Figure skating is a sport that enthrals audiences regardless of their background and irrespective of their country, culture or religion. Full of grace, the dance styles and movements defy any attempt at description and sometimes even comprehension. That skaters are able to achieve so much control over their body’s movements and all while literally balancing on a blade, astonishes audiences around the globe. However, this does not come without a cost as it requires hours upon hours of training to perfect a routine. Even then the simplest mistake or slip during a competition can put years of relentless training to waste. If there was any sport that truly reflected the saying ‘on razor’s edge’ it is figure skating.
The whole balancing act of figure skating is based on a blade with two edges, overlapping the inside and outside of a groove. It is a mark of a top skater who can glide on the ice using only one edge of the blade at a time. Judges in competitions will also give higher marks for this technique over those who use both edges simultaneously. With a range of blades available, the different types enable skaters to perform specific steps. Blades that have large serrated teeth in front near the toes, are used for single and pair skating, while simple toe picks are utilised for jumps and take-offs. Skaters who favour smaller, intricate steps in their ice dancing routines, use shorter blades and smaller toe picks for greater control over their foot movement.
The origins of figure skating can be traced back more than a century and was the first winter sport to be introduced in the Olympics in 1908. There are 4 events in Olympic figure skating – men’s singles, ladies’ singles, pair skating and ice dancing. The international winter sports also includes two more categories for skating and synchronised skating which are both are non-Olympic events. The main manoeuvres which are awarded points include; throw jumps, spins, lifts, death spirals and moves in the field. The more difficult and intricate they are, the more points are awarded.
All figure skating competitions fall under the guidance of the International Skating Union (ISU) which includes the World Championships, Winter Olympics, The European Championships, and the Grand Prix for both junior and senior levels along with a few other international level tournaments.
The arenas and rinks for figure skating are not standardised and there is a difference in size between Olympic rinks, European rinks and NHL sized rinks. However, as per rule 342 of ISU, any event recognised by the body shall “”if possible, shall measure sixty (60) meters in one direction and thirty (30) meters in the other, but not larger, and not less than fifty-six (56) meters in one direction and twenty-six (26) meters in the other.” Typically, the size of the rink can affect the skater’s skill demonstration and their results will depend on whether they are able to give a flowing performance without being cramped for space.