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7 Questions About Figure Skating We Couldn’t Leave Unanswered

It is believed that recently, figure skating has become almost as popular as football and hockey. And along with the interest in that sport, there are a lot of questions about it and some of the answers are quite unexpected.

Bright Side decided to find out more about the world of figure skating and is now ready to uncover some of the secrets of this amazingly spectacular sport.

1. Why is it called figure skating?

Before 1990, aside from short programs and free skating, skaters used to compete at doing compulsory figures on the ice. They were also called “school figures”. The jury was supposed to give a score to skaters depending on how well they could do special figures on the ice (like circles, curves, change of foot, change of edge, and turns). The score a skater received was a huge part of the final score but over time, the importance of this part of the program lessened. And sometime after that, this part of the program was canceled. This is why figure skating is called what it is. And here you can see skaters competing at the compulsory program.

2. What elements are banned?

All the elements of figure skating are regulated and of course, skaters don’t usually perform any really dangerous moves but there have been exceptions.

In 1998 at the Olympic Games in Nagano, French figure skater Surya Bonaly did a backflip which was prohibited by the rules. It looked quite cool and scary, and she did this element more as a protest. That’s because at the beginning of her program, she fell and realized that she had no chance to win so she just wanted to make her show more spectacular. And she did!

Aside from flips, in figure skating you can’t do these moves:

  • Jump onto your partner.
  • Do a series of 4 or more jumps.
  • Rotate when a partner is rotating their partner in the air around themselves holding their leg or hand.
  • Lie on the ice or touch it with 2 knees simultaneously at any point in the program.
  • Additional elements

3. Why do figure skaters wear tights over their skates?

They aren’t really tights but more like leggings made of elastic spandex. Usually, only women wear them on top of their skates. As it turns out, they have several reasons to do so.

  • The main reason they do this is to protect the skates from all kinds of damage. The thing is, figure skaters try to use only one pair of skates throughout a season (because wearing new ones is not pleasurable) and these covers keep their most important tool in good condition and hide the flaws of fairly old skates.
  • Another really important reason is to prevent the laces from untying. If there are tights on top of the skates, the chances of this happening are extremely low. However, lately, figure skaters also have been putting some duct tape on the laces but it’s hard to notice it.
  • Additionally, some figure skaters wear tights on top of their skates to make their legs look longer than they really are. They think that skates make their legs look much shorter and this little trick helps them to smoothen lines.

4. How do figure skaters not get dizzy from all the jumps and rotations?

They actually do feel dizzy but not as much as a regular person would. The vestibular system of a professional ice skater gets used to the unusual body positions during their many years of practice. So they can do multiple rotations, jumps, and other elements within one program. Alexei Mishin, a figure skating coach, developed a special machine for training the vestibular system: a rotating circle that helps to keep balance and prepares skaters to jump on the ice.

5. What jumps are the hardest to do?

When making jumps, skaters have to deal with powerful g-forces that can even be compared to flying into space. In men's singles, today's skaters can already do quadruple jumps that can give you the highest scores. Nathan Chen was the first person to do 6 quadruple jumps in one program. Men can do all kinds of quadruple jumps except for the axel jump.

Among women, quadruple jumps are not the norm yet: the first woman to have done these was Miki Ando from Japan. Today it's quite hard to say when and how soon these elements will become necessary for winning an adult competition.

The triple axel needs to be discussed separately. This is the only jump that is done with a forward take off. An axel has an extra 0.5 rotation in the air because of its forward take off. This is why it has the maximum base value. And this is why no skater has actually accomplished a quadruple Axel in competition. Most men can do the triple axel and only several women have done it in the history of figure skating.

6. There are competitions for men, women, and couples. Are there any other kinds?

Yes, there are. There are 5 disciplines in figure skating: men’s singles, ladies’ singles, pair skating, and ice dancing and synchronized skating. The latter is not included in the list of official competitions but there is a separate championship for them. And since 2014, team events have also been included.

Another kind of competition exists which features 2 pairs of skaters on the ice. It is popular in Canada and the US but there are no international competitions.

7. Who has the biggest number of titles in history?

If we count the number of gold medals won in the Olympic games, then here is what we get:

  • A woman from Norway named Sonja Henie is the absolute leader in singles: she was the Olympic champion 3 times in a row in 1928, 1932, and 1936.
  • Among men, Gillis Grafström has the biggest number of gold medals: 3 gold and 1 silver. Also, Evgeni Plushenko is worth mentioning since he has 4 Olympic medals: single and team gold medals, and 2 silver medals.
  • Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir are champions in ice dancing — 3-time Olympic champions (in 2010 and 2018 in singles, and in 2018 in a team).
  • Irina Rodnina along with Alexei Ulanov and Alexander Zaitsev was a 3-time Olympic champion in pair skating.

Are you a fan of figure skating? Tell us your favorite kind of figure skating down in the comments!

Preview photo credit AP/EAST NEWS
Bright Side/Curiosities/7 Questions About Figure Skating We Couldn’t Leave Unanswered
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