Going Loopy

Deciphering Detailed ISU Event Schedules


ISU event schedules aren’t particularly newbie-friendly - but we promise that once you get the hang of them, they’re quite easy to read! This guide will show you how to decipher them, so you can be 100% on what’s happening when at every competition.

We’ll focus on the most important stuff: practices, starting order draws, victory ceremonies… and of course the competitive skates themselves.

Just hover or click on any of the red boxes below for more info about what they mean!

Detailed schedule from the 2019 World Figure Skating Championships with pop-ups explaining what each entry means

Date and Location

Directly underneath the dates on which the various events will take place are 1 to 3 columns indicating where events are being held:

  • MR for Main Rink
  • PR for Practice Rink (this is usually not publicly accessible)
  • Off-ice

Practice Sessions

Practices sessions are indicated on the schedule in solid color blocks.

How practice works:

Official practice can be held in the main rink and/or the practice rink, depending on the event.

Skaters go onto the ice to practice in groups decided by the organiser (there are usually around 4 couples or 6 singles skaters per group, but it varies!), with each group being given a number.

What the schedule tells you:

  • The first letter on the left-hand of the block specifies which discipline the session is reserved for: L for Ladies, M for Men, P for Pairs and D for Ice Dance.
  • The second line on the left specifies which program the skaters will be practicing: S for Short Program, R for Rhythm Dance and F for Free Program or Free Dance. If it reads S/F or R/F, the session can be used for either program: the skater decides which they’d like to practice. This is especially common in the first couple of days of official practice.
  • The number on the left tells you how long each group has for practice (usually 30-40 min). If it is followed by an asterisk, the skaters will be practicing according to their starting order.
  • The right-hand side of each block specifies the starting time for each group.
  • White gaps in the schedule between groups give the venue time to resurface the ice!

Starting Order Draws

Appear on the schedule as boxes labeled DR (for 'draw') in the top left-hand corner, and STO (for 'starting order') in the lower half.

The letters after STO refer to the discipline and the segment: e.g., M-S for Men's Short Program.

The start time for the draw is usually displayed on the top right hand corner. If not, '+15' means the draw will take place 15 minutes after the segment of competition immediately preceding it ends.

How they work:

Skaters go to the press room and draw a starting number. It's semi-random - their seed ranking (or how they did in the Short Program/Rhythm Dance, if we're talking about the draw that takes place before the Free) determines which group of 4-6 they'll skate in, but the skate order within that group is determined randomly.

Starting order draws always take place off-ice.

Competition Segments

(The most important bit!)

Competition segments are indicated on the schedule by boxes bordered in the (disappointingly traditional) color-code for each discipline.

Start and end times are given in the top right and bottom left corners, respectively.

The letters in the block specify:

  • the discipline (M for Men, L for Ladies, P for Pairs, D for Ice Dance), and
  • the segment (S for Short Program, R for Rhythm Dance and F for Free Skate/Dance).


The most common ceremonies are Opening Ceremonies (OC) and Victory Ceremonies (VC).

Opening Ceremony

Not all events have opening ceremonies, and they often aren't televised. They also often happen after one or two competitive skates have already taken place!

Victory Ceremony

Every event has these, obviously! They can either be on the ice in the main rink, or off-ice. Smaller competitions often hold ceremonies for two disciplines in quick succession.

On the schedule, the VC box may include initials to specify which discipline(s) the ceremony will cover. Otherwise, it's likely to be for the skaters who just finished skating...

Most victory ceremonies don’t have a set start time, because they depend on when the free skate/dance ends.

Exhibition Gala Practice

Gala practice sessions are denoted by the abbreviation EXH on the schedule, and are usually not colored.

The schedule will specify the start time. It may also specify:

  • how long the practice session will last
  • which part of the gala will be rehearsed (first half, second half or finale)
  • which disciplines will be rehearsing (most events have all their skaters rehearse together, but some *cough* Americans split the rehearsals up by discipline for... some reason. It is not for us to question.

Good to know:

Whether gala practices are open to the public or not will vary from competition to competition, so if you're attending don't forget to check with the event organisers!

Exhibition Gala

The gala is indicated on the schedule by a white or purple-bordered box. The abbreviation "EXH" may be used.

Good to know:

Event organisers have considerable discretion when deciding who to invite to the gala. In addition to the medalists, they usually invite local skaters, and skaters who have a reputation for fun or wacky exhibition numbers. The list of guests is usually not finalised until the night before the gala so keep your eyes peeled! They tend to pop up on Twitter.