Death spiral (figure skating)

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Figure skating element
Death-Spiral Figure-Skating.png
Element name:Death spiral
Scoring abbreviation:Ds
Disciplines:Pair skating

The death spiral is "a circular move in which the male lowers his partner to the ice while she is arched backwards gliding on one foot".[1] It was created by German professional skater Charlotte Oelschlägel and her husband Curt Newmann in the 1920s.[2] Suzanne Morrow and Wallace Diestelmeyer from Canada were the first pair team to perform the death spiral one-handed (the man holding the woman in position with one hand), at the 1948 Olympic Games.[3] In the 1960s, Soviet pair team Liudmila Belousova and Oleg Protopopov created three death spirals: "the backward-inside, forward-inside and forward-outside death spirals, which they originally named the Cosmic Spiral, Life Spiral and Love Spiral, respectively".[4]

Forward inside death spiral
Backward outside death spiral
Backward inside death spiral
Woman in shoot-the-duck position during entry to backward inside death spiral
Woman in catch-foot position during backward outside death spiral
Forward outside death spiral


There are four types of death spirals: the forward inside death spiral, the backward outside death spiral, the backward inside death spiral, and the forward outside death spiral.[5]:p. 25 The forward inside death spiral is accomplished when the man skates on a backward outside edge and the woman skates on a forward inside edge. He performs a pivot while holding her hand with the same fully extended arm as his skating foot. She leans sideways and circles around him while her arms is also fully extended.[6]:p. 116 According to Skate Canada, the forward inside death spiral is the easiest death spiral.[1]

The backward outside a spiral is executed when both partners skate on a backward outside edge. The man must hold the woman's hand with the same arm as his fully extended skating foot while performing a pivot, and the she leans backward as she circles around him while her arm is fully extended.[6]:p. 116 According to Skate Canada, the backward outside death spiral is the most difficult death spiral.[1] For both forward inside and the backward outside death spirals, the man can skate in any position, edge, or direction, but he must remain in the prescribed pivot position and his partner must circle around him on the prescribed edge.[6]:p. 116

The backward inside death spiral is executed when the woman leans towards the ice while her arm is fully extended and she circles around the man on a "firm backward inside edge".[6]:p. 117 The forward outside death spiral is performed like the backward inside death spiral; the only difference is that the woman circles around her partner on a "firm forward outside edge".[6]:p. 117


While the woman performs "the actual death spiral",[6]:p. 113 both she and her partner must complete at least one revolution, with the man's knees "clearly bent and in full pivot position".[6]:p. 113 Judges begin to count revolutions when both partners "are in the actual low death spiral position".[5]:p. 26 Revolutions begin when the toe the man uses to anchor onto the ice is stationary, which is necessary due to centripetal acceleration experienced during the revolutions, and ends when the woman either rises to exit the death spiral or when the man's pivot ends.[5]:p. 27[7]

If a different death spiral other than what has been prescribed at the beginning of each season is executed, it receives no points. Death spirals are worth more points when the man stays in a low pivot position, when the lower part of his buttocks is not higher than the upper part of the knee of his pivot foot. At the same time, the woman must skate on a clean edge, with her head and body as close to the ice surface as possible, without her head touching the ice, or without using her free hand or any part of her body to assist herself. Her body weight is supported by her partner's hold and by the force of the spiraling edge.[6]:pp. 113–114 One skate of the woman must remain on the ice. Throughout inside death spirals, her head and lowest buttock or hip must not be higher than her skating knee.[6]:p. 112[5]:p. 26 Throughout outside death spirals, her head must not be higher than her skating knee, and her body-line between her head and the knee of her skating knee must have a shallow or flat arch. Her skate must remain on the ice for the duration of the death spiral; if she loses the edge and uses her boot or knee instead of her skate, the death spiral is considered ended and may be judged as a fall.[6]:p. 112[5]:p. 26

The man must be in a centered position and use a fully extended arm. Any kind of position, if the pair team's hold lasts for at least one revolution, can be counted.[6]:p. 114 Variations of pivot positions, either backwards or forwards, are allowed, as long as his buttocks are not higher than the knee of his anchored foot. Arm holds are also allowed. If the man's holding arm is not fully extended for one revolution, or if he does not reach the pivot position or cannot remain there for an entire revolution, the team receives no points for the death spiral. The death spiral is considered ended at the moment the man changes the position of the pivot.[5]:pp. 25–26 Pair skaters earn a higher level of difficulty, and thus more points, for difficult entries immediately before the death spiral and exits.[8] Entry into a death spiral starts "at the beginning of the entry curve when one partner is on one foot on the edge of the death spiral and the other partner is also on one foot or in a position such as spread eagle, shoot the duck etc."[5]:p. 27 The exit begins when the man begins to bend his holding arm at the elbow and when the woman's position is vertical.[5]:p. 27 Both partners must execute positions "that affect the main body core and balance"[5]:p. 27 when performing difficult entries and exits. Difficult entry positions must be performed while both partners are executing the entry curve and either the man or the woman are moving from a difficult entry position to the death spiral, with no delay. Difficult exit positions can include commencing a lift immediately after the death spiral or performing a jump.[5]:p. 113


  1. ^ a b c "Skating Glossary". Skate Canada. Retrieved 14 December 2018.
  2. ^ Kestnbaum, Ellyn (2003). Culture on Ice: Figure Skating and Cultural Meaning. Middletown, Connecticut: Wesleyan University Press. p. 103. ISBN 0819566411.
  3. ^ "Canadian Pair Break Figure Skating's Mould with 'Death Spiral'". 2016. Retrieved 13 December 2018.
  4. ^ "Protopopovs leave impressive legacy in Lake Placid". Daily Herald. Arlington Heights, Illinois. Associated Press. 2 October 2017. Retrieved 15 December 2018.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Technical Panel Handbook: Pair Skating" (PDF). International Skating Union. 19 July 2018. Retrieved 14 December 2018.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "Special Regulations & Technical Rules Single & Pair Skating and Ice Dance 2018". International Skating Union. June 2018. Retrieved 14 December 2018.
  7. ^ Normani, Franco. "The Physics Of Figure Skating". Retrieved 14 December 2018.
  8. ^ "Communication No. 2168: Single & Pair Skating". Lausanne, Switzerland: International Skating Union. 23 May 2018. p. 11. Retrieved 14 December 2018.