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Updated: September 25, 2013 11:37 AM | By

Winter Olympics 2014: Figure skating

A guide to the sport of figure skating at Sochi 2014

The pairs figure skating includes the free dance (© Copyright [c] Press Association Ltd. 2013, All Rights Reserved.)

The pairs figure skating includes the free dance


Figure skating evolved from the Dutch practice of skating along frozen canals, before being popularised in England. Artistic and balletic elements were added following the introduction of steel blades on skates in the United States in the mid-19th century.

Figure skating is the oldest Winter Olympic sport, having been part of the Summer Games program in both 1908 and 1920, before transferring to Chamonix for the first Winter Games in 1924. Men's, women's and pairs competitions were contested until 1972, with ice dancing added four years later.

A mixed team event is making its Olympic debut in Sochi, where for the first time the figure skating program is beginning before the opening ceremony.


The figure skating program at the 2014 Winter Olymics has five elements - men's, women's, pairs, ice dance and team.

The singles events each comprise a short program and a free skate. The short program must contain certain required elements, while a free skate is not so specific.

The pairs figure skating also includes two elements, the short dance and free dance, in which pairs are judged on timing and synchronicity as well as execution.

Ice dancing differs from figure skating in that it includes certain lifts and holds but does not allow throws or jumps. It comprises both a short and long dance.

The team competition involves a team of six - two singles and two pairs - contesting each of the four disciplines. The total aggregate score determines the medal placings.


Skaters wear heavy, custom-made skates which are reinforced with leather. They include strong ankle support and wide tongues to ensure optimum flexibility.

The blades are sharp and slightly curved, and have teeth cut into their toe which allows each athlete to push off and pivot.


Olympic figure skating has never been short of star quality. The women's individual program has launched stars such as Sonja Henie and Katarina Witt, and reached new heights with South Korean Kim Yu-Na's extraordinary performance to take gold in Vancouver in 2010.

On the men's side are legends such as three-time champion Gillis Grafstrom, double-winner Dick Button and veteran Russian Evgeni Plushenko.

Many fans' memories of great Winter Olympic moments will include the row of perfect sixes from the judges that greeted Great Britain's Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean's performance to Ravel's Bolero in Sarajevo in 1984.


The figure skating at the 2014 Winter Olympics takes place at the Iceberg Skating Palace.