Short booklet of figure skating rules for the beginning fans

Figure skating rules

This booklet is intended for fans which are just starting to attend the figure skating competitions and do not understand the rules. It’s really not easy to understand everything in the International Judging System from the first time for the usual man. We will try to explain the main points of this figure skating judging system using the simple words.

There are many rules in the modern figure skating. For example, the rulebook for USFSA (The United States Figure Skating Association) which is the governing body of this kind of sports in the USA, run to more than 700 pages. This article observes the rules for pairs and singles skaters at the international events, including the Olympic Games and the World figure skating championships. For more details on the skating rules for single skating and for details on the rules for ice dancing, we invite you to visit the link at the end of this article.

A little history

For years, all competitions of figure skating were judged by the well-known 6.0 system, in which judges compared figure skaters to one another and ranked them giving each skater marks for the technique and presentation (ranging from 0 to 6). In 2004, the ISU adopted the International Judging System and this new system is using now at every figure skating competition.

The Winner

At each step of the skating event, each athlete receives points for technical elements and program components. Many calculations take place and the scores for the Short program and Free skate are combined to give the overall score of competition. Figure skater with the highest score wins.

TES – Technical Element Score

Every skating element: jump, spin, lift, footwork or spiral gets its points. The base value of each element is predetermined.

A technical specialist identifies each executed skating element and for some of them, such as step sequences or spins, also rates the difficulty level (from 1 to 4, level 4 is the most difficult).
Each judge decides how well each skating element is performed and gives it a grade of execution – GOE (from minus 3 to plus 3).

The points of individual elements are added up. Deductions for such things as time violations, illegal elements and falls are taken and the results is the TES – Technical Element Score.

PCS – Program Component Score

Each judge also scores skater’s transitions (linking footwork and movement), skating skills, performance (execution), choreography, composition and interpretation of the music. Scores range from 0.25 to 10.

Free skating, which once lets skaters showcase their strengths, become more similar as figure skaters execute the maximum number of each skating element (the maximum which is allowed by the rules), and go after difficult variations of elements, sometimes regardless of how they look or whether they enhance the choreography.

Because this figure skating judging system rewards complexity of performances, simple program done with pure technique, which many skating fans enjoy, do not score very well. This may be changed over times as the skating rules are revised.

At the international competitions, scores of judges are anonymous. The International Skating Union (ISU) believes that this way offers judge protection to score as he or she see fit.

Author: Vladislav Luchianov

Read more about ISU Judging System>

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