Olympic Sports >> Figure Skating

Figure Skating

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The Competition


To obtain the best marks possible from judges who award scores after two or three prepared programmes - skated to music - during which competitors must attempt to achieve the greatest possible harmony between artistic flair, choreography and technical precision.

4 Events

2 individual (1 for men, 1 for women), 2 for pairs (pairs and dance).


Pacific Coliseum

Competition dates

February 14, 15, 16, 18, 19, 21, 22, 23, 25 and 27

The Disciplines

The individual events

A short programme 2min 50sec maximum (8 required elements, free choice of music) determines 24 competitors (out of 30) for the free programme (4min 30sec for men, 4min for women). The winner is the competitor who obtains the highest marks.


20 pairs. A short programme of 2min 50sec maximum (8 required elements, free choice of music), followed by a free programme of 4min 30sec. The winners are the pair who obtain the highest marks.


24 pairs. 3 programmes. Imposed dance, original dance (2min 30sec) and free dance (4min). The three sets of marks are combined to determine the winners.


The judges

12 judges who remain anonymous award marks for technical precision and presentation. Marks from nine judges (chosen at random for each event) awards each skater two scores, one for technical achievement, the other for artistic impression. The two top marks and two lowest notes are discarded.

Technical marks

Each figure has a base value. The judge can either award bonus marks for quality or subtract marks for failings. These marks can range from minus 3 to plus 3. (A figure with a base value of 9 which is executed perfectly can receive a mark of 12. If it is badly executed, the skater receives a worst mark of 6).

Presentation marks

A combination of five marks (quality of skating, fluidity, execution, choreography and interpretation). Each mark ranges from 1 to 10 for a maximum of 50.

The winner

The skater with the best combined marks from both programmes.

Important dates

  • 20,000 BC : First skate is made from bone.
  • 1200's : First skates using iron blades are designed in The Netherlands.
  • 1772 : Creation of first figure skating club in England.
  • 1882 : The "axel" jump is created by Axel Paulsen of Norway.
  • 1892 : Creation of the International Skating Union (ISU).
  • 1908 : Figure skating features as an official event at the first Summer Olympics held in London.
  • 1909 : The "salchow" jump is created by Ulrich Salchow of Sweden.
  • 1913 : Austria's Alois Lutz creates the "lutz" jump.
  • 1925 : The first double jump (loop) is peformed by Karl Schafer.
  • 1952 : First triple jump (loop) is performed by American Dick Button.
  • 1988 : Kurt Browning of Canada performs the first quadruple jump.
  • 1991 : Imposed figures programme is abolished.
  • 1997 : Canada's Elvis Stojko performs the first quadruple-triple combination.


Sonja Henie (NOR)

Finished seventh at the first Winter Olympics at Chamonix in 1924 at the age of eleven, and later won virtually everything else. Six times European champion (1931-36), ten times world champion (1927-36, and a triple Olympic champion at the 1928, 1932 and 1936 Games. Superb technique, graceful yet adventurous, Henie revolutionized the sport.

Dick Button (USA)

Button gave the sport a new athletic dimension and was the first person to complete a triple jump during competition in 1952. Five-times world champion from 1948-52, he was also Olympic champion in 1948 and 1952.

Katarina Witt (E. GER)

Winner of twelve major titles, including two Olympic gold medals, four world titles and six European crowns. Along with Sonja Henie, Witt was the only skater to win Olympic, world and European titles in the same year (1984, 1988). She was nicknamed "the most beautiful face of socialism".

Copyright 2008 Agence France-Presse.