Thursday, October 31, 2013

Acceptable Sports for Females #4: Ice Skating

The Winter Olympics always had my family glued to the TV set when I was growing up. Skiing was the backbone of our local economy, Dad worked at a ski area, and ski lessons were part of our school program. The Olympic sport I loved watching the most was figure skating -- the strong and graceful athletes who seemed to defy the force of gravity, with the little remnants of their costumes fluttering as they flew. I never skated as a child, because in our region, any open water was in the form of twisting brooks that flowed downhill over glacial boulders and fallen trees. It would freeze up in great jagged lumps and piles of thick floes. No one seemed to care enough to keep snow cleared off the wider river down in the village.

Ice skating has been a popular pastime and method of transportation for thousands of years, it seems. Holland, with abundant flat stretches of flooded land, was famous for ice skating. By the 19th century, skating was an accepted activity for women, although most pictures depict men skating and women watching them make fools out of themselves. Currier and Ives made a number of popular skating prints, ranging from fun on the farm to vast throngs of jolly urbanites crowding the ice at New York's Central Park.

Most of the fancy footwork and amazing leaps of today's figure skating was developed by competitive and exhibition skaters much later in the 19th century. Some of these skaters were Axel Paulson, Alois Lutz, and Urich Salchow. Names sound familiar?

Sources: Skating scene, Timid Dolly, Rev. Walker, Minerva, falling guys (?).

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