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 airthe 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.
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