Ice-skating may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of a sport, but it is indeed an athletic event. Figure skating usually becomes quite popular after any Winter Olympic Games, and this year is no exception. Olympic figure skating was one of the most-watched athletic events at the games in Sochi this year, and many little girls who watched the games now dream of being the next “Meryl Davis” or “Gracie Gold.”
I developed a desire to start skating after watching Tara Lipinski win gold at the 1998 Winter Olympic Games, and luckily I got to fulfill that dream. Are you one of the many who are interested in learning how to figure skate? Here are some skating basics that you should know before you start:
Jumps. (singles, doubles, triples, quads) In skating, especially singles skating, jumps are becoming more and more difficult, and much more valuable than they have ever been in competition. Jumps are measured by how many times you rotate in the air before landing on one foot. There are many different types of jumps in skating, such as the Lutz, Toe Loop, Axel, Flip, and Salchow. The axel is the only jump in figure skating that takes off starting forward. All other jumps start backwards. A great place to practice jumps before you ever get on the ice is at home. Concentrate on executing a one-rotation (single) jump first. Once you are comfortable with the single and have mastered it on the ice, you can move on to doubles, triples, etc.
Spins. Spins in figure skating are beautiful and show great flexibility and power. The most basic spin to start off with is a two-foot spin. This is a spin that you can go into by skating forward, bending your left knee, and bringing your right knee into meet it, which starts the rotation. Once you have mastered a two-foot spin, you can try a one-foot spin. This is usually executed by starting with backwards cross-overs, and spinning on the left foot while wrapping your right foot around the left once in rotation.
Balance. If you are going to figure skate, balance is key. You will be on two very thin, very sharp blades, and weak ankles will be the death of you. Practice walking with skates on on a solid surface before you hit the ice. This will get you used to walking on a thin blade, and will make you more comfortable for once you get on the ice.
Edges. Every pair of figure skates has edges on the blades. If the blade is correctly sharpened, the middle of it will be concaved in, with the very tips of the edges being the outermost part of the blade that stick out. This helps you to balance, and allows the skates to grip the ice better. You will need that grip for jumps and spins.
Toe-pick. Every pair of skates also has a toe-pick: the jagged edge on the front of the blade that looks like a jigsaw puzzle. This is used for certain jumps like a toe loop, and can also be a type of “brake” for the skate. The toe-pick can also act as an edge during spins and jumps.
Ballet Training. This can have amazing benefits for a figure skater. Having ballet technique transfers very well to the ice. You can always tell which professional skaters have had ballet training and who has not, as the trained skaters tend to have more grace, power, and flexibility. If you do not have any dance experience, I would suggest enrolling in a ballet class to learn where to hold your hands, back, etc. Daily exercise is also important for keeping your stamina and cardio up, which you will need both in skating!
Three Different Kinds of Skating. There are three different types of skating: pairs, ice dancing, and single mens and ladies. Many skaters at first try one way of skating, and find that it does not work as well for them as another type might. For instance, many pairs skaters start off as singles skaters, but find that once they are paired with a partner, they are much more comfortable on the ice. Experiment with each type and see what works best for you!
Figure skating comes very naturally to some people, especially if you have any kind of ballet training. To others, it is a challenge even to just balance on the ice. With practice and coaching, anyone can learn to be a skater. Not only is it a beautiful sport, but a great way to stay in shape as well. See if there are any local ice rinks in your area, and sign up for a lesson! Even though there was no ice rink anywhere near my hometown, I had such a burning desire to skate that I drove 4 hours every weekend just to take skating lessons! Don’t be afraid to try! Check out the websites below to find rinks, coaches, and a glossary of skating terminology.