Types of Skating Competitions

Types of Figure Skating Competitions


International competitions sanctioned are sanctioned by the International Skating Union. These competitions are held using ISU rules; skaters are entered by their respective national skating federations.  ISU Championships are:

Other international competitions (“B internationals”) are held as well.

Junior international competitions are held such as the ISU Junior Grand Prix and other “B” level junior events.


National championships held by individual national skating federations are governed by their respective rules. .

Qualifying competitions for the national championships are held by some larger countries with many skaters. .

National championships in lower age or skill divisions, such as junior and novice, are held in some countries.

United States National Championship Structure

US Figure Skating LogoThe United States Figure Skating Association holds national championships in five skill divisions. From highest to lowest, these are:

  • Senior (also known as Championship)
  • Junior
  • Novice
  • Intermediate
  • Juvenile

Unlike the International Skating Union, which categorizes novice, junior, and senior skaters by age, in the US these are test or skill levels. For example, a skater who competes in the junior division must have passed the junior skating test in that particular discipline, but not yet the senior test. In practice, the skills required to pass the tests are well below those that are required to be competitive at the corresponding level, and skaters choose which level to test based on the level they think they can compete at successfully, rather than vice-versa.

Francesca Timpanaro, Elisabeth O'Neil, Ashley Shook, Aaron Gillespie, Kaitlyn Castelli, Simone Kim, Monika Chung & Fiona Kim

2011 North Atlantic Competition - NJFSC

The national novice, junior, and senior competitions in men and ladies singles, pair skating, and ice dancing are held at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships each year. The national juvenile and intermediate competitions are held at a separate event known as the “U.S. Junior Championships” (but note that the “juniors” do not compete here).

The qualifying season for novice, junior, and senior skaters begins at one of nine regional championships, which are now typically held in the first half of October. The top four skaters from each regional advance to one of three sectional championships in November, from which the top four advance to the national championship in January. (Up until the 1990s, competitions were held later in the season, with regional’s typically in November and sectionals often not until January.)

The regions and sections are:

Eastern Section             Midwestern Section               Pacific Coast Section
New England Region     Eastern Great Lakes Region     Pacific Northwest Region
North Atlantic Region     Upper Great Lakes Region      Central Pacific Region
South Atlantic Region     Southwestern Region      Southwest Pacific Region

Dalia - 2011 North Atlantic Gold Medal

Dalia - 2011 North Atlantic Gold Medal

Some skaters are also given “byes” through qualifying based on their results from the previous season’s competitions, if they qualify for the Junior or Senior Grand Prix Final, or if they are assigned by the USFSA to international competitions that conflict with their qualifying competitions. Skaters are currently not eligible for byes at any level if they cannot compete in their qualifying competition due to injury or illness.

Juvenile and intermediate skaters also compete at regionals. From there, the top finishers advance directly to the U.S. Junior Championships. Because the number of competitors in these divisions is much larger in some regions than others, the number who advance from each region depends on the number of entries in that region.


US Skating New Competitive Test Track

The competitive test track is a new event for all non-qualifying competitions that limits the difficulty of skating elements performed in each level. The test track will line up the test structure requirements with the competition levels, giving skaters a fair playing field to continue competing and testing according to their abilities.

Skaters may choose to participate in either the test track or free skating track but not both during the same non-qualifying competition. The 6.0 judging system will be used for this new track.

Adding an alternative track for restricted competition will encourage skaters, offer them opportunities for success in a competitive atmosphere while they continue to progress through the test structure, gain credentials for future endeavors and retain membership in U.S. Figure Skating. Competitions that host these events will be offering more opportunities to keep skaters motivated along the pipeline and keep them enthusiastic about their abilities in hopes of retaining skaters who may be discouraged by the high level of technical elements at all levels.

Synchronized Skating

In the US, synchronized skating has its own competition track with the national championships and qualifying events held separately from those in the other disciplines. There are no regional championships in this discipline; teams qualify for the U.S. Synchronized Team Skating Championships at one of three sectional competitions.

Adult Competition

Rick Breitweiser and Pamela Federbusch - Adult Nationals

Rick Breitweiser and Pamela Federbusch - Adult Nationals

Adults (skaters 21 and older) in the US have a separate competitive track which culminates in the U.S. Adult Figure Skating Championships (colloquially Adult Nationals). Most divisions at this competition are non-qualifying events with open entries, but there is also a more rigorous set of qualifying events called Championship events. Skaters must qualify for the Championship events through their respective adult sectional championship, which is held separately from standard-track sectionals.

Adult Sectionals are typically held in late February or early March, with Nationals occurring in mid-April.

Local Club Competitions

Club competitions, also known as non-qualifying competitions, are organized by a local figure skating clubs. These events have open entries and typically many age or test level divisions, and are sanctioned by, and conducted using the rules of, the national skating federation in the country where they are held. Skaters from other countries may enter these events with the permission of their own federation.

ISI competitions are sanctioned by, and held using the rules of the Ice Skating Institute instead of the national federation.

Basic skills competitions are for low-level recreational skaters.