It may be called "free" skating, but there are still restrictions and requirements placed on the contents of these programs. Judges have always been looking for programs that demonstrate the full range of skating skills, but initially the interpretation of what constituted a well balanced program, and the penalty for having an excess or lack of a given skating skill was left to the discretion of the individual judges. In recent years, however, the requirement to present a well balanced program, the definition of what constitutes a well balanced program, and the required deductions for violations of the well balanced program rules have been formalized in the rules. This process began in the early '90s and has continued with each ISU congress, including the recent congress in June of this year. The following table summarized the well balanced program requirements for singles skating. The requirements for seniors and juniors come from the ISU rules and apply to International competitions, and are used in U.S. domestic competitions as well. The novice requirements are taken from the USFSA rules and apply to U.S. domestic competitions. Since the rules of most national skating associations for seniors and juniors are identical to the ISU requirements, the entries for senior and junior programs are applicable to domestic competitions in most countries throughout the world.
|Jumps||Number of doubles and different triples not limited. Only two different triples may be repeated, one in a combination and the other in a combination or sequences.||Number of doubles and different triples not limited. Only two different triples may be repeated, one in a combination and the other in a combination or sequences.||Number of doubles and different triples not limited. Only one different triple may be repeated in a combination.|
|Jump Combination||At least one combination or sequence, but not more than three.||At least one combination or sequence, but not more than three.||At least one combination or sequence, but not more than three.|
|Spins||A minimum of four of a different nature. One must be a combination, one must be a flying spin.||A minimum of three of a different nature. One must be a combination, one must be a flying spin.||A minimum of three of a different nature. One must be a combination, one must be a flying spin.|
|Step Sequences||Two step sequences of a different nature for the Men. One a traditional step sequence and the other a moves in the field type sequence. One step sequence and one spiral sequence for the Ladies.||Two step sequences of a different nature for the Men. One a traditional step sequence and the other a moves in the field type sequence. One step sequence and one spiral sequence for the Ladies.||One step sequence.|
The restrictions on repeating triple jumps have been in effect since the early 1980's, and are intended to prevent skaters with only one or two triple jumps from using them repeatedly. The jumps that are repeated can only be repeated in jump combinations and/or sequences. The restrictions on repeating jumps applies to the attempt, and not to the number landed. A skater cannot attempt 100 triple axels in the hope of landing two of them. In addition, if a skater uses a repeated triple in a combination placed in the program prior to the individual attempt, and falls in the combination, the later use of the jump does not count - unless the skater has the presence of mind to turn the second attempt into a combination, and completes it successfully. For example, if a program includes a triple axel - triple toe combination and later an individual triple axel, a fall on the triple toe prevents the second triple axel from counting. The skater would have to turn the second triple axel into a combination for it to count.
Programs must contain at least one jump combination or sequence, but not more than three. The purpose of this requirement is to force skaters to demonstrate that they can do a combination or sequence, and can also land individual jumps and hold the landing. It also prevents skaters/coaches from constructing tedious programs with a double toe tacked on to the back of every jump, thinking somehow that increases the difficulty of the program when all it really does it make it annoying. The limitation on the number of combinations is new to the 1996/97 season.
The requirement on the number and types of spins is meant to insure a balance between jumps and spins in free skating programs. Over the past few years the ISU has been placing greater importance on the spin elements in skating and the spin requirement is part of that emphasis. The requirement is set up in such a way that to meet the requirement, skaters must demonstrate the ability to spin in all of the basic spin positions (upright, sit, and camel), to execute individual spins, combination spins, and flying spins. Individual spins must have a minimum of 6 rotations in position in order to count towards the number of spins required, while combination spins must have a total of 10.
A well balanced program must have connecting moves between the jumps and spins. The men must do at least two different recognizable step sequences (straight line, circular/oval, or serpentine patterns covering a significant portion of the ice). Traditionally these sequences have consisted of turns and small jumps (e.g., half jumps or Whalleys). Beginning with the 1996/97 season one of these sequences must be a moves in the field type sequence. In addition to turns and small jumps, sequences of this type incorporate spread eagles, arabesques, Bauers, spirals, and other flowing moves with strong edges, covering a significant portion of the ice. Ladies singles must include two sequences. One a traditional step sequence and the other a spiral sequence. Spiral sequences covering the full ice surface are generally viewed as "feminine" and are not done by the men. In executing step sequences and spiral sequences the skaters are expected to demonstrate the ability to skate forwards and backwards, on inside and outside edges, and to turn both clockwise and counter-clockwise.
Judges must take required deductions of 0.2 in the mark for Technical Merit for violations of the well balanced program requirements. These deductions are taken in each category where there is an excess or deficiency in the requirements. For example, if a program from a senior man has only one step sequence and no combination jumps a deduction of 0.4 would be taken in the first mark for having too few elements in two categories. A program with 5 combination jumps, on the other hand would get a deduction of 0.2 for having too many elements in the jump combination category.
Next month, the well balanced pairs program.
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