Beginners Guide to Olympic Figure Skating - Sochi 2014

25 November 2013 / 08:30

Figure skating is the oldest sport at the Olympic Winter Games having formed part of the Summer program at London 1908 before featuring again at Antwerp 1920.

The sport was then among the original seven at the very first Olympic Winter Games in Chamonix in 1924 and where it has stayed ever since.

Three events were contested for the first 11 editions of the Winter Games – men’s, ladies and pairs – with ice dance introduced at Innsbruck 1976. Sochi 2014 will see the introduction of a team event for the first time ever.

Only Great Britain and the USA have competed in figure skating at every single Olympics where it has featured – including London 1908 and Antwerp 1920 – with America the most successful nation.

Gillis Grafstrom of Sweden remains the most successful figure skater in Olympic history with four medals between Antwerp 1920 and Lake Placid 1932, including three consecutive golds in the men’s singles plus silver.

Given figure skating’s appearance at Antwerp 1920 he is one of only five athletes to have won medals at both the Summer and Winter Olympic Games.

Figure skating at Salt Lake City 2002 was shrouded in controversy following the performances of the Russian and Canadians pairs athletes and subsequently led to a new judging system to create more objectiveness.

Great Britain have a fine pedigree themselves having won 15 Olympic figure skating medals in total – albeit six coming from London 1908.

Ice dancers Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean are the last British skaters to medal at the Games having won bronze at Lillehammer 1994 while they are also the last to have won gold, following their historic performance to Bolero in Sarajevo 1984.

Torvill and Dean Olympic Team GB Ice Skating

Torvill and Dean’s gold at Sarajevo 1984 was Britain’s third successive one at the Games with Robin Cousins claiming men’s gold at Lake Placid 1980 and John Curry starting it all off by winning the same title at Innsbruck 1976.

Britain will send five skaters to Sochi 2014 having qualified places in the ice dance, pairs and ladies events.

Figure Skating at the Olympic Winter Games is split into five disciplines – men’s, ladies, pairs, ice dance and, new for Sochi 2014, the team.

The scoring in figure skating is subjective with the ISU Judging System currently in operation having replaced the 6.0 system in 2004 following the controversy at the Salt Lake City 2002 Games.

Several officials are involved split into two panels – technical and judging. Judges score the quality of the elements involved in a routine and five program components while a referee judges the competition and runs the event.

Penny Coomes and Nick Buckland Team Gb Ice Skating

For the technical score each move in a skater’s program is given a base value with credit given for every element. Jumps, spins and footwork all have an assigned level of difficulty based on a published pre-set criteria.

Judges give a plus or minus grade of execution to each element which is then added or deducted from the base value. This determines a skater’s score for each element.

Points from zero to ten are given for the five program components which are: skating skills, transitions, performance, choreography and interpretation.

Added together these give the program component score which is then added to the technical score to give a segment score.

At the Olympics the men’s, ladies and pairs events have two segments, the short program and free skate, while in ice dance there are three, compulsory, original and free.

The sum of all the segment scores becomes the total competition score whereby those with the highest are declared the winners.

In the singles events – men’s and ladies – and pairs the first program is the short program which lasts 2:50minutes and includes seven compulsory elements.

The second programme is the free skate, or long program, and lasts 4:00 for ladies and 4:30 for men and pairs and is worth roughly two thirds of the total competition score.

While in singles athletes compete on their own, in pairs athletes are judged by how much their movements mirror each other.

Ice dance at the Olympics meanwhile consists of three segments – compulsory, original and free – with teams scored on their rhythm, musicality, precision and the way they interpret the dance.

In the compulsory dance each team performs a prescribed pattern to the same music, in the original they must follow a specific dance style while in the free they can show off their originality.

Ten nations will contest the team event in the form of one men’s and one ladies representative and one pairs and one ice dance representative.

The singles and pairs athletes skate a short and free programme and the ice dancers a short and a free dance with the nation with the best combined total across all four events the winner.

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