Kite: You're In The Loop! We're here to discuss the ups, downs, and sideways of the sport of figure skating, and maybe give +5 GOE along the way. Let's introduce this week's hosts:
Kite: Hi, I'm Kite, and I can't believe the Junior Grand Prix is over and the Senior Grand Prix starts in less than two weeks. You can find me on twitter @mossyzinc.
Evie: What's up, I'm Evie, and I'm back for the third time to yell about all my precious children. You can find me on twitter @doubleflutz.
Evie: Yay, we're back to talk about some more kids, woohoo!
Kite: It’s just the two of us this week.
Evie: Just the two of us here to talk about the last two Junior Grand Prix of this year, which are Croatia and Egna. We're going to be talking about all the things that happened in the two last Junior Grand Prix this season, and we know the qualifiers for the Final now! So we're going to be talking in depth about the match-ups and what we can expect, because there's going to be a lot, I think. It's going to be exciting.
Kite: It'll be great.
Evie: It'll be a time. Let's start off our discussion by talking about the Pairs, and I'm going to get through all of the names, really quickly, as fast as possible. There was only one last Pairs event, the last Pairs event was Croatia. The gold medalists are, we have: Iuliia Artemeva and Mikhail Nazarychev of Russia. In silver we have Diana Mukhametzianova and Ilya Mironov, also of Russia. And then with the bronze medal we have Annika Hocke and Robert Kunkel of Germany. Yeah, we've got our podium, woho! And actually, funnily enough, all three of these teams with their respective medals here qualified to the Final, which is fun times.
Kite: We definitely get to see them again, which will be exciting.
Evie: I don't think it was a surprise to anyone that this was the podium at this event.
Evie: Like most Junior Pairs competitions, the field was pretty shallow. I was just looking at the entries before, and I was like 'oh yeah, okay, well I know that these two Russians are probably going to make the podium, the third spot question mark question mark'.
Kite: Yeah, the Germans. They're a surprise this season, I think.
Evie: This event was obviously pretty small, considering it was a Junior Pairs event, but there's still things to talk about. I think in particular, one of the stand-outs for me at this event was actually probably watching Diana and Ilya's performances. During Chelyabinsk I was travelling, Kite you were travelling as well, we were both going places. I personally didn't have a lot of time to catch up with the Junior Grand Prix, and I blitzed through their performances, half-watching it, really quickly during Chelyabinsk. I watched all of Croatia Pairs live this time, so I actually sat down and watched their skating. And I was really, really surprised by them, because I really enjoyed their programs and their performances in general here. I think they're really a fun team.
Kite: Yeah, their short program was something special. I don't really know how I feel about it, it's very almost screamo-ey [??] 3:13 at some points.
Evie: Yeah, the music choice was so weird, but I didn't mind the fact that it was weird? They kind of pulled it off?
Kite: They're continuing the trend of Russian Pairs having very funky, weird music.
Evie: We had Jungle Russians last season, or Party Like A Russian from Mishina and Galliamov, their short program.
Kite: That was a great program.
Evie: That was a 10/10 program. And now we have this weird screamy folk music. I'm down. Their free skate was Chess as well. I really like the musical Chess. I'm upset we haven't had more rhythm dances to Chess, so this is a good placeholder program for that, I guess.
Kite: I loved that they committed so much to the aesthetic of Chess that they wore chess boards on their costumes.
Evie: It was, it really was chess boards! That is dedication. Dedication to the theme. I respect this.
Evie: But also the big elements were at first really shocking because they do a throw triple Lutz in both programs and then in the free skate they do side-by-side triple Lutzes and side-by-side triple flips. Which you don't really see at the Juniors or Seniors. So when I first saw it, I was like “Ooh wait a second, was that a Lutz? In Pairs? Okay?”
Kite: I don't really know about the history of Diana and Ilya, if they were in Singles before they paired up, but it's definitely something really rare to see.
Evie: Yeah, and it's a pretty smart move though. It's definitely more of a high risk/high reward gamble, on the fact that you're doing a bit more risky elements. But if they pull it off, they obviously can rack up more points than the other skaters. While they didn't get the gold here, they did win the short program, with not much of a lead over Artemeva and Nazarychev. Another interesting thing though was the fact that no skaters on the podium here got above a level two on the twist. And that's been a thing throughout this whole Junior Grand Prix season. I don't think I've seen a single Pairs team get a level four on the twist? Which is a little bit worrying. I'd like to personally see some better levels on this.
Kite: Wouldn't we all.
Evie: Maybe going into the Final, we'll get some. Speaking of the Final, let's talk about what the Pairs at the Junior Grand Prix Final is going to look like. Kite, did you want to say the qualifiers?
Evie: Okay! So qualifiers for the Pairs event at the Junior Grand Prix Final. We have:
[Apollinariia] Panfilova and [Dmitry] Rylov of Russia, [Iuliia] Artemeva and [Mikhail] Nazarychev also of Russia, [Kseniia] Akhanteva and [Valerii] Kolesov - guess what, Russia. [Diana] Mukhametzianova and [Ilya] Mironov - you won't believe this, but they are Russian. And we have [Annika] Hocke and [Robert] Kunkel, who are German. And last but not least we have [Alina] Pepeleva and [Roman] Pleshkov which, du-du-du-du-du - Russian!
Kite: You sounded almost so dejected when you said German. We were so close to having a Russian sweep. It is the same make-up as last year except instead of a US team, the German team. And remember, Kostiukovich and Ialin also sat out the Junior Grand Prix, otherwise it probably would have been an all-Russian Junior Grand Prix in Pairs. Which is completely unsurprising, at least to me.
Evie: Other feds really need to step up their Pairs game, in general. We rarely see non-Russian teams make the podium consistently, and that's pretty worrying looking at the future of the discipline. I know it's a lot of effort, especially for small federations or feds that might be more focusing on Singles, to get funding together or teams together. But guys, it's Pairs! Please!
Kite: Honestly, I'm not sure how much good it would do at this point for other feds. If they really wanted to challenge Russian, and to some extent Chinese, dominance in Pairs, because those two countries are just so far ahead since they've spent decades developing their Pairs fields and investing all these resources into them. Even if other feds wanted to try catching up now, I think it'd be a long time before they could even get to that level. I'm not really sure what they could do at this point. I don't necessarily blame them for being like “We might as well invest all of that energy into Dance, into Singles, since those are fields in which we have a better chance of winning.” But yeah, I would like to see more diversity in the Pairs field, in terms of nationality. And Chinese Pairs on the Junior Grand Prix did do decently this season, I think. There is a Chinese Pair who is third alternate for the Final, and Sui/Han obviously are the top Pairs team in the world right now, they're the reigning World Champions, so China definitely knows what they're doing with Pairs. It just would be nice if they could extend that more into Juniors.
Evie: Yeah, they've definitely got some really good talent in Juniors at the moment, obviously Wang/Jia who are the third alternates. But there's also a couple of teams that really caught my eye this season. Like Wang/Huang, I really really liked seeing them, they're very unpolished in terms of their elements right now, but they're a pretty new team. I look at them and I see something that once it's developed could really be... they could become a really stand-out team, and I really want to see how they grow in the next couple of seasons. That's me with a lot of Junior-y baby teams, I'm like “You're decent now, but in a couple of seasons, I'd really like to see where you can go from there.” But like what you said, Kite, about developing Pairs fields, it is definitely a difficult task for a lot of federations who are more focused on Singles. And funneling them into Singles, all the ones who can basically jump, going to Singles... Even if you have a couple of skaters that maybe can't jump as well as the others or might not be suited to going into training for international level events, you still don't necessarily want to siphon them off into Pairs, because that's a whole other set of infrastructure that needs to be built. You need coaches, you might need to send them abroad for training, you need to fund a whole bunch of programs for them. It's a lot, it's a lot to commit. And I can see why a lot of feds don't do it, but at the same time, it's like 'you guys could really, if you built up a Pairs team, you could send them to Worlds, you could send them to Four Continents or Euros, if you built up at least one you could even qualify for the Olympics' and we've seen that with smaller feds, getting Pairs teams and qualifying for events.
Kite: Just going briefly into the infrastructure that you mentioned, I know in Russia the figure skating community and teams, all the competitors are very nationalized from a young age. You do have people actively watching these young skaters. You usually start out in Singles, and then putting them in Pairs or Dance when it seems like they're maybe struggling with their jumps or they're not as gifted jumpers. And that's how you start developing these Pairs teams from a really young age, whereas in the US or in other countries that aren't like Russia and China, you probably don't see that as much, where it's more based on how the skater feels about their performance and competing at Singles versus as a team. There's a lot more top-down infrastructure in Russia and China, I think, to where you can start really strategically pairing up these skaters who might've started out in Singles and then transforming them into Pairs champions.
Evie: But definitely, looking into the Final, it's not surprising that Panfilova and Rylov are pretty much the clear favorites to win here. Personally, I can't see them not coming out with the gold just based on their record of consistency. Not just throughout this Junior Grand Prix season, but all through last year as well. Unless they have a serious mistake-
Kite: Even then. Honestly, when did Pairs become the least stressful discipline? With regards to predictions. This is a walk in the park compared to any of the other disciplines. RusFed is clearly putting their eggs in the Panfilova/Rylov basket. I think it definitely comes with the caveat that Panfilova/Rylov are going to need their side-by-side triples once they turn Seniors, which I would expect to be probably next season. I don't know how much more they can do in Juniors after winning both of their events. They're probably going to win the Final and it seems like the logical next step for them to be Seniors next season.
Evie: Especially considering next season is going to be Olympic qualification season.
Kite: Oh, don't say that.
Evie: Okay, listen. They're probably going to be looking to try to make a case to themselves to get on that Beijing Olympic team. Even though they're a fresher Pair. If they manage to get consistent side-by-side triples by next season, I could easily see them potentially vying for one of those Pairs spots. Maybe!
Kite: Maybe. Yeah. I think it's definitely too soon to say, but there's at least probably 4-5 Pairs teams who I would give the advantage to over them, at this point. I know it's very early to be making any predictions about the Olympic team, based on what we've seen so far. That said, this is definitely the season for Panfilova and Rylov to start racking up some wins on the Junior curcuit, and to roll out new tech. If they're so inclined to do so, because the absence of [Anastasia] Mishina and [Alexander] Galliamov in Juniors has really thinned out the Russian Junior field pretty considerably, and I think that Panfilova and Rylov no longer have rivals breathing down their necks and chasing them. They should feel more comfortable taking risks this season, knowing they're clear front-runners, and hopefully getting comfortable with upping their tech and making a strong case for themselves to be a top Senior team as well.
Evie: Yeah, especially if [Polina] Kostiukovich and [Dmitrii] Ialin make their comeback at Russian Junior Nationals or if they get a spot on the Junior Worlds team, if Panfilova and Rylov have that track record of medaling and getting these really good scores, that means that even if Kostiukovich and Ialin do decently well, they could still argue to be placed at the same level or above them. Which would do wonders for them personally. The problem is that everyone else who is qualified is either a pretty young team, or they're just wildly inconsistent. Especially with skaters like Akhanteva and Kolesov, and Pepeleva and Pleshkov. They have the goods, but they're just so unpredictable as to whether or not they're going to skate close to clean on any given day. That really hurts not just their medaling chances, but it hurts their scores overall in the season, because they don't have those track records of skating close to clean multiple times.
Kite: I do think that the possibility for a Russian sweep of the podium, there's a pretty high chance of it happening like last season. I fully expect, or I don't fully expect, but I think that the podium will probably be the same order as the qualifiers barring any major mistakes from the top three going in.
Evie: Yeah, I think maybe that Annika and Robert could potentially make an argument for the podium here at the Final, if they skated clean, because as we've said before, they skate like they're Seniors, they don't seem like Juniors. Their performance, their interpretation, and just their overall basic skating skills are really really strong, enough to get those higher PCS marks. I think that if they were clean, they could definitely make an argument for them to be on the podium. Bronze or silver maybe. There's definitely an opening there for them. And that would be interesting, to have a non-completely Russian Junior Grand Prix Final podium.
-end segment- 14:35
Evie: Shall we talk about some Men?
Kite: I guess... So for the Men, in the podiums. In Croatia, we had Andrei Mozalev of Russia in first, Artur Danielian of Russia in second, and Shun Sato of Japan in third. In Egna, we had Daniel Grassl of Italy in first, Petr Gumennik of Russia in second, and Ivan Shmuratko of Ukraine in third.
Evie: So, as we kind of predicted, Croatia was a little bit hellish.
Kite: But it wasn't entirely on the skaters, it wasn't because the field because so wild. It was possibly the ice was bad?
Evie: Yeah, I noticed during the Free Skate that a lot of the time when people were landing that there was a significant amount of ice spray, more than you would see normally, and you could see at the edges of the rink the ice was starting to slush up and build up. I was really worried about that because everyone was kind of dying in the Free here and I was like "Oh god, is there an ice issue?" I didn't notice any [ice] problems in the other disciplines, so it might have just been that particular day and that time that they were issues but I was just like, "Oh god, this is making this already stressful competition a billion times more stressful!"
Kite: Come on, guys. Ice problems is a thing for the Senior Grand Prix! The Juniors are supposed to do a better job.
Evie: It's a thing for IDF!
Kite: Yeah, exactly.
Evie: But Croatia, the field was so stacked and it was definitely an up and down sort of competition. We had a lot of changes from the Short to the Free, which was kind of to be expected considering how many top men were skating here and it was all over a bit crazy. And then at Egna, we also had some surprising moments because Daniel ended up winning which I, personally, was not really expecting. And the fact that they gave both Petr and Daniel exactly the same PCS in the Free! Like exactly the same, they both got 74.36 PCS and I was just sitting there looking at the results page going "What the hell happened?"
Kite: Personally, I would definitely give the edge to Daniel just as a function of him being older and more mature but you never know, I guess.
Evie: Listen, how could you not give Petr extreme, crazy PCS when he gave you that performance - that face on his ending pose in his "Phantom" program. How could you not give that 10s for Performance? [laughter]
Kite: Drama king!
Evie: Let's actually go into talking about Daniel a little bit more. He was first here at Egna, and he actually podiumed a couple of weeks ago in Gdansk, he got the bronze medal. And with both of those medals, he actually edged out Artur Danielian for a place at the Final, which I certainly didn't expect to happen. I saw him go into the lead and I was like "Wait a second," and then I pulled up the qualifying list and I was like "Wait a second! They'll have the same amount of points but Daniel will win the tie-breaker because he'll get first place here - which means he's going to the Final! What the hell?"
Kite: After the Short, I was anticipating that if he had a solid Free with his crazy technical content, I wouldn't be surprised if they gave him the win. Daniel is 17, he's not a lot older but he is older than a lot of the other Juniors and it definitely shows in his Skating Skills and his expressiveness and his ice coverage. He has total body awareness when he's out there skating, so all of his movements kind of look complete, which you don't necessarily see with some of the younger men who are just kind of getting out there. He's super flexible, he has some really creative spin positions. I think you sent me that screencap of him in the donut spin-
Evie: The donut, yeah! He has this hyper-extended donut spin where basically his foot is bent so far that it basically touches his thigh and it's the craziest optical illusion!
Kite: I mean, good for him.
Evie: Daniel is so leggy.
Kite: We definitely need more creative spins in Men's - aside from the three or four positions that all the men tend to divert to. I support it. That said, the Free Skate costume, dude... Just the blood spatter... Why?
Evie: Yeah, it looks like someone shot him several times with a rhinestone gun! That's what it looks like.
Kite: It reminds me of Alexei Bychenko's vampire costume, [Evie: "Dracula"? Yeah!] with like the fake dried blood. I respect the commitment to the aesthetic but maybe it's a little too much. And also, talking about his insane tech in the Free Skate, he opens with a quad Lutz and then goes for the quad loop. He didn't quite get the quad loop landed here, and I don't really understand why he's necessarily going for the quad loop when he doesn't need it to be competitive. None of the other Junior Men are really doing that many quads in the Free Skate yet. There are some men with quad Lutzes, no one is doing a quad flip, as far as I know - it's mostly quad toes, from what you're seeing from men on this level. I mean, I respect him for wanting to push the boundaries of Junior Men's skating but it's scary.
Evie: Pushing the boundaries of not just Junior Men skating but I think European Men, in general. Especially considering that Daniel also competes on the Senior level, like he did last season, he went to Euros as well and he'll probably end up doing that again. That's why I was really surprised that I saw him on the Junior Grand Prix this season because I was like "Daniel, you competed on the Junior and Senior circuit last season. Why aren't you just going to go up to Seniors? Oh, you're not? You're staying on here for a bit, that's cool."
Kite: I think it's a smart decision on his end to not necessarily make that jump into Seniors quite yet because I don't think he would be winning Senior Grand Prixs or higher-level Senior events at the level he's at right now. But he can easily win a Junior event, like we see here, because that's really important for a skater from a small fed to build an international reputation and get some wins under his belt and to make a better case to get higher scores when he does decide to make that leap. And also he's eligible for two more years so, why not?
Evie: Yeah, and he did reasonably well on the Junior Grand Prix last season. He didn't qualify because he had back-to-back Junior Grand Prix's last season, he was at Bratislava and then he was at Austria the following week and back-to-back events are never a fun time. So he was a little bit of a mess at one of them and unfortunately just missed out on qualifying for the Final - but then, of course, he medalled at Junior Worlds last season so things ended up pretty well for him. And now he's going to be going to the Final and he gets to skate, again, in front of another home crowd, which is going to be nice!
Kite: I'm really glad that he got to have that win in his home rink. This is literally the rink he trains in and Ted was talking about how his family and friends were all in the stands, cheering him on. It was so pure and wholesome. And this is the first Junior Grand Prix we've had that didn't have either a Russian or a Japanese Men's champion. So he did break that streak for sure, good for him.
Evie: I support him. He's is a chaos child and I support him. Let's go on to talking about another chaos child, Adam Siao Him Fa of France. He was eighth in Croatia and fifth in Egna. He actually withdrew from Courchevel in week one, apparently due to injury and recovery not going so great, and so he got reassigned and, unfortunately, got reassigned to back-to-back Junior Grand Prix's. And he was a little bit of a mess at both of them, unfortunately, and it really made me sad to see because I really like Adam. Even though he kind of had a rocky skate at Croatia, he did have a really good skate at Egna - he skated pretty much clean and I was very happy for him.
Kite: Yeah, it was sad to see him struggle so much this season because he did make the Final last year. Hopefully, there'll be better things for him soon, I think not going to the Final is probably a good thing at this point because it seems like he really needs some time to recover and regain his footing. Hopefully we'll see him at French Nationals and then Junior Worlds, if all pans out for him.
Evie: Maybe even Europeans, because he went to Euros last season too. I think his programs this season are looking pretty good, from what I saw. I'm not completely sold on his Short Program as of this moment, but I think just because Adam sometimes gets a little bit caught up in his elements and not completely express the meaning of the program or the choreography, that happens sometimes.
Kite: Shall we move on to Ivan Shmuratko of Ukraine. He was third in Egna, also a surprise, coming from a small federation. I feel about him the same way I feel about Daniel Grassl with regards to being on the older side for Juniors and definitely showing in his performance and how he fills the rink. His footwork is super fast and it gives the impression of almost floating across the ice, which is really nice and it's hard to explain, you just have to watch him.
Evie: He's very aesthetically pleasing to watch and you can just tell, like you said, that he's older and he's had more experience competing internationally because he just fills the rink. All of his movements seem so big and meaningful and that really adds to his overall performance and it sells his programs. I also like the little shuffle movements that he does at the start of the Free Skate. They made me smile a little bit, it's very cute.
Kite: Yeah, the pantomiming is definitely interesting.
Evie: [Laughter] It's strong. The pantomiming is strong with this one.
Kite: His jumps are fairly solid. He does have a bit of a flutz but generally, he doesn't cause me as much heart stress as some of the other Junior Men, in regards to his tech. Which is nice, I appreciate that. My heart appreciates that.
Evie: Well he doesn't have any quads so...
Kite: Well you know what? Novel idea; maybe we should focus on everyone getting their triples down pat before they start trying quads?
Evie: (sarcastically) What? No... Kite, that's silly talk. Pfft, getting your triples done first... What are you talking about?
Kite: Me on my soapbox.
Evie: You can show up to the ISU Congress next year.
Kite: He does have pretty interesting spin positions. I don't think I've seen many men attempt illusion spins. It's mostly done in Ladies, not always very well. It's not really my favorite spin position just because of the flexibility you need to have to do it but I appreciate him going for it and trying to break that mold. This is his third Junior season which is I think a smart move like I was saying with Daniel, considering that Ivan is a small fed skater and can only benefit from getting an international reputation on the Junior stage. But that said, I do hope to see him make that full transition to Senior's soon because his components are Senior quality. He does not skate like a Junior and he just stands out like a sore thumb in a field of 13 and 14-year-old men when he has these gorgeous deep-running edges and total body awareness. So definitely great to see him do so well here.
Evie: Yeah, I really hope that he has a good second half of the season. I'm really looking forward to seeing him at Junior Worlds. I hope he really makes a case for himself, if he chooses to move up to Senior next season, to hopefully get some bigger international assignments because his skating is so nice to watch. Let's go on to talk about the Junior Grand Prix Final for the Men. So our qualifiers are, in order, Andrei Mozalev of Russia, Yuma Kagiyama of Japan, Petr Gummenik of Russia, Daniel Grassl of Italy, Daniil Samsonov of Russia, and Shun Sato of Japan. We've got a bit of an interesting mix of countries at this event and we have three Russian men, which is a bit shocking considering last year we had one Russian man qualify and now we have three. And we also have two Japanese men! And an Italian man! It's definitely a demographic shift.
Kite: Well let's talk about first who isn't going to be at the Final. So Stephen Gogolev of Canada is not going to be at the Final, unfortunately. I'm a little bit concerned for him because the Junior Men's field is definitely closing ranks around the top spots and his next major international competition is probably going to be Junior Worlds and he's not likely to get a lot of international exposure before then. I'm also concerned because he did make a coaching change this season, or over the off season, rather. He changed from Lee Barkell at the Toronto Cricket Club to Rafael Arutunian in California. He's also hitting some growth spurts around this time and this year's Junior Men's field just happens to be pretty strong so it probably wasn't the best time for him to have made a major coaching change but Lee Barkell leaving TCC kind of left Stephen in a bad spot, whereas he could have moved with Lee. But I guess he decided it wasn't the best idea.
Evie: I mean, Lee is still coaching him but Raf's now his main coach.
Kite: Yeah, he's completely relocated his training base though, which can be really jarring and he now works with Raf a lot more than he works with Lee because he's in California and Raf's in California.
Evie: I think probably I kind of disagree on the coaching change point, just because I think, out of all the times to do, probably the best time considering this is Stephen's last season of just being Junior eligible because next season he'll be Senior eligible and he'll probably be looking to move up fairly quickly. Considering Olympic qualifications and that Canada will want to vye for a couple of Men's spots and he's in a position where if he makes substantial improvements over this season - we've seen him retooling his jump technique. His Lutz has gotten quite a bit better over these last few competitions that we've seen and if he makes those technical strides while also hopefully improving his component skills a bit to back up those technical improvements, he could definitely contend for an Olympic spot for Canada and potentially make it to Beijing. If I were to pick a time for his to change coaches, it would be now because this is a transition year for him.
Kite: I mean, realistically, just looking at how things stack up right now, I don't think he's going to have much of an issue getting an Olympic spot. Depending on how many Canada has, but if they get at least two spots I would definitely put money on him to have one of them - if his growth continues from here and his jumps can stay intact and he works on his performance a little bit. It is better that if he had to change coaches, that he did it now and not in a pre-Olympic year. But it is a testament to how crazy the Junior Men's field has gotten that last year's Junior Grand Prix Final Champion, who was Stephen - who was actually the first alternate last year and then subbed in when Andrew Torgashev pulled out - didn't qualify for the Final. There's a lot of movement in the field right now and we're just trying to keep up with it, man.
Evie: There's just so much stuff going on. We have so many, not only just new Junior men that have shown up out of nowhere and gone "Hey, I can contend for medals now!" But we've also have the older Juniors who have been around for a season or two that have really started to grow into their skating and have been like "Oh look I've gotten consistent!" or "Hey, I've got a quad now! I can get on the top of the podium!" It's really interesting to see the way the Junior Men's field has shifted just over a season because the field was completely different last season in terms of not only consistency and quality but who are actually vying for medals. It's crazy to see the differences we've seen just over such a short period of time.
Kite: Yeah, so speaking of men being on the younger side in the Final this season, I was just looking at the qualifying documents and laughing to myself because the discrepancy between the combined total raw scores of the skaters and qualifying points really shows how chaotic this year was. Because Yuma Kagiyama and Daniil Samsonov both had higher combined total scores than Andrei Mozalev, but fewer qualifying points, so they qualified second and fifth respectively. But Yuma would be the number one qualifier if it went by raw points.
Evie: Yeah, it’s just kind of insane, the weirdness of this Junior Grand Prix series and the way events were stacked up made it so that the margins by which men were winning in each competition were wildly different. That’s not particularly unusual in Junior Men but as you said, looking at the qualifier list and looking at all the combined scores and going, "Okay??? Things happened?" The Final is definitely going to be interesting to see how it shapes up because right now, I honestly couldn’t tell you who would make the podium because it’s so up in the air, anyone could potentially make the podium here, it’s crazy!
Kite: Yeah I think anyone potentially could win. The title is definitely up for grabs which is more than you can say for any of the other disciplines. Men continue to be chaotic.
Evie: Yep! It’s going to just come down to who skates the best on that particular day. And it’s really exciting just from a viewing standpoint the fact that we have so much mystery going into the final and we don’t necessarily know who’s going to make the podium; it’s going to make the competition even more exciting and even more stressful to watch in December.
Kite: Yeah, the flip side of not everyone having the potential to be on the podium is that none of these men are the most consistent skaters [Evie: Yep!] so get ready for chaos.
Evie: Get ready for chaos, the theme of the Junior Grand Prix.
-end segment- 32:44
START: Ice Dance
Evie: So let’s go on to talking about Ice Dance. For our podiums in Croatia, in first, we have Maria Kazakova and Georgy Reviya of Georgia, in second, we have Sofya Tyutyunina and Alexander Shustitsky of Russia, and in third, we have Emmy Bronsard and Aissa Bouarguia of Canada. And on our podium for Egna, in first we have Elizaveta Khudaberdieva and Andrey Filatov of Russia, in second, we have Natalie D'Allesandro and Bruce Waddell of Canada and, in third, we have Angelina Lazareva and Maksim Prokofiev of Russia.
Kite: So surprising podium in Egna because Elizaveta and Andrey originally said they were going to withdraw from their second assignment due to illness. And then it was the day before the Rhythm Dance and their names were still on the roster and then I think Elizaveta posted something about competing in the Rhythm Dance on her birthday like "Oh okay, I guess they’re going to be here!"
Evie: "They’re going to be here, yay!" It was really comforting to see because we all love Liza and Andrey and it was kind of a given that they were going to win the event because it just was like "You’re competing? You’re probably going to win."
Kite: Not too upset about that. And then we also had two Canadian teams breaking the trend of Canadian Ice Dancers getting the potato medal [4th] on the Junior Grand Prix. So bronze medal in Croatia and silver medal in Egna for the Canadians.
Evie: Although another Canadian team did get the potato medal at Croatia, so…
Kite: You can’t have everything.
Evie: A little bit of the curse broken. You can’t have everything, you can have some things. I think that, especially in Egna, as soon as Elizaveta and Andrey said they were going to be competing, I was like "Okay, the podium was more clear cut now," because before that, I was looking at the entries list and thinking "Hmm, well there isn’t really that many standouts, definitely-going-to-podium teams here" and the same with Croatia because I was like ’okay, Maria and Georgy are probably going to get the gold but the other two podium spots, we’ve got some skaters that could potentially make it and there are a couple that could vye for those spots. Just seeing how everyone skated, it was quite interesting to see the final podium make-up. And also in general, to see how some teams did in both of the segments in comparison to one another. We have the Brown siblings - Oona Brown and Gage Brown of the US. They came in 7th at Chelyabinsk just a couple of weeks ago and they actually came in second here in the Free at Egna which was a little bit of a surprise for me. I was watching and was just like "Holy crap, they’ve got a 91, they’re probably going to place pretty high here in the Free Dance," and they ended up coming in second and I was just like, "Hoo boy…this is great!"
Kite: Yeah they have so much powerful positive energy. I love it, especially Oona’s energy. She just exudes charm and musicality. It was a bit of a shame about the twizzles in the Rhythm Dance because she did slip off her edge a little bit. It probably cost them a couple of points - two or three points at least? They’re actually using the same Rhythm Dance music as Katarina Wolfkostin and Jeffrey Chen. I said it’ll be interesting when they finally go against each other, Evie reminded me they did go against each other in Russia but I was mostly referring to US Nationals, or Junior Nationals rather, and how they stack up domestically when it comes to getting spots for Junior Worlds and such, how that’s going to shake out.
Evie: Yeah, especially with their scoring on a national level it’s going to be interesting to see how they stack against each other but we’ve already seen in Chelyabinsk that Wolfkostin and Chen did place above the Brown siblings, both in the overall and in both segments. Although I would put their Skating Skills and element level pretty much on the same playing field, with maybe a little bit of an edge to the Brown siblings because I love their lifts, their lifts are so nice. Especially the curve lift they do where Oona does the backbend when she’s standing on Gage’s legs. It’s great, 10/10, I love creative lifts. But yeah, I think the scoring discrepancy may be partially due to the fact the Brown siblings don't have a high profile coach whereas Wolfkostin and Chen are under Igor [Shpilband], who is a bit of a higher profile coach; he’s got the reputation that comes from being with a bigger Ice Dance camp. So the Browns are at a bit of a disadvantage on that front. It’ll be interesting to see how the two teams stack up against each other at Junior Nationals.
Kite: Junior Ice Dance is higher stress than Junior Pairs, guys.
Evie: So another US team that was actually at both of the events, at both Croatia and Egna, Katarine Delcamp and Ian Somerville. They are a new team and they placed 10th in Croatia and 4th at Egna. Ian used to be partnered with Eliana Gropman and they were actually the US Junior National bronze medallists. They also went to the Junior World Championships and then they broke up early in the offseason - I believe around May is when we got the news. According to Eliana on an Instagram post, she was told their partnership was over via an email that she got after she returned from her senior trip in Europe. Because apparently while she was away on that trip, Ian had already started skating with a new partner who was presumably his current partner Katarina but it was like "Oh geez drama, oh boy!" But just looking at Ian, I think he’s really grown into a quite solid Ice Dance man; his postures improved, the awareness of his legs and overall his lower body is really improved since the last time I saw him skate at Junior Worlds and his lines are really nice. Katarina…I mean she’s got good expression, she seems nice; I don’t think right now - and this may just be the fact they’re a brand new team - they don’t seem like a team right at this second, they kind of seem a bit mismatched, technically speaking.
Kite: I definitely pay more attention to Katarina than to Ian when they’re skating; she kind of has this Liza K-like charm and charisma that draws you in and she even has a physical resemblance to Liza K. But like Evie said, her Skating Skills really aren’t quite there yet. She’s very leggy but doesn’t seem to know how to use that to her advantage yet; so the result is that her knees are pretty stiff, she doesn’t really bend into them, she doesn’t hold her free leg extension at all and the result is that it kind of looks like she’s kicking during the pattern. It’s really unfortunate because she’s so beautiful and is clearly capable of creating these gorgeous lines and painting this beautiful picture on the ice with how long her limbs are but she kind of needs to grow into them a little bit more.
Evie: Obviously, this is their first season as a team; it’s their season when they’re looking to get a little bit of experience on an international field, see how they skate together and train together as a partnership and maybe once they've got a bit more experience, once they've been together for a couple more months, they'll grow into that partnership and get more synchronicity with each other, hopefully as their skills improve they will start skating more as a unit rather than two individual skaters, we hope. Because they both have a lot of potential.
Kite: Okay, going into the Junior Grand Prix Final, here are the qualifiers in qualifying order: First is Avonley Nguyen and Vadym Kolesnik of the US. In second, Elizaveta Shanaeva and Devid Naryzhnyy of Russia. Third, Elizaveta Khudaiberdieva and Andrey Filatov of Russia. In fourth, Maria Kazakova and Georgy Reviya of Georgia. In fifth, Loicia Demougeot and Theo Le Mercier of France. In sixth, Diana Davis and Gleb Smolkin of Russia. So, Nguyen and Kolesnik are going into the Junior Grand Prix Final as top qualifiers. They earned 2 of the 3 highest total scores on the Junior Grand Prix this season, which is quite a shake up from last season.
Evie: Yeah, definitely a shake up, but not one that I am particularly upset about seeing. I am very happy and excited for them being the top qualifiers here, and I think they have a really good shot at medalling at the Junior Grand Prix Final, possibly even winning...knock on wood. [Laughter] If they skate as well as they've been skating in the qualifiers, they should have no trouble getting on that podium. I just really hope they don't become complacent with the fact that they've been doing well and getting those high scores because this field is really, really deep. If they miss a level or two, which isn't out of the ordinary for them--we've seen it happen at past events--it could really shake them up. Not only score wise, but confidence wise. I'm just praying that they have a good showing at the Final, basically.
Kite: They didn't face any major challengers at their assignments, but that obviously changes going out into the Final. So they're going to need to hit every single element in order to make the case for winning.
Evie: I just hope that they have a better final experience than last season when they had all of their visa trouble with Vadym not getting a visa in time; they had to miss out on their practice. I hope that they have no issues going to Torino in December.
Kite: [laughter] Yeah, making it to Italy this year.
Evie: C'mon, please guys. I think especially, there are a couple of teams that are definitely going to challenge them for the top spot. I think especially with Shanaeva and Naryzhnyy, out of all of the teams here, I see them being the biggest threat just because of their consistency over the season and the scores they've been getting. Also because their Skating Skills are really, really good and they have overall a really good chance of hitting their levels most of the time, or getting close to it. And so I see them as probably the biggest threat to Avonley and Vadym, going into the final.
Kite: Yeah, I would say it's gonna be Shanaeva and Naryzhnyy vs. Khudaiberdieva and Filatov for silver. I would definitely give Shanaeva and Naryzhnyy the edge just based on how consistent they've been, the fact that they've been skating together longer, whereas Khudaiberdieva and Filatov are a very new team, they haven't been receiving the scores that Elizaveta received with her previous partner last season, but they've shown that they can still win comfortably. So it's gonna be an interesting toss up. I would probably have them more in bronze territory along with Kazakova and Reviya, but the Georgians could get kicked off the podium if both the Russian teams are clean.
Evie: Yeah, they definitely have a shot, but it's gonna be up to how everyone else in the field skates that particular day. With Demougeot and Le Mercier and Davis and Smolkin, I really don't see them making the podium unless someone in the top 4 makes a significant mistake. There's always that potential for them to get on the podium, but at the moment, just looking at overall scores, I don't really see them making it. It'd be a nice surprise if they did!
Kite: Yeah, Ice Dance tends to be more consistent than the other disciplines; it's easier to make predictions. But surprises could still happen.
Evie: Yeah, definitely! I mean surprises can definitely still happen. I mean, “stationary lift - base" happened!
Kite: This is true.
Evie: Anything can happen.
Kite: But things happen less in Ice Dance.
-end segment- 44:22
Evie: Okay, should we go on to the Ladies?
Kite: Let's do it. So in Croatia, our Ladies medalists - in first, Haein Lee of Korea; in second, Daria Usacheva of Russia; in third, Anna Frolova of Russia. In Egna, we had Ksenia Sinitsyna of Russia in first; Anna Frolova of Russia in second; and Alessia Tornaghi of Italy in third.
Evie: So we have Haein Lee a Junior Grand Prix [Final] qualifier with 50 whole points after winning Croatia, which is the nicest surprise this season has given me basically in Ladies so far. I love the fact that she's been able to win both of her events, and managed to qualify with full points going into the final. I'm really, really happy for her.
Kite: Korean Ladies rise! Before Egna, we had a glimmer of hope of maybe two Korean Ladies making it to the final. But unfortunately Yeonjeong Park had kind of a rough short program in Egna that took her out of qualifying for final contention because she was 12th after the short progrma and she really needed to have a silver medal or better here.
Evie: Yeah, her combo at the start of the short - she had a really good 3Lz; it had really great height and distance but then it just had a little too much distance and you could tell that she was going to run out of room to stick the triple toe in, and she did it anyway and ended up falling right into the boards. It was really awful to see. And she also had problems with her loop. And I was just, agh, I felt so bad for her! But she managed to bounce backand she places 3rd in the free here so...yeah. UGH, we could've had it all! We could've had two Korean Ladies at the final! Unfortunately, just wasn't in the stars for us I guess.
Kite: Yeah, and speaking of other Ladies who wont be in the final, all of the japanese Ladies who were supposed to compete in Egna withdrew. Rino Matsuike, who was the bronze medalist in Riga, was Japan's only medalist in Ladies this year. She had a shot of qualifying for the JGPF. It was a pretty slim chance; she would've probably had to win in Egna, but then she ended up withdrawing about a week before the event. Which is really unfortunate that Japanese Junior Ladies are a little bit in this valley right now. And the Japanese Senior Ladies are obviously so strong already that I would like to see JSF maybe just investing a little more in Juniors and kind of bring them up to that level and make them real contenders for when they do decide to switch to the Senior level.
Evie: Yeah, we just have so much new talent at the moment. A lot of first year Junior Ladies at the moment--or at least the ones that we saw here on the Junior Grand Prix this season. It's just a matter of "maybe in a season or two, maybe they'll mature and grow up to be really well rounded skaters because we've seen a couple of them that definitely have that "It Factor" that they could potentially grow into really amazing skaters. That's just going to have to take time. And speaking of that, let's go on to talk about Mana Kawabe, who came in fourth at Croatia, who had a surprise triple Axel attempt in the free! She fell on it, but it was ... what? That was a triple Axel? Okay, I'm awake now.
Kite: She trains with Mie Hamada, who also trains Rika Kihira, so I'm not super surprised that she went for it. I don't know what goes on in that rink, but it just seems very chaotic.
Evie: Chaos, yeah, chaos happens at that rink.
Kite: She was pretty short on the rotation. But good on her for going for it. She is super fast -- she's TINY, but she is so fast. She completely flies during the step sequence, which kind of poses a bit of a problem for her because she only got level 2 on the steps in both programs. So it seems like she's so fast that she's actually hopping some steps and not ticking all the boxes to get her levels. She does also tend to lose control over her jumps because she enters so fast. And she is super powerful obviously but she needs to learn how to reign in that power and to really dish it out in smaller quantities.
Evie: I really love the way she uses her arms and her upper body. All of her movements flow so nicely and they make it all seem like a complete package. Especially in her free skate, the way she uses her arms just in transitional movements to accent the highlights in the music or sell the character of the Black Swan, it just really made it a program for me. I see a lot of potential in her. She's got a really good basic foundation and I'm just excited to see where she'll go from here. She is a chaos child, but I love her.
Kite: Can we just briefly mention that she did a 3F-3T in the last 30 seconds of her free skate?
Evie: Oh god, what the hell! My heart!
Kite: I'm like, please, I'm so old my heart can't take it!
Evie: I can't take this kind of abuse, please, Mana! Think of us when you're doing this!
Kite: She's obviously super intense, she's unpolished clearly - she needs to control her movements a little bit more. But a ton of potential, and I'm really excited to see her going into probably Senior Nationals? I wouldn't be surprised if she competed at Senior Nationals for Japan.
Evie: Let's talk about Kseniia Sinitsyna, who was our gold medalist.And yes, she was our silver medalist in Chelyabinsk just a couple weeks ago, but kind of unsurprisingly, she took the gold medal here in Italy, and she actually scored the highest short program score of the Junior Ladies this season with 74.65. The record was previously held by Kamila [Valieva] and Kseniia got a whole point above that which is very interesting, but I think overall, her elements are really, really nice. She's got really nice technique which you kind of expect from skaters in Panova's camp. They have in general really nice jump technique and spins as well. I think her spins are really, really good. She's got great flexibility and can hit those really nice aesthetically pleasing positions. The fact that all of her elements are so nice shows she can get those really high grades of execution, like she didn't get a single mark below a +2 in anything in her Short, which is really, really great for a Junior skater. It really just speaks to her overall level of polish. I think in general her performance still needs a little bit of work, but you know, this is only her second Junior season. We don't expect Senior-level performances. But, especially her Short, which is quite a heavy piece of music, I don't think it really suits her currently. And then you have her Free Skate... I don't even really want to go into it because I'm pretty sure it's going to be talked about on the cultural appropriation episode that we're going to do in a couple weeks because yeah, it's a thing.
Kite: This season is definitely a whole thing when it comes to programs that maybe shouldn't have happened.
Evie: Maybe. So going on to the Junior Grand Prix Final, our qualifiers for this year are Kamila Valieva of Russia, Alysa Liu of the US, Haein Lee of South Korea, Kseniia Sinitsyna of Russia, and Daria Usacheva of Russia.
Kite: So four Russian Ladies in the Junior Grand Prix Final, and there is zero overlap from last year. It really speaks to the depth of the Russian Junior field. Even after last year's top three which are [Alexandra] Trusova, [Anna] Shcherbakova, and [Alyona] Kostornaia moved up to Seniors, and Alena Kanysheva sat out the Junior Grand Prix and Anastasia Tarakanova just missed the final.
Evie: It's just insane the amount of shake ups that we could have. I kind of expected this considering all of the people moving up to Seniors this season, but just seeing how crazy the field has been, I'm extremely excited for the final, but I'm also incredibly scared.
Kite: Oh, I am not thinking about it really until then. So looking into some matchups the combined total kind of speak for themselves. I think like Kamila has a combined total of 422.66 and Alysa has 411.20. Alysa actually has quite a bit of an edge on base value, so combined base value for both programs is a 109 for Alyssa currently, and 103.12 for Kamila, but Kamila can definitely make up that difference because she gets the superior GOE and PCS rightfully so if both are clean - this is all if both are clean.
Evie: Is Alysa's technical content, that 109, includes if she does the triple axel in the short or no?
Kite: Yeah. This is with the triple Axel-triple toe in the short. [Evie: Okay] That's what she did in Poland.
Evie: Yeah, so that is the heart attack number. The 109 is the heart attack number.
Kite: Yes, absolutely the heart attack number. Kamila, based on what she scored in Russia with a fall, she's gonna push about 230 total with two clean programs if she does the two quads in the free skate. That is not going to be matched by anybody else. I'm gonna just stake, you know plant my flag on this hill right now and say if she has two clean programs, she is probably going to be the runaway winner. Realistically, I think she can probably win even with one quad if everything else is clean, and I think Alysa is very much the favorite for the silver right now if she's clean, but with mistakes, she can definitely be challenged by Ksenia, because her score at JGP Egna was higher than both of Alysa's on the Junior Grand Prix.
Evie: Yeah, it depends on what Alysa's layouts are going to look like and just comes down to the day of how well she skates because there's definitely a chance that she could get on top of the podium here, but there's also like just looking at the fact that she hasn't skated two clean programs and the fact that she might be doing a triple axel combo in the short. It's just a lot of question marks as to how her consistency is going to be at the Final, and I hope that she takes this month break to really finalize her strategy, get ahead in the game, and hopefully come to the final ready to put down two great performances.
Kite: I mean she was pretty close to clean in Poland. I think she had the mistake in the short, but the free was pretty solid and she got, I think, 208, whereas Kamila had a pretty nasty fall when she was competing in Russia in the free skate and she got to 221. I think it's clear at this point who the judges are going to give it to if they're both reasonably solid. Obviously, neither of them have actually been clean and both programs yet, so it'll be interesting to see how it shakes out if they both have mistakes, which I don't think is out of the realm of possibility at this point.
Evie: It's never out of the realm of possibility.
Kite: But that said, the race I think at this point is mostly for the bronze medal, and all the other Ladies have a realistic shot at it. So Haein and Kseniia have both scored over 200 at their assignments, but I think third through sixth is probably going to come down to the wire because all of the Ladies scored in the190s above at both of their assignments, which is crazy.
Evie: Oh boy, Ladies is gonna give me a heart attack. Honestly, it already has. It's gonna give me even more of a heart attack.
Kite: Considering taking like heart medication at this point. It's bad. Just diplomatically looking at kind of the bigger picture in Ladies, I would say it's closer for the silver and the bronze this year compared to last year, but the front-runner probably has more distance from the rest of the pack. Like last year at the Final, there were three Ladies who could realistically have won the whole thing, and it really speaks to how dominant, historic, you know, the three A's were during their short time as Juniors, and how their departure has really shaken up the field and made it so that it feels like anything could happen whereas, the last two seasons, it was basically a sure bet that if one of the Eteri girls showed up that they were probably going to win.
Evie: Now it's just kind of a “Well, you know, 20 different things could happen on the day of the competition, and who knows what's going to happen.” The fact that this is the first time in quite a while where we have had, we've got two non-Russian Ladies qualifying for the Final, which is really, really exciting overall. And just looking towards the Final, I mean, Ladies at the Junior Grand Prix finals always hell, it's always a lot, but it's going to be such an exciting competition to watch because not only are we're going to have probably some crazy technical elements, but we have the possibility of seeing some really amazing skating from some of these amazing younger Ladies. It makes me so excited not just for the rest of the season, but the future of the Junior Ladies field in general. I'm just, yes, I'm ready for all of my children!
Kite: The theme of Junior Ladies is just gird your loins.
Evie: Gird your loins. Get ready for some crazy stuff.
-end segment- 57:35
START: Shout Out of the Week
Evie: So our shout out of the week goes to Ted Barton and all of the people who make the Junior Grand Prix possible with the streaming and the accessibility worldwide. They do such an amazing job every single year and just the dedication to showing all of these Junior skaters and making it accessible for anyone around the world is just amazing, and we really cannot stress how much we value Ted and everyone in Red Brick Sports who makes the streaming possible because it just really brightens up the whole early season.
Kite: Thank you, Ted. We love you!
Evie: Ted, we love you!
-end segment- 58:14
Kite: Thanks for listening. And we hope to see you again for the next episode.
Evie: Thanks to the research team for this episode, our transcribing, quality control team, and Gabb for graphic design.
Kite: And thanks to Evie for editing.
Evie: No problem.
Kite: And if you want to get in touch with us then please feel free to contact us via our website at inthelopodcast.com or on Twitter or Tumblr. You can find our episodes on YouTube, iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher, and Spotify.
Evie: If you enjoy the show and want to help support the team, then please consider making a donation to our ko-fi page. We'd like to give a big thank you to all the listeners who have donated to us thus far. You really helped us out, we try to get new equipment and funding the podcast subscriptions and the website. It just really helps a lot and we thank you for the bottom of our hearts for all your continued support.
Kite: And you can find the links to all of our social media pages and our ko-fi on the website.
Evie: If you're listening on iTunes, please consider leaving a rating and a review if you enjoyed the show. Thanks for listening! This has been Evie.
Kite: And Kite. See you soon.
Evie: Bye guys! See you at the Junior Grand Prix Final!