Olympics-Figure skating at Sochi Winter Games

Reuters

Jan 27 (Reuters) - Factbox on figure skating ahead of the Feb. 7-23 Sochi Winter Olympics:

THE COMPETITION:

There will be five titles up for grabs from Feb. 6-20 with the team event making its Olympic debut.

Thirty men and women compete in the singles events, 20 couples in the pairs and 24 in the ice dance. Ten nations will compete for the team title.

Only skaters who turned 15 before July 1, 2013 can compete.

The singles consist of a short programme, which has seven required elements and is worth 33.3 percent of the final score, and a free skate. The top 24 from the short programme advance to the free skate, or long programme.

The short programme can last a maximum of two minutes 50 seconds and the required elements -- designated spins, jumps and combinations -- can be performed in any order.

The free skate lasts between 3:50 and 4:10 for the women and between 4:20 and 4:40 for the men and must contain specified minimums of jumps, combinations, steps and spins.

In pairs, two competitors skate side-by-side in unison and perform several combined elements such as lifts. The competition comprises a short programme, with seven required elements, and a longer free skate lasting between 4:20 and 4:40.

Ice dancing, skated in couples, consists of a short dance and a free dance. The International Skating Union (ISU) designates the rhythm and tempo of the short dance and couples select their own music to fit. For the free dance, they can choose any music and create their own steps and style.

In the team competition, representatives of each nation perform a short and free programme in men's, women's, pairs and ice dancing.

HISTORY

As an indoor sport, figure skating was initially part of the Summer Olympics and was added to the programme for the 1908 Games. It moved to the Winter Games in 1924, at Chamonix.

The ISU was formed in 1892 and six years later held its first official event.

The singles and pairs events have been part of every Winter Olympic programme. Ice dancing was added at the 1976 Innsbruck Games. It has been mostly dominated by Russian teams but the most famous pairing was Britain's Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean, who won gold at Sarajevo in 1984 with perfect 6.0 scores across the board.

The judging system has been overhauled since a scandal at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics when French judge Marie-Reine Le Gougne confessed to, then denied, scoring the pairs contest according to her federation president's dictum. The French federation president, Didier Gailhaguet, was banned for three years and later resigned. Under pressure from the International Olympic Committee (IOC), officials awarded duplicate gold medals to Canadians David Pelletier and Jamie Sale who had originally been placed second.

As a result of the scandal, the old 6.0 scoring system was axed and replaced by a cumulative points system.

VENUE:

Iceberg Skating Palace: The 12,000-seat multi-purpose arena will host the figure skating and short track speed skating events at the 2014 Winter Olympics. It cost an estimated $43.9 million to build, including the temporary works for the Olympics. Following the Sochi Games, the venue may be converted into a velodrome.

CONTENDERS

Patrick Chan: The three-times world champion is bidding to become the first Canadian to win the men's Olympic title. A graceful skater who combines fast-paced footwork with high-scoring quadruple jumps. Despite often struggling to produce his best performance at the major global competitions, his intricate footwork and graceful choreography allows him to rack up the points.

Yevgeny Plushenko: A gold and two silvers at the last three Olympics have not been enough to satisfy the Russian showman and he is back in town for another stab at Olympic success - this time on home ice. He was controversially awarded the sole Russian spot in the men's event despite barely competing over the past four years, during which he has spent most of his time performing in skating exhibitions.

Kim Yuna and Mao Asada: Born 20 days apart, South Korea's Kim and Japan's Asada have been rivals from almost the moment they first strapped on their skates and are expected to provide the ultimate showdown, mark II, in Sochi. Kim struck gold in Vancouver with two mesmerising skates which earned her record marks while Asada grabbed silver. Despite skating only sporadically since her Vancouver success, Kim will once again arrive for an Olympics as the reigning world champion while Asada will be hoping her jaw-dropping triple Axel jumps do not let her down.

Tessa Virtue/Scott Moir and Meryl Davis/Charlie White: The intense North American rivalry between the training mates and friends will spice up the race for gold in Russia as between them, the two couples have won every ice dance competition they have featured in since the Vancouver Games. Canadians Virtue and Moir are bidding to become only the second ice dancers to defend their Olympic title but to do that they have to snap a 22-month losing streak against Americans Davis and White. Both couples have won two world titles in the last Olympic cycle and were separated by fractions when they last competed against each other, in the Grand Prix Final. (Compiled by Pritha Sarkar; Editing by Rex Gowar)

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