Figure Skating Elements: Upright and layback spins

There are three main categories of spins in figure skating: upright spins, camel spins, and sit spins. This post will cover upright spins. Upright spins are defined as spins with at least one extended leg on the ice and the body in a more-or-less upright position. (This gets murky when you get variations that are a cross between camel and upright spins.) Laybacks are scored as a separate element from other upright spins; they are marked as LSp on protocols while general upright spins are marked as USp.

There are many, many, many variations on spin positions in skating; in fact, coming up with interesting positions and combinations is one way to get higher levels on spins. (A common criticism of the judging system is that it encourages weird or ugly spin positions in the name of difficulty and gaining points.) It’s impossible to account for all of the variations out there, so I’ve only gifed some common positions and famous variations. There are many more possibilities than presented in this post.

Scratch spin: One of the most basic upright spins. Taka begins spinning on one foot, then brings his arms and free leg inwards and crosses his legs at the ankle, gaining angular momentum all the while.

Biellmann spin: Usually only done by women because most men lack the flexibility to do this spin (though some male skaters like Michael Christian Martinez can do a nice Biellmann). A Biellmann spin is defined as a spin with the free foot extended over and behind the head. The classic Biellmann position looks like a teardrop, while a hyperextended Biellmann has a straighter free leg. In the gifs above Mao performs a one-handed and two-handed Biellmann and Julia performs a hyperextended Biellmann with her hands on her leg instead of her skate blade. A half-Biellmann is a murkily-defined spin that is somewhere between a full Biellmann and a catchfoot camel. Here is Mao doing a half-Biellmann (in this case it would probably be an upright spin because her torso is mostly upright instead of parallel to the ice):

Layback spin: Another spin position usually done by women, and iconic of ladies’ figure skating. (Adam Rippon has a really nice catchfoot layback though.) In the layback position, the skater’s back is arched and the head and shoulders dropped back. The classic “attitude” layback has the free leg extended back and outwards and the arms held in a circle above the skater’s body. Mirai does a gorgeous example of a classic layback in the gif above. In Zijun’s layback position, her legs are closer together and her arms are held to the side instead of above her body. In a catchfoot layback, the skater’s back is arched in a layback position and they hold their free foot with one or both hands. Mao performs a one-handed catchfoot layback while Caroline holds her free foot in her signature "Pearl" spin, which looks like a horizontal Biellmann. The haircutter is another layback variation where the free foot is brought towards the skater’s head, as demonstrated by Akiko. The haircutter is usually seen as a transition between the layback and Biellmann positions.

Y-spin: Mao’s free leg is held in a split to the side of her body, and her legs and torso create a “Y” shape. She holds her leg by the ankle, but some skaters hold their leg by the skate blade.

I-spin: Sasha’s free leg is pulled up in a split in front of her body, creating an “I” shape with her legs and torso. A shotgun spin is like an incomplete I-spin, with the free leg held straight in front of the body. Personally I think it looks ugly as hell and I didn’t gif it, but here’s a picture.

A-spin: A strange-looking spin where the skater sticks their butt into the air the skater bends over at the waist and grasps their ankle while extending their other leg out to create an “A” shape with their legs. Usually only men do this spin.


Figure Skating Elements: Triple-triple combinations

Now that you are all experts on the basic types of jumps, here is a post about combinations, specifically, triple-triple combos!

In a jump combination, the landing edge of one jump is the takeoff edge of the next jump. A skater cannot have two feet on the ice in between the jumps of a combo. Assuming that the skater lands on their right foot, all jumps land on the outside edge of the right foot. Thus, the second jump in a combo is almost always a toeloop or loop because those two jumps take off on the outside edge of the right foot. The first jump in a combo can be any of the six types of jumps. The base value of a combo is the sum of the base values of the jumps in the combo. So a 3F-3Lo is worth more than a 3F-3T, and a 3Lz-3T is worth more than a 3S-3T, and so on.

In triple-triple combinations, the second jump is usually a toeloop because it is difficult to fully rotate a triple loop in the second half of the combo. However, I have included some loop combos in this post for variety’s sake. Triple-triple combos are kind of a big deal in ladies’ skating because they are some of the most difficult and valuable elements for them, which is why I decided to focus on ladies in this post. Obviously, men can do these combos too. Midori Ito is the only woman to have done a 3A-3T combo; usually only men do this combo.

3T-3T: First toeloop takes off on the outside edge of Kanako’s right foot, left toepick used to launch, lands on the outside edge of her right foot. Left leg swings back to launch for the second 3T.

3F-3T: Flip takes off on the inside edge of Zijun’s left foot, right toepick used to launch, lands on the outside edge of her right foot. Left leg swings back to launch for the 3T.

3Lz-3T: Lutz takes off on the outside edge of Yuna’s left foot, right toepick used to launch, lands on the outside edge of her right foot. Left leg swings back to launch for the 3T.

3S-3T: Salchow takes off on the inside edge of Haruka’s left foot, lands on the outside edge of her right foot. Left leg swings back to launch for the 3T.

3Lo-3T: Loop takes off on the outside edge of Elena’s right foot, lands on the outside edge of her right foot. Left leg swings back to launch for the 3T.

3A-3T: Axel takes off from the forward outside edge of Han’s left foot, lands on the back outside edge of his right foot. Left leg swings back to launch for the 3T.

3Lo-3Lo: First loop takes off from the outside edge of Caroline’s right foot, lands on the outside edge of her right foot. She immediately takes off again from her right outside edge for the second loop, no toepick assistance in between.

3F-3Lo: Flip takes off from the inside edge of Mao’s left foot, right toepick used to launch, lands on the outside edge of her right foot. Immediate takeoff from the right outside edge for the loop, no toepick assistance in between.

3Lz-3Lo: Lutz takes off from the outside edge of Adelina’s left foot, right toepick used to launch, lands on the outside edge of her right foot. Immediate takeoff from the right outside edge for the loop, no toepick assistance in between. Notice that her lutz is slightly flutzy.

Conclusion: If there’s a bit of a delay between the two jumps and you can see the skater swing a leg back to toepick into the ice, the second jump is a toeloop. If there’s no delay or toepicking between the two jumps, the second jump is a loop. The first jump can be anything, and you should observe its entry to identify it.


this montage makes us figure skaters look badass


Caroline Zhang in black, for the ever-inspirational scandiumsportstrunttriples!

2010 US Nationals practice session (x), 2012 Four Continents LP (x), 2011 US Nationals SP (x), 2013 US Nationals LP (x), 2012 Four Continents SP (x) and 2013 Skate America SP (x).

                           Phantom of the Opera Watchpost

Robin Cousins, 1990

Rudy Galindo, 1992

Brian Boitano, 1993

Maria Butyrskaya, 1994

Kovarikova and Novotny, 1995

Ina and Zmmerman, 1999

Alexei Urmanov, 1999 - by far the most (over)dramatic one, thanks to the costume and props:) oh, and there’s another version of this program, with a mask

Pang and Tong, 2004 and 2006

Drobiazko and Vanagas, 2006

Daisuke Takahashi, 2007

Yukari Nakano, 2009

Chock and Zuerlein, 2009

Davis and White, 2010

Weaver and Poje, 2010

Patrick Chan, 2011

Sinitsina and Zhiganshin, 2011

Denney and Coughlin, 2012

Elene Gedevanishvili, 2012

Akiko Suzuki, 2014

Riazanova and Tkachenko, 2013

Caroline Zhang, 2014

I don’t like musicals and I’m not a fan of POTO but, to be honest, if I had to pick my favorite program to this music, I couldn’t, there are a few I really enjoy watching - Takahashi, Chan, Suzuki, D/W, C/Z. What’s your favorite program to POTO?


Figure Skating Elements: Sit spins and combination spins

Time to refresh you memories on upright and layback spins and camel spins because here’s the final installment of the spin intro posts - sit spins! (And combination spins, but we’ll get to those in a second.) Sit spins are denoted as “SSp” on protocols and are defined as spins where the skating leg is bent so that the thigh is at least parallel to the ice. Basically, it looks like the skater is squatting down while spinning. There are numerous variations in sit spin positions and most of them don’t have names. I’ve only included some common and famous variations in this post. Both men and women can do some of these positions.

Basic sit spin: Sasha’s skating leg is bent and her free leg is extended in front of her.

Sit spin variations: The free leg can be bent, the torso can be twisted, and the arms can be in various positions.

Flying sit spin: Stephane “jumps” into the spin. This particular flying entrance is called a death drop. Flying sit spins appear as “FSSp” on protocols. Flying entrances are common for camel and sit spins, not so common for upright spins. A “hop” in the middle of a sit spin is another way to do a flying sit spin.

Pancake spin: A sit spin variation where the free leg is crossed on top of the thigh of the skating leg and the torso is bent over it. Mao’s arms are above her back in this example; if the skater’s arms are holding their skating leg instead, it is known as a cannonball spin.

Keep reading


These are podiums at Jr. Worlds 2007. Just to get the idea how drastically can everything change for a skater when he moves from junirs to seniors.

1. Bobrova/Soloviev 2. Grethe Grunberg/Kristjan Rand (they were very promising Estonian team, but she had to retire due to injury in 2008; he skated with Caitlin Mallory for a season, then didn’t come back to competitions) 3. WeaPo

1. Zhang 2. Nagasu 3. Wagner

1. Carriere 2. Chan 3. Voronov (there were times when Stephen Carriere beat Chiddy)

1. McLaughlin/Brubaker 2. Bazarova/Larionov 3. Krasilnokova/Bezmaternykh (they won Jr.Worlds in 2008 but she retired in 2010 due to injury; he tried to skate with 3 other partners but without much success)