Men and women compete in the singles, pairs and ice dance events. The singles event consists of two sections: the short programme, and free skating. The short programme combines eight prescribed elements, such as jump combinations and spins, performed to music of the skater’s choice. In the free skating programme, skaters perform an original arrangement of techniques, also to music of their choice. To gain a high score from the judges, a balanced programme is important.
The pairs event also consists of a short programme and free skating. The couple works as one unit, demonstrating overhead lifts, throw-jumps with the man launching his partner, and many other highly technical manoeuvres. This contrasts with ice dance, which is composed of a Compulsory Dance, Original Dance and Free Dance and is more akin to ballroom dancing on ice.
Men and women compete in 500m, 1,000m, and 1,500m. There is a 5,000m relay for men, and a 3,000m relay for women. In each event, skaters must outwit and outskate their fellow competitors in a series of elimination heats until the finalists remain to battle it out. Time is a secondary factor. In fact, Olympic and world records have been set in non-medal heats.
Men and women compete in 500m, 1,000m, 1,500m, 5,000m and a team pursuit. There is also a 10,000m for men and a 3,000m for women. In each event, skaters race in pairs against the clock on a standard 400m oval ring. All events are skated once, apart from the 500m, which is skated twice. In this case, the final result is based on the total time of the two races.