What's a twizzle? Here's a guide to the figure skating term

The sports of the Winter Olympics can be thrilling and fascinating, but there's no shame in admitting that they're a little unfamiliar to many viewers. Whereas basketball fans can identity the intricacies of various defenses and offensive sets as a matter of habit, figuring out the details of, say, ice skating can be quite a challenge. Even basic terminology can be a problem.

Case in point: the twizzle. During NBC's Saturday night coverage of the figure skating team competition, commentators routinely referred to the twizzle in the routines of various ice dancers such as Team USA's Meryl Davis and Charlie White and reigning gold medalists Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada. But what exactly is a "twizzle," other than a funny term that makes for very easy Twitter jokes? Did skating authorities make it up to seem hip? And does it have anything to do with candy?

[Related: Olympic figure skating preview: 6 ice dance teams to watch]

There's a simple answer: a twizzle is a turn. More specifically, it's a turn common to ice dancing and seen less commonly in the figure skating American fans might know best. For a twizzle, a skater executes a one-foot turn and also moves across the ice, keeping the turning movement continuous. That specific movement is crucial, because it differentiates the twizzle from a stationary spin or series of turns.

Naturally, twizzles also come in different shapes and sizes. They can be clockwise or counterclockwise, on different edges of the skate, and forward or backward. The most common type occurs in an upright position with the free foot kept close to the skate leg.

When looking at twizzles, judges assess the difficulty of the position, the closeness of the partners to each other, and various other factors. Really, the twizzle is a common part of the sport, which is why an expert commentator can say the word over and over again without realizing how ridiculous it sounds to the uninitiated.

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Eric Freeman

is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!