Australia and Olympic Figure Skating
Australians first competed in figure skating at Oslo 1952. Adrian Swan competed in the men’s individual and placed 10th. Nancy Hallam and Gweneth Molony both competed in the ladies individual placing 14th and 21st respectively. Cameron Medhurst represented Australia at three consecutive Winter Olympics, at Sarajevo 1984, Calgary 1988 and Albertville 1992, where he achieved his best of result of 16th in Albertville.
The brother/sister national pairs figure skating champions Stephen Carr and Danielle McGrath (Carr) also represented Australia at three consecutive Winter Olympics. At Albertville 1992, they placed 13th and then equalled the best performance by an Australian pair with 11th at Lillehammer 1994. In Nagano 1998 they placed 13th.
Australia’s best Olympic results were achieved by Adrian Swan (Oslo 1952) and Anthony Liu (Salt Lake 2002) who both placed 10th in the men’s individual; Joanne Carter who placed 12th in the ladies individual at Nagano 1998; the pairs Stephen and Danielle Carr, who placed 11th at Lillehammer 1994, and Monica MacDonald and Rodney Clarke who placed 20th at Nagano 1998 in ice dancing.
Cheltzie Lee was Australia’s only figure skating representative at Vancouver 2010 and won the hearts of the nation, finishing 18th in the short program and 20th in the free program (20th overall), posting personal best scores and delivering beyond her 16 years.
Four years on and Australia had four representatives at the Sochi 2014 Games – Brendan Kerry and Brooklee Hann skating in the individual men’s and women’s competition, while Greg Merriman and Danielle O'Brien paired up in the Ice Dancing event.
Brendan Kerry went on to again grace the Olympic stage at the PyeongChang 2018 Olympics, with debutant Kailani Craine taking the women’s individual spot.
Harley Windsor made history in 2018 as Australia’s first Indigenous Winter Olympian as he paired up with Moscow-born Ekaterina Alexandrovskaya in the pairs competition.
There are five Olympic figure skating events: ladies’ singles, men’s singles, pairs, ice dancing and the team event.
The men’s, ladies’ and pairs competitions consist of two separate parts: the short program and the free skating. The short program combines eight prescribed elements such as jump combinations and spins. In the free skating program, skaters perform an original arrangement of techniques to music of their choice. The top 24 of the 30 competitors in the singles events and all 20 couples in the pairs event qualify for the free skate.
In the pairs the couple work as one unit, demonstrating overhead lifts, throw-jumps with the man launching his partner, and other manoeuvres.
Ice dancing is similar to ballroom dancing and composed of three parts, compulsory, original, and free dances. The focus is on the complex steps in time with the music. The skaters maintain contact with each other, limiting lifts and jumps. In compulsory dancing, the couple performs one pre-determined dance. The original dance must follow selected rhythms, though the pair can choose their own music and interpretative steps. In free dancing the pair freely express their interpretation of the music they have chosen.
The figure skating team event will feature teams made up of six skaters: one male skater, one female skater, one skating pair and one ice dance couple. Points are awarded to each skater/ couple. The team with the highest number of aggregate points is declared the winner. The figure skating team event made its first appearance at the 2012 Winter Youth Olympic Games in Innsbruck and will be on the program in Sochi in 2014.
Following a judging controversy in Salt Lake 2002, the ISU adopted a new system in 2004 to award points for each element of a skater’s routine, based on degree of difficulty and level of performance. In addition computer scoring was introduced, which randomly selects the scores of nine judges from the panel of 12, discarding the highest and lowest scores of that nine, leaving seven judges’ scores to produce the final result.
A total score is based on the addition of points of two segments.
1. The technical score (or Total Element Score) comprised of points gained on jumps, spins and stepwork. Each element of the performance is assigned a base value relating to its degree of difficulty, with judges evaluating the performance on each element within a range of plus 3 to minus 3.
2. The Program Component Score comprised of points gained on five components - skating skills, transition, performance and execution, choreography and interpretation. The program component scores range from 0.25 to 10.0 and range from very poor to outstanding. It evaluates overall skating quality, difficulty and quality of steps linking the elements, style and originality.
Figure skating made its Olympic debut at the London 1908 Summer Games and appeared later at the Antwerp 1920 Games. It became an official Olympic Winter Games sport at the inaugural Winter Games in Chamonix 1924 and has remained on the program ever since. It is the only winter sport to have mixed competitions. The ice dancing competition was added at Innsbruck 1976.
One of the superstars of the Winter Olympics was Sonja Henie, who at just 11 years of age, made her Olympic debut finishing eighth at Chamonix 1924. Four years later she returned to win her first of three consecutive gold medals.