Singles competition for men and women (who are referred to as “ladies” in ISU rulebooks), wherein individual skaters perform jumps, spins, step sequences, spirals, and other elements in their programs.
Pair skating teams consist of a woman and a man. Pairs perform elements that are specific to the discipline such as throw jumps, in which the man ‘throws’ the woman into a jump; lifts, in which the woman is held above the man’s head in one of various grips and positions; pair spins, in which both skaters spin together about a common axis; death spirals; and other elements such as side-by-side jumps and spins in unison.
Ice dancing is again for couples consisting of a woman and a man skating together. Ice dance differs from pairs in focusing on intricate footwork performed in close dance holds, in time with the music. In ice dancing, lifts must not go above the shoulder, and throws and jumps are disallowed.
The four disciplines of men’s singles, ladies’ singles, pair skating and ice dancing also appeared as part of a team event for the first time at the 2014 Winter Olympics.
Lifts performed by the Haydenettes, 21-time U.S. national champions
Synchronized skating (formerly known as precision skating) is for mixed-gender groups of 12 to 20 skaters. This discipline resembles a group form of ice dance with additional emphasis on precise formations of the group as a whole and complex transitions between formations. The basic formations include wheels, blocks, lines, circles, and intersections. The close formations and need for the team to stay in unison add to the difficulty of the footwork performed by the skaters in these elements. A formal proposal for inclusion in the Olympics was submitted by the International Skating Union to the International Olympic Committee in September 2014.
Fours, a discipline in which a team of four skaters, consisting of two men and two women, perform singles and pairs elements in unison, as well as unique elements that involve all four skaters.
Special figures is the tracing of elaborate original designs on the ice. It was a common discipline in the early days of skating and appeared once at the Olympics, in 1908.
Theatre on ice, also known as “ballet on ice” in Europe. This is a form of group skating that is less structured than synchronized skating and allows the use of props and theatrical costuming.
Adagio skating, a form of pair skating most commonly seen in ice shows, where the skaters perform many acrobatic lifts but few or none of the other elements which competitive pairs must perform.
Acrobatic skating, also known as “Acrobatics on ice” or “Extreme Skating”, is a combination of circus arts, technical artistic gymnastics skills, and figure skating.
Elements and moves
Main article: Glossary of figure skating terms
Each element receives a score according to its base value and grade of execution (GOE), resulting in a combined technical elements score (TES). At competitions, a technical specialist identifies each element. Elements may be assigned a level of difficulty, ranging from B (Basic) to Level 4 (most difficult). A panel of judges determines GOE, ranging from +3 to -3, based on how well the skaters execute the elements. The GOE is weighted according to the element’s base value.
The ISU defines a fall as a loss of control with the result that the majority of the skater’s body weight is not on the blade but supported by hands, knees, or buttocks.
Main article: Figure skating jumps
T Toe loop
Video demonstrating figure skating jumps
Jumps involve the skater leaping into the air and rotating rapidly to land after completing one or more rotations. There are many types of jumps, identified by the way the skater takes off and lands, as well as by the number of rotations that are completed.
Each jump receives a score according to its base value and grade of execution (GOE). Quality of execution, technique, height, speed, flow and ice coverage are considered by the judges. An under-rotated jump (indicated by < ) is “missing rotation of more than ¼, but less than ½ revolution” and receives 70% of the base value. A downgraded jump (indicated by <<) is “missing rotation of ½ revolution or more”. A triple which is downgraded is treated as a double, while a downgraded double is treated as a single jump.
An edge violation occurs when a skater executes a jump on the incorrect edge. The hollow is a groove on the bottom of the blade which creates two distinct edges, inside and outside. The inside edge of the blade is on the side closest to the skater, the outside edge is on the side farthest from the skater, and a flat refers to skating on both edges at the same time, which is discouraged. An unclear edge or edge violation is indicated with an ‘e’ and reflected in the GOE according to the severity of the problem. Flutz and lip are the colloquial terms for a Lutz and flip jump with an edge violation.
In 1982, the International Skating Union enacted a rule stating that a skater may perform each type of triple only once, or twice if one of them is incorporated into a combination or sequence. For a set of jumps to be considered a combination, each jump must take off from the landing edge of the previous jump, with no steps, turns, or change of edge in between jumps. Toe loops and loops are commonly performed as the second or third jump in a combination because they take off from the back outside edge of the landing foot, or skating leg. To perform a salchow or flip on the back end of a combination, a half loop (which is actually a full rotation, but lands on a back inside edge of the landing leg) may be used as a connecting jump. In contrast, jump sequences are sets of jumps which may be linked by non-listed jumps or hops. Sequences are worth 80% of what the same jumps executed in combination would be worth.
Jumps may be rotated in clockwise or counter-clockwise direction. Most skaters are counter-clockwise jumpers. For clarity, all jumps will be described for a skater jumping counter-clockwise.
There are six jumps in figure skating that count as jump elements. All six are landed on one foot on the back outside edge (with counterclockwise rotation, for single and multi-revolution jumps), but have different takeoffs, by which they may be distinguished. The two categories of jumps are toe jumps and edge jumps.
The number of rotations performed in the air determines whether the jump is a single, double, triple, or quadruple (known commonly as a “quad”). The simplest jump begins with a waltz jump which can only be done in a half-leap and is not classified as a single, double, or triple jump. Senior-level male single skaters perform mostly triple and quadruple jumps in competition. Triple jumps other than the Axel are commonly performed by female single skaters. Only one female skater, Miki Ando, has been credited with a quadruple jump in international competition.
Some elite skaters can complete a jump in about one second, with 26 inches of height and 10 feet in distance. The takeoff speed of a jump can reach up to 15 mph.
Toe jumps are launched by tapping the toe pick of one skate into the ice, and include (in order of difficulty from easiest to hardest 
Toe loops take off from the back outside edge of the left or right foot and are launched by the same toe pick (toe walleys are similar, but take off from the back inside edge of the right foot);
Flips, which take off from the back inside edge of the right or left foot and are launched by the opposite toe pick;
Lutzes, which take off from the back outside edge of the right or left foot and are launched by the opposite toe pick.
An axel jump
Edge jumps use no toe assist, and include:
Salchows, which take off from either the left or right back inside edge. Allowing the edge to come round, the opposite leg helps launch the jump into the air and land on one foot;
Loops (also known as Rittberger jumps) take off from either the left or right back outside edge and land on the same edge;
Axels, which are the only rotating jump to take off from a forward edge. Because they take off from a forward edge, they include one-half extra rotation(s).
There are also a number of other jumps that are usually performed only as single jumps and in elite skating are used as transitional movements or highlights in step sequences. These include the half toe loop (ballet jump), half loop, half flip, walley jump, waltz jump, inside Axel, one-foot Axel, and split jump. There are two kinds of split jump:
Russian split, performed in a position that is similar to that of a straddle split
ladies split, performed in the position of the more traditional split, facing the direction of the front leg
Ross Miner sets up for a jump.
Denis Ten sets up for a jump.
Kevin van der Perren rotates in the air.
Jamal Othman lands on the right back outside edge.
Pairs skaters Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir set up for a throw jump
A pair team after the woman has been thrown: Jessica Miller rotates in the air.
Anabelle Langlois lands after performing a throw jump with Cody Hay.
Spins are a required element in all four Olympic disciplines. There are three basic positions — sit, camel, and upright — and numerous variations.
Camel spin variations include catch-foot, layover, and doughnut.
Sit spin variations include pancake, broken leg, tuck behind, cannonball, and clam.
Upright spin variations include layback, Biellmann, haircutter, layover layback, and pearl.
During a spin, the skater rotates on the round part of the blade, called the front rocker, just behind the toe pick (the ball of the foot). Spins may be performed individually or in a sequence combining different types of spins. A spin may be executed on the back rocker of the blade during a change of edge spin. For example, a back scratch spin will flip edges to a forward inside edge. This feature of a spin will change the level of a spin. Spins may be performed on either foot. Like jumping, skaters mostly rotate in the counterclockwise direction, but there are some skaters who rotate in the clockwise direction. Some skaters are able to rotate in both directions. For skaters who rotate in a counterclockwise direction, a spin on the left foot is called a forward spin, while a spin on the right foot is called a back spin. When learning to spin, one will typically learn a forward spin then once completing that will learn how to execute a back spin.
When performing some types of spins, an elite skater can complete on average 6 rotations per second, and about 70 rotations in a single spin.
Spins can be entered on the ice or through a jump or sequence of jumps known as star jumps. Spins that are entered through a jump are calling flying spins. Flying spins include the flying camel, flying sit spin, death drop, and butterfly spin. Flying spins may go from a forward spin to a back spin. A flying spin can also be performed as part of a spin sequence.
In pair skating, spins may be performed side-by-side with both partners doing the same spin or combination spin at the same time. Additionally, in pairs and in ice dancing, there are pair and dance spins, during which both skaters rotate around the same axis while holding onto each other.
Pair camel spin
Pair spin with lady in layback and man in sit spin
Layback spin with catch-foot
Main article: Figure skating lifts
A one arm overhead lift in pair skating
Lifts are a required element in pair skating and ice dancing.
Pair lifts are generally overhead. According to the current ISU rules for senior-level competition, the man must rotate more than once, but fewer than three-and-a-half times. In competitive pair skating, lifts must travel across the ice to be included in the technical elements score (TES); stationary lifts are included in choreography. Pair lifts are grouped by the holds involved.
Armpit holds are not generally used in elite senior competition.
Hand-to-hand lifts are divided into two types:
Lasso lifts, in order of increasing difficulty:
Toe or step in lasso
Axel or backward lasso
The judges look at speed, ice coverage, the quality of the lady’s position, position changes, and the man’s stability and cleanness of turns throughout. Skaters may also raise their score by having a difficult entry such as in spiral or spread eagle position, a difficult exit, or other features such as stopping the rotation, turning a carry lift into rotational one, or reversing rotation (i.e. both clockwise and counter-clockwise directions).
Twist lifts are a form of pair lifts, where the lifted partner is thrown into the air, twists, and is caught by the lifted partner. The lady is caught by her waist in the air and lands on the backward outside edge. Some pairs include a split before rotating. This is credited as a difficult feature if each leg is separated by at least a 45° angle from the body axis and the legs are straight or almost straight. Scores are also affected by the height of the twist, turns, steps or other moves before the element, the lady holding her arms over her head, delayed rotation, etc.
Ice dancers are not allowed to lift their partners above their shoulders. Dance lifts are separated into short lifts and long lifts. There are many positions each partner can take to raise the difficulty of a lift. Each position must be held for at least three seconds to count and is permitted only once in a program.
Short lifts may last up to six seconds in competition on the senior level.
Stationary lift – A lift performed “on the spot”. The lifting partner does not move across the ice, but is allowed to rotate.
Straight line lift – The lifting partner moves in a straight line across the ice. This lift may be performed on one foot or two.
Curve lift – The lifting partner moves along a curve across the ice. This lift may be performed on one foot or two.
Rotational lift – The lifting partner rotates in one direction while traveling across the ice.
Long lifts may last up to ten seconds in competition on the senior level.
Reverse rotational lift – The lifting partner rotates in one direction, then switches and rotates in the other direction, while traveling across the ice.
Serpentine lift – The lifting partner moves in a serpentine pattern across the ice.
Combination lift – A lift combining two of the four short lifts. Each part of the lift must be fully established.
In both pairs and dance, lifts that go on longer than allowed receive deductions.
Turns, steps, moves in the field, and other moves
Step sequences are a required element in all four Olympic disciplines. The pattern can be straight line, circular, or serpentine. The step sequence consists of a combination of turns, steps, hops and edge changes. Additionally, steps and turns can be used as transitions between elements. The various turns, which skaters can incorporate into step sequences, include:
Three turns, so called because the blade turns into the curve of the edge or lobe to leave a tracing resembling the numeral “3”.
Bracket turns, in which the blade is turned counter to the curve of the lobe, making a tracing resembling a bracket (“}”).
Mohawks, the two-foot equivalents of three turns and brackets.
Rockers, one-foot turns that involve a change of lobe as well as of direction.
Counters, one-foot turns that involve a change of lobe as well as of direction.
Twizzles, traveling multi-rotation turns on one foot
Choctaws are the two-foot equivalents of rockers and counters. Other movements that may be incorporated into step sequences or used as connecting elements include lunges and spread eagles. An Ina Bauer is similar to a spread eagle performed with one knee bent and typically an arched back. Hydroblading refers to a deep edge performed with the body as low as possible to the ice in a near-horizontal position.
Moves in the field emphasize basic skating skill and edge control. In the context of a competitive program, they include spirals, spread eagles, Ina Bauers, hydroblading, and similar extended edge moves.
A spiral is an element in which the skater moves across the ice on a specific edge with the free leg held at hip level or above. Spirals are distinguished by the edge of the blade used (inside or outside), the direction of motion (forward or backward), and the skater’s position. A spiral sequence is one or more spiral positions and edges done in sequence. Judges look at the depth, stability, and control of the skating edge, speed and ice coverage, extension, and other factors. Some skaters are able to change edges during a spiral, i.e. from inside to outside edge. Spirals performed on a “flat” are generally not considered as true spirals. Spiral sequences are required in ladies’ and pair skating.
A death spiral is a required element of pair skating. There are four varieties distinguished by the lady’s edge and direction of motion. The man performs a pivot, one toe anchored in the ice, while holding the hand of his partner, who circles him on a deep edge with her body almost parallel to the ice. As of 2011, the woman’s head must at some time reach her skating knee. The man must also be in a full pivot position and the death spiral must be held for a minimum amount of rotation, depending on the level.
A basic outside edge spiral position with the free leg held unsupported behind the body.
A pair outside edge spiral in a catch-foot position.
Back inside death spiral.
Parallel mirror spread eagles with the male on an inside edge and the female on an outside edge.
Ice dancers in lunge position
Male ice dancer in Besti squat while lifting partner
Compulsory figures involves using blades to draw circles, figure 8s, and similar shapes in ice. Skaters are judged on the accuracy and clarity of the figures and the cleanness and exact placement of the various turns on the circles. Figures were formerly included as a component of singles competitions but were eliminated from international events in 1990. The United States was the last country to retain a separate test and competitive structure for compulsory figures, but the last national-level figures championship was held in 1999. Moves in the field (known in the United Kingdom as field moves) replaced compulsory figures as a discipline to teach the same turns and edge skills. As of 2015, The World Figure Sport Society formed in Lake Placid, NY has hosted The World Figure Championships in 2015, 2016, and 2017, acting to preserve the historic origins of Figure Skating, and offering a perfect black ice surface on which the World Championships in figures is held.