02/11/2014 12:22 pm ET | Updated Apr 13, 2014

A Guide to Figure Skating: Politics Behind Scoring, What It's Like to Fall, and Why Skaters Don't Get Dizzy

These questions originally appeared on Quora.
Answers by Joseph Lee, U.S. Junior Nationals Competitor in both singles and pairs, involved with STARskaters, a program that utilizes the ice to help special needs children gain improved motor function and a love for skating

Q: What do U.S figure skaters listen to in the backroom?

A: It all depends on the skater, really.

In the backroom, some skaters will watch other competitors perform, while others will find a quiet place to warm-up and stretch.

As for what they listen to, many skaters have music they like to get them pumped up; others simply listen to their competition music, meditatively going through each element, or even physically walking through elements and choreography off the ice. Some skaters listen to nothing at all besides the ambient whir of dehumidifiers and the distant music of the current skater and sporadic cheers from the audience.

It's all about what works for a skater for getting focused and concentrated on the upcoming skate.

Q: Do ice dancers and pairs figure skaters usually begin their careers as individual figure skaters or with the intention of pairs skating?

A: In short, yes.

Most skaters begin as singles skaters when they're young -- there are very few young pairs. Realistically, boys aren't able to execute lifts until they at least hit puberty and gain some muscle mass. Girls, on the other hand, are typically able to start skating pairs or ice dancing at a younger age... (More)

Q: What does it feel like to fall while figure skating?

A: Depends on what you were doing before you fell.

I guess I'll cover a spectrum of falls based on a relative scale of painless to painful i just made up.

If you were doing a sit spin before you fell, chances are it's not gonna hurt that much -- it'll just be like sitting down... on something very cold and hard... (More)

Q: Was it unfair for Ashley Wagner to be selected for the US Olympic figure skating team for Sochi over Mirai Nagasu?

A: It's shocking to see that Mirai Nagasu won't be competing at the 2014 Olympic games, but when it comes down to the numbers, Ashley Wagner has a more impressive international resumé (over the past three years) and has proven that she is currently fit to compete in the international scene.

Though Mirai did compete at the 2010 Olympic games with a 4th place place, her performances in the past three years in the Grand Prix Circuit and past U.S. National competitions have not been up to par... (More)


Q: Why don't figure skaters get dizzy when they spin?

A: It takes figure skaters a lot of practice, but after awhile they get used it and don't even notice it anymore.

When first learning how to spin, they focus on something in the area and try to catch a glimpse of it with every rotation. For me, it was the large digital clock on the hockey scoreboard. However, if they take a break from skating, it takes a day or two to get used to the dizziness again.

Rotating on one foot in figure skating is unlike rotating in say, ballet. If you notice in ballet, they sort of jerk their heads back to the same spot with every rotation. That is not the case with figure skating, where the rotations are much faster and up to 30 times or more in one spin combination.

Q: Why are there so many successful Asian figure skaters?

A: In addition to hard work and determination, there are some other important factors in the success of an athlete.

Body shape and size, metabolism, etc. all play a huge role for athletes (e.g. Michael Phelps' body produces less lactic acid so he essentially never tires/gets sore).

In figure skating it's important to have a low center of mass to rotate jumps and spin efficiently. Also, it's important to note that the muscles necessary to explode to heights of over a meter mean that shorter, thicker thighs (fast-twitch muscles) are favorable. etc. etc. There are many factors that go into executing the elements of figure skating... (More)

Q: Why is American women's figure skating no longer at the top of the world?

A: American skaters are still relevant, but not as sensational as they have been in the past. For now. I think that this is just a normal trend as a result of other countries (such as Japan) churning out a lot of talent.

However, I don't think we should count American women out just yet as we have much up and coming potential in figure skating... (More)

Q: Is figure skating as political in its judging today as it was during the Cold War?

A: No.

Since the introduction the International Skating Union's Judging System (IJS) in 2004, a lot of the bias has been removed from the scoring in figure skating. The IJS replaced the old 6.0 judging system and introduced a much more objective, technical approach to programs... (More) More questions on 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi: