Now and then, Winter Olympics graces our screens with lots of on-ice and off-ice sports that challenge humanity’s skills in terms of speed, endurance, and grace. The Winter Olympics is decidedly less popular than its summer counterpart, but that does not mean the controversies and scandals are less explosive. Quite the contrary.
One of the stalwarts of Winter Olympics is figure skating. It’s always the pinnacle event, especially the singles field. If you’re one of those people who watch figure skating every four years or so, it can be hard to keep up with the sports jargon that commentators use. That’s why a primer for the sports is nigh. And you’ve come to the right place to get it.
Figure skating is a sport where people perform technical elements on ice with accompanying music. It’s art and sports merged into one, as it isn’t just about doing the elements, it’s how athletes do it, and how they incorporate it in their programs. Figure skating is famous because people get into the sports so much, pick their favorites, and go into the details of the competitor’s merits. So if you’re planning to get into the figure skating competition in the next Winter Olympics, here are the things you need to know:
There are four disciplines in figure skating. These are men’s singles, ladies singles, pairs, and dance. The team event, which is by nation, is separate but still carries every discipline. For this purpose, when you hear “individual events” in the commentary, it means that it’s a better event. This has more weight than the team events because the latter requires all disciplines to be covered for every country.
That means to enter into the team events, a country should have strong men, ladies, pairs, and dance teams. The team event is also a fairly young event, added just two-three Olympic cycles ago. Some prominent teams to watch out for are Russia, Canada, Japan, and the USA. These four are usually the countries that compete, and thus excitement can be limited. Random fact: watches like Hamilton Khaki King may be allowed as part of the skater’s outfit, but most skaters choose not to wear them.
Jumping is a required element in three of the disciplines: men, women, and pairs. But before we go to the individual jumps, you must know the division of programs. There are two programs in every discipline: short program and free skate/long program for men, ladies, and pairs, then short dance and free dance for the dance discipline. The scores in both segments are added to determine the podium placement.
There are three jumps needed in the short program: an Axel jump, one solo jump from steps, and a combination jump. In the free program, skaters are expected to complete seven jumps, three in combination. Identifying jump difference can be very difficult for a beginner, but you can tell the difference by its take off. Toe jumps - lutz, flip, and toe loop uses a pick. Edge jumps - salchow, loop, and axel uses the skater’s edge and motion going into the jump.
Jumps are the highest point-getters. Every jump has a base value, plus the grade of execution. Grade of execution, or GOE, is judged by how well executed the jump is. Falls are automatic -5, and good jumps are rated +1 to +5.
Spins are also required elements. Skaters use spins in programs as much as jumps. Although less valued, it adds to the program’s beauty. The best jumpers aren’t usually the best spinners and vice versa. There are three main spins you need to know: flying camel spin, combination spin, and layback spin.
Similar to jumps, spins are also judged by its execution. A great spin is centered, has the right number of revolutions, and features difficult variations.
Figure skating, like most sports, has its fair share of controversies. Right now, the judging system is favoring technical prowess to keep the sport moving forward, and believers of having artistry toe-to-toe with the sports side of things are doing their best to have the components score valued more. For the occasional viewer, this will have more impact.