The Free Skating of Figure skating, sometimes called the "free skate" or "long program", is usually the second of two phases in major Figure skatings in Single skating and Pair skating. It is the longer of the two programs, the other one being the Short Program. The time allowed for free skating is 4 minutes for senior ladies and 4 minutes and 30 seconds for senior men and pairs, plus or minus 10 seconds. Programs for juniors are 30 seconds shorter.
Originally, figure skating competitions consisted of Compulsory figures and free skating only, and free skating was "free" in the sense that it was completely free from requirements; skaters could perform whatever combination of elements best suited their individual skills. However, the International Skating Union adopted requirements for a "well-balanced program" in Pair skating in 1982, and in Single skating in 1984, to counter the trend at that time for skaters to pack their programs with purely athletic elements such as Figure skating at the expense of spins and other movements demonstrating mastery of skating technique. For example, for many years the well-balanced program guidelines for singles required a minimum of 4 spins, and pairs were allowed to do 3 to 5 lifts.
When the ISU Judging System was adopted in 2004, these guidelines were further tightened up to specify a fixed number of each type of element. This effectively has given the free skating a specific list of required elements, since skaters get no credit for extra elements and cannot achieve maximum points if they omit elements that are permitted. In addition, the ISU Judging System discounts certain elements that were formerly common in free skating programs, such as Axel jump variants and other single and double Figure skating used as highlight moves or in jump sequences. Effectively, "free skating" is no longer "free", and is just a longer version of the Short Program.
The time to start and stop timing the program actually begins and ends from the skater starts and stops skating completely, not when the music starts or stops.
With music selections, the music used cannot contain vocals. That includes sung lyrics, spoken words or even harmonic humming.
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