How Olympic figure skating is scored


Despite her stumble as she landed the jump, Nagasu attempted a triple axel, which has a higher base value than Tennell’s double axel.

The Program Component Score evaluates a skater’s presentation and artistry on the ice. Judges award points on a range from 0.25 to 10, awarding skaters for skating skills, transitions in their routine, performative elements, composition, and musical interpretation. The program component score, therefore, has a maximum of 90 points, unlike the technical component score which has no ceiling. Taken together, the sum of these component scores are the skater’s final score.

What this scoring system means for figure skaters

We spoke to Tara Lipinski, a former Olympian and the youngest person to receive a gold medal in the ladies singles event. She claims this new system rewards risk and difficulty over artistry, by adding more weight to the technical component of a skater’s routine. Skaters are incentivized to go for bigger jumps and to incorporate more jumps into their routines overall.

This can pay off for viewers, like in the case of Nagasu. She made history on Sunday, February 11, by becoming the first American woman to land a triple axel at the Olympics during her free skate of the team competition in Pyeongchang.

Despite its ability to create historic moments like Nagasu’s triple axel, there is a downside to the new system as well. Fans and general audiences were stumped when American figure skater Adam Rippon, despite having skated a flawless performance, placed third behind Russian skater Mikhail Kolyada and Canadian skater Patrick Chan, both of whom fell during their routines. Chan and Kolyada were rewarded by the new scoring system for incorporating more technical elements, even though they didn’t execute their programs as well as Rippon.

Watch the video above to learn more about figure skating scores and to see our interviews with Nagasu and Lipinski.

You can find the official rules for figure skating judges here.


Why the triple axel is such a big deal

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How Olympic figure skating is scored

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