On Olympic Figure Skating: A Preview

November 19, 2013 § 2 Comments

Repeat after me: “In 70+ days, I will understand singles figure skating.”

Both you and I wish we could be American broadcasters Dick Button and Scott Hamilton, equipped with a psychic power to know what jump, spin or footwork a skater just did and will do. If you have been involved in figure skating as an athlete, an official or a parent, then you have been immersed in the figure skating game for years.

However, if you are in the majority who skate once a year and watch skating competitions even less, then it doesn’t help at the moment to identify a triple axel and not explain why. Your figure skating hero completes a triple axel and the duo of Dick and Scott assist you in identifying that it’s a triple axel. It’s a noble, admirable gesture of the American commentators but really, you politely clap for a jump well done or you let out a sigh of frustration for a jump gone wrong.

Let me assist you in learning the important knowledge necessary to fully enjoy Olympic figure skating.

Knowing the Rules

Two events determine which of the 40+ elite skaters from around the world receive gold medals and bragging rights as Olympic champions for 4 years: the short program and long program. How long do the skaters have to fit in all the required elements, maximize the points they earn from each element, and mesmerize their fans watching around the world?

  • Senior ladies’ and men’s short program: 2 minutes and 50 seconds max
  • Senior ladies’ long program: 4 minutes (+/- 10 seconds)
  • Senior men’s long program: 4 minutes and 30 seconds (+/- 10 seconds)

Each link below details the requirements for both the senior short and long programs.

Senior short requirements

Senior long requirements

If a skater does more jumps or spins than allowed or you repeat a specific element (jump, spin, footwork) already done, the judges will not give them points for the excess effort. The skater also wastes precious time and energy that could be used to highlight other aspects of the performance. If the skater skates after their music ends and goes past the time allotment, judges will subtract points and possibly ruin a competitor’s chance at Olympic glory.

These guys know a bit about Olympic glory.

Chazz and Jimmy know a bit about Olympic glory.

Knowing the Routines And What’s Coming Next

No, no, it’s not a psychic sense or a photographic memory that allow TV broadcasters to know what comes next. For skaters who attempt to qualify for their country’s national championships and international competitions, they must submit Planned Program Content Sheets (PPCS) before the qualifying competitions occur.

Linked just above is an explanation of how to fill a PPCS out, while understanding a judge’s score sheet (example: NHK Trophy Men’s LP scores). The sheet of paper with all the planned elements allow judges to have an idea of what the performance will be like so they don’t miss a jump, spin or footwork.

Broadcasters of TV stations will also receive a copy of the PPCS, knowing when a skater improvises their routine by changing a jump combination to just an individual jump or the order of the jumps around.

Scratch the triple axel. Boitano settles for the triple lutz-double salchow wearing a blindfold.

“No triple axel. Boitano settles for the triple lutz-double salchow wearing a blindfold instead.”

As for the order of jumps, spins, footwork and transitions, choreographers will tailor the beginning and middle parts of the program to the selected music, as well as the abilities of their skaters. You may see more jumps in the second half of performances. Skaters will automatically earn a 10% point bonus for the increased difficulty of attempting jumps when tired. Most skaters will constantly end their performances with a spin, which allows them to gracefully end up in their finish position.

Prior to the 2014 Olympics, elite skaters already had opportunities at international-level competitions to showcase what they will do in Sochi, Russia. In case you missed it, here are US champion Ashley Wagner’s SP and LP from this year’s Skate America, as well as Japan’s Daisuke Takahashi’s SP and LP from this year’s NHK Trophy Grand Prix. After watching these four performances, you have an idea of what you’ll see from these two skaters in Russia.

Knowing Who To Root For (in no particular order)

The Russians:

  • Elena Radionova, her first season as a top-level skater
  • Julia Lipnitskaia, 15 year old skating phenom
  • Evgeni Plushenko, 2-time Olympic silver medalist, 2006 Olympic gold medalist

The Japanese:

  • Daisuke Takahashi, 5-time Japanese champion, 2010 World Champion, 2010 Olympic bronze medalist. It is his last season on the world stage.
  • Yuzuru Hanyu, defending men’s Japanese champion
  • Mao Asada, 6-time Japanese ladies’ champion, 2010 Olympic silver medalist
  • Akiko Suzuki, 2nd-ranked senior ladies skater in the world
  • Miki Ando, 3-time Japanese ladies’ champion, 2-time world champion, back from a 2 year retirement/maternity leave

The Spaniard:

  • Javier Fernandez, 3-time men’s Spanish champion

The Korean:

  • Yuna Kim, defending ladies’ Olympic gold medalist

The Canadians:

  • Patrick Chan, 6-time men’s Canadian champion, 3-time World champion
  • Kaetlyn Osmond, defending ladies’ Canadian champion
  • Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, defending Olympic ice dancing gold medalists

The Americans:

  • Ashley Wagner, defending ladies’ US champion
  • Gracie Gold, 18 year old skating phenom
  • Alissa Czisny, 2-time US champion, beloved by many, could’ve made the Olympics had her injured hips not lied
  • Max Aaron, defending US champion
  • Jeremy Abbott, 3-time US champion
  • Adam Rippon, another capable American senior skater
  • Evan Lysacek, defending men’s Olympic champion
  • Meryl Davis/Charlie White, 5-time US dance champions, 2010 Olympic silver medalists

ohboy

Knowing When They Skate

DATE EVENT START (ET)
Thurs., Feb. 06 Team: Men’s SP, Pairs SP 10:30 AM
Sat., Feb. 08 Team: Ice SP, Ladies’ SP, Pairs FP 9:30 AM
Sun., Feb. 09 Team: Men’s FP, Ladies’ FP, Ice FP 10:00 AM
Wed., Feb. 12 Pairs FP 10:45 AM
Thurs., Feb. 13 Men’s SP 10:00 AM
Fri., Feb. 14 Men’s FP 10:00 AM
Sun., Feb. 16 Ice SD 10:00 AM
Wed., Feb. 19 Ladies’ SP 10:00 AM
Thurs., Feb. 20 Ladies’ FP 10:00 AM
Sat., Feb. 22 Gala Exhibition 11:30 AM

West Coast figure skating fans, better wake up early. Everybody else, sit back, relax and enjoy the show.

More to come on what the different jumps/spins/footwork are, who is who, how judging works, and any other potential storylines leading up to the biggest event of the season.

Who are you rooting for?

Which skater will you miss or miss already?

thefigureskatinglawyer

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