It is with this in mind that I thank, profusely, this week's Junior GPF judges! Due to a website glitch (thanks, Weebly!), I wasn't able to introduce them to you before the event, but here they are now:
Clara P. (@jimboppa) | You Only Lutz Once
Tell us a little about your experiences with figure skating or as a fan. I am the other half of skating blog You Only Lutz Once, as well as a founding member of Michael Christian Martinez (PHI)'s fansite Tropical Frost. I also try translating updates on Team Korea. Besides streaming, I've watched Four Continents in Taipei last season. (Yes, I was one of the two "banner-waving girls caught on TV too many times). Jin Seo Kim (KOR) hugged me at Asia Open Trophy earlier this August, and we had a conversation in both Korean and English.
What's your favorite grossly underscored skate of the last five years? Kim Yuna's free skate at the 2014 Olympics. Enough said.
Di L. (@magicaleggrolls) | So You Want to Watch Figure Skating
Tell us a little about your experiences with figure skating or as a fan. Sleep-deprived for skating since the 2010 Olympics. I post streaming links and other resources at So You Want to Watch Figure Skating. One time I met Takahiko Kozuka and accidentally touched his armpit.
What's your favorite grossly underscored skate of the last five years? Akiko Suzuki's 2012 NHK Trophy FS
Elisa | Tumblr
Tell us a little about your experiences with figure skating or as a fan. I've been a roller skater for 15 years (and also competed nationally), but of course I am also into ice skating. I have always watched it, but become obsessed after the Sochi Olympics.
What's your favorite grossly underscored skate of the last five years? Satoko Miyahara's FS at Worlds 2016 - she was well judged generally, but SO underscored if compared to the other ladies.
Mandy S. (@__heck)
Tell us a little about your experiences with figure skating or as a fan. I'd been a very casual fan since I was a kid, but I turned on the 2014 Olympics while I worked at home during a snowstorm and immediately developed A Problem. Since then, I've gone to almost every show in driving distance, lost countless hours of sleep watching overseas comps, attended Worlds (!), and made so many amazing friends.
What's your favorite grossly underscored skate of the last five years? Jeremy Abbott's SP at 2015 Nationals.
Patrick (@Team_PDD) | Patrick Commentates Skating
Tell us a little about your experiences with figure skating or as a fan. I'm that crazy guy that leads prayer circles on twitter before competitions. One time I met Ashley Wagner, and it was awesome.
Favorite grossly underscored skate of the last five years: Mirai Nagasu's short program at 2015 NHK Trophy.
Sarah R. (@pas_dechat) | Sarah Explains The Finer Sports
Tell us a little about your experiences with figure skating or as a fan. I started skating when I was five and continued with freestyle into my early teens. Now I'm an avid armchair quarterback with a blog.
What's your favorite grossly underscored skate of the last five years? The Shibutanis at 2015 Worlds, maybe? I usually get angrier about overscoring.
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Clara: I watched all the short programs, the ladies free skate and the free dance via livestream, while I had to catch up on the men's and pairs' free skates on YouTube
Di: All of singles and pairs, ice dance medalists
Elisa: I watched everything live, except the pairs' event. Later I watched a couple of performances of pairs free skate.
Mandy: All the short programs, and most of the free (I missed one pair and may have wandered off during a men's program or two)
Patrick: 95% and boy was it rough (especially the pairs free skate...#yikes)
Sarah: It is possible that I skipped the pairs free skate. Everything else, I watched live.
Who had the best performance of the event?
Clara: I am going to be completely biased and say that Junhwan Cha (KOR) stole the show for me. My being complete Team Korea garbage aside, I felt like he was the only skater who actually listened to his music and didn't bore me. Though, I have to credit Alla Loboda and Pavel Drozd (RUS) for their entertaining opening poses and bows.
Clara: I was only familiar with both Junhwan Cha (KOR) and Dmtri Aliev (RUS). Cha is still working on his projecting skills, but his projection here was much better than when I saw him at the Korean Domestic Ranking Competition last October.
Mandy: The Rachel & Michael Parsons Project have really come into their own this season. I tended to be a bit bored by them but their expression has improved by leaps and bounds, which is great timing on their part considering their training mates McNamara & Carpenter have finally shown that they are not ageless dancebots but actual human teens capable of making the occasional mistake. Their rivalry will be incredibly exciting to watch, at least until the younger WISA kids catch up and their reign of terror begins.
Clara: I can't really tell who was underscored. I think the scores were fair, if not generous, for the most part?
Di: I don't think any performances were egregiously underscored; judges were mostly heading in the opposite direction again.
Elisa: Actually I don't think there were skaters who were particulary underscored, they were mostly overscored in my opinion. If I had to pick one, probably I would say Rika Kihira in the short program. She made mistakes and she deserved that score (54), but also the Russian ladies had some (that damn lutz), but still remained in the 60s, even though there was very little difference between them.
Sarah: I don't understand how Rachel and Michael Parsons were second in the short dance behind Alla Loboda and Pavel Drozd. I've rewatched a few times and pored over the protocols, and my conclusion is that insane troll logic was involved. Parsons and Parsons earned the highest technical score, but only by a few tenths, when to my eyes their execution was far more polished than any other team's. In particular, their extension and synchronization in their pattern dances was far beyond anyone else's. And artistically, they're one of the few teams at any level who looks like they paid attention in their hip hop dance classes. They get down into their knees and have the right sharpness of movement. I wonder if they're getting the hip hop style so right that it's throwing the judges for a loop.
Which performance was the most overscored?
Clara: I was wondering whether Dmitri Aliev deserved the program component scores he got, when I think he tends to not listen to his music. It's a bit better than last season, but he still could use some work on that aspect.
Di: Alina Zagitova and Alexander Samarin in general. Samarin's free skate is nearly devoid of choreography and both of them need a lot more refinement in their skating. I'm fine with their placements, but not with Zagitova winning by that much of a margin.
Clara: I'd have to say I liked Ekaterina Alexandrovskaya and Harley Windsor (AUS)'s Skyfall short program. It showcased the potential these two have as a team, and how well they work together.
Sarah: Christina Carreira and Anthony Ponomarenko were absolutely mesmerizing in their free dance. I set aside a rewatch specifically to nitpick their technical content and got lost in their performance. There are places where they could stand to raise their difficulty, but it's hard to care because it was all just so beautiful.
Clara: I guess I'll go with Alla Loboda/Pavel Drozd, Dmitri Aliev, and Alina Zagotiova at Russian Junior nationals, as they'll be the heaviest favorites to win the title. And probably Junhwan Cha at Korean nationals, where he'll probably be the heaviest favorite to win the title over senior skaters Jinseo Kim and Junehyoung Lee. Meanwhile, Ekaterina Alexandrovskaya and Harley Windsor have proven that they're a team to watch out for, while Christina Carreira and Anthony Ponomarenko (USA) are a young team who can the top junior USA ice dance team once the Parsons siblings and McNamara / Carpenter turn senior.
Di: The Parsons siblings placed behind McNamara/Carpenter for the entirety of last season, but now they've won the JGPF title ahead of their rivals. If they can produce strong performances again at US Nationals, they might just add a Junior National title to their collection. Additionally, Alina Zagitova is now riding high after setting the highest junior scores ever in the SP, FS, and total score. Given Polina Tsurskaya's recent injuries, if Zagitova can keep it up, she might be on the way to dethroning her teammate and definitively claiming the top Russian junior ladies' spot for this season.
Elisa: The Parsons. Two clean programs crowned them ice dance champions. They have to carry their momentum to win Nationals and Junior Worlds with McNamara/Carpenter as their main rivals for both titles, and also looking for revenge after poor performances in Marseille.
Mandy: Russian junior nats is going to be a bloodbath. Same for Japanese junior ladies and US ice dance. Anyone who can claw their way to the podium/junior worlds in those fields can consider themselves beyond lucky.
Patrick: All of the junior pairs who bombed in the free skate (which was...almost all of them). Please never make me watch junior pairs ever again, Mara. Please.
Sarah: With so many of the more seasoned Russian men having a rough time in the senior-level Grand Prix, Dmitri Aliev has a very strong chance at a trip to Euros, maybe even Worlds. He'll have to keep his head together in the free skate at Nationals much better than he did this week, though.
Who has the most to lose at their next competition?
Clara: Marin Honda (JPN), who withdrew due to injury, will have to do extremely well at Japanese nationals later on this month if she wants to be part of the Junior World team. Meanwhile, in the little I know about ice dance, I think Rachel Parsons / Michael Parsons (USA) and Lorraine McNamara / Quinn Carpenter (USA) will probably be pressured to do well at their next assignments, as they are the defending Junior World medalists.
Di: Lorraine McNamara and Quinn Carpenter certainly weren't looking for a third-place finish at JGPF after winning all of their junior competitions last season. US Junior Nationals could be interesting as they fight to retain their title against the Parsons.
Elisa: Marin Honda. Nationals will be an important step for her if she wants to go again to Junior Worlds, her withdrawal from JGP final and poor performance at both Junior Nationals and JGP series will cost her a lot; plus she has been sick, so I don't know if she will be able to recover in time (I hope so!). It's true that she is World Junior Champion, she is so talented and polished, so it is unlikely that JSF will send another girl instead of her, but this season she was more down than up.
Mandy: Just mathematically, there are too many top contenders in US junior ice dance / Japanese junior ladies / Russian junior everything and very good competitors are going to be left in the dust.
Patrick: McNamara/Carpenter finishing third here wasn't great, considering they're the reigning junior world champions. If you're going to be strategic in your decision to not move up to the senior level, you better keep winning things or else you risk your reputation dropping. Fix your levels, please!
Sarah: McNamara and Carpenter have been soundly dethroned as the queen and king of junior ice dance. If the Parsons beat them as decisively at Nationals as they did here, they might lose enough federation support that they never really make it out of juniors. There are too many strong American teams for their reputation to survive a weak year.
The experts always get to make "bold predictions." Make a bold prediction about something that will happen in the remainder of the season.
Clara: Novice skater Young You and Junhwan Cha will reign as Korean national champions for ladies and men, respectively. Since they're too young for senior Worlds, Jinseo Kim and Soyoun Park go in their place instead. Through some miracle, both Kim and Park win two spots for Korea at the Olympics. And oh, Cha becomes Junior World champion.
Di: At least two ladies will score over 200 at Junior Worlds.
Elisa: All of this refers to Junior Worlds. Kaori Sakamoto, thanks to her consistency will be on the podium, so there won't be a Russian sweep. Polina Tsurskaya will win and make new WR (140 in the free skate). Cha will finish second in the men's event. There will be a Russian sweep in the pairs' event. The ice dance podium will be the same as JGPF. And also, Kaori will be selected to compete to 4CC and will have a top 10 finish.
Mandy: Alex Samarin wins Russian nats but won't podium at worlds. McNamara & Carpenter don't win US nats but will podium at worlds. Marin Honda comes back super pissed off after being sick for JGPF and wins JP nats and worlds. Angelique Abachkina and Christina Carreira ditch their partners to become pioneers in similar ice dance, break world records in interpretation. Grigory Smirnov cries at some point.
Patrick: Marin Honda will accidentally win junior worlds...again. Someone will make Michael Parsons tastefully cover his nipples. I'll watch junior worlds out of my desire to watch more skating and then immediately regret my choice when I remember how many of the juniors have really boring programs this season.
Sarah: Junior Worlds will look very different in singles than the JGPF did. I suspect that the ladies' champion will be someone who didn't even compete here, assuming Polina Tsurskaya and Marin Honda are both healthy in time. And I'm confident this is the worst performance we'll see from Jun Hwan Cha this season. Even in hot mess mode, he's a star. I think he'll get it together for Junior Worlds and become the first Korean man to win a major ISU title.
Bonus question! Pick one JGPF/GPF competitor's program and assign it to another competitor you'd like to see perform it.
Clara: I think I'd like to see Kaori Sakamoto (JPN) skate to Alina Zagitova's (RUS) Don Quixote free skate since I think she has the energy to pull it off. Or maybe have Rika Kihara (JPN) do Sakamoto's The Artist short program, just because.
Di: Jun Hwan Cha performing Alexei Krasnozhon's "Rodeo" free skate, just for the hilarity of him wearing a cowboy costume.
Elisa: I'd like to see Marin Honda swapping her short program with Elizaveta Nugumanova's. I'd love to see Marin skating a passionate feminine program, she is more than the dramatic style in my opinion. On the other side, I want Elizaveta to skate to Smile because of her bright joyful personality, she is a little too immature right now to skate Malaguena for me.
Mandy: Next season, I want to see any of the more lyrical ice dance teams skate to McNamara & Carpenter's heavy metal free, and I really want them to lean in to it. I want devil horns and air guitar. \m/ \m/
Patrick: I'd like 90% of the skaters who skated here to skate to something interesting, rather than what they chose. Does that count?
Sarah: Alexander Samarin's "Come With Me Now" short program would look hilarious on anybody, but it's especially so-wrong-it's-right for Rika Kihira. At her best, her triple Axel is almost as perfect as his.
Anything else to add about this event?
Clara: Can someone PLEASE get Alina Zagitova a new free skate dress that isn't an old hand-me-down of Evgenia Medvedeva's?!
Di: Junior pairs' lifts are TERRIFYING. Roman Savosin's arms gave a very convincing imitation of a helicopter every time he jumped. Wishing a speedy recovery to Marin Honda, who had to withdraw due to having the flu. And lastly, shoutout to Michael Parsons photobombing the GPF winners' photo by spinning past them on his backside.
Mandy: I love Ted Barton and wish he commentated every event. His gentle positivity combined with his technical knowledge does an amazing job of conveying where points are being gained and lost while still keeping in mind that these are all just kids, doing their best to do amazing things. He never loses sight of the competitors as people. Ted wins the JGP.
Patrick: I know you're still developing, kids, but my god please be more interesting. Also I think dance was my favorite event at this competition? I'm so confused.
Sarah: I was so happy to have Ted Barton back. I want him to commentate everything. Yes, IceNetwork should hire him immediately, but not just that. I want him commentating hockey. MMA. NASCAR. He makes me feel good about the universe.
What did you think about this year's Junior Grand Prix Final? How did our judges do? Leave us a comment to let us know, then sign up to judge a future event!