|Highest governing body||International Skating Union|
|Olympic||Part of the Summer Olympics in 1908 and 1920; |
Part of the first Winter Olympics in 1924 to today
Single skating is a discipline of figure skating in which male and female skaters compete individually. Men's singles and women's singles,[note 1] along with the other figure skating disciples, pair skating, ice dance, and synchronized skating, are governed by the International Skating Union (ISU).
There are two segments in all international competitions, the short program and the free skating program. Compulsory figures, from which the sport of figure skating gets its name, was a crucial part of the sport for most of its history, until the ISU voted to remove them in 1990. Singles skating has required elements that skaters must perform during a competition and that make up a well-balanced skating program. They include: jumps, spins, step sequences, and choreographic sequences. They must be performed in specific ways, as described by published communications by the ISU, unless otherwise specified. The ISU publishes violations and their points values yearly. Deductions in singles skating include violations in time, music, and clothing, as well as regulations regarding falls and interruptions.
The short program is the first segment of single skating, pair skating, and synchronized skating in international competitions, including all ISU championships, the Olympic Winter Games, the Winter Youth Games, qualifying competitions for the Olympic Winter Games, and ISU Grand Prix events for both junior and senior-level skaters (including the finals). The short program must be skated before the free skate, the second component in competitions. The short program lasts, for both senior and junior singles and pairs, 2 minutes and 40 seconds. Vocal music with lyrics has been allowed in single skating and in all disciplines since the 2014-2015 season. Yuzuru Hanyu from Japan holds the highest single men's short program score of 112.72 points, which he earned at the 2017 CS Autumn Classic International in Montreal, Quebec. Russian skater Alina Zagitova holds the highest single women's short program score of 82.92, which she earned at the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in PyeongChang, South Korea.[note 2]
The short program for senior single skaters consists of seven required elements. The sequence of the elements is optional. Skaters can choose their own music, but their programs must be skated in harmony with it. Men single senior skaters must have the following elements in their short program: a double or triple axel; one triple or quadruple jump; a jump combination consisting of either a double jump and a triple jump, two triple jumps, a quadruple jump and a double jump, or a triple jump; one flying spin; a camel spin or sit spin with just one change of foot; a spin combination with just one change of foot; and a step sequence using the entire ice surface. Women single senior skaters must perform seven elements in their short program: a double or triple axel; one triple jump; a jump combination consisting of either a double jump and a triple jump, or two triple jumps; one flying spin; either a layback/sideways leaning spin or a sit or camel spin without a change of foot; a spin combination with just one change of foot; and a step sequence using the entire ice surface. Junior single skaters also have seven required elements.
Free skating, also called the free skate or long program, is the second segment in single skating, pair skating, and synchronized skating in international competitions, including all ISU championships, the Olympic Winter Games, the Winter Youth Games, qualifying competitions for the Olympic Winter Games, and ISU Grand Prix events for both junior and senior-level skaters (including the finals). Its duration, across all disciplines, is 4 minutes for senior skaters and teams, and 3 1/2 minutes for junior skaters. Russian skater Mikhail Kolyada holds the highest single men's free skating program score of 177.55, which he earned at the 2018 CS Ondrej Nepela Trophy. Alina Zagitova, also from Russia, holds the highest single women's free skating score of 158.50, which she earned at the 2018 CS Nebelhorn Trophy.
According to the ISU, free skating "consists of a well balanced program of Free Skating elements, such as jumps, spins, steps and other linking movements". A well-balanced free skate for both senior men and women single skaters must consist of the following: up to seven jump elements, one of which has to be an axel jump; up to three spins, one of which has to be a spin combination (one a spin with just one position, and one flying spin with a flying entrance); only one step sequence; and only one choreographic sequence. Junior men and women single skaters have the same requirements, except that they do not have to perform a choreographic sequence.
Compulsory figures, also called school figures, are the "circular patterns which skaters trace on the ice to demonstrate skill in placing clean turns evenly on round circles". Until 1947, for approximately the first half of the existence of figure skating as a sport, compulsory figures made up for 60 percent of the total score at most competitions around the world. After World War II, the numbers of figures skaters had to perform during competitions decreased, and after 1968, they began to be progressively devalued, until the ISU voted to remove them from all international competitions in 1990. Despite the apparent demise of compulsory figures from the sport of figure skating, coaches continued to teach figures and skaters continued to practice them because figures gave skaters an advantage in developing alignment, core strength, body control, and discipline. The World Figure Sport Society has conducted festivals and competitions of compulsory figures, endorsed by the Ice Skating Institute, since 2015.
The ISU defines a jump element as "an individual jump, a jump combination or a jump sequence". The six most common jumps can be divided into two groups: toe jumps (the toe loop, the flip, and the Lutz) and edge jumps (the Salchow, the loop, and the axel). Also according to the ISU, jumps must have the following characteristics to earn the most points: they must have "very good height and very good length"; they must be executed effortlessly, including the rhythm demonstrated during jump combinations; and they must have good take-offs and landings. The following are not required, but also taken into consideration: there must be steps executed before the beginning of the jump, or it must have either a creative or unexpected entry; the jump must match the music; and the skater must have, from the jump's take-off to its landing, a "very good body position". Somersault-type jumps, like the back flip, are not allowed. The back flip has been banned by the ISU since 1976 because it was deemed too dangerous and lacked "aesthetic value".
A jump combination, defined as "two (or more) jumps performed in immediate succession", is executed when a skater's landing foot of the first jump is also the take-off foot of the following jump. If a skater executes one complete revolution between the jumps, the element is still a combination. The free foot can touch the ice, but there must be no weight transfer on it. The skater can also perform an Euler between jumps.[note 3] If the first jump of a two-jump combination is not completed successfully, it is still counted as a jump combination. A jump sequence is executed when a skater completes two jumps, with no limits on the number of revolutions. The first jump, which can be any type allowed by the ISU, must be immediately followed by an axel-type jump "with a direct step from the landing curve of the first jump to the take-off curve" of the axel.
All jumps are considered in the order that they are completed. If an extra jump or jumps are completed, only the first jump will be counted; jumps done later in the program will have no value. The limitation on the number of jumps skaters can perform in their programs, called the "Zayak Rule" after American skater Elaine Zayak, has been in effect since 1983, after Zayak performed six triple jumps, four toe loop jumps, and two Salchows in her free skating program at the 1982 World Championships.:p.  Writer Ellyn Kestnbaum stated that the ISU established the rule "in order to encourage variety and balance rather than allowing a skater to rack up credit for demonstrating the same skill over and over". Kestnbaum also stated that as rotations in jumps for both men and women increase, skaters have increased the difficulty of jumps by adding more difficult combinations and by adding difficult steps immediately before or after their jumps, resulting in "integrating the jumps more seamlessly into the flow of the program".
In both the short program and free skating, any jump, jump combination, or jump sequence begun during the second half of the program earns extra points "in order to give credit for even distribution of difficulties in the program". As of the 2018-2019 season, however, only the last jump element performed during the short program and the final three jump elements performed during the free skate, counted in a skater's final score. International Skating Magazine called this regulation the "Zagitova Rule", named for Alina Zagitova from Russia, who won the gold medal at the 2018 Winter Olympics by "backloading" her free skating program, or placing all her jumps in the second half of the program in order to take advantage of the rule in place at the time that awarded a 10% bonus to jumps performed during the second half of the program. Also starting in 2018, single skaters could only repeat the same two triple or quadruple jumps in their free skating programs. They could repeat four-revolutions jumps only once, and the base value of the triple axel and quadruple jumps were "reduced dramatically".
There are three basic positions in spins: the camel, the sit spin, and the upright spin. All spins must have a different character. Spins must have the following characteristics to earn the most points: spins must have good speed and/or acceleration; they must be executed effortlessly; and they must have good control and clear position(s), even for flying spins, which must have a good amount of height and air/landing position. Also important but not required are the following characteristics: the spin must maintain a center; the spin must be original and creative; and the element must match the music. The New York Times says, when comparing spins and the more exciting jumps for single skaters, "While jumps look like sport, spins look more like art. While jumps provide the suspense, spins provide the scenery, but there is so much more to the scenery than most viewers have time or means to grasp".
If a skater performs a spin that has no basic position with only two revolutions, or with less than two revolutions, he or she does not fulfill the position requirement for the spin, and receives no points for it. A spin with less than three revolutions is not considered a spin; rather, it is considered a skating movement. The flying spin and any spin that only has one position must have six revolutions; spin combinations must have 10 revolutions. Required revolutions are counted from when the skater enters the spin until he or she exits out of it, except for flying spins and the spins in which the final wind-up is in one position. Skaters increase the difficulty of camel spins by grabbing their leg or blade while performing the spin.
A skater earns points for a spin change of edge only if he or she completes the spin in a basic position. Fluctuations in speed and variations in the positions of a skater's arms, head, and free leg are permitted. A skater must execute at least three revolutions before and after a change of foot. If a skater tries to perform a spin and his or her change of foot is too far apart (thus creating two spins instead of one), only the part executed before the change of foot is included in the skater's score. The change of foot is optional for spin combinations and for single-position spins. If he or she falls while entering a spin, the skater can fill the time lost by executing a spin or spinning movement; however, this movement will not be counted as an element.
A spin combination must have at least "two different basic positions with 2 revolutions in each of these positions anywhere within the spin". Skaters earn the full value of a spin combination when they include all three basic positions. The number of revolutions in non-basic positions are included in the total number of revolutions, but changing to a non-basic position is not considered a change of position. The change of foot and change of position can be made at the same time or separately, and can be performed as a jump or as a step-over movement. Non-basic positions are allowed during spins executed in one position or, for single skaters, during a flying spin.
Step sequences have been defined as "steps and turns in a pattern on the ice". The ISU requires that all step sequences are performed "according to the character of the music". A step sequence must have the following characteristics to earn the most points: the sequence must match the music; it must be performed effortlessly throughout the sequence, and have good energy, flow, and execution; and it must have deep edges and clean turns and steps. Also important but not required are the following characteristics: a sequence must have originality and creativity; the skater must have "excellent commitment and control" of his or her entire body; and the skater must have good acceleration and deceleration during the sequence.
Skaters can make short stops during a step sequence, but they must be performed in accordance with the music. Skaters must also perform steps and turns that are balanced throughout the sequence, which includes turning in all directions, the use of both feet, and up and down movements. Skaters can choose any kind of step sequence they wish, and can include jumps, but they must fully use the ice surface. If a step sequence is barely visible or too short, it does not fulfill step sequence requirements.
According to the ISU, a choreographic sequence, which occurs during the free skating program in singles skating, "consists of any kind of movements like steps, turns, spirals, arabesques, spread eagles, Ina Bauers, hydroblading, any jumps with maximum of 2 revolutions, spins, etc.". Judges do not evaluate individual elements in a choreographic segment; rather, they note that it was accomplished. For example, any spin or any single and double jumps included in a choreographic sequence are not included in the final score. If a skater performs a jump with more than two revolutions, the sequence is considered ended. There are no restrictions, but the sequence must be clearly visible. The technical panel identifies when a choreographic sequence begins, at its first movement, and ends, which occurs when the skater prepares to perform the next element if it is not the last element of the program. It can be executed before or after the step sequence.
Single skaters must include the following in order to earn the highest points possible during choreographic sequences: it must have originality and creativity, the sequence must match the music; and their performance must be effortless throughout the entire sequence, with good energy, execution, and flow. They must also have the following: good precision and clarity; skaters must use the entire ice surface; and skaters must demonstrate "excellent commitment" and control of their whole body while performing their choreographic sequences.
Rules and regulations
Skaters must only execute the prescribed elements; if they do not, the extra or unprescribed elements will not be counted in their score. Only the first attempt of an element will be included. Violations in single skating include time, music, clothing, and falls and interruptions.
As for all skating disciplines, judges penalize single junior and senior skaters one point up to every five seconds for ending their programs too early or too late. If they start their programs between one and 30 seconds late, they can lose one point. Restrictions for finishing the short program and the free skating program are similar to the requirements of the other disciplines in figure skating. They can complete these programs within plus or minus 10 seconds of the required times; if they cannot, judges can deduct points if they finish up to five seconds too early or too late. If they begin skating any element after their required time (plus the required 10 seconds they have to begin), they earn no points for those elements. If the program's duration is completed less than 30 or more seconds early, skaters will receive no points for any elements performed during that time.
The ISU defines the interpretation of the music in all figure skating disciplines as "the personal, creative, and genuine translation of the rhythm, character and content of music to movement on ice". Judges take the following things into account when scoring the short program and the free skating program: the steps and movement in time to the music; the expression of the character of the music; and the use of finesse.[note 4]
The use of vocals was expanded to singles skating, as well as to pair skating, starting in 2014; the first Olympics affected by this change was in 2018 in PeongChang, South Korea.[note 5] The ISU's decision, done to increase the sport's audience, to encourage more participation, and to give skaters and choreographers more choice in constructing their programs, had divided support among skaters, coaches, and choreographers. The first time a senior singles skater used music with vocals and lyrics during a major international competition was Artur Gachinski from Russia, during his short program at Skate America in 2014.
As for the other disciplines of figure skating, the clothing worn by single skaters at ISU Championships, the Olympics, and international competitions must be "modest, dignified and appropriate for athletic competition—not garish or theatrical in design". Props and accessories are not allowed. Clothing can reflect the character of the skaters' chosen music and must not "give the effect of excessive nudity inappropriate for the discipline".
All men must wear trousers, a rule that has been in effect since the 1994-1995 season. Since 2003, women single skaters have been able to wear skirts, trousers, tights, and unitards, which was a change since the ISU requirement in 1988 that women skaters wear skirts during competition, a rule dubbed "the Katarina Rule", after East German skater Katarina Witt, who "skated her tapdance-based short program in a showgirl-style light blue sequined leotard with high-cut legs, low-cut chest, and similarly colored feathers on her headdress and sleeves and around the hips as the only perfunctionary gesture in the way of a skirt". Decorations on costumes must be "non-detachable"; judges can deduct one point per program if part of the competitors' costumes or decorations fall on the ice. If there is a costume or prop violation, the judges can deduct one point per program.
If competitors do not adhere to these guidelines, the judges can deduct points from their total score, if most of the panel, including the referee, thinks a skater's outfit is inappropriate. However, costume deductions are rare. Juliet Newcomer from U.S. Figure Skating stated that by the time skaters get to a national or world championship, they have received enough feedback about their costumes and are no longer willing to take any more risks of losing points. Former competitive skater and designer Braden Overett, told the New York Post that there is "an informal review process before major competitions such as the Olympics, during which judges communicate their preferences".
Also according to the New York Post, one of the goals of skaters and designers is to ensure that a costume's design, which can "make or break a performance", does not affect the skaters' scores. According to former competitive skater and fashion writer Shalayne Pulia, figure skating costume designers are part of a skater's "support team". Designers collaborate with skaters and their coaches to help them design costumes that fit the themes and requirements of their programs for months before the start of each season. There have been calls to require figure skaters to wear uniforms like other competitive sports, in order to make the sport less expensive and more inclusive, and to emphasize its athletic side.
Falls and interruptions
The ISU defines a fall as the "loss of control by a Skater with the result that the majority of his/her own body weight is on the ice supported by any other part of the body other than the blades; e.g. hand(s), knee(s), back, buttock(s) or any part of the arm". For senior single skaters, one point is deducted for the first and second fall, two points are deducted for the third and fourth fall, and three points are deducted for the fifth fall and any falls after that. Junior single skaters are penalized one point for every fall.
The Boston Globe and other media outlets stated that, as of 2018, the ISU Judging System (IJS) was structured to reward difficult elements, so skaters earned more points despite falling on multi-rotational, complicated jumps than their competitors who skated "clean" programs with less difficult elements and did not lose points from falling. According to former American figure skater Katrina Hacker, falls during jumps occur for the following reasons: the skater makes an error during his or her takeoff; his or her jump is under-rotated, or not fully rotated while the skater is in the air; the skater executes a tilted jump and is unable to land upright on his or her feet; and the skater makes an error during the first jump of a combination jump, resulting in not having enough smoothness, speed, and flow to complete the second jump.
Injuries to the lower body (the knee, ankle, and back) the are most common for both single skaters and ice dancers. Single skaters experience 0.97 injuries per athlete. Single skaters also tend to have more injuries caused by chronic overuse of their lower limbs or backs. Researchers Jason Vescovi and Jaci VanHeest state that 50-75% of injuries can be prevented because they are caused from "training and/or performance issues".
If there is an interruption while performing their program, skaters can lose one point if it lasts more than 10 seconds but not over 20 seconds. They can lose two points if the interruption lasts 20 seconds but not over 30 seconds, and three points if it lasts 30 seconds but not more than 40 seconds. They can lose five points if they can resume their program three minutes after the interruption begins.
- Women are referred to as ladies in ISU regulations and communications.
- After the 2018-2019 season, due to the change in grade of execution scores from -3 to +3 to -5 to +5, all statistics started from zero and all previous scores were listed as "historical".
- Before 2018, half-loops were considered single-rotation jumps.
- "Finesse" is defined as "the Skater's refined, artful manipulation of music details and nuances through movement". Each skater has a unique finesse and demonstrates their inner feelings for the composition and the music. "Nuances" are "the personal ways of bringing subtle variations to the intensity, tempo, and dynamics of the music made by the composer and/or musicians".
- The ISU has allowed vocals in the music used in ice dance since the 1997-1998 season.
- S&P/ID 2018, p. 9
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