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Figure Skating: Great Skaters' Evaluation

Updated on October 7, 2016

Great Skaters and Great Performances

Thanks to TV coverage introduced in 1970s, figure skating, once considered a tedious sport, especially in compulsory time, became a gemstone in winter sports.

Figure skating is particularly a cruel sport. Skaters endured years of training but more despair than hope awaits them. Injury is a parasite that feeds on them - their sweat, time and efforts.

You landed jumps successfully so many time in practice, perhaps tens of thousand times, but when it matters the most, you bombed. You were left with nothing but failure.

And sometimes you became a victim of wrong, or even fraudulent, judging.

The latest example is Yuna Kim in Sochi Olympics in 2014. Although Kim retired unceremoniously, her glow like other legendary predecessors' before her won't diminish soon.

Great Peggy Fleming

Source

Peggy Fleming: Greatest in compulsory era

Peggy Fleming was a visionary skater who paved the way to the modern figure skating.

Fleming's dominance coincided with TV coverage of figure skating. In her time, figure skating was understood in terms of compulsories discipline.

Compulsories are no long relevant to today but the original concept of figure skating derives from compulsories, not free skating.

In compulsory time when competition was divided into two: compulsories and free skating, 60% and 40% respectively, Fleming was an ideal itself.

Her commanding in compulsories and awe inspiring free skating were an ultimate dream charged with aesthetic vision.

Often Fleming was called the first ballerina type female skater and some even prefers to call her the founder of modern figure skating.

Fleming's line and extension and technical accuracy were something today's skaters couldn't emulate.


What to Evaluate

What makes skaters special are :

  • Degree of bodily freedom
  • Technical proficiency
  • Flexibility
  • Edgework and skating skills
  • Degree of artistic expressiveness
  • Creativity
  • Competitiveness


How to Evaluate Skaters

There are several categories that you need to consider in evaluating a skater. The first and foremost factor is degree of bodily freedom on ice.

This is the most important factor that defines and measures a skater. When a skater moves on ice, he or she can't move the way he or she does off the ice.

There is a limit by ice physics to a certain type of moves or postures. For example, upper body on ice is strictly subject to a skater's direction, speed, center of weight in motion, etc.

While proficient skaters show higher degree of bodily freedom on ice, lessor skaters often appear stiff only able to perform a limited set of moves. Typically they lack of balance, flow, and continuity between moves.

This leads to extensions and lines. There are two types: those who are able to create lines and who cannot.

Speed is also one of telltales that hints degree of bodily freedom, because the faster a skater move, he or she faces higher risk of falling or losing balance.

In a nutshell, those legends showed an incredible degree of bodily freedom on ice compared to their peers.

Fleming in Spread Eagle
Fleming in Spread Eagle | Source

Peggy Fleming: the name to remember

What was astounding in Fleming skating is in her time, no skater was expected to skate that well in free skating because the competition was heavily weighed with compulsories.

It's like Yuna Kim devoted herself to ballerina lessons in order to make better extension and lines or mastering pointed toe or something while neglecting triple jumps.

Fleming was a master skater in both compulsories and free skating. There is no doubt Janet Lynn inherited much asset from Fleming.

Take a look at Fleming's double axel. That was fifty years ago. Especially in her double flip jump you will see how Yuna Kim's jump techniques are indebted to Fleming.

Peggy Fleming in 1968

Vote that counts

Besides Yuna Kim, who do you think is stylistically close to Peggy Fleming?

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