ICE SKATING, a sport brought to North America from Europe in the 1740s, takes three basic forms. Figure skating, solo or in pairs, includes jumps and spins with varying degrees of difficulty, combined with movement and dance. Speed skating (and short-track speed skating) is racing on ice. Ice hockey is a team sport played on ice. In the mid-nineteenth century, skates were made of steel with straps and clamps to fasten them to shoes. Later in the century, the blade with the permanently attached shoe was developed by the American ballet dancer and vanguard figure skater Jackson Haines, who also introduced the elements of dance and music into the previously rigid form of figure skating.
British soldiers stationed in Canada introduced a game called "shinty," which combined field hockey with ice skates. The game was originally played with a ball, but in the 1860s a puck was introduced. Regulations and associations quickly developed to govern the popular and reckless
sport, and in 1892 the Canadian governor general, Frederick Arthur, Lord Stanley of Preston, donated a cup to be given to the top Canadian team after an annual playoff. The Stanley Cup is still the object the National Hockey League (NHL) competes for in its championship games. Professional women's hockey debuted in the late 1990s.
The first recorded speed-skating race in England was in the Fens during 1814. World championships for speed skating (men only) began in the 1890s. In 1892, the world governing body of both speed and figure skating—The International Skating Union (ISU)—was founded. Six years later, the first ISU-sanctioned event was held. In 1914, pioneer figure skater George H. Browne organized the first International Figure Skating Championships of America under the sponsorship of the ISU of America. In 1921, the United States Figure Skating Association (USFSA) was formed to govern the sport and promote its national growth.
As an Olympic sport, figure skating (considered an indoor sport) debuted in the 1908 Olympic Summer Games in London, with competitions held for men, women, and pairs. It became a winter sport at the first-ever 1924 Winter Games in Chamonix, France. Originally, figure skating was executed in a stiff, formal style. Compulsory movements consisted of curves and turns, in or against the direction of movement, and executed to form several circle forms in a row. Although music, more fluid movements, pirouettes, spins, and ever-increasing athleticism were continually added to the performance roster, compulsory figures remained a part of Olympic competition until 1991. Ice hockey was included in the summer Olympics in 1920 and in the inaugural winter games of 1924, where men's speed skating was also an event. Women's speed-skating championships were first held in 1936 and included in the Olympics in 1960. Ice dancing, a figureskating discipline, became an Olympic event in 1976 and short-track speed skating in 1992.
American skaters have won more Olympic medals to date—forty by 2002—than competitors from any other country. The first American Olympic skating gold medal winner was Charles Jewtraw, who won the 500-meter speed-skating event in 1924. That same year, Beatrix Loughran took the silver medal for women's figure skating. The winning tradition continued through the turn of the twenty-first century, with Tara Lipinski winning the gold in 1998, and Sarah Hughes winning the gold in 2002. During the last decades of the twentieth centuries, many Olympic medallists such as Dorothy Hamill, Peggy Fleming, and Scott Hamilton enjoyed lasting popularity, and figure skating competitions became highly watched events.
Brennan, Christine. Edge of Glory: The Inside Story of the Quest for Figure Skating's Olympic Gold Medals. New York: Penguin, 1999.
Smith, Beverley. Figure Skating: A Celebration. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1994.
See alsoOlympic Games, American Participation in .
J. A. Cannon
ice skate • n. a boot with a blade attached to the bottom, used for skating on ice.• v. [intr.] skate on ice as a sport or pastime.DERIVATIVES: ice skat·er n.