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This is an activity which is participated in both for fun and sport. It takes place in an arena with an electrically cooled floor to keep the surface frozen. This is called a rink (or ice rink).

The rink should measure between 56 and 61 metres (60 to 66 yards) long, and between 26 and 30 metres (28 and 33 yards) wide. The edges are marked by a wooden or plastic barrier (also known as boards) which rises approximately 1 metre (1 yard) from the level of the ice.


There are two types of skating event, the original or technical programme, and the compulsory (long) programme. For more on the various types of competitive ice skating, see relevant sections below.

Figure skating
Speed skating


The judging of ice skating events is made up of a panel of usually five, seven, or nine judges, with a referee to supervise. Marks are given out of six.

When looking at the scores for ice skating, it is the lowest score that wins. The place marks are based on where the judges think the skater is in the competition. So a 1 means first place.

The scores are added up to form the total.
If a skater receives a 1, a 5, and a 3, their total score from judges would be 9.

When all the results are added, it is the lowest overall number of place marks which ranks the skaters higher.

Figure skating

Free skating
Ice dancing
Pair skating

Free skating

The skater selects movements, jumps, spins, steps and other linking movements, and performs to the music. The judges look for the quality of skating edges, style, and soft movement over the ice, and proper use of the available space. There is no pre-set mark for each move, but the performance is scored by comparison with those of the other skaters.

Original or technical programme
This programme is a routine designed by or for each individual skater. It must last less than 2 minutes 40 seconds, and must contain all the preselected moves set by the competition organiser, including jumps, jump combinations, spins, and jump spins. A more difficult jump will get higher marks than a simple one, but marks are also given for the ease with which the skater does the manoeuvre. There are two marks, one for technical merit, and one for artistic impression.

Compulsory programme
In international competitions this is now four and a half minutes for men, and four minutes for women. There are no set elements, but skaters take the opportunity to show the judges their best skills. The criteria are technical expertise, style, and polished movements. Jumps that are repeated are only given marks if they are part of a combination. There are two marks, one for technical merit, one for artistic impression.

Ice dancing

Compulsory dance
The skaters must dance in time to the music, and the couple must dance as one. The use of the space on the ice must be good, and the pre-set pattern of the dance must be followed (the competition organiser will set which steps are to be followed). There is one mark from each judge.

Original dance
The competitors choose their own music. The dance is made up of sequences which should cover a full circuit of the ice. The content of the performance is chosen by the skaters. The judges look for originality, difficulty, strong edges, and good use of the ice. There are two marks from each judge, one for composition, and one for presentation.

Free dance
The free dance is a four minute program of non-repetitive movements which the skaters have a free choice of. They also select music. The skaters are marked on their speed, unison (doing it together) and their use of the ice, along with style, interpretation and originality. There are two marks from each judge, one for technical merit, and one for artistic impression.

Pair skating

Pair skating consists of an original program which consists of compulsory moves, and free skating. The couple does not have to perform the same movements or stay in physical contact, but their movements must be harmonious.

Moves which are not allowed are jumping towards the other partner, rotating with one partner holding the other's leg, arm or neck. It is also not allowed for the man to swing the woman while holding her hand or foot.

Original technical programme
This programme should contain eight various pre-set lifts, and pair spins, with solo jumps, spins and step sequences. There are no throws in this programme. The partner being lifted may not be carried for more than three complete turns, or turned in a horizontal position. The lifting arm must be fully extended. There are two marks from each judge, one for technical merit, and one for artistic impression.

Compulsory programme
Unison is the most important point of this programme, along with speed, grace, strong edges, and the best use of the available ice surface. Technical content (lifts, throws, pair spins, and free skating solo spins and jumps) is very important. There are two marks from each judge, one for technical merit, and one for artistic impression.

Speed skating

In speed skating, two skaters at a time in a counter-clockwise direction around a track, of varying distances. Points are given in relation to the skater's time to each event, and for the differing distances. The overall winner is the competitor who has the lowest total of points.

A speed skating track is a two-lane circuit 333 and one quarter of a metre, or 400 metres long. The ends are each curved at 180 degrees. Each lane must be at least 4 metres (more likely 5 metres) wide.

Distances for men are 500 metres, 1000 metres, 1500 metres, 5000 metres, and 10,000 metres. Distances for women are 500 metres, 1000 metres, 1500 metres, 3000 metres, and 5000 metres. Competitive events usually take place over two days, with skaters competing in more than one distance. In some competitions, skaters will compete in all distances. Two skaters at a time compete.

Skaters must change lanes each time they reach the straight area of the track, except in the first straight of the 1000m and 1500m on the track. It is the responsibility of the skater leaving the inner lane to avoid a collision. A skater can only overtake if they do not impede the leading skater. After a skater is overtaken, they must stay at least 5 metres behind the leading skater.

A race is restarted after a false start, or if a starter is interfered with. A skater is disqualified after two false starts, or for deliberate fouls, causing a collision when moving lane, or changing lanes on a curve.

Points are scored on the basis on finishing times. For 500m races, one point equals one second, in 1000m, the points are half the number of seconds, in 1500m, the points are a third of the number of seconds, in 3000m, the points are a sixth of the number of seconds, in 5000m, the points are a tenth of the number of seconds, in 10,000m, the points are a twentieth of the number of seconds. The winner is the skater who crosses the line first. If more than one skater has the same time, they both win.

Short track
The track must be at least 5.71 metres (19 feet) wide between the straights. Events are individual and relay races.

Individual race distances are short distance (500 metres and 1000 metres) and long distance (1500 metres and 3000 metres).

The leading competitor has the right of way but can be passed on the outside, as long as they keep to the inside, or can be passed on the inside if they keep to the outside. The responsibility for avoiding collisions or obstructions is with the skater who is overtaking.

A skater may not:
- deliberately impede another competitor with any part of the body
- slow down unnecessarily to cause another competitor to slow down or collide
- deliberately cross the track or in any way interfere with another competitor

For relay races, teams have four members. A skater can be replaced by another team member at any time except during the last two laps. The incoming team member cannot take part in the race until they touch, or are touched by the skater who is being replaced. The replaced skater must leave the track without impeding any of the other skaters. The team of the first skater to cross the finish line wins the race.


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