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Reuters, Published February 17 2014

Ice skating: How is it judged?

A breakdown of the jumps and judging system for the women's singles figure skating competition at the Sochi Winter Olympics.

Toeloop - Take off is from a back outside edge and landing is on the same back outside edge. The toeloop is the jump most commonly attempted among women and is often tagged on to a more difficult jump in combination. It is considered the easiest because skaters use their toe-picks to lift off and once airborne, their hips are already facing the direction in which they will rotate.

Since Canadian Kurt Browning was credited with producing the first legal quadruple jump among the men in 1988, France's Surya Bonaly made several attempts to nail the quad toeloop in women's competition but never pulled off a clean landing following four full rotations.

Salchow - Named after inventor Ulrich Salchow, the take off is from a back inside edge and lands on the back outside edge of the opposite foot. In 2002, Japan's Miki Ando became the first woman to land a quad jump, a Salchow. That is still the only time a woman has successfully performed a quad in competition.

Loop - Take off is from the back outside edge and landing on the same back outside edge.

Flip - Take off is from a back inside edge and landing is on the back outside edge of the opposite foot.

Lutz - Named after Alois Lutz, a toepick-assisted jump where the take off is from a back outside edge and landing is on the back outside edge of the opposite foot.

Axel - Named after Axel Paulsen, it is the only jump where the skater launches into it going forward. Take off is from the forward outside edge and landing is on the back outside edge of the opposite foot.

It is considered to be the most difficult triple jump as it has an extra 180-degree rotation. Hence while other triple jumps involve three revolutions, a triple Axel has 3-1/2 rotations. In 1988 Japan's Midori Ito was the first woman to execute a triple Axel but it is rarely performed by women even today.

Mao Asada was the first female to land three triple Axels in the same competition at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics but in Sochi, she messed up the jump in the team competition.

JUDGING

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 an accumulative points system.

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There are two parts to judging in figure skating, a technical panel decides what has been performed (ie base value/difficulty). Competitors get a score for attempting a move, no matter how well, or badly, it is performed.

Skaters are then give 'grade of execution' score depending on how well, or badly, each element was performed. Points ranging from +3 to -3 are given.

Hence if a jump has a base difficulty value of 10, skaters can end up with seven points for the element if they messed up the landing or 13 points if the landing was perfect.

The skaters are also judged on five elements - choreography, skating skills, transition, execution, and interpretation. Marks can be deducted for illegal moves, time violations etc.

A computer randomly selects the scores awarded by seven of nine judges. Of those scores, the lowest and highest are discarded and the remaining five are used for a final score.

The marks of all nine judges are displayed, so they do not know whether or not their marks contributed to the final total.

In the women's competition, Olympic champion Kim Yuna holds the record score for short program (78.50), free skate (150.06) and total (228.56) - all achieved at the 2010 Vancouver Games.