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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Pair skaters Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy.

Pair skating is a figure skating discipline. International Skating Union (ISU) regulations describe pair teams as consisting of "one lady and one man." The teams perform both singles elements in unison and elements such as acrobatic lifts that are unique to pair skating, with the goal of giving an impression of "two skating as one". Pair skating is difficult because achieving this degree of unison requires similar technique and timing on all elements of the performance, as well as practice and trust between the partners. Pair skaters perform all of the same elements as singles skaters, with a few extra elements, such as lifts, that set the discipline apart from simply being two singles skaters skating together.


Pair skating elements

A throw jump in mid-air

Note: Women are referred to as "ladies" in ISU regulations.

  • Throw jump - a move in which the man assists the lady into the air and she lands on her own. Throw jumps can be done with any of the jump takeoffs, done as doubles, triples, or quadruples for elite pair teams. The toe loop and salchow are considered the easiest jumps while the loop and flip are more difficult; the most difficult throw jump is the axel. The most difficult throw jump that has been completed in competition is the throw triple axel jump. It was first performed by Rena Inoue and John Baldwin Jr at the 2006 U.S. Figure Skating Championships. It was first performed in international competition at the 2006 Winter Olympics.
  • Pair spin- a spin in which the two spin around a common axis while holding each other. The additional balance obtained by holding onto a partner allows pair skaters to obtain spin positions that would be difficult or impossible for a singles skater to achieve.
  • Death spiral - a move in which the man performs a pivot while swinging the lady around on a deep edge in a position almost horizontal to the ice.
  • Lift - lifts are categorized by the grip and position used to initially lift the lady over the man's head. For example, in a hip lift, the man lifts the lady with his hand on her hip, and a press lift uses a hand-to-hand grip. The hardest type of lift is considered to be the Axel lasso lift, in which the lady rotates a full turn while she is lifted by the man in a hand-to-hand grip. In normal lifts, the man performs turns on the ice before setting the lady down; a carry lift, by contrast, is a lift without rotation.
  • Twist lift - a move that begins with the man assisting the lady in an Axel or toe-assisted jump where she rotates and is caught mid-air by the man, who then places her down back on the ice. Double and triple twist lifts are commonly seen at the elite level; the first quadruple twist lift was performed by Marina Cherkasova and Sergei Shakrai at the 1977 European Championship.
  • Side-by-side elements include: jumps, spins, and step sequences. Keeping in line with "two skating as one", the quality of a side-by-side element is not evaluated by an average of each skater's completion. Instead, skaters should begin a side-by-side element together, maintain unison and close proximity to each other throughout, and finish together. Pairs sometimes shout auditory cues to their partner in order to maintain and adjust their timing throughout a side-by-side element.

Illegal elements

Kyoko Ina and John Zimmerman perform a one-handed "detroiter"

Some pair skating maneuvers are banned from Olympic-eligible skating due to their high risk of serious injury to the skaters. Illegal elements warrant deductions in both the 6.0 and ISU Judging System. These moves are only performed in exhibitions or professional competition.

  • A headbanger or bounce spin is performed by the man swinging the lady around with both of her feet off the ice, supported only by the man's grip on her ankle. The lady is elevated and lowered during the spin in a periodic fashion, sometimes with her head coming dangerously close to skimming the ice.
  • A Detroiter is performed by the man lifting the lady over his head, holding her parallel to the ice while he is in a two-foot spin. The hold is the most dangerous part of the spin because the man is supporting the lady only by her legs. This move is also performed in more dramatic and dangerous fashion with a one-handed hold.

Other illegal maneuvers include:

  • somersault type jumps
  • lifts with wrong holds
  • lifts with more than 3 ½ revolutions of the man
  • spinning movements in which the man swings the lady around in the air while holding her hand or foot
  • twist-like or rotational movements during which the lady is turned over with her skating foot leaving the ice
  • rotational movements with the grip of one of the partners on the leg, arm and neck of the other partner
  • jumps of one of the partners towards the other partner
  • lying and prolonged and/or stationary kneeling on both knees on the ice at any moment


A similar pair performing a throw jump.
  • Mirror skating is a term similar to mirror pairs, but can apply to movements other than jumps and spins. The pair team of Andrée and Pierre Brunet are credited with first performing this kind of movement.[1]
  • Shadow skating occurs when the pair performs the same movements without touching one another.
  • A similar pair is a pair team made up of two men or two women. The opposite of a mixed pair. Similar pairs do not compete in ISU events.


  • Smith, Beverley. Figure Skating: A Celebration. ISBN 0-7710-2819-9.
  • Rossano, George. Mechanics of Lifts.


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