The History of Figure Skating

Did you know that archaeological evidence showing that figure skating on ice rinks has been around since prehistoric times has been found?!

This conjures up visions of ape-like people with bones in their hair, twirling and pirouetting – yet this hilarious idea is actually true. Primitive animal-bone ice skates have been found in Russia, Great Britain, Germany, Scandinavia and Switzerland, and archaeologists believe they would have been used to cross large patches of ice efficiently.

Ice skating has been loved in this country, and public skating in places like Hong Kong, as well as figure skating in Hong Kong and elsewhere have made skating activities a global phenomenon. How far have ice events like figure skating come since their origins?

William Fitzstephen, a servant of Thomas Beckett, was the first to make mention of ice skating (although not on ice rinks) in writing. His book, written around the 12th century, described children playing and fighting on the ice with skates: “If the moors in Finsbury and Moorfield freeze over, children from London play. Some of the children have attached bones to their ankles, and carry well-worn sticks. They fly across the ice like birds, or well-fired arrows”.

Edges were added to ice skates in the 13th or 14th century, with the Dutch addition of steel edges. After experimenting with the height to width ratio of the edges, it was found that sticks were no longer needed to propel the skater, and the design that figure skaters in Hong Kong use today was born.

The history of actual figure skating was first described in print in 1772, in a book by a British artillery lieutenant named Robert Jones. He describes basic figure skating forms used in Hong Kong today like figure eights and circles, with the text which was aimed quite narrowly at a purely male audience.

The publication of this text saw the split in ice events and public skating, into those that focus on speed, and those that focus on art (figure skating).
Jackson Haines is widely regarded as the founder of figure skating in the modern tradition. He was the first skater to incorporate ballet moves and dancing into his skating, with moves that mean the skates leave the ice rink, his specialty.

He is credited with inventing the sit spin, and modified the ice skate blade so that it was better suited to the maneuverability needed for figure skating in Hong Kong and worldwide.

However, Haines innovation went largely unrecognized for a time, with British rigidity in figure skating still remaining the accepted form of expression on the ice rink. Haines promoted the style elsewhere in Europe, with great success, and public skaters in Hong Kong and other Asian countries also began to experiment with his techniques.

His American colleagues opposed the style, as did the English, but the man who died of tuberculosis at the tender age of 31 has left quite a mark on the world of ice events.

Today, figure skating in Hong Kong, one of the sport’s most devoted countries, as well as elsewhere in the world, recognizes four main ice events. Single skating events for both men and women, pair skating, ice dancing and synchronized skating are all popular on the ice rink. While the US, Canada and Russia have dominated traditionally, figure skaters from Hong Kong and the rest of Asia have shown exceptional talent lately.

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