125 years old today… happy birthday to (IS)U
Of the four strands under the careful watch of the ISU, perhaps none have developed as dramatically as Figure Skating. From an emphasis on ‘school figures’ (the term given to carving specific patterns or figures into the ice, compulsory figures all deriving from the basic figure eight) to the importance of jumps, to the refinements of musical interpretation, Figure Skating has had and continues to have it all.
American Jackson Haines toured Europe in the 1860s and 70s, skating a form of figures to music. It was his artistic sensibility combined with Paulsen’s technical achievements that would define the sport.
That began as something of a drawing contest on ice evolved in the 1940s, when high jumps grew in popularity and the sport’s athletic progress surged. This led the ISU, in the early 1970s, to increase the value of free skating and reducing the value of figures from 60% of a skater’s total score to 40%.
A technical short program was also introduced at this time, which Canada’s Toller Cranston performed with unprecedented artistic presentation. His style continues to influence the sport today.
In 1976 John Curry, of Great Britain, was the reigning European, World and Olympic champion, performing programs influenced by ballet and modern dance. Curry’s compatriots, ice dancers Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean, took this a step further, developing high-concept dances with the intention of communicating a narrative. The couple won gold at the Sarajevo 1984 Olympic Winter Games and became the highest-scoring figure skaters of all time for a single program under the 6.0 judging system, receiving 12 perfect 6.0s and six 5.9s (which included artistic impression scores of 6.0 from every judge), after skating to Maurice Ravel's Bolero. The performance was watched by a British television audience of more than 24 million people.
With the increased value of – and emphasis on – free skating, figures were removed from competition after the 1990 World Championships in Halifax, Canada.
In 2003 a new ISU judging system (IJS) was tested and the 6.0 judging system was abolished in 2004. Since then the sport keeps on developing with skaters performing more difficult elements and pushing the boundaries.
Beautiful, dramatic and physically demanding, Figure Skating remains a key discipline in the ISU’s on-going mission to excite and captivate spectators across the world.
“Today’s sports fans have many interests competing for their attention. They are also never without a mobile device,” Dijkema said, before explaining that the pivotal questions posed during the 2017 ISU Member conferences were all focused on how the sport can enhance the experience and engagement for fans inside and outside the stadium.
“The key is to increase content for fans on continuously updated ISU platforms,” he said. “A new ISU website will be launched in time for the Olympic season. Furthermore, we must anticipate the needs of partners. Media and sponsors are extremely important for the promotion of our sport.”