Men and women compete in 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.
Pairs and ice dance
The pairs event 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 the ice dance, which is composed of a rhythm dance and a free dance and is more akin to ballroom dancing on ice.
National Olympic Committees (NOCs) may enter the team event competition if they have athletes qualified in at least three of the four categories: men’s singles skating, women’s singles skating, pairs skating and/or ice dance. NOCs may be allowed an additional entry to complete their team line-up. Final standings are determined by total team points achieved in qualification and the final.
Men and women compete in 500m, 1,000m, 1,500m and mixed team relay events. There is also 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. 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, mass start and team pursuit events. There is also a 10,000m for men and a 3,000m for women. In each event, skaters race in pairs (except the mass start and team pursuit) against the clock on a standard 400m oval ring. For the individual events, results are based on time performance only (no elimination phases), and for the team pursuit events, the finishing time of each team is recorded as the time of the last (third) skater in the team to finish.