On Thin Ice: A History Of Ice Skating

2189 words - 9 pages

A hobby that defies the laws of gravity, that allows the participant to look as graceful as a swan, yet has the potential to bring about some of the worst pain imaginable should be entered into with a fighting spirit. Ice skating is a make it or break it sport. Only a sharp thin blade separates this person from direct contact with the ice. The edges are there to guide, the toe pick there for balance, and the hollow there for when a person feels brave enough to test their luck in the hopes of accomplishing a spin or a jump. Figure skating techniques, methods, and equipment have significantly evolved from its primitive conception into the poised sport that is widely known today.
The concept of ice skating first began in approximately 1600 B.C. during the Scandinavian Bronze Age; however, the earliest evidence only dates ice skating back to 300 A.D. The only proof that still exists today about skating in its primitive form is archaeological evidence since all forms of written evidence did not survive or did not exist at all. The Netherlands appear to be the homeland of ice skating. The Dutch used the leg bones of larger animals as blades which were then secured with a strap around the skater’s foot. Then, the skater would fashion poles from tree limbs to push themselves around the ice.
Iron skates were first introduced in 200 A.D. Though this was a slight improvement over the previous gear, iron skates did not replace bone skates leaving bone skates the predominant mode of transportation over ice throughout the Middle Ages. The iron remained unsharpened which required the skater to employee the use of poles to push themselves across the ice. The skater could not maintain any sort of forward motion. This development left much to be desired in the realm of ice skating.
The Dutch were the first people to create a steel blade. The exact time of this revolution remains unknown, but it dates back before the fourteenth century. Steel blades had edges.
Edges: The part of the skate bade that touches the ice is actually grooved. The ridge on the inside of the leg is called the inside edge and is further subdivided into forward and backward edges. The other edge is the outside edges, and it also has forward and backward sections, which gives a total of four edges for each blade. (Yamaguchi 310)
An edge provides a grip on the ice as it digs in. People were then able to cease using the poles because they could push off. Skaters could now glide by alternating between turning their left and right foot out in a V-shape to glide which became known as the Dutch Roll and is still common in skating today.
England is credited with the birth of figure skating. Samuel Pepys described the spectacle in his diary with, “Over the Parke where first in my life, it became a great frost, [I] did see people sliding with their skeets, which is a very pretty art (Hines 23).” England was just recovering from a time of great despair in the late seventeenth century when ice...

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