figure skating

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figure skating

ice skating in which the skater traces outlines of selected patterns

Figure Skating


a form of ice skating. The sport of figure skating includes competitions in men’s and women’s singles skating, pair skating, and ice dancing (seeICE DANCING).

Modern international competitions in singles skating consist of sections for school figures and free skating. In the first section, the skaters execute in triple repetition nine school, or compulsory, figures officially selected from among the 41 existing figures. Next they perform a short free-skating program, lasting not more than two minutes 15 seconds, which must include seven compulsory moves, including combinations of jumps, turns and spins, and dance steps. This is followed by the free-skating program proper, in which the choice of moves is left to the skater; this program lasts four minutes for women and 4½ minutes for men.

Competitions in pair skating begin with a short compulsory free-skating program, up to three minutes’ duration. This program, which incorporates six compulsory moves, including combinations of lifts and jointly executed turns and spins, is followed by the five-minute free-skating program. The set of compulsory moves for singles and pair skating (selected from the three sets established by the Figure Skating Committee of the International Skating Union) is determined each season by casting lots. The selection of music in free skating is left to the skaters.

Skaters are judged according to a six-point system that takes into account the sum of points won by the skaters and the total number of winning places into which they are ranked.

Figure skating emerged as a sport in the 1860’s; it was recognized in 1871, when the first figure-skating congress was held. It was at that time that compulsory school figures, free skating, and special figures (now modern school figures) were distinguished. In 1891 the first European figure skating championship for men was held in Hamburg; it was won by the German figure skater O. Uhlig. In 1896, St. Petersburg hosted the first world championship, which was won by G. Fuchs of Germany. In 1903, in honor of the bicentennial of St. Petersburg, the St. Petersburg Society of Amateur Skaters was granted the right to conduct the eighth world championship, in which first place went to the Swede U. Salchow and second place to N. A. Panin-Kolomenkin.

The first world championship in women’s singles was organized at Davos, Switzerland, in 1906, and the first world championship in pair skating was held in St. Petersburg in 1908. European championships in women’s singles and pair skating have been held since 1930, and world and European championships in ice dancing have been held since the early 1950’s. Figure skating has been included in the Winter Olympics since 1924 (in 1908 and 1920 the skating competitions were held as part of the Summer Olympics). Prior to 1946, figure skating championships in the individual events were held separately, but since 1947 they have been held together.

Figure skating developed first in the Scandinavian countries and Great Britain and later in Austria, the USA, Canada, and the socialist countries—the USSR, the German Democratic Republic (GDR), Czechoslovakia, Poland, and Hungary.

Between 1891 and 1977, a total of 204 world championship medals in figure skating were awarded, including 67 in men’s singles, 57 in women’s singles, 55 in pair skating, and 25 in ice dancing. A total of 174 gold medals were awarded at European championships, including 68 in men’s singles, 41 in women’s singles, 41 in pair skating, and 24 in ice dancing.

The greatest number of championships have been won by G. Grafström of Sweden (Olympic champion, 1920, 1924, 1928), U. Salchow of Sweden (ten times world champion; nine times European champion; Swedish champion, 1901–11), and Sonja Henie of Norway (ten times world champion; six times European champion; three times Olympic champion; Norwegian champion, 1927–36).

The most prominent Soviet figure skaters have included I. K. Rodnina (ten times world and European champion; three times Olympic champion; USSR champion in pair skating [1969–72, with A. N. Ulanov; 1973–77, with A. G. Zaitsev]), the pair skaters L. E. Belousova and O. A. Protopopov (four times world and European champions; twice Olympic champions; USSR champions, 1964–68), and the ice dancers L. A. Pakhomova and A. G. Gorshkov (six times World and European champions; Olympic champions; USSR champions, 1970–76).

Among the prominent skaters who have won various women’s singles championships are C. Heiss, P. Fleming, J. Lynn, and D. Hamill (USA), G. Seyfert and C. Errath (GDR), and S. Dijkstra (the Netherlands). Famous champions in men’s singles include R. Button, D. Jenkins, A. Jenkins, and T. Wood (USA), D. Jackson (Canada), E. Danzer and W. Schwartz (Austria), O. Nepela (Czechoslovakia), J. Curry (Great Britain), J. Hoffman (GDR), and S. N. Volkov, V. N. Kovalev, and S. A. Chetverukhin (USSR).

In pair skating, championships have been won by B. Wagner and R. Paul (Canada), M. Kilius and H. Bäumler (Federal Republic of Germany), R. Kermer and R. Oesterreich (GDR), and N. A. Zhuk and S. A. Zhuk, T. A. Zhuk and A. Iu. Gorelik, and L. S. Smirnova and A. A. Suraikin (USSR).

Outstanding ice-dancing champions include E. Romanová and P. Roman (Czechoslovakia), J. Westwood and L. Demmy, D. Denny and C. Jones, D. Towler and B. Ford (Great Britain), and I. V. Moiseeva and A. O. Minenkov and N. V. Linichuk and G. M. Karponosov (USSR).

Over the years, Soviet figure skaters have won five gold and five silver medals at the Olympic Games, 20 gold, 17 silver, and nine bronze medals at world championships and 18 gold, 18 silver, and 13 bronze medals at European championships. Seventeen Soviet figure skaters have been awarded the title of Honored Master of Sport, and 32 have been designated International-class Master of Sport of the USSR.

The best schools for figure skating are in Moscow and Leningrad. Outstanding Soviet coaches in these schools include Honored Coaches of the USSR T. A. Tolmacheva, S. A. Zhuk, E. A. Chaikovskaia, V N. Kudriavtsev, T. A. Tarasova, and I. B. Moskvin and Honored Coaches of the RSFSR T. N. Moskvina and A. N. Mishin.


Panin, N. A. Iskusstvo figurista. Moscow, 1956.
Ryzhkin, V. I. Ledovaia siuita. Moscow, 1975.
Figurnoe katanie na kon’kakh. Edited by A. B. Gandel’sman. Moscow, 1975.


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