Figure Skating is the oldest discipline in the Winter Olympic Games. As far back as 1908, figure skating competitions were included in the Olympic Games in London, and in 1920 at the Antwerp Games. Since the 1924 Olympic Games in Paris, Singles and Pairs Skating have been a key fixture of the Olympic Games.
The first Russian Olympic champion figure skater was Nikolai Panin-Kolomenkin. He won a gold medal at the London 1908 Olympic Games in an individual program called “Special Figures”.
In 1976 Ice Dancing was included in the Olympic program; prior to this (in 1972) it was the only part of the Olympics as a demonstration sport. The first Olympic champions in Ice Dancing in 1976 were the Soviet figure skaters Lyudmila Pakhomova and Alexander Gorshkov.
Figure Skating today
The Olympic Games program includes the following Figure Skating competitions: individual Men's and Ladies’ events, Pair Skating, Ice Dance and for the first time in history, a team event. At the present time, 5 sets of medals are contested in the Olympic Figure Skating program.
Single skating (Men and Ladies) consists of a short program including 7 compulsory elements and a free program. A well-balanced free program should include jumps, spins, and steps.
Likewise, Pairs first perform a short program (7 elements) and then a free program. Compulsory moves include lifts, spirals, throws and synchronized jumps. One of the most significant criteria in the judging of programs is the degree to which a pair’s movements mirror one another.
Ice Dance is the only event that allows the use of music with vocals. Dancers must adhere closely to the rhythm of the music and express the character of the music with appropriate emotion and feeling.
At present, ice dance competitions, like those of other forms of figure skating, consist of two programs. The short program combines a compulsory dance - consisting of one or two parts - and certain proscribed elements. The theme and rhythm of the musical accompaniment is determined each season by the ISU (the sport’s governing body), while the length of this dance - currently 2 minutes and 50 seconds - is similar to requirements of other forms of figure skating. The free dance has not undergone significant changes over the years and the basis of its scoring remains, the quality of the compulsory elements in close dancing positions, the unison the skaters display and their ability to express the character of the musical selection.
Team Event in figure skating is a competition between the best national teams. Representatives of the singles and pairs skating perform a short and free program; in ice dance they complete a short and free dance. Each team may have one sports pair and one dance pair, one male figure skater and one lady.