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Figure Skating History: Compulsory Figures

Compulsory FiguresAs I've mentioned before, I teach an adult figure skating class once a week. Every now and then I try to get my students to do compulsory figure exercises. Many of them have never heard about compulsory figures and don't see the point in doing them. In case, dear reader, you also haven't heard much about compulsory figures, here's a history lesson from an old book I found in storage, Figure Skating with Carlo Fassi:

"Figures became a feature of skating when our skating ancestors discovered they could 'draw' designs on the ice with their skates. The sharp edges and curve of the blade allowed the intricate figures to develop. The first international competition consisted of twenty-three figures plus a special original figure by each skater. There was no free skating in those days. In the sixties skaters executed six compulsory figures that counted for 60 percent of their score. The other 40 percent was for free skating."

It's amazing how much our sport has changed. Though free skating is definitely more fun to watch, there are times I miss the quiet perfection of tracing complex patterns. I believe there's beauty in that too.

5 Responses to “Figure Skating History: Compulsory Figures”

  1. Peter Crameri Says:

    Hi there, I was just wondering if you have or know of anywhere I could find some diagrams of the old figures such as the Maltese Cross and other designs that they did way back when.
    Thank you,

  2. JJ87 Says:

    Here is a book you can download from Google books with all the old, elaborate figures illustrated:,M1

  3. JJ87 Says:

    Make sure to check pages 300 and 303 in the book noted above! It is amazing that anyone ever skated those figures!

  4. Angela Bryce-Thurton Says:

    How I miss Figures. My first gold medal was in Figures in Lake Placid. I wish I had a scribe so that I could find a way to do figures. Thanks for posting the book.

  5. Superieor Performance Requires Passionate Energy Says:

    [...] in the Olympics. I don’t know if they still do this but I recall as a kid seeing the skaters do compulsory exercises in addition to their big routines. So you’d see skaters doing perfect figure-eights for the [...]

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