Skating 101: Olympic Berths

For anyone who has read my posts this season, you may know that I was a little frustrated with how spots are allocated to skaters for the Olympics (and the World Championships). The frustration is felt most deeply in Japan partly because they have so many excellent, world-class men and ladies competitors and partly because Japan has such strict immigration rules. (Japanese citizens renounce their Japanese citizenship if they apply for citizenship for another country. Or vice versa, people who apply for Japanese citizenship must renounce their citizenship to other countries. This citizenship law has already affected certain skaters like Mervin Tran, a Canadian skater who won bronze at the 2012 World Championships with his pairs partner, Narumi Takahashi. The pair broke up because Mervin wanted to keep his Canadian citizenship.)

In any case, how does the International Skating Union determine how many skaters go to the Olympics?

  • First of all, this a quota of 148 competitors for figure skating at the Olympics (30 men, 30 ladies, 20 pairs teams, 24 ice dance teams). There are exceptions to this quota for skaters who may compete for the team event but not the individual event.
  • For the individual event, each country is given a certain number of spots skaters/teams.
  • The number of Olympic berths/spots is determined mostly by the results of the World Championships from the previous season. From this competition, the ISU can allot up to 24 out of 30 spots for the ladies and mens competition. 16 out of 20 spots for pairs teams and 19 out of 24 for ice dance. The following table from wikipedia gives a clear and succinct explanation:

Olympic berths table

  • If the host country hasn’t earned a spot in the competition, they are automatically granted one. However, in this case, it’s safe to say that Russia, a figure skating powerhouse, has earned multiple spots in a few disciplines.
  • The next best ranked athletes from countries who did not earn multiple spots will get 1 spot until the quotas for the World Championships are filled.
  • For the remaining spots not filled by the results of the World Championships or if any nations who have earned a spot from Worlds but decides not to send anyone, the berths are given to nations with the best ranked skaters who have not yet qualified for any spots at the Olympics but have competed in the Nebelhorn Trophy in September. Some skaters have attempted to use this rule to compete at the Olympics. For example, Fedor Andreev of Canada had planned to apply for citizenship to Azerbaijan and then skate for Azerbaijan at Nebelhorn and the Olympics. He failed to get his paperwork done in time and couldn’t compete in Vancouver.

With that said, here is a table on wikipedia showing the countries competing in figure skating and the number of spots each country has for each discipline.

Note: For non-Olympic years, this system is also used to determine the number of spots for each country for next year’s World Championships.

If you look at the table, you will see that 31 men are going to the Olympics, 1 more than the quota allows. This is because… starting in the Sochi 2014 Olympics, there will be a team event where 10 countries can qualify. Great Britain did not earn a spot in the men’s individual event but they needed to send a man in to compete in the team event, which is why the quota was exceeded.

To qualify for the team event, the country must have competitors for at least 3 out of 4 disciplines and have the most points based on the rankings of the previous World Championships calculated by the ISU. The following 10 countries have earned spots for the team event at the Olympics this year:

  • Canada
  • Russia
  • United States of America
  • Japan
  • Italy
  • France
  • People’s Republic of China
  • Germany
  • Ukraine
  • Great-Britain

Ok, so my country has gotten x number of spots for the Olympics? How do we decide who gets to be on the Olympic team?

The decision of which skaters get sent to the Olympics rests ultimately on the specific country’s figure skating federation. In Canada, the decision would go to Skate Canada, in the U.S., it would be U.S. Figure Skating, etc; etc; Each figure skating federation has their own way of deciding their World or Olympic teams. In Japan, the Japanese Skating Federation takes into account the results of the Grand Prix Series from October to December as well as the results of their National Competition.

You might also notice that in the lull between the GP series and the Four Continents/European Championships (and this year, the Olympics), there are a lot of National Championships going on. That is because some skating federations, like the U.S. use solely the results of their National competitions to determine who gets to compete in the more prestigious competitions later on in the season.

So far, the Japanese Skating Federation has announced their team for the Olympics. U.S. Nationals is happening right now and Canadian Nationals will be bearing upon us soon. The Russian and Chinese Nationals have already happened but I’m having a little trouble finding a definitive list for their Olympic teams. If you have any information, please let me know in the comments! I will be forever grateful.

For more information on Olympic qualification for figure skating, you can consult this document written by the ISU.

~The Rinkside Cafe

Other Skating 101 posts:

History of the 6.0 and Code of Points Judging System

The Basics of the Code of Points Judging System

Olympic Berths and Teams: How We Decided Who and How Many Go to the Olympics

Figure Skating Jumps

Figure Skating Spins

Pairs Skating Elements

Ice Dance

13 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Suezeeq
    Jan 10, 2014 @ 03:55:35

    I know for China that Zhang Kexin is for sure on the team. The second lady has yet to be decided because obviously it should go to Li Zijun, but she’s been having puberty issues and hasn’t been practicing at all. For men it’s Han Yan. Pairs it’s Pang Qing/Tong Jian and Cheng Peng/Hao Zhang. Ice dance I forget @__@

    For Russia I’m pretty sure it’s Julia and Adelina at least. Maxim Kovtun for sure. Plushenko dropped out of singles and said he’d compete in team only. Dance it’s probably Ekaterina Bobrova/Dmitri Soloviev and Elena/Nikita (their last names are ridiculous to spell out). Pairs definitely Maxim/Tatiana and probably Vera and Yuri as well.

    Sorry not sure about the rest.


  2. Suezeeq
    Jan 12, 2014 @ 00:32:38


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