Tag Archives: Tara Lipinski

Oh Mirai, Mirai: Cup of China Ladies’ Free Skate

Mirai Nagasu with Cup of China winners Takahiko Kozuko & Miki Ando of Japan/UniversalSports.com/Tatjana Flade

It was a flashback to last year’s Cup of China. It was a flashback to last year’s World Championships. Mirai Nagasu skated into first place after the short program and the next day fell apart for the free skate. Aptly put by commentator Andrea Joyce, “[There’s] a pattern here that she would love to break.”

So. Much. Insight.

Nagasu is sadly known for a strong short and then a rough free skate in which she simply cannot hold thing together. Despite a great start to the program with a three jump triple-lutz-double-toe-double-toe combination, she continued to miss jump elements and suffered several downgrades, culminating with a fall in the second half of her performance.

My kitchen was a sad place whilst I watched the drama unfold.

Nagasu’s first place ranking perverted into that roughest of place finishes: fourth, and just out of reach of the podium.

So that was also a flashback to last winter, when Nagasu finished fourth at the Olympics.

Lots of flashbacks.

Nagasu was last on the ice for the free skate competition, coming shortly after “once again Miki Ando [had] thrown down a challenge to the teenager from California” (thank you Andrea).

Way to freak out Words to Bumble’s favorite, Miki Ando. Way to freak her out.

Commentator Tara Lipinski reflected that, “There’s so much more pressure on Mirai this season, and if you can’t get your head in the game and block everyone and everything else out, it’s really hard to focus on your elements.”

I mean, her retina may also have been scarred from some of the costumes she had seen over the course of her weekend in Beijing, so her vision may have been compromised.

Mirai Nagasu/Getty Images

On the upside, her costume was inoffensive and fitting for a program skated to music from Memoirs of a Geisha. And in addition to her opening three-fer combo, she landed two lovely two-fer combos right after she wiped out on a jump. Way to get back up.

And although she was clearly not a happy camper when it was all over, she still smiled for her bows, she tried a smile and wave after her scores… even though she and coach Frank Carroll then beat it post-haste to get the hell off camera.

Fair enough.

So… Frank, Mirai and I are all hoping for a happier free skate at her next Grand Prix event in Paris, France. /I would like to spend a weekend in France shopping, eating and watching figure skating.

Miki Ando/sports.cn.com

And what about—you might ask—the lady who won it all, Miki Ando?

She’s pretty fierce, and probably still pretty mad that she placed 5th at the Olympics, right behind Ms. Nagasu. She skated a clean free program, the only one of the ladies to do so, prompting Lipinski to declare that “She is one of the best technicians” in women’s figure skating. At the end of her program Joyce exclaimed, “She has really thrown it down—so to speak.”

Joyce sounded just a little bit as though she wished she had gone for an alternate wording on that one.

Ando finished 25 points ahead of Nagasu and was joined on the podium by fellow Japanese skater Akiko Suzuki and Alena Leonova.


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Grand Prix Catch-up for Japan and Canada, Ready for Cup of China

Rachael Flatt/DailyLife.com/Koji Watanabe/Getty Images

First and foremost, Rachael Flatt got a haircut. So now we match. That is what’s important here, right?

Secondly, she—and many others—continue to wear awkwardly colored tights. There are taupe tights, there are overly-tan tights, there are tights that can’t decide whether they are nude or a very sheet black. This ongoing problem continues to distract me endlessly during the ladies’ programs. I can’t help it.

But seriously, what has been up with our faves from last winter/spring on Words to Bumble?

I have already expounded of the wonderfulness of Jeremy Abbott’s season debut—so check that out if you missed it.

Rachael Flatt was the élite American lady representing the United States at the same competition—the ISU Grand Prix Japan NHK Trophy. She won the free skate with her “Slaughter on Tenth Avenue” program, maintaining the vaudeville-y burlesque music type from last season. She raked in 107.35 for the long program with a total of 161.04 overall, taking her to the podium for a silver medal, mirroring Abbott’s podium placement in the men’s competition.

Words from commentators? First of all, “This is a year, a post-Olympic year when you take it up a notch and announce,  ‘Listen, I am going to help dictate what the next four-year cycle is going to be like.’ It starts right now.”


At any rate it looks like Flatt has been working on her audience engagement a bit, getting some more emotional connection into her skating, etc. Commentator Tara Lipinski said, “I think what she’s been working on is her artistry—the second mark, the presentation. And she’s adding more facial expression and emotion, but I think she still needs to focus on paying attention to developing the basic flow of her skating and extension.”

Carolina Kostner/NPR.com/AP

Either way, she was solid enough to open the Grand Prix season with a trip to the podium for silver behind Carolina Kostner of Italy (with serious skin-tone fabric issues) and ahead of newcomer Kanako Murakami.

Meanwhile, Meryl Davis and Charlie White dominated Ice Dance and took home the NHK Trophy for their competition, closing with a tango featuring their usual grace, perfect synchronicity and the occasional truly weird and impossible looking lift.

Not a bad start to the international season for Team USA.

To follow-up, last weekend Alizza Czisny took home the gold at Skate Canada with 172.37 points (which, thank you NBC, will not be airing until this coming Saturday). The men’s title went to Canadian Patrick Chan, with American Adam Rippon coming in third.

Meryl Davis & Charlie White/UniversalSports.com/Koji Watanabe/Getty Images


And coming up this weekend, possibly airing never on NBC? The Grand Prix Cup of China will see the return of Words To Bumble ladies’ favorite, Mirai Nagasu who will be skating to “The Witches of Eastwick” and “Memoirs of  Geisha.” The girl must really like John Williams, but then… who doesn’t?

I will miss her “Pirates of the Caribbean” program, but always treasure the memories. Kind of like how I miss Jeremy Abbott’s Beatles program, but will just have to treasure the memory of the purple vest outfit and Beatles love.

Very much looking forward to seeing how Nagasu looks in China. She will be my personal highlight of the goings-on, but the United States will also be represented by Amanda Dobbs and Kristine Musadembra.Miki Ando of Japan should also be great to see.

In the men’s competition look out for the return of Brian Joubert of France, in the market to erase Olympic memories of No. 16. Ross Miner and Brandon Mroz of the US will compete as well.

There is a slide show of skaters to watch on UniversalSports.com for the Cup of China, if you want to know it all.

Recaps and ponderings forthcoming.

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ISU Grand Prix Nagoya: Japan’s Junior-Senior Rising Stars, Kanako Murakami & Yuzuru Hanyu

Figure skating is back for 2010-2011 (and I am a little behind due to unexpected cable provider issues…)!

The ISU Grand Prix series runs every autumn, consisting of six international competitions featuring pairs, ice dance, men’s and women’s figure skating on the senior level. There is also a junior level ISU Grand Prix, which we will touch on again later. Just note it.

This year the Grand Prix opened with the NHK Trophy in Nagoya, Japan over the weekend October 22-24. Inexplicably, NBC did not air its selections until the following weekend, which got me all mixed up with my dates and general comfusion—but onwards. Skate Canada went down over Halloween weekend, the Cup of China is coming up next (Nov. 5-6), then Skate America (Nov. 12-14), Cup of Russia (Nov. 19-20) and concluding with the Grand Prix of France Trophée Eric Bompard before the final to be held back in Beijing over December 9-12.

So that’s that informational introduction to the whole Grand Prix shebang.

Mao Asada/Getty Images

The NHK Trophy competition saw a mixture of disappointment and triumph for established Japanese figure skating stars. Mao Asada, reigning ladies’ World Champion and Olympic silver medalist had an upsetting start to the 2010-11 season, finishing in only 8th place on home ice. Meanwhile, Daisuke Takahashi—reigning men’s World Champion and Olympic bronze medalist—turned in a typically strong performance, taking the NHK Trophy gold.

The real story for this post, however, is about two newly risen junior champions, skating for the first time at the senior level of competition. The reigning ISU Junior World Champions are both young Japanese skaters (15 years old) who made quite a splash in their first senior Grand Prix. Kanako Murakami beat out one of her heroes, Mao Asada, placing for bronze with a 150.16. Yuzuru Hanyu came just short of the men’s podium with a strong fourth place début performance, totalling 207.72.

Commentators Terry Gannon, Tara Lipinski and Michael Weiss loved the fresh skates given by Murakami and Hanyu, reflecting time and time again that at this time last year they were still skating in the juniors.

At the start of Murakami’s free skate

Kanako Murakami/UniversalSports.com/Toru Yamanaka/AFP Getty Images

to the Mask of Zorro soundtrack, commentator Terry Gannon said, “[She] may be the next Japanese star on the horizon… who won every event in which she entered last season—all on the junior level the wins were though—and she is the reigning world junior champion. Now in the senior , skating internationally and in a position to win!”

Michael Weiss followed up reflecting on the junior to senior transition: “It’s difficult, you’re coming off of winning everything as a junior, there’s a lot of expectations on you, especially with the history of the Japanese skaters. And to come out in your home town for your first event—a lot of experience will be gained in this performance.” And then later: “I remember when I first came up from juniors, making that transition, to be on the ice for the first time with your heroes… and you wonder, do I belong here? You won everything as a junior and making that transition is a difficult transition, but she obviously has the elements with that huge triple-triple at the beginning.”

She had a lot of energy and the hometown audience continued to feed her speed and attacking mentality throughout the free skate program, despite a of couple falls in the second half. Tara Lipinski was also commenting for NBC and praised Murakami’s tenacity: “Even with these mistakes, she is not slowing down, she just attacks these jumps. She has so much speed going into them.”

And despite a couple of glitches and spills, Murakami came out of it with a bronze medal—not too shabby for her first senior level international competition, in her hometown of Nagoya.

Fun fact: Miki Ando and Mao Asada, two current Japanese greats are (naturally) Murakami’s heroes. One of the reasons she selected her high school is because that is where Ando and Asada studied. Asada even gave Murakami the blazer that she wore at the school’s entrance ceremony.

As for Yuzuru Hanyu, “another star from Japan on the rise,” he decided to get started with a great quad (going to have to talk about quads at length in a future post), just to note that even though he just came out of the juniors, he can do it all technically.

Yuzuru Hanyu/NPR.com/Getty Images

In terms of criticism, Weiss talked about how when you come up from the juniors and “it doesn’t look like anything can slow [you] down technically,” the area in which young skaters have to grow the most is performance quality in terms of connecting with the audience by maximizing the pull of arm movements and facial expression. Creating and keeping that connection has a lot to do with keeping up stamina throughout a peice—poor Hanyu looked like he just wanted to fall over of exhaustion in the last third of his program.

But it was an impressive program all the same, just out of reach of the podium. Weiss and Gannon talked a lot about potential for Hanyu’s future as a skater and noted that this performance was “a glimpse into the future.”

I just love commentators. And I am so glad that figure skating is back.

Up next? Let’s talk about Jeremy Abbott from the perspective of Stars of Ice co-star Michael Weiss…


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Shocking Performances, A Displaced Queen & the Olympic Hangover: Ladies’ Figure Skating World Championships

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If Johnny Weir has said it once, he has said it a hundred times: “the Olympic hangover” had a huge effect on the figure skating world championships this year. Several of the top male competitors– including Weir– dropped out of the competition and the women– especially those on the younger side– appear to have cracked under the pressure of the final act to the Olympic season beginning a mere three weeks after closing ceremonies. After the free skates Tara Lipinski (who called the programs with Andrea Joyce and also provided commentary with Johnny Weir and Peter Carruthers in the so-called Universal Sports “loft”) exclaimed in exasperation, “These ladies need to learn to handle pressure!”

While the men’s championship was already a completely different beast from Olympic competition due to the absence of leaders Evan Lysacek and Evgeny Plushenko, the women’s field retained an almost full roster of high-ranking skaters, excluding bronze Olympian Joannie Rochette.

There were opportunities for redemption– as in the men’s competition–, titles to be defended and expectations to be met. There was potential for drama and drama was had.

The Short Programs:


Mirai Nagasu skated a downright spectacular short program, earning her a 70.04 point personal best providing the breakout performance of the competition. As analyst Peter Carruthers said: “Wow– did she just rock the place!”

Nagasu’s dreamy skate preceding the most shocking of the short programs: Olympic champion Kim Yu-Na delivered an oddly off performance of her James Bond routine, leaving the arena stunned silent upon receipt of her score: 60.03, ten points below Nagasu (who skated just before her) and a full eighteen points below her Olympic showing.

Coming off the ice Kim said something about a boot lace to her coach. She has also expressed having difficulty remaining focused and motivated after the emotional and physical strain of the Olympic games in Vancouver last month. She shortened a triple flip, had wobbly landings and some issues on a spiral sequence.

Neither fans nor commentators nor Kim herself seemed to have any idea what to do with such a result. Lipinski put it simply: “It’s so shocking.”

Weir continued with, “I think she’s so used to skating clean– it shocks not only us but it shocks her.”

One of the most shocking results of Kim’s short program is that she did not score high enough to warm up and skate with the last group for the long program. Her final placement for the short program was seventh position.


Due to Kim’s poor showing, Olympic silver medalist Mao Asada of Japan found herself in prime position to challenge the Olympic champion and defending World Champion Kim Yu-Na. Asada’s short program put her into second place just a few points behind Nagasu. Asada of course had been the Kim’s main rival over the  years; this season found her more and more unable to catch up as Kim continued to excel at a meteoric rate. In fact, in the past two years Kim had only ceded once to the competition– that competition was Asada still fighting her end of a fading rivalry against a fierce opponent. After the short program Weir selected Asada as his pick for the top of the podium.

Laura Lepisto of Finland took third place after the short program, after having been somewhat discounted in Vancouver.

The Free Skate:

Kim Yu-Na delivered another lackluster performance for her free skate. As she came off the ice, Lipinski forecasted: “I know she wants to defend her title, but I’m not sure that’s going to be enough to win.”  She suffered an unlikely fall, a scratched jump and substituted with a waltz jump, which– sidebar–  Tara Lipinski declared  is the jump you learn when you are three years old. Lipinski appeared to be quite frustrated with the inconsistency of the performances at these Worlds.

Giampiero Sposito/ Getty Images/ UniversalSports.com

Surprisingly Kim’s free skate was scored the highest, allowing her to somewhat overcome her short program and land on the podium for the silver medal. I for one was  shocked by the final standings, particularly when confronted by the utterly defeatist attitude that Kim took onto the ice. Weir even observed that it “looked like she was hating being out there,” and Lipinski commented on “the way she got up was so slow” after falling on a salchow.

Damien Meyers/ Getty Images/ UniversalSports.com

Skating after Kim, Asada put in a strong performance that was somehow scored below Kim’s free skate but still placed Asada in first place when combined with her short program. Asada delivered her trademark triple axel twice, prompting Lipinski to exclaim,”Her jumps are just so smooth!”

A final declaration by Joyce: “Wow! What a terrific  performance by Mao Asada and she knows it!”

Skating second to last, it seemed that Mirai Nagasu was well within reach of the podium, if not the top spot. Lipinski uttered ill-fated words: “These next four minutes could really change [Nagasu’s] career.” [Full recap of Nagasu at the Worlds]

Clearly there were a lot of nerves at stake given Nagasu’s unexpected ranking coming out of the short program and it appears that at the end of such a high-stress Olympic-year season the pressure was just too much. Instead of being bolstered by her short program performance, Nagasu caught herself a bunch of nerves and despite fighting her way through the entire program could not hang on and ended up in a disappointing seventh place.

Yuri Kadobnovi/ Getty Images/ UniversalSport.com

Laura Lepisto again put in another solid skate, placing sixth in the free skate and holding on to her third place position overall for the bronze medal behind Kim Yu-Na in an unaccustomed number two position and Mao Asada claiming a deserved and hard-won gold at the top.

Weir, as usual, reflected on the subjectivity of judging in figure skating, saying that he felt Nagasu was overly punished for her mistakes. Regarding Lepisto he said that although she stated well, she only has doubles in her repertoire: “She didn’t have the jumps… It was disappointing for me to see that as a bronze medal performance,” which he thinks would have been more fairly awarded to Miki Ando of Japan.

I for one loved seeing the reality of competition in this ladies championship, especially after the Olympic where Kim Yu-Na was so unstoppable that the competition was downgraded to a fight for silver and bronze. Torino bore witness to the fierceness that is Mao Asada, the lady who lands multiple triple axels and who continued to challenge herself to challenge Kim Yu-Na for the gold– even at the Olympics.

Her triple axels even made Tara Lipinski’s ‘best moments’ list: “Watching Mao land a second triple axel, I just admire her so much!”

It really was a most exciting competition to watch; both more exciting and more devastating that the Olympics– a battle to the end. I give Mao Asada the Words to Bumble Fierce Award.

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Ups & Downs: Mirai Nagasu at the 2010 ISU World Championships

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Clive Rose/Getty Images/ UniversalSports.com

Mirai Nagasu skated a downright spectacular short program, earning her a 70.04 point personal best providing the breakout performance of the competition. The camera caught her exclaiming, “yeah!” in the kiss and cry area upon hearing her score. When asked to name her “best moments” of the 2010 World Championships, Lipinski recalled the grin on Nagasu’s face in the final pose of her short program, soaking it all in and “really enjoying the moment.” Weir tried to describe the emotions at play in the final pose of a stellar skate: “That beautiful joy, and just– you know, holding that end position.”

But back to the beginning…

As Nagasu entered the ice Andrea Joyce noted, “What a fighter she has come to be.” Lipinski reflected, “The focus she has just before she skates is amazing.” As such a young skater competing again the likes of Kim Yu-Na and Mao Asada, Nagasu had not been lauded as a skater in contention for a medal at the Olympics, making her fourth place finish quite the fighting statement. Her first place score for the short program declared yet again that Nagasu is, as she likes to say, “the future.”

Clive Rose/ Getty Images/ UniversalSports.com

It was a spectacular performance full of Nagasu’s unparalleled trademark spins, spirals and fluid grace, leading Lipinski to comment, “This is what she does best… I don’t think anybody can match her on the spins orthe spirals… Look at the flexibility, it’s amazing! … She keeps the speed throughout the entire spin.”

Weir exclaimed, “She has to be missing bones in her back! … It’s gorgeous, no one can do that.”

And Lipinski went on to praise the totality of Nagasu’s skating, because of course it is not just about the spins: “[Nagasu] really mastered the ability the art of just skating in and out of a jump… [and] she not only has the flexibility, but she has the jumps.”

Weir also reflected on how inspiring it must be for Nagasu to train with Olympic champion Evan Lysacek, widely regarded as having an incredibly admirable training ethic and total skating style: “Making sure you’re performing from your head to your toes.”

After the short program Nagasu spoke to reporters, remaining grounded in the ongoing battle of competition: “I think it was a good way to do my very last short program this year… I just need to stay focused… It was really important to me to be able to do the triple-triple here after the Olympics.. After the Olympics I’ve been really tired, but I’m glad that I stuck to it and did the best performance that I could here.” She went on to say elude to the hard work ahead for next season to keep her momentum going.

Lipinski closed the discussion on Nagasu’s short program by saying that “Mirai really needs to prove herself and she knows this is the place to do it.”

Unfortunately the pressure would prove to be too much for Mirai Nagasu, who despite a strong lead coming out of the short program (in which she had scored ten points higher than Kim Yu-Na with an out-of-character skate directly following Nagasu), would finish the world championships in seventh place.

Nagasu’s free skate began with Lipinski– who had earlier cautioned Weir’s prediction that Mao Asada would take the gold in favor of Nagasu– solemnly stating, “These next four minutes could really change her career.”

I look back on my notes and I feel devastation.

Nagasu made a mistake on her first jump, downgrading a triple to a double lutz prompting commentators to say that, “She needs to take control now and forget about that.” As she settled into the program recovery seemed possible: “She is in a little bit of a trouble. She just needs to make sure she can get on the podium– but I think she can.”


Nagasu unfortunately continued to have trouble with the take-off on combo and later fell on a double axel landing, prompting: “I think it’s just nerves sitting in first place… knowing you could win your first world championships.”

Instead of a triumphant end pose, Nagasu smacked her head with both hands in frustration. As she came off the ice she apologized to coach Frank Carroll who put things in perspective: “You’re not dead.”

When judges delivered her scores the girl who “showed a lot of spunk and a lot of fight at the Olympics,” and shocked Torino with a phenomenal short program was pushed back into seventh place.

Afterwards, a distraught Nagasu fought back tears to speak with reporters (sidebar: her coach has said such things as “There’s no crying in figure skating,” after Nagasu’s rough 2008/09 season). Nagasu struggled saying, “I just wanted to come here and improve on my performance at the Olympics… and I feel really bad. I’m just gonna work harder and do better next year.” She said she has not been this low since she was eleven. It was a sad story, but it marks the impetus for a season driven by the desire for redemption at the 2011 Worlds, where Nagasu is sure to fight harder than ever before to get onto that podium and take what was almost hers.

As Andrea Joyce said: “[Nagasu] has her eyes looking forward always.” Looking forward to seeing her fight it out next season.


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Skeletor Returns to the Ice: Men’s Figure Skating World Championships

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The most upsetting thing about watching the ISU Figure Skating World Championships is that the Olympics were about five minutes ago and most people are skating the same programs with the same costumes– and let’s face it: discussing sartorial choices is a major highlight of figure skating commentary in my mind.

On that note, I tip my hat to Kevin Van Der Perren of Belgium for changing up his free skate program. You may remember him as the skeletor man from the Olympic short program. For his free skate at the World Championships in Torino, Van Der Perren chose to mix things us and perform a program to “Reflections of Earth” (of Disney World fame) which appears to be a piece that he originally skated in the 2000/2001 season.


Inexplicably this is the only image Universal Sports has to offer of his performances in Torino– but know that it was dramatic and spangled. And the music started out just as terrifyingly as his “Night on Bald Mountain” skeletor skate. Van Der Perren is one scary intense dude; he executed a magnificent quad-triple-triple combination worth 19 points out of his 144.88 season’s best score. Johnny Weir, who has been commentating the competition on Universal Sports, described Van Der Perren’s execution of the combination “like shooting an arrow,” after stating that the Belgian skater is not a a fan of choreography, rather for him the sport is all about the jumps, which– for the record– are pretty epic. This was apparently the last competition of his career.

So with Evan Lysacek and  Evgeny Plushenko both absent from the Worlds (Plushenko is apparently injured, but I think he is too busy polishing his fake gold medal), who else was there?

Damien Meyer/Getty Image/ UniversalSports.com

Jeremy Abbott skated as the highest ranked American man, putting in a redeeming short program after a disappointing Olympic performance. Afterwards he said, “I was very pleased with how I skated today… it wasn’t easy– I wasn’t in the zone,” but managed to lay it down anyways. He has repeated said that a misdirected mindset in Vancouver seriously handicapped his performance and that in Torino, “I made the goal about performance outcome instead of trying to win, and I think it really worked out for the best… I can’t control placement, all I can do is skate.”


Abbott took a few spills after a nice start to his long program the next day, but really at the ISU Worlds placing fifth is no mean feat. Plus Abbott’s high placement assures the US the right to a full team of three men to compete next year. Here is looking forward to seeing more of Jeremy Abbott and maybe some more Beatles choreography. Plus, you can always depend on Abbott for a tasteful costume and let’s face it– we all appreciate that!

Meanwhile, Brian Joubert of France took the bronze with performances of redemption after his own disappointing Olympic showing. In case you missed: Joubert’s free skate program begins with a full body heart beat interpretation.

Patrick Chan took the silver for the second year in a row (and someone should tell him that when you wear all black without much texture the details on your costume do not read well at all). This another redemptive moment after a fifth place finish Olympic games in front of the home crowd in Canada.

Olympic bronze medalist Daisuke Takahashi skated for the gold, becoming the male first world champion from Japan. Unfortunately, this means that he again stood on the podium wearing the fringed, check and cowl-necked, peasant vested sartorial situation. Not OK. Sorry.

Regarding Takahashi’s skate,  Johnny Weir said, “He was crisp and clean and perfect… to the end.”

I hope that Weir keeps commentating, because it is amazing and the best is yet to come once we recap his own recap of his Olympic performance and the totality of his World Champion commenting.


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