Competitive Figure Skating FAQ:
Introduction and Netiquette

This article is part of the FAQ list for (amateur) competitive figure skating. This section covers an introduction to and netiquette for that group.

This FAQ list was formerly posted monthly to You can get to the HTML version from SkateWeb at URL:

Table of Contents

[1] What is all about?

Here is the official charter for this newsgroup:

This group provides a forum for discussion of amateur and professional figure/artistic skating, including figures, freestyle, pairs, dance, and precision team skating. Articles from both participant and spectator or fan perspectives are appropriate in this group.

Appropriate topics for discussion in this group include: amateur and professional skating competitions and exhibitions; activities of competitive and professional skaters; rules and organizations governing the sport of figure skating; and equipment, technique, training, and instruction issues.

While the primary focus is figure/artistic skating on ice, discussion of corresponding inline or roller skating topics is not precluded.

[2] I'm a participant skater. Should I post in or

There's some overlap in between the groups, and where to post depends on your skill level, your own attitude about your skating, and the specific topic you want to post about. The recreational skating group is the place to discuss topics related to learning to skate and basic skills. Discussion of more advanced technique and topics relating to testing or competing are welcome in Cross-posting is acceptable for articles relevant to both groups.

It's a good idea to "lurk" for a while in either group before you post. This way you will get an idea of the appropriate topics and style of discussion in each group.

[3] What FAQ lists are there for this group, and where can I find them?

This article is the first of five FAQ lists devoted to competitive figure skating:

You may also be interested in the FAQ lists for the other groups in the hierarchy:

FAQ lists are posted periodically (usually monthly) to the relevant newsgroups, as well as to news.answers. You can also get copies of all Usenet FAQ lists by anonymous FTP from host, or by WWW from URL

You can also get to the skating-related FAQ lists from the Figure Skating WWW Page at URL

[4] How do I read and post to

Usenet news is a protocol for exchanging messages between computers, not a message board or mailing list. The normal way to access Usenet newsgroups is by using a news reader to connect to a news server.

Many web browsers (such as Netscape Communicator) include a built-in news reader. If your browser supports news and you have configured it correctly (your ISP should provide you with a name of a Usenet news server to connect to), you can use the URL

There are also several standalone Usenet news reader programs you can use. Some of the more popular ones are Gnus, Pine, and Tin.

Nearly all major ISPs (including AOL, Earthlink, Prodigy, etc) provide access to a Usenet server as part of their standard packages. If your ISP doesn't, you can sign up for various commercial subscription Usenet services instead.

There are also some web page gateways that allow you to browse or search Usenet newsgroups, like the one at Google, and the special-purpose gateway at SkateWeb. And, you can get Usenet messages delivered to your mailbox by subscribing to the service offered by

Beward that the user interface provided by these gateways can be hard to use -- if you want to read the group regularly, you are better off getting a "real" news reader program, which will have features like threading and message filtering to make life easier for you.

You can post to using your news reader or the Google gateway.

[5] How do I find old articles from this newsgroup?

The default behavior of many news readers is to hide articles that you've already read. Read the documentation for your news reader (or ask your system administrator) to find out how to turn this off.

For a longer-term archive, try using the searchable Google archive (formerly Dejanews) at

[6] Help! What does [some jargon] mean?

Here are some general abbreviations used all over Usenet:

frequently asked questions
in my humble opinion
read the [friendly] manual (or FAQ list!)
by the way
laughing out loud
rolling on the floor laughing
the (imaginary) sound of someone being dropped in your killfile
And here are some terms specific to skating:

practice of compulsory figures (figure eights and so on); so called because each skater is assigned a "patch" of clean ice to work on.
"moves in the field"; a series of footwork patterns that are part of the USFSA test program for skaters. (In Canada, there is a similar test track called "skating skills".) Confusingly, the ISU has also adopted the name "moves in the field" to refer to the sequence of spirals, spread eagles, and other edge moves which is one of the requirements for a well-balanced long program.
Some people use this term incorrectly to refer to what is now called the "original dance". It used to be called the "original set pattern dance" and have significantly different rules.
synchronized skating
A competitive event where teams of skaters perform drill-team-like maneuvers on the ice, like pinwheels and intersecting lines. The emphasis is on footwork, maintaining precise formations, and doing complex transitions between formations. (This discipline was formerly known as "precision skating" in North America.)
Fours is to pairs what pairs is to singles skating. A fours team consists of two men and two women who execute singles and pairs elements in unison as well as death spirals, lifts, etc that involve all four members of the team. It used to be a regular competitive event up until 1950 or so, but is now seen primarily in exhibitions.
adagio skating
Show-style pair skating, with the emphasis on extended lifts and other "tricks" like Detroiters and head-bangers that aren't allowed in eligible competition, and little or none of the side-by-side jumps or spins that are expected in competitive-style pair skating.
A training technique developed by choreographer Uschi Keszler. The skaters do very deep edges in a near-horizontal position low to the ice, holding on to something like a water bottle to support themselves (hence the name). Several skaters, notably ice dancers Shae-Lynn Bourne & Victor Kraatz, have incorporated these movements into their competition and/or exhibition programs.
(verb) refers to medal-winning (or otherwise memorable) performances that are cut from the TV broadcast of an event; in honor of Michael Chack, whose bronze-medal free skate at 1993 US Nationals was "chacked". Can also be used reflexively; a skater who turns in a poor performance may chack himself out of a broadcast or competition, or alternatively be the victim of a "mercy chacking". Yet another usage of "chack" refers to pre-emption of an entire network skating broadcast by a local TV station.
a stunning upset by a comparatively unknown or unhyped skater who manages to turn in a spectacular performance at the best possible time. Also known as a wylie, rudy, or galindo, after more recent examples.
refers both to the act of tripping over one's toe picks and falling on one's face, and the cut/scar one gets on the chin by doing so; in honor of pair skater Mandy Woetzel, who had such a fall at the 1994 Olympics.
obsessed fans of particular skaters who have a habit of making interminable arguments to "prove" that their favorite is the greatest skater who ever lived. If their favorite ever loses a competition, the typical borg reaction is to construct elaborate conspiracy theories about how the event was rigged, claim that the rules or judges "discriminate" against their skater, and/or launch venomous attacks on all the other skaters in the event. This term was originally used to refer to a particularly obnoxious subset of Brian Boitano fans, but it's now being used in a more generic sense since other skaters have borgs, too. Note that "borg" refers to a group of people with a kind of collective hive mentality, not just individuals who go overboard in their fandom.
The "Champions on Ice" tour, also known as the "Tour of Champions" or the "Tom Collins Tour". It's the show that goes on a lengthy tour of the US following the world championships, featuring a large cast of both eligible and professional skaters. They also do a winter tour with only the professional skaters. This tour is produced by Tom Collins Enterprises.
"Stars on Ice". It's a major ice show that tours the US in the winter season, featuring a smaller ensemble cast of elite professional skaters. This tour is produced by IMG.
A nickname for the World Pro competition formerly produced by Dick Button's Candid Productions. For many years it was held annually in Landover, Maryland. Before Button sold the rights to this event, it both changed venue and became a rather bland pro event indistinguishable from any other made-for-TV competition.
A made-for-TV pro, pro-am, or invitational competition with "cheesy" irregular rules and judging. Generally includes all team-format competitions, competitions with celebrity judges, competitions where the skaters are paid appearance fees, and the like. (The term "cheesefest" particularly derives from one such event held in Wisconsin, land of cheese, which featured no rules and winners determined by polling the audience.)
Generic Female Ballad, the inevitable musical choice of far too many skaters. Less frequently used acronyms are GMB (Generic Male Ballad) or GMBS (Generic Male Broadway Song).
Stone-faced Asian Warrior (a reference to typical program choice of many male skaters rather than ethnicity).
cold spot
a solo exhibition program in the skaters' standard repertoire that they can perform in a variety of show situations (as opposed to programs choreographed specifically to fit the theme of a particular show).
puberty monster
normal teen-age growth spurts and weight gain, which can destroy the careers of young skaters who have problems adjusting their technique as they grow into their adult bodies.
Olympic Gold Medal
Olympic games (from the five rings)
The "Code of Points", the new judging system adopted by the ISU in 2004.
The "Grade of Execution" assigned by judges to elements under the CoP.
Technical terms for jumps, spins, etc. are defined in the Technical Elements FAQ.

[7] Is there any special netiquette for this group I should be aware of? is an unmoderated newsgroup, which means that nobody has to approve the articles you post before they appear. Instead, we rely on the voluntary cooperation of contributors to keep the signal-to-noise ratio high.

Here are some specific hints for being a good net.citizen. Don't be put off by the length of this list! Most of these suggestions are just common sense.

And, here are some reminders about general Usenet netiquette:

Finally, a word about a Usenet tradition that has taken on a life of its own in r.s.s.i.f: Godwin's Law. This started out as a general observation about Usenet culture: "As a Usenet discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one." There is a tradition in many newsgroups that dragging Hitler into an argument is a sure sign that all rational discussion of the topic has been exhausted, so the thread is over by common consent and whoever mentioned the Nazis has automatically lost whatever argument was in progress. In r.s.s.i.f, this has been taken one step further -- when an argument has degenerated into pointless name-calling, somebody will often post a followup mentioning Hitler in a tongue-in-cheek way just to signal the end of the discussion. "Basingstoke" has a similar use here. A thread is also considered to be over when it degenerates into a discussion about dance belts, and, as a special case, it is now generally agreed that any threads about Tonya Harding are over when Mike Tyson is mentioned.

[8] Don't you think Michelle should have beaten Tara at the Olympics?

This topic has already been discussed so much on the net that most people here have totally lost interest in reading any more about it. Anything worthwhile that could be said about the topic has already been said, over and over again. Please spare us any more!

The same goes for rehashing Nancy vs Oksana, "The Battle of the Brians", or any other close or controversial competition from the past. Generally, arguments about who "should have" won some competition (or complaints that your favorite skater "was robbed" of a medal) that continue for weeks, months, or even years afterwards are tedious and boring, and should be avoided.

Other recurring topics that have already been done to death:

[9] Is [skater X] gay? Are [skater Y] and [skater Z] involved off-ice?

Whether they're gay or straight, it's rude to post speculation or gossip about skaters' private lives or off-ice relationships. The consensus that has evolved over time in this newsgroup is that we don't discuss people's sexual orientation or personal life unless they have chosen to make some public statement about it themselves, or if it is otherwise a matter of public record (e.g., divorce or legal actions). If it would be rude to ask the skaters about it to their face, then it's rude to discuss it on the net.

Besides showing respect for the skaters' privacy, we also try to keep the focus of discussion here on skating rather than personal gossip about skaters. It's reasonable to discuss such things in the context of how it relates to the skater's artistic choices, or whether/how it affects their public image or the career opportunities they are offered or choose to pursue, but we have a low tolerance for gossip for its own sake.

You can find a list of skaters who are gay and who have chosen to discuss their orientation in public at

[10] Why are you people being so nasty and critical about all these wonderful skaters?

Critical discussion of what makes good and bad skating, in terms of both the technical and the entertainment or artistic aspects of the sport, is an essential purpose and function of We participate in this newsgroup because we enjoy serious discussion of these issues; and multiple points of view and diversity of opinion help to broaden our understanding of the sport in general.

Elite-level skaters are entertainers and public figures as well as athletes. Being judged and compared and viewed critically is all part of their job, the same as for performing artists in other fields. If skaters were so thin-skinned that they couldn't deal with public commentary on their work, they wouldn't be in this business at all.

Criticism is often part of discussions of why skaters didn't get better marks from the judges, or what they need to do to improve or be more competitive. Such discussion isn't intended to be insulting or disrespectful to the skaters. Besides, there are probably more articles here expressing praise, excitement, encouragement, or other positive opinions, than negative ones.

Sometimes people argue that we shouldn't express criticism of skaters unless we could do a better job ourselves. This isn't a very convincing argument. After all, figure skating judges qualify by demonstrating that they are skilled at watching and evaluating figure skating, not at doing it. It's possible to have a lot of technical knowledge about the sport even if you're physically incapable of doing it yourself. Moreover, we are all qualified to express our opinions on whether we find skaters' performances entertaining or satisfying from an artistic point of view.

Sometimes people are bothered by seeing criticism of skaters because they're more familiar with other online forums that have a more "fannish" orientation, and/or because it's their own favorite skater who is being criticized. If you want to try to argue that the criticism is mistaken, feel free to join the fray, but you're unlikely to convince anybody just by whining that all is not sweetness and light here.

On the other hand, nasty personal attacks directed at a skater's character -- as opposed to their skating -- are not appreciated in this newsgroup. Mindless "skater X sucks" or "I hate skater Y" articles are not appropriate here, either; beware of trolls.

[11] What's this about "trolls"?

A "troll" is a deliberate attempt to cause disruption or start a flame war by posting misinformation, personal attacks, or outrageous claims. People who post trolls want to stir people up and provoke a response, and the best way to deal with them is simply to ignore them. They'll go away if they don't get the reaction they want.

Notorious examples of past RSSIF "trolls" have ranged from fairly harmless fictions, such as the poster who claimed Nicole Bobek is Australian, Kristi Yamaguchi is Mexican, and so on; to people who have apparently taken great delight in making cruel, spiteful comments about other netters' personal tragedies. Articles containing rude remarks about the (presumed) sexual orientation, physical appearance, or off-ice behavior or "morals" of various skaters are almost always "trolls", too.

In general, be suspicious of articles that contain nothing but inflammatory, rude, and offensive comments about skating or skaters, that make accusations about conspiracies or have some other obvious non-skating, political agenda. Some other warning signs that an article may be a "troll" are if it's from an obvious "newbie" to the group who is apparently more interested in insulting people than in discussing the sport of skating, or if the same poster has flooded the newsgroup with dozens of articles which all contain the same kind of insults directed at the same skater(s) and/or newsgroup regulars. Again, it's better to let these threads die a quick death rather than to try to refute them.

[12] What other things are considered inappropriate here?

[13] Is there anything we can do to get rid of trolls and spammers?

In general, the best way to deal with SPAM, trolls, and other disruptive posts in the newsgroup is not to post follow-ups complaining about or responding to the inappropriate articles. (If you're looking for a newsgroup to discuss such problems in general, try

The easiest way to deal with persistent spammers and trolls is simply to ignore them. Most newsreaders support some form of filtering or killfiling by poster; read your help pages or other documentation to find out how to use it.

If someone is disrupting the newsgroup with inappropriate articles, you can also complain to their internet service provider or the Usenet news service they used to post the articles. (You'll need to examine the message headers to identify where the message originated; it doesn't always match the e-mail address.) Most ISPs have "terms of service" agreements prominently posted on their web sites that prohibit the use of their facilities for distributing SPAM, harassing or threatening others, and the like. Often these user contracts also prohibit disruptive or off-topic posting, or violating "community standards", in Usenet newsgroups and other online discussion forums. If you can't find an abuse complaint e-mailbox or other contact information listed on the ISP's web site, try an address of the form "". When you complain to an ISP in this way, it's important to include a copy of the abusive message with complete message headers, and to be explicit about why you think it violates their "terms of service" agreement. If the spammer/troll has a history or pattern of disrupting the newsgroup, be explicit about that, too. And, try to be polite, too.

[14] Can anybody send me a video tape of [some televised skating event]?

Be cautious about posting requests like this. Copying and shipping tapes is a hassle and it's unreasonable to expect random people on the net to do this for you as a favor. Also, keep in mind that making tapes of televised events for other than your own personal viewing is technically a copyright violation, and the more organized and large-scale your tape-copying activity is, the more likely you are to get into legal trouble for doing it.

Try to find tapes from commercial sources when possible. E.g., high-quality tapes of US Nationals, Skate America, Worlds, etc. are sold by Video Sports at 1-800-872-1996 or You can rent videotapes of many of these events by mail from the Skate Canada; contact them at 613-748-5635 (x2521) for a catalog. R&J Video at 209-476-0124 sells tapes of events including 1990, 1993, and 1996 US Nationals. Rainbo Sports at 1-800-752-8370 sells many popular commercial skating tapes.

One caveat: beware of commercial tapes produced by NBC Sports (such as their world championships compilations). The performances have been dubbed over with some horribly generic imitation music because NBC is too cheap or lazy to get the rights to the music originally used by the skaters.

Here are some other suggestions for tape-trading etiquette.

[15] Any hints for taking photographs at skating events?

First of all, do not ever use a flash for skating photography. You will be too far away from the skaters for it to make any difference for your pictures, and the flash could startle or blind the skaters and cause them to fall. If you have a cheap point-and-shoot camera that won't let you turn off the flash or adjust the exposure to take good pictures without one, you might as well leave it at home.

The TV lights used at skating competitions are very bright. Professional shows and competitions usually have lighting between f2.8 and f5.6 at 1/250 second on 800 speed film. One netter suggests taking a reading on white ice and then opening up two stops. Other netters report getting good pictures even on 400 speed film.

You will probably want to use a medium telephoto or zoom lens, e.g. 70-210mm. People who have tried using very long, heavy lenses and/or monopods at skating events report that it is too awkward to handle that much bulky equipment from the arena seats, and that you are also more likely to get hassled by the arena staff if you carry too much professional-looking photographic equipment with you.

Digital cameras are becoming very popular nowadays, but the 3x zoom lens and maximum 400 ISO rating on most low-end consumer models are not really adequate for skating photography. On the positive side, a digital camera makes it practical to shoot hundreds of photos at a time, even if only a fraction of them turn out well.

A web article with some good general information on sports photography can be found at

[16] What the heck is a "dance belt"?

It's the undergarment typically worn by male dancers and skaters to provide both support and a smooth appearance under their tights or pants. They're made of lycra and elastic and look like tight briefs in front, with a thong back.

Most female skaters don't wear any underwear at all under their costumes, by the way, although some do wear a bra and/or lycra body stocking for support. And the tights that female skaters wear are typically quite thick and completely opaque, not ordinary sheer nylon pantyhose women wear with dress clothing.

One other clothing-related note: the heavily beaded and sequinned competition costumes skaters wear are usually neither washable nor dry-cleanable. This is one reason why skaters usually get new costumes made every year!

[17] I'm going to be attending a competition! What should I wear?

Contrary to the impression you may get from seeing Dick Button and Peggy Fleming on TV, people attending skating events as spectators don't normally wear formal evening dress. Fur coats are also considered politically incorrect these days.

The best advice is to wear something comfortable and dress in layers so that you can adjust to whatever temperature the rink is. Large arenas are usually warm enough that you'll be comfortable in a long-sleeved shirt or sweater unless you are sitting right at ice level. On the other hand, practice rinks can be very cold and you'll probably want to wear a coat as well as a hat and gloves, and possibly even bring an afghan or blanket. Don't forget sensible footwear and warm socks, too.

Some other things you might want to bring with you to the competition: a water bottle, food, binoculars, a notebook and something to write with, and a tote bag to put all this stuff in. Note, though, that competition organizers and venues are becoming increasingly restrictive about what may be brought into the arena; backpack-style bags seem to be a particular source of trouble. It's best to check in advance about policies about what may be brought in, or restrictions on the size or type of bags.

[18] Can I visit [some rink] to watch skaters practicing?

Most rinks do not mind spectators at "regular" practice sessions, although private rentals may be closed and a few rinks that cater primarily to elite skaters discourage visitors. It's best to call in advance and ask. Be aware that, for security reasons, most rinks will not give out specific practice times for specific skaters.

It's also a good idea to check in at the rink office when you arrive, so that people will know why you are there. Sometimes skaters, coaches, and parents do worry that strangers at the rink may be stalkers or child molesters. If people seem to be regarding you suspiciously, you can try introducing yourself and explaining that you are just there to watch the skating.

One helpful hint: if you are a paying customer at the rink, your presence is much less likely to cause concern. If you don't skate, spend some money at the snack bar or pro shop instead.

Do be discreet when you visit the rink and don't distract the skaters while they are on the ice or preparing to skate. Taking photos or video is a no-no.

Also be discreet in reporting what you see on the net. In particular, elite skaters' daily practice schedules shouldn't be publicized on the net for the same reasons that the rinks won't give this information out to the public over the phone. It is also considered bad form to publicly reveal the details of new programs you may see the skaters working on, unless you explicitly get their permission to do so. More generally, elite skaters deserve some privacy when working at their home rinks, and the freedom to do their thing without worrying that their every move in practice is going to be reported on the net, or that they are continually on public display or being spied on by people they don't know. Remember that you are a guest at their rink and that it is a privilege to be allowed to watch at all.

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