Figure skating is the oldest discipline in the Olympic Winter Games. As far back as 1908, figure skating competitions were included in the Olympics in London, and in 1920 at the Antwerp Games. Since the 1924 Olympic Games in Paris, singles and pairs skating have been a key fixture of the Olympic Games.
The first Russian Olympic champion in figure skating was Nikolai Panin-Kolomenkin. He won a gold medal at the London 1908 Olympic Games in an individual program called «Special Figures».
In 1976 ice dancing was included in the Olympic program; prior to this (in 1972) it was the only part of the Olympics as a demonstration sport. The first Olympic champions in ice dancing in 1976 were the Soviet figure skaters Lyudmila Pakhomova and Alexander Gorshkov.
Figure Skating in Russia
Figure skating in Russia was first actively developed by Peter I (Peter the Great). He brought examples of skates from Europe and even invented a new way of attaching them — directly to his boots. After Peter’s death, figure skating fell out of fashion in Russia, and was forgotten for many years.
In 1865, a public ice rink opened in St. Petersburg at Yusupov Garden on Sadovaya Street. The finest in Russia, this rink immediately became a center for training figure skaters. Indeed, the first contest for Russian figure skaters was held here on March 5, 1878.
The Soviet school of figure skating came to the fore only after the Second World War and by 1964, the USSR was celebrating its first Olympic success — a gold medal in the mixed pairs skating for Lyudmila Belousova and Oleg Protopopov.
Today, figure skating is one of the most popular sports in Russia.
Figure Skating today
The Olympic Games program includes the following figure skating competitions: individual men’s and women’s events, pairs events, ice dancing and also team events. At the present time, only 5 sets of medals are contested in the Olympic figure skating program.
Single skating (Men and Ladies) consists of a short program including 7 compulsory elements and a free program. A well-balanced free program should include jumps, spins, and steps.
Likewise, mixed pairs skaters first perform a short program (7 moves) and then a free program. Compulsory moves include lifts, spirals, throws and synchronized jumps.
One of the most significant criteria in the judging of programs is the degree to which a pairs’ movements mirror one another.
Ice Dancing is the only discipline that allows the use of music with vocals. Dancers much adhere closely to the rhythm of the music and express the character of the music with appropriate emotion and feeling.
At present, ice dancing competitions, like those of other forms of figure skating, consist of two programs. The short program combines a compulsory dance—consisting of one or two parts—and certain proscribed elements. The theme and rhythm of the musical accompaniment is determined each season by the ISU the sport’s governing body, while the length of this dance—currently 2 minutes and 50 seconds—is similar to requirements of other forms of figure skating. The free dance has not undergone significant changes over the years and the basis of its scoring remains, the quality of the compulsory elements in close dancing positions, the unison the skaters display and their ability to express the character of the musical selection.
Team Events in figure skating are a competition between the best national teams. Representatives of the singles and pairs skating perform a short and free program; in ice dancing they complete a short and free dance. Each team may have one sports pair and one dance pair, one male figure skater and one female figure skating.
- Custom-made boots made of thick, stiff leather, with extra laces and wide tongues, which provide the ankle with both flexibility and support usually made to the individual order for the skater.
- High strength carbon-steel blades with concave grooves along their entire length and teeth in the toe of the blade to allow for pushing off when executing certain types of jumps.
- A suit made of stretchable material that does not restrict the skater’s range of movement. The outfit should correspond to the character of the musical selection and reflect the theme of the program.
- A standard skating rink is 30 by 60 meters in size, with plastic or sliding boards. Figure skaters need ice of the highest quality which is achieved using ice resurfacing machines. The thickness of the ice over its entire surface should not vary by more than 0.5 cm.