Competition Grades and Disciplines in New Zealand

Adult Skating Grades

While there is no upper age limit for most standard grades and skaters can be internationally competitive well into their 30’s, adult skating is a separate discipline for skaters aged from 18 to 80 and above who would like to compete only against other adults.

Adult skaters compete in single skating, pair skating, ice dance and synchronized skating.   In addition to the Freeskate grades, which have defined jump, spin and step/choreographic sequence elements, there is an interpretive event for artistic performances judged only on Program Components – jumps, spins and other elements are not awarded points, but count only for their choreographic value.

Adult skating generally consists of 12 grades separated by difficulty and age. Entry into the grades is usually self-selecting and follows the guidelines below:

  • Bronze division is for skaters who started skating later and/or hold up to Bronze level tests
  • Silver and Gold is dependent on the level of elements a skater is able to do and wants to include
  • Elite division is for skaters who competed internationally during their skating career

Each of these grades of difficulty is further divided by age as at 1 July preceding the competition:

  • I – Skaters who have reached the age of 18 but not 35
  • II – Skaters who have reached the age of 35 but not 55
  • III – Skaters who have reached the age of 55 or more

So Bronze III will be a skater aged 55 or more who likely started skating later in life

Internationally, adult skating is one of the fastest growing segments of competitive skating. The first ISU adult skating championships were held in 2005 in Oberstdorf, Germany.


Standard Competitive Grades

In addition to the adult grades, within all disciplines there are a number of different grades that depend on passing particular medal (proficiency) tests and in some cases, age. Each grade within a discipline has similar requirements but going up through the grades demands demonstrating increasingly more difficult skills. Typically in most disciplines, the grades are:

Advanced Novice
Intermediate Novice
Basic Novice
Pre Elementary

The three two lower grades (KiwiSkate, Elementary and Pre Elementary) are only competed at local club or regional competitions not at New Zealand National Championships. In some disciplines, synchronized skating for example, there is also a ‘mixed age grade which generally has less restrictive test or age requirements or may take the place of an Intermediate or Novice grade.


Ice Skating Disciplines

There are four separate disciplines in New Zealand competitive ice figure skating; singles skating, pair skating, ice dance and synchronized team skating.

Under 12, Ladies and Men’s Singles

Form, style, technique, talent and the ability to perform under great pressure are the key requirements of singles skating. For Advanced Novice, Junior and Senior, the grades of each competition are composed of two separate parts; the Short Program which is skated first, followed by the Free Skate. In the KiwiSkate, Pre Elementary, Elementary, Juvenile, Basic Novice and Intermediate Novice, only a Free Skate is competed.  For all grades except Senior skaters are divided into one of three groups – Under 12, Ladies and Men.

Short Program

The Short Program consists of a number of required elements; jumps, spins, and step sequences. The Short Program requirements specify the types of jumps and spins that must be performed. The elements may be done in any order within a specified time to music selected by the skater and / or coach.

Free Skate

Skaters and their coach select their own music,
theme and choreograph all the jumps, spins, step sequences and interpretive moves to best display their technical and artistic skills. There are required elements; however skaters receive points only for a maximum number of jumps, spins, and step/choreographic sequences. The skater should pay
close attention to interesting transitions, connecting steps and movements between elements.

The free skate has more elements and so the skater can achieve more points. In addition, the Program Components are weighted more than in the short program so typically skaters earn more points on Program Components in the free skate compared
to the Short Program.

Pair Skating

Pair Skating is essentially singles skating performed in unison by partners, with the addition of daring and difficult overhead lifts, throw jumps and spins. The key to pair skating is unison; whether the partners are together or apart, their movements should be synchronized with matching body lines, gestures and footwork. The overall feeling of a pair team is that they complement each other in both technical and artistic interpretation.

Short Program

The pairs Short Program consists of a number of required elements which may include overhead lifts, side-by-side solo jumps and solo spins done in unison, step sequences, pair spins, a death or pivot spiral and at the higher levels a throw jump, all performed to music of the skaters’ and / or coach’s choice.

Free Skate

The Free Skate consists of technical and artistic moves choreographed to best display the skaters’ individual strengths, skills and ability to perform as a team. Shadow skating and mirror skating are challenging aspects of pairs skating. This is the newest Olympic figure skating event (introduced in 1976) and was first seen at the World Championships in 1952 despite having been a popular recreational sport since the turn of the century.

Ice Dance

Unlike pair skating, which features overhead lifts and jumps, ice dancing is based on the different aspects of dance, including rhythm, interpretation of the music and precise steps. Its beauty lies in its limitless creativity, choreography and its theatrical and innovative aspects. No overhead lifts or jumps of more than one revolution are allowed. An ice dance competition is made up of 2 parts; the Pattern Dance(s) or Rhythm Dance and a Free Dance. In lower grades two Pattern Dances are competed and a Rhythm Dance is not performed.

Pattern Dance

In any given event, two pattern dances will be performed. All skaters perform the same selected dance(s) to music with the same tempo and strict time. The pattern dance(s) consist of dances with specified steps and holds. Some latitude is given to allow a couple to demonstrate its own individual style. Accuracy, placement, style, unison, timing and expression are the requirements for the pattern dance(s).

Rhythm Dance

A Rhythm Dance consists of a required number of elements skated to a prescribed rhythm or set of rhythms. Two of the elements are usually sections of a pattern dance that can be skated to music of the skaters’ choice while the other elements can include step sequences, lifts and twizzle sequences. In essence, the Rhythm Dance expresses the character of the required rhythm(s) while performing the set elements.

Free Dance

In the Free Dance, skaters display their full range of technical skills, interpretation and inventiveness to music and choreography of their own choice. Couples use changes of position, intricate and varied dance holds, short lifts and difficult footwork to present their best ice dancing skills.

Synchronized Skating

Synchronized skating (or synchro) is the newest ISU discipline of figure skating having had its first ISU World Championship in 2000. Teams of 8 to 16 skaters (depending on grade) skate in unison; creating formations such as circles, blocks, wheels, lines and intersections and performing spirals, lifts, spins and footwork. The teams also perform step sequences involving a number of turns such as twizzles, counters and rockers and simpler turns like three-turns, mohawks and choctaws as features to these formations. Additional features such as travelling and change of direction or configuration can also be part of the performed element.

Short Program

Circles, lines, blocks, wheels and intersections are prescribed elements in the short program. Additional elements such as Moves in the Field are also included. Teams have prescribed requirements that must be met to receive higher levels of elements or to have the element credited at all.

Free Skate

Circles, lines, blocks, wheels and intersections are also prescribed elements in the Free Skate programme. Additional elements such as Moves in the Field, Spins or Pair Elements can also be included. In this programme, the team has more freedom in the choreography and types of elements that are included. Judging of synchronized skating is focused on the unison of the team while performing the elements, the cleanness and sureness of edges, the creativity and originality of the programme, the interpretation of the music, the execution of the elements and overall performance of the programme.