15 Figure Skating Jumps, Spins, and Other Moves, Explained

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No one can blame you for not being able to peel your eyes away from elite figure skating (and honestly, same). But between the sport’s complicated scoring system, the vast number of skills the skaters perform, and the onslaught of sequins, it’s OK if you’re feeling as overwhelmed as you are fascinated. To make the performances a little easier to understand, here are some basic figure skating moves you should know.

Although the different figure skating disciplines have their own distinct features, understanding even a handful of figure skating moves will help you track what’s happening across the board. Figure skating is a fast-moving sport, and it can sometimes be difficult to identify every element in real time — especially jumps, which can only be distinguished by looking closely at a skater’s feet. During the live broadcasts, there will always be a scoring box on screen that labels the moves (plus their levels and grades of execution), but if you want to learn more about the most common figure skating moves, this guide is a good place to start.

First, let’s get one important thing out of the way. You’re going to hear a lot of talk about “edges,” both here and on TV, and having a basic understanding of edges is key to deciphering jumps and step sequences. So what is an edge, exactly? A figure skating blade is made from a thin piece of metal, which has a very narrow “flat” surface and two sharp edges — just imagine a knife with a super thick blade. Figure skaters move by skating on the edges, or the actual sharp parts of the blade.

When it comes to jumping, edges are of the essence. An “inside edge” refers to the blade edges that lean “in” towards the other foot, whereas an “outside edge” is the edge of the blade on the “outside” of each foot, or away from the body. Figure skating jumps are identified by the edge the skater takes off from, and whether or not they use a toe-pick assist (aka, the small ridges at the front of the skate) for takeoff. With that, you’re ready to dive into more figure skating terms.

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