What normally goes through your mind when you see a skater on the ice? Are you in awe of their moves, their speed or just ‘how do they keep themselves upright?’
Modern-day ice-skating is a fairly competitive sport, a form of transportation and leisure activity that can be done on indoor and outdoor rinks and naturally occurring frozen bodies of water such as rivers, lakes and ponds.
That’s why it always seems to surprise people when they find out it is around 3000 years old!
n Finland, where it all started, they used to strap sharpened bone to the bottom of their feet, and quite a few people practised it, although back then it was more gliding that it was skating!
Ice skates used in war sounds crazy, doesn’t it? But it actually happened! The Battle of Ijsselmeer took place in Amsterdam in 1572 and the Dutch surprise the more powerful Spaniards by taking to the ice of the frozen canal for combat. Needless to say, the Dutch won.
However when iron blades replaced bone, skating as a hobby took off…
Ice Skating is one of the most competitive sports out there, with figure skating, speed skating, hockey, bandy and Ringette.
Ringette is a non-contact game played by mostly women, although it is a sport for both genders, similar to hockey, however, instead of normal sticks it involves a straight stick and a larger puck.
It is also where floor hockey originated from, which is a little fact most people wouldn’t know considering Ringette is an unknown sport too!
n most places, Hockey is the most popular of the sports on the ice, with it being monumental in the USA. Yet some people think that Figure skating is the better of the two, with the skill that is needed to be considered professional in the industry.
What is an ice skate blade made of?
The skate blades are typically made of tempered carbon steel, coated with a high-quality chrome. Lightweight aluminium and stainless steel blades are becoming more popular with skaters. Blades are about 3/16 inch (4 mm) thick and may have a slightly tapered cross-section.
How thick is the blade of a hockey skate?
A typical ice hockey skate blade has a uniform thickness of approximately 2.9 mm. (0.115 inches). On the other hand, a speed skating blade of the type utilized in Olympic ice skate races is longer than an ice hockey blade, and the thickness of the blade is more in the order of 1.4 mm.
When it comes to thickness, another point to add is that all skates sharpen differently too. Depending what you skate and what you need as a skater, skate sharpening can be done to your preference.
Although it started in Europe, Ice Skating was brought over to America in 1740, as well as the first known skating club to exist in Edinburgh, Scotland opened only two years later. It took around 90 years then the first strictly figure skating club was founded in London and by then competitions were then held in the “English style” of skating, which was stiff and formal and bears little resemblance to modern figure skating.
Jackson Haines – Photo from: icestagearchive.com
By the 1860’s American skater Jackson Haines, considered the “father of modern figure skating”, introduced a new style of skating to the world. This style, which incorporated free and expressive techniques, became known as the “international style.
In 1848, a man named E. V. Bushnell from Philadelphia invented a strapless skate with the blades themselves clipped right to the boot.
This idea revolutionized the whole of ice skating because for the first time skaters can twist, turn, spin and leap without losing their ice skate blades!
After the revolutionary discovery of clipped on blades, figure skating as a professional sport began in the 1850’s, when spins and jumps began to be practiced, and this new concept caught on quickly, with the first ever World Figure Skating Championships appearing in 1896. By 1906, the women’s tournament in Switzerland was happening.
Being such a popular sport, by 1906, the Olympics had introduced Figure Skating to the list, where it has stayed ever since. However it’s not just figure skating that made the Olympics, as speed skating, figure skating and ice dancing are all Olympic competitions, Ice Hockey too.
When choosing music for Olympic Figure skating, the skater is not permitted to use music to accompany their routine if there are vocals. The music must be instrumental only. As there is a limited time that they can skate for, choosing a long enough instrumental song can be a very hard task.
ut for this pair of skaters, their idea revolutionised their career. Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean, British ice dancers and former British, European, Olympic and World champions performed to Maurice Ravel’s Bolero in Sarajevo 1984.
However, the song was 18 minutes long and as they are only allotted 4, they knew something would have to be done since it could only be shortened to 4:30.
The pinnacle of their career, below you’ll see the reason they scored a row of perfect 6.0s for artistic merit, the highest score ever given.
In the start of this video you’ll see their opening moves: at the time, the stopwatch only started when you began to actually skate. Watch it carefully: they kick off on their knees, and the blades don’t hit the ice for several bars.
Ever since the Bolero, the popularity of the sport has continued to grow in leaps and bounds, with the ever so popular Dancing on Ice getting it’s beginnings in 1998. Mixing celebrities and skating, this became a well loved show, and with Torvill and Dean at the helm, it brought with it a new generation of skaters.
There are hundreds of Rinks that come and go at Christmas time, but instead of the ‘Rink Mania’ that happened in 1841-1844, these are actual frozen rinks, no hogs lard and salt to be found!