5 Things People Need to Know About Competitive Figure Skating


Lex Grove

The traditional brown rental skates.

Figure skating is a beautiful sport that combines raw athleticism with grace and elegance. For those just getting into the world of competitive figure skating, there can be a lot to learn. Between the scoring, the terminology, and the drama throughout all of the disciplines, it can be difficult to keep track of. 

A pair of white figure skates. (Debi Thomas)


1- Figure Skating Has Many Disciplines


Oftentimes, the various disciplines are all lumped together as “figure skating”, but the five disciplines are very unique. Men’s singles, Ladies Singles, Pairs, Ice Dance, and Synchronized Skating are all forms of figure skating that athletes can compete in. Each of these disciplines have various competitive levels. 


2- “The Quad Revolution” 


The quad jump is a relatively new concept in the world of competitive figure skating. Usually performed in the singles discipline, a quad jump requires the skater to make four complete revolutions in air (or four and half for axels), which is no easy feat. Canadian skater Kurt Browning became the first man to land a quadruple jump at the 1988 World Championship, but it was not until 2002 with Miki Ando at the Junior Grand Prix Final that a woman was able to land the jump in competition. Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva became the first woman ever to land a quad jump at the Winter Olympics in 2022. At the time, she was only 15-years-old.  


3- There Is No Difference Between Mens Skates and Womens Skates


When watching competitive figure skating, it is easy to note that men and women wear different skates. Womens skates are usually either white or tan while mens skates are black. At a basic level, there are no real differences between the skates apart from color, although some companies may choose to make the skates slightly different. The International Skating Union has not posed any restrictions on women wearing black skates or men wearing white skates. 


4- The Senior Ladies Singles Discipline is Getting Younger


It is no secret that the younger and smaller a skater is, the easier it is for them to land more difficult jumps. With it becoming more difficult to win without performing quadruple jumps in the ladies discipline, it is easy to see why there are so many young women competing. Tara Lipinski became the youngest woman to ever win gold at the Winter Olympics in 1998 when she was just 15-years-old. Anna Shcherbakova, Alexandra Trusova, and Kamila Valieva, who can all regularly perform quadruple jumps, were under the age of 18 when they competed at the 2022 Beijing Olympics. 


5- The Senior Division Minimum Age Just Increased 


Singles figure skating is broken up into multiple levels including pre-preliminary, preliminary, pre juvenile, juvenile, intermediate, novice, junior, and senior. The junior and senior divisions typically gain the most attention. Previously, the International Skating Union ruled that a figure skater would only have to be 15 years of age to compete in the senior division. After the doping incident with 15-year-old Kamila Valieva at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, the ISU voted to increase the minimum age requirement to 16-years-old for the 2023-2024 season and 17-years-old for the 2024-2025 season and on.