Finland is known for its thousands of lakes and its cold weather. It’s unsurprising then that the oldest know pair of ice skates which are some 5000 years old were found in Finland. It not particularly mind-blowing to learn that they were almost certainly not used for pleasure but rather for necessity in the same way that many of the sports modern humans enjoy —think canoeing, skiing, running —were originally developed under life-or-death circumstances. Or at the very least these activities made easier one’s existence in what was essentially the totality of wilderness.
All these tools for survival morphed over the years, as they became less and less necessary for survival, into hobbies and sports, a way of keeping the past alive. In the same way that many team sports evolved from military drills or other martial practices into pastimes that others could enjoy watching, placing bets on, and using as a means of fostering a sense of community. Of course in this regard ice skating is hardly different. And although our following choices might neglect the first 4950 years of ice skating history, here are our picks for the most memorable moments in ice skating history:
1. In 1998, to the backdrop of Rachmaninoff’s dramatic Piano Concerto No 3, American Michelle Kwan raised the bar for the short programme by adding a then unprecedented level of artistic flair to the sport and was rewarded with seven perfect scores—this was done whilst suffering from an injured foot it might be added, and at the age of only 19. This performance became signature Kwan, so to speak, and has had influence on many skaters afterwards. It’s easy to see the influence this performance alone brought to today’s skaters like Mao Asda for example.
2. In couples figure skating it’s hard to think of a more accomplished pair than that of Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada. Not necessarily the best technical skaters (though certainly capable of given anyone a run for their proverbial money), it’s their ability to captivate that has made them into some of the most impressive skaters in recent times. Their 2010 performance at the Vancouver Olympics to the eerily haunting music of Mahler’s 5th Symphony—a performance for which they were rewarded with golden medals and had a shocking 15-point led over their competition—is one for the history books. A sublime piece of skating history.
3. Perhaps the most memorable moment in Olympic ice skating history is that of the 2002 Olympics. Russia’s Berezhnaya and Sikhaulidze had skated a blisteringly beautiful duet and were soon to be followed by an equally impressive performance by Canada’s Sale and Pelletier. Their long programme was without any mistakes and everyone was shocked when they didn’t win. When the French judge confessed to having been pressured into changing her vote, Olympic history was made when the Canada’s received the first ever joint gold medal and the rules of the sport and its scoring system were changed forever.