How it all began
Figure skating tested a skater's control and balance but demanded lots of practice, patience and time: figure eights, three-circle figures and loops had to be traced on the ice in perfect patterns. It remained the sport of the aristocracy for only they - being short of neither time nor money - could afford the very expensive lessons!
The English style of figure skating began towards the end of the 18th century. Unlike the International syle seen on the television today, where the skater is continually moving position, the English style involved holding graceful positions until a turn or change of direction. Skaters kept an upright posture with arms often held at their sides. Great concentration was on the figures being traced on the ice.
Did You Know?
Speed skating and figure skating became two of the first sports to compete at international level following the formation of the International Skating Union (ISU) in 1892. Today, the ISU oversees all major international ice skating competitions and championships.
Under the general term of 'figure skating' there are five separate competitions at International Level:
- Men's singles skating
- Ladies' singles skating
- Ice dancing
- Pairs skating
- Synchronized skating
Figure skating - sport or art?
International figure skating today, with its graceful beauty and creativity, could be described by its audiences as a performing art. However, figure skating has been a competitive sport for over a hundred years.
Today competition skaters aim to:
- Perform as difficult a routine as possible (technical merit).
- Present the routine so that it looks its best (presentation).
Figure skating is forever making sporting leaps because it constantly offers new challenges, such as higher jumps and more rotations. With their amazing levels of fitness, agility and artistic talent, top skaters strive to be the world's best.
Ice dancing is a popular recreational sport as well as a major focal point of international competitions. Like competition-level pairs skating, it is elegant and dazzling, but it does not have the jumps, over-head lifts or extended spins. Ice dancing has different rules and a greater emphasis on the way people move to the music.