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I am going to teach you about the evolution of figure skating. Figure skating has changed dramatically over time.
Timeline of Figure Skating Jumps
Figure skating jumps are one of the most important parts of competitive figure skating. There are different jumps that take off the ice in different ways and have different numbers of rotations in the air. In the timeline below, pay attention to when single jumps switched to double jumps, double jumps switched to triple jumps, and so on.
1882: 1st skater completes the single axel in official competition.
1909: 1st skater completes the single salchow in official competition.
1910: 1st skater completes the single loop in official competition.
1913: 1st skater completes the single lutz in official competition.
1920: 1st skater completes the single axel in official competition.
1925: 1st skater completes the double lutz in official competition.
1926: 1st skater completes the double salchow in official competition.
1937: 1st female skater completes the double salchow in official competition. (first double jump done by a women)
1942: 1st female skater completes the double lutz in official competition.
1948: 1st skater completes the double axel in official competition. (Olympics)
1952: 1st skater completes the triple loop in official competitions. (Olympics and the first triple jump ever done in competition)
1953: 1st female skater completes the double axel in official competition.
1955: 1st skater completes the triple salchow in official competition. (Olympics)
1962: 1st skater completes the triple lutz (Olympics) and 1st female skater completes the triple salchow (first triple jump done by a women)
1964: 1st skater completes the triple toe-loop in official competition.
1996: 1st skater completes the triple/triple loop combination jump in official competition.
1997: 1st skater completes a quadruple jump in official competition.
As you can see, in 1882 at the Olympics, single jumps were being done and by 1997 and still today, quadruple jumps are being done at the Olympics. This leads me to ask the question, will figure skating jumps continue to get more difficult? In 30 years from now will there be skaters doing 7 rotations in the air at the Olympics? Is that possible? At what point will it be impossible for us to be able to make figure skating more difficult?
Here are two videos of the 1932 Olympics and 2007 nationals. Pay attention to how much the same jump, the lutz, has changed. In the 1932 video, the lutz is the first jump that Sonja Henie does. In the 2007 video, the lutz is the second jump that Rachel Flatt does.
I am a figure skater at the Lake Minnetonka Figure Skating Club. I asked my coach, Gretchen Austin, about what figure skating was like when she was a kid and what she thinks will happen in the future. She said,"When I was little, the hardest jumps the elite male skaters were doing was the triple axel. Triple- triple combinations were few and far between, and if you happened to land them in competition you were doing really well. Tanya Harding was the first female to land a triple axel in competition. I actually was present when she did it! It was during her long program at the 1991 National Championships that was held at the Target Center in Minneapolis."
Gretchen continued with,"So as far as what kind of jumps will be done in the future? It’s hard to say. It’s hard to believe a person can rotate FIVE times in the air. But there was a time when they thought it was hard to leave the ice at all… let alone rotate once, twice, three times, or four times in the air. I anticipate that you will see a “quint” in your lifetime. I might even see it!"
Gretchen also said, "There is much, much more to our sport than just jumps. Spins, footwork, and artistry will continue to evolve as they have in the past. Music and costumes will change. Even skates are evolving to keep up with the sport (lighter weight materials, jointed boots to prevent injury, K-pick blades for more secure picking, etc.)."
The video below shows many different spins and combinations of spins. The video is a montage of Sasha Cohen. As you can see, there are many possible positions to spin in and many possible combinations of spins. Therefore, spinning is continuing to evolve and new positions are always being created.
Here is a video of different variations of a spiral. A spiral is a move in figure skating where you glide on one foot and lift the other foot in the air above hip level. Spirals can be done on different feet and edges of the skating blade and involve lifting the leg at different heights. The next video shows many spirals and will give you an idea about the evolution of this move.
Another important part of skating is the footwork. Footwork is a series of turns and steps put together. There are so many turns in figure skating, like 3 turns, mohawks, brackets, choctaws, counters, twizzles, rockers, cross steps, power threes, crossovers, and so much more! There are endless possibilities of footwork sequences. Therefore, there are also endless possibilities of new and more difficult turns and steps. In the video below, Alexei Yagudin, talks about footwork and the importance of every move you do on the ice, not just the jumps and spins.
In these photos you can really see how figure skating costumes have changed over time! Some of this change is because of changes in fashion and style but some is also because moves are getting harder, and the shorter skirt allows the skater to jump higher, spin faster, and skate more freely.
In these photos, you can see how figure skates have changed over time! As figure skating elements get more difficult, figure skates must accommodate the harder tricks. For example, when I pass levels in figure skating and work on more difficult jumps, I sometimes need to buy new skates with more padding and support. As skaters do more difficult jumps, they need stiffer skates to allow them to get more spring and jump higher.
All this change and growth in the sport of figure skating has not been easy. There have been many terrible injuries and falls in skating. This is the danger associated with figure skating that may prevent moves from becoming harder and evolving without limits. Here is a video that will show you some of the worst falls.
Figure skating is not just individual people jumping and spinning. There are also pairs skating and synchronized skating. I am on a synchronized skating team, and it is the most fun, challenging, thing I have ever been a part of! We travel all over the country skating in competitions, we work together, make new friends, and do difficult, fun, new, tricks. Because there are so many skaters on the ice at one time, there is a greater chance of falling. When one skater falls, often there is a domino effect, and other skaters fall, too. I like synchronized skating because it turns figure skating into a team sport!
Synchro began in the 1970s and is a large, fast-growing sport. There are 8-20 skaters on each team. Synchronized skating is one of the ways in which figure skating has evolved. The sport has become not only an individual sport, but a team sport also. Below is a montage of the top synchronized skating teams in the world.
So going back to my original question, let's discuss what we've learned. Will figure skating continue to get more difficult and evolve? At a certain point, I think the human body will reach a limit where it cannot rotate 15 times in the air! However, there are so many other ways in which the sport can develop and become harder. Spins, footwork and artistry are going to keep changing as skaters and coaches come up with new variations and combinations. Costumes and skates are going to keep changing to keep up with the moves being done. Synchronized skating is continuing to grow and develop fast. Maybe in the future, synchronized skating will become an Olympic sport. Pairs skating and ice dancing are other types of skating that have been added to the sport. My coach, Gretchen, said,"My generation of athletes are the ones now improving your generation of athletes, and your generation will improve the next. It will be interesting to see how far the sport can go and how far the human body can be pushed."
Yes, figure skating will continue to evolve. So, stay tuned!
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