Rules of Figure Skating | How it is Played?

If you follow the Olympics, you must have seen this sport. This game is particularly popular among women, not ordinary women but those with ultra-flexible legs and bodies which enable them to compete in this game. The game can be played as an individual or as a team sport in which a single player or a complete team has to do figure skates on ice.

Rules of Figure Skating

The game of Figure Skating has been popular for quite a time and it was the first winter sport to be included in the Olympics. The beauty of this game is that athletes produce a variety of moves and based on their cleanliness, judges give marks. These moves include jumps and spirals in the air, spins on the ice and a few more similar step sequences.

Up till now, in the Olympics, the United States has been ahead of every nation with a total of 49 medals overall. Russia and Australia have also won 26 and 20 medals respectively in the all time Olympics since Figure Skating has been included in it.

Object of Figure Skating

The important thing to note about Figure skating is it has a broad object. Though its all about marks scoring but which move will earn you how many points or on what basis judges give points varies from tournament to tournament. You have to impress the judges with your control, agility and technique.

In team or pair skating, it becomes more difficult to maintain control and perform moves alongside. Athletes have to perform actions together in order to score more points and ultimately win the game by scoring more points than their opposing team/duo.

How to Play?

Figure Skating can be done individually or along with a partner. The participants skate on an ice rink performing jaw-dropping moves to enthrall the judges who award points based on the control and technique of players.

But what are the moves that Figure Skaters perform? How do they do it and what costume do they wear? Let’s find out everything in the later half of the article.

General Rules of Figure Skating

  • The first thing athletes have to remember is the given time, they can be disqualified for violating time restrictions.
  • Every Figure Skating match is run on some music tune, on which couples/players perform their moves. Only a few types of music are allowed.
  • The costume and music allowed for a particular game depends upon the organisers.
  • If athletes break the music and costume rules announced for a particular event, they can be disqualified by judges.
  • There are always some banned moves which athletes are prohibited from performing.
  • Marks are allocated by judges on the basis of cleanliness of their move, control, technique and adherence to the rules of the tournament.

Time Duration of Figure Skating

In senior games, the time duration of one player/couple to figure skate and impress the judges is 4 minutes, while in junior tournaments this time duration remains under 3 and a half minutes.

Ice Rink

The Figure Skating is done on Ice Rinks, the dimensions of these rinks can vary from tournament to tournament. Olympic-sized rinks have dimensions of 30 m × 60 m (98.4 ft × 197 ft).

Equipment Used

The equipment required for this game is Figure Skate. And, players have to comply with the rules of the tournament regarding which costume they can wear and which costume is not allowed.

Figure Skate

The performance of a player/couple depends hugely on the sturdiness and quality of skate they use in it. Figure skates have jagged teeth called Toe Picks in front of the blade. These blades are used by athletes while jumping, but they should not be used for stroking or spins at any time.

The blades are around 4.7 millimetres (3⁄16 inch) thick with a flat figure, but curved slightly, forming a circular arc with a radius of 180–220 centimetres (71–87 inches).


A certain type of costumes allowed in Figure Skating tournaments. Generally, men wear trousers while women wear tights, trousers, or they can wear skirts as well. The thing that remains constant is the lightness of the costume, the lighter it will be, the easier it will be for athletes to perform smooth and without any fear of injury.

Different Disciplines in Olympics

There are different disciplines of the game which we see in the Olympics. Each of these disciplines are thrilling to watch in their own way.

Singles: Single is perhaps a little easier, as all you have to do is think and focus on yourself. In singles, a player performs jumps, spins, step sequences and spirals.

Pair Skating: Pair Skating requires great level of understanding and team work, both man and woman have to practice for months in order to develop this coordination. During Pair skating, a man throws a woman, lifts her above his head, they spin together and perform other such legal moves.

Ice Dance: Ice dance is another famous discipline of this sport, or, sometimes people might confuse both disciplines as one thing. Ice dancing is the same as couple skating, the only difference is ice dancing focuses on intricate footwork as per the rhymes of the music. Couples are not allowed to throw or jump, which makes it safer than Couple Skating. Couples only skate together and dance together.

Elements & Moves Allowed in Figure Skating

There are various moves considered legal in Figure Skating, but it can be confusing how each move can be performed. Let’s find what they are and out how each move is performed.


The term jump refers to athletes leaping into the air and rotating rapidly to land after completing one or more rotations. It is one of the common moves of Figure skating and each jump receives a score according to the grade of execution and pre-decided value. Moreover, skaters only jump in one direction, either clockwise or counterclockwise.

Though counter-clock wise jump has become kind of a norm because most of the athletes prefer to do jump this way.


Spins are fascinating to watch because they require months of practice to get it perfect. There are three types of spins that couples do during skating:

Upright Spin: Upright spin includes haircutter, layover layback, attitude, and pearl.

Sit Spin: Pancak, broken leg, tuck behind, cannonball, flying and clam, all come under Sit Spin.

Camel Spin: As the name suggests, the camel spin includes catch-foot, flying and donut.
Due to the substantial practice required to perform spin, players are usually able to spin in only one direction, either clockwise or counterclockwise. Very few gifted players are capable of performing spins in both directions.


Lifts are very dangerous because they include a girl being lifted ahead of the head by the male or in any other way, and if he fails to grasp her during the move, she can suffer a career-threatening injury. There are different types of lifts, which include:

Pair lift: Pair Lifts are dangerous, the male partner lifts the girl overhead and skates around.

Dance lift: The male partner lifts the female while dancing, but only for 2-3 seconds.

Twist Lift: In this lift, the girl is lifted by the male partner and thrown up, then the girl has to make sure she keeps her balance and stays on her feet when her feet touch the rink.

Scoring & Winning

There are various modes that earn you a significant number of points in your turn. In general, the number of points you get depends upon footwork, performance, interpretation and overall execution. For instance, the more you rotate during rotation, the more points you’ll get.


A panel of judges sits outside the Ice Rink and their job is to watch every move closely and allocate points to the participants based on the cleanliness of their moves.

Famous Figure Skating Events

The Olympics is the biggest event which features Figure Skating. Moreover, in the USA, different domestic level Figure Skating tournaments are held featuring different disciplines.

Governing Body

The International Skating Union (ISU) is the international governing body for the game, not only for Figure Skating but several other Skatings like Speed Skating, Short Track Skating, and Synchronized Skating are sanctioned by ISU. The body was founded in Scheveningen, Netherland, in July 1892. The current headquarters are located in Switzerland.