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The short program of figure skating is usually the first of two phases in figure skating competitions for single skating, pair skating and synchronized skating. As the name suggests, it is the shorter of the two programs, the other one being the free skating. The short program has also been known by other names. From the 1989 to 1992 seasons, it was called the original program, and from 1993 to 1994, it was called the technical program.
The short program was first introduced in the 1964 season for pair skating competitions. Prior to that time, competitions for pairs consisted of free skating only. The new short program for pairs was originally called the "connected program" and had only 6 required elements, drawn from designated groups in lifts, solo jumps, pair spins, solo spins, "spiral spins" (death spirals), and step sequences. The time allowed was a maximum of 2 minutes 30 seconds.
For single skating, figure skating competitions used to consist of compulsory figures and free skating only. The short program was introduced in the 1973 season as part of a reform to reduce the weight of the compulsory figures and provide an additional event suitable for television coverage of skating competitions. Originally, the short program for singles had only 6 required elements (three jumps, two spins, and one step sequence). It was competed for the first time at Nebelhorn Trophy in late summer of 1972. A seventh element, the spin combination, was added to the short program the following season. Required deductions for failures on elements were not added until the 1975-1976 season. The eighth element (spiral sequence for ladies or second step sequence for men) was added in the 1988-89 season, when the time limit was set at 2 minutes 40 seconds. The short program was extended by an additional 10 seconds when the ISU Judging System was adopted to allow skaters more time to complete complex spins and step sequences.
It used to be that the required elements in the short program were more constrained than they are now. For example, at the 1988 Winter Olympics, both men and ladies were required to do a double flip as the jump out of steps, and include a double loop in the jump combination. The change to allow men to do a triple as the required axel jump and include a quadruple jump in the short program did not happen until the 1998-99 season.
The International Skating Union regulations set a maximum time of 2 minutes 50 seconds for the short program. There are 7 required elements, with mandatory deductions for failures on each element.