What is figure skating? Winter Olympics 2022 schedule, rules and when Natasha McKay will compete in Beijing

Everything you need to know about one of the games’ most recognisable sports.

Compared to most Winter Olympic sports, figure skating holds a relatively prominent place in British public consciousness.

Ever since Torvill and Dean’s iconic Bolero routine at the 1984 games it has remained a favourite, to the extent that reality TV competition Dancing On Ice is still broadcast by ITV annually.

As Beijing 2022 continues to gather pace, figure skating is set to play a central role in the games once again, and all eyes will be on British medal hope Natasha McKay as she bids for Olympic glory.

Here’s everything you need to know about figure skating at the games, including when the Scot is due to compete...

What is figure skating?

Figure skating is an event in which individuals, pairs, or groups perform routines to music on ice.

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The disciplines included in the Winter Olympics are men’s singles, women’s singles, pair skating, and ice dance. These four individual disciplines are also combined into a team event, which was first included in the games back in 2014.

Interestingly, figure skating was the first winter sport to be included in the summer games when contested at the London Olympics in 1908.

What are the rules of figure skating?

As an Olympic sport, figure skating is fundamentally comprised of three disciplines.

In singles competition, individual skaters perform jumps, spins, step sequences, spirals, and other elements in their programmes.

Pair skating consists of male and female athletes skating together, with duos performing elements that are specific to the discipline. These include throw jumps, lifts, pair spins, death spirals, and other essential elements such as side-by-side jumps and spins in unison.

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Finally, ice dance pairings, again consisting of male and female athletes skating together, focus on intricate footwork performed in close dance holds. Ice dance lifts must not go above the shoulder, while throws and jumps are disallowed.

In singles and pairs figure skating competition, competitors perform two programmes - the short programme and the free skate, sometimes referred to as the long programme.

The short programme requires skaters to include various specific elements consisting of jumps, spins and steps, while the free skate opens up choreography to a broader array of options.

Ice dance competitions consist of two phases. Competitors must perform a rhythm dance, and a free dance to a musical piece of the skaters’ own choice.

How is figure skating scored?

Figure skating at the Winter Olympics is scored using a relatively complex method known as the International Judging System.

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Under the IJS, points are awarded individually for each skating element, and the sum of these points makes up the total element score, or TES.

Each element is judged first by a technical specialist who identifies the specific element and determines its base value.

A panel of twelve judges then each award a mark for the quality and execution of the element. This mark, called the grade of execution, or GOE, is a whole number with a minimum value of −5 and a maximum value of +5.

The GOE mark is then translated into another figure using a specific table of values outlined by the International Skating Union, with the subsequent scores then processed to leave a computerised random selection of nine judges’ marks.

The highest and lowest values are then discarded, and the average of the remaining seven is calculated. This average value is then added to, or subtracted from, the base value to determine the total value for the element.

Skaters are also judged on a programme components score, or PCS, which looks at holistic aspects of a routines or other nuances that are not rewarded in the TES. These include skating skills, transitions, performance, composition, and interpretation.

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The TES and the PCS are added together to provide the total score for a competition segment, or TSS.

A skater’s final placement is then determined by the total of their scores in all segments of a competition.

What is the schedule for figure skating at the Winter Olympics?

In Beijing, figure skating will run between February 4th and February 20th.

The full schedule across all disciplines is as follows:

*Events in bold denote finals.

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** All times are in GMT.

February 4th

- Team Event (Men’s Short Programme) - 1.55am

- Team Event (Ice Dance Rhythm Dance) - 3.35am

- Team Event (Pairs’ Short Programme) - 5.15am

February 6th

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- Team Event (Women’s Short Programme) - 1.30am

- Team Event (Men’s Free Skating) - 3.50am

February 7th

- Team Event (Pairs’ Free Skating) - 1.15am

- Team Event (Ice Dance Free Dance) - 2.30am

- Team Event (Women’s Free Skating) - 3.35am

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February 8th

- Men’s Short Programme - 1.15am

February 10th

- Men’s Free Skating - 1.30am

February 12th

- Ice Dance Rhythm Dance - 11am

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February 14th

- Ice Dance Free Dance - 1.15am

February 15th

- Women’s Short Programme - 10am

February 17th

- Women’s Free Skating - 10am

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February 18th

- Pairs’ Short Programme - 10.30am

February 19th

- Pair’s Free Skating - 11am

February 20th

- Exhibition Gala - 4am

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When will Natasha McKay compete in the Winter Olympics?

McKay will begin her bid for Olympic glory in the Women’s Short Programme from around 10am on February 15th.

The Scot will also be taking part in the Women’s Free Skate from around 10am on February 17th, during which the final standings and medal recipients will be decided.

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