2018 Winter Olympics: Figure Skating

Updated February 9, 2018 | Infoplease Staff
2018 Winter Olympics Pyeongchang

Artistry takes center stage

Olympic Figure Skating
Source: Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press via AP

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Did You Know?

The 2014 Games marked the first time the U.S. did not medal in either men's or women's individual figure skating since 1936.


Once a vital means of transportation throughout northern Europe, ice skating evolved into a sport during the 18th century. The man credited with giving birth to the type of figure skating we see today is Jackson Haines, an American from New York. In the early 1860s, Haines's new combination of music, ballet, ice skating, and dancing wasn't well received in this country, so he took his revolutionary ideas to Vienna, Austria, where they flourished.

Figure skating debuted at the 1908 Olympic Summer Games in London. The singles and pairs competitions have been a part of every Winter Games since 1924. Since then, figure skating has been one of the most enduringly popular events at the Olympics, and this success has spawned further events. The ice dancing competition was introduced in 1976, and the team event was introduced at the 2014 Sochi Games.

The events

There are five figure skating events: the men's singles, women's singles, pairs, ice dancing, and the team event.

The singles and pairs competition all entail the same parts. Skaters perform routines consisting of a short program, a set list of technical elements decided by the judges, and a free skate mostly decided by the skaters that encourages artistry and ambition. These are then given scores by the judges panel, and the highest scoring performances wins the medal.  

The ice dancing competition has three parts: a compulsory dance, an original dance, and a free skate. The compulsory dance is much like the short program, however incorporates more technical dance elements in addition to skating. The original dance and free skate are similar in nature, with one being more focus on dance elements and the other on just skating.

The team event, introduced in Sochi, has competitors in every category compete. National teams receive an aggregate score from each of their individual performances, and the highest scoring team receives medals.

The Pyeongchang Games

The figure skating events at Pyeongchang will be held at the Gangneung Ice Arena in Gangneung. The events will begin with the men's short program for the team event on Feb. 9, and will conclude with the women's singles free skate on Feb. 23.

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