Toe pick!
February 17, 2010 2:38 PM   Subscribe

I want to learn about figure skating.

I'm looking for books, documentaries, and any other media that might help me to understand (a) the different kinds of jumps, spins, and footwork, in technical detail, (b) the culture, and (c) the new scoring system, which I still don't get.

This is a long-term writing project, so I'm up for anything you can throw at me. (If it's in this thread, I'm already on it.)

Where should I start?
posted by brina to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (8 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: For the new scoring system, I discovered recently that is posting the scoring sheets on their website. For example, the results for the Mens Short Program are here. If you click on the "+" next to any name, it will show the scoring summary sheet for that routine in a lot of detail. You can even open several scoring sheets at once to compare them.

Most of the items are self-evident. The Base Value of an element depends on the difficulty, and the GOE (Grade of Execution) can be an integer from -3 to +3. Then there are the program components (which seem really qualitative to me) which are graded from 1 to 10. The factor is just included to make the program components roughly equal to the technical elements.

This really helped me get sort of a grasp on the new scoring system and why certain routines seemed to score more than other routines. The actual protocol is a lot more complicated of course (with 12 judges and averaging and dropping scores and so on).
posted by muddgirl at 2:47 PM on February 17, 2010

Best answer: I read an article in Men's Health a couple of months ago about someone who took up figure skating to lose weight. As someone who has never paid any attention to the sport before it piqued my interest.
posted by IanMorr at 2:48 PM on February 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: These all speak to (b):
I love Susan Orlean's piece about Tonya Harding's fan club. A look into a small slice of the culture.

I haven't read Joan Ryan's Pretty Girls in Little Boxes: The Making and Breaking of Elite Gymnasts and Figure Skaters, but I hear it recommended frequently.

I was a kid figure skater, and here are the cultural moments I remember best, if it helps:
Torvill & Dean's perfect score "Bolero" at the '84 Olympics
Attack on Nancy Kerrigan
Tonya Harding's broken skate lace at the '94 Olympics
Sergei Grinkov's sudden death
Surya Bonaly's totally illegal and totally awesome backflip at the '98 Olympics (about 3:30 into the video)
Michelle Kwan's beautiful and moving performance to "Fields of Gold" at the '02 Olympics Exhibition, after losing the gold for the second Olympics in a row. When she finished you could see the tears running down her face.

Lastly, I'm not sure what your focus is, but after watching last night's men's skating, I think there is a lot to explore in the way the commentators talked about Johnny Weir. There were some pretty heterosexist comments made.
posted by sallybrown at 3:28 PM on February 17, 2010 [7 favorites]

Best answer: As a skating coach I would suggest taking an adult skating class at your local rink and talking to the coach of the class. They can show you all of the jumps and how they are different from one another as well as the basic spins. Plus, any coach that has been around for a while can tell you stories about the ups and downs of competitive skating. Have fun! Bonus: Exercise!
posted by yfatah at 3:45 PM on February 17, 2010

Best answer: Great community at SkateWeb.
posted by JanetLand at 3:48 PM on February 17, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks, guys.

sallybrown, wasn't Surya Bonaly's backflip during the exhibition, and thus not illegal?

And thanks for asking about my focus: I'm specifically looking for info that will help me write about (fictional) ladies' singles competitions up to the national level, info on coaches and how they interact with their charges, on how choreography and music and costumes are chosen, on what pressures teen girls may face as in the sport, etc. Also helpful would be little bits of color/jargon, e.g., Nicole Bobek was known for messing up her triple lutz, turning it into a flip, which is where we get the word "flutz." (Is that term still tossed around?)

Back, briefly, to the technical stuff: Are there any books (with pictures!) or films that would help me clearly understand the difference between, say, a triple axel and a triple toe loop, a triple lutz and a triple salchow?

Thanks again!
posted by brina at 4:00 PM on February 17, 2010

Best answer: Your concept sounds great!

sallybrown, wasn't Surya Bonaly's backflip during the exhibition, and thus not illegal?

The video I posted is her backflip during the actual Olympic competition--but I bet she also backflipped in the exhibition! Conventional wisdom was that because she fell early on in her program, she said what the hell and went for the backflip, knowing she wouldn't get a medal no matter what she did. You can hear the commentators talking about it after she lands. She placed 10th, I believe

that would help me clearly understand the difference between, say, a triple axel and a triple toe loop, a triple lutz and a triple salchow?

yfatah's suggestion is actually a great one for this. Even if you're not comfortable on ice, throw on a pair of sneakers and have a coach take you through the specific movements for each jump on land. You'll immediately understand the difference between an axel and a toe loop and a lutz and a salchow. Once your body does them, these jumps become as different as a layup and a dunk and a three-point shot and a free throw.
posted by sallybrown at 4:16 PM on February 17, 2010

Flutz is still used and is actually more important now. Under the new judging system (ijs) the lutz or flip that takes off of the wrong edge is noted on the judging sheets and the score of the jump is marked down as required by the rules.
posted by yfatah at 4:16 PM on February 17, 2010

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