How Figure Skating Works
Arguably the most recognizable and most popular event at the Winter Games, figure skating has been an Olympic Staple since 1908. Like gymnastics at the Summer Games, the sport combines grace, power, and technical ability to deliver jaw-dropping physical feats.
Plus, the event seems perpetually accompanied by drama and controversy, a product of the impeccable precision required to complete a routine flawlessly and the intense pressure heaped upon the athletes by crowds, judges, and fellow competitors.
You probably won’t see a an athlete’s ex-husband and bodyguard hire a hitman to attempt to break the leg of one of said athlete’s rival competitors. That scandal involving skaters Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan has become so infamous that a biographical movie of Harding’s life was released in December.
But you might see skaters berating judges if they disagree with the results, among other potential drama.
Besides all that off the ice, there will be plenty of great competition to watch. Olympic figure skating features five events, scored by a panel of judges based on the technical elements and presentation elements of the routine. The athlete or pair with the highest scores receive medals.
Figure Skating Events
As is the case with all the ice skating events at the Games, the contests feature a “short” preliminary round that eliminates a small number of competitors or pairs. The “free” portion follows within a day or two, displays longer routines, and results in the awarding of medals.
- Men’s short: Feb. 15 8 p.m.-12:30 a.m. ET
- Men’s free: Feb. 16 8 p.m.-12:25 a.m. ET
- Ladies’ short: Feb. 20 8 p.m.-12:30 a.m. ET
- Ladies’ free: Feb. 22 8 p.m.-12:15 a.m. ET
This event features a male and female competitor performing a routine together.
- Pairs short: Feb. 13 8-11:35 p.m. ET
- Pairs free: Feb. 14 8:30-11:55 p.m. ET
This discipline of figure skating draws from ballroom dancing and features different requirement on lifts, throws, and musical composition than pairs or singles competition.
- Ice dancing short: Feb. 18 8-11:45 p.m. ET
- Ice dancing free: Feb. 19 8-11:45 p.m. ET
Figure skating’s team event functions much like the gymnastics team event at the Summer Games. A “short” event is held four all four disciplines detailed above, and each participating nation is awarded a final place in each “short” event. The top nations advance to the “free” programs in each of the four disciplines, and their respective scores are combined to determine an overall winner.
- Team event pairs short and men’s short: Feb. 8 8-11:30 p.m. ET
- Team event ice dancing short, ladies’ short, and team event pairs free: Feb. 10 8 p.m.-12:40 a.m. ET
- Team event men’s free, ice dancing free, and ladies’ free: Feb. 11 8-11:25 p.m. ET
How to Watch
You’ll be able to live stream more than 1,800 hours of Olympic coverage online, including figure skating competitions. Official TV listings have yet to be released, but because of the immense popularity of figure skating and its timing coordinating with NBC’s prime-time coverage, you can be almost certain plenty of figure skating will be available for viewing in prime-time, even with the games happening across the world in South Korea.
For Cord-Cutters, here’s a list of services that allow you to stream the Winter Olympics on your TV. The 2018 Olympic Games are on NBC. Here are the streaming services that carry NBC:
For more details about these services and details about the Olympic Games, visit our main 2018 Winter Olympics page.