Explanation of Key Ice Skating Terms

It’s never difficult to express the grace and artistry of Olympic figure skating.The roar of the crowd, or sometimes just quiet awe, says it all. Each performance has specific parts. What are they?

The following feature is designed to break down the four essentials of the figure skater’s craft: jumps, spins, footwork and presentation. Together these basics comprise the judges’ criteria in scoring athletes’ performances.

The Jump

Skating JumpThe jump is skating’s basic element. Jump moves appear in single, double, triple and quadruple rotations. As skaters have taken their programs airborne with greater frequency and proficiency, challenging jump combinations have become the staple of championship performances. “Quad-triple” and “triple-triple,” once spoken at hushed volume, now are part of skating’s everyday vocabulary. The jumps listed below show a progression of increasing difficulty.

Axel: Named for its Norwegian inventor, Axel Paulsen, this is the only jump (with the rare exception of the inside Axel) that takes off with the skater facing forward. He or she launches from the forward outside edge of one foot, makes 2½ revolutions (double Axel) or 3½ revolutions (triple Axel), and lands on the back outside edge of the opposite foot.

Flip: A toe pick-assisted double or triple jump launched from the back inside edge of one foot. The skater makes two or three revolutions and lands on the back outside edge of the opposite foot.

Loop: An edge jump in which the skater takes off from the back outside edge of one foot, makes two or three revolutions, and lands on the same back outside edge.

A toe pick-assisted double or triple jump launched from the back outside edge of one foot and landing on the back outside edge of the opposite foot. Most skaters begin by gliding backward on a wide curve, then tapping their toe pick into the ice, rotating the jump in the opposite direction of the curve, and making two or three revolutions before landing. The jump is named for its inventor, Austria’s Alois Lutz.

An edge jump launched from the back inside edge of one foot. The skater makes two, three or four revolutions and lands on the back outside edge of the opposite foot. Named for its originator, Ulrich Salchow, who won 10 World Championships titles from 1901-1911.

Toe-loop: A toe pick-assisted jump with two, three or four revolutions. The skater takes off and lands on the same back outside edge. The toe loop is similar to the loop, except that the skater uses the toe pick of the free leg when taking off.

Spins

Spins are among figure skating’s most difficult elements and require a high degree of precision and concentration. Despite the growing popular appeal of powerful jumps, figure skating purists and judges have turned their attention to spin moves as a means of separating one strong performance from another. A well-executed spin is more subtle and refined than the most athletic and powerful jump. In the end, victory by a tenth of a point might well be traced to the precision, speed and grace of a skater in full whirl.

Beillmann Spin - Moran

Beillmann Spin - Moran

Biellmann Spin: In this spin, invented by Switzerland’s Denise Biellmann, the skater drops her shoulders backward, arches her back, and grabs one blade and lifts her leg above her head from behind. The maneuver typically is performed by women, but Russia’s Yevgeny Plushenko also does one.

Camel: A spin performed on one leg, with the non-skating, or “free,” leg extended in the air parallel to the ice. The body remains in this “spiral” position while spinning.

Sit: A spin in a sitting position low to the ice with the skating (spinning) leg bent at the knee and the free leg extended.

Combo: A sequence of several spins in which the skater changes feet and positions while maintaining speed.

So are you ready yet?

There’s a lot of ice out there. Skaters are required to maximize the full surface. A performance has its high points — jumps and spins popping, one after the other, like so much popcorn. But can an athlete find a way to string it? Judges need proof. The interconnectedness and flow of every skater’s program are essential to his or her presentation and technical merit. The skater’s ability to perform a specific step sequence comes into play here. This is a linkage of steps that immediately follow one another, executed in time to the music and choreographically related to each other. In the end, footwork is the punctuation that holds the substance of a skater’s program together.