Artistic roller skating
- Figures (similar to compulsory or "school" figures on ice)
- Freestyle (individuals performing jumps and spins)
- Pairs (a subset of freestyle with two people performing jumps, spins, and lifts)
- Dance (couple)
- Solo dance
- Precision (team skating, similar to synchronized skating on ice)
- Show teams
Artistic roller skaters use either quad or inline skates, though quad skates are more traditional and significantly more common. Generally quad and inline skaters compete in separate events and not against each other. Inline figure skating has been included in the world championships since 2002 in Wuppertal, Germany.
The sport looks very similar to its counterpart on ice, and although there are some differences, many ice skaters started in roller skating or vice versa. Famous champion ice skaters who once competed in roller skating include Brian Boitano, Tara Lipinski, and Marina Kielmann. Roller figure skating is often considered to be more difficult because the ice allows the skater to draw a deep, solid edge to push off from when performing jumps such as a lutz or an axel. Also, roller skates are generally heavier than their ice equivalents, making jumping harder; and do not leave behind tracings.
Roller skating disciplines
In the figures discipline, skaters trace figure circles painted on the skating surface. This is different from skaters of compulsory figures on ice, who skate on blank ice, and draw their own circles on the ice as they skate. The official dimension of plain figure circles, measured at their diameter along the long axis, is 6 meters (19 feet, 8¼ inches). The official dimension of the smaller loop figure circles measured similarly is 2.4 meters (7 feet, 10½ inches). Circles are typically painted in "serpentines" -- sets of three circular lobes.
The basic figures skated are typically referred to by numbers, the same as those skated by ice skaters, ranging from simple circle eights through serpentines (figures using one push for a circle and a half), paragraphs (figures using one push for two circles), and loops (smaller circles with a teardrop-shaped loop skated at the top of the circle). There is one category of very simple figures (111 and 112) that are unique to roller skaters; these are serpentines that begin with a half circle skated on one foot, then change to the other foot, for the next circle, then change back to the other foot for another half circle. Some of the more basic figures are numbered 1, 2, 1B, 5A, 5B, 7A, 7B, 111A, 111B, 112A, and 112B, in which the letter B means you start on your left foot. These figures are often taught as beginning figures for those just starting. They include simple circle eights, circle eights with [three turns], and serpentines. The harder figures include counters, brackets, rockers, etc. and they are number 19, 21, 22, 26, etc.
Judges in figure events consider the quality of the skater's tracing of the circle, clean takeoffs, edges and correct placement of turns. The skater's form and posture is emphasized as well.
Dance roller skating contains three major sub-disciplines: Compulsory dance, original dance, and free dance.
Compulsory dance contains prescribed compulsory dances and steps that must be performed, such as the Imperial Tango, the 14 Step, the Keats Foxtrot , or the Flirtation Waltz. Some of the dances are the same as performed in ice dancing competition, while others are unique to roller skating.
American Dance is performed only at the United States National level and below, and emphasizes keeping the upper body upright and free from movement. Some examples of American dances are the Fascination Foxtrot, Progressive Tango, and the California Swing.
Original Dance consists of a dance constructed of two rhythms chosen from a set of rhythms that FIRS changes every year . In 2008 the set rhythms were "Spanish Melody" ( Paso Doble, Flamenco, Tango, and Spanish Waltz ).
Free Dance is similar to the ice free dance, although with some rules changes. Skaters do not need to follow a pattern around the floor, but rather must be creative in their interpretation of the music. Dancers cannot do any jumps or spins that are recognizable in freestyle skating.
Solo Dance incorporates all three sub-disciplines. Compulsory dances generally utilise the female steps as these are usually more difficult then the male steps. Original dance is referred to as Creative Solo Dance or CSD, and free dance incorporates up to two spins with no more than 3 revolutions and up to two jumps of no more than 1 revolution.
Artistic freestyle skating incorporates figure skating jumps, spins, and footwork into a program set to music. Most of the jumps done by freestyle roller skaters are similar to those performed in ice skating, with some nomenclature changed. A "toe loop" on ice is often referred to as a Mapes in roller skating, taking its name from the inventor of the jump. Though both ice and roller skaters perform the Euler jump (called a "half-loop" by ice skaters and some roller skaters), it is more common in roller skating programs, as lengthy multi-jump combinations are emphasized in roller skating judging. The Euler is a useful connecting jump in such sequences; for example, a five-jump combination might be Axel, loop, double Mapes, Euler, double flip. The hardest part of a five jump combination is usually keeping up enough speed to complete the fifth jump, which can sometimes be the most technically difficult. the "loop" jump is also performed in roller skating, though ice skaters tend to "take off" with two feet, roller skaters do a one foot take off.
Roller skating also traditionally emphasizes spins that are uncommon on ice, especially the inverted camel in which the skater is on an outside edge standing on the right foot with their body and left leg extended outward parallel to the floor, the skater then rotates their hips 180 degrees while continuing to spin so that they are spinning upside down  (of course this could also be performed on the left.) The inverted camel is generally performed by women - few men learn to do it and even fewer perform it in competition. Other spins popular in roller skating that would be impossible to do with the blades of an ice skate include the broken ankle, which begins as an inside-edge camel and the skater then pushes the skate over so that the spin is rotating on the edge of the two inner wheels, and the heel camel spin, which is only rotated on the back two wheels, or heel.
Precision Roller Skating is a large and fast-growing, yet little recognized discipline, consisting of 12-24 athletes skating on the floor at one time moving as one flowing unit at high speeds. This discipline of Precision Skating is named because of the emphasis on maintaining precise formations and timing of the group.
For a precision team to flow in unison, individual skaters must be competent at a variety of skating skills, including speed, footwork and presentation. The team performs a program set to music, with required formations including circles, lines, blocks, wheels, and intersections. The teams are required to perform difficult step sequences involving a number of complicated turns.
There are international synchronized skating competitions at the Senior level, and the Federation Internationale de Roller Sports (FIRS) held the first World Championship in Precision Roller Skating in 2000. Teams may consist of men and women with Senior Teams having 12-24 team members and Junior Teams having 8-16 team members. Two scores are given, one for technical and one for artistic impression.
Precision Roller Skating owes its origin to Synchronized skating on ice. The first synchronized figure skating team was formed by Dr. Richard Porter, who became known as the 'father of synchronized skating'. The 'Hockettes' skated out of Ann Arbor, Michigan and entertained spectators during the intermissions of the University of Michigan Wolverines men's ice hockey team. In the early days, precision skating resembled a drill team routine, or a precision dance company such as The Rockettes.
During the 1970s, the interest for this new sport spawned tremendous growth and development. In each season, teams developed more creative and innovative routines incorporating stronger basic skating skills, new maneuvers and more sophisticated transitions with greater speed, style and agility. Due to the interest in the sport in North America, other countries took notice, leading to the World Championships. With the internationalization of the sport, it has evolved rapidly, with increasing emphasis on speed and skating skills.
Although not currently an Olympic sport, fans and participants of this fast-growing discipline have begun to strive for recognition by the rest of the athletic world. Precision Roller Skating has been covered by Roller Skating and the USARS magazine since the sport's inception. It is a varsity sport at a few colleges, and both Precision Roller Skating and its ice counterpart are being reviewed for Olympic eligibility.
Artistic roller skaters most commonly skate on traditional quad skates. Skates designed for artistic skating typically have leather boots, a strong sole plate, and a jump bar for reinforcement. The plate has to be made from a strong material as it has to be able to withstand the shock of jumping and landing. Artistic roller skates usually have stainless steel or aluminum plates for that reason, even though these are heavier than ones made from other materials such as plastic. Free skaters usually use a toe stop, which can be used in the take-off in certain jumps such as the Mapes or the flip. Dance skaters substitute toe plugs, as the large toe stops are cumbersome when performing dance footwork. Figure skaters generally have specially made plates for figure skating which have no receptacle for the toe stop.
Some artistic skaters use inline skates. Skates designed for inline artistic skating have leather boots (as ice and quad figure skates do), and usually have rockered wheels and a toe stop or toe "pic". Rockered wheels (wheels which are arranged at different heights so that the baseline of the wheels forms a curve instead of a flat line) are more suitable to skate the curved "edges" which are typical of artistic skating than un-rockered inline wheels are.
Roller skate wheels and bearings
Roller skate wheels come in many different sizes and hardnesses. Typically a 63mm wheel is used for dance, 60mm to 63mm used for figures, and a smaller 57mm wheel used for freestyle. The hardness of the wheel determines the grip or slip of the wheel. Normally a harder wheel having more slip is used for turn figures. A softer wheel with more grip is used for dance. Freestyle skaters tend to use both on the skates, using a harder wheel on the edge they need to spin and a softer wheel on the other edges. Typically 7mm bearings are used because competitive artistic skates have a smaller axle. Most inline skates use a 8mm bearing. The abec rating determines the tolerances in the bearing and most people can use an Abec3; however, most people believe the extra cost of Abec 7 or 9 bearings is worth paying for a better bearing. There are also other kinds of bearings such as Swiss Bones, which are also a very high quality.
- Artistic Skating World Championship
- Artistic roller skating at the World Games
- International Roller Sports Federation
- USA Roller Sports
- Marina Kielmann's official site
- USA Artistic Roller Skating Rulebook, 2000 edition. Lincoln, NE: USA Roller Sports. 2000.
- Dance Skating Patterns & Notes
- For a comprehensive listing of 1,000's of roller skating rinks and roller skating teachers from 1950 to 1912
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