Thursday, February 6, 2014

2014 Olympics Preview: Figure Skating


Men and Women both compete in individual competition
Pairs Competition
Ice Dancing
Team Competition


Twenty years ago the eyes of the world were on the figure skating rink at the Olympics as the Nancy Kerrigan-Tonya Harding ordeal reached its pinnacle. There isn't a soap-opera-esque storyline propelling figure skating this year in Russia. The individual figure skating competitions are always one of the highlights of the winter games - men and women complete both a short and a long program with the highest combined score taking home the medals. New to the event this season is a Team Competition in which one woman and one man skate individual routines, a pairs duo skates a routine then an ice dancing team completes a routine. The nations that have the highest total score across the four routines will win.

Figure skating is one of the highlights of the games, but for the casual fan that only watches it once every four years, there are a lot of intricacies that go into the event that not many people will catch. I found this great post that breaks down the six different kinds of jumps that skaters complete. If you don't feel like clicking the link and reading another article, I'll summarize.

The biggest difference between the jumps is really how they start. There are two types of jumps: toe jumps (where a skater kicks the toe of their skate into the ice in order to push off) and edge jumps (where the skater jumps off the edge of the skate blade).

You can see here that the skater kicks his right foot into the ice in order to push off into the jump. Compare that to the Triple Loop:

This is essentially the same jump as the Toe Loop, but instead of kicking off with the toe, the skater pushes off the edge of their skate blade.

The Salchow has the coolest name and is another edge jump and involves taking off with one foot and landing with the other. In the gif here we see the skater taking off from the inside edge of her left foot and landing on the outside edge of her right foot.

The flip is basically the same as the Salchow but with a less cool name and is a toe jump instead of an edge jump.

Like the Salchow, the Lutz involves taking off from one foot and landing on the other. However, as you can see, the Lutz is a toe jump. This Triple Lutz was the anchor jump for Vancouver Gold Medalist Kim Yu-na of South Korea.

If you saw the ESPN 30 for 30 on the Tonya Harding-Nancy Kerrigan drama, you'll remember that Harding was the first US woman to land a triple axel. The Axel is the hardest jump because skaters enter it facing forwards instead of backwards so it actually involves an extra half turn, unlike the other jumps. The Triple Axel shown here is Vancouver Silver Medalist Mao Asada of Japan.


With defending Men's Gold Medalist Evan Lysacek injured, Russian Evgeni Plushenko has the opportunity to be only the second skater ever to earn 4 medals. This will be his fourth Olympics and he has a Gold and 2 Silvers to his name. Defending 2010 Gold Medalist Kim Yu-na of South Korea is the favorite on the Women's side after winning the World Championships last year. In Ice Dancing, the American pair of Meryl Davis and Charlie White won Silver in Vancouver and are one of the front-runners for Gold.

US Hopefuls

Gracie Gold won the women's competition at the US National Championships with the highest score ever and is probably America's best chance to find the medal stand in the individual events. The duo of Meryl Davis and Charlie White are gold-medal capable in ice dancing.


Someone is gonna get hosed by some judge, probably French, at some point. Either way, Go America.

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