Figure Skating History

Figure Skating History

Figure skating is wildly popular today as a staple of the Winter Olympics. However, this wasn’t always the case. The sport had a long road to its popularity today, with many different people and groups of people contributing to its development along the way. Read on to learn about the history of figure skating.

Figure Skating Origin

Ice skating was a practice started by Ancient Scandinavians. Archeologists have found animal bones that have been made into skates, and they date back to 3000 BCE in Finland.

The Ancient Vikings who first started ice skating would trim horse or cow bones, pierce holes through each end, and insert leather straps to both ends so they could fit their feet into the straps. This was revolutionary at the time because it reduced the amount of energy these people expended while traveling across Finland. Scientists say that these skates would have reduced their energy expenditure by 10 percent, and every percent was needed to survive the harsh winters at the time. Additionally, Southern Finland has the highest concentration of lakes in the world, so the skates were put to good use.

Where Was Figure Skating Invented?

Figure skating dates back to 3000 BCE ,to Scandinavia, where the people of Finland used their skates made of animal bones to travel all throughout the area. Figure skating began to greatly develop because of two Americans.

Steel ice skating blades were made by Edward Bushnell in 1850. This allowed skaters to be able to maneuver more easily. Then, in the 1860s, Jackson Haines incorporated his ballet dances into the sport to develop modern day figure skating.

Figure skating was introduced to the Olympics in 1908, and it would be considered the oldest sport of the Winter Olympic Games. Ice dancing was then incorporated in 1976, and it was added as an event to the Olympic Games.

Who Invented Figure Skating?

Modern figure skating was invented by Jackson Haines. He was a ballet dancer who was born in New York in 1840. When ice skating in the 1860s, he began to skate to music instead of listening to instructors. His new version of ice skating was free-flowing, charismatic, and entertaining, but audiences in the United States were not too fond of it.

After the lukewarm reception, Haines packed up his bags, left his wife and two children, and headed to Europe to look for a more open-minded audience. Come to find out, his new style was appreciated in Sweden, Norway, and Russia. He was particularly popular in Vienna, Austria, where he performed in front of Emperor Franz Joseph I. He displayed his new style of skating and incorporated waltzing into his program because it was popular in Vienna at the time. The sport’s popularity began to grow, and Haines took full advantage by opening up a skating school in Vienna. His style was later known as “Viennese.”

Figure Skating Key Facts And Timeline

  • 1892: Figure skating became officially established when the International Skating Union (ISU) was founded.
  • 1863: The first ice skating sport to go into competition was speed skating in 1863 in Norway.
  • 1882: The first international figure skating competition was held in Vienna, Austria. 
  • 1896: The first world championships were held in St. Petersburg, Russia but only men competed.
  • 1908: The sport was added to the London Olympics along with figure skating pair competitions.
  • 1976: Ice dancing was added to the Olympics


When did women’s figure skating begin?

The first woman to participate in a world championship was Madge Sayers in 1902. However, at that time, both men and women were able to compete in the same events. Because of Sayers’ performance, the ISU changed the rules to create a separate men’s and women’s category in 1903. This year was seen as the birth of competitive women’s figure skating on the international level.

How has figure skating changed over the years?

Over the years, figure skating has developed an increased focus on difficult jumps as opposed to technical skating. Higher levels of athleticism have caused an increase in the frequency of triple-triple and quad jumps. Additionally, the last several decades have seen an increase in technology in the sport. Advancements such as better skates, video analysis, and even artificial intelligence have led to a very technical approach to practicing figure skating. 

Who is the inventor of figure skating?

The inventor of figure skating is widely considered to be Jackson Haines. Haines was the first person to skate to music, which brought an extra choreographed flare to the sport. Many argue that his shift from normalcy enabled the sport as we know it to develop, and that figure skating may very well lack its modern popularity if not for his contributions.