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Olympic figure skating at Beijing 2022: Top five things to know

Figure skating is one of the most popular sports at the Winter Olympics; one could argue it's synonymous with the Games themselves, seeing as it's the oldest sport on the Winter programme.

Figure skating was first contested at the 1908 London Summer Games and again in 1920 in Antwerp before being permanently transferred to the program of the Winter Olympic Games, first held in 1924 in Chamonix, France.

At the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics there are five events in the figure skating competition - men's individual, women's individual, pairs, ice dancing and the team event.

Here you'll find our preview for figure skating at Beijing 2022, including the history of the sport, the top skaters to watch, venue information, and more!

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Top Olympic figure skaters at Beijing 2022

The figure skating competition is one of the fiercest at the Winter Olympics - one slight error, and a competitor's chance of a medal goes up in smoke. To win gold, you have to be flawless. Hanyu Yuzuru (JPN) has been just that at the last two editions of the Games, winning gold in Sochi (2014) and PyeongChang (2018) in the men's singles. The two-time world champion (2014, 2017), considered to be one of the greatest male figure skaters in history, will surely be the man to beat in Beijing as he looks for a third consecutive men’s singles title, a feat not achieved since 1928.

Yuzuru's closest challenge will likely come from three-time world champion (2018, 2019, 2021) and 2018 Olympic bronze medalist in the team event, Nathan Chen (USA).

Another big name in the men's singles is PyeongChang silver medalist and two-time world silver medalist (2017, 2018) Uno Shoma (JPN) - the first skater to successfully land a quadruple flip in an international competition.

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Alina Zagitova (ROC) and Evgenia Medvedeva (ROC) won gold and silver respectively in the women's singles in PyeongChang, though neither athlete was included in the Russian Figure Skating Federation's (RFSF) national team for the 2021-2022 season. In their possible absence, keep an eye out for Japanese duo Satoko Miyahara and Rika Kihira in Beijing.

Miyahara, who placed 4th at the 2018 Winter Olympics, won silver and bronze at the World Championships in 2015 and 2018 respectively to go along with four national titles. 18-year-old Kihiria should make her Olympic debut at Beijing 2022, and while she is yet to medal at the World Championships, she is the two-time Japanese national champion (2019, 2020) and the 2018 Grand Prix Final champion - not to mention making history as the first woman to land a triple Axel-triple Toeloop combination.

Don't overlook Bradie Tennell (USA) either. The American won bronze in PyeongChang in the team event and is the two-time U.S. national champion (2018, 2021)

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The pairs competition at Beijing 2022 should be a fairly open affair, especially given the retirement of reigning Olympic champions Aljona Savchenko and Bruno Massot (GER). 2018 Olympic silver medalists and two-time world champions (2017, 2019) Wenjing Sui and Cong Han (CHN) are among the favourites to challenge for the gold medal, while Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron (FRA), the 2018 Olympic silver medalists and four-time world champions, are strong contenders to win the ice dance event.

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Olympic figure skating schedule at Beijing 2022

The figure skating competition will take place from 4 February - 20 February 2022.

Olympic figure skating venue at Beijing 2022

The figure skating competition will take place at the Capital Indoor Stadium in Beijing. The arena is a legacy venue from the 2008 Summer Olympics, where it hosted the volleyball competition. In addition to hosting figure skating, the short track competition will also take place at the Capital Indoor Stadium.

The venue, which has a capacity of 18,000, will continue to be used for sports competitions, culture and entertainment events.

Test event at the Capital Indoor Stadium, April 2021
Test event at the Capital Indoor Stadium, April 2021

Olympic figure skating competition format at Beijing 2022

The figure skating competition at Beijing 2022 will feature five events:

  • Men's Singles
  • Women's Singles
  • Pairs
  • Ice Dance
  • Team Event

Each event typically consists of a short and long routine that helps determine a competitor's score. Within each routine, a skater receives two sets of scores: the technical element score (TES) and the program component score (PCS).

The PCS is based primarily on presentation, while the TES evalutes the difficulty and completion of the routine (things like spins and jumps). The short routine (also known as the short program) acts as a qualifier - only the top-scoring skaters from this portion of the competition advance to the long program (also known as the free skate or free program). Skaters then receive a combined score from the short and free programs to find the overall winner.

There are a total of 144 quota spots available for athletes to qualify for the figure skating competition at Beijing 2022.

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Olympic figure skating history

Figure skating evolved from a practical way to get around on ice into the elegant mix of art and sport it is today.

The Dutch were arguably the earliest pioneers of skating. They began using canals to maintain communication by skating from village to village as far back as the 13th century. Skating eventually spread across the channel to England, and soon the first clubs and artificial rinks began to form. Passionate skaters included several kings of England, Marie Antoinette, Napoleon III and German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.

Two Americans are responsible for the major developments in the history of the sport. In 1850, Edward Bushnell of Philadelphia revolutionised skating when he introduced steel-bladed skates allowing complex manoeuvres and turns. Jackson Haines, a ballet master living in Vienna in the 1860s, added elements of ballet and dance to give the sport its grace.

Figure skating is the oldest sport on the Olympic Winter Games programme. It was contested at the 1908 London Games and again in 1920 in Antwerp. Men’s, women’s, and pairs were the three events contested until 1972. Ice dancing was added to the programme in 1976, while the mixed team event made its Winter Olympic debut at Sochi 2014.

The United States has been the most successful nation in figure skating at the Winter Olympics, winning 51 medals (including 15 golds). In fact, the United States has won at least one medal in every edition of the Games where figure skating has featured, bar two.

Russia is second with 26 medals (14 golds), with the former Soviet Union third with 24 medals.

Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir (CAN) are the most decorated athletes in Olympic figure skating history, with a total of five medals including two golds in ice dance and one team event gold. Gillis Grafström (SWE) earned the most medals in a single event, winning four medals (including three golds) in the men's singles. Sonja Henie (NOR) is the most successful skater in the women's singles, having won three golds.

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