There are five separate disciplines in competitive figure skating: men's singles, ladies singles, pairs, ice dancing and synchronized skating. Each discipline offers multiple levels for competition and testing, with each level building on similar techniques and adhering to level-specific rules and guidelines. Skaters are not limited to one discipline and may choose to test and compete in multiple disciplines.
In singles figure skating, men and women compete solo, demonstrating required elements during a program that can include jumps, spins, step sequences and more. There are two segments that make up domestic and international competitions: the short program and free skate.
As defined by the International Skating Union, pairs figure skating is "the skating of two persons in unison who perform their movements in such harmony with each other as to give the impression of genuine Pair Skating as compared with independent Single Skating.” Each pair consists of one male and one female skater, and together they complete both a short program and free skate. In contrast to ice dance, pairs skating features overhead lifts, and side-by-side jumps and spins.
With its roots in ballroom dancing, ice dance features a male and female performing a choreographed routine to music. Similar to singles and pairs, ice dance has two competition segments: a rhythm dance and a free dance.
In synchronized skating, a team of eight to 20 skaters work together to perform a choreographed routine in unison. Originally known as “precision skating” due to the high level of coordination needed to successfully manage such a large number of people on the ice at one time, synchronized skating is a true team sport that brings individual skaters together into a single, cohesive unit.