11 Ways Figure Skaters Are Tougher Than You

Decades of diet, dedication, and practice for a shot at athletic immortality. Here’s what those difficult decades look like, brought to you by United — proud to fly Team USA for over 30 years.

1. Most professionals have been training since they could walk.

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Some start as young as two and frequently talk about skating as the one undying love of their life.

2. Off-rink workouts focus on core and lower-body strength — and are extremely difficult.

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Which can also require taking high school classes online and staying in hotels five hours from home on weekends to work with coaches and specialists.

3. Some skating pairs train together five hours a day, five days a week.

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And in some cases, that’s the same two people at every workout, practice, and competition for 17 years.

4. And fast food? Only if you can cook huge, healthy meals very fast.

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It’s finally OK to eat bagels whenever you like, but it also means heaping helpings of fish for lunch and chicken for dinner — with fruits and vegetables at every meal.

5. Learning spins means making yourself dizzy and nauseated a couple times a day.

Most coaches won’t even let skaters do more than two rotations until he or she has had years of practice. Then skaters work their way up to as many as eight rotations with complicated flourishes like this Biellmann spin by Team USA’s Gracie Gold.

6. Ailments skaters face can be anything from slight sprains to debilitating back injuries.

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Or consider how skaters are at greater risk for a concussion than football players.

7. Figure skates have the thickest blades (4 mm) of the three kinds of skating boots, but they’re still extremely sharp.

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Gracie Gold calls her ice skates “knives strapped to tennis shoes.”

8. The path to the Olympics is a trajectory of perfection.

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For example, medaling at the Olympics without first claiming a World Figure Skating Championships (Worlds) medal is extremely rare. Or consider how this win for Gracie Gold in January ensured her spot on Team USA a month later.

9. Skaters are scrutinized for subjective things like partner chemistry and not engaging the audience.

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The International Skating Union (ISU) judges the Olympics and Worlds down to the most minute details, so even landing a perfect combination jump like Gracie Gold’s here still isn’t enough for a perfect score.

10. Total points for each jump demands the accuracy to launch and land on the correct edge of the correct feet.

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A total of eight blade locations — the front and back of the inside and outside of both blades — requires the ISU to use instant replay to ensure that all six available jumps start and end in the right place.

11. The Quad (quadruple jump) is so difficult that not even all professional figure skaters can do it.

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The ones who can, though, earn big points for jumping upward against forces comparable to the weight of a sofa, then landing smoothly under weight similar to a refrigerator.

Watch Gracie Gold effortlessly execute a (nausea-free) spin aboard United.

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