In many countries, figure skating isn’t called figure skating at all. In France, where I won my
Olympic gold medal, the sport is called patinage — that means artistic skating — and it’s what people in many countries say in their language in naming this sport. I talk about figure skating as one sport, which it is. But if you’ve seen the competition on TV, you know there’s
more to it than that.
I never competed against Todd Eldredge or Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean. It wasn’t because we played different sports. We are all figure skaters. But we competed in various disciplines within figure skating. Training is a part of a game limited by unique rules and athletic eligibility.
Source: by freepick
Men’s singles ladies’ singles (a judgmental and stuffy term for women, Besides, three-figure skating disciplines are not part of the Olympic program: figures, fours, and precision skating.
Figure skating figures are all based on the numerical figure 8 — skaters trace figure-8 designs into the ice by gliding on precise edges of the skate blade. Although figures were a mandatory portion of figure skating competitions in the past, they were eliminated from the U.S., Olympic, and World competition in 1992. In the United States, however, a separate figure National Championship is held in which there is no free skating at all. This competition is still a part of the U.S Championships each winter, but figures aren’t shown on television, and the event receives little press attention or public attendance.
In the United States, national championships in fours, which are teams of two male-female couples on the ice at the same time, have been held off and on since 1924. The most recent was in 1991 in Minneapolis when the gold was won by a team that included future U.S. pairs champions Rocky Marvel and Calla Urbanski, who skated with Elaine Asanakis and Joel McKeever.
Precision team skating has been growing in the United States and internationally over the past ten years. Teams of 12 to 24 skaters perform intricate maneuvers similar to what a marching band might play at a half-time football show. More than 300 precision teams are registered with the U.S. Figure Skating Association, which held its first precision National Championship in 1984. The first International Skating Union World Challenge Cup was held in Boston in 1996. A World Precision Championship is planned for 2000, and proponents hope that the sport will eventually be added to the Winter Olympic program.
Source: by freepick
The demise of compulsory figures From the time of the first World Championships in 1896, figures were always some portion of a skater’s score, combined with free skating, which is the natural part of the sport done to music with jumps and spins. Originally figures were two-thirds of the total score, and as late as the 1976 Winter Olympics in Innsbruck, Austria, where Dorothy Hamill won the gold medal in women’s singles, figures counted for 50 per cent of the final score.
Figures created two problems, though. One was that they were boring to watch. One skater at a time would go out onto an unmarked patch of ice and trace the figure that was requested, and then the judges would move in to examine the tracing like crime specialists poring over a murder scene for some tiny clue.
On TV, the figures were a disaster. No music, no jumps, no falls, and no way to see what the judges were looking for. The other problem was similar. Many people loved to watch free skating, and they could see what the judges were judging: jumps, spins, and artistry. Then the marks would go up, and fans would know that sound-so had won the free skate. But often the free skate winner wouldn’t get the gold medal because someone else had built up too big a lead in the figures, sometimes a skater who hadn’t looked good in the free skate at all.
In the 1980 Winter Olympics of 1980 at Lake Placid, New York, Switzerland’s Denise Biellmann was the talk of the World in winning the free skating. She introduced her contribution to the sport — the Biellmann spin — in which she lifted one leg behind her, reached over her shoulders backward with both hands, grabbed that foot, and stretched it high over her head. But Denise had finished only 12th in the figures, which were skated first and which no one but the judges saw, and she didn’t even win a medal, finishing fourth overall.
Over the years, the International Skating Union, which is the worldwide governing body of the sport,
tinkered and re-tinkered with the rules and scoring to address the problems with figures. Each time, the ISU diminished the impact of figures in the final outcome. Finally, after the 1988 Calgary Winter
Olympics, the ISU voted to eliminate figures from the sport altogether. Because practising figures took up half or more of a skater’s training time, their elimination has allowed athletes to concentrate more on jumps and choreography, contributing both to the athletic and artistic sides of the sport.
What is Figure Skating?
Source: by freepick
A variety of figures are specified in the rules of figure skating. The simplest, and usually the first a skater learns, is the “Outside Eight.” The skater begins at the centre of the eight by pushing off once from the left foot and gliding on the outside edge of the right skate. At the completion of the top half of the eight, the skater steps onto the outer edge of the left foot and pushes off one time with the right.
If the skater maintains precisely the same degree of tilt in the blade for the full 360 degrees of each circle, the tracing left in the ice is perfectly round. If the skater pushes off with the same speed for each half of the eight and maintains the exact same amount of tilt on each foot, both the top and bottom circles of the 8 are not only perfectly round but also precisely the same size. When you skate figures, you do each one three times.
Once a skater has traced a figure, the judges walk over and look at the tracing the skater left in the ice. You can tell by comparing the sizes of the circles and the roundness of the tracing how reasonable a skater’s edge control is. Making the skater trace each figure three times means you have to be consistent in order to get the highest marks. The roundest circles with the closest relative size and in which the three tracings are most intimate together — just one line in the ice is perfect — is what the judges are looking for.
Sport + Music = Drama
Every sport that has become popular as a spectator event has some means of creating a dramatic story with an unpredictable ending. In many U.S. team sports, that drama comes from my school playing your school or my city playing yours. In most individual sports, this drama comes from a knowledge of the stories of the athletes involved.
Figure skating’s popularity really took off in 1988 when two singles rivalries were highlighted at the
Calgary Winter Olympics.
On the men’s side was the Battle of the Brians, American Brian Boitano, and Canadian Brian Orser, two good friends who were pitted against each other in a medal contest; only one could win.
On the women’s side was the Battle of the “Carmens,” which was between Katarina Witt of East Germany and Debi Thomas of the United States, each of whom skated an interpretation of Georges Bizet’s opera Carmen.
That rivalry was painted by the media as a contest of oppo-sites: Witt, outgoing, and an outspoken supporter (at the time) of her country’s state-run Olympic sports machine as the best means of providing equal opportunity to all athletes; and Thomas, a severe pre-med student and an African American who excelled in a sport that many people believed was closed to racial minorities.
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