Four Continents is typically not as intense as Euros in an Olympic year. With so much travel required for so many of the athletes, and the competition itself taking place to close to the Olympics, it’s not realistic for the top North American athletes to compete. Despite this, the event featured some fantastic skating from all parts of the world, including several very satisfying final competitive performances (Grant Hochstein and Elladj Balde have confirmed their retirements).
And, uh, not to scare anyone, but the Olympics start in a week and a half. On that note…
Thanks to these judges for sitting at The Judges’ Table during the 2018 Four Continents Championships!
Erica G. (@egaley)
Tell us a little about your experiences with figure skating or as a fan. I’ve been figure skating for 27 years, and a Canadian Skating Official for the last 6. I still get giddy when I put on my skates and hit clean ice, and being an official has given me a whole new perspective on why we do what we do.
Events judged: Skate Canada 2017, Four Continents 2018
Joseph K. (@thebrothaj)
Tell us a little about your experiences with figure skating or as a fan. Former skater (Back in the stone age of the early-mid 80’s… I had a FABULOUS quarter turned double lutz!) Skating fan for life.
What’s your favorite grossly underscored skate of the last five years? Kostner, 2014 Sochi. Deserved silver.
Events judged: Cup of China 2016, US Nationals 2017, NHK Trophy 2017, Four Continents 2018
Kara M. (@NamasteRead)
Tell us a little about your experiences with figure skating or as a fan. I took lessons when I was 12-15. Been a superfan since 2014.
What’s your favorite grossly underscored skate of the last five years? I still feel like Mirai Nagasu is underscored almost every time she skates.
Events judged: Rostelecom Cup 2016, Russian Nationals 2016-2017, Cup of China 2017, Four Continents 2018
Kelly C. (@KACkelly)
Tell us a little about your experiences with figure skating or as a fan. I first became a figure skating fan during the 1994 Olympics, when I was staunchly #teamnancy. So began my life of rooting for the Ones Who Do Not Win. I was more of a casual viewer until 2014, when I fell back in love with watching the sport.
What’s your favorite grossly underscored skate of the last five years? I can’t choose. Justice for my faves!
Events Judged: Four Continents 2018
Punk S. (@PunkSalchow)
Tell us a little about your experiences with figure skating or as a fan. I was raised exclusively on Michelle Kwan spirals.
What’s your favorite grossly underscored skate of the last five years? Wakaba Higuchi 2017 Worlds.
Events Judged: Four Continents 2018
Tiffany L. (@TiffLangston)
Tell us a little about your experiences with figure skating or as a fan. Stanning for skating since 1994!
What’s your favorite grossly underscored skate of the last five years? Any time Satoko Miyahara skated in the 2014-2015 season.
Events judged: Skate America 2015, US Nationals 2016, Team Challenge Cup 2016, Rostelecom Cup 2016, World Championships 2017, Internationaux de France 2017, Four Continents 2018
LET’S GET JUDGING. Click “continue reading” below to continue. When you’re finished reading, leave a comment to let us know what you thought about Four Continents, how you think the real judges did, and how you think our judges did. If you disagree, sign up to judge an event later in the year and share your thoughts!
Be honest: how much of this event did you *actually* watch?
Erica: 100% Mens, 100% Ice Dance, 0% Womens, 0% Pairs…. #nurselife
Joseph: (Live): Short Dance, Pairs SP, Mens LP
Kara: All of it that aired on the Olympic Channel, so I missed some of the earlier groups.
Kelly: All of it!
Punk: Almost all of singles, and the best of pairs and ice dance.
Tiffany: Full NBC broadcast + supplemented with YouTube videos. Missed a few of the early skaters in pairs and ladies because I couldn’t find the videos.
Who had the best performance of the event?
Erica: Boyang Jin’s free program! Wow where did this guy come from or have I just been living under a rock? I appreciated his music choice and costuming. Very fresh and very fitting, nice not to have the same classical music.
Joseph: From an, “I stayed on my feet the whole program” perspective, Boyang Jin’s free skate. While it didn’t set my soul on fire with any artistry or depth of emotion, as a technical quad cranking machine, he did his thing.
Kara: My girl Kaori Sakamoto! I loved both of her programs, but I liked the free skate most. I LOVE that Amelie program.
Kelly: For me, the best performance was Jason Brown’s free skate. Even though Brown made the Grand Prix Final (after Boyang Jin withdrew because of injury), his season was a bit shaky, and after he finished sixth at U.S. Nationals, he wasn’t named to the Olympic team. He channeled what I imagine must be some heartbreak over not making the team into an emotional, moving free skate. It was the freest he’s looked all season, and I was happy that he switched back to his old free skate, if only so that we could enjoy it one more time.
Punk: This is a little bit of a cop-out answer, but with so many final career skates occurring at 4CC, I think the best performances were Kevin’s, Elladj’s, and Grant’s free skates. In the hoopla and the pressure of the Olympics, we forget about the people who dedicated their whole lives to this sport but who’s stories don’t end with the Games. These three programs made the whole competition weekend for me.
Tiffany: Hawayek and Baker continue to impress me. Not knowing who will be retiring at the end of the season, I had my concerns that the up-and-coming dancers weren’t strong enough to step into the potential void. But Kaitlin and Jean-Luc are phenomenal, and I cannot wait to see where they go from here.
Who improved the most from the last time you watched them skate?
Erica: Kevin Reynolds, free program. He may have under-rotated his jumps, it was the cleanest I’ve ever seen him skate in a very long time! Also really enjoyed watching Canadian dance. I last saw them at Skate Canada Sections in BC and it’s nice to see them get international experience!
Joseph: Even though her free skate wasn’t perfect, Mariah Bell skated with a presence and command that was nice to see. I’d like to see a couple more years of her.
Kara: Mariah Bell. She finally landed that triple-triple and it was clean! Yeah, she missed some other jumps but she was struggling with that opening pass all season, and that West Side Story program was the best I’ve seen it. I wouldn’t mind seeing her keep that for next season.
Kelly: I’m going to say Tarah Kayne and Danny O’Shea, based on their overall upward trajectory this season. After battling back from what sounds like was a very serious injury, they debuted this season at Golden Spin; while that competition was solid, they skated much better at U.S. Nationals less than one month later and walked away with the silver medal. They looked even stronger at Four Continents and they deserved that gold medal. The Swan Lake program is a great fit for them–that final lift gives me chills!–and I’m looking forward to seeing what they do at Worlds.
Punk: This is probably going to be a very popular answer but Ryom/Kim here, to me, were clearly head and shoulders above what I thought was already an impressive showing at Nebelhorn in September. Both of their programs this year really showcase how well-balanced and charismatic they are as skaters, so to see them perform like they did, especially in their “A Day In The Life” short was thrilling. They don’t quite have the punch and the polish of the other top pairs teams yet, but they’re closer than they’ve ever been, and I think if they perform like they did here in Pyeong Chang, they’re sure to be crowd favorites. Not to mention, Tae-Ok’s unitards in HD? A blessing to us all.
Tiffany: Boyang is back! I’ll admit that I’ve had him on the bottom of the list as far as the top 5-6 men in the world based solely on artistry. But he looked really strong and just about fully recovered from his injury earlier this season. Now, I don’t think a clean Boyang will beat a clean Yuzu, Javi, Shoma, or Nathan, but those other guys don’t have nearly as much room for mistakes as they might have had in the past.
Which performance was the most underscored?
Joseph: Satoko Miyahara’s overall skating and performance was so far ahead of everyone in the ladies event here, and her free skate (Despite the imperfections) should have still won her the event.
Kara: Misha Ge. His free skate was NOT seventh best. He deserved better GOEs on some of his elements and certain other skaters got positive GEOs on scratchy elements that should not have received them. I also thing his component scores should be much higher.
Kelly: I actually thought the judging was (whispers) pretty good at this event – or maybe I just focused on it less than I do when someone’s Grand Prix Final/Worlds/Olympics spot is on the line?
Punk: It wasn’t her best free skate this season, but the fact that Satoko Miyahara hasn’t broken 70 in PCS feels simply criminal to me. I’m not normally one to sweat over .24 of a point, nor do I think her placement was wrong, but come now. The quality of her skating and presentation was undoubtedly the strongest out of all of her competitors here, at what I think was a reasonably-scored event, but after seeing the PCS out of Europeans (for which I thought scores were almost comically high), I can’t help but think Satoko’s presentation score shouldn’t have been a bit higher.
Tiffany: I feel like Grant’s free skate was about 7 points below what it should have been. There were some folks who got a higher PCS that I don’t think was justified.
Which performance was the most overscored?
Erica: Hawayek/Baker in the short dance. Anyone else feel like they were wading through molasses in their program? I felt like all the short dances were a bit over-scored to be honest.
Joseph: As much as I think Miyahara’s FP was underscored, is as much as I think Kaori Sakamoto’s FP was overscored. She’s a great skater & jumper, but to have PCS scores anywhere close to Miyahara’s is ridiculous.
Kara: Jason Brown’s free skate. I am sorry but some of his jumps had scratchy landings and they received positive GOEs and it’s ridiculous. I’m American but I’m kind of over the judges propping him up like that.
Kelly: Same answer as above!
Punk: I think on the whole this competition leaned towards more conservative scoring and I didn’t find any one performance to be overscored.
Tiffany: I actually think the judges were mostly in line here. I didn’t see any egregious over-scoring here (unlike Euros)
Out of those skaters and teams who finished in the bottom half of their events, who had the best performance?
Erica: Loved Elladj Balde’s short program! I feel like while he doesn’t get the jumps done, the other parts of his program are so enjoyable to watch! He just brings so much to the table!
Joseph: Grant Hochstein’s FP wins the, “Matt Savoie Journeyman” Award here. It was so great to see him end his competitive career with a respectable, clean skate that even included at least one quad.
Kara: Xiangning Li? Tough question as I did not see all of these due to OC’s coverage, but I’m always impressed by Li, and I think she just keeps getting better and better. She just needs a triple-triple and she’ll be there.
Kelly: I have to give a shout out to Andrew Dodds, who skated in BOTH the Men’s and the Ice Dance events, a feat which I imagine takes a lot of focus and endurance.
Punk: Donovan Carrillo. Donovan Carrillo. DONOVAN. CARRILLO. If you didn’t catch him this weekend, stop reading this and go watch his programs immediately.
Tiffany: I love Komatsubara/Koleto. They have great flow and a wonderful quality about their skating.
Among those who will continue competing this season, who has the most to gain at their next competition?
Erica: At this point in the season I’m not entirely sure who is going to the Olympics vs. who will be going to worlds, but I feel like because it’s an Olympic year we get the opportunity to watch some “up and comers.” I’m really interested to see what happens with Soucisse and Firus in ice dance if they go to worlds!
Joseph: Shoma Uno could really be setting himself up to be a big spoiler of the “Hanyu, Fernandez, Chen” podium conversation in Pyeongchang.
Kara: Boyang Jin. His performance here is building some incredible momentum going into the Olympics. I’m not sure anyone had him listed as a contender for the podium, but all of a sudden I believe he could challenge.
Kelly: Boyang Jin. He’s hardly a dark horse for a medal at the Olympics, but he’s not always talked about as a contender for the gold. Beating Shoma Uno here gives him some momentum going into the Olympics, and I’ll be interested to see how he builds on it.
Punk: Boyang “Never tell me the odds” Jin. After fighting through the Grand Prix series injured and more or less being counted out of the gold medal race by almost every figure skating news source, to show up here with two clean programs full of noticeable improvements this close to The Games was a statement. According to Boyang, his showing here was only his “90%”. If The Force is truly with him in two weeks (aha ahaaaa), he could be looking at an Olympic title.
Tiffany: Boyang for sure. If he’s able to carry this momentum into the Olympics – those other guys better watch out.
Among those who will continue competing this season, who has the most to lose at their next competition?
Erica: Not sure! I feel like at this point its kind of up in the air who will go to worlds! It would be nice to see some of the less experienced skaters get a chance to shine!
Joseph: Since this event had a bit of a,”Senior B” feel in terms of the competitors I’d have to say one of the big names…it’d probably be Miyahara.
Kara: I hate to say it, but Satoko Miyahara. Though her performance was fine, I’m sure it’s not what she was looking for. Her critics are already out and vocal, and I don’t think this was what she wanted going into the Olympics. But if anyone can recover, it’s Satoko.
Kelly: The flip side of my answer to the last question: Shoma Uno. The Olympic season is a pressure cooker, and he no doubt has heavy expectations on his shoulders. If he skates clean, he absolutely can contend for the gold medal. As this competition showed, though, if he’s not at his best he is beatable.
Punk: Satoko Miyahara. Her jumps at this competition were noticeably better than they were on the GP circuit and at Nationals, and I’m expecting a comfortable rise in her PCS after this competition as long as she continues to bring her best. That being said, with other competitors attaining greater GOEs, as well as her own injury, with which she’ll be practicing with and recovering from in the coming weeks, one mistake could cost Satoko in such a deep ladies field.
Tiffany: Satoko looked uncharacteristically vulnerable here. She will have to be crispy clean to stay ahead of her country woman, whose star is on the rise.
What surprised you most about this event?
Erica: I really loved seeing some of the lesser known skaters skate. Its always exciting to see what the future looks like and watch people progress!
Joseph: The success of the American pairs teams was a pleasant surprise.
Kara: The high level of skating I saw from the US pairs. I wasn’t really expecting that, to be honest, and all three US teams surprised me. I was also blown away by the North Korean team. They are just amazing and I can’t wait to watch them again at the Olympics.
Kelly: I wasn’t surprised that the Japanese ladies swept the podium here, but I WAS a little bit surprised by the order. I wasn’t talking about Kaori Sakamoto as a medal contender before – but I will be now.
Punk: How enjoyable and almost relaxed it was. I would’ve thought this close to The Games, the pressure would’ve been at it’s highest and the programs at their messiest. I’ve never been this glad to be wrong.
Tiffany: The number of people competing here who will also be going to the Olympics. I understand why Boyang would come (so the Olympics wouldn’t be his competition in months), but I don’t know why anybody else would make a point of competing at 4CC – especially if it wasn’t being used for Olympic Team selection.
Which non-medalist from this event who will continue competing this season is likely to have the most success at the Olympics/Worlds?
Erica: Not entirely sure who is going to the Olympics at this point!
Joseph: If they can skate two performances up to the quality of their SP at 4CC, the Australian pair team (Alexandrovskaya & Windsor) could make a big splash.
Kara: Dabin Choi. She had a really solid performance here, and I am hoping she can build off of that at the Olympics.
Kelly: Denis Ten. It’s been a tough season for him, but he tends to peak late, LATE in the season, and he is, of course, the defending Olympic bronze medalist. If THAT Denis shows up at the Olympics (and the other top men make some mistakes), he could shake some things up.
Punk: Misha’s going to have a great year no matter what. I don’t know if I’m necessarily expecting him to place high, but that doesn’t matter, this whole season is just icing on the cake for him, which probably makes him the most successful of us all.
Tiffany: Misha Ge is going to continue to slay this season and ride the wave of clean programs to Top 6 finishes at the Olympics and Worlds.
Which medalist from this event who will continue competing this season is likely to have the most success at the Olympics/Worlds?
Erica: Shoma Uno I think? Again not really sure who is going to the Olympics vs worlds! I think Boyang Jin will likely do well at worlds! So could Jason Brown if he pulls his socks up!
Joseph: Shoma Uno, all day long.
Kara: Kaori Sakamoto. I’m hoping, and I believe she can challenge for a ladies medal at the Olympics. Long shot, maybe, but I love her so I’m rooting for her.
Kelly: I’d love to see Satoko Miyahara, the bronze medalist here, skate away with a medal at the Olympics. I also expect that Jin and Uno will make strong showings.
Punk: At this point in this wild season, having seen the Olympics that I have in the past, I wouldn’t be surprised if Kaori pulled an upset for the podium in PyeongChang. And frankly, I’m alright with that. I’m expecting her to do well already, but as she’s shown us already, counting her out of the medal race for any competition is a mistake.
Tiffany: Satoko is going to bounce back, skate clean programs where all her jumps will be judged as rotated, and will add Olympic and World medals to her collection of hardware.
The experts always get to make “bold predictions.” Make a bold prediction about something that will happen in the remainder of the season.
Erica: I would love to see some young blood at the Olympics in the top this time! I feel like there are a lot of repeat attendees that aren’t necessarily representative of where skating is going in the future. I would also love to see some new numbers! What is with so many recycled numbers?
Joseph: Olympic pressure and nerves will creep in, and there will be a men’s and ice dance podium finisher from either the US or Russia that no one saw coming.
Kara: Boyang Jin wins gold at the Olympics. Maybe it’s not such a bold prediction anymore, but he’s peaking at the right time.
Kelly: I’m superstitious, so I hesitate to say this, but: Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue will win the bronze medal in ice dance.
Punk: Canada wins the Olympic Team Event, but only Virtue/Moir finish on the podium in the respective discipline events. Similarly to Worlds 2017, two of the top three men after the short will finish off the Olympic podium, Boyang will yolo his way to an Olympic medal, but Nathan will win Worlds 2018. Alina, Evgenia, and Carolina will make up the Olympic podium, but in a different order than at Euros, and Wakaba will be back to unexpectedly podium at Worlds. James/Cipres earn Olympic silver. The American ice dance teams place one right after the other after the free. I bawl through the last two groups of every free skate (oh wait, that’s guaranteed).
Tiffany: Boyang will win a bronze medal at the Olympics
Anything else to add about this event?
Erica: Anyone else feel like its whack-a-mole with skating competitions in an Olympic year? Everyone wants to watch every ISU event and every Nationals, keeping track is hard!
Joseph: The raw, emotional look on Jason Brown’s face at the end of his FP would indicate that his performance here was the end of…something. I think there are 2-4 years left in him, but they’ll HAVE TO BE in a different environment where he can challenge himself both technically and artistically. He is SO gifted, and he owes it to himself to realize more of his potential. I (selfishly) want to see him realize it.
Kara: I just want to say I was also super blown away by Wang/Liu’s performance. They just might be my new favorite team. That lift in their free dance NEVER fails to amaze me.
Kelly: I can’t believe that the Olympics are less than two weeks away, and I can’t wait to watch with all of you!
Punk: It’s gonna take everything in me to not go to my hairdresser and get Mai Mihara’s power bangs after this weekend. Girl looked (and skated) great.
Tiffany: 4CC > Euros
What did you think about this year’s Four Continents Championship? How did our judges do? Leave us a comment to let us know, then sign up to judge a future event!