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2018 Winter Olympics: Understanding figure skating

This sport was an Olympic event before there were Winter Games

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Figure skating was first contested in the 1908 Summer Olympics in London, but has been part of the Winter Games since the first in 1924.

Dating back to the 1700s, figure skating has evolved over the years. Figure skating in its contemporary form emerged in the 19th century. Its popularity grew when competitions began to be broadcast following the widespread appearance of televisions in homes after World War II. 

The first night of women's figure skating in the 1994 Winter Olympics had more viewers than that year's Super Bowl

Figure skating returns to the Winter Games in Pyeongchang. Five events will be held in the Gangneung Ice Arena. Events are similar, however the manner in which they are scored is different. 

Short program

Team men's date: Feb. 9, 10 a.m.
Team women dates: Feb. 11, 10 a.m.

Team pair date: Feb. 9, 10 a.m.
Pair skating date: Feb. 14, 10 a.m.

Team ice dance date: Feb. 11, 10 a.m.
Ice dance date: Feb. 19, 10 a.m.

Men's singles date: Feb. 16, 10 a.m.
Women's singles date: Feb. 21, 10 a.m.

Here's how it works:

The short competition, formerly known as the technical and the original programs, has rounds lasting a maximum of two minutes and 50 seconds. The ice dance can last between two minutes and 40 seconds and three minutes.

Music genre is dictated by the International Skating Union and for the 2018 Winter Games, dancers must skate to music from the Rhumba genre -- a style of ballroom music strongly influenced by big band and Afro-Cuban rhythms. New to this year's games is the ability of skaters to chose music that has lyrics. 

Contestants receive two scores; the technical element score and the program component score. The technical score is based on the difficulty and skill of the performance, and the program component score is based on creativity and presentation. These two scores are added together for the final score.

For the technical element score, a panel of nine judges are used to identify each element and its details used in the performance. Elements identified include jumps, lutz, flips, the number of spins used in a jump, the quality of a jump's landing and more.

Spins and footwork are assigned a score between one and four, with higher scores given to spins performed in a more difficult manner. A second score is calculated with each element on a grade of -3 to +3. The highest and lowest grades are dropped and the remaining seven scores are averaged together. The two different scores are added together, becoming the technical element score.

The program component score is judged on the overall program, rather than individual elements. The judges will rate five components on a scale of 0.25-10. The components rated are skating skills, transitions, performance, composition and interpretation. These five numbers are averaged together. The final component score is calculated by taking the average and multiplying it by 1 for the men's event and 0.8 for women and pair events.

For the short ice dance event's program component score, there are multipliers added to each individual component, rather than the average of the five. Skating skills and choreography are multiplied by 0.8, transitions and execution are multiplied by 0.7, and interpretation is multiplied by 1. After the multiplication modifiers are added to each component, the five scores are rounded to two decimal places and added together.

The technical element score and program component score are added together, with potential deductions  made for going over time, costume violations, falls and other factors.

This final number is the score used to rank skaters and determine medal winners. 

Free skate

Team men's date: Feb. 12, 10 a.m.
Team women's date: Feb. 12, 10 a.m.

Team pair date: Feb. 11, 10 a.m.
Pair skating date: Feb 15, 10:30 a.m.

Team ice dance date: Feb 12, 10 a.m.
Ice dance date: Feb. 20, 10 a.m.

Men's singles date: Feb. 17, 10 a.m.
Women's singles date: Feb. 23, 10 a.m.

Here's how it works:

For the women's event, free skate can last between three minutes and 50 seconds to four minutes and 10 seconds. For men's and pairs events, it can last between four minutes and 20 seconds to four minutes and 40 seconds. The ice dance can last between two minutes and 40 seconds and three minutes.

Free dance has no mandatory music genre to which skaters must choreograph their routine, but the music is required to be "colorful" and "entertaining." 

Scoring for free skate's technical element score is treated the same way as short programs, but the multiplication for the components in the program component score is done differently. Men's free skate event averaged components are multiplied by 2, while pairs and women's free skate averaged components are multiplied by 1.6.

Similar to the short program, free skate dance event's program component score have multipliers added to each individual component, rather than the average of the five. Skating skills are multiplied by 1.25, transitions are multiplied by 1.75, and execution, choreography and interpretation are multiplied by 1. After the multiplication modifiers are added to each component, the five scores are rounded to two decimal places and added together.

The technical element score and program component score are added together, with potential deductions  made for going over time, costume violations, falls, and more.

This final number is the score that skaters will ranked and awarded medals with. 

Gala exhibition

Date: Feb. 25, 9:30 a.m.

Here's how it works:

Many figure skating competitions end in a noncompetitive gala exhibition, and the Winter Games are no exception.

Free of the stress of competing, the Gala Exhibition is a more lighthearted showcase where the winners can let their hair down and skate in a manner that appeals to them to burn off steam.

You can see a highlight reel of the 2014 Winter Games' figure skating Gala Exhibition on the official Olympics YouTube page here.