Oleksiy Biletskyi – On components judging. Skating Skills

  • 23/10/2020
  • 11 min read
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Dear friends, my name is Oleksiy Biletskyi. I am a figure skating judge, ISU judge in single and pair skating, and also an ISU judge in the ice dance category. Previously – a participant in the Olympic Games in Salt Lake City in 2002.

In this video, I continue sharing how we, judges, see and evaluate figure skaters’ programs. In my previous videos, I announced that I’m going to talk about program components. So today, I’m going to talk about the first component – Skating Skills.

Skating Skills

Characterized or defined by overall cleanness and sureness, edge control, and flow over the ice surface. It demonstrates the ability to use skating range, edges, steps, turns, etc., the clarity of technique, and the use of effortless power to accelerate and vary speed.

  • Criteria No. 1. Use of deep edges, steps, and turns.
  • Criteria No. 2. Balance, rhythmic knee work, and precision of foot placement.
  • Criteria No. 3. Flow and glide. The smoothness of skating.
  • Criteria No. 4. Varied use of power, speed, and acceleration.
  • Criteria No. 5. Use of multi-directional skating.
  • Criteria No. 6. Use of one-foot skating.

1. Use of deep edges, steps, and turns

If you want a judge to identify – just to be able to at least identify – these criteria, the skater has to demonstrate it in their program.

This means that steps, edges, and turns have to be present in the program, and the skater has to show it, to demonstrate it in their program – right from the very beginning. Because, let me remind you, the judges judge what they see, and if they don’t see deep edges, steps, and turns – there is nothing to judge. Or, at least, the final mark for this component wouldn’t be high enough.

The keyword here is “use”. Let’s find another synonym – ”demonstrate”. Because that’s precisely what top skaters do – they demonstrate.

The question is, how to improve the program? You may start demonstrating your skating skills straight from the first step – as soon as the music starts – show the deep edge, perform a good spreadeagle, change the edge, do a counter, or a rocker. But you have to start demonstrating it in front of the judges – it’s already a good moment to begin gaining component scores – use it! 

It’s not enough to just know and be able to do those steps – you have to demonstrate it.

2. Balance, rhythmic knee action, and precision of foot placement

Soft knee work. Сorrect foot placement and body weight change.

Each performance is different – the skater might be stressed too much, could have anxiety that affects their legs, past injuries could kick in, or any other reason – all that can affect the quality of the skating and the knee work.

Sure enough, the high-class skaters always have great balance and soft knees – I’ll demonstrate that to you in a minute – and also accuracy and precision of foot placement and the center of mass change. It’s like a good habit formed by years of practice, which creates this impression that the skater is not skating but flying – or even flowing – over the ice surface – that’s how effortless it looks like. Which is also a sign of an excellent skating technique.

Or vice versa – if the knee is not used well enough, we see the twitchy, rigid skating with regular stumbling on the ice. It’s because the skater doesn’t truly control the balance of their body – their center of mass isn’t above their feet. It’s inclined forward or backward. Turns and resolutions also contain mistakes due to braking or bouncing, and you can also hear a grinding sound – which indicates a low quality of skating and blade control.

And one more thing – one of the criteria of the skating quality is how cleanly the skater puts the foot on the edge. Good quality here means that foot placement starts from the boot and right to the edge (same way as it was in compulsory figures many years ago). Not two edges. Exit from the element, and change of edge – should be straight to the edge. Keep it in mind, if you want to have an above 7 mark for skating skills.

3. Varied use of power, speed, and acceleration

This criterion means that skaters should demonstrate how well they can reach their maximum speed for the minimal amount of strokes, or to reduce the speed.

Speed and power can be on a pretty high level. But how does the skater gain this speed? How exactly do they increase it? How do they accelerate? How many strokes are made? Are they producing grinding sounds during the acceleration or deceleration?

Also, it’s important to demonstrate how good you are at skating at the high speed, as well as at the low speed. Make sure to show skating forward and backward – that will also come in handy.

4. Flow and glide. The smoothness of skating and gliding

The smoothness of skating is one of the most important criteria of skating, because it reflects the fundamentals of the technique and balance control. It comes with rhythmic knee work and body control over the ice.

Gliding is reflected in effortlessness in the blade movements over the ice.

How do we see it? When those criteria are present, the skaters’ skating is so smooth that it’s hard to find where there is a beginning or the end of their movement. That’s how smoothly those steps, turns, and movements are flowing into each other, along with speed gain and no visually noticeable effort.

Flow and glide should be demonstrated on edges. It can be reflected in such elements as Ina Bauer, spirals, spreadeagle performed on deep edges – inner or outer. The idea is to show as many skating skills as possible while using the edges to the maximum.

5. Use of multi-directional skating

Fast and easy direction change – clockwise or counterclockwise, forwards and backward, twisting body in both directions. The program should demonstrate it and have various directions of the movement.

What to do? What can be added? How to improve the program?

Try not to repeat yourself while gaining speed and don’t do it only in one direction. Add the transition – backward, forward, in an eight pattern – make sure it doesn’t look like skating in circles or like one-sided skating. If you don’t demonstrate it, the judge might have the impression that the skater knows only how to skate in one direction – forward or backward or just this one side. Naturally, it’s considered a limited skating skill and cannot receive high scores.

6. Use of one-foot skating

Obviously, top-level skaters will not hesitate to demonstrate it. Their programs are rich in edge changes and various sections of skating on one foot. It tells the judge that the skater has mastered skating to the best. They can quickly gain the speed on one leg, brake, use the edge to make a resolution, counter, rocker, and other complex steps. And all of that increases the score.

Otherwise, if the skater is constantly skating on two feet like a sled, and if they try to put the leg down as soon as they take it off, lose balance and start stumbling.. Of course, that will be judged as a low skating skill.

Examples

For the demonstration, I’ve chosen two examples – one is an example of excellent skating and another – of middle-level skating. I intentionally didn’t use examples of bad skating – to not learn by contradiction. In the teaching process, I usually choose to look up to the best – reach for the ideal. Bad skating will manifest itself anyway.

So, today we’re going to watch videos of Patrick Chan and Surya Bonaly.

The method of components score evaluation – including skating skills – is by defining the amount of time the above criteria are met during the program, in percentage to the total time.

So, what did Patrick show us? Notice how he starts demonstrating his skating skills right from the beginning. By using deep edges, steps, and turns, he shows the balance, and rhythmic, soft knee action.

He is obviously gliding across the ice. He’s skating smoothly, and he’s flowing, so to speak, over the ice. And how many strokes did he make? Has anyone noticed them? Because it’s not even clear how he even gains the speed, which push movements he’s using and whether they’re even there!

But they are – both the accelerations and the decelerations are there. We can also see the multidirectional turns, power and speed, dynamics and breadth of skating. We also see the use of single-foot skating.

If we analyze these criteria one by one and calculate in percentage how often he uses them in the program, we’ll get the value no less than 90% for each of the six criteria. Thereafter, the final score for the skating skills for Patrick will be in the range of 9.0 to 10.0. Which is called excellent skating.

Surya Bonaly was a renowned champion in the past, but if we look at her program today – what will we see?

Let’s go straight to the criteria.

  1. Using deep edges, steps, and turns in this program – it was around 50-60%.
  2. Number 2, which is balance, and rhythmic knee work – I would say it was also around average value. A pretty rigid knee work and not very clean steeps and foot placement.
  3. Number three – flow and glide. The smoothness of her skating is somewhere around average, again, gliding is a bit better. I would choose around 60-70%.
  4. Criterion number four – varied use of power, speed, and acceleration. She definitely was skating at high speed. I wouldn’t say it was a lot of variety of speed and dynamics, but speed was there for sure. I would choose here a relatively high score – up to 80%.
  5. Number five – use of multi-directional skating. She mostly used a series of strokes in one direction – forward strokes, backward strokes. There was some pattern in the program, but it’s hard to call it a good one. Taking all this into account, I would say it’s also 50-60%.
  6. Number six – use of one-foot skating. This exact program – not the skater, but the program – does not demonstrate good skating on one foot. Probably because it wasn’t the goal back then. So, today for this criterion, I would evaluate it as 30-40% of one-foot skating.

In the end, by summing up those percentages of all criteria, the final score of the 5-time European champion for today would be in the range of 5.5-6.5.

Conclusion

In conclusion, excellent skating skills would be the ability to demonstrate the control and power of speed acceleration, smoothness of movements, and skating on one foot on the edges in different directions.

Try to demonstrate your skating skills and ability to control the blade in your program. From the very first step and till the end of the program.

Good luck with your training! And remember, the best one wins. Train hard and you’ll get the results.

Watch the video, ask questions, leave your comments. More interesting topics to come! With love for the sport, Oleksiy Biletskyi.

Thank you for your attention and for sticking to the end. New videos are coming soon. Subscribe and follow for the new insights into the judging.

Post is written in English, Ukrainian and Russian.

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