Single skating

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Single skating
Carolina Kostner at 2009 World Championships.jpg
Highest governing body International Skating Union
Team members Individuals
Equipment Figure skates
Olympic Part of the Summer Olympics in 1908 and 1920;
Part of the first Winter Olympics in 1924 to today
Jeffrey Buttle, a men's single skater, performs an inside edge spread eagle.
Mirai Nagasu, a ladies' single skater, performs a layback spin.

Single skating is a discipline of figure skating in which male and female skaters compete individually. Men's singles and ladies' singles[1] are both Olympic disciplines and are both governed by the International Skating Union, along with the other Olympic figure skating events, pair skating and ice dancing. Single skaters perform jumps, spins, step sequences, spirals, and other moves in the field as part of their competitive programs.


Single skating competitions consist of a short program and free skating (often called the "long program"), usually performed within a day or two of each other. At some large competitions, including the World Figure Skating Championships and European Figure Skating Championships, there is a cut after the short program and a skater must perform well enough in the short program to advance to the free skating portion of the competition. Skaters are separated into warm-up groups, and generally there is a draw to decide the skating order. For the long program, the warm-up groups are organized according to a skater's placement after the short program, making skating in the "final group" (or the top six skaters after the short program) a goal of many competitors.

Short program[edit]

Short programs at the senior and junior levels are two minutes and forty seconds long. Skaters are penalized if they skate over that time limit.

Skaters must perform certain required elements as part of the program. These elements have varied over the years. The short program is the more exacting of the programs because all the required elements must be completed.

Free skating[edit]

International Skating Union (ISU) regulations state:

Free skating consists of a well balanced program of free skating elements, such as jumps, spins, steps and other linking movements executed with a minimum of two footed skating in harmony with music of the competitor's choice.

From the 2018-2019 season onward, the free skating programs are 4 minutes for both men and ladies. Skaters are allowed a time margin of +/- 10 seconds, and are penalized for going outside that range.


Figure skaters competing in an ISU-sanctioned event are judged under the ISU Judging System.[2][3][4][5]

Music, clothing, and skates[edit]

Competitors often choose music in consultation with their coach and choreographer.[6] For long programs, skaters generally search for music with different moods and tempos.[6] In competitive programs, vocal music was previously allowed only if it contained no lyrics or words, but in June 2012, the International Skating Union voted to allow music with words in competitive programs beginning in the 2014–15 season.

Figure skates for single skaters possess a larger set of jagged teeth called toe picks on the front of the blade than skates used by ice dancers. The toe picks are used primarily in jumping and footwork. The inside edge of the blade is on the side closest to the skater; the outside edge of the blade is on the side farthest from the skater. In figure skating it is always desirable to skate on only one edge of the blade, never on both at the same time (which is referred to as a flat). The apparently effortless power and glide across the ice exhibited by elite figure skaters fundamentally derives from efficient use of the edges to generate speed.

Skaters and family members may design their own costumes or turn to professional designers.[7][8][9]


  1. ^ Note: Women are referred to as ladies in International Skating Union regulations.
  2. ^ "Communication No. 1861: Single & Pair Skating Scale of Values, Levels of Difficulty and Guidelines for marking Grade of Execution" (PDF). International Skating Union. 28 April 2014. Archived (PDF) from the original on 4 May 2014.
  3. ^ "Special Regulations & Technical Rules: Single & Pair Skating and Ice Dance 2012" (PDF). International Skating Union. June 2012. Archived from the original (PDF) on 29 October 2013.
  4. ^ "S&P Deductions - Deductions: Who is responsible?" (PDF). International Skating Union. Archived from the original (PDF) on 11 October 2010.
  5. ^ "ISU: Single and Pair Skating: Technical Panel Handbooks, Communications, Questions and Answers". Archived from the original on 24 July 2013.
  6. ^ a b Brannen, Sarah S. (23 April 2012). "Beyond 'Carmen': Finding the right piece of music". Ice Network. Retrieved 27 April 2012.
  7. ^ Brannen, Sarah S. (20 August 2012). "Fashion forward: Designers, skaters on costumes". Icenetwork.
  8. ^ Golinsky, Reut (14 September 2012). "Costumes on Ice, Part II: Ladies". Absolute Skating.
  9. ^ Golinsky, Reut (4 October 2012). "Costumes on Ice, Part III: Men". Absolute Skating.

External links[edit]