Figure Skating: A Changing of a Sport


Photo Courtesy of Kyoto News

The three Winter Olympics women's singles medalists, (left to right) Evgenia Medvedeva (RUS), Alina Zagitova (RUS) and Katelyn Osmond (CAN).

When you think about figure skating, the first thing that comes to most people’s mind is the Winter Olympics. This past year, figure skating gained an influx of popularity because of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics, raising controversies and sparking the interests of people all around the world.

During last year’s Olympics, everyone was talking about the two star figure skaters Evgenia Medvedeva and Alina Zagitova, and their on-ice rivalry despite their off-ice friendship. The two both trained under the same coach at the time, so fans were eager to see who would come out as the “better” of the two. Zagitova ended up taking the gold, sending Medvedeva into the silver spot, angering many fans who felt that the gold medal was robbed from the older, more experienced Medvedeva.

The current figure skating scoring system favors jumps. The technicality, the precision and the number of turns all adds up to create the technical score, along with the other elements such as step sequences. The artistry of the program is added onto this score to create the component score, which is what ultimately crowns the champion. On the technical side, Zagitova received more points for her jumps, mainly because she included a certain jump called the “triple lutz-triple loop.” She also did all her jumps in the second half of her program (giving her a 10 percent bonus), which sprouted controversy as to whether or not that was fair.

Medvedeva, however, embraced the true element of figure skating: the artistry. Her GOE (grade of execution) on her jumps was higher than Zagitova’s, meaning that she performed her elements better. Her component score was also higher, with multiple 10s on her score sheet for overall performance and delivery of the story in her program. This wasn’t enough to boost Medvedeva into the top spot, though, with Medvedeva ending with 238.26 and Zagitova with 239.57.

I feel as though figure skating has become all about the jumps and less about the art of the sport. For years, figure skating was seen more as a showcase of artistry and production of a story. While it still holds this aspect, it is more based on who can do the highest jumps the most times. The 2019 World Figure Skating Championship was last week, and it solidified my opinion. The medalists were all skaters who, while they performed beautifully, could also do the most revolutions within their jumps. Figure skating is turning into a test of jumping skill, and less of a showcase of elegance.