Episode 36 - JGP Riga Cup, Chelyabinsk, and Baltic Cup - Transcript


Transcription by Evie (@doubleflutz), Niamh (@rivrdance), Kat (@kattwts), Maryam (@luckyyloopss) and Janis (@janianovie)

Evie: You're In The Loop - we're here to discuss the ups, downs and sideways of the sport of figure skating, and maybe give you +5 GOE along the way. Let’s introduce this week's hosts. Hi, I’m Evie and every year I forget how bad and crowded September competitions are and every year I struggle through these 3 competition weekends. You can find me on Twitter @doubleflutz.

Kite: Hi, I’m Kite! I was really hoping to have a lazy weekend but I’d honestly rather be here yelling about my children. You can find me on Twitter @mossyzinc.

Sam: And I’m Sam! Honestly, I’m just happy to be here. You can find me @quadlutze with an E for edge call.

Evie: Woohoo, guys, we're 5 out of 7 Junior Grand Prixs down - which is crazy already.

Sam: It certainly doesn't feel like it.

Evie: Exactly, this series has already gone by so quickly. We only have two left and then the Junior Grand Prix Final. It's crazy to think about how in just a couple of weeks we'll be watching the Senior Grand Prix.

Kite: I don't want to think about it.

Sam: It doesn't exist yet!

Evie: We're just still focused on our children and today we're be going to be focusing on the middle three competitions in the series. There was Junior Grand Prix Riga from two weeks ago, Junior Grand Prix Chelyabinsk in Russia, and then Junior Grand Prix Gdansk in Poland, which was this weeks' one. So we're going to be covering three competitions this episode so hopefully, we'll get through them all without that much trouble.

Kite: We can do it, I have faith. So our team has been putting together playlists of all the notable performances that we liked to watch from all the Junior Grand Prixs. So you can pop on over to our YouTube channel and check those out if you're interested to see more.

START: Pairs

Evie: Alrighty, let's get started and let's go with talking about the Pairs. There were only two Pairs events in the three competitions that we're going to be covering. There was one in Russia last week and there was one in Poland this week and there's actually only one more to go in the whole series, as we all know that Pairs doesn't have as many showings because the field is very small. We're going to quickly run through the podiums and apologies in advance if we mess up the names!

Kite: We did our best!

Sam: There's a lot of syllables this week!

Evie: For the Russia podium we have, unsurprisingly, a Russian podium at the Russian Junior Grand Prix. In first place, we have Kseniia Akhanteva and Valerii Kolesov, in second, we have Iuliia Artemeva and Mikhail Nazarychev, and in third place, we have Diana Mukhametzianova and Ilya Mironov - and, again, all three Pairs on that podium were Russian. And then this weekend in Poland we had, in first place, Apollinariia Panfilova and Dmitry Rylov of Russia, in second, we have Kate Finster and Balazs Nagy of the US, and in third, we have Annika Hocke and Robert Kunkel of Germany. Phew!

Sam: Success!

Kite: You got through it.

Evie: Alright, should we go on to talk about the gold medallists at the Junior Grand Prix in Russia, Akhanteva and Kolesov? I wasn't completely surprised that they took the medal here considering they were probably the top team in the field. Honestly, I'm still not completely sold on their "Interstellar" Short [Program] which they've recycled from last season.

Kite: Yeah, I'm not really sold on it either, honestly. I like it that they're kind of trying to stray from the mold of the very Russian, classical Pairs, but the soft piano of the "Interstellar" soundtrack doesn't really seem to suit them because they're such powerful skaters. They have a lot of personality as a team and it's not the best vehicle for them to really distance themselves from the rest of the Russian field, in my opinion.

Sam: And it doesn't have as much growth performance-wise as you would want in a program that's been recycled. In all honesty, if I hadn't had to talk about them last year a couple of times and watched it multiple times, I probably wouldn't have remembered that it was a recycled program. They're still a little bit ungainly in their Step Sequence and a little bit smaller in the way that they're moving instead of elongating out and really filling the ice and it just doesn't look comfortable. Which is kind of concerning considering this is their fourth season on the [Junior] Grand Prix and they're still not ready to take another level up in performance. That's something you want to see as the years go by, on the lower levels, because that's where you should be learning how to do that. Especially with her because with Pairs, ideally, you want both skaters to be performing and projecting outwards. [Evie: Ideally!] Yeah, ideally. But if you really do not have that lady taking the stage and owning the ice, it's really difficult to get through a program sometimes.

Evie: I think that their Free Skate works a lot better for them, theme-wise. I think Pink Floyd, that kind of rocky style works with their skating a lot more. Although, I kind of wish that they used a different music cut for it because "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" can get a little repetitive if you listen to it for the whole 4 minutes straight. I would have liked to see them cut maybe a different song [into it] - doesn't necessarily have to be by Pink Floyd - but maybe something a bit more upbeat in the second half just to keep everyone's attention because I found myself kind of dragging off towards the latter half while watching it.

Kite: Yes, it does seem like they like the Free Skate a lot more and they're definitely performing to it more than they do in the Short. But I do want to see a little more expression on their faces when they're skating. It's kind of blank like they're going through the movements but they're not fully connecting to the music still and I'm like "You guys are skating to Pink Floyd! Wild out a little! It's okay!"

Sam: It's helpful that Pink Floyd has obvious musical beats that they can hit with all their elements, like the twist and throw flip to open the program with the combo sandwiched in is like perfectly all timed and it gives you a wow factor that they can't necessarily bring themselves with their skating, so that's helpful. But like you said, as the program goes on, it gets a little bit too monotonous and you can't really keep fully engaged.

Evie: Their side-by-side spins are still so nice though. I think that they have some of the best. [Sam: Oh yeah]

Kite: Yeah, I mean their elements - Russian Pairs elements, guys. Out of this world.

Sam: But their spins in general, they're world-class, better than most Seniors good. I remember that was the thing I wrote down last year when I saw them was just like "Oh wow, their spins are so in-sync and so fast! How are they doing this and nobody else can?"

Kite: I do like some of their choreographic elements and movements, like Kseniia's catch-foot lift positions where she twists herself into a donut in the air, I think it's really unique. I think, in general, even with their tech, there are some things that I'd like to see them improve on. I want her to get more height on the twist because it almost looks like she's crashing into him as she comes down, and also their throw jumps are a little scary because he kind of throws her out rather than up, so she's really struggling to get that last half rotation in. But her free leg extension coming out is gorgeous so got to look on the positives.

Sam: The running edge on the throw flip, especially, in the Free was gorgeous. That was great.

Evie: With their twist, they get good height on it, I just wish that she hit that split at the start more so she could get that level because that's a thing I've been seeing in the last couple of competitions, not just with this team but overall. A lot of the Russian Ladies in the Pair teams just haven't been getting that split and been losing out on those couple of marks for not getting the level 4's because of it and I'm just like "Guys, please! Extension! Splits, please!"

Kite: Russian Pairs elements, guys. I think it will definitely be interesting, looking forward, to see how they match up against Panfilova and Rylov at the Grand Prix Final because the top Junior Pairs title is definitely up for grabs now that [Anastasia] Mishina and [Alexander] Galliamov are moving up to Seniors.

Evie: I think maybe if Akhanteva and Kolesov were clean, they could pose a threat - but the likelihood of that, considering their last couple of competitions, is pretty low. Knowing Panfilova and Rylov's track record, I'd still give them the edge just because they usually are pretty consistent and they can hit everything and get those really high Grades of Execution. [Sam: And they've been breaking records] And they've been breaking records too! Alright, shall we go on to talk about our bronze medallists at Poland, Annika Hocke and Robert Kunkel of Germany, which was a little bit surprising, especially to see Annika there considering this is a brand-new partnership and we've seen her skate previously - including at the Olympics last year with her previous partner!

Kite: Yeah, I did not know that you could go from Seniors back to Juniors. That was news to me.

Sam: Small federation skaters tend to do that a lot, like last year Daniel Grassl went to Euros, Alexei Krasnozhon competed on the Senior Grand Prix but then went to Junior Worlds - it happens sometimes. My question is that why would you give a skater who previously went to the Olympics then had to take a season off and go back down to Juniors with her new partner a program with the song "Wasting My Young Years?"

(Hosts laugh)

Kite: Really just got to hammer it home.

Sam: That might be a little bit too appropriate!

Evie: A little bit too ironic, I think.

Sam: Yeah, but she's clearly not a Junior. It's so obvious when you watch her skate. It's a little bit like watching Yuna Shiraiwa at Junior Worlds last [season] where it's just like she's clearly on another level than everybody else around her and it's just so stark when you see her next to everybody else because she's so much taller. [Annika] has so much presence when she's standing there, I remember sitting there looking at her being like "I know her. Where do I know her from?" And I was like "Oh wait, she was a Senior!" It's so obvious.

Evie: Honestly though, it's kind of a smart choice for them to go back to the Junior Grand Prix just to get those international miles as a team. It's a good not too stressful place to rack up a couple of season's best scores and try out some programs. And hey, they podiumed here, they're going to be at Croatia next week where they do have a bit of a chance that they could podium then too so who knows what's going to happen.

Sam: Looking on to who has qualified for the Grand Prix Final and who could potentially qualify, Panfilova and Rylov with their win here at Gdansk have made it to the Final and Akhanteva and Kolesov qualified with their win at Russia. Looking ahead, [Alina] Pepeleva and [Roman] Pleshkov still have a shot despite having mistakes [at Gdansk,] and even though Finster and Nagy didn't have the best performance at Lake Placid, with their medal here they should be able to make it too. And then Annika Hocke and Robert Kunkel have Croatia coming up and if they medal there they have a shot to make it as well.

Evie: It's going to be interesting considering that we had a mostly Russian Junior Grand Prix Final, with the exception of the US team who had to withdraw during the Free Skate last year. It's interesting that we probably could have a little bit more variety at the Final. Especially with the podium at Gdansk, with the fact that we had two out of three non-Russians on the podium. It's going to be interesting to see what happens at Croatia next week - I mean, that's just a general thing, Croatia next week is going to be hell. Honestly, every field is freaking stacked!

Kite: What are you talking about? It's going to be great!

Evie: The Men is going to give me stroke, Kite! Everyone is there!

Kite: It'll be fun! We'll make it, maybe. Some of the Russian Pairs from last season did move up to Seniors this year, so I think there's a couple of spots that are open, potentially, for teams from other countries to kind of slip in.

Sam: Yeah, Pairs has been interesting for Juniors this year because Panfilova and Rylov have kind of cemented themselves as the top Pair and then everybody else is still jockeying for positions to try and fill out the medal positions. I would say that it's not as stacked with top teams this year.

Evie: Honestly, I was really expecting, during the off season I was already thinking "Oh yeah, [Polina] Kostiukovich and [Dmitrii] Ialin, this season is going to be their time to shine because Mishina and Galliamov aren't taking up that top spot in the Juniors anymore," and now that they've had to withdraw from their Junior Grand Prixs, it's just like "What's going on?" But I'm not upset that Panfilova and Rylov have taken that top spot.

Kite: Yeah, I am pleasantly surprised by them rising so quickly.

Sam: Their Pair elements are world-class and they're better than everybody else but it's nice to see a team that doesn't have their side-by-side jumps succeed in a major way. You can still not necessarily have the most technical ability in every single area but still excel.

-end segment- 12:26


Kite: So our Men's podiums for the last three weeks, in Riga, we had Andrei Mozalev from Russia, Sihyeong Lee from Korea, and Daniil Samsonov from Russa. In Russia, we had Petr Gummenik, Artur Danielian, and Ilya Yablokov - all from Russia. And then in Poland, we had Daniil Samsonov [of Russia], Yuma Kagiyama from Japan, and Daniel Grassl from Italy. A lot of Russian men! [Sam: Yeah!]

Evie: Can we talk about Daniil Samsonov, who was at two of the events, who podiumed at both and won one of them. Oh boy...

Kite: There were choices made.

Evie: It was a time.

Sam: Just to start off on some positives, he is genuinely an insanely talented for someone so small. [Kite: He's so small!] He's so quick and powerful, his jumps have so much pop to them - they don't necessarily get as much height but for his size they're big. He's genuinely nice to watch. He has great upper body movement, he's elegant with the way he moves. A little bit hurried because of the choreography but that's what you expect from Sambo 70, so that's not that surprising.

Evie: He's got really nice extension and lines and his spins are really nice too. I think he's very engaging.

Kite: Yeah, he has great upper body awareness for his age and for this being his first Junior season.

Sam: The Short Program especially is really nice but in some ways, I think that's more to do with the music because "Rain In Your Black Eyes" just builds so effectively and you can't help but pay attention to it. He's more choreographed to emotion rather than portraying it himself but he's 14 and that's not bad, pretty much everybody at this stage does that. But it's a good program - is it worth 87?

Kite: Without a quad? No.

Sam: Not even without a quad but 4 points better than everyone else? I'm not sure. Like I said, I think he's a really good skater and he deserves good GOE - I just don't know if he's deserving of +3 or +4 no matter what he does. And that's kind of what he was given here in Gdansk.

Evie: Yeah, looking in comparison to the way that the other Men were scored in the Short Program, his score definitely stands out as a bit of an outlier. Not just the fact that he won by quite a number of points but even his technical elements like he doesn't have the best Lutz - it's flat, borderline inside. He's not the only one in the field that has that problem, we had Yuma Kagiyama who also has edge problems on his Lutz and he actually got an edge warning in the Short Program for it. But Daniil, who had a similar kind of issue, didn't end up getting an edge warning on it and so didn't get any sort of reduction in the base value or GOE. So that obviously affected his score going in. Considering this is only his second international outing and he's fresh into Juniors, 87 seems a little bit excessive, in my books at least.

Sam: It's the kind of scoring inflation that you're used to in Ladies, but feels so out of place in Men. [Hosts laugh.] I can't remember the last time somebody jumped up that quickly into Men, and just kind of stamped themselves as the top guy, like that doesn't happen very often with the Men, and he made a jump from his first Grand Prix to his second that doesn't really make a lot of sense.

Evie: Yeah, to be fair he wasn't completely clean at Riga, and he wasn't clean here, in the Free Skate at least, but the Short Program score, and then the Free Skate score which is just a whole other basket of eggs - oh boy.

Kite: I feel like in the Free Skate, especially because he had that fall on the quad Lutz, and then Yuma [Kagiyama] was clean. [Sam: And it was called under.] I don't think he should have trailed Yuma in components, just by 0.5, especially with the fall; because with the fall, if there's major mistakes you have to start docking component scores, so I'm really confused as to what happened there.

Evie: Especially with the fact that Yuma landed 2 really nice quad toes.

Sam: Yuma wins all the technical component parts of PCS easily, versus Daniil. I think he has better skating skills, transitions is questionable because Sambo 70 again, that's their bread and butter.

Evie: Yeah, I would give Daniil the transitions.

Sam: But yeah, he wins the technical parts of PCS. I would say performance-wise, because they're both doing the similar thing of it's choreographed performance, it's not performance from like them; I would say that being close is fine with me, but honestly, I'm more concerned about the fact he won TES, when he had a fall on his only quad, and it was a healthy TES lead and then a healthy Free Skate lead and then a healthy overall lead, when he had technically less technical content, and he had a under-rotation and a fall. I honestly don't even know how to talk about it because I can't heads or tails about how it could possibly happen.

Evie: It doesn't make any kind of logical sense when you say it out loud.

Sam: Or even just looking at their protocols. You don't even have to really watch them skate, just looking at their protocols, you look at the two of them. Well, how does that check out? I don't understand how this is, and how that is first, and where the huge gap is in their skating, because Yuma's small too, but Yuma gets much more height on his jumps than Daniil does, and he has the best knees out of anybody in the Junior field, they're just absolutely incredible - yeah, I just don't get it.

Evie: I will say that with Daniil's Free Skate, I really kind of wish that they gave him two programs with different themes or different emotional themes. I know that he is brand new on the Junior scene, we're not expecting Senior level performances here, but giving him an avenue to explore maybe variety in expression would be nice to see. I mean, it's very Sambo to give us skaters that have the same kind of programs season after season after season, so I'm kind of worried on that front.

Sam: Especially when they're so young. They're so young and they're skating to such heavy, dark music and I just want to see you smile. I just want to see you have fun.

Evie: What's going to be interesting is looking at the way is scoring will change across the season, like if he skates to this level, or if he skates the Free Skate clean at a later event, how his scoring will change to reflect that. Considering how well he scored here, anything could happen.

Sam: It'll be interesting to see if this was just an outlier with the judges, or if this is how the judges as a whole see him. Sometimes that can happen, where you get a judging panel that's super lenient for whatever reason for a certain group of skaters and then they go to their next event, and they're back down at a level that you think would be acceptable or normal scoring range, so that will be interesting to see if this was just Gdansk and the final will be different or if Gdansk was just the beginning of where his potential is scoring wise.

Evie: Let's go back to Riga and talk about Sihyeong Lee of Korea who got a silver medal here! Korean men rising!

Kite: It's great, but also I realise that he's older than Jun, Jun Hwan Cha, which is really weird.

Evie: Oh my god. What the hell? What! I didn't know this. Kite!

Sam: Jun is the most interesting because he did one season of the Junior Grand Prix, then nope-d away after Junior Worlds, and bye guys! I'm going Senior.

Kite: He's like I'm going to the Olympics. See ya!

Evie: Bye!

Kite: Yeah, it was really bizarre to realise that. He's significantly older than the Russian Juniors, any of the Juniors - most of the Juniors, really. It definitely shows in his skating skills and his performance, his ice coverage, the use of his edges, his upper-body movement is phenomenal; it's leagues above the rest of the field in my opinion.

Evie: I'm just so happy to see how much he's improved in comparison to last season, because last season he was kind of lacking in the performance department; and his skating skills, while they were good, they weren't amazing out of this world. He's really stepped up a notch on the off season, you can tell he's been working really, really hard and I love to see that kind of rise, that difference from seeing how he did at Junior Worlds, how he did at Junior Grand Prix last season, now look. He's medaling here and he's doing much better. I love how he's throwing himself into his performances in both programs, and letting himself emote. He's less element focused than he used to be last season. I'm really excited for him.

Sam: He fills the ice. That's the thing about him. He's a lot taller than everyone else, and because he's older, he's used to being taller and because of that he can really let himself just smoothly glide across the ice and fill up the rink and own it in a way that a lot of Junior men can't because they're getting used to their height, or they're not tall enough yet to be able to do stuff like that, and as Kite was saying, his arms are just elegant. They're lovely. They're super controlled, he holds positions in them - the triple Axel in his Short Program was just chefs kiss. [Hosts laugh.] It was so good.

Kite: His edge jumps are definitely a lot nicer than his toe jumps - he has a bit of toe hammer that I would like to see him fix, or at least work on in the future. I think that would be his weaker point if I had to pick one for him is his [technique] still needing some polishing, but that said, when I heard he was skating to Andrew Lloyd Webber, I was like oh, here we go again, and then it wasn't Phantom of the Opera. [Evie laughs.] I was so pleasantly surprised. I was like wow I almost forgot he had other music, that wasn't Phantom of the Opera [Hosts laugh.] because that's all that skaters ever skate to.

Evie: Skaters are finally delving into the extended catalog of Andrew Lloyd Webber [Sam laughs.]

Sam: We get Phantom. We get “Memories” from Cats.

Evie: Honestly, where is the Andrew Lloyd Webber School of Rock program already.

Sam: Give us some Jesus Christ Superstar, bring that back.

Kite: Only if there's the bright yellow pants. It has to be skated to in like banana pants.

Sam: Yes. Yellow pants are required.

Evie. Yellow Pants. Speaking of outrageously tall Juniors, [Sam: and Phantom! Speaking of tall Juniors and Phantom!] can we talk about Petr Gumenik's growth spurt? Because this boy has grown up like a beanstalk.

Kite: He's literally like 6 inches taller than - so I saw him at Junior Grand Prix Final last year, and he was just like this little bean of a kid, and then I saw him here and I was like “Wait. He looks really familiar? I've seen that face before, but I don't recognise him because he's so tall.” It's ridiculous.

Evie: I saw a photo of the podium on twitter, and it didn't have their names on it, and I was literally like I do not know the gold medalist. Who is that boy? Who is that tall, leggy boy? Oh wait a second, that's Petr. Okay.

Sam; You can tell he's not used to his height yet. He's still skating a little bit like he's short, his strokes haven't really elongated yet and he isn't really sure what to do with his upper body, he's stuck in his awkward phase. It's going to get better, but right now, it's like oh, you're not used to this yet, are you hun?

Kite: Well, the thing is, when skaters grow a lot in the short period of time, they do seem kind of stiffer on the ice, or less comfortable bending into their knees because suddenly they have all this extra height that can come crashing down if they trip, but I think with Petr, that's not actually super pronounced, which is a good sign, I hope that he'll be able to hang on to his technical elements; but this is a problem he had last season as well that hasn't really been improved on too much that I'd like to see him get cover more ice during the steps, because he kind of confines the step sequence to maybe the middle half of the rink and then just doesn't really utilise the edges that much and I would like to see him get more ice coverage for sure. I do love me some drama hands, he is the king of drama hands this season.

Evie: I was so shocked to see the quad Lutz in his Free Skate, I was not expecting it. I know he was doing a quad [Salchow] last season, and it was nice but the quad Lutz. I mean, I think he's overall just better at edge jumps than toe jumps; they look a lot nicer, and his toe-picking isn't the best, it's not super clean. I was just a little surprised that he's adding that to the repertoire this season.

Kite: My thing about Petr's quad Lutz that kind of concerns me is that, I don't know if it was the camera angle or if it actually looks like this in real time, but it seems to go straight up in the air rather than across the air, and it doesn't really have a lot of coverage, which concerns me as far as his rotations go because he's still jumping like he's short and he can just kind of rely on being very small and light to rotate quickly before he lands and that's not going to work for him anymore.

Sam: The hardest thing when you've grown is re-adjusting your weight to strength ratio, that's always the hardest thing and it's always why everyone's jumps get a little messy after their growth spurt because they're used to being smaller and they have to build up muscle mass to get used to their own height, so it kind of seems like he's doing that thing where he's not necessarily aware yet of how much strength he needs to use, where he's at sometimes, he just needs to be using a bit more if he wants to get a bit more height, a bit more distance, because the rotational speed is never going to be same that it was when he was much smaller.

Evie: He is no longer the tiny boy.

Sam: Even his face looks so much older. He looks like he's 4 years older.

Kite: I know that person, who is that? He did struggle a little bit in the Free Skate, with his landings - a couple step outs. It seemed like he might've been nervous, skating in front of a home crowd. This is the first time really being out this season for him. It didn't look like it was a technical issue.

Evie: Okay, let's talk about the silver medalist here at Russia, Artur Danielian, who really surprised me because he's improved so much over the off season. I remember seeing him last season on the Junior Grand Prix. He's really matured into a really nice performer - he's outwardly emoting a lot more this season, which I really, really like to see. I'm really impressed by him.

Sam: The step sequence in his Short Program was like the perfect music for him, because he's so quick. It's the perfect vehicle for him to show that off, and show what his strengths are. He has great strength in his upper body movements, There's a little too many of them, but he's holding the positions still - he's not getting loose with his arms, just maybe tone it down with how many you do. It's a little too hurried, but not noodely, so that's good.

Kite: I think that's what made it seem a little fraily to me, was that it's a very faced paced program and he's trying to do all these arm movements in a very short period of time and so I would like to see him hold those positions longer.

Evie: Holding positions longer, please. The theme of this season.

Sam: Cut a few out and just let yourself breathe. That's generally the criticism for everyone's programs but especially with this, because he does have really good upper body strength with how he's moving - it's great, but a little too much.

Evie: I'm really happy to see the fact that last season, when he was still kind of new, whenever he was going into the entries of his jumps, the performance just kind of stopped which is very common with a lot of younger Junior skaters where they're pretty focused on getting their elements out and they stop emoting for a second just to make sure they squeak their jumps out. I'm really happy to see that isn't so much of an issue with his showings here. He really keeps on emoting and smiling even through going into his jumps. I really liked that. It's the small touches that make the program really nice and cohesive.

Kite: It's really nice when you can see improvement from season to season with Juniors.

Sam: Especially when it's obvious improvement. When you know you are seeing a skater take a leap, that's always so nice.

Evie: Looking towards the Junior Grand Prix Final, we have Daniil and Yuma - they both pretty much solidified themselves with a spot at the final which is pretty cool. Of course, as we've been saying, next week is Croatia there are a lot of people there, and there are alot of Men who could potentially qualify next week because we have Andrei Mozalev, Shun Sato, Artur Danielan, Sihyeong Lee, Stephen Gogolev, and Aleksa Rakic all there next week, which is going to be hell on my blood pressure. Then the weekend after, we also have a bunch of second assignments like Petr Gumennik and Daniel Grassl, oh boy. It's a mess. Trying to predict the men's assignments for the final are hell. Don't do it. [Kite: Don't do it.]

Sam: Basically, anything can happen.

-end segment- 29:02

START: Ice Dance

Evie: Alrighty. Should we head on to Ice Dance then?

Sam: Sounds good.

Evie: So, the podiums for Ice Dance are in Riga, we have Elizaveta Khudaiberdieva and Andrey Filatov of Russia in first. In second, we have Maria Kazakova and Georgy Reviya from Georgia. In third, Sofya Tyutyunina and Alexander Shustiskiy of Russia and then on the Junior Grand Prix Russia podium, we had Elizaveta Shanaeva and Devid Naryzhynyy of Russia. In second, we have Diana Davis and Gleb Smolkin, also of Russia and in third we have Nadiia Bashynska and Peter Beaumont of Canada. Lastly, in Poland, we have in first place, Avonley Nguyen and Vadym Kolesnik of the U.S. In second, we have Loicia Demougeot and Theo Le Mercier of France, and in third, we have Ekaterina Katashinskaia and Aleksander Vaskovich of Russia. Oh boy.

Kite: We did it.

Evie: Alright let's quickly just go over how the patterns are going. I said in the last episode when we were talking about Courchevel and Lake Placid -- it was kind of a rocky start in regards to pattern levels and maybe tea time foxtrot. It's new, not everyone is completely used to it - the skaters aren't used to it, the coaches aren't used to it. Everyone's kinda a little bit question mark on it. But it's really good to see that we've had, across the last couple of weeks, these last 3 competitions, we've had a steady incline in levels, which is really nice to see. It seems that everyone's getting a little bit more comfortable with the pattern. We still haven't had any 100% clean performances of it yet. We came close this week, although I think the tech panel may have been a little bit lenient in some cases when I've been reviewing some of the key points and going like, “Mmm, I don't know if I necessarily would've given that team that key point, but okay tech panel, you know best I suppose.” But yeah, it's good to see that the teams are getting into the stride of the pattern and the season. So hopefully in the next couple of events, we might see a clean performance of one -- possibly at the final or something. It's good! We like seeing improvement.

Kite: It seems like the panel is generally a lot nicer to the Juniors in terms of giving them the key points rather than the Seniors. Because at ACI last weekend, Piper [Gilles] and Paul [Poirier] got a level 1 on their pattern.

Evie: Levels were a mess at ACI in general. Let's think about Elizaveta [Khudaiberdieva] and Andrey [Filatov], our gold medalists at Riga. New partnership --

Sam: And this is no shade whatsoever, but Andrey might actually be a better partner for her than Nikita was because Nikita was a great skater, and he could skate with her, but he wasn't necessarily trying to perform with her. So in the rhythm dance especially, it was kind of like him moving her around to show her off instead of them both having a partnership and trying to project outward together.

Evie: Which honestly, I didn't have a problem with because Elizaveta is such a star that I was just like, “Yes, I don't mind looking at you for three minutes!”

Sam: It wasn't a problem, but then you see Andrey actually trying to get to her level, which is extremely difficult because like we said, she is just a talent when it comes to projection. But the fact that he's actually trying. She's not having to tone down her skating skill to be able to skate with him. They're really well matched together. I really enjoyed them, especially because there was a moment in their circular step sequence where he's holding onto her and she lowers down into a Besti and changes her position to elongate her legs out into a V while he's swinging her around and both position changes happen on the guitar note in the song. It's great. I loved it.

Kite: It's insane to me that they've only been together since May, since the off season started and they already have such great sync. They skate in hold super well. I agree, I think they're a better match for each other than Elizaveta and Nikita were. And I really love both of their programs, like I don't remember the last time I saw a team that had two programs that suited them so well. Usually one of them is a really good fit and the other one it's like eh, kinda seems like you're trying to dip your toe into the water a little bit. I just love the choreographic elements of their programs and Elizaveta has such an expressive dramatic face. And they really play it to their advantage; I love that they recognize that this is a strength of hers and that's what sets them apart from the rest of the field. And she's such a versatile performer. They really sell it.

Evie: When I saw that they were going to be skating to "La La Land" and "Sign of the Times," I was like, mm okay, you're gonna need to pull out all the stops to get me to like these programs because I'm just generally not a huge fan of either of those pieces of music. But I was really pleasantly surprised when I really enjoyed both of their programs. I think their basic skating skills, their lifts, just all of their elements are so nice and the fact that they express it really well, they really actively win you over -- I completely agree. I think this is a really really special team. Just the fact that they've only been skating for such a short time just makes me really excited to see how they're going to grow as a team. It just really bums me out that we're not gonna see them again on the Junior Grand Prix due to the injury.

Sam: Yeah, it sucks because they definitely would've made the Final and had a shot at definitely medaling, maybe even gold depending on how things shake out. Obviously Avonley [Nguyen] and Vadym [Kolesnik] have had the highest scores so far this season, but things always change when you actually have the top teams against each other with Ice Dance.

Evie: Also, their kiss & cries were so cute. Especially the Free Dance when they found out they won; Liza literally squealed! It was so high pitched!

Sam: Yeah, they were so nervous when they saw the second place in the Free Dance and then lost it when they found out they realized they were still first.

Evie: That was so cute. Let's talk about who actually ended up winning that Free Dance though - Maria Kazakova and Georgy Reviya of Georgia. Let's talk about the Free Dance because, oh my god, guys! How good was it?!

Sam: I'm sorry, but they win! They're skating to a Linkin Park cover -- it is a cover, but they're skating to "In the End" by Linkin Park! I have to say, I am a white girl who grew up surrounded by my older brother's white friends. That song is incredibly nostalgic, and they win the season for skating to it.

Kite: To the first rap section in the Free Dance, I was just super confused because it was during the steps and their steps were very smooth and I would've thought they were skating to some classical music. And then the second beat drop was so valid. I was bopping. I love seeing skaters have fun during their choreo. They were clearly enjoying themselves.

Sam: Their character step sequence is probably the most innovative thing I've seen all year. The cartwheel they do into the choreo lift where he's spinning her behind his head is so great. Then the straight line/rotational lift combo at the end of the program -- oh my god. It's so good, it's stunning.

Evie: I loved it. I love this program for them. Last season when they had that "Carmina Burana" Free Dance, I was kind of like, meh I didn't think the classical theme suited their style of skating. I think they're very powerful skaters and they suit more modern pieces of music much more than they do classical. So I was really excited to see that not only did they have a really edgy Free Dance choice, it really suited them and they pulled it off so well. This is only their first showing of the season! It just makes me think about how much this program is going to grow over the season. I'm just so excited for them. These are my new kids! I didn't adopt them last season, but now they've now officially been adopted; I've filed the paperwork!

Sam: I can admit, I didn't necessarily get them as a team last year. I saw that they were talented but every once in a while I look at their results and I was like, oh, I'm not sure if I would've had you as high there as the judges did. But this season I'm all in. They've sold me. I'm in. They're my favorites. Let's go.

Evie: Quick shout out during Riga for Natalie D'Alessandro and Bruce Waddell's Free Dance to "I Would Do Anything For Love," because: 1) It slapped. 2) That was just the craziest moment of, wait it is going to be THAT "I Would Do Anything For Love" or is it going to be a piano cover or something? And 3) It slapped. If you haven't watched it yet, go watch it already. It is SO good. And I'm honestly really upset they didn't medal.

Kite: Sorry, did it slap? I didn't quite get that.

Sam: Oh, Kite, it slaps.

Evie: It slapped.

Sam: It's so good. We had a lot of fun watching that.

Kite: In Russia, we had a bit of a surprise third place finisher - Nadiia Bashynska and Peter Beaumont from Canada.

Evie: They have broken the potato curse of Canadian teams. Although we had a potato medal here in Gdansk this week, so they did not break the curse, but they ended the streak.

Kite: I didn't really know anything about them before this season. I was really pleasantly surprised. I think especially Nadiia has really soft knees and she's not afraid to bend in in them so her skating has this very light, airy quality that I think is quite lovely and she has great upper body awareness. Like, especially her arms. In the rhythm dance the way she's moving her fingers to the music and the way she extends her arms - her arm choreo reminds me of a ballerina. I'm sure she's taken ballet lessons, it's very clear from the amount of awareness that she has. And she does have kind of long limbs, so they can appear gangly as worst if she doesn't control of what her arms and legs are doing. but she does reign it in. Definitely a nice surprise to see them do so well here.

Sam: They skate big, which is a huge separator at this stage. Some teams are a little bit smaller and can't get the ice coverage that they are. I will say that it is a little bit unfortunate that they are skating to "The King and I." Because while that is a classical musical that everybody knows, it is a classical musical that has not aged well, which is especially stark this season if you've been following some of the program choices people have made. So I wasn't necessarily thrilled to see that. But they're lovely. They're lovely skaters.

Evie: I was really surprised by their showings here considering, as you said, we've never really heard of them before. They're a brand new team on the Junior Grand Prix. I didn't really know what to expect going into watching them. Their twizzles in particular are really, really nice. Sometimes they can get a little bit wonky on the exits because they go so fast that I think they lose traction and wobble out of them a little bit, so that might be something they want to focus on polishing up in the later half of the season. And also the fact that sometimes they do disengage with the performance overall, especially during the step sequences, I found that Nadiia's facial expression dropped part way through and she was really focused on hitting her edges - which, they have really nice edges, they've got really solid skating skills. I just really want them to follow through and make it a whole, cohesive program. They do train with Carol Lane, so they're with skaters like Piper and Paul, who are masters at performance and expression. They're in good hands, in that case. So hopefully given time, they'll improve on that.

Kite: I definitely saw her channelling Piper Gilles a little bit with the very dramatic facial expression in the Short Program. But I think it did come across as a little bit campy, especially knowing the context of that music. I think maybe they can tone it down just a little. But I do appreciate them trying to engage with the music and I like how thematically different their rhythm dance and their Free Dance are, because the Free Dance is a lot more operatic and dramatic and heavy. I think it's a really clever choice for their team to start establishing that reputation of them being versatile skaters.

Evie: Going onto Gdansk, we wanted to talk about the silver medalists here, Loicia [Demougeot] and Theo [Le Mercier]. They were also the silver medalists back in week 1 in Courchevel, and they continued their silver streak with a second place finish here. What do we think about their "Carmen, but make it club" program, guys?

Kite: Listen, club Carmen is valid. I will die on this hill.

Sam: I mean, it's interesting, I'll give it that. I think the program itself though is a bit too cluttered they're always constantly moving and they're not really giving themselves a chance to breathe and show off, which is a common criticism for most skaters, Senior or Junior. So it's not that surprising. I will say though, I kind of wish she didn't go to the Tanith Belbin School of Costuming! (Kite and Evie laugh) For those who don't know, there's actually a rule about how much skin you can show because during a Latin season, Tanith Belbin decided that she was barely going to wear a dress. Which is a little bit not the best choice for a Junior skater who is young, like she is. So maybe put a little bit more cloth on. Just a little bit.

Evie: It's quite a lot of midriff, yeah.

Sam: Maybe not so low on the hip, and it'll be a little bit better. But I really like them. I just want them to slow it down a bit and take some of the movement out and just let it breathe.

Evie: Honestly, the program - I wasn't completely sold on it when I was watching it for the first couple times, until it got to the choreo character step sequence with the crazy movements to the music.

Sam: Yeah, like when they're right in front of the judges and the faces they're making? It's so funny.

Evie: It's so good. I love that kind of stuff. I was like, yeah this is fine, I'll watch it, it's not really engaging. But as soon as they started doing that I was like "okay, you've got my attention."

Sam: And I have to say, I do like her hair better in the ponytail, than down with the bun up on top that she had at Courchevel. It just looks nicer.

Evie: I think that they've definitely improved this season in comparison to last season with their expression. I think last season they were a little bit monotone throughout both of their programs. It's nice to see that they have variety in their rhythm dance, which is more jazzy and bluesy, versus their "classical" Free Dance.

Kite: I think a small nitpick - like a lot of Junior teams, they do tend to let their expression and performance kind of fall to the wayside, especially during the pattern in the rhythm dance since they're concentrating on getting their steps and levels so, in general I'd like to see them emote more throughout their program instead of being like oh, okay steps are over now we can really perform.

Evie: Honestly, I want them to bring back their Metallica Free Dance from last season.

Sam: Oh, that was great.

Kite: So looking forward to the Junior Grand Prix Final, Khudaiberdieva and Filatov unfortunately did withdraw from their second Junior Grand Prix assignment due to illness, which potentially leaves a spot open for another team to slip in, and also [Arina] Ushakova and [Maxim] Nekrasov who have not competed yet this season, but were slated to at the last two Junior Grand Prixs, withdrew as well. So it looks like at this point, [Elizaveta] Shanaeva and [Devid] Naryzhynyy are poised to be the top qualifying Russian team. And then Avonley and Vadym are the top qualifiers of the whole field going to Junior Grand Prix Final; they have two gold medals, one at Lake Placid and one in Poland.

Evie: And they've got the highest scores so far.

Kite: And then the French team Loicia [Demougeot] and Theo [Le Mercier] also qualified for the Junior Grand Prix Final with two silvers.

Sam: Didn’t Diana [Davis] and Gleb [Smolkin] get two silvers too?

Kite: They did, so they qualified too.

Evie: It's very interesting to see how the Junior Grand Prix Final field is going to be shaking up, especially with the withdrawals that we've had. I know that Maxim [Nekrasov] apparently had leg surgery over the summer.

Evie: Obviously some kind of healing processes aren’t going as well if they've had to withdraw, which is really sad. I really hope that they are able to take a little bit more time to get sorted for Maxim to recover a little bit, hopefully maybe come back for Russian Junior Nationals. Russian Junior Nats aren't usually until January, so they've got quite a lot of time to get themselves together, get their programs together, hopefully make a good case for them to potentially go to Junior Worlds. I think that if they managed to recover enough to be able to skate at the level that they did last season, they should have no problem making that argument that they should be on the team.

Sam: I feel like Ice Dance is a little bit like Pairs, not as bad this year. Bad's not the right word.

Kite: Chaotic?

Sam: Yeah, it's kind of similar in that there aren't as many top teams where you're like, "Oh yeah that's the team that's going to win here. These are the three placements, we know how the standings are shaking out." It's a little bit more up in the air there too. Not as bad (again I'm using bad); not as obvious as Pairs, but still there's a lot more movement going on this season than there was last season, I think.

Evie: Yeah, and that makes everything way more interesting to watch.

Sam: Yeah it does, and there's more variety of countries that are making podiums and cementing themselves. Last year, it was the top four Russians, Lajoie and Lagha, and Avonley and Vadym, and that was the field, where now there's a little bit more wiggle room with who is there and who is not.

Evie: Yeah, there's just a whole lot of shake-ups that make the current field really interesting to watch because you never really know what you're going to get. It's all really dependent on how everyone skates on that particular day. Definitely interesting.

-end segment- 46:37

START: Ladies

Sam: Alright, moving on to Ladies. Our podiums for Riga: we have Haein Lee of Korea, Daria Usacheva from Russia, Rino Matsuike of Japan. At Russia, we have Kamila Valieva, Kseniia Sinitsina, and Viktoria Vasilieva, Russia. And at Poland, we have Alysa Liu of the United States, Viktoria Vasilieva of Russia, and Anastasia Tarakanova of Russia. For qualifying, Kamila and Alysa both have made the final, they each have two golds. Viktoria is looking good to qualify with a silver and a bronze, and Anastasia has a chance with her two bronzes as well. Seoyeong could potentially make it with the silver and the fourth, and then there are people to come with Haein and Daria in Croatia, and Ksenia and Rino in Egna.

Evie: Yeah, I think the next couple of events are going to be interesting because the field isn't quite as deep as it has been in these last five events, so those last couple of spots are really up for grabs by anyone who manages to skate well it seems like. It's going to be a real interesting Junior Grand Prix Final, especially just looking at which countries are going to be there, considering the track record of

Sam: The Russians and the one outlier.

Evie: Five Russians and one outlier, yeah exactly. Last season, we had five Russians, one Korean skater, and the season before that we had five Russians and Rika. I guess this season is going to be a little bit more mixed up, which I am all for. I love seeing the fact that a lot of Ladies skaters are from a bunch of different countries, rising to the top. It makes everything a lot more interesting.

Sam: For sure. And looking onto the final, like we said, both Kamila and Alysa have qualified, which is especially interesting because you can tell that they're pushing each other despite the fact that they haven't competed against each other yet. With Kamila adding another quad to her Free Program, and Alysa deciding to attempt a triple Axel combo in the short, they're both obviously trying to maximize as much as they possibly can on technical content for when they eventually do meet each other later.

Kite: I would personally give Kamila the edge going into the Junior Grand Prix Final based on what has happened already. Obviously I can't say for sure what's going to happen if Alysa does end up adding a triple Axel in combo in the Short Program, which no other lady has done yet. That will be interesting to see, like how her scores change but I think with Kamila, it's pretty clear this season that the judges really like her. I saw in Russia, she scored 148 in the Free Skate and that was with a fall, and for me, she is the more compelling skater, just by Alysa having some issues with really projecting to the audience. She creates such a beautiful picture on the ice, she has those lines and extension and it seems really effortless. Her programs definitely aren't the best, but she does manage to integrate the jumps into the choreo pretty seamlessly in a way that I've yet to see from Alysa.

Sam: I think for me the only major difference is that I just find Alysa more enjoyable to watch when she's feeling herself and really trying to. There's a joy that comes from Alysa that Kamila just doesn't have when she skates. As beautiful as Kamila is, every once in a while I just can't help but feel a little bit sad watching her, which is not something you necessarily want even with some of her programs. You don't want to feel sadness coming from the skater themselves. Whereas with Alysa, she has the most charming smile you can imagine and she's just so happy to be there. But I would agree that technically, Kamila is a lot better and I would expect her, if everything shakes out clean, to have a pretty healthy lead.

Evie: Yeah, with Alysa, I think the fact that she tried to up her technical content in the Short Program in Poland, adding the triple Axel-triple toe, she did end up popping the triple Loop into a double Loop, which made her score sink down quite a bit in the short, which she made up for in the Free Skate. I think the fact that she was so focused on eeking out that triple Axel combination, her performance wasn't as compelling here, at least in my opinion, as it was in Lake Placid. She wasn't as outwardly projecting or as smiley as she was in Lake Placid. I think it was a little bit less compelling. She still did a really good job, all things considered.

Sam: Yeah, and I guess the placement of the triple Axel in the short was a little bit much, it didn't necessarily fit, and she took so much time to get into it. Alysa is not the fastest skater, especially when she's going into jumps, she tends to slow down, so it kind of takes away from what is normally a really compelling performance considering her age.

Evie: Yeah, and honestly, I don't really think that she needs the triple Axel-triple toe in the Short Program, considering the scores she gets when she's clean with just the triple Lutz-triple toe. I mean, it's all the same, having a technical edge, but the difference in base value between both layouts isn't very huge, and we've already seen that she can get those higher GOEs if she skates a clean short and she's able to get those higher scores. I don't necessarily think that this is the right choice going forward. I think it probably would be a little bit safer to stick with the lower-tech layout and have the higher possibility of skating clean, rather than upping the technical content and increasing the chance that she might not go clean, and might not be able to make up a gap later in the Free Skate.

Sam: Yeah, it all just depends. With Alysa, I'm not always worried about her not completing her jumps. She does them all the time. I guess I'm just hesitant for Juniors to be pushing boundaries that they don't necessarily need to. There's a reason why the triple Axel can only be done in combo in the short, and not as a solo jump, and I kind of wish that we just kept it that way.

Evie: Let's go into talking about the gold medalists here at Riga. Haein Lee from Korea. Woohoo! The first Korean lady to win a Junior Grand Prix since 2012, guys.

Sam: Korean skating rise.

Kite: I think with Haein, she's beautiful. Her skating is beautiful. Her awareness of her movement is really stunning for someone so young and her Free Skate, guys. That final step sequence.

Sam: Once Firedance kicks in, the whole thing kicks off and she sells the crap out of it. Before that, it kind of gets a little draggy during the Riverdance part, but the Firedance part is ughhh.

Evie: It pops off. As soon as she finishes her jumps, and lets herself relax a little bit, and go, "Okay, well all the jumps are out of the way, I can fully throw myself into this last step sequence and really emote." And you just see that smile on her face and it just immediately draws you in. It's just so good, it's really effective as a step sequence. I really loved her movements in it. Her movements in it are pretty fast, but they don't seem overly hurried or overly choreographed, in comparison to other programs we've seen where they're trying to hit every single musical accent and it can look a little bit all over the place. I think Haein does a really good job of using a lot of upper body movements but making it seem less flaily or more refined, and I really, really enjoy that.

Sam: She has super soft hands.

Kite: She does, yeah. She does have a little bit of a tendency to rush her steps and her movements, especially when the music is picking up and she's wanting to keep up with it. I would've slowed it down just a tad, to make sure she's getting all of her levels because it's really a shame when you see such a compelling step sequence that draws you in at the end it's a Level 3. I would like to see her not hop her steps. I would like to see her have a little more facial expressions. Like you said, she was really focusing on the jumps, so I definitely understand that, but once she opens up a little it, I want to see a little bit more of it on her face. And just generally some technical nitpicking, she does have a bit of a toe hammer. I want her to pay more attention to having more of a clean pick when she's going into her toe jumps, but great rotations, nice and tight, just want her to hold her landing edge a little bit more when she's coming out.

Evie: Honestly, I wasn't completely sold on her skating last season. I think that she wasn't really performing to the music as much as she could have last season, but she's definitely made massive improvements over the offseason and now here we're just trying to make an argument that she can compete for those top spots. I think that she's going to be in Croatia next week, and she is going to match up again with Daria, so I'm wondering how that's going to work out. Daria wasn't clean here in Riga, so it will be interesting to see if she goes clean next week, how the scores will line up with each other. It's just, in general, going to be really interesting. Let's go on to talk about our bronze medalist, Rino Matsuike, who is so far our only Japanese lady to make a JGP podium this time, which is strange.

Kite: Very, yes.

Sam: The last two seasons have been a little bit not what we're used to seeing when it comes to Japanese Ladies skaters medalling.

Kite: I was really pleasantly surprised with Rino's skating. She has the softest knees. All other federations please send your Ladies to Japan to teach them how to bend into their knees, because it's such a small thing, but it makes the skating so much more appealing and smooth.

Evie: Her knee action really reminds me of skaters like Shoma, which makes sense considering she trains with Mihoko, who is his ex-coach now - which is still weird to think about and weird to say. She's definitely got those kinds of really soft knees and ability to, even if the landings are a little bit shaky, still save them pretty easily just because she could put all that force and tension down and bending her knees and making sure that she's able to stabilize those landings, and carry it off really effortlessly which is really good to see. She carries herself like a skater that is much more mature, considering this is only her first Junior Grand Prix. She definitely skates like she's been competing for a while, if you know what I mean.

Sam: Yeah, she has a really good sense of timing when it comes to the choreography and her elements. She's also incredibly light, smooth as you can get, super airy, and just elegant, even if the music isn't the most engaging.

Evie: I wish they would give her some costumes with better illusion mesh.

Sam: We just really need to start a crowdfunding thing to get Juniors correct mesh. There's no reason a top skater should be going out there wearing orange mesh, that's completely wrong.

Evie: I'm wondering because it's Mihoko's camp, I'm wondering if she goes to the same costume designer as Mako Yamashita, who has also really tragic illusion mesh at some point. I would like to crowdfund some better mesh for them because it's really distracting when you see that kind of difference in skin tone in comparison to the illusion mesh. It really draws way from their performances because you're focusing so much on the fact that their mesh doesn't actually match the colour of their skin, or at least that's what I feel when I watch it.

Sam: You're right.

Evie: Should we go on to talking about Viktoria Vasilieva, who was our bronze medalist at Russia and our silver medalist at Poland, kind of cementing her place at the Final. Honestly, I was really kind of surprised to see that at both these events, she has really improved since last season. Last season, she didn't really sell me on her performances. I noticed that she has really good basic skating skills. Her jumps were kind of in the middle of the field, they're not terrible but I'll watch them. She didn't really sell me on her performances or programs last season, but I think, especially with her Short Program, which is “Tron” and “The Fifth Element” - that kind of darker, heavier, but also kind of fun music really suits her skating. And, honestly, her skating skills have improved so much since last season.

Sam: She's another one that is really using her knees and her legs to vault not only up in her jumps but like across the ice. It's really stark because that's a huge, huge differentiator at Juniors in the stages, like the skaters who are taking up on the ice and the skaters who are maybe a little bit more smaller. I will say it's an interesting choice not only to recycle the Free [to “Rondo Capriccioso”] but to then do "The Fifth Element" for your Short Program. So you have two programs with music that are done by two skaters, Alexandra Trusova and Anna Shcherbakova, who used that music previously so you can't help but compare it to these really famous skaters from your own country. That's a little bit tough, because you're always kind of stuck thinking about that but I will say the step sequence in the Short Program is better than what Trusova did in her Free Skate last year. Her skating skills are a little bit better. The movements are a little bit more controlled. I don't know if I think her projection is better because I do think that's where Victoria has problems is her projection and her performance still isn't like top levels. It's good, but not great. Like you said, she's getting better, but I would say it's a better choreographed piece than what Trusova did last year. But it's just weird, I don't know why you would want to draw that comparison in the stage.

Kite: I guess for me, nothing about her skating really stands out to me or sets her apart from the other Russian Juniors, but she is pretty consistent and she just deserves credit for that obviously. I think with her tech, like she does tend to rotate the second half of some of her triple-triple combos with her back, because she kind of does that swinging arm thing where she's really generating force from her upper back, so that does concern me a bit, but generally better tech than most of the Russian Juniors out there, so gotta give it to her.

Evie: Let's go on to Poland and to Tomoe Kawabata of Japan who finished in 5th. She did get on the podium in the Short Program, but unfortunately had some errors in the Free which caused her to drop down, which is really upsetting because I absolutely loved Tomoe. I love her skating so much.

Sam: There always has to be that one Junior skater that you can't help but love, but you know they can't skate a Free Skate, you know it's coming but it breaks your heart every single time. Last year, it was Camden [Pulkinen], this year, it's Tomoe. There's always that one, and it's just so unfortunate because she has the best Lutz technique period. Bar none, end of discussion. There's really no other way to think about it. It is beautiful, and it's so unfortunate to see, especially in the free you see her getting too close to the boards, and you're like, you're not going to be able to combo, you're not going to be able to combo, and then she does it and you're like oh, here we go again. You know if she just puts two programs together once, that'll be it, and she'll be off running but she'll just have to get over the hump and do it.

Kite: Her jumps are just so, so, so, so good, but like Sam said, I'm really concerned because she's been struggling with her Free Skates since last season, and it looks like it's really becoming like a mental block for her. Physically, she's trained for [it], she's capable of doing it, but then she gets out there, and it's just like she kind of freezes up and can't land her jumps. This ties into the larger theme for me of just generally being kind of concerned about the state of the Japanese Junior Ladies this Junior Grand Prix that they've only had one lady on a podium in five events, and generally there seem to be some issues going on with all of the Ladies that are on the Junior Grand Prix this season with them kind of struggling for one reason or another.

Evie: The fact that the top Junior lady last season Yuhana [Yokoi] has gone into Seniors because she's aged out of Juniors. Rion Sumiyoshi had to withdraw from her Junior Grand Prix because she broke her ankle a couple of weeks ago, and then we have a large portion of the Junior Grand Prix crop who are pretty inconsistent in competition, with skaters like Tomoe and Moe as well. We also have quite a large number of Japanese Juniors that are pretty brand new to the scene skaters, like Mana [Kawabe] and Azusa [Tanaka], this is their first Junior Grand Prix season, and they don't have the experience necessary to put together two compelling programs just yet. So yeah, Japanese Junior Ladies is just kind of all over the place right now and I am kind of concerned.

Kite: This is probably going to be the second year running that Japan doesn't have any Ladies in the Junior Grand Prix Final and I'm concerned.

Evie: We'll have to see how Rino does in her second assignment I guess and if she'll be able to make the party and bear and possibly get to the final. But yeah, it's definitely murky waters in regards to Japan qualifying some Junior Ladies, I guess.

Sam: Yeah, but it happens sometimes. We're just coming off a period where the Japanese Junior Men were having a bit of a downswing and now they came out and won the first two Grand Prixs easily. Sometimes it happens where there's a little bit of a lull and then the next generation comes up and they're back on top, so it's a little bit concerning but maybe not as concerning because we know the skating culture in Japan. It's fine, like there's no issues there. It's not like they're losing enrollment in skating. They're gonna be okay.

Evie: Okay, let's wrap up talking about Gdansk by going onto our bronze medalist, Anastasia Tarakanova who I think surprised a lot - well at least the judges surprised a lot of us with their scoring of her especially in the Free Skate.

Kite: I don't quite understand what happened with scoring here because she did have a completely clean Free Skate and by far the best tech of the top three Ladies at Gdansk, but she was quite low balled in grade of execution and maybe PCS to a lesser degree. I would personally put her at least three points above Alysa [Liu] and components, like maybe she doesn't really have the performance aspect of it down, but I think all the other categories of PCS, you could argue giving her significantly more, and you could see it on her face too in the kiss and cry and during the medal ceremony that she was pretty confused by her score. I was also quite confused to be honest. I didn't really know what was going through the judges heads when they scored her but it was unfortunate because she did have a much stronger Junior Grand Prix this year than she did last year, and it doesn't seem like she's being rewarded as much for it as she should be.

Evie: I don't know if this is maybe like an effect of a reputation thing because remember she did have a coaching change over the season during the off season, and she's gone through quite a lot in the last couple years. Obviously she used to train with Eteri Tutberidze at Sambo and then moved last season to Evgeni Plushenko's camp, and then in the off season, she's moved back to her original coach Svetlana Panova, and that's a lot of changes to go through in just a couple of years. I don't know necessarily if that her scoring could be an effect of the Russian Federation not sure if they can trust her to put out good performances considering all of that. I was definitely shocked to see her scores here and honestly, I think she has the right to be as confused as she was in the kiss and cry with those scores. I mean if I got those kind of scores in the Free Skate after skating like that, I would be outwardly confused as well.

Sam: I guess for me I agree with the scored isolation ,because I generally think that Juniors has kind of gotten off the rails the last couple of years when it comes to scores. Lady skating in general, the wheels kind of came off with scoring inflation all the way back in 2014, and I don't know necessarily know how to fix it at this point, but like in isolation, I think that was a fair score. The problem comes when you compare it to everybody else because yeah, her landings are a little bit tight and the jumps, but they're not any tighter than anybody else, it's not like many of the other skaters have gorgeous running edges coming out of their jumps. Yeah, her skating skills are good, but they're not like top-tier but like not many of the other skaters are either so it's confusing to see somebody get plus three in goe for the similar mistakes that she has and she's only getting plus ones in plus twos, and it's doubly confusing when you consider that she's benefited from that inflation in the past. In her first Junior season, she was winning easily until she got to the final when she had to go up against Kostornaia and Trusova, but before that she won her first Grand Prix pretty easily, that everybody's like, oh hey, here's one of the next ones coming up. I can see why she herself was confused, even if we had more scoring like that, we would be better off.

Kite: I think I'm generally, like Evie said, a little bit concerned for her because it did seem like the Russian feds politicking pretty hard for her when she was with Eteri and then even a little bit when she was Plushenko, and then she kind of struggled at the Final last year and didn't make it to Junior Worlds, and then have all those coaching changes and then suddenly they're like, well, maybe our attentions are better focused on like Kamila [Valieva], like some of the other rising Russian Juniors.

Evie: She definitely has a shot at qualifying for the final depending on how the next two events go so it's going to be very interesting to see how that goes in general. The next two events are going to be next week in Croatia. It's going to be really intense. I highly recommend anyone listening to this who hasn't really actively followed the competitions for the last five weeks in detail, I think if you were going to watch any competition, Croatia is probably the one to tune into just for the fact that all of the fields are pretty deep.

Kite: You want to just jump right into the deep end.

Evie: It's going to be a fun time. Go watch some hellfire.

-end segment- 1:08:53

START: Shout Out Of The Week

Kite: So our shout out of the week goes to the crowd at Chelyabinsk in Russia. The event was completely sold out weeks in advance. The Russian fans were super supportive, super excited about everybody, and you can really see how eager the Russian public is to support skating, which obviously we love to see here.

Evie: Honestly, I was so shocked when last week or the week before when Ted was going through the next events in the Junior Grand Prix, you know, running through the dates and stuff, and then he was like the event is all sold out, and I just basically did a spit take because I was like, excuse me, a Junior Grand Prix event that is completely sold out?

Sam: Not only a Junior Grand Prix that was completely sold out, but a Junior Grand Prix that was in an arena and sold out. Like most of the time they can barely get the recreational rings filled. Like this place was packed, at least probably like three thousand people. It was insane.

Evie: I was just so shocked and surprised, but it was so comforting to see all these people turn up to support these Junior skaters. That's the kind of support they need, because you look at the crowds at all the other events, and they have sparse to say the least at most times. You don't get a lot of people showing up to go see Junior Grand Prixs, which is sad because most of the time Junior Grand Prixs are either free to attend or basically like nothing. They're really affordable because the federations that are hosting them are either really small or they know that not that many people are going to actively want to go support Juniors unless they're family members of the skaters or extreme hardcore fans of Juniors. But yeah, just seeing that amazing crowd at Russia, it was so comforting. It was just, yes, support the children!

Kite: Russia's doing it right.

-end segment- 1:10:37

START: Outro

Sam: Thank you so much for listening! We hope to see you again for our next episode.

Kite: We'd like to thank our wonderful research team for putting this episode together. Obviously people transcribe and do quality control for this episode, and as always, Evie for editing all the audio and Gabb for designing our beautiful graphics.

Evie: Of course, thank you to Sam for stepping into this episode at the very last minute. We contacted her last night and asked her to host it with us, so thank you Sam.

Sam: Of course.

Evie: If you want to get in touch with us, please feel free to contact us via our website inthelopodcast.com or on Twitter or Tumblr and you can find our episodes on YouTube, iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher, and Spotify, anywhere podcasts are sold, you can find us.

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

Evie: You can find all the links to our social media pages and our ko-fi on the website.

Sam: If you're listening on iTunes, please, please consider leaving a rating and a review if you enjoyed the show. Thanks for listening. This has been Sam.

Evie: Evie.

Kite: And Kite. See you soon!

Sam: Bye guys.

Evie: Bye!