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Ladies Free Skate Guide

The Ladies Free Skate consists of twelve elements and can be a maximum of 4 minutes in duration, plus or minus 10 seconds.  There is a time deduction for programs that are over 4:10 or less than 3:50.  The time deduction is 1.0 points for every 5 seconds or part thereof over or under the time limits.  In addition if a program is more than 30 seconds under nominal (under 3 minutes 30 seconds) the skater is considered withdrawn and no marks are given.  There is no deduction for any extra elements beyond those permitted.

The requirements for the elements in the Ladies Free Skate are nearly identical to the requirements for the men, the only difference being the ladies are permitted on less jump.

The elements consist of the following:

Seven Jump Elements

A maximum of seven jump elements are permitted.  A maximum of three of these may be combinations or sequences, but combinations and sequences are not required.

There are no limitations on the number of rotations jumps must have (other than at least one), but there is a restriction on repeating jumps.  Only two triple or quad jumps may be repeated, and when repeated one must be executed in a combinations or sequence.

Though the jump elements are the same for the men and women, other than number permitted, quad attempts in the Ladies event are nearly unheard of, and triple Axel attempts are rare.  Only a handful of women have landed triple Axel in competition.

To pack a program with all the triples through triple Lutz, and also repeat two of these, triple-triple combinations are not necessary.  However, the double Axel can be executed three times in the Free Skate, and there is a small point advantage in executing a triple-triple combination if the double axel repetitions are also attempted.  Often, however, a lady attempting a triple-triple does not include the other necessary jumps to earn maximum jump points and the combination becomes an unnecessary risk with no point advantage compared to not executing the triple-triple.  This is often the case when a skater has difficulty with a specific jump takeoff edge.

In the Short Program, executing the triple-triple in the required combination, is of clearer value, increasing the base value of the jump elements by 2.7 points when triple toe loop is executed in the combination instead of double toe loop.

If a triple or quad jump is repeated as an individual jump it will be scored as a jump sequence, and counts as one of the three permitted combinations or sequences..  Sometime skaters forget this in the heat of the moment and end up with four jump combinations or sequences, in which case the last combination or sequence receives no value.

One of the jump elements must begin with an Axel takeoff.  If omitted, the last (seventh) jump element will receive no value.

Jump takeoffs and landings are subject to edge calls, under-rotations and downgrades.  These calls can severely reduce the value of a jump element and are often controversial.

    A maximum of three jump combinations or sequences

Jump combinations and sequences consist of two or more jumps of one or more rotations executed as a group.  In a jump combination there can be no turns or steps between the the jumps.  In jump sequences as small number of turns and steps are executed between the jumps.

Jump combinations consist of a maximum of two or three jumps together.  Only one jump combination can include three jumps.  All jump sequences can consist of more than two jumps, but usually they include no more than two or three jumps of one or more rotations.  Only the two highest value jumps in a jump sequence receive points in the base value. 

For the top men these elements will unusually be combinations consisting of triple or quad jumps with a triple jump.  Jump combinations end with toe loop or loop jumps and these are the jumps whose takeoff edge is the landing edge of the previous jump.

The jump combinations and sequences are evaluated as a whole.  There are several phases (sections) to these elements to pay attention to; the preparation and takeoff of the first jump, the flight of the first jump, the landing of the first jump through the takeoff for the second jump, the air of the second jump, and the landing and flow out of the second jump.  There are additional phases if the second jump is followed by additional jumps. 

Give attention to the speed and cleanness of the takeoff, and the difficulty of the steps and movements that immediately precede the takeoff.  For the Axel and toe loop takeoffs pay attention to excessive skids or pre rotation.  For flip and Lutz takeoffs give attention to the correct edge for the takeoff.  In the air the jump should have good height and position, with the body remaining mainly vertical.  Between the two jumps, look for a clean, fully rotated, landing and clean takeoff edge for the second jump.  Turns and steps between the jumps are permitted in sequences, and these should be executed with good rhythm and timing connecting the jumps.  In the air, the second jump should also have good height, position and orientation.  On the landing look for a fully rotated landing on a true edge with good flow and control out of the jump

    Solo Jumps

Give attention to the speed and cleanness of the takeoffs, and the difficulty of the steps and movements that immediately precede the takeoff. The jumps are not required to be immediately preceded by steps and other movements, but to do so increases the value of the jump (and the Transitions mark), and a long edge into the jump is still an error.  The longer the skater rides the edge the greater the error.  For the Axel and toe loop takeoffs pay attention to excessive skids or pre-rotation.  For flip and Lutz takeoffs give attention to the correct edge for the takeoff.  In the air the jump should have good height and position, with the body remaining mainly vertical.  Look for a clean, fully rotated, landing on a true edge with good flow and control out of the jump.

    Axel Jump

One of the jump elements must have an Axel type takeoff (forward outside edge).  For the ladies this will usually be a double Axel.  Only a small number of ladies have attempted triple Axels in competition.

Give attention to the speed and cleanness of the takeoff, and the difficulty of the steps and movements that immediately precede the takeoff.  Pay attention to excessive skids or pre-rotation on the jump.  A small amount of skid on the takeoff is to be expected for triple Axel, but in the extreme it would be considered a weakness in the jump.  In the air the jump should have good height and position, with the body remaining mainly vertical.  Look for a clean, fully rotated, landing on a true edge with good flow and control out of the jump.

Three Spin Elements

A maximum of three spin elements are permitted.  All the spins may have flying entries, and all may change feet.  Three different spins must be executed, where different means the three spins must have different spin codes.  The three spins must meet the following additional requirements.  The goal for the top skaters is to execute three level four spins.  To reach level four a spin must have four features, and to cover their bets some top skaters will include five features in their spins. 

    Flying Spin

This is any spin with a flying entry.  The spin may change feet and/or position.  The spin must have a minimum of six rotations.  More often than not this will be a flying sit spin, since most skaters find the flying sit less difficult than a flying camel spin.

Look for a clean takeoff with good height and control, and strong positions in the air.  Pay attention to the quality of the landing and how easily the skater gets into their spin position.  The center of the spin should not "travel" at the skater rotates.  In a close-up view of the spin, traveling can be seen by examining the trace being created on the ice.  A spin that does not travel should have a trace consisting of concentric or overlapping circles.  With a distant view, watch how the skater lines up with a spot, pole, etc. in the background, and see if they stay lined up with that spot.  The exit from the spin should be clean and controlled.

During the spin top skaters will be varying position and/or changing edge, etc. to obtain credit for features.  All of these should be executed cleanly and in control.  A skater must rotate at least two times in position for the position to count.  In a change of edge the skater must first establish rotation on one edge and then hold the rotation following the change of edge. 

    Spin in One Position

This spin is a spin in one basic position executed.  The skater may change feet, but the spin must be in the same basic position on each foot.  The skater may also begin with a flying entry.  There must be a minimum of six rotations total in the spin.  For the ladies this will often be a layback spin.  Also common will be a change foot sit spin.

Look for a clean controlled entry into the spin.  The center of the spin should not "travel" at the skater rotates.  Since this spin rotates on each foot be alter to traveling on each foot.  When changing feet, the spin should be centered in the same place on the ice for both feet.  A wide step from one foot to the other, or a push to regain rotation speed are errors to be alert to.  The exit from the spin should be clean and controlled.

During the spin top skaters will be varying position and/or changing edge, etc. to obtain credit for features.  All of these should be executed cleanly and in control.  A skater must rotate at least two times in position for the position to count.  In a change of edge the skater must first establish rotation on one edge and then hold the rotation following the change of edge.

    Combination Spin

This spin must does not have to change feet, but must include at least two different basic positions.  There must be a minimum of ten rotations total in the spin.  The skater may begin this element with a flying entry.  More often that not this spin will begin with a camel position and then change to a sit position.  To reach the higher levels, all three basic positions must be included in the spin.  Often this element will be of the form, camel to sit to upright to change of foot to camel to sit.  It might also include a concluding upright position.

Look for a clean controlled entry into the spin.  The center of the spin should not "travel" at the skater rotates.  Since this spin rotates on each foot be alter to traveling on each foot.  When changing feet, the spin should be centered in the same place on the ice for both feet.  A wide step from one foot to the other, or a push to regain rotation speed are errors to be alert to.  The exit from the spin should be clean and controlled.

During the spin top skaters will be varying position and/or changing edge, etc. to obtain credit for features.  All of these should be executed cleanly and in control.  A skater must rotate at least two times in position for the position to count.  In a change of edge the skater must first establish rotation on one edge and then hold the rotation following the change of edge.

    Other spin errors to be alert to

Errors in executing a spin may result in the spin being called a spin code other than what was intended.  This may then result in the repetition of a spin code, or a spin code that does not meet requirements.  The consequence of this is that a spin would be invalidated and receive no points.  Some common examples of this is an error that results in the lack of a flying entry, or an error in a change of foot that results in two CoSp spins with the same spin code, one second of which would receive no points.  Another, less common error, would be a spin with an error in the change of foot that results in the spin being called as two spins and the skater ending up with an extra spin element.  If a skater includes too many upright rotations at the end of a spin, this might result in a spin in one position being called a combination spin, also potentially leading to a duplicate spin code and a zero point spin.

Step Sequence (straight line, circular, or serpentine)

Typically this element consists of a straight line step sequence.  Occasionally a circular step sequence is executed, and rarely a serpentine step sequence will be seen.  All step patters have the same base value, so there is no point motivation to choose one over the other.  The straight line sequence is usually chosen because it covers the least distance and takes the least time to execute.

Identifying the start of the straight line step sequence is fairly easy.  The skater will move to one end or corner of the ice, perhaps pause for a moment, and then charge off down the ice.  The start of the circular sequence is sometimes a little less obvious.  It is important to identify this points, as the skater must close the circle, and to know if they closed the circle you have to know where it started.  Failing to complete a full pattern of any type is an error.

The start of a serpentine step sequences is also fairly easy to recognize since it also start at one end of the ice and continues to the other end of the ice.  As the skater moves the length of the ice they also weave back and forth across the width of the ice along several roughly half circles.  Since a straight line step sequence does not have to be exactly straight, it is sometime difficult to distinguish between a straight line and serpentine sequence.  In terms of points, however, it does not matter how the sequence is identified since both sequences have the same base value and the same features.

Look for clean steps and edge, good positions under control, and a smooth flow through the element.  One feature for this element is use of the whole body during the sequence.  Many skaters attempt to achieve this feature by throwing their body all over the place with frantic movements.    Another feature calls for turning in both direction.  The results is what some refer to as a "footwork tornado" skated to very fast, energetic music.  Frantic fast movement is not required to achieve these features, so pay attention to full body movement and rotation in both directions for slower music.

This is a good element for evaluating the skating skills of the skaters, so pay attention to the difficulty of the steps and edges, the ability of the skaters to skate on all edges, and to turn clockwise or counter clockwise as they move across the ice.  There are requirements for the number and type of steps and turns needed to achieve higher levels, so pay attention to the different types of steps and turns included in the sequence.

This element is also a good element to develop the Interpretation component of the program, so pay attention to how the step sequence actually relates to the music and how it fits into the overall choreography of the program.

Choreographic Sequence

This element consists of spiral positions and other movements that fully utilize the ice surface. There is no required pattern.  This element does not receive leveled and has a fixed base value regardless of the difficulty of the content.  The purpose of this element is to allow the skaters a sequence of movements that enhances the purpose of the artistic purpose of the program and the interpretation of the music.  The skaters need not execute the same movements simultaneously, but there movements should relate to each other with both partners contributing equally to the element.

Look for strength and control in executing the movements.  The skaters should be under control at all times.  This element should help develop the Choreography and Interpretation components of the program, so pay attention to how the movements actually relate to the music and how it fits into the overall purpose and choreography of the program.

Copyright 2014 by George S. Rossano