Discovering skating qualifying competitions in the United States

2014 US Figure Skating Championships

By Vladislav Luchianov

This week, in the United States will be held three Sectional championships, qualifying competitions for the 2014 U.S. National Championships, which will take place in Boston, Massachusetts from January 5–12, 2014.

This time, the results of the U.S. Nationals will be also a selection criteria for the US Olympic team.

U.S. Sectional championships will be held in Ashburn, Va. (Eastern), in East Lansing, Mich. (Midwestern) and in Oakland, Calif. (Pacific Coast). In this article I would like to briefly describe the structure and the basic qualifying criteria for U.S. Sectionals, and also the US Figure Skating’s qualifying system in general.

But first, a few words about why the U.S. National Championships is such an important event and why participation in it is always very prestigious.

U.S. Figure Skating Championships is almost always attracts the attention of professionals and skating fans from all over the figure skating world. A beautiful atmosphere of this sporting event, an uncompromising struggle and unpredictability of the final results – that’s probably the main features of these competitions.

But the most important feature of the American championship is its unshakable commitment to the sporting principle. What does this mean? This means that everything is decided solely by performances of an athlete. This also means that no “coaching council”, nor any “board of federation”, nor even the country’s president has any right to interfere in the process of athletes’ qualification. Regionals and Sectionals follow the same principle. I’m sure most would agree that not every sports federation can boast of that.

All of the above creates a really great atmosphere of the main events in the world of American figure skating.

So, let’s look at the structure of figure skating competitions in the United States.

The United States Figure Skating Association (USFSA or US Figure Skating) holds national championships in five skill divisions. From highest to lowest, these are: Senior, Junior, Novice, Intermediate and Juvenile.

U.S. Figure Skating system of national competitions

U.S. Figure Skating system of national competitions

Unlike the ISU, which categorizes novice, junior and senior skaters by age, in the United States these are test or skill levels. For example, a skater who competes in the junior division must have passed the junior skating test in that particular discipline, but not yet the senior test. In practice, the skills required to pass the tests are well below those that are required to be competitive at the corresponding level, and skaters choose which level to test based on the level they think they can compete at successfully, rather than vice-versa.

The national novice, junior, and senior competitions in men and ladies singles, pair skating and ice dancing are held at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships each year. The national juvenile and intermediate competitions are held at a separate event known as the “U.S. Junior Championships” (but note that the “juniors” do not compete here).

The qualifying season for novice, junior, and senior skaters begins at one of nine Regional championships, which are now typically held in the first half of October. The top four skaters from each regional advance to one of three Sectional championships in November, from which the top four advance to the National championships in January.

Logos of 2014 US Sectional Championships

Logos of 2014 US Sectional Championships

Some skaters are also given “byes” through qualifying based on their results from the previous season’s competitions, if they qualify for the Junior or Senior Grand Prix Final, or if they are assigned by the USFSA to international competitions that conflict with their qualifying competitions. Skaters are currently not eligible for byes at any level if they cannot compete in their qualifying competition due to injury or illness.

According to US Figure Skating, in general, athletes qualify for the U.S. Championships in one of six ways:

– Placing in the top four at the current season’s sectional championships;

– Placing in the top five in a senior event at the previous year’s U.S. Championships;

– Winning a medal at the most recent Olympic Winter Games;

– Winning a medal at the previous year’s World Championships;

– Advancing to the current season’s Grand Prix Final or Junior Grand Final;

– Earning an “international bye” based on proximity of an international assignment in the current season to the sectional championships.

Thus, this week’s Sectional championships will be not only very interesting but also very important events.

Additional info: Icenetwork will provide live coverage of the U.S. sectional championships Saturday, Nov. 23, to Season Pass subscribers as part of “Super Saturday.” For more info, please visit the announcement page >

Useful Links (I suggest to add this page to your bookmarks):

Your number one source for figure skating live coverage: Icenetwork

Official Website of the U.S. Figure Skating Association: US Figure Skating

2014 Eastern Sectional Championships:  Official Website; Entries/Results

2014 Midwestern Sectional Championships:  Official Website; Entries/Results

2014 Pacific Coast Sectional Championships: Official Website; Entries/Results

Boston 2014: Official Website of 2014 US Figure Skating Championships

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