This section is worth 20 per cent of the event and was introduced in the 1972-3 season.
Skaters were then required to perform six elements -now extended to seven.
Those selected for the 1984 Olympic season were:
1. Double flip jump
2. Double axel jump
3. A two-jump combination with either the first or second jump a double loop.
This can be combined with the same jump or any other double or triple jump.
4. A death drop in which there must be at least six rotations in the back sit spin.
5. A change foot camel spin with at least five revolutions on each foot.
6. A spin with a combination of positions and a change of foot.
7. A straight-line step sequence.
8. These may be performed in any order to music of the skater's choice.
There is no minimum time limit but the seven elements must be completed in two minutes.
Skaters who make a mistake in one of the elements are not allowed to try the move again.
This puts great pressure on the top competitors. in the 1973 World Championship Janet Lynn
buckled under the pressure and made major errors on three elements.
She was placed twelfth in this section, a generous assessment, and finished second overall in
what was her last amateur competitive appearance.
Two marks are given for the short programme. The first is for the required elements, with specific deductions for mistakes. The second is for presentation. Unlike the free skating, there is often a wide disparity between the two marks. A high second mark is frequently used to keep the favourite in contention even when that skater has performed badly.
A skating blade is curved from front to back. This curvature is called a radius and it is because of this, and because the blade has two edges, that figure skating is possible. All school figures are variations on the basic figure eight in which the skater does a circle on one foot, returning to the point at which he set out, and then does a circle on the other foot, ending up by having drawn an eight on the ice.
The blade actually causes the ice under it to melt because of the pressure it exerts. As soon as it has passed the ice refreezes, but a track or tracing remains. If the skater is not on one edge, but on the flat of the blade, two parallel lines will appear on the ice. This is one of the worst faults in figure skating.
The other main fault is to put the free foot down except when specifically striking onto the other foot.
This incurs a penalty of 1.0 out of the maximum of 6.0.
Top-level skaters almost never make this mistake so there was a gasp of amazement when the defending American World champion, Charlie Tickner, did so in the loop figure in the 1979 World Championship. He ended up fourth, mainly because of that. Alexander Fadeev, USSR, did the same in the rocker figure in the 1983 European Championship.
The circles are expected to have a diameter of three times the skaters height. The bigger a figure is the more it is appreciated by the judges. Vladimir Kovalev, USSR, the 1977 and 1979 World champion, executed huge figures. In spite of Cousins's six-foot stance, his figures were very small, a factor which counted against him. Loop figures are a third of the size of the other school figure but again bigness is desirable.