What's buzzing:

Fourth-Place Medal

Ice dancing vs. pairs skating: A Sochi Olympics viewers' guide

Fourth-Place Medal

View gallery

.

Meryl Davis and Charlie White perform during the Free Dance (Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports).

The athletes wear glittery outfits and ice skates and both disciplines require grace and strength, so pairs figure skating and ice dancing are basically the same thing, right?

Wrong! Although both are mesmerizing to watch, these two figure skating disciplines are, in fact, very different. Without background knowledge, it can be difficult to pinpoint exactly what separates the two, so we’ve assembled a handy guide to help.

[ Related: Figure skating terms to know ]

Let’s start with the basics. Pairs figure skating is inspired by singles skating and emulates two people skating as one. It features high-flying tricks and lifts and couples skating side-by-side in unison.

View gallery

.

Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir perform a twist lift at the 2014 US Championships.

Pairs skating have two components of competition: the short program and the free skate. In the short program, skaters must complete a list of required elements, like throw jumps (pictured below), although they can incorporate their own choreography. Couples have more artistic freedom in the free skate, where skaters choose their own elements. In both programs each element has a certain point value based on its difficulty.

View gallery

.

Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir perform a throw jump.

Think of ice dancing as ballroom dancing on skates. In fact, gold medal favorites from Team USA Meryl Davis and Charlie White had their "My Fair Lady" routine choreographed by Derek Hough of "Dancing with the Stars" fame, according to People.com.

There is little skating apart; couples are not supposed to be separated by more than two arm lengths. Throws and jumps are not allowed in ice dancing and spins must be performed together. Both disciplines have lifts, although in pairs skating the woman is generally lifted above the male’s head, and in ice dancing this is not allowed. Here’s an example of an ice dancing lift:

View gallery

.

Meryl Davis and Charlie White perform a lift at the 2010 Winter Olympics.

I know what you might be thinking -- so ice dancing is just watered-down pairs figure skating, right? Wrong again! Ice dancing has its own elements that make it difficult and unique.

A primary staple of ice dancing is intricate footwork sequences to the rhythm of music (like ballroom dancing). While fans see some footwork in pairs figure skating, it doesn't compare with the difficulty of ice dancing.

View gallery

.

Meryl Davis and Charlie White perform a footwork sequence.

There are two components to ice dancing competition: short dance and free dance.

During part of the short dance all competitors perform the same steps and holds for the judges. They have more freedom in the other part of the short dance, but still must complete five required elements. The short dance has an assigned theme and rhythm every year. The free dance is, as expected, the most unique for each couple, and they choose their own tempos, themes and choreography, while incorporating the required elements.

Oh, by the way, it's worth noting that ice dancing pair Davis and White are the best hope for hardware in figure skating for Team USA. They are dominant in their craft and are the reigning world champs. The Associated Press made its predictions, and expect no other U.S. figure skating pairs or singles to medal at Sochi.

View Comments (6)
  • Ecclestone proposes championship for women

    Ecclestone proposes championship for women

    Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone has proposed a controversial world championship for women drivers as part of grand prix weekends. "I thought it would be a good idea to give them a showcase," British media quoted the 84-year-old as saying … More »

    Reuters - 8 minutes ago
  • Matic shines on another gloomy night for Serbia

    Matic shines on another gloomy night for Serbia

    By Zoran Milosavljevic BELGRADE (Reuters) - A 2-1 defeat by Portugal has left Serbia with only a slim hope of reaching Euro 2016 after Nemanja Matic provided the only beacon of light in another lacklustre qualifying performance by the Balkan … More »

    Reuters - 21 minutes ago
  • Joint leaders of Volvo Ocean Race quit with broken mast

    The joint leaders of the Volvo Ocean Race, Dongfeng Race Team, were forced to quit the fifth leg early Monday when their mast broke in the Southern Ocean. The incident could hardly have happened in a worse spot for the Chinese boat, 240 nautical … More »

    AP - Sports - 1 hour 18 minutes ago
  • Reus, Mueller on target as Germany ease past Georgia

    Reus, Mueller on target as Germany ease past Georgia

    TBILISI (Reuters) - World Cup winners Germany eased past hosts Georgia 2-0 in their Euro 2016 qualifier on Sunday with first-half goals from Marco Reus and Thomas Mueller enough to get their Group D campaign back on track. Reus put the visitors … More »

    Reuters - 1 hour 50 minutes ago
  • Nadal crashes out in Miami, Murray wins

    Nadal crashes out in Miami, Murray wins

    By Simon Evans MIAMI (Reuters) - A struggling and edgy Rafa Nadal crashed out of the Miami Open in the third round on Sunday, losing 6-4 2-6 6-3 to fellow Spaniard Fernando Verdasco. The 31-year-old Verdasco, who is ranked 34th in the world, has … More »

    Reuters - 1 hour 52 minutes ago