A LITTLE BIT OF HISTORY…
Researches seem to show that people started to ice skate over 4000 years ago in Finland. At this point, “ice skates” where just bones strapped to a shoe to allow a person to move on the ice. People where probably just marching on the ice back then.
In the 14th century, dutch decided to add iron runners under a wooden platform that were then strapped to a shoe. We still could not call it ice skate because those “blades” had no edges so people were more likely skiing on the ice, probably using sticks to push themselves.
In the 15th century, the dutch again, decided to add a double blade edge instead of the iron runner to add more stability and get rid of the sticks to move. People were actually starting to skate.
Until the 17th century, people were using ice skating as a transportation method to cross frozen lakes and rivers during cold winters. It seems that this is in England in that same century that the first ice skating competition was introduced by King Charles II.
Historical researches show that this is an American, Jackson Haines, who created the first skating blade. Well let’s say that he created something that looked more like the blades we are using now.
There is no exact date for when figure skating was born, however, people started to do tricks and twirls on the ice around the 1880’s. Back then, skaters were just trying crazy stuff on the ice, this is how all the six jumps that we know have been invented.
The first figure skating was contested at Olympic Games was in the summer (Yes, the summer) of 1908. Since 1924, figure skating is part of Winter Olympic Games.
The ISU, International Skating Union was founded in Netherlands in 1892.
THE MULTIPLE DISCIPLINES REPRESENTED BY THE ISU
The ISU is representing several ice skating disciplines:
Figure skating includes:
Single skating. Performed by only one skater on the ice (male of female) doing jumps and spins.
Pair skating. Performed by two skaters on the ice (male and female) doing jumps and spins side by side but also throw jumps (the lady is thrown in the air by the male), lifts (the lady is lifted by the male), pair spins and also death spirals.
Ice dance. Performed by two skaters on the ice (male and female). No jumps are allowed in ice dance and the lifts cannot go above the shoulder. It’s more focused on steps and footwork. Spin has been forbidden in the past but are now allowed.
Synchronized skating. Performed by a group of skaters (8-20).
Speed skating. Race between skaters.
Short track. Race between skater on a shorter rink than speed skating.
JUMPS INVENTION, THEIR INVENTORS AND THEIR EVOLUTION
This jump was invented in 1882 by a Norwegian skater: Axel Paulsen. This jump is the only one that starts forward, so in order to land backward like all the other jumps, skaters had to add an extra half revolution. Single Axel is one and a half revolutions in the air, double two and a half revolutions in the air… This extra revolution makes the Axel one of the hardest jump in figure skating.
First double Axel Landed: Dick Button in 1948 Olympic Games
First triple Axel Landed: Vern Taylor in 1978
In 1909, Ulrich Salchow, Swedish skater created that one jump that was named after him.
First double Salchow landed: Gillis Grafstrom in 1926
First triple Salchow landed: Ronald Robertson in 1955
First quadruple salchow landed: Timothy Goebel in 1998
In the 1920’s, the Toe Loop was invented by an American: Bruce Mapes.
First double Toe Loop landed: Unknown
First triple Toe Loop landed: Thomas Litz in 1964
First quadruple Toe Loop landed: Kurt Browning in 1988
The Loop was invented in 1910 by the German skater, Werner Rittberger.
First double Loop landed: Unknown
First triple Loop landed: Dick Button in 1952
First quadruple Toe Loop landed: Kurt Browning in 1988
Lutz along with Axel is probably one of the hardest jump in figure skating as this is the only one that starts on a counter edge (the take off edge goes in one direction and the revolution(s) in the air is/are done the other way). This jump was invented by Alois Lutz, an Austrian figure skater. The date of the creation of that jump is not clear but it was performed for the first time in competition in 1913.
First double Lutz landed: Unknown
First triple Lutz landed: Donald Jackson in 1962
First quadruple Lutz landed: Brandon Mroz in 2011
We don’t really know who invented the Flip. Even if this jump it’s almost like a Lutz, taking off on an inside edge instead of an outside edge, it seems that Bruce Mapes would be the one who landed it for the first time. However at this time there were so many skaters experimenting things on the ice that we have no certitude on the name of the creator of this jump.
First double Flip landed: Unknown
First triple Flip landed: Unknown
First quadruple Flip: Shoma Uno in 2016
Even if no new jump has been invented since the 1910’s, figure skating keeps evolving. Skaters are doing double, triple and even for some gifted one quadruple jumps at a younger age. For example Alexandra Trusova was the first female figure skater to land a quadruple Lutz at the age of 14 when it’s still a very difficult jump for most of the male skaters.
What’s next for figure skating quintuple jumps, jumps rotating in both direction? Who knows, only the future will tell us. But with all the young talented figure skaters that we have now, I can promise you that it will become more and more spectacular… To be continued.
WHAT IS FIGURE SKATING REALLY ABOUT?
Beyond a sport, figure skating is an art. This sport is not only about gliding on the ice and do jumps and spins, it’s about putting all those things together, gracefully, on a music, following specific rules. Choreography and footwork are as important as jumps and spins as they are here to link all the elements together to create a program.
When creating a program, a skater and its choreographer chose a theme, a character or a story that they will bring to life on the ice. The choice of the music and the costume are crucial and need to reflect that theme, story or character. But when creating a program, you also have to follow rules to follow and they are pretty strict. If not followed carefully, they can lead to deduction in competitions.
Figure skating is also entertaining. There are a lot of figure skating shows around the world, more or less famous. Figure skaters in shows can do anything they want, even the craziest things, there are no rules to follow.
PHYSICAL AND PSYCHOLOGICAL QUALITIES DEVELOPED IN FIGURE SKATING
Figure skating is a tough discipline but it bring a lot of skill, qualities and abilities to a person.
On the physical side, skaters will develop balance, flexibility, strength, core strength, coordination, agility and stamina. On the psychological side, they will improve their resilience, focus, creativity, competitiveness and determination. Skaters who skate in team and pair skating will also develop team spirit.