Walking barefooted or with shoes on the feet is a natural human act. Learned at an early age (often without any help), it makes people mobile and allows them to participate in sports.
Ice skating, on the other hand, is an unnatural act. Balancing on two razor-sharp thin metal blades bolted to the bottoms of high-top shoes while sliding across a frozen surface is not innate (except to Canadian hockey players who learn to skate before they learn to walk).
Figure skating is challenging for several reasons. It not only takes outstanding balance just to skate, but it entails exceptional skill to execute moves, spins, and land jumps. The best figure skaters in the world are great technicians (precision, speed, execution) and they demonstrate extraordinary artistry when they interpret the music in a manner that is both moving and engaging to audiences.
Like all athletes, figure skaters sometimes make mistakes. They occasionally miss their mark, jump too soon, or land awkwardly, and a fall to the ice is often the result.
Here are twenty embarrassing photos of figure skaters falling.
20 Team Figure Skating Falls
Ice dance championships requires skaters to perform specific elements during the competition that make up a well-balanced skating program. They include the step sequence, the dance spin, the dance lift, twizzles (multirotational one-foot turns), and other dance elements.
The ice skaters moving in unison or apart in a well-choreographed program are a delight to watch. However, when things get out of sync, the two dancers can appear awkward and out of balance.
19 2006 Czech Pair Olga Prokuronova and Karel Stefl
No matter how well one member of a figure skating team performs, an error by the other can result in a disaster.
At the European Figure Skating Championship in January 2006, Czech skating pair Karel Stefl and Olga Prokuronova participated in the Pairs Free Skating competition. Midway through their free skate, the couple was forced to withdraw following a heavy fall. Stefl lost his balance while attempting to elevate his partner above his head in a Lasso lift, and Prokuronova crashed to the ice landing on her cheek.
18 Kaetlyn Osmond at Skate Canada International
This photo of Kaetlyn Osmond demonstrates why figure skaters must be flexible. She managed to look composed even while falling during the free skating portion of Skate Canada International at the Enmax Centre in Lethbridge.
Osmond is a three-time Canadian women's figure skating champion, and she has one Grand Prix Final medal, two World Championship medals, and three Olympic medals.
17 South Korea's Kim Kyueun Falls at the 2018 Winter Olympic Games
While a fall during a singles figure skating competition is disappointing, embarrassing, and self-directed, a fall in a pairs program adds the fear of disappointing one’s partner.
No doubt, South Korea's Kim Kyueun felt for her skating companion when she went down to the ice in the pair’s short program of the figure skating event during the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games.
16 Patrick Chan Does a Bounce, Not a Splat
Patrick Chan on the right way to fall: "There's a certain amount of bracing that you can create to lessen the impact. I do it subconsciously now, I flex or almost contract as I hit the ice, so it's almost like a bounce as opposed to a splat on the ice… you kind of get a skip and get right back up on your feet. You're not killing all your momentum on the ice, you're carrying it across the ice, like the skip of a stone."
15 Silver Medallist Kaetlyn Osmond
Falling to the hard ice surface is a jarring interruption to a skater's program. World silver medalist Kaetlyn Osmond describes the feeling, "I hate falling with a passion [even though she is smiling in this photo], and I think that's part of the reason why I learned my jumps and learned how to do them well because I hate, hate falling."
14 Germany’s Nicole Schott at the European Figure Skating Championship
On January 27, 2017, Germany’s Nicole Schott fell as she competed during the women’s free skating competition at the European Figure Skating Championship in Ostrava, Czech Republic.
While any fall is embarrassing, Nicole has managed to reach the ice gracefully. She has two hands firmly placed on the cold surface, and her expression is one of determination rather than disappointment.
13 Figure Skaters Fall in Practice
Emily Hughes fell while practicing at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Spokane, Washington.
She was the 2007 U.S. silver medalist at the U.S. nationals and finished seventh at the 2006 Winter Olympics. After her skating career, Emily graduated from Harvard with a degree in sociology and then went to work for Google.
12 Japans' Mao Asada Falls
World champion Mao Asada became one of Japan’s most prominent international celebrities during her remarkable figure skating career.
The Japan Times wrote: “It wasn’t just that Mao won, but the way she did it — with style and panache — that resonated with the masses. Her mastery of the triple axel — the difficult 3.5 revolution jump — became her trademark after first landing it when she was still a novice.”
11 A Pairs Figure Skater Watches as His Partner Falls
Joanna Sulej partnered with Mateusz Chruściński to compete in pairs for the 2008-2009 season. The couple represented Poland at the 2010 Winter Olympics.
In this photo, Sulej falls and slides on the ice as her partner Chruscinski looks on during the figure skating pairs short program at the Vancouver Winter Olympics on February 2010.
10 U.S. figure skater Jeremy Abbott
In this photo, Jeremy Abbott appears to be sliding on the ice, like kids do, just to see how far they can go.
However, it was a fall that came after the first jump of his routine. He landed on his side and slid into the padded wall. Appearing injured, Abbott stayed down for a few seconds rather than leap to his feet and continue the program. The pause resulted in a one-point deduction from his score.
9 Marissa Castelli Falls at Sochi 2014
In 2014, American Marissa Castelli fell while skating in the team pairs free skating segment of the competition at the Sochi Olympic Winter Games at Iceberg Skating Palace.
Were it not for the shaved ice flying up from her right skate, Marissa would appear to be taking off? Her arms are spread apart to gain balance, but the symmetry makes them look like wings.
8 Zhang Dan and Zhang Hao Won Silver in 2006
When Zhang Dan and Zhang Hao tried to become the first pairs skaters ever to complete a successful quadruple throw salchow at the Olympics, she slammed violently onto the ice and then skidded helplessly into the sideboards.
While the fall was embarrassing for the couple, they would return to resume their program, and eventually, win the silver medal.
7 Evan Bates and Madison Chock, Olympics Ice Dance Program
The history of Evan Bates and Madison Chock, ice dance partners, reads like a storybook romance. The couple joined forces in 2011, forming an award-winning skating partnership and have won numerous awards since then for their ice dance programs. More recently, they have added an off-ice romantic partnership.
“Skating together is something that we love doing, and we love doing it together,” Chock confirmed the dating rumors. “Now, we’re together on and off the ice and it makes it even more powerful. It feels completely genuine and real ... it brings us closer together every day.”
6 Kazakhstan's Viktoria Kucherenko and Viktor Adoniev
At the 7th Asian Winter Games in Astana on February 2011, Kucherenko and Adoniev fell during the ice dance short figure skating competition.
The look on Viktoria’s face tells it all, the disappointment, and the agony of defeat. After all the program preparation and practice, hopes for a medal can be dashed in a fraction of a second. Just one error, by either partner, can bring both down and their scores along with them.
5 Adelina Sotnikova of Russia’s Controversial Victory
Adelina Sotnikova of Russia upset South Korea’s Kim Yuna and won the Olympic gold medal for women’s figure skating in 2014, but it was not without controversy.
Two of the judges on the panel were linked to the biggest judge fixing scandals in Olympic history. One Russian judge was implicated in the 2002 Salt Lake City judge-fixing scandal, and the other, a Ukrainian judge, had been suspended for trying to fix results at the 1998 Olympics.
4 Fifteen-Year-Old Yulia Lipnitskaya Falls
At the age of fifteen, Yulia Lipnitskaya became an Olympic champion, setting a record in women’s single skating. In Sochi, she placed first in both the short program and free skate segments, helping Team Russia win the gold medal.
However, at the age of 19, the Winter Olympics champion surprised everyone when she announced her retirement from figure skating.
3 Break Dancing on Ice
Although the slick ice makes spin moves easy, break dancing is not considered a valid segment in ice dancing competition.
The move also violates International Skating Union (ISU) rules for competitors. "loss of control by a Skater with the result that the majority of his/her own body weight is on the ice supported by any other part of the body other than the blades; e.g. hand(s), knee(s), back…” is considered a fall with loss of points.
2 We Didn’t Rehearse This Drag Sequence
When this ice dancing pair suffered a fall, the male partner seemed to be grabbing his female partner in a desperate effort to stay on his skates.
Perhaps this apparent drag move is part of their program. However, the International Skating Union may object to any part of the skater’s body touching the ice.
1 End of the Performance
To land a successful quadruple jump, a skater must launch with an enormous amount of momentum, usually propelling upward by striking the ice with the toe pick.
The skater must jump high in the air and spin fast enough to do four revolutions in under a second. Last, the skater must withstand momentary impact forces between nearly ten times their body weight, stop rotating, land on the slippery ice, and continue with their routine.
This skater apparently forgot at least one element of the maneuver.
Sources: edmontonjournal.com, chirkup.me, theguardian.com, scientificamerican.com