The thought of someone in ancient times slipping on a pair of ice skates and gliding across a frozen pond seems crazy to many people. Ice skating had to start somewhere with someone staring at the ice wondering the best way to travel across it. We’ve got all you need to know about the history of ice skating.
Skating on the ice began over 4,000 years ago in southern Finland. Instead of skating for pleasure, ice skating was mostly done for mostly for travel. These skates were made by strapping animal bone to leather soles. During the winter, Finland’s lakes form a high concentration of ice. The people needed a way to get their work done on the ice, so it made sense to skate across it. These were like frozen highways to the workers. Skaters of this day glided on top of the ice pushing themselves across with a pole. During the Song dynasty in China from 960 to 1279, it’s believe royal families in the Qing Dynasty enjoyed ice skating as well. They would ice skate during the Spring Festival holiday. Overall, skating on ice in the beginning was done for travel through the toughest places. Some in these areas still use the frozen highway of lakes on skates.
Transformation Of Skates
These skates made of bone and leather transformed throughout the centuries. By the 15th century, the skates had a curl on the top of metal skating blades. This helped skaters stick their blades into the ice without tripping. The blades were strapped around the boots with leather. This was also the time that people began to skate for fun instead of just transportation.
Moving Across Countries
Ice skating then moved to England from the Netherlands. James II was exiled there in th 17th century. When he went back to England, historians believe he introduced ice skating to the British aristocracy. Americans were enjoyed the sport by the mid 1840s. EV Bushnell of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania is credited with creating an all-steel clamp for skates. This means skaters could do all of those fun twists and turns without the risk of losing their blades.
Upper Class Sport
The middle and upper classes in Britain were the first people to truly enjoy ice skating. Queen Victoria actually got to know her future hubby, Prince Albert, meeting at ice skating rinks. The Holy Roman Empire’s Emperor Rudolf II loved to ice skate so much that he had a rink built in his personal court. France’s King Louis XVI helped make ice skating popular. Others that loved ice skating during that time included Napoleon and Madame de Pompadour.
Ice Skating Becomes A Sport
Racing on skates became popular in the early 19th century. The sport kept developing in Scotland and the Netherlands at first. As soon as the waters in the lakes and ponds froze, ice skaters strapped on their skates. People competed for things like food, clothing, and money. Thousands of spectators came to watch skaters in the championship matches. Skaters would race around obstacles for the win.
Introduction Of Ice Skating Clubs
The first figure skating club was introduced at The Edinburgh Skating Club in about 1744. If skaters wanted to be in the lite club, they had to pass a demanding ice skating test. In 1830, London put together their own skating club. In 1879, ice skaters came together from Huntingdonshire and Cambridgeshire starting the National Skating Association, the first national ice skating body in the world. The International Skating Union. They worked together to create the first set of figure skating rules.
Refrigerated Ice Skating Rinks
Skating outside on frozen ponds eventually led to the transformation of entertainment and sports inside a rink. Indoor rinks were starting to become popular as they tried to find the perfect concoction to make articial ice. During this time, workers tried to figure out the best way to create ice skating rinks. They first used hog’s lard and different salts. These rinks were outdated by the mid 1840s as people got tired of the bad odor. Thirty years later, refrigeration technology eventually took the place of the hog’s lard. In 1876, The Glaciarium in London opened its first ice rink with artificially frozen ice. In 1879, the United States opened its own rink in New York at Madison Square Garden.
Men were the first skaters that could compete in the Olympics. This changed in 1902 when Britain’s Madge Syers decided to skate at the World Figure Skating Championships. This caused a large uproar that led to the International Skating Union banning women to compete against men in ice skating. A separate ice skating event was held for women in 1906. The 1908 Summer Olympics officially introduced figure skating. The premise of ice skating at this time was all about making beautiful designs in the ice. These designs of a figure eight were called “figures.” These figures evolved into complicated designs made by the blades of the skates. It was a work of art to each skater.
The only problem with figures in figure skating was that it became boring to some spectators. Many didn’t understand the figures. This meant not many spectators flocked to watch figure skating in the Olympics at first. Norwegian figure skater, Sonja Henie, is credited for bringing many spectators to the sport. In the mid 1930s, Henie wore shorter skating skirts and boasted white figure skates. Her ballet style helped many fall in love with the sport. Ice dancing and figure skating popularity seemed to pick up speed. It wasn’t until the 19th century that these sports were fully developed. American Jackson Haines is known as the Father of Figure Skating. He did wild jumps and dances across the ice. Americans laughed at him and told him to get off the ice. He didn’t let this stop his skating. People all over the world began to love this sport. Skating looks nothing like it did in Haines’ time. Each ice sport now has their own types of skates. The long blades help speed skaters go faster. Hockey players need double-edged blades to keep them safe on the ice. Figure skaters use blades with a toe-pick so they can stick in the ice and perform jumps.
Ice Skating To Figure Skating Today
The skating of Haines and Henie might not hold a candle to what skaters can do on the ice today. Their moves helped transform ice skating into the spectacle sport of today. After figures in the ice were eliminated from competition, it became one of the toughest sports on ice. Skaters doing triple and quadruple spins took over. Pair skating and ice dancing became popular. A new judging system hit the books in 2004 with a 6.0 being a perfect score. Nothing is predictable in ice skating competitions.
Bringing Hockey To Light
Figure skating was popular throughout the globe, but Canada was the first place to develop ice skating into ice hockey. It didn’t originate in Montreal, but they are famous for making it popular. They played their first indoor game in 1875 at Montreal’s Victoria Skating Rink. The game used a flat piece of wood. This would help keep the “puck” inside the arena helping to protect spectators.
Ice skating has come a long way from bone and leather skates made to travel across frozen areas. It’s now a recreational activity and spectator sport loved by many people of all classes. Strap on a pair of ice skates today to pay tribute to everyone that paved the way to fun on the ice.