Figure Skating: A Brief Introduction

 By: Jack Smith
Often performed to music, figure skating is an ice skating sport where individuals, duos, or teams perform moves like spins and jumps on ice. Figure skating can trace its origins to the mid-19th century. In 1902, the World Championship that used to allow only men to compete saw a woman participant for the first time. She finished second and changed the history of ice skating as a competitive sport forever. The International Skating Union, which was established in 1892 and governs competitive ice-skating disciplines, created a separate competition for ladies, (the official terminology of the sport used to refer to women) in 1906. By 1908 figure skating had been introduced to the Winter Olympic arena for individuals as well as mixed pairs.

Also referred to as artistic skating in other languages, figure skating competitions include many disciplines. The main disciplines are -

Singles Freestyle competitions for men and women, where skaters have to perform jumps, spins and step sequences as part of their performance. This is usually performed to music.

Mixed Pairs which comprise of a duo team of a man and a woman. A pair has to perform the singles elements together in harmony, and also pair-specific sequences like throws, lifts, pair spins and death spirals, where the man swings the lady around him.

Ice dancing, performed by a mixed couple, as opposed to pairs, emphasizes the beauty of the sport rather than the acrobatic moves. It focuses on techniques like edgework, the flowing motion of the dancers as well as the difficulty of the steps performed while rhythmically close dancing to the music. There are two main focus areas in ice dancing. In compulsory dances, skaters have to perform obligatory dances with fixed steps and patterns set to standard ballroom dance rhythms. In free dances, as the name suggests, the skaters free dance, within specific guidelines, to music of their own choice. Ice dancing is considered to be the most technical and detailed of the skating disciplines. Being one of disciplines where age is no barrier, it finds many adult participants who enjoy it for both its athleticism and its social aspects.

Synchronized Skating, once called precision skating, is a team event for mixed-gender groups of eight to twenty four skaters. It involves complicated routines, where the emphasis is on team work and timing, the precise formations of the group and the complex transitions between these formations. Again, age is not a barrier in this disciple and people of all ages are free to enter competitive events.
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