind of check out and you’re just kind of on this high and you’re not really paying attention - what's going on?!
Evie: That is exactly what happened to me! As soon as she didn’t land it, it was just a ‘ahhh’ kind of breath of relief and then I just kind of forgot about everything else that happened in the program. And when I went back to rewatch it I was just like - the whole concept Daniil, the choreographer, has thought out for her really doesn't match her and her style of skating in the way that her short does. So I'm interested to see if this program will progress over the season, if the interpretation might change. Well obviously she won here, so the Russian federation will probably give her a second assignment later in the series. And I guess we'll have to see what the hell is going to happen with this program.
Clara: So let's move on to the silver medalist, Anna Tarusina. She had a really bad car accident at the JGP Courchevel in 2016, which basically kept her out of most competitions for the past two seasons. I think she at Russian Nats, but that was about it.
Sam: She's another one - she's got great performance quality. Hers is a bit less introspective and innately pretty than Shcherbakova’s is. She's a little bit more in-your-face, a little bit more naturally inclined to be bombastic, which is nice - I appreciate that just as much. She's another one that - her programs are relying on her arm movements and she's not really changing the level of her skating, so there's not a lot of vertical movement. So she's not, like, changing, like - ‘is she falling down near the ice, is she leaning into something a little bit differently?’, it's just kind of all staying at the same level and relying on an arm to accent the music, instead of another big gesture, which is something that I'm not really that much of a fan of. She's got the same tech issues as Shcherbakova, but her jumps are actually a little bit smaller and she's got a definite flutz. Don't believe she got called for it though, which is unfortunate, especially when you're right out of the gate and you’re already seeing judges not call the tech things that they should be calling. Her spins are really nice and she skates with confidence, which is especially nice to see after the car accident that Clara mentioned.
Karly: She wasn't as memorable to me as Shcherbakova or Young You, but I especially liked her spins. She had really nice positions, and as you said, it was really nice to see her after her accident, I'm glad she's back to skating. She seems like a really nice performer with the music she used, but she just wasn't very memorable overall to me.
Clara: Yeah, rinse and repeat what was said by you both. Very confident skater. Smaller jumps, but you know, confident and committed. I think it was more her programs letting her down than how she was performing them. Weird repeated and therefore invalidated spin right at the end of her free skate? I'm not sure what happened there.
Sam: Honestly, that really confused because I don't know how that happens - how does the skater just do the same spin twice when they know they're not supposed to?!
Evie: It was confusing when someone mentioned it and I was just like ‘wait did that actually happen?!’ and then I look at the protocols and I look back at the program and I go ‘yeah, that's a change-foot combination spin, two of the exact same ones!’, you don't see that happen very often, so yeah. I was sad that was kind of the most memorable thing for me, at least, the fact that she messed it up.
Sam: And then finally, rounding out the medalists is Young You from Korea. Her short program, guys.
Karly: It was so good.
Sam: Her short program is so cool and good and just perfect. She has shuffles on the music. She claps. It’s great! I love it!
Evie: Thank you Shae-Lynn Bourne for my life, once again!
Karly: Yeah, I owe Shae-Lynn my life.
Sam: Like I was saying, with Anna’s programs it's a little bit one level, there's not a lot of changing of plane going on. That's not the case with Young. She's got very varied movements that are matching speed, she's lifting her arm up in the twizzle, in her step sequence. The Ina Bauer is beautiful - she holds that position, man, and it is lovely. Didn't like the free skate as much. I didn't think it suited her that well. But she definitely tried to perform it and it was definitely noticeable that her posture and her carriage are just infinitely better than they were last year, because while I loved her Pirates of the Caribbean program, it was a little bit flaily, it was a little bit distracting. And that wasn't that bad here! Her jumps are really nice - she's got great height and flow out of them. She did have a couple issues on her Lutz, but it's okay, we'll get there! But yeah, I really, really enjoyed her earlier and I honestly wish she kind of had been in first place after the short despite the fact that she did get an edge call, but it was great. It was really great!
Karly: I very much agree with Sam about her expression and shuffles on the music and her claps. It was so exciting. I just love when they get into the program like that. So I love her expression and her musicality. Her short was killer. She seems to always be having fun when she skates and it leaves such a good impression on you when you watch her.
Clara: Yeah, I'm going to boringly agree with both of you again. Loved the short program. Shae-Lynn Bourne doing the most. Really committed to it, really expressive. Great highlighting of the musical accents. I love her jumps anyway, they’re massive. I really like her double Axel - I don’t know if we’re going to see a triple this season, I'm excited. We know that she has some issues with the flip and the Lutz so nothing surprising there. I guess we'll have to wait and see if Tom Z can do something about it. I am not going to get my hopes up. But yeah I just, I really enjoyed this, and even though for me as well the free skate was a little less successful, I just thought she did a fabulous job.
Evie: Yeah, a couple weeks ago Young was at a Junior Grand Prix qualifying event in Korea, I was kind of worried about what I saw there, because her speed and her flow and her overall skating quality seem to have dropped since I last saw her. And we found out afterward that her performances there were kind of hindered by personal family circumstances. And so going into this competition, I was kind of hoping that she would step it up and be a little bit like she was, like she was going to throw out stronger performances - which she did, you know - her short program won my heart immediately. That double Axel was just beautiful. Obviously she had the problems with, you know - her Lutz isn’t looking as great and her flip obviously with the edge calls. The free skate, My Fair Lady, I think, in comparison to how great the short was, it wasn’t as impactful. It was good, but it didn't have that kind of strong energy that Young really delivers. Yeah, this free skate to My Fair Lady - it was fine, I guess. I'm sure that I'll probably warm up to it as the season progresses.
Karly: My main shoutout goes to Tomoe Kawabata and her incredible Lutz - it was huge! And also her nice Yuna Kim tribute, it was very nice. But I'm not the biggest person with jump tech, but I could still tell that it was incredible.
- end segment - 1:01:15
JGP Cup of Austria
Evie: So we’re going to move on to the second Junior Grand Prix event for this episode, which is the Cup of Austria. We want to preface our discussions for this competition by saying that the livestream provided wasn't fantastic - it had a lot of issues in skipping and cutting out in sections. So especially in Dance and Pairs, we had some significant troubles when we were trying to watch it back. So if our discussions aren't quite as deep here, that's why. We’re sorry, but we had to run with what we were given by the ISU. So we're going to go straight on to the Pairs. Again, there was a complete Russian dominance of the podium. All 3 were from Russia and the winners were Polina Kostiukovich and Dmitrii Ialin. This is their second Junior Grand Prix season and last season they were the [Junior] World silver medalists. So I was actually a pretty big fan of both of their programs. I think their choreography at some points was kind of on the campier side. But the one thing that really sold it for me were their lifts - they were incredible. Everyone else's in the competition paled in comparison to them. The difficult entries and exits, the positions, the easiness in the changing of the positions and the speed at which they were traveling was just really awesome. I mean, they did have some underrotation issues on the jumps in the free skate, but they still managed to win by a massive margin. And I also found that their triple twist was also really big and just make me kind of gasp. Both their programs, I think, could use some work. I think out of the two I didn't really enjoy the free skate as much, which was a Cirque du Soleil one. But I think overall, they were definitely the stand out for me in terms of a full performance.
Karly: Yeah, I agree Evie saying their lifts were incredible, especially with the changing positions, and I really like their ending position for the free skate with a little upside down fist pump, which was cute. I also just wanna shoutout - she looks a lot younger than she is. That just stood out to me. But I guess being smaller would help. So I'm kind of here for the look that they had going on for both their short and their free, her bodysuits as well, they were matching. I would say that bodysuits can go either right or - it's either a good or a not good. And they were - they were okay here, but overall their lifts were what stood out to me and they were incredible.
Clara: Can’t agree on the bodysuits, it gave me massive Alina [Zagitova] “Afro Blue” flashbacks that I didn’t particularly enjoy.
Karly: And you never want flashbacks to that!
Sam: We can all just forget that it ever happened.
Clara: In general their free skate gave me “Afro Blue” flashbacks - the music, the choreo, the bodysuits, everything. But their “Survivor” program was great, I love Destiny's Child programs, even if they’re weird Tomb Raider remixes of Destiny’s Child songs. And as I think Evie said, their triple twists were very neat. The one in their free, before it was affected with the scale of values, got +4.4 trimmed average GOE. Which, considering we're in a Juniors competition where GOE doesn't really venture up above 3 was super impressive.
Evie: It’s not surprising that their triple twist gets such good height, considering they do have a quad twist, which they did do at Junior Worlds last season, but I don't think they've landed it with positive GOE before. But just looking at the height that they get on the triple, you can definitely tell that they can do a quad.
Clara: Yeah, no, it was gorgeous. Lifts were really good as well, lots of position changes. They were bit messy on the step sequence and especially on the final spin in the short program. And just a bit messy in general in the free on the choreo that wasn't the actual Pairs elements, but let's see if that changes over the course of the season, I guess. I would add that I had some comments about music in the free, but I see now actually that might have been the stream playing up again, because it looked like they finished skating 30 seconds after the music ended, so I have no idea what happened there.
Sam: Yeah, I think that was the biggest reason why I was not that into the free when I was going back and watching for my notes, because the audio is completely off with the picture and it doesn't match at all. Agree with the lifts, I especially love the one where he picks her up and they're facing each other and then he has her by the hips and he twists her around. That's great, I love that a lot. The short program - honestly, it really just made me think ‘why not just a skate to Destiny's Child instead of a cover?’, I would have preferred that. But yeah, their elements are great, she has a ton of charisma... He's there. (Laughs). I enjoyed it!
Evie: So for the silver medalists at this event we have Anastasia Poluianova and Dmitry Sopot, again of Russia. This is their second Junior Grand Prix season, they were 6th at the Junior Grand Prix Final last year.
Karly: So I was not a huge fan of this pair, to me they seemed very disconnected. I believe there was a small mistake in their short?
Evie: Yeah, there were two mistakes in the short. Anastasia fell and then Dmitry messed up his spin at the end.
Sam: Yeah, it was a camel spin. He was completely off going into it and then it almost looked like he was close to kicking her in the head after she fell, which was really tragic. I felt really bad.
Karly: They didn’t have a lot of sync and I didn't really see any chemistry, so it made for not very enjoyable programs from them. But, you know, Ted Barton voice - they have time to grow. Their costumes didn’t match at all, I will not go off on that tangent but it was just very annoying to me. There were two different shades of blue and I was not a fan.
Clara: His bodysuit in the free though, I feel like we need to talk about that.
Evie: Do we though? Do we?
Sam: I felt so bad for him. Here she is, in this gorgeous dress and they put him in that.
Evie: A grey bodysuit.
Clara: To agree with what Kar said, they had quite a tough short program and you could tell how disappointed they were after it. But I did really like the throw triple Salchow in it, I thought it was gorgeous. They also deservedly got - I think they got +4 trimmed average GOE before factoring. FS was competently enough done, though Dmitry had this quite cute moment where he was he was in the middle of a quite complicated reverse lift and had this, like, 2 second moment when he thought he might try one footed skating and then very quickly decided that actually was a bad idea.
Evie: I remember that! It was cute.
Sam: I thought they were very well matched together, especially at the beginning of the short program before she fell. She has great arms and a nice carriage and he does his best to match well. His posture isn't as good as hers is. But yeah, the short program was enjoyable like I said until the fall. The spread eagle into the death spiral was very nice. Money throws are my thing, so of course I’m loving that throw Salchow. The free was not great, I just found it to be quite boring all around, but again, that Ina Bauer out of the throw edge that she did. I think it was on their first throw, I can't remember which jump it was exactly, but she had a little bit of a low landing but then she just popped right out of it and rode that edge. The transition was really great into that Ina Bauer and I was just like ‘yes, you go girl, that’s what I’m looking for, do that!’.
Clara: And then Alina Pepeleva and Roman Pleshkov, who were the third, again, Russian pair team who got bronze skating to Blues for Klook in the short program. Which is, you know, I always like a Blues for Klook program - nice Dai [Daisuke Takahashi] and Lucinda [Ruh] tributes. But again they had a tough time. They did have a very nice throw triple Salchow, but they had issues on all of the other elements, on the twists, on the jump, on the step sequence, on the spin. So that was a bit disappointing for them and for us. Their free skate was the standard Edith Piaf warhorse medley, but they chose a different classic French singer to sing it, Yves Montand, which I guess gets them some originality points, maybe? But it still felt very classic. They had another really nice throw triple Salchow that stood out to me in that and some really good lifts. Compared to Anastasia and Dmitry, they did seem a bit more connected to each other, expressive, having a good time. But again, I think that there's room for them to grow into these programs over the course of the season, if they get the chance.
Evie: Yeah, I think the fall in the short program really let it down, because obviously Blues for Klook is a fantastic piece of music, and you could tell just from from the lead up right up until the fall, when they were going into the step sequence, that it was going to be really good. Even after the fall you could tell that the energy was still kind of there. So I'm really upset that that mistake happened, because I think I would have enjoyed the program more as a whole if the fall didn't happen, I think the program would have been great. Their throws are really, really solid, they’re super nice, I love the height and the distance that they cover. The free skate - the music choices were pretty snoozy and I found that they could get pretty far away from each other when they were doing their side-by-side elements and their sync in their jumps wasn't the greatest. It just might be a credit to the fact that this is their first Junior Grand Prix season and they're still a relatively new pair.
Sam: I actually like the beginning of their free quite a bit. I thought the skating and hold was really cute. It lost me during the “La vie en rose” cut and then immediately switching back to the first bit was not great. I didn't really understand why “La vie en rose” was there to begin with, but that throw Salchow at the end of the program caught me off-guard. I was not expecting it. It was huge, it was massive, I audibly gasped, because, again, I'm looking down, I'm writing something, and then all of a sudden I see out of the corner of my eye, she's like 10 feet in the air. It’s like ‘oh, okay, I see you now, this is great’. They were nice.
Karly: I will say, mentioning this was third, I was a little disappointed that the USA team messed up in their free so badly and lost their possible third place —
Sam: They were in second after the short, so they really moved down.
Evie: I really enjoyed [Laiken] Lockley and [Keenan] Prochnow, I really enjoyed their short program and then the fall on the side-by-side double Axel in the free and then the lift which just barely made it off the ground.
Sam: He just never got her weight over his hand and the minute it went up, it was not happening.
Karly: Now, going on to the Men's medalists. In gold - or in first place, we have Camden Pulkinen from the USA.
Evie: Camden’s such a beautiful skater. He’s just on totally another level in terms of skating skills. His speed and ice coverage and flow are all really strong and it just - it makes him so compelling to watch. His posture and his carriage and his extension on all the landings of the jumps is just perfect and I'm actually really enjoying both of his programs so far. For the short, Oblivion, I think it's a good choice for him, and for the free as well, for West Side Story. I think he was looking a bit tired halfway through the free, which isn’t uncommon with a lot of Juniors or with Camden for that matter, but I think the main thing is - I think he needs a new free skate costume that radiates a little bit less Canadian energy. (Hosts laugh).
Sam: No, no, no. Not Canadian energy. That isn’t an exact ripoff of Josh Farris’ Give Me Love costume, because that causes me pain. (Hosts laugh). It's literally the same costume and looking at it makes me cry. For those of you who may be new to skating and have never seen Josh Farris, please do yourself a favor and go watch Josh Farris’ short program from 2015 Four Continents and just appreciate the loveliness and the beauty and the majesty, because it is worth it. But Camden, please do not rip off Josh anymore. I love you, I love you to pieces, but I don't need to be crying hysterically every time I see you.
Evie: Both of his programs were really strong here. He did have some issues with the edge on his flip in the short. It looks just inside enough not to be called but that could just be the camera angle. It could have been on a flat [edge]. And then the one in the free was very clearly taken off from a flat [edge]. And that's just something that he's going to have to keep working on. Both of the programs at this point are looking really strong and shoutout to Stéphane Lambiel for some great choreography.
Sam: And Tom Dickson, who Camden regularly works with in Colorado Springs, which you can definitely help attribute all of his great posture and extension to him. It's very nice. For me, he's a big skater and not that he himself is physically big - he is broad and he does have that Patrick Chan look - but what it is is that he commands the ice when he stands there and you know that this is somebody you need to pay attention to and each movement has an intention, especially for me, which is especially important when you're not feeling the music, which I really wasn't in the free skate. I'm not the biggest fan of West Side Story. What I am a fan of is the lunge he did out of his triple Axel-triple toe on the “Maria” and then immediately following that up with this utter look of tenderness on his face on the next “Maria” as he’s slowing down that just matches the tone of the song perfectly. It's lovely, it's beautiful, he's better than most Senior men when it comes to musicality and presentation and his carriage. And it's absolutely beautiful and he should be getting 9s [in PCS].
Evie: And his triple Axel was looking so good at this competition, just the height and the distance. It was beautiful.
Sam: It’s so big. His Lutzes are huge, too. He definitely had an issue on every single Lutz at his competition. He had two step-outs in his free program, the solo at the end and the Lutz-euler-Salchow he had a step-out on as well. And then, in the short program, his Lutz was absolutely massive — I thought it was a quad at first, which it can't be a quad, you're not allowed to do a quad in the short program — but in my head it was like ‘oh, he’s doing a quad, that’s really cool, when’d he start doing that?’. Unfortunately, he landed a bit sideways on the toe and he was falling over to the right and had to put both hands down to completely support his weight, which was unfortunate.
Clara: Agree with what you both said. His skating skills are beautiful, he was joy to watch. I did notice, though — Shae-Lynn Bourne does amazing work, but it’s rarely noticeably Shae-Lynn Bourne. You can tell a Stéphane Lambiel choreo from a mile off. It’s hilarious to me. He leaves such a marked imprint on whatever he choreographs. I loved it for its intense Lambiel-ish-ness in the short. The other thing I noticed, again, there was some arm-flinging there that should have been slightly less flingy than it was, but he's beautiful.
Karly: He really shone in the free to me. Sam mentioned this with the “Maria” part, he really acted the part to the music, with the tenderness with “Maria” and the snapping and the sassy facial expressions at the beginning and it just made it a really fun to watch for me and I was really impressed.
Evie: The silver medalist of this event was Koshiro Shimada of Japan. This is his fourth Junior Grand Prix season and this is actually the first time that he’s ever medaled at an event [Correction: Koshiro had won a medal at a JGP event before, a bronze at JGP France in 2016-2017]. And I just have to say that I was completely stunned by him. Not only the fact that he’s grown a certain amount since we last saw him - he's so much taller than he was last season - but just the work that he's put into his skating is so noticeable. I almost didn't recognize his skating at all, coming off of last season. I was just so shocked by how much he's changed, improved and evolved. Stéphane and Team Champéry is really doing great things for him. Both of his programs are looking really solid. I especially really love the free skate to Winter in Buenos Aires. He throws himself into the music so much, his energy and facial expressions really match it perfectly and his spins are fantastic, because, you know, Stéphane, spins, that’s kind of given. It’s a shame about the time violation in the short. The results for that probably would have been a bit closer if that didn't happen. And like Camden, he also had issues with the edges on the flip, which both looked pretty damn flat in both the short and the free. But Koshiro completely stunned me at this event. It was great.
Sam: I agree. On the short front, I'm kind of over Benjamin Clementine. I find his singing style a little bit staccato and it's kind of jarring and it kind of loses its cool factor when everybody's doing it. With the free skate, I'm kind of over Piazzolla, a little bit. There's a lot of them this year. It’s not a Koshiro problem, it's just that he's everywhere. The improvement he has is just insane. His carriage isn't all the way there yet. He was trying to do this cool ballroom hold right at the end of his programs before his spins that he couldn't quite pull off, because he doesn't necessarily have the sturdiness and the strength to hold it yet. I think he can get there, especially when he's working with somebody like Lambiel. But I really love both of his programs. He was really engaging to see. Again, it’s that earnestness that you just can't help but be captivated by. On the jump front, his Axels are a little bit telegraphed, which isn’t necessarily my favorite thing, because if you notice my Twitter bio, I do say I'm an Axel stan there.
Clara: I agree with what you both said. I haven't seen him in previous seasons, but I was very impressed by his expression and his commitment here. Very lovely spins, so thank you Stéphane for those as well. I'm also slightly over Piazzolla, especially since Stéphane seems to be choreographing everyone to skate to him, as well. I'm not so much over Benjamin Clementine, I just wish not everyone had to skate to Nemesis. He's got loads of great songs, guys. Have an explore on Spotify. But I thought Koshiro did really well, I really enjoyed him.
Karly: I thought he did incredibly well. I agree with everything you guys have said. I adore his musicality and expression. He really was trying to feel the music for both of his programs and it improved the performance so much for me. He had his fast-paced movements when necessary, he had his elegant and nice movements when it was necessary and he had some nice new choreo, which I always love.
Sam: The little jumps he was doing during the chorus in the short program were very nice.
Karly: I loved those. They were nice and on the music and they just made it fun.
Evie: Moving on to the bronze medalist for this event. It was Roman Savosin from Russia. This is his third Junior Grand Prix season. He came fourth back in 2016 at the Junior Grand Prix Final in Marseille and he was actually at Bratislava two weekends ago [Correction: last weekend], where he finished fifth. I'm still totally not sold on either of his programs, to be honest, or his skating in general. It’s mainly that his jump technique really rubs me the wrong way.
Sam: It’s terrifying.
Karly: It’s horrible.
Evie: That leg-wrap is so jarring and all of my attention goes towards his jumps and I just can’t focus on anything else.
Sam: The full-blade takeoff on the toes physically hurts me.
Evie: Cringe, massive cringe.
Clara: The triple flip axis was pretty terrifying for me, as well. I did actually like his short program choreo. I’m probably in the minority. He had this kind of Spanish theme and it reminded me of a slightly too-hurried and over-full program that Javi [Fernández] might skate to. It had some unusual hand choreo moments, which I enjoyed. I thought he was decently expressive and committed, so well done him. And also, he had a spiral that for all that it was super short succeeded in not looking rushed. I'm not quite sure what magic he was working there, but those were the standouts for me, and as you both said, the jumps were not great, but he's had his two go’s. Let’s see if he manages to work on any of those issues before Junior Worlds, which is presumably the next time we'll see him.
Sam: And then we obviously also have to throw out a quick shout-out to Conrad Orzel from Canada. He was in first place after the short program. Very nice to see someone skate to Shawn Mendes. I like Shawn Mendes, he's a nice poppy thing to throw on the radio when you're driving somewhere in the summer. That said, though, the program was a little bit lacking in choreography until the step sequence. And he’s not exactly emoting. Was a shame about the free, to see him have so many issues with rotating his jumps, which unfortunately is what got him off the podium. Nice [Yuzuru] Hanyu reference there, Conrad. (Hosts laugh). He must be very inspired skating with him.
Clara: Moving onto the Ice Dance medalists. The top team was Sofia Shevchenko and Igor Eremenko from Russia. Again, really selling us on the tango. I was slightly uncomfortable and Victorian about this again, but I did really love both her dresses, mainly because I'm a joyless Grinch who hates sparkles and these did not have any. They were really cool and modern and Vera Wang, but in a really great way. His, on the other hand, not so much. But they really impressed me with their speed and their flow. They had great intensity. I really enjoyed their straight line lift in the rhythm dance and the rotational lift in the free and they were just really fierce. And for all that their free dance was slightly messy - it had a lot of different moods jammed in there - I did enjoy their choreo. It was very modern, it had a kind of street quality, she says, very uncomfortably and partially, but I don't know quite how to express it, but there was - there was something on there that I really like, that isn't the kind of modern contemporary dance that you’d get from a Papadakis and Cizeron, for example.
Evie: This team has really fantastic energy and their lifts are great, as well. That’s a really big thing in Russian dance and Junior dance at the moment. Their step sequence halfway through the free dance, I found, was so much fun. Clara, like you said, it was quite modern, and I love that they didn't struggle to keep up the intensity throughout the program. The speed and their performance all stayed constant, really high levels of energy, which is really impressive considering they’re Juniors and sometimes Juniors do struggle getting through programs in terms of stamina. But I was really impressed by them and I was glad to see them win here.
Sam: And then for me, her intensity was great. She will really bring it in everything she's doing. Her ponytail is awesome, I really like that. It moved really well. Their speed’s really good. They don't necessarily have the same flow as the first place team from the week before, but still. I did really enjoy the straight line lift in their rhythm dance. The position changes are excellent, especially the one where she's sitting across his lap with her legs crossed and looking up back over at the audience. I love that, the look on her face is just great. My issue with the program was it felt like they were going for these really big grand gestures that are strong. They try to pull off the [Tessa] Virtue and [Scott] Moir Moulin Rouge boom out of the twizzle. The issue was the music didn't quite have the same strength or boom-y-ness, so it's hard to be like ‘yes, we just did the thing!’ when the music is like ‘yeah, you did the thing’. The opening to the free dance was lovely. It had this nice airy quality to it. The music kind of reminded me of a video game called Shadow of the Colossus’ soundtrack, which is a great game. Play it if you can.
Clara: The silver medal pair were from Canada, for a change. That was Marjorie Lajoie and Zachary Lagha and they train in Gadbois. They were, I thought, really strong, actually. They were very in sync on the rhythm dance especially, that pair of twizzles, the unison was really on point. I found them quite compelling in their free dance especially. I found them quite moving. There was a lot of kneecap skating, which, as a Lambiel stan, I enjoy. I thought they were good. Maybe there was a bit less intensity in the expression than some of the other teams we saw, but I did find them really strong.
Evie: They were definitely a strong team, kind of what you’d expect from a team that trains with Gadbois. I really love their energy in the free dance. The opening especially was really striking and the stationary lift to begin was really fantastically done. The speed they got in the rotational lift in the free dance was crazy fast. I was getting dizzy just looking at it. It was insane. I wasn't really expecting it, either, because I found their lifts in the rhythm dance to be precise and good in position, but kind of boring. I just didn't find them as interesting as some other teams’ lifts.
Sam: For me, I thought their short performance was excellent. They both obviously have great quality there. The twizzles were cool, because it's a nice Davis and White reference with the hop into the two sets, which was their twizzle that they used to do all the time. I didn't really like the pattern music that much, but I did love all her little arm gestures to each intonation. That was really nice. For me, the free didn't really catch my eye that much. I couldn't help but sit back and think that I've seen this program and I've seen it done better by Papadakis and Cizeron with their Moonlight Sonata. It's a very similar quality, which I would rather just watch Papadakis and Cizeron than watch Marjorie and Zack, unfortunately. I did really like the slide into their twizzles, though. That was great.
Karly: I agree with you guys. I really like their performative energy in the rhythm dance. It was a very fun tango vibe. But I will say, he looked like he was wearing one of those sleeveless jackets in the rhythm dance. It just distracted me, because the whole time I was staring at this and I was like ‘what is tango about this?’, but I like the music they skated to. It was a fun tango and they just had a fun vibe overall and I really appreciated it. The free was nice. I also appreciate ‘I love me’ choreography.
Evie: And in the bronze medal position was Eva Kutz and Dmitrii Mikhailov of Russia. This is their second Junior Grand Prix season and their first time to medal at an event. I thought that their energy was really great overall. The music cuts in the free dance were a bit jarring at times, but that's kind of just common in juniors. But one thing I really did notice is that they’re so fast. Their speed and ice coverage in the steps is very noticeably fast in comparison to other teams and the one thing I did get stuck on with that is the fact that their combination spin, it didn't have that much speed in comparison to everything else. The positions were nice, but it was a bit jarring in comparison.
Clara: I completely agree with Evie. Junior Russian Ice Dance ladies have been a revelation to me so far. I love all of them. Eva is no exception. She was giving us so much face. They were so quick. I thought they had really good flow, really good expression in general. They looked like they were having a great time, which I always really appreciate, and the highlight for me was the first minute and a half of their free dance, they have this great curve lift and then a choreographic spin and I really love the beginning of that program. And I agree with Evie, the only note I had was that combination spin, which was noticeably slower than anything else they did for me.
Sam: For me, the best part of the entire Ice Dance event was their curve lift in the short program. It was just excellent, top to bottom. The music in that section is really great and it really lends itself to a position change, and they brought it, especially that last position when he's holding her kind of wedding style, not really, and she just shuffles her feet on the dun-dun-dun. I love that kind of little stuff, if you haven't figured that out already. Like I said, that rhythm dance was really great. Their speed is really good - again, doesn't necessarily have the same kind of refined-ness, I guess you would say. Everything comes across a little bit more scratchy some areas. With the free, I was just shocked somebody was skating to alt-J. I'm not really sure how somebody in Russia knew what alt-J was. I don't think many people here in the US know who alt-J is and they’re an English-speaking band, so that was really surprising. But they were by far my favorite out of the three teams. I love her. She was great. He was great. The intensity in his face at the start of the rhythm dance, where he's just staring out and then his arm shoots out and he’s looking down at her, that was great. He did something really similar in the free dance, where they're gliding forward and he shoots both of his arms out in a cross position. That was also really great. He has really good ability to hold a strength position. I really enjoyed that. They were my favorite.
Karly: I really like this team. Sam, I’m with you on noticing smaller details with the arm shooting out. I was like ‘oh my God, that happened’. I quite enjoyed their rhythm dance. Something about the rhythm dance overall that I noticed was every time a pair would come out, Ted would be like ‘skating their music to tango’. And it's like ‘what tango?’.
Evie: There’s a lot of tangos, Ted.
Karly: You get a tango, you get a tango.
Evie: Everybody gets a tango!
Sam: And finally, we have the Ladies at this event. Coming in first place was Alena Kostornaia, who is admittedly my favorite Eteri girl by far. Like Shcherbakova before her, she has this innate ability to just hit an excellent position. I just think her musicality is a little bit more mature and Daniil sometimes does in fact let her hold a position, which he does not do with Shcherbakova, especially in the short program. The first half of that short program is excellent. She really hits every accent lovely. Her arms are great, her carriage is great, but then the cut happens and it's not even really a cut, it's a pause, and she’s just kind of standing in the center of the ice and there's no music but she's moving her arms around, and you're sitting there like ‘why are we moving our arms around, what's going on?’.
Evie: I was so invested in the short program right up until that point, I was just thinking ‘what the hell was Daniil thinking with this pause?’, it just makes no sense. It completely threw me off. It was just awful.
Karly: In my notes I just kind of ignored it. I was like ‘well, I don't know what's going on here’.
Sam: And then it never really gets back to that ‘we know what's going on in the music’. Even in the step sequence, it’s kind of just like ‘oh, you're lovely, but I don't know what's happening. You’re lovely and I love you, but I don't get it’. (Hosts laugh). But the double Axel out of the Ina Bauer into a falling leaf in the short was just great. I love that, that was beautiful. She has a great drive up into the air, which is not something you see with Russians very often. Most Russian ladies especially do not have a great Axel technique, they just barely get up in the air and then they kind of curve it around because they're rotating so fast and it just lands like with no edge out and a little bit of a thud, but she's just soft and beautiful and lovely. We’ve seen her do a triple Axel out of steps over the off-season.
Evie: You can tell that it’s probably going to be added in later in the season, considering the double Axel’s the first in the short - in the free, I mean. It’s the first jump in the free.
Sam: Well, that could just be them trying to get the combo in the back end too.
Evie: Yeah, that too. But I just saw that and I thought immediately ‘oh, triple Axel maybe later in the season’.
Sam: But it was really nice. She is not immune to the Eteri jump issues, though. She gets a lot more height than Shcherbakova, but she is not prerotating any less than Shcherbakova. Her leg wrap is not as bad and she's got an obvious flutz. I don't believe it was called in the short at all. It should have been. It was there, it was obvious, and the difference in height between her Lutz and her flip is markedly noticeable. I'm kind of shocked the Lutz was so small after the flip was so big. And her Rippon is so lovely. She's got a very nice Rippon. Again, gets those arms straight up. And she does it a little bit differently. Most people actually try to grab both hands together but she actually hold on to her wrist, which I thought was interesting and that might be why she's not slouching as much as people usually do, because it's difficult for most people when they’re either doing a Tano or a Rippon to actually do it properly and get your arm straight. That was great. Her free skate sure was something.
Evie and Karly: It sure was.
Sam: I'm not really sure why we needed three different versions of Romeo and Juliet. I thought starting off with Kissing You at the beginning was weird. It felt like it was the middle of a program instead of the beginning of a program. I didn't find that very engaging. The inside spiral into the triple loop was just gorgeous. A-plus. She holds that so beautifully and just lovely, like - you don't see many held spirals coming out of that camp. It was great, but she's not immune from the unconnected rushed feeling, unfortunately, that Shcherbakova was. It’s not as bad, but it's still there in this program especially. Big nope to the voiceovers.
Evie: Oh, God, yeah.
Sam: We only want Leo as Jack, guys. We don't need any Romeos. And then the toe on her triple Salchow-triple toe was under and it was not called. It was noticeably under, even live, and I'm kind of baffled that they just let that go.
Evie: I agree with you on the voiceover in the free skate. It really annoyed me and especially after last season when both of Alyona’s programs were so strong and they were really standouts to me, especially in Eteri’s camp. This season is already paling in comparison to it.
Sam: The Adios Nonino program last year, she holds her Ina Bauer so long before she eventually goes up into the double Axel. And then this year, she's still holding it in the short program here for the Leftovers program, but in the free she's not. It's not even close and it's really unfortunate, because that's the thing that makes her stand out. And it's not there anymore.
Evie: It's a shame, because she's such a star. I really enjoy her skating. I’m having a hard time getting into both of these programs, because of the problems that we pointed out in it. It’s really sad to see that such a talented skater is getting bogged down with mid-level choreography. There are so many other great pieces that she could skate to. Why are you giving her just a plain standard Kissing You, Romeo and Juliet free skate?
Sam: Not only that, but Romeo and Juliet should have been a slam dunk for her.
Evie: Yeah, definitely.
Sam: That matches her perfectly and what she can do. It would have been, boring because who wants to see a Romeo and Juliet program in 2018, put that music to the side for a couple years maybe. But ugh, it could have been so good. It could have been and then they were like ‘nope, we’ve got three different versions going on’. It's like ‘no, Daniil, please pick one’.
Clara: I didn't even mind the medley so much. It's just that there was no - it comes back to what you were saying about Kissing You. There was no emotional coherency to it. By all means, use different bits of music, but have it build towards something. This was just really all over the place. I found it very confusing and as Evie said and you said, voiceovers are for mixed media installations in art galleries, not for skating programs.
Sam: Or Elena Radionova’s Titanic.
Clara: That too. That was successful. I really enjoyed her as well. She was beautiful, the double Axel out of the Ina Bauer in the short was wonderful. She has a maturity, an expression that is markedly above the level of a lot of the other skaters we saw at Linz and even though her programs did still feel rushed, they didn't feel quite as rushed or over-full as I'm used to seeing from the Eteri camp, so I guess with that low standard, she was really refreshing. I felt like there was so much time in her program.
Sam: And I credit that to how special she is, because even they can't be like ‘oh, we're going to give you the classic arms and fast movements’. There are places where they at least attempt to slow her down and show off just how lovely she is, which is not something you usually see from them, especially with Daniil’s choreography. I think the Anna Karenina he did for Evgenia was another great example of that, but I always chalked that up to being an exhibition. But he is trying with her in some places and I don't appreciate it necessarily, because it's not all the way there, but I am still very glad that there's some little bit of it left.
Clara: The only thing where I disagree is the short program. The mood change in the middle was incredibly jarring, definitely. I think she was selling it to me by the end, though. I had twenty seconds of intense confusion but then she was too lovely for me to care anymore.
Karly: I really feel what Clara just said. For the short program, I loved it, and I did have my moment of confusion where I was like ‘wait, what is going on?’, but other than that, it was absolutely lovely and I adored it. She looked very angelic and I definitely didn't get that overweighted feel that I got from Shcherbakova in Bratislava, which I really appreciate. I don't know if it was just chalking it up to her and her innate grace and her skating, but it was gorgeous.
Evie: Moving on to the silver medalist of this event. It was Alena Kanysheva, also from Russia. She was a really big surprise to me. This is her first Junior Grand Prix season and it's the first time she's appeared in an international event and I heard some hype about her
online before this event started, but I'm not really that in tune to the Russian Novice and Junior scene, so I didn't really know that much about her going in. And she completely surprised me in the best way possible. She has really excellent speed and flow into elements. Her posture’s fantastic, her spins are lovely, her toe jumps, there’s no prerotation at all. It was fantastic.
Sam: It’s so refreshing.
Evie: Both of the girls, her and Anna Kuzmenko of France, they’re both trained by Svetlana Panova. They both had really good technique on the toe jumps and I was just really happy to see that, especially since the track record going into this competition and throughout this competition wasn't stellar.
Sam: For me, I really enjoyed her. I did think she had a bit more of a Junior-ish quality, not just to her performance but the programs they had given her. It was a little bit more immature, especially after you’re watching Kostornaia, who just exudes this - I don’t know what the correct word, other than “mature-ness”, is. She’s clearly got it all naturally with that front. But Alena here, she definitely has that performance ability, but she does not quite have that Senior look to her just yet. Like I said, the jumps are just so refreshing to see after two weeks of looking at poor takeoffs. It's nice to be able to look at somebody and be like ‘I don't have to slow you down, you’re good, thank you, I love what you're doing here’. My one small critique is that in the free program, she has this moment in the step sequence where she does this really slow, shallow, butt-shelf-y spread eagle into a fan spiral that is not a fan spiral, because she just kind of holds her leg up and moves on, and that just really bothered me. (Hosts laugh). That just really bothered me. It was really noticeable and I was like ‘did we really need that? That does not look nice’. Wait until your spread eagle has speed and you can straighten out your back so your butt's not sticking out and then hold that position and then we can talk about this. But for right now, maybe not right now.
Clara: I agree with what you all said. She was very lovely and light in a way that sort of reminded me of Shcherbakova, actually. I agree with Sam, she doesn't project outward as successfully as some of the other ladies, or at least she's not emoting as overtly, so that makes her feel a bit younger, which is normal because she is, in fact, only 13, so she is very, very, terrifyingly young. The music is what kept me hooked in the SP, because of that sort of slightly more understated expression, but that meant that for the free, I was just less compelled. Jumps, as we said, a little smaller than some of the others’, but beautiful technique on the flip and the Lutz, which was really nice to see. My shout-out on the technique part goes to the the spiral bracket entrance into her double Axel in the short, which I thought was beautiful.
Evie: Going on to the bronze medalist, finally. It was Shiika Yoshioka of Japan. This is her first Junior Grand Prix season. Podiuming in her first event was pretty bloody good. I wasn't a huge fan of either of her programs. Even though I love Matilda the musical, I found the choice a bit odd for her for the short program, but - I did enjoy her expression, but I just thought it was a little overly campy at times. But her free program to Mission Cleopatra didn't really capture my attention, either. She’s a very strong skater, but both of her programs didn't highlight the strengths in her skating, in my opinion.
Sam: For me, the short program didn't make any sense. I wasn't really sure what was going on, because her dress is not Matilda at all. Matilda's like -
Evie: It was pretty “Loud”.
Sam: But Matilda has this - not to say street rat, but street rat quality to it, where it’s a little bit dirty, it's a little bit edgy despite the fact that it is about a young girl. There is this hard edge to her in some cases, especially in the way that the singer from the musical sings. It's got this toughness to it that I don't think she completely understood or whoever helped her package the program understood, so she's like ‘oh, this is really happy, exuberant music, so I'm going to be really happy and exuberant’, but it's missing the intent of the song. I’m with you with the free skate, as well. I just didn't find it particularly engaging and she was pretty slow on the step sequence when the music was a little bit faster than how she was moving. She also really doesn't work on her spins. Those can be a bit slow. But she was good. She was definitely enjoyable despite the packaging issues.
Clara: The short was really surprising to me, because that song in Matilda is sung by Matilda's mom, who is this loud, brash, quite Trumpian ex-ballroom dancer, and so the entire song is a satirical takedown of that particular worldview. I think they were just using it - I don’t know if it's a translation issue, but the way it was skated to I don't think any of the implicit sarcasm was being leveraged. They thought it sounded like a vaguely Latin kind of bop and that's the way she skated to it, was a bit weird. That being said, she was a lovely skater, good speed into her jumps, good edges, bit slow in the spins but I really enjoyed her. The other thing was the Mission Cleopatra music, which I found really surprising to hear from any skater, because it’s this cult French movie from the early nineties that no one outside of France has heard of. But then Evie pointed out to me that Miki Ando actually used bits of it in her Cleopatra program, so that's probably why that is there.
Evie: Miko Ando tributes!
Sam: I also believe that Elizaveta Tuktamysheva had a Cleopatra program to the same soundtrack for like a week during the 2016 Grand Prix. She did it once and then she dropped it.
Evie: As you do.
Clara: Check out the movie. It’s great fun. It was just a surprising choice.
Sam: Really quick shoutout to Ting Cui, who was very much a jumper last season at Junior Worlds. She's not anymore and it's great to see, especially after going to Tom Z, who is not exactly known for packaging and doing the artistic side of skating very well. He's very much interested in hammering down a layout and getting as much points as possible there as he can. So it was very, very surprising to see her carriage improved, her extension improved, her skating skills and flow improved, and I was shocked and excited. Unfortunately, she did have issues with some falls, but I loved it.
Evie: If you missed out on either Junior Grand Prix Bratislava or Linz, the entire events are available to watch on the ISU’s dedicated JGP Youtube channel. Just search for ISU Junior Grand Prix on Youtube and you’ll find all of the videos there.
-end segment 1:46:49-
Shout Out of the Week
Evie: So our Shout Out of the Week for this week goes to the DJ at the Junior Grand Prix Cup of Austria for laying down some sick Eurovision bops during the warm-ups and in between skaters. He was really on point with the music selection.
Clara: Yeah, and he was playing pop from the skaters' countries of origin, which I thought was awesome.
Evie: And, of course, another shout out has to go to the cameraman there at the Cup of Austria for not actually capturing the skaters’ feet at times - making our jobs collectively a lot harder.
-end segment 1:47:19-
Sam: Thank you for listening, we hope to see you again for our next episode which will be about the Junior Grand Prix events and the Challenger Series events happening over the next two weeks!
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Clara: and Clara. See you soon!