How Competitive Figure Skating Works

Key Moves in Competitive Figure Skating

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Xiaoyu Yu and Hao Zhang of China demonstrate the death spiral at the Figure Skating Team Event at the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games Feb. 9, 2018 in South Korea. XIN LI/Getty Images

There are dozens of different moves that competitive figure skaters can showcase during programs. Here's a sampling of some of the most popular and common moves, jumps, throws and spins:

  • Stroking: This is the side-by-side maneuver by which a skater glides on the ice. Stroking also allows skaters to pick up speed.
  • Throw jump: In this common pairs move, the male partner throws his female partner in the air, where she completes one or more revolutions. American pair skaters Tiffany Vise and Derek Trent became the first in history to land the first quadruple jump (a quadruple salchow) on Nov. 17, 2007, at the 2007 Trophée Eric Bompard competition in Paris, France.
  • Axel: A commonly required jump, the axel is considered to be one of the most difficult moves for skaters perform. This is the only jump in which the skater launches from a forward position. The skater then lands on the back outside edge of the blade on the opposite foot. Very advanced skaters attempt double and triple axels.
  • Lutz: When attempting this difficult jump, the skater takes off from the back outside edge of the blade. He or she then lands on the same edge, but on the other foot.
  • Toe loop: In this jump, the skater uses the toe pick of his or her skate to gain momentum to take off from the back outside edge and land in the same spot.
  • Sit spin: A sit spin is pretty much what it sounds like. The skater spins in a sitting position, with one leg bent to support the spin and the other leg extended. This forms an angle of less than 90 degrees between the thigh and the calf of the skating leg.
  • Combination spin: This is a spin wherein the skater performs several types of spins and changes feet during it. The skater must maintain a constant speed throughout the spin, despite repeated position changes.
  • Layback spin: The layback spin is usually attempted by women because it requires a great deal of flexibility in the back. It's performed during an upright spin. The skater's head and shoulders must drop backward while the back arches to complete the form.
  • Death spiral: A move performed by pairs during competition, the death spiral involves the male partner spinning while holding the hand of his female partner, who maintains a horizontal spin above the ice.

On the next page, we'll take a glimpse inside the skater's arsenal of equipment.