Figure Skating 101 - Dec. 14

Forward scratch spins

Scott Hamilton does a scratch spin.
Scott Hamilton does a scratch spin. (Getty Images)


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By Jo Ann Schneider Farris, special to
(12/14/2007) - One of the most popular upright spins among figure skaters is the forward scratch spin. During that spin, the free foot and free leg crosses over the skating leg. The spin begins with the free leg opened out and extended wide, but then, the skater pulls in the arms, free leg, and free foot. Then, the free foot and free leg pushes down the skating leg like a corkscrew. The feet cross close to the ankles of the skater's boots. The spin speeds up as that happens, and sometimes the skater seems to almost become a blur since a scratch spin can spin so fast.

Scratch Spin Masters: Ronnie Robertson and Janet Champion

Since a skater can almost disappear while doing a fast scratch spin, the scratch spin can also be called a "blur spin." Ronnie Robertson, an American figure skater who won a silver medal at the 1956 Winter Olympics, was known for many years for being able to do the fastest blur spin in the world. Robertson began the spin slowly, with the free leg extended out and the skating leg slightly bent, but once he pulled in the legs and arms, he disappeared!

Janet Champion was a child skating star with Ice Follies. She was known for doing back handsprings and very fast spins on the ice during her show days. She is now a prominent figure skating coach. Ice skaters from all over the world come to work with Janet on spins, since Janet is an expert on centering scratch spins and making the spins go fast.

Forward Scratch Spin Tips

New ice skaters first learn to do the scratch spin by first doing a few back crossovers in a small circle. The last back crossover is used to sort of "wind up" the skater. Then, the skater steps forward into the center of the circle that was created by the back crossovers, reverses direction and pushes into the spin on one foot.

Before attempting to cross and pull in the free leg, the skater has to center the spin while extending the free leg out. The tricky part is getting the free foot to cross over the knee as the spin begins. Once the free leg crosses over the knee, it is important to maintain pressure over the front of the skating foot's blade, and to find the "sweet spot" that makes ice skating spins just happen.

Once the skater feels confident spinning with the leg crossed over the knee, it is time to bring in the arms and to push the foot down the skating leg. Some skaters push the arms down from the chest before pushing down the foot; others push both the arms and foot down at the same time. Coaches may have different techniques when it comes to ways to pull in, hold, and push down the arms and leg.

To exit the spin, the skater has to uncross the feet. The most popular way to exit is to push out backward onto a back outside edge, but another popular exit is to just stop the spin by jabbing the free toe into the ice.

Scratch Spins Are Fun

The forward scratch spin is one of the easiest spins to do. It takes a bit of time for new ice skaters to master the spin, but once the spin is mastered, scratch spins can be done easily. Once the spin gets going, a scratch spin can go on and on for many, many revolutions. Many figure skaters end their programs with a forward scratch spin since scratch spins seem to be a time when skaters can take a breath and relax.

Happy Skating!

For more information on the fundamentals of figure skating visit the U.S. Figure Skating's Basic Skills Program.