A 2002 Olympic figure skating scandal – with allegations of score-fixing – upended the sport and led to a complete overhaul of the scoring system – one that awards more points for endurance and intense athletic feats.
It matters because gold medal favorite Kamila Valieva, 15, tested positive for the banned substance trimetazidine, which is said to increase endurance and “make your heart work more efficiently”, a said Dr. Elizabeth Murray, pediatric emergency physician at the University of Rochester Medical Center.
Here’s how the sport has evolved in recent years to reward increased athleticism and endurance:
More difficult jumps = more points
In 2004, the International Skating Union abandoned the subjective “6.0” scoring system for the more rubric-based international judging system which gives certain base points for jumps based on their degree of difficulty and the number of time the skater turns in the air.
For example, a quadruple Lutz—in which a skater makes four revolutions in the air—carries more base points than a triple Lutz.
But a triple Lutz carries more base points than less difficult triples, like a triple loop or a triple Salchow.
After each jump, skaters can gain or lose points from the base value depending on the degree of execution – how well or badly they executed the jump.
All of these numbers are part of the technical score. There’s also the presentation score, which rewards artistic and skating skills between jumps.
But in recent years, skaters have been able to win competitions largely because of points earned from jumping – with quadruple jumps playing a bigger role in both men’s and women’s skating.
Why better endurance can earn skaters more points
In women’s figure skating, athletes perform two routines: the short program, which lasts approximately 2 minutes and 40 seconds, and the free program, which lasts approximately 4 minutes.
Russian skater Alina Zagitova was 15 when she won Olympic gold after completing all of her free skate jumps in the second half of the routine.
With the current scoring system, jumps done in the second half of the free skate can get a 10% bonus because they are more difficult to perform with tired legs.
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CNN’s Simone McCarthy, Hannah Ritchie and George Ramsay contributed to this report.