Sport in which ice skaters, singly or in pairs, perform various jumps, spins, and footwork. The figure skate blade has a special serrated toe pick, or toe rake, at the front. Figure-skating events, held in the 1908 and 1920 Olympic Games, have constituted part of the Winter Olympics since they were inaugurated in 1924. Until 1991, competition included a compulsory section in which prescribed figures were traced. Competition for individuals includes two free-skating programs: a short program with mandatory requirements and a long program designed to show the skater's skill and grace. Jumps fall into two main groups: the edge jumps (such as the axel, the salchow, and the loop), which take off from one foot; and the toe jumps (such as the toe loop, the flip, and the lutz), which are edge jumps assisted by a vault off the toe pick of the other foot. Additional pair moves, involving a man and a woman skating together, include lifts and throw jumps. Figure-skating programs are judged on both technical merit and artistic impression. See also ice dancing.
Michelle Kwan (U.S.) performing at the world figure-skating championships, Vancouver, B.C., Can.,
—Jeff HaynesAFP/Getty Images
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