How Figure Skating is Judged

Are  you a fan of figure skating? If so, you’ve probably questioned how, exactly, the judges score the skaters. Wonder no more. 

Following the 2002 Olympic Games, the International Skating Union (ISU) developed a new judging system for figure skating. The system incorporates two panels of experts-a Technical Panel, which identifies elements of a routine, and a Judging Panel, which evaluates them. Here’s how it works.

Singles, Pair Short, Free Programs, Original and Free Dances

In the system, points are awarded for a technical score and for five additional components, as outlined below.

Technical score: Each existing element (e.g. jump, lift, footwork, etc.) has a point value. Once a skater performs an element, it will be identified and confirmed by the Technical Panel. The Judging Panel will then rate the quality of the performed element, using a scale of seven grades ranging, from “-3” to “+3.” That grade is then added to or subtracted from the original value of the element.

For each element, the highest and lowest judges’ points are discarded. The element score is the average determined from the points of the remaining judges. The total technical score is the sum of each element score.

Program component score:
In addition to the technical elements, points will also be awarded for the five different program components. On a scale of 1-10 (with increments of 0.25), the judges assess the overall presentation of the whole program. The program components include:

  • Skating Skills
  • Transition, Linking Footwork and Movement
  • Performance/Execution-style, carriage and unison
  • Choreography/Composition-composition of the program;
  • Interpretation-indicates the skater’s expression of the music’s style, character and rhythm throughout the entire program.

The program component scores are also calculated by discarding the highest and lowest score, then averaging the remaining scores. Each is then multiplied by a factor that is set out in the rules for each event.

Additional points may be awarded for innovative elements, while deductions are made for rule violations and falls.

Result:
The total score for any segment is the technical score plus the total score for the five program components.

Compulsory Dance

For the compulsory dance event, the system is based on points awarded for a technical score and for four additional components, as outlined below.

Technical score: Each ice dance element has a points value. Once a skater performs an element, it will be identified and confirmed by the Technical Panel. As in the other events, the Judging Panel will then decide upon the quality of that performed element using a seven-grade scale, with that grade added to or subtracted from the original value of the element.

For each segment, the highest and lowest points are discarded. The total segment score is the average determined from the points of the remaining judges. The total segment score will be the sum of each segment score.

Program component score:
In addition to the technical elements, points will also be awarded for the four different components. Judging on a scale of 1-10 (with increments of 0.25), the judges assess the overall presentation of the whole program. The program components are:

  • Skating Skills-the ability of the couple to perform dance steps and movements over the ice surface
  • Performance/Execution-the demonstration of unison, body alignment, carriage and style
  • Interpretation-the couple’s expression of the music’s style, character and rhythm throughout the compulsory dance
  • Timing-the ability of the couple to skate strictly to the time of the music.

The program component scores are also calculated by discarding the highest and lowest score, then averaging the remaining scores. Each is then multiplied by a factor set out in the rules.

Result: The total from the technical score will be added to the total score for the four components, minus any deductions. The result is the compulsory dance score.

Final competition result:
In singles and pairs figure skating, scores from the two segments-the short program and the free skate-are added together to give the total competition score.

In the event that a qualifying round is skated, 25% of the score awarded to the qualifying free skate is added to the total score for the athlete.

In ice dance, scores from the three segments-the compulsory dance, the original dance and free dance-are added together to give the total competition score.

At the end of the event, the skater or team with the highest competition score wins.

More information on the new judging system can be found on the ISU website, at www.isu.org.

For a glossary of skating jumps, turns and other elements, visit Know Your Skating at Skate Canada.

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