Figure Skating

Facts

Discipline of Skating
Participants 1670
NOCs 57
Competitions held 90 (Venues)
Distinct events 11
IF International Skating Union

Description

Figure skating began in the mid- to late-19th century almost concurrently in Europe and North America, but two Americans are responsible for major developments in its history. In 1850, Edward Bushnell of Philadelphia revolutionized skating technology when he refined the use of steel-bladed skates. This allowed the creation of fancy twists and turns on the ice. Another American, Jackson Haines, a ballet master, visited Vienna in the 1860s and added the elements of music and dance to figure skating. Originally, free skating was subordinate to school figures, or the tracing of pretty patterns on the ice.

International figure skating competitions were held in Europe in the 1880s and the International Skating Union (ISU) was formed in 1892, the first true international governing body of any winter sport (now with 77 members, but representing only 60 nations). Originally men and women competed together, with the first world championship being held in what was then and is now St. Petersburg, Russia (formerly Leningrad) in 1896. The first women’s championship was held in 1906.

Figure skating is the oldest sport on the Olympic Winter Games program. It was contested at the London Olympics of 1908 and again in 1920 at Antwerp. Events for men, women, and pairs were contested thru 1972. In 1976, ice dancing, long a popular event, was added to the program as a fourth event, although it had been held as a demonstration event in 1968.

Scoring has evolved during the century also, as the former predominance of compulsory figures in the scoring gave way in the early 1970s. A short program of free skating was added, primarily to equalize results among skaters who were excellent at compulsories but lesser free skaters, to those who were poor compulsory skaters but top-notch free skaters. This was exemplified in that era by Beatrix “Trixi” Schuba (AUT), who was an excellent skater in compulsories, but was a relatively poor free skater, and Janet Lynn (USA), who was a superb free skater but was usually beaten by Schuba because of her lesser skill in the compulsories. This gave impetus to the movement to decrease the importance of compulsory figures. At the end of the 1980s the International Skating Union ruled that compulsory figures would no longer be held at international competitions. They last were contested at the 1990 World Championships and they have not been a part of the Olympic figure skating program since 1988.

After a controversial judging decision in the pairs at Salt Lake City in 2002, the ISU overhauled the scoring system again, replacing the time-honored system of 6.0 maximum and positions decided by majority placements with a system that awards points to successful execution of various elements with no theoretic limit on the number of points that may be scored.

Since World War II, figure skating has been dominated in the men’s and women’s singles by the United States which has won six men’s gold medals and seven women’s gold medals. In pairs and ice dancing, by far the dominant nation has been the Soviet Union and its former republics. Since 1964, the Soviet Union (or its former republics) has won every pairs and dance gold medal available, with the exception of the 1984 ice dancing gold medal that went to Great Britain’s Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean, the 2002 ice dancing gold medal, won by France’s Marina Anissina and Gwendal Peizerat, both 2010 mixed golds, won by the Chinese pair of Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo, and the Canadian ice dance couple of Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, and the 2014 ice dance gold, won by Americans Meryl Davis and Charlie White.

All-time medal table

NOC Gold Silver Bronze Total
United States USA 15 16 20 51
Russian Federation RUS 15 9 3 27
Soviet Union URS 10 9 5 24
Austria AUT 7 9 4 20
Canada CAN 6 11 12 29
Germany GER 5 4 3 12
Great Britain GBR 5 3 7 15
Sweden SWE 5 3 2 10
France FRA 3 3 7 13
East Germany GDR 3 3 4 10
Japan JPN 3 3 1 7
Norway NOR 3 2 1 6
Unified Team EUN 3 1 1 5
People's Republic of China CHN 1 3 4 8
Netherlands NED 1 2 0 3
Olympic Athletes from Russia OAR 1 2 0 3
Czechoslovakia TCH 1 1 3 5
Finland FIN 1 1 0 2
Republic of Korea KOR 1 1 0 2
Belgium BEL 1 0 1 2
Ukraine UKR 1 0 1 2
Hungary HUN 0 2 4 6
Switzerland SUI 0 2 1 3
Italy ITA 0 0 2 2
West Germany FRG 0 0 2 2
Kazakhstan KAZ 0 0 1 1
Spain ESP 0 0 1 1

Most successful competitors

Athlete Nat Gold Silver Bronze Total
Scott Moir CAN 3 2 0 5
Tessa Virtue CAN 3 2 0 5
Gillis Grafström SWE 3 1 0 4
Sonja Henie NOR 3 0 0 3
Irina Rodnina URS 3 0 0 3
Yevgeny Plyushchenko RUS 2 2 0 4
Artur Dmitriyev RUS
EUN
2 1 0 3
Andrée Brunet-Joly FRA 2 0 1 3
Pierre Brunet FRA 2 0 1 3
Lyudmila Belousova URS 2 0 0 2
Katya Gordeyeva RUS
URS
2 0 0 2
Pasha Grishchuk RUS
EUN
2 0 0 2
Katarina Witt GDR
GER
2 0 0 2
Dick Button USA 2 0 0 2
Sergey Grinkov RUS
URS
2 0 0 2
Yevgeny Platov RUS
EUN
2 0 0 2
Oleg Protopopov URS 2 0 0 2
Karl Schäfer AUT 2 0 0 2
Aleksandr Zaytsev URS 2 0 0 2
Tetiana Volosozhar RUS
UKR
2 0 0 2
Maksim Trankov RUS 2 0 0 2
Yuzuru Hanyu JPN 2 0 0 2

Event types

Name Gender Still contested? Times held?
Singles Men 25
Singles Women 25
Pairs Mixed 25
Ice Dancing Mixed 13
Team Mixed 2
Singles Boys 3
Singles Girls 3
Pairs Mixed Youth 3
Ice Dancing Mixed Youth 3
Team Mixed Youth 3
Special Figures Men 1