The World Figure Skating Championships (“Worlds”) is an annual figure skating competition sanctioned by the International Skating Union in which elite figure skaters compete for the title of World Champion. This event is considered the most prestigious of the ISU Championships (the three other annual figure skating competitions designated “ISU Championships” are the European Championships, the Four Continents Championships, and the World Junior Championships). With the exception of the Olympic title, a world title is considered to be the highest competitive achievement in figure skating. Skaters compete in the categories of men’s singles, ladies’ singles, pairs, and ice dancing at the World Championships. The competition is generally held in March.
|ISU World Championships 2021||2021||Mar 22 – Mar 28, 2021||Stockholm|
|ISU World Championships 2020||2020||Mar 16 – Mar 22, 2020||Montréal, QC|
|ISU World Championships 2019||2019||Mar 18 – Mar 24, 2019||Saitama City|
|ISU World Championships 2018||2018||Mar 19 – Mar 25, 2018||Milan|
|ISU World Championships 2017||2017||Mar 29 – Apr 2, 2017||Helsinki|
|ISU World Championships 2016||2016||Mar 26 – Apr 3, 2016||Boston, MA|
|ISU World Championships 2015||2015||Mar 23 – Mar 29, 2015||Shanghai|
|ISU World Championships 2014||2014||Mar 24 – Mar 30, 2014||Saitama|
The Internationale Eislauf-Vereingung (International Skating Union) formed in 1892 to govern international competition in speed and figure skating. The first Championship, known as the Championship of the Internationale Eislauf-Vereingung, was held in Saint Petersburg in 1896. The event had four competitors and was won by Gilbert Fuchs.
The championships were presumed all-male since competitive skating was generally viewed as a male sport, however there were no specific rules regarding the gender of competitors. In 1902 Madge Syers entered the championships, and won the silver medal.
The 1903 ISU Congress considered gender issues but passed no new rules. The 1905 Congress established a second class ladies competition. Winners were to be known as ISU, not World Champions. Men’s and Ladies events were normally held separately. The first ladies competition was in 1906 and held in Davos.
The first pairs competition was held in St. Petersburg in 1908, even though in some countries pairs competition was illegal and considered indecent. One such country was Japan, which had applied for the Winter Olympics in 1940. Early championships for both ladies and pairs were retrospectively given World Championship status in 1924.
In the early years judges were invited by the host country and were often local. At the 1927 ladies’ event held in Oslo, three of the five judges were Norwegian. The three Norwegian judges gave first place to Norwegian competitor Sonja Henie, while the Austrian and German judges placed defending champion Herma Szabo first. The controversial result stood, giving Henie her first world title, however following the controversy the ISU introduced a rule allowing no more than one judge per country on the panel.
The 1930 championships in New York combined all three competitions into one event for the first time, and was also the first championships to be held outside Europe. Ice dancing entered the program officially in 1952, after having been an unofficial part of the championships since 1936.
In 1960, the number of participants per country was limited to a maximum of three per discipline.
Compulsory figures were removed from the World Championships in 1991.
The 6.0 system was used for judging until the 2004 championships, and the ISU Judging System was used from the 2005 edition onwards.
In the years of the Winter Olympics, when the World Championships are held around a month after the Olympic Games, there have been cases of Olympic medalists not attending. Reasons for forgoing the post-Olympics Worlds have included skaters needing rest for physical and mental exhaustion, and/or Olympic medalists wanting to go professional to cash in on their Games success. The ISU has begun discussing lengthening the time between the Games and the Worlds.
The World Figure Skating Championships have been cancelled 15 times in its history: from 1915–1921 due to World War I, from 1940–1946 due to World War II, and in 1961 as a result of the loss of the entire American team in the crash of Sabena Flight 548.
The 2011 Championships, originally slated to be held in Tokyo, were initially considered for cancellation following the 2011 Japan earthquake, but were instead moved to Moscow.
Figure skaters are entered into the championships by country. Each International Skating Union Member (national association) may enter one skater or team in each event. Some countries are permitted to enter 2 or 3 participants if their skaters performed well at the previous championship.
Because of the large number of entries at the World Championships, for some years the event included qualifying rounds for men and ladies in addition to the normal short program and free skating components. After the 2006 championships in Calgary, Canada, the ISU Congress voted to eliminate the qualifying round for single skaters, leaving just the short program and free skating. After the short program, the top 24 single skaters and top 20 pairs advance to the free skate. In ice dance, the top 30 couples in the compulsory dance advance to the original dance, and the top 24 couples after the original dance advance to the free dance.
Skaters qualify for the World Championships by belonging to a member nation of the ISU. Each country gets one entry in every discipline by default. The most entries a country can have in a single discipline is three. Countries earn a second or third entry for the following year’s competition by earning points through skater placement. The points are equal to the sum of the placements of the country’s skaters (top two if they have three). Entries do not carry over and so countries must continue to earn their second or third spot every year. If a country only has one skater/team, that skater/team must place in the top ten to earn a second entry and in the top two to earn three entries to next year’s championships. If a country has two skaters/teams, the combined placement of those teams must be 13 or fewer to qualify 3 entries, and 28 or fewer to keep their two entries. If they do not do so, they only have one entry for the following year.
|Number of skaters/teams||To earn 3 entries||To earn 2 entries|
|1||Place in the top 2||Place in the top 10|
|2||Total placements is equal to or less than 13||Total placements is equal to or less than 28|
|3||Top two placements is equal to or less than 13||Top two placements is equal to or less than 28|
There are exceptions if a skater is forced to withdraw in the middle of the competition due to a medical emergency or equipment problems.
Which skaters from each country attend the World Championships is at the national governing body’s discretion. Some countries rely on the results of their national championships while others have more varied criteria based on international success at competitions such as the European Figure Skating Championships and the Four Continents Figure Skating Championships. Selections vary by country.
Since 1996, skaters must be older than fifteen by July 1 of the previous year; e.g. To compete at the 2010 Worlds, skaters had to be 15 or older by July 1, 2009. The World Junior Championships is the corresponding competition for skaters aged 13 to 19 (or up to 21 for male pair skaters and ice dancers) who are not old enough for senior Worlds or do not qualify. For a few years after the introduction of the age rules in 1996, there was a loophole that skaters who were not age-eligible for senior Worlds but had medalled at Junior Worlds could compete at senior Worlds, but this loophole has since been closed. A few who had not medaled at Junior Worlds but had competed at senior Worlds before the introduction of the rules, such as Tara Lipinski of the United States, were allowed to continue competing in senior Worlds due to the Grandfather clause. A skater must turn 15 before it becomes July 1 in their place of birth – even an hour later is not accepted by the ISU. For example, Adelina Sotnikova was born a few hours into July 1, 1996 in Moscow and will not become eligible to compete at senior Worlds until 2013.
Since 2010, skaters must achieve the following minimum technical elements scores (TES) in the short and free programs in a previous event: