World Figure Skating Championships
The World Figure Skating Championships ("Worlds") is an annual figure skating competition sanctioned by the International Skating Union. Medals are awarded in the categories of men's singles, ladies' singles, pair skating, and ice dancing. Generally held in March, the World Championships are considered the most prestigious of the ISU Championships, which also include the European Championships, the Four Continents Championships, and the World Junior Championships. With the exception of the Olympic title, a world title is considered to be the highest competitive achievement in figure skating.
The corresponding competition for junior-level skaters is the World Junior Championships. The corresponding competition for senior-level synchronized skating is the World Synchronized Skating Championships and for junior level the World Junior Synchronized Skating Championships.
The Internationale Eislauf-Vereingung (International Skating Union) formed in 1892 to govern international competition in speed and figure skating. The first Championship, known as the Championship of the Internationale Eislauf-Vereingung, was held in Saint Petersburg in 1896. The event had four competitors and was won by Gilbert Fuchs.
The championships were presumed all-male since competitive skating was generally viewed as a male sport, however there were no specific rules regarding the gender of competitors. In 1902 Madge Syers entered the championships, and won the silver medal. The 1903 ISU Congress considered gender issues but passed no new rules. The 1905 Congress established a second class (ISU Championships rather than World Championships) ladies competition. Winners were to be known as ISU, not World Champions. Men's and Ladies events were normally held separately. The first ladies competition was in 1906 and held in Davos, won by Syers.
The first pairs competition was held in St. Petersburg in 1908, even though in some countries pairs competition was illegal and considered indecent. One such country was Japan, which had applied for the Winter Olympics in 1940. Early championships for both ladies and pairs, previously titled merely as the ISU Championships, were retroactively given World Championship status in 1924.
In the early years judges were invited by the host country and were often local. At the 1927 ladies' event held in Oslo, three of the five judges were Norwegian. The three Norwegian judges gave first place to Norwegian competitor Sonja Henie, while the Austrian and German judges placed defending champion Herma Szabo first. The controversial result stood, giving Henie her first world title; however following the controversy the ISU introduced a rule allowing no more than one judge per country on the panel.
The 1930 championships in New York City combined all three competitions into one event for the first time, and was also the first championships to be held outside Europe. Ice dancing entered the program officially in 1952, after having been an unofficial part of the championships since 1936.
In 1960, the number of participants per country was limited to a maximum of three per discipline.
Compulsory figures were removed from the World Championships in 1991.
In the years of the Winter Olympics during the last few decades, when the World Championships are held around a month after the Olympic Games, there have been cases of the large proportion of Olympic medalists not attending. Reasons for forgoing the post-Olympics Worlds have included skaters needing rest for physical and mental exhaustion, and/or Olympic medalists wanting to go professional to cash in on their Games success. The ISU has begun discussing lengthening the time between the Games and the Worlds.
The World Figure Skating Championships have been cancelled 15 times in its history: from 1915–1921 due to World War I, from 1940–1946 due to World War II, and in 1961 as a result of the loss of the entire American team in the crash of Sabena Flight 548.
The 2011 Championships, originally slated to be held in Tokyo, were initially considered for cancellation following the 2011 Japan earthquake, but were instead moved to Moscow.
Eligibility and qualifying
Since 1996, skaters must be at least fifteen before July 1 of the previous year. Thus, to compete at the 2010 Worlds, skaters had to be 15 or older before July 1, 2009. A skater must turn 15 before it becomes July 1 in their place of birth – even an hour later is not accepted by the ISU. The World Junior Championships is the corresponding competition for skaters aged 13 to 19 (or up to 21 for male pair skaters and ice dancers) who are not old enough for senior Worlds or do not qualify. For a few years after the introduction of the 1996 age rules, a loophole existed for underage skaters who had medaled at Junior Worlds. The loophole was eventually eliminated. A few who had not medaled at Junior Worlds but had competed at senior Worlds before the introduction of the rules, such as Tara Lipinski of the United States, were allowed to continue competing in senior Worlds due to the Grandfather clause.
Since 2010, skaters must achieve minimum technical elements scores (TES) in the short and free programs at a prior international event in the ongoing or preceding season. The short and free scores may be attained at different international events. After an ISU congress voted to eliminate the qualifying rounds, the TES minimums were raised for the 2013 World Championships.
Competitors are entered by country. Each member nation of the International Skating Union is allowed one to three entries in each discipline based on the nation's performance at the previous championship. Member nations select their entries according to their own criteria. Some countries rely on the results of their national championships while others have more varied criteria, which may include success at certain international events or specific technical requirements. All of the selected skaters must meet the ISU's age and TES requirements.
Because of the large number of entries at the World Championships, for some years the event included qualifying rounds for men and ladies. After the 2006 championships in Calgary, Canada, the ISU Congress voted to eliminate the qualifying round. It was later reintroduced and then eliminated again after the 2012 World Championships. After the short program, the top 24 single skaters and top 20 pairs advance to the free skate. In ice dance, the top 30 teams in the compulsory dance advanced to the original dance, and the top 24 after that segment advanced to the free dance.
Countries earn a second or third entry for the following year's competition by earning points through skater placement. The points are equal to the sum of the placements of the country's skaters (top two if they have three). Entries do not carry over and so countries must continue to earn their second or third spot every year. If a country only has one skater/team, that skater/team must place in the top ten to earn a second entry and in the top two to earn three entries to next year's championships. If a country has two skaters/teams, the combined placement of those teams must be 13 or fewer to qualify 3 entries, and 28 or fewer to keep their two entries. If they do not do so, they only have one entry for the following year.
Number of skaters/teams To earn 3 entries To earn 2 entries 1 Place in the top 2 Place in the top 10 2 Total placements is equal to or less than 13 Total placements is equal to or less than 28 3 Top two placements is equal to or less than 13 Top two placements is equal to or less than 28
There are exceptions if a skater is forced to withdraw in the middle of the competition due to a medical emergency or equipment problems.
|Event||Largest number of titles||Most consecutive titles||Medal sweeps|
|Men|| Ulrich Salchow
10 (1901–1905, 1907–1911)
| Karl Schafer
|Ladies|| Sonja Henie
| Sonja Henie
|Pairs|| Irina Rodnina / Alexander Zaitsev
** Irina Rodnina won 10 titles from 1969–1978, the first 4 partnered with Alexei Ulanov
| Irina Rodnina / Alexander Zaitsev
** Irina Rodnina won 10 titles from 1969–1978, the first 4 partnered with Alexei Ulanov
|1939 : (Germany)
|Ice Dance|| Lyudmila Pakhomova / Alexandr Gorshkov
6 (1970–1974, 1976)
| Lyudmila Pakhomova / Alexandr Gorshkov
1992 : (Commonwealth of Independent States)
Cumulative medal count
- Hines, p.75
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