Figure skating is a highly competitive Olympic sport and is scored based on a complex set of points awarded to the figure skaters. The scoring system, called the International Judging System, or IJS for short, is the newest scoring system to eliminate any subjectivity and/or favoritism from the judges. The IJS is composed of two separate numerical scores, the technical score and the program components, and then they are added together to create the segment score. Figure skaters perform two segments, the short program and the free skate (long program). The two segment scores for each skater are combined to create the competition score, and the skater with the highest competition score is the winner.
The technical score is all about the moves, or elements, that the skater performs on ice. Each element has a base value assigned to it based on the level of difficulty. The base values range from a score of 1 to 4, with 4 being rated as the most difficult element to execute. After the figure skater performs the element, the judges also rate the execution of it, awarding or deducting 5 points to or from the base value. This is referred to as the Grade of Execution, or GOE. The highest and lowest scores of the GOE given by judges for each element are not taken into consideration as they are considered outliers, and the rest of the GOE's from the judges are averaged for a final GOE for each element. The final GOE and the base value of each element performed by the skater are combined to determine the technical score.
The program components focus on the overall presentation of the performance. The program components consist of five criteria that are judged: skating skills, transitions/linking footwork & movement, performance/execution, choreography/composition, and interpretation of music.
Skating skills focus on the quality of the skating and the flow and control from the skater. This includes the skaters turns, steps, and speed on the ice. Transitions/linking footwork & movement is about how smooth and fluid the skater connects each technical element with one another. The performance/execution is determined by how well the skater can physically, emotionally, and intellectually translate music and choreography to the judges and audience. The choreography/composition is about having the figure skater adhere to the original, intended moves of the whole performance listed in the figure skater's program or if the figure skater makes up elements on the ice. Lastly, interpretation is about how the music of the performance coincides with the skater's movement on the ice.
Each component gets a score between 0 and 10, staying in .25 increments. The highest and lowest scores of each component are taken out to reduce great fluctuations in the score, and the rest of the program components from the judges are averaged. To evenly balance the technical element score with the program components, the program components are multiplied by a specific set factor to ensure the equality between the two.
Scores in figure skating can go all across the board, however, there is a general range that men's figure skaters and women's figure skaters aim to reach. For the men's figure skaters, earning a total competition score around 300 points will put the skater in a good position to earn a medal. For the women's figure skaters, earning around 230 points as the total competition score is a great number that should land the skater on the podium as well.
The highest score that a judge can award in the program components section is a 10 for each section, resulting in 50 points. It is difficult to determine the highest score a judge can award for the technical score because it depends on the elements chosen by the skater and the execution of it. Overall, the highest score awarded was to Nathan Chen in 2019, earning a 335.30 score.
Ice dancing falls under the category of figure skating, so it also uses the International Judging System. Ice dancing, however, focuses more on the precision of their movements, rather than stunts, and the music choice is more upbeat than figure skating to accommodate more dancing abilities.
The highest score awarded to a female figure skater in the short program is 85.45 points to Alena Kostornaia in 2019. The highest score awarded to a male figure skater in the short program is 111.82 by Yuzuru Hanyu in 2020. Figure skaters are always trying to outbeat one another in every competition, resulting in many changes to the record books.