How figure skating is scored

Updated: January 29, 2010, 11:13 AM ET
Associated Press

How figure skating is scored at the Olympics:

Figure skating's scoring system might not be as easy to understand as the 6.0, but remember this: the sport is a blend of art and athleticism, and everything -- everything, from jumps to skating skills to interpreting music -- is quantifiable. Add all of it up, and you have your winners and losers.

There are four events in skating: ladies, men's, pairs and ice dance. In both singles events and pairs, there is a short program and a long program. The short program lasts 2 minutes and 50 seconds and consists of eight required elements, which skaters can do in any order, to any piece of music. The men and women are required to do three jumps, three spins and two step sequences. The pairs must do two lifts, a throw jump, a side-by-side jump, two spins, a death spiral and a spiral sequence.

The long program -- 4 minutes for the women, 4 minutes and 30 seconds for the men and pairs -- has a few limitations (women can only do seven jumps, for example, with no jump being done more than twice) but skaters are largely free to use whatever music and choreography they want to create the most well-balanced showcase of their athletic and artistic skills. (That's why it's also called the free skate.) Bonus points are awarded for any jumps, throws, lifts and twists done in the second half of the program.

Ice dance has the compulsory dance, original dance and free dance. Compulsory dance is much like the old figures; all skaters must do the exact same dance pattern -- this year it's the Golden waltz or the tango romantica -- to the exact same music. For the original dance, skaters must come up with their own interpretation to a prescribed theme. This year's theme is "folk/country," so everything from Indian to country-western to Moldovian folk dances will be seen in Vancouver. The free dance is much like the long program, with each team getting 4 minutes to show their technical, interpretative and artistic skills.

Now, on to the scoring itself. Each element, be it a jump, twizzle, spiral or lift, has an assigned value. A triple lutz, for example, has a base value of 6.0 for the men and women while a level-four circular step sequence is worth 3.9. Judges then decide how well each element was done, giving it a "grade of execution" ranging from plus-3 down to negative-3. Add the total values for each of the elements together, and you have the technical score. Next are the five component scores: skating skills, transitions, performance, composition and interpretation (think of this as the old artistic mark). Each is graded on a scale of 1 to 10, and these, too, are totaled up for an overall component score.

Put the technical and the component scores together, and that's your total score. A short program score in the mid-60s is good for the women and pairs, a score in the 80s is good for the men. For the overall final score, look for the best women and pairs to be in the 190s or above; the ice dancers to be around 200; and the men to be above 240.


Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index