Monday, December 27, 2010

Figure Skating -- A Truly Unique Sport

With the blizzard of 2010 upon us and New England looking like a winter wonderland (albeit with major travel disruptions and even our trip to NYC rescheduled) I thought the time perfect to write about a truly unique sport -- that of the sport of figure skating.

My daughter donned her first pair of skates as a kindergartener at that fabulous school, the Bement School, in Old Deerfield, Massachusetts. Every winter, the husband of the head of the school, Ms. Shelley Jackson, Rob Jackson, would create an outdoor rink for the children to skate on and there, I suspect, my daughter's love of figure skating was born. Over several winters my husband would build a skating rink in our front yard where neighborhood children would learn to skate and parents and the neighborhood dogs would congregate to watch and have fun (yes, oftentimes, we even served refreshments).

Numerous figure skating lessons followed, along with skating competitions throughout New England, and performances in ice shows even at Lake Placid, where we have gone several times for my daughter to further train. When I was on a Fulbright in Innsbruck, Austria, and our home had a view of the 1964 Olympic ski jump, we brought the figure skates with us but the rink closed in March (we were told that the skaters there trained with weights until it reopened late in the Fall). Her second grade teacher, Frau Shwerma, taught the class to rollerblade, so we compensated with that.

Figure skating demands stamina, terrific balance, endurance, athleticism, and something which makes this sport truly unique -- musicality and artistry. And all of this while one is balancing on metal blades on the ice and trying to land after doing several jumps in the air! Figure skaters have tremendous discipline but many, for a variety of reasons, drop out of this sport. But for those who, sometimes through just sheer drive and love of the sport, continue, it can be used in numerous positive ways -- from entertainment of audiences to teaching the young skills and good sportsmanship.

Now my daughter is a teenager and still goes to school in historic Old Deerfield but at Deerfield Academy.

The above classic books she received from one of our wonderful neighbors recently when she delivered a plate of holiday cookies that we had baked.

The book in the collection, which intrigued me the most, is The Ancient Art of Skating by Robert L. Merriam, which was published by Deerfield Academy in 1957.

It begins with: The Ancient Art of Skating being a brief discussion of man's gliding on the ice from the earliest times to the present and including information about skates, dress, ladies, learning, figure skating, hockey and artificial ice.