Skating traces its origins practically back to the origins of human beings. To cross frozen
lakes and streams, early humans tied animal bones to their feet and glided through the winter months. Eventually, iron and steel blades replaced the bones and a rough means of travel was transformed into recreation. Skating remained popular among all social classes, but as a competitive sport, only the extremely well to do could afford to participate.
Figure skating as we know it today traces its origins directly back to an American, Jackson Haines. Haines was born in New York in 1840 and died in 1875 in Finland after catching pneumonia while traveling by sled from St. Petersburg to Stockholm.
Just before the United States Civil War, a skating craze swept over America. It was during this time that Jackson Haines leapt into the limelight with his mastery of skating and dance. He was a true revolutionary in a country where figure skating had laboriously developed a stiff and rigid style. Many Americans condemned the free and expressive movements of his performances. In 1863 and 1864, he won the Championships of America but he continued to receive cool receptions from his fellow countrymen. His lack of popularity in America finally prompted him to go to Europe, where he was an immediate success. He was especially popular in Vienna where he gave birth to the so-called “International Style of Figure Skating.”
There are five separate disciplines or division in competitive figure skating: Men’s Singles, Ladies Singles, Pairs, Ice Dancing and Precision Team Skating. Only the first four will be held at the 1998 World Figure Skating Championships in Minneapolis. The first World Precision Team Skating Championships will be held in the year 2000 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Within singles, pairs and dance there are five different competitive levels that are based on United States Figure Skating Association (USFSA) proficiency tests: Juvenile, Intermediate, Novice, Junior and Senior. Each level draws on similar techniques but adheres to increasingly more difficult skills as well as different rules and guidelines. Juvenile and Intermediate Skaters compete nationally at a competition called Junior Olympics. Novice and above skaters compete nationally at the United States Figure Skating Championships. Only senior level skaters compete in the World Figure Skating Championships.
Form, style, technique, concentration and the ability to perform under great pressure are the key requirements in men’s and ladies’ singles events. The rules are similar for both men’s and ladies’ divisions. Each competition is composed of two separate parts: The Short Program is skated first, followed by the Free Skating program. The short program counts for 3.3 percent of a skater’s total score for the competition. It consists of eight required moves or elements: Three jumps, three spins and two fast step sequences or footwork.
Pair skating is essentially free skating performed in unison by partners with the addition of daring and often dangerous overhead lifts, throw jumps and spins. The key to pair skating is exact timing and unison. Whether the partners are together or apart, their moves should be synchronized with matching bodylines, gestures and footwork. The pair competition, like singles, has a short program that counts for 33.3 % of the total score and a free skating program that counts for 66.7% of the total score. The judge award two sets of marks for each portion as were done during single events. A required elements mark and a presentation mark for short program and a technical merit mark and presentation mark for the free skate.
The pairs short program consists of eight required elements which include overhead lifts, side-by-side solo jumps and solo spins done in unison, footwork, pair sit spins and a death spiral, all performed to music of the skater’s choice.
1. The Rules and Regulations governing the competition are established and policed by the International Skating Union (ISU).
Guidelines for the actual skating during the competition are outlined in the “General” Section.
2. The number of skaters any member federation may send to compete at a World Championship competition is determined by the federation’s skaters’ performance at the previous year’s World Championship. For 1997-98, a federation’s entire team’s placements are added together for a total (ex: lst, 3rd & 7th = 11). The total for the entire federation team (singles, pairs and dance) is found on a chart which details how many skaters are allowed to compete that this year’s World Championships.
For any discipline having more than 30 competitors, a qualifying round is held before the beginning of the Championships.
3. Any country wishing to compete in the World Figure Skating Championships must be a member of the International Skating Union. The member federation from the United States is the United States Figure Skating Association. A skater residing in the United States wishing to compete for the United States must be a member of the United States Figure Skating Association, a citizen of the United States or meet residency requirements as determined by the ISU.