Olympic Figure Skating consists of women’s singles, men’s singles, pairs, and ice dancing. Elite competitors skate at the senior level. To reach this level, skaters must pass 16 rigorous tests in Moves in the Field and Free Skating. Moves in the Field showcase skating skills and transition elements such as spirals, a move that involves balancing on the skating leg and extending the free leg, or non-skating leg, into the air. Free Skating moves highlight jumps, spins, and transition elements in a choreographed program. Ice dancers complete a separate series of dance tests.
Each Olympic year, the U.S. Figure Skating National Championships double as the Olympic Trials. The number of athletes a country can send to the Games depends on the country’s placements at the previous year’s World Figure Skating Championships. Winners from the last U.S. National Championships or World Championships automatically qualify for the U.S. Nationals. Other athletes qualify for the Nationals from a top placement at another major event or by advancing through both Regional and Sectional Championships. U.S. Figure Skating (USFS) then chooses the Olympic Team based on placements at Nationals and the skaters’ previous body of work through the years.
At the Olympics, the women, men, and pairs have six minutes to complete short and long programs. The top men will attempt quadruple jumps that rotate four times before landing. The top women will attempt triple – triple combinations. Pairs will attempt dangerous twists, throws and lifts. Ice dancers will display their unison with intricate footwork sequences in three dance performances. A new team skating event will debut in Sochi, featuring top skaters in each discipline to determine which country reigns supreme.
Reaching the Olympic podium takes strength, flexibility, endurance, musicality, charisma and strong mindsets. Skaters typically train at least 15 hours on the ice, five days per week, and also do off-ice training. Skaters need strong core muscles to pull the body in tightly and rotate. A triple axel, for example, uses a forward take-off from a quarter-of-an-inch skate blade and completes three-and-one-half revolutions in 0.7 seconds. Skaters acquire strength from skating, Pilates, or weight training. Yoga and ballet increase flexibility and awareness of body position in space. Run-throughs of skating programs build endurance. Music and the arts develop musicality and a point of view. Periodization of training helps skaters avoid injury. Elite skaters have achieved a certain level of athletic performance, and a positive mindset allows skaters to express figure skating’s unique blend of artistry and athleticism on the Olympic stage.