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A Quick Guide to Olympic Figure Skating Scoring

Posted February. 03, 2010 07:47,   


Short track skating has traditionally been Korea’s favorite sport in the Winter Olympics, but the emergence of world figure skating champion Kim Yu-na has changed that.

Despite Kim’s rise to stardom that began two to three years ago, figure skating remains a sport hard for ordinary people to understand.

Figure skating terms are in a number of languages, and the sport’s skills and techniques are highly diverse. The following is a quick primer on figure skating.

○ Understanding jumps

The jump is the bread and butter of figure skating. The women’s short program has eight tasks including three jumps, and free skating has 12 including seven jumps. As such, scoring in the sport differs significantly depending on the success or failure of a competitor’s jumps.

The six types of jumps in the sport are the axel, lutz, loop, flip, toe loop and salchow. The terms were mostly named after competitors who invented the respective jumps.

Jumps can be classified into two main types. A skater can perform the lutz, flip and toe loop by spinning while standing on the skate’s serrated toe, and then do the axel, loop and salchow by jumping on the edge of the skate.

A skater earns scores depending on the type of jump and the number of spins. For triple jumps, the basic score is 4.0 points for a toe loop, 4.5 for a salchow, 5.0 for a loop, 5.5 for a flip, 6.0 for a lutz, and 8.2 for an axel.

By determining whether a skater used the right edge of the skate for jumps, she is given a “wrong edge” or “attention” mark.

The number of spins is also important. According to the rules, a three-quarter spin is considered one spin but not if it falls 0.01 degree short.

A spin of at least two and three quarters is considered a triple spin. Mao Asada of Japan often loses one technical point since she comes up short in the number of required spins and only manages two spins.

○ Total score: technique plus artistic value

A new scoring system was introduced in the 2002-03 season and fully adopted from the Turin Winter Olympics in 2006. The system was aimed to ensure fairness in judging and prevent collusion among judges. The judges also include a technical panel.

Comprised of controller, specialist and assistant specialist, the panel determines whether a skater performs a given technique properly. Judges score a grade of execution (GOE), or extra points for technical elements. The grade earned depends on whether a skater performs a certain technique.

Depending on the situation, a skater can earn a grade ranging from minus three to plus three points. The score made up of these points is called the technical element score (TES).

Judges also give a program component score (PCS), which rates artistic quality. Unlike TES, which is largely based on the technical panel’s judgment, PCS is up to a judge’s own discretion. It has five elements: skating skills, transitions, acting, choreography, and interpretation.

In other words, the scores for the short program and free skating are a combination of PCS and TES.

PCS is scored on a scale of 0-10 points in increments of 0.25 points. For the women’s short program, the score is calculated by multiplying PCS by 0.8, while for women’s free skating, PCS is multiplied by 1.6. The digits are multiplied to strike a 50-50 balance between the importance of TES and PCS.