In the Loop: Three things I look forward to in the new season

As October is right around the corner, let’s take a look at some of the things that we can pay special attention to in this new season.

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“In the Loop” is a column by Valerie Fang dedicated to the sport of figure skating.

Welcome back to In the Loop! I hope everyone had an enjoyable summer. The past couple of months were a window for the skaters to take a breather and reset for the new season, which also meant that some important decisions were made. Let’s recap some major updates and see how they are affecting the new season.

1. Cha Jun-Hwan, the history-making figure skater from South Korea, decided to terminate his coaching contract with Canadian figure skating coach Brian Orser over the summer. This was a surprising move by Cha, considering how Orser just helped him score silver at the 2023 World Figure Skating Championships. It has officially crowned Cha as the first male from South Korea to win a medal at Worlds. Even prior to this event, Cha had been on the path of steady improvement.

According to various sources, Cha has switched out of the Cricket Club for training in South Korea full-time and also taking care of his college work. He is now preparing for the new season under Chi Hyun-Jung, who also coaches Haein Lee (2023 World silver medalist and 2023 Four Continents champion) and Kim Chaeyeon (2022-23 Junior Grand Prix Final bronze medalist). Cha is undoubtedly in good hands, despite the somewhat disturbing coaching attitude from Chi.

Also, being able to train at their hometown should produce a positive psychological impact on the athlete. My one concern is the transition period. It takes time and patience to adjust to any new training methods. It could hit particularly hard at the beginning of a new season, when skaters are also trying to familiarize themselves with all the new programs. In any case, I am looking forward to seeing how the new coaching is affecting Cha.

2. Will Team USA finally have their medal ceremony from Beijing 2022 sometime soon? It is a question I have often asked myself since last year whenever I start to search for updates on Kamila Valieva’s doping case. CAS (Court of Arbitration for Sport) will hold a closed-to-the-public hearing from Sept. 26 to 29. CAS is likely to issue a ruling to settle the result of the team event, meaning that the U.S. Figure Skating Team could finally have their medal ceremony, about 500 days after the Olympics. Depending on the decision of CAS, if they want to disqualify Russia’s result in the team event during which Valieva competed, Team USA might move up a spot and get gold instead.

I completely agree with the U.S. Figure Skating Team’s request to be present during the September hearing. Japan (third place) and Canada (fourth place) should be there as well, since their rankings could also be moved after the hearing. It is no secret that RUSADA (Russian Anti-Doping Agency) wants and has tried to protect Valieva. Having other national teams there at the Court would therefore encourage transparency and fairness. I hope there will be more updates on the case in the new season and, above all, an ending to this mess with a just outcome for every party involved.

3. Late last year, Skate Canada announced that it has modified the gender rules for participating in pairs and ice dance. Now, the competing couple does not have to consist of a male and a female. Two skaters of any genders can participate in competitions, at least in Canada’s domestic events. I look forward to seeing more diversity in figure skating competitions in Canada.

Also, since this is a revolutionary act by Skate Canada, I am curious to see how it is impacting the international skating community. Will more national figure skating federations follow Canada’s example and make the same policy change? Will there be skaters from different countries showing their support for the new policy either on or off the ice? How about any opposing voices? What will be their argument for not supporting the decision? These questions can be answered only by time as we enter a new season. A whole other story is needed to discuss the details, programs I would like to see under the new policy and whether the United States can follow suit anytime soon. But for now, if you would like to know more about how this new policy came about, you can read this Olympics interview.

A new season is starting and there is plenty to be excited about. We are in for another wild ride. There will no doubt be adrenaline, tears and surprises. But we are ready for it.

“In the Loop” runs every other Friday.