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New Season New Rules: Changes from the ISU’s 57th Congress

figure skating

The International Skating Union (ISU) held its 57th annual Ordinary Congress in Sevilla, Spain, marking a pivotal moment for the future of figure skating, speed skating, and ice dance. With over 350 delegates from around the world, the Congress deliberated on more than 400 proposals, leading to significant changes that will shape the sport for years to come.

Key Takeaways

  • The Grade of Execution (GOE) scale now ranges from -5 to +5, allowing for more nuanced judging of technical elements.
  • Men’s and pairs’ long programs have been shortened, aligning their duration with other disciplines and affecting the number of jumping passes.
  • Limitations on repeating triple or quadruple jumps and adjustments to their base values will impact skaters’ technical strategies.
  • The short dance is rebranded as “rhythm dance,” with new pattern dances and technical elements introduced.
  • The use of mobile devices by officials is banned to maintain focus, and medal presentations now follow the Olympic order.

Major Overhauls in Figure Skating

One of the most talked-about changes is the adjustment to the Grade of Execution (GOE) scores. Previously, judges had a seven-point scale, from -3 to +3, to grade each technical element. This scale has now been expanded to an 11-point range, from -5 to +5, allowing for a more nuanced assessment of skaters’ performances. This change means that to achieve the highest GOE, skaters must excel in nearly all aspects of the element, while falls will automatically result in the lowest possible score.

The structure of competitive programs has also been modified. Men’s and pairs’ long programs have been shortened by 30 seconds, aligning them with the duration of ladies’ and free dance programs. This adjustment necessitates a reduction in the number of jumping passes for men, from eight to seven, and eliminates the solo/combination spin in pairs skating.

Adjustments to Jump Rules and Scoring

Jump Rules - Figure Skating

Significant changes have been made to the scoring of jumps. Skaters in singles competitions are now limited to repeating only two triple or quadruple jumps in the free skate, with further restrictions on the repetition of four-revolution jumps. Additionally, the base value of the triple Axel and quadruple jumps has been decreased, reflecting a shift in how the technical difficulty of these elements is valued.

The “Zagitova Rule” introduces a new bonus structure for jumps performed in the second half of programs, aiming to encourage skaters to distribute their technical elements more evenly throughout their performances.

Ice Dance Innovations

ice dance - figure skating

The ice dance discipline will see some of the most profound changes. The short dance has been rebranded as the “rhythm dance,” though the technical requirements remain largely the same. This renaming better reflects the nature of the competition, focusing on the rhythmic interpretation of music.

Judging for twizzles has been individualized, with each skater receiving a separate GOE score, which are then combined for a total element score. Additionally, three new pattern dances have been introduced, alongside new technical elements designed to enhance the creativity and expressiveness of performances.

Embracing Technology and Tradition

The Congress also addressed the role of technology, banning the use of mobile devices by officials during competitions to maintain focus and impartiality. In a nod to tradition, the order of medal presentations has been aligned with Olympic standards, now proceeding from bronze to gold.

Looking Forward

Figure Skater

These changes, effective from the 2018/19 season, reset all previous statistics, marking a fresh start for the sport. The ISU’s commitment to evolving with the sport’s development is clear, as these adjustments aim to enhance the fairness and excitement of competition, encouraging athletes to push the boundaries of what is possible on ice.

As the new rules take effect, the world of figure skating, speed skating, and ice dance enters a new era, promising to bring even more thrilling performances and unforgettable moments to fans around the globe.

The Impact on Athletes and Coaches

For athletes and coaches, the new rules signify a shift in training focus. The expanded GOE scale demands a higher level of precision and artistry, pushing skaters to perfect every aspect of their performance. The reduction in program length and the limitation on jump repetitions will require a strategic rethinking of routines to maximize scoring potential while adhering to the new constraints.

The adjustments in ice dance highlight the ISU’s effort to spotlight this discipline’s unique blend of technical skill and artistic expression. The introduction of new pattern dances and technical elements encourages innovation and creativity, allowing teams to showcase their interpretative skills and connection to the music.

Adapting to Change

Figure Skating - Adopting to the new rules

As the figure skating community adjusts to these changes, the initial seasons under the new rules will likely be a period of experimentation and adaptation. Skaters will test the limits of the revised scoring system, exploring new ways to captivate judges and audiences alike.

Coaches will revise training programs to align with the updated technical requirements, emphasizing the development of elements that can achieve the highest GOEs under the new scale.


How will the expanded GOE scale affect skaters’ scores?

The expanded scale offers judges a broader range to assess the quality of elements, potentially leading to more differentiated scores that better reflect the nuances of each performance.

Why were program lengths adjusted, and what impact will this have?

Program lengths were adjusted to standardize competition formats across disciplines, likely leading to more strategic choreography and element selection to maximize scores within the shorter timeframe.

What is the significance of the “Zagitova Rule”?

Named after Alina Zagitova, this rule modifies the bonus structure for jumps in the second half of programs, encouraging strategic placement of technical elements to enhance scoring potential.

How do the new rules in ice dance promote creativity?

By introducing new pattern dances and allowing for more creative technical elements like the choreographic sliding movement, the rules aim to enhance the artistic and interpretive aspects of ice dance.

What are the implications of banning mobile devices for officials?

This measure aims to ensure officials’ undivided attention during competitions, promoting fairness and integrity in judging.


The ISU’s 57th Congress has introduced significant rule changes that will shape the future of figure skating, ice dance, and speed skating. By refining the judging system and updating competition formats, these changes aim to enhance the fairness, excitement, and artistic expression of the sport.

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