Home Archive Photos Slideshows Database Calendar

Links

2017/18 Pairs Free Skate Program Guide

The Pairs Free Skating Program consists of twelve elements and can be 4 minutes 30 seconds +/- 10 seconds in duration.  There is a time deduction of 1.0 points for every 5 seconds or part thereof over the maximum or under the minimum.  If a program is more than 30 seconds under minimum the team gets no score and is withdrawn from the competition. Vocal music is permitted.

The teams execute twelve elements consisting of the following:

Lifts

Four lifts are permitted.

Three Overhead Lifts (not all from Group 5)

Typically the pairs will attempt two Group 5 lifts, and one lift from either Group 3 or Group 4.  The common Group 4 lifts attempted include either a press lift (with the man skating backwards and the woman facing the man on the takeoff) or a reverse press lift (where both the man and the woman are skating backwards at the takeoff).  The common Group 3 hand to hip (star) lift is of lesser value and so less common.  In the star lift the skaters face each other with the man skating backwards.  His left hand grips the woman's right hand and his right hand is on her left hip.  The woman's left hand grips the man's right shoulder.

The top teams might include a more difficult than standard entry, changes of the air position of the woman, one arm air positions, and some type of rotating dismount such as a flip out, cartwheel out, or twist out.

Look for a secure lift of the woman by the man.  Also pay attention to the man's feet to see that he turns the lift cleanly with steady feet.  In the air watch the woman's position.  She should have a nice arch in the air, without her lags dangling like so much dead weight.  Changes in position in the air and one arm air positions should be neat and under control.  While in the air, the man might turn up to three times as the lift travels down the ice.

Watch the dismount to see that is is clean and under control.  When the woman is retuned to the ice, both skaters should flow out of the lift smoothly.

For the top teams two Group 5 lifts  (often referred to as lasso lifts) are attempted.  There are five different takeoffs for the group 5 lifts, and when two are included in a program, they must have different takeoffs, so pay attention to how the team begins each lift.

Look for a secure lift of the woman by the man.  Also pay attention to the man's feet to see that he turns the lift cleanly with steady feet.  In the air watch the woman's position.  She should have a nice arch in the air, without her lags dangling like so much dead weight.  Changes in position in the air and one arm air positions should be neat and under control.  While in the air, the man might turn up to three times as the lift travels down the ice.

Watch the dismount to see that is is clean and under control.  When the woman is retuned to the ice, both skaters should flow out of the lift smoothly.

Some teams will take shortcuts and do two Group 5 lifts with different takeoffs but then the remainder of the two lifts will be identical.

One Twist Lift

The woman is lifted into the air and released.  While flying free of the man she will rotate some number of times before being caught by the man.  The man will then place the woman back on the ice.  In a double twist the lady rotates 1 1/2 times relative to the man, while the man turns from backwards on the take off to forwards on the landing.  In a triple the lady rotates 2 1/2 times relative to the man and the man makes the 1/2 rotation from backwards to forwards.

Because of the difficulty of executing a truly clean and superior triple twist, even some top teams may choose to execute a double twist, and will go for features on the double to increase it's base value.  The very best teams will attempt a triple, though often these will only be level 1.

Watch the takeoff to make sure the woman takes off on the correct edge.  It must be a Lutz type take off or flip type takeoff.  On the take off both the man and woman will be skating backwards.  The man's hands will be on the woman's waist and the woman will grip the man's wrist.  A secure grip by both skaters is important if the woman is to achieve enough height in the air to cleanly complete the element, particularly for a triple twist.

The man throws the woman vertically into the air.  The moment before the man releases the woman, she will will push off from his wrist.  To achieve great height the man and woman must work together and timing is very important in this element.

In the air watch the woman's position and whether she gets all the way around.  A twist lift can be downgraded if she does not complete the necessary rotations, but this is rarely called.

Look to see that the man really catches the woman at the waist and places her back onto the ice.  The woman should not bump or crash into the man on the catch, land on his shoulder, bump chests, etc.  If the man barely touches the lady before her feet hit the ice, he really did not catch her.  A common practice now is to catch the lady with her body positioned over one of the man's shoulders, should something go wrong with the lift, and often the lady will contact the man on the way down instead of being truly caught.

A lot is happening in a twist very quickly, so taking it all in takes practice.

On the landing the woman should land cleanly and both skaters should flow out of the lift smoothly on one foot.  On the exit the man will be skating backwards and the woman forwards.

A variation of the twist lift has the woman's body oriented horizontal to the ice instead of vertical.  This is known as a lateral twist and was invented by Kitty and Peter Carruthers.

Two Throw Jumps (must be different)

The takeoff of a throw jump has both the man and woman skating backwards.  The woman jumps with the takeoff edge of a solo jump, but is assisted (thrown) by the man.  When executed correctly the woman will achieve a much greater height than if she had jumped on her own.  The man will typically grip one wrist of the lady with one hand and her waist or hip with the other.

Top teams will do two triple throws, most commonly a throw triple Salchow and loop.  A few teams attempt throw triple flip or Lutz.  Only one team has landed a throw triple Axel in competition (Rena Inoue & John Baldwin).

Look for a clean takeoff on the jump, good takeoff speed, and good height in the air.  The woman should land cleanly, and just like in a solo jump, should complete the rotations, stay on her feet, and exit the jump smoothly on clean edges.  Because of the greater height (and often greater speed) on a throw jump compared to a solo jump, a fall on a throw jump is more likely to result in injury to the lady than the solo jump.

Side-by-side Solo Jump

The man and woman must execute the same jump side by side.  The top teams will commonly attempt triple loops or higher.  Lesser teams execute triple toe loops or Salchows.  In their day, Kristy Yamaguchi and Rudi Galindo executed triple Lutzes, and currently Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford include that jump in their programs.

Look for the same qualities of execution in this elements as in a jump by one skater; a clean takes with good speed, good height and good position in the air and complete rotations, with a clean landing and smooth flow out of the jump.  This element is scored using the principle of least common denominator;  that is, the worse of the two jumps is what determine the identification and quality of the jump.  For example, if one skater does a double and the other a triple, the element is scored as a double.

It is sometimes difficult to see what both skaters are doing during this element, particularly when they are skating far apart.  When viewing this element, look between the two skaters and try on follow the movement of both skaters simultaneously.  In addition to looking for two clean jumps, also pay attention to the timing and technique of the skaters.  Both skaters should takeoff and land simultaneously and have the same height in the air.  Their body positions during the jump should also be matched.

Side-by-side Jump Combination or Sequence

This can be a jump combination or sequence and will typically consist of two double jumps.  The highest point value for this element using two double jumps would be a double Axel with double Axel jump sequence.  If a team executes triple Salchow for the solo jump they might attempt a triple toe loop - triple toe loop sequences for this element.

Jump combinations and sequences are evaluated as a whole.  There are five sections of this element to pay attention to; the preparation and takeoff of the first jump, the flight of the first jump, the landing of the first jump and takeoff for the second jump, the air of the second jump, and the landing and flow out of the second jump.  For sequences the rhythm and flow for the steps between the jumps is also to be considered.

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.  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

Side-by-side Combination Spin (with or without a change of foot)

The man and woman must execute the same spin side by side.  The spins should have at least two basic positions in addition to the change of foot (having a change of position is what makes it a "combination" spin).  A change of foot is not required in the free skating program as it is in the short program, but if they do change feet the element is worth more points, so most do.

Look for the same qualities of execution in this element as in a spin by one skater; a clean entry under control, good positions under control, changes of foot and position that are under control, speed of rotations and a smooth flow out of the spin.  This element is scored using the principle of least common denominator;  that is, the worse of the two spins is what determine the identification and quality of the element.  It is sometimes difficult to see what both skaters are doing during this element, particularly when they are skating far apart.  When viewing this element, look between the two skaters and try on follow the movement of both skaters simultaneously.

In addition to looking for two clean spins, also pay attention to the timing and technique of the skaters.  Both skaters should execute the spins with identical timing and technique.  This is referred to as "unison."  Unison in side-by-side spins is difficult to achieve throughout an entire spin.  Often the skater will rotate at different rates or out of synchronization.  Sometime they will have good unison on only one foot of the spin and not the other.  When the skaters change feet in the spin they should do so in the same way at the same time.  Count the rotations.  both skates must execute at least five rotations on each foot.

Pair Combination Spin

In a pair combination spin, the two skaters hold onto each other while they are spinning.  The two skaters do not have to be in the same positions at the same time, but both skaters must change position at least once, and they must change feet at the same time.

Like in a solo spin, look for a clean and controlled entry and exit, speed of the spin and strong position during the spin.  Watch for a clean change of foot at the same time from both skaters.  Count the rotations.  The team must execute at least eight rotations in the spin.  There is no requirement for the number of rotations on each foot (but for positions to count for features they must rotate at least two times in position.)

Death Spiral (must be different from the Short Program Death Spiral)

In a death spiral the man is in a pivot position, holding the woman by one hand.  The woman rotates around the man with one blade on the ice and her body roughly horizontal.  There are four death spirals to choose from with the backwards outside and the forward outside having the greatest value.  The top teams will more commonly do the backwards outside, as the forwards outside is significantly more difficult.  In a pivot position the man sets the toe pick of one foot into the ice and rotates around the toe pick with the blade of the other foot making a small circle on the ice a he rotates.

Look to the man for a clean deep pivot position.  Both knees should be bent.  Look at the ease with which the woman enters the death spiral,  She should not be in an awkward unattractive looking position.  The closer the woman's body to the ice the better, and look for a strong arch with her blade firmly on the ice without her boot sliding on the ice instead of the blade.  Only the woman's blade should be in contact with the ice  -- but you can ignore minor brushes of the ice with the hair or hand if it does not help hold the woman up off the ice.  Finally, look at how easily the man brings the woman back to a vertical position and the control and smoothness of the exit from the element.  The team must rotate at least once in position for this element

What distinguishes the top teams from the others is the quality of both their positions and the ease with which the team enter and exist the element.

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 levels 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 2018 by George S. Rossano