Figure Skating 101 - Feb. 29

All about twist lifts

Dan Zhang soars above teammate Hao Zhang.
Dan Zhang soars above teammate Hao Zhang. (Getty Images)


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By Jo Ann Schneider Farris, special to
(02/29/2008) - One of the required elements that all pairs skaters competing at the Intermediate level and above must do is the twist lift. Twist lifts have some similarities to throw jumps but are not throw jumps. In a twist lift, the man lifts the lady in the air and throws her. She rotates and twists before he catches her on the waist and assists her with landing.

The Chinese pair of Dan Zhang and Hao Zhang are famous for being able to do amazingly high lateral twists in the air. The 2008 U.S. Figure Skating pairs champions Keauna McLaughlin and Rockne Brubaker are also able to execute a spectacular triple-twist lift. Some people predict that, by the 2010 Olympics, their twist lift will be a quad.

Quad-twist lifts have been done for many years. The Russian pairs skating team of Marina Cherkasova and Sergei Shakhrai are credited with performing the first quadruple twist in 1977. Cherkasova was much smaller than Shakhrai, and their size difference made it possible for them to invent innovative twists.

To execute the move, both partners first skate backwards as the twist lift begins. In a lateral twist lift, the man lifts the lady over his head and tosses her into the air. The lady may complete up to three rotations in the air and then is caught at the waist by the man. In a smooth motion, he places her back on the ice, and she lands the move on a back outside edge.

Young pairs teams are not expected to do lateral overhead twists. At lower levels, teams perform split-twist lifts, where the man lifts the lady in the air at approximately a 45-degree angle. The skaters begin by doing back crossovers together. The lady picks into the ice as she would on a toe-assisted jump, and the man lifts her in the air. As he lifts her, she splits her legs and pushes off from his wrists. She rotates for a half turn. The man releases his hold of the lady and turns around to catch her by the waist or hips. She lands on a back outside edge and then turns forward. The team ends the move in unison with both skaters skating forward on matching forward inside edges.

When a pairs team first works on the twist, the move is usually practiced without the split. Some couples do not perform the move with a split, but do execute the single revolution required at competitions.

Twist lifts do make pair skating thrilling and exciting since they add a gymnastic and acrobatic element to the discipline. The move is a dangerous one and should not be attempted without the supervision of a qualified pair skating coach.

Happy Skating!

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