Figure skating: history, rules, peculiarities

Figure skating

In the article “Figure skating” we will talk about the elegant sport of ice skating. You will learn a brief history, rules, and unique features of figure skating.

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Figure skating today is one of the most popular sports at the Winter Olympics, but it was not always so. The sport has come a long way to its popularity, and many people have contributed to its development.

The history of figure skating begins with the invention of skates, which is about 3,000 BC. Back then, people in Scandinavia made skates out of animal bones to move around on frozen rivers and lakes.

First skates
First skates

By the 13th century, skates had already been used in Holland as a means of entertainment, they had learned how to make them out of iron, and artificial rinks had appeared. However, it would take a long time before figure skating became similar to the modern sport.

In 1850 the first models of skates with steel blades, which allowed to perform fast and difficult movements on ice, were introduced. About 10 years later, ballet and dance movements were introduced into the sport, and figure skating acquired a modern look.

The history of development of this elegant sport in Russia began with the opening of the public skating rink in Saint-Petersburg in 1865. Exactly on this rink in 1890 the “training” world championship was held, and 6 years later the first official international tournament.

Aleksey Lebedev
Aleksey Lebedev

Since at that time only men competed in figure skating, the 1890 championship was won by the Russian figure skater Aleksey Pavlovich Lebedev, the world record holder in speed skating, who was subsequently nicknamed the “Grandfather of Russian Figure Skaters”. At the ’96 championship, the winner was German self-taught skater Gilbert Fuchs.

Women began to take part only 10 years after the first championship (1906), and two years later (1908) doubles were included in the Olympic program. Figure dancing did not appear on the program until the 12th Winter Games in 1976.

Throughout the century figure skating has been enriched with new figures and the most complex elements, the sport has become both more diverse and more complex. However, at all international and Olympic tournaments, Russian figure skaters have always won the top step on the podium.

Figure skaters like Natalia Bestemianova and Andrei Bukin, Irina Rodnina and Alexander Zaitsev, Natalia Linichuk and Gennady Karponosov not only forged the glory of the Soviet Union, but also became a true global treasure.

Irina Rodnina
Irina Rodnina

Of course, these athletes could not have reached such heights without outstanding coaches. Coaches such as Tatiana Tarasova, Elena Chaikovskaya, Stanislav Zhuk, Tamara Moskvina, Nikolai Morozov, Eteri Tutberidze, Aleksey Mishin also contributed to the development of winter sport. Moreover, athletes from different countries just dream of having a coach of this level.

Figure skating coaches tend to build close relationships with their athletes, working together with them on a very personal level. The coach acts as an instructor, is a role model, and helps skaters deal with worries and social pressure.

Figure skaters perform on an ice rink measuring 60 meters long and 30 meters wide. For high-level competition, the ice on the rink is well-conditioned and is usually softer than in hockey or speed skating, since athletes must dig their skates into the ice when performing jumps and a variety of spins. The main requirement for filling the ice is its temperature. It should be in the range of – 7 to – 8 degrees.

Skaters perform in front of the judges, who award points according to the elements shown. The competition consists of two stages: a short program or preliminary stage, and a free program or finals. The short program is shorter than the free program.

Judges in figure skating
Judges in figure skating

At major figure skating competitions there is a panel of judges, which consists of 9 judges. They have to give the skaters two marks: the technical mark and the mark of the program components. Of the 9 assessments received, the highest and lowest assessments are discarded, and 7 are counted in the final grade.

The technical evaluation focuses on the quality of the elements performed. Each element is given a base value, and performance can increase or decrease the base value by 5 points. The more complex the element, the higher the baseline value.

The evaluation of the program components is carried out on 5 criteria: sliding skills, footwork, execution, choreography and synchronism with the music. The evaluation is given from 1 to 10 in increments of 0.25. The final score is the sum of the technical and component scores.

If an athlete makes a mistake during the performance, he/she is given a penalty. Penalty points are deducted from the final score. One of the most common and easily noticeable mistakes is falling, which results in 1 point being deducted from the athlete’s score. Penalty in figure skating can also be received for performing dangerous or prohibited elements.

In figure skating, the angle from which the referees follow the performance of skaters is also important. Hide from the judges the shortcomings of the program or, conversely, to highlight its merits. If skaters have poorly honed parallel spins, they can perform this element at the far side, and it will be harder for the judges to consider the error.

The Elaine Zajac rule was introduced so that figure skating doesn’t turn into just a set of difficult jumps. This rule forbids skaters to perform more than two elements of triple or quadruple jumps.

There are six basic types of jumps: toulup, flip, lutz, ritberger, axel and salchow. To perform a triple or quadruple jump you need to be flexible and impulsive, have balance and tremendous patience. The quadruple axel is the pinnacle of any skater’s skill.

Types of jumps in figure skating

In addition to individual performances, figure skating has both pair and team competitions. Pairs must necessarily consist of a man and a woman, who skate together, performing synchronized movements, supports, ejections. As for the team standings, this is the sum of the points scored by all the athletes competing for the same country.

Ejection in figure skating
Ejection in figure skating

In figure skating, every little detail plays a role in the overall impression. It would seem, how can the choice of costume color affect the overall perception? It turns out that there is even a scientific explanation for the perception of color.

Incredibly, in our minds, colors have weight, for example, red is the heaviest color, but white is the lightest. It is also proved that the human eye responds most acutely to contrasting color combinations, so white, the color of ice, sets the color range of the skater’s costume.

Colors contrasting white are the most popular, such as black, red or blue. But the colors transitional or intermediate, such as brown, green or gray will have a negative perception of the audience not only the costume, but also the program as a whole.

One more nuance, the length of the composition for the free program is not less than 4 minutes. For comparison, the length of a popular hit is only 2.5 minutes. This is due to the peculiarities of the human brain, which maintains interest in information for a short time, just about 2-3 minutes.

After this time, interest gradually fades, so in order to keep the audience’s attention for an extra minute, skaters often choose music with a change of rhythm and mood. These criteria are usually met by classical melodies.

Skate blade
Skate blade

In the history of modern figure skating, there have been many cases in which skates have broken right during the competition, ruining all hopes for a successful performance. Skaters start each season with new skates, as they do not last more than a year in professional sport.

One of the most important components of skates is a steel blade. The thickness of the blade is only 3-4 mm and it is sharpened so that the lateral lower surfaces form two sharp edges (ribs). The height of the blade of 40-50 mm provides stability and the ability to perform elements with a strong inclination of the athlete’s body. For correct distribution of the center of gravity the front part of the blade was raised on 2-4 mm above a back deck.

To win Olympic gold medals in figure skating, you have to train long and hard. Future champions start training from the age of 3 years old. Coaches recommend not to skip the early beginning, as it gives an advantage in mastering complex skills.

If you want to do figure skating for yourself, at your pleasure, there are no age restrictions, and can not be in principle. Classes will develop flexibility, a sense of rhythm, balance and perseverance. You will learn not only to stand on their skates, but also perfectly dance and perform acrobatic elements. Figure skating is a profitable sport because it allows you to fully develop your child.

About figure skating


Figure skating is a winter sport in which athletes perform in individual or pair competitions on ice skates to music, performing various figure elements, jumps, synchronized movements, supports and emissions.

The most titled figure skater in the history of the sport is Evgeny Plushenko (Russia). Evgeny managed to win 4 medals at the Olympics (2 gold, 2 silver), 5 medals of the World Championships (3 gold, 1 silver, 1 bronze) and 10 medals of the European Championships (7 gold, 3 silver). We would like to make a special mention of the skaters who won three golds in one discipline at the Olympics. They are Gillis Grafstrem (Sweden), Sonja Henie (Norway) and Irina Rodnina (Russia).

All prohibited elements are prescribed in the current rules of the International Skating Union (ISU), we will list the 5 main elements: Flips (perform backflips with a landing on one or two legs); Support by the prohibited parts of the body, support without arms (partner is allowed to hold a hand against the hand, the body or the upper part of the leg); Lying on the ice (if the skater lies on the ice, it means he does not skate); The use of equipment (flags, balls, etc. The use of equipment (flags, balls, etc.); The integrity of the costume (the costume must not have detachable parts). Almost all prohibited elements are used by skaters in ice shows.

( 9 assessment, average 5 from 5 )
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