ice skating

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ice skating,

gliding along an ice surface on keellike runners known as ice skates.

Skating as a Sport

Skating, besides being an important form of winter recreation and the essential skill in the game of ice hockey (see hockey, icehockey, ice,
team sport in which players use sticks to propel a hard, round disk into a net-backed goal. Rules and Equipment

Ice hockey is played on a rectangular rink with curved corners whose length may vary from 184 to 200 ft (56–61 m), its width from 85
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) has developed into three different sports—speed skating, figure skating, and ice dancingice dancing,
ice-skating competition in which couples are required to perform dance routines to music. The sport gained popularity in the 1930s and the first world championships were held in 1950.
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. All three are now features of the Winter Olympic games.

Speed Skating

In speed-skating events, racers may reach speeds as high as 30 mi (48 km) per hr. The Olympic races are around oval tracks (traditionally 400 meters in length) at distances of 500, 1,000, 1,500, 5,000, and 10,000 meters for men and 500, 1,000, 1,500, 3,000, and 5,000 meters for women. There is also a pursuit race for teams of three skaters, over a distance of 8 laps for men and 6 laps for women. Short-track skating features skaters in massed starts circling a small indoor oval. In the Olympics men compete in 500-, 1,000-, and 1,500-meter events, with a 5,000-meters relay; the women's races are at similar distances except for the relay (3,000 meters).

Figure Skating

Jackson Haines, an American, revolutionized figure skating in the 1860s, skating to music, bringing balletic movements to ice, and creating new ones. One of the most beautiful and graceful events in all sport, international figure skating requires skaters to perform a short program that includes mandatory jumps and skills, and then a longer program of free selection, both set to music. Judging is subjective and often controversial. Skaters also compete in mixed pairs, seeking through the intricate synchronization of moves and the performance of lifts and jumps to impress the scoring judges. Team skating competitions combine men's, women's, and figure skating and ice dancing pairs' programs.

Olympic gold medalist Sonja HenieHenie, Sonja
, 1912–69, Norwegian-American figure skater and movie actress, b. Oslo, Norway. She began ice skating at the age of eight and two years later won the first of six straight Norwegian figure-skating championships.
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 did much to bring skating to wide public notice in the United States, and after she turned (1936) professional, the ice carnival became a popular American amusement. Since then traveling ice shows have continued to attract former Olympic skaters who have, since the 1970s, also competed in a series of professional competitions. In recent years, Americans have increasingly taken up competitive figure skating in the hope of repeating the successes of Olympic champions such as Peggy Fleming, Dorothy Hamill, Scott Hamilton, Brian Boitano, Kristi Yamaguchi, Tara Lipinski, and Sarah Hughes.


The earliest skates (c.9th cent.), made of bone, were found in Sweden. Wooden skates with iron facings appeared in the 14th cent. Skates made entirely of iron were introduced in the 17th cent. Steel skates, with straps and clamps to fasten them to the shoes, were sold in the 1850s, and later came the skate permanently attached to the shoe. Skating has long been a means of travel in countries with long, cold winters, such as Norway, Sweden, Finland, Russia, and especially Holland. There are references to skating in English books as early as the 12th cent. By the 18th cent. skating was not only a means of travel but also a well-established sport. European colonists introduced it early into America and Canada.


See J. M. Petkevich, The Skater's Handbook (1984).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Ice Skating


Ice skating comprises speed skating and figure skating (seeFIGURE SKATING). Modern speed skating competitions are held for distances of 500, 1,500, 5,000, and 10,000 m for men and 500, 1,000, 1,500, and 3,000 m for women. The winner of the all-around competition is determined according to the least number of points earned at four distances. The points represent the result in seconds (and tenths of seconds) at 500 m and the results at the other distances divided accordingly by 3, 10, and 20 for men and 2, 3, and 6 for women. The system for calculating points was accepted in 1928.

Skates made of bone have been known to the peoples in northern countries since the 12th century. Wooden skates with iron runners appeared in the 14th and 15th centuries, and metal ones, in the late 17th century and early 18th (they originated in the Netherlands and England). Sporting skates for speed and figure skating appeared in the late 19th century; speed skates were designed in the 1880’s by the Norwegian skaters K. Werner and A. Paulsen.

The first skating associations were established in Norway (1864) and Russia (1877), and the first national skating federation was established in Great Britain in 1879. The first major international skating competition was held in Vienna in 1882. International speed skating competitions have been organized in Russia since 1890. The first official Russian championship took place in Moscow in 1889; the winner was A. N. Panshin, who that same year won at two distances at the first unofficial world championship. The Internationale Eislauf-Vereinigung (IEV; International Skating Union) was founded in 1892. World and European championships for men have been held since 1893 (in St. Petersburg in 1896 and 1903). Russian speed skating competitions have included women (500 m) since 1911. All the distances of the classical all-around competition—500, 1,500, 5,000, and 10,000 m’have been included in the Russian championships for men since 1914. Among the world record holders and winners at major international speed skating competitions in the early 20th century were the Russian skaters E. Burnov, V. A. Ippolitov (European champion in 1913), la. F. Mel’nikov, N. S. Naidenov, N. I. Sedov, and N. V. Strunnikov (Russian champion in 1908-10, world and European champion in 1910-11). From 1918 to 1923 the speed skating championship of the RSFSR for men was held. The first championship of the USSR was held in 1924, and the first championship of the USSR for women, in 1928 (it has been held yearly since 1933, and since 1956 has included distances of 500, 1,000, 1,500, and 3,000 m).

Since 1924 speed skating has been one of the events in the Winter Olympics (from 1924 to 1956 the event included only men; women began competing in 1960). The championship is awarded only for the individual distances. A world champion-ship for women has been held since 1936, and a European championship for women, since 1970. The first IEV all-around sprinter championship for men and women was held in 1970 (since 1972, a world championship with distances of 500 and 1,000 m). In 1971 the IEV united the national federations of more than 30 countries (the Skating Federation of the USSR has been a member of the IEV since 1947). The IEV includes technical committees on speed skating, figure skating, and ice dancing.

Soviet skaters have participated in the world and European championships since 1948, and in the Winter Olympics, since 1956. World champions have included O. G. Goncharenko (1953, 1956, 1958), B. A. Shilkov (1954), B. A. Stenin (1960), V. I. Kosichkin (1962), V. A. Muratov (all-around sprinter competition), M. G. Isakova (1948-50), L. M. Selikhova (1952, 1954), Kh. Kh. Shchegoleeva (1953), R. M. Zhukova (1955), S. I. Kondakova (1956), I. G. Artamonova (1957-58, 1962, 1965), T. N. Rylova (1959), V. S. Stenina (1960-61, 1966), L. P. Skoblikova (1963-64), L. Kh. Kauniste (1969), and N. A. Statkevich (1971).

The following have been Olympic champions: E. R. Grishin (1956, 1960, 500 and 1,500 m; four gold medals), Iu. M. Mikhailov (1956, 1,500 m), A. A. Antson (1964, 1,500 m), B. A. Shilkov (1956, 5,000 m), V. I. Kosichkin (1960, 5,000 m), L. P. Skoblikova (1960, 1,500 and 3,000 m; 1964, four distances, six gold medals), L. E. Titova (1968, 500 m), and K. I. Nesterova (1960, 1,000 m). At the Winter Olympic Games between 1956 and 1972, Soviet skaters have won 36 medals, including 16 gold, 11 silver, and nine bronze. In unofficial team standings they were first between 1956 and 1964 and fourth in 1968.

European champions have included Shilkov (1954), Grishin (1956), Goncharenko (1957-58), Kosichkin (1961), R. V. Merkulov (1962), Antson (1964), E. A. Matusevich (1965), and Statkevich (1970-71).

In 1972 there were approximately 400,000 skaters in the Soviet Union, of which 70,000 had sports ratings and 460 held the rank of Master of Sport. There were more than 30 sports schools specializing in skating for children and youths.

Outside the USSR skating has been most developed in the Netherlands and the Scandinavian countries. Among those who have had outstanding successes in international competitions and world championships in speed skating have been J. Eden (1893-96, Netherlands), O. Mathisen (1908-14, Norway), K. Thunberg (1923-31, Finland), I. Ballangrud (1928-38, Norway), H. Andersen (1950-52, Norway), K. Verkerk (1966-67, Netherlands), and A. Schenk (1970-72, Netherlands).

In the 1960’s, artificially frozen skating rinks were built in a number of countries. This enabled skaters to train in above-zero temperatures in the spring and fall. All of the world speed skating records have been broken and are constantly being improved; from 1928 through 1958 the world record in the men’s all-around competition was improved by 9 points and from 1963 through 1971, by 16. In 1973 there were a total of 48 artificially frozen rinks in various countries: in Austria (two), Hungary, the German Democratic Republic, the Netherlands (nine), Norway, the USSR (three; in Kolomna, Sverdlovsk, and Medeo; one is being built in Kiev), the USA, France, the Federal Republic of Germany, Sweden (nine), and Japan (eighteen).


Ippolitov, P. A. Kon’ki, 3rd ed. Moscow, 1934.
Sokolov, MP. Kon’kobezhnyi sport. Moscow, 1959.
Petrov, N. I. Kon ’kobezhnyi sport, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1969.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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