What are a twist and death spiral in pairs figure skating?

Earlier in the Games, we defined what a twizzle is.

With the pairs short program starting today, we look at two other oddly named figure skating moves: the twist and the death spiral.

Both elements are required, so you'll be hearing the commentators talking about them a lot.

Here's what to watch for:

This isn't the dance move made famous by "Pulp Fiction" (or Chubby Checker if you're old enough to remember).

The twist is one of the most spectacular moves in pairs skating. The element starts with both skaters going backwards. The lady toe-picks and her partner propels her into the air. The lady completes two or three rotations in the air before the man catches her and sets her down on the ice.

Pairs can increase the difficulty of their twists by doing footwork beforehand, having the lady do a split before taking off and/or having the lady vary her position in the air.

[Related: When Julia Lipnitskaia nearly quit figure skating]

Hallmarks of a high-scoring twist are good height and a clean catch. The Chinese are known for their air time (a number have even landed quadruple twists), as are Olympic favorites Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov (see above).

The twist is a high-risk element. Canadian Meagan Duhamel broke Eric Radford's nose a few seasons ago attempting the move, and some of the scariest crashes occur when the catch is botched.

Despite its name, the death spiral is less risky than the twist.

The man toe picks into ice and sets a pivot while the lady circles around him. There are four variations based on the lady's position. The prescribed death spiral this Olympic season is the back inside death spiral, which Duhamel and Radford illustrate above.

Pairs can increase difficulty by changing holds and doing more than one revolution on the ice.

What about the "Iron Lotus," as seen in the figure skating parody "Blades of Ice?"


Technically, the "Iron Lotus" is a combination of two figure skating moves: a headbanger and an Arabian.

Aside from being impossible to do, the move would be illegal in pairs skating, as the lady (or Will Ferrell in this case) cannot be swung by her feet. But it would be really cool to see.

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