ice skating


ice skating
   There is prehistoric evidence for skating (with long bones for runners), and it is also known that the Vikings used iron skates. Known as a mode of winter travel in Britain since the early middle ages, skating started gaining social prestige in the late seventeenth century after being adopted by aristocratic refugees in the Low Countries, and skating races were attracting attention in the Fens by the 1760s. The modern sport, for both amateurs and professionals, emerged with the discovery in the 1870s of techniques for freezing water to create more or less permanent ice rinks indoors and out. In speed skating, the competitors, whether men or women, race counter-clockwise around oval tracks over distances from 500 to 10,000 metres or, in ‘short track’ skating, on smaller tracks over distances up to 5,000 metres. In 1924 men’s speed skating was included in the Winter Olympics; women’s speed skating was admitted only in 1960. In figure skating, competitors, alone or in male-female pairs, must within a time limit perform a series of precisely defined compulsory exercises, and also show a range of prescribed skills in a ‘free’ programme of their own devising. Similar rules apply to ice dancing, for male—female pairs. Scoring, in terms of both technique and artistry, is carried out by a panel of judges whose individual marks are combined by complex formulae. The first world figure skating championship dates from 1896, and the sport was admitted to the Olympic Games in 1908. After the first ice dancing world championships in 1952, the discipline became an Olympic sport in 1976. Ice-hockey, similar to hockey on grass or astroturf, is played on an ice rink (maximum 60m× 30m) between two teams of six, including a particularly well-padded goalkeeper. A ‘puck’ —a composition disc three inches in diameter—is used instead of a ball. Fast and rough, the game, which is very popular at both amateur and professional level in Canada and is steadily gaining a following in the UK, has been an Olympic sport since 1920. Thanks to Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean, World and Olympic champions in 1984, ice dancing became popular on British television, and the couple, turning professional, also contributed to the already considerable popularity of spectacular shows on ice. At a recreational level, skating is still quite widely enjoyed in the UK all year round on indoor rinks in towns and on natural ice in the country in cold winters.
   Further reading
    Heller, M. (ed.) (1979) The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Ice Skating, New York: Paddington.
   CHRISTOPHER SMITH

Encyclopedia of contemporary British culture . . 2014.

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