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Figure skating: the long program


Questions and answers about today's women's figure skating long program:

How long is the long program?

For the women, it's between 3 minutes, 50 seconds and 4 minutes, 10 seconds.

Besides the length, how is the long program different from the short program?

The requirements aren't as rigid as in the short program, but there are some rules. There are maximums to the number of elements the skaters can perform. They can do a maximum of seven jumps (at least one must be an axel), four spins and two step sequences.

How are they judged?

It's the same as in the short program. They are scored for their technical elements and program components (artistry), then that total, minus any deductions, is combined with the score from the short program.

What should I look for if I'm scoring at home?

For the technical score, watch which skaters land the most triple jumps and which ones do the most difficult combinations. Sarah Hughes won four years ago because of her triple salchow-triple loop in the long program. Neither of the other medalists, Irina Slutskaya nor Michelle Kwan, had a triple-triple in her repertoire. For the artistic score, pay special attention to the connective tissue - the step sequences and spirals between the jumps and spins.

Is the long program more or less interesting with the new scoring system?

It depends on how the short program goes. In the old system, a skater usually needed to be in the top three going into the long program to have a chance to win. Hughes was the first Olympic champion to go from fourth to first when she did it in 2002. That's how rare it was. Under the new system, a skater can move up numerous places depending on his or her scores.

In the men's long program here, Russia's Evgeni Plushenko had a 10-point lead going in. He didn't have to skate brilliantly, as he might have had to under the old system, and didn't. He still won overwhelmingly. But in that same program, Evan Lysacek of the United States entered in 10th place and almost won a medal, finishing fourth, because he scored so many points in the long program.

Determining a winner in the women's competition should be considerably more dramatic because the top three going into the long program are within three-quarters of a point of each other. Only .03 of a point separates the leader, Sasha Cohen, from second-place Slutskaya.

Is there a chance for anyone other than the top three to win a medal?

It won't be easy. Fourth-place Fumie Suguri of Japan is more than four points out of third place, and fifth-place Kimmie Meissner is more than another point behind her. But strange things can happen in the long program. If the leaders aren't at their best and Suguri, Meissner and even sixth-place Elene Gedevanishvili of the Republic of Georgia skate particularly well, there could be a shake-up at the top.

What would happen if everyone skates her best in the long program?

Based on the short program scores combined with personal bests from previous long programs, Cohen would win with 197.62 points. Slutskaya would finish second with 197.18, Shizuka Arakawa third with 190.01, Suguri fourth with 181.81, Miki Ando fifth with 175.46 and Meissner sixth with 170.20.

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