An Illustrated History of Olympic Figure Skating

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Jackson Haines - The Founder of Modern Figure Skating

Jackson Haines -
An Illustrated History of Olympic Figure Skating Jackson Haines - "The Father" of Modern Figure Skating. GNU Free Documentation License

From its appearance in the first modern Olympic Games in 1908, to the 2014 Sochi Olympics and beyond, figure skating has gone through amazing changes. Check out the history of the sport.

The founder of the figure skating of today is Jackson Haines, an American ballet dancer and figure skater.

Jackson Haines was the first skater to incorporate ballet and dance movements into ice skating. His style of skating included athletic jumps, leaps, turns, and spins.

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First Olympic Figure Skating Events - 1908, London, England

Madge Syers - The First Women's Olympic Figure Skating Champion
Madge Syers - The First Women's Olympic Figure Skating Champion Madge Syers - The First Women's Olympic Figure Skating Champion. Public Domain Image

Figure skating was part of the 1908 and 1920 Summer Olympic games. Then, ice skating events were moved to the inaugural Winter Olympics in 1924.

The first Olympic figure skating events were part of the 1908 Summer Olympics. British figure skater, Madge Syers, was the first Women's Olympic Figure Skating Champion. At that same Olympics, she won a bronze in the pair skating event with her husband and coach, Edgar Syers.

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Ulrich Salchow - 1908 Olympic Figure Skating Champion

Ulrich Salchow - 1908 Olympic Figure Skating Champion
An Illustrated History of Olympic Figure Skating Ulrich Salchow - 1908 Olympic Figure Skating Champion. Public Domain Photo

Ulrich Salchow won the men's figure skating event at the 1908 Olympics. He also invented the Salchow jump.

Ulrich Salchow won the gold medal in figure skating at the Olympics in 1908. That Olympics took place in London. His Olympic gold medal was the first Olympic gold medal awarded for men's figure skating.

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The 1908 Olympics Was the Only Olympics Where Special Figures Took Place

Special Figures
An Illustrated History of Olympic Figure Skating Special Figures. Public Domain Photo

The only year special figures took place in the Olympics was in 1908. Nikolai Panin of Russia won the event and was Russia's first Olympic Champion.

Very complicated and elaborate patterns invented by the skater were drawn on the ice with the skater's blades. Some designs that were created included rosettes, stars, and crosses. Each special figure was really a work of art. The skaters that competed in special figures usually also took the time to draw their designs on paper.

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Sonja Henie - 1928, 1932, and 1936 Olympic Figure Skating Champion

Sonja Henie
An Illustrated History of Olympic Figure Skating Sonja Henie. IOC Olympic Museum /Allsport - Getty Images

Sonja Henie won the Olympic figure skating title in 1928, 1932, and in 1936.

Ice skating attire until Sonja Henie's time was similar to street clothing. Sonja introduced the idea of short and beautiful figure skating skirts and dresses. Also, before Sonja Henie appeared in the figure skating world, female ice skaters wore black figure skates. Henie introduced the idea that women and girls should wear white ice skating boots.

Henie's figure skating movies and ice shows increased the popularity of figure skating throughout the world. She was and is considered the first figure skating celebrity in history.

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Dick Button - 1948 and 1952 Olympic Figure Skating Champion

Dick Button
An Illustrated History of Olympic Figure Skating Dick Button. Museum Photo of Photo by JO ANN Schneider Farris

Dick Button is the first American to win an Olympic ice skating title. He is only American to win two Olympic gold medals in figure skating.

Button brought many "firsts' to the sport of figure skating. In 1952, Button became the first skater to land a triple jump in competition. The jump he performed was the triple loop. He was also the first skater to land a double Axel at a competition. He also invented the flying camel spin. That spin, the flying camel, was originally called the "Button Camel." He was also the first man to perform the camel spin.

In 1962, Button began commentating on figure skating for television. He is the most well-known ice skating sports commentator in U.S. history.

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Barbara Ann Scott - Canada's First Olympic Figure Skating Champion 1948

Barbara Ann Scott
An Illustrated History of Olympic Figure Skating Barbara Ann Scott. Public Domain Photo

Barbara Ann Scott was the first Canadian to win a gold medal in Olympic figure skating.

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1960 Squaw Valley, California - First Olympics to Be Broadcast on Television

1960 Olympic Figure Skating Champion Carol Heiss
An Illustrated History of Olympic Figure Skating 1960 Olympic Figure Skating Champion Carol Heiss. Getty Images
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1964 - The Protopovos Begin Russia's Pair Skating Olympic Gold Reign

Ludmila Belousova and Oleg Protopopov, Olympics 1968.
An Illustrated History of Olympic Figure Skating Ludmila Belousova and Oleg Protopopov, Olympics 1968. Photo by IOC Olympic Museum /Allsport - Getty Images

Russia figure skaters won every Olympic pair skating event beginning in 1964. Their dominance was not broken until 2002.

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1968 - First Winter Olympics Broadcast in Color

Peggy Fleming - 1968 Olympic Figure Skating Champion
An Illustrated History of Olympic Figure Skating Peggy Fleming - 1968 Olympic Figure Skating Champion. Getty Images

The 1960 Winter Olympics which took place in Squaw Valley, California, USA, was broadcast on color television and shown CBS.

 

 

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Ice Dancing Becomes an Olympic Figure Skating Event in 1976

Colleen O'Connor and Jim Millns - 1976 Olympic Bronze Medalists in Ice Dancing
An Illustrated History of Figure Skating at the Olympics Colleen O'Connor and Jim Millns - 1976 Olympic Bronze Medalists in Ice Dancing. Photo Courtesy B. Stephens

Ice Dancing was included at the Winter Olympics for the first time in 1976.

Until 2006, Colleen O'Connor and Jim Millns were the only ice dance team in U.S. history to have won a medal at the Olympic Games in figure skating.

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1976 Figure Skating Women Olympic Medalists

Christine Errath, Dorothy Hamill, and Dianne DeLeeuw, 1976 Winter Olympics -
An Illustrated History of Olympic Figure Skating Christine Errath, Dorothy Hamill, and Dianne DeLeeuw, 1976 Winter Olympics -. Photo by Tony Duffy/Getty Images

Dorothy Hamill won the figure skating title at the 1976 Winter Olympics in Innsbruck, Austria.

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Irina Rodnina Wins Three Successive Olympics - 1972, 1976, 1980

Irina Rodnina and Alexandr Zaytsev
An Illustrated History of Olympic Figure Skating Irina Rodnina and Alexandr Zaytsev. Photo by Steve Powell - Getty Images

Irina Rodnina is considered the most successful pair skater in ice skating history.

Figure skating legend, Irina Rodnina, is only pair skater who has won ten successive world figure skating titles and three successive Olympic figure skating gold medals. In addition, Rodnina won eleven European figure skating pairs championships. She is considered the most successful pair skater in history.

Rodnina represented the Soviet Union throughout her competitive figure skating career.

Two Different Pair Skating Partners - Ulanov and Zaitsev:

Alexei Ulanov won the 1972 Winter Olympics with Irina Rodnina. At that Olympics it was made public that Ulanov had fallen in love with another pair skater, Lyudmila Smirnova. Rodnina was heartbroken by that romance and wanted another partner.

In April of 1972, Rodnina's pair skating coach, Stanislav Zhuk, approached Aleksandr Zaitsev. A nationwide search for a new partner for Irina Rodnina took place and it is said that Aleksandr was taken from "out of nowhere" and was made into a figure skating champion.

Rodnina and Zaitsev won both the 1976 and 1980 Winter Olympics.

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1984 - Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean Receive Nine Perfect 6.0 Scores

1984 Olympic Ice Dancing Champions Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean
An Illustrated History of Olympic Figure Skating 1984 Olympic Ice Dancing Champions Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean. Photo by Steve Powell - Getty Images

In 1984, British ice dancers, Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean, won the Olympics. They performed a free dance program that received nine perfect 6.0 scores.

In 1984, British ice dancers, Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean, won the Olympics. They performed a free dance program that received nine perfect 6.0 scores. Torvill and Dean changed ice dancing. Free dance became more creative and many figure skaters decided to give ice dancing a try.

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Katarina Witt - 1984 and 1988 Olympic Figure Skating Champion

Two Time Olympic Figure Skating Champion Katarina Witt
An Illustrated History of Olympic Figure Skating Two Time Olympic Figure Skating Champion Katarina Witt. Photo by Steve Powell - Getty Images

Katarina Witt's is one of the most successful figure skaters in history. She is the only female skater besides Sonja Henie to win two Olympic titles in a row.

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1988 - Elizabeth Manley, Katarina Witt, and Debi Thomas

Elizabeth Manley, Katarina Witt, and Debi Thomas
An Illustrated History of Olympic Figure Skating 1988 Olympic and World Figure Skating Silver Medalist Eliazabeth Manley, 1988 Olympic and World Figure Skating Champion Katarina Witt, and 1988 Olympic and World Figure Skating Bronze Medalist Debi Thomas. Photo by Steve Powell - Getty Images

At the 1988 Winter Olympics, Katarina Witt and Debi Thomas were considered the favorites to win gold. The media called their rivalry the "Battle of the Carmens," since Witt and Thomas skated to music from the opera Carmen.

Witt skated a clean, but conservative, program. Thomas did not skate well.

Elizabeth Manley, of Canada, skated the performance of her life, and won the long program. Manley, who was in third place after short program, came from behind and placed 2nd overall. She almost won Olympic gold, but was delighted with her silver medal. After the 1988 Olympics, Manley became a Canadian celebrity.

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1988: Brian Orser and Brian Boitano - "The Battle of the Brians"

1988: Brian Orser and Brian Boitano -
An Illustrated History of Olympic Figure Skating 1988: Brian Orser and Brian Boitano - "The Battle of the Brians". Photo by Daniel Janin - Getty Images

The "Battle of the Brians" is the name the media used to describe the rivalry between Canadian Brian Orser and American Brian Boitano at the 1988 Olympics.

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1992 Winter Olympics and Beyond: No More Compulsory Figures

Halifax, 1990 World Figure Skating Championships. David Liu does the last compulsory figure.
An Illustrated History of Olympic Figure Skating Halifax, 1990 World Figure Skating Championships. David Liu does the last compulsory figure before the panel of judges. Photo Courtesy of Sonia Bianchetti Garbato

Compulsory figures were dropped from elite figure skating events prior to the 1992 Olympic Winter Games.

Figure skating is called figure skating because designs were skated on clean ice in the shape of a figure eight. These complex designs were called figures and that is why Figure Skating is called FIGURE Skating.

Figure events were eliminated from all official figure skating competitions in the 1990s. 1992 was the first Winter Olympics to not include compulsory figures at ice skating events.

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The 1994 "Tonya and Nancy" Figure Skating Scandal

Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding at the 1994 Olympics
An Illustrated History of Olympic Figure Skating Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding at the 1994 Olympics. Photo by Pascal Rondeau - Getty Images

The "Tonya Harding-Nancy Kerrigan" incident increased the popularity of figure skating.

Just before the 1994 Olympics, right after a practice session at the United States National Figure Skating Championships in Detroit, Michigan, Nancy Kerrigan was attacked and hit hard with a hard object on her knee. The accident made it impossible for her to compete and Tonya Harding won the Championship Ladies event.

Shortly after that, it was alleged that Tonya Harding might have been part of the conspiracy to hurt Nancy. Tonya was banned from U.S. Figure Skating for life.

The "Kerrigan Attack" increased the popularity of figure skating. A novel was written, followed by a musical play, and a few television movies were made about the incident.

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1998 - Tara Lipinski Becomes the Youngest Olympic Figure Skating Champion

Tara Lipinski - 1998 Olympic Figure Skating Champion
An Illustrated History of Olympic Figure Skating Tara Lipinski - 1998 Olympic Figure Skating Champion. Photo by Clive Brunskill - Getty Images

In 1998, Tara Lipinski won the Olympic gold medal in figure skating at age fifteen. She is youngest Olympic gold medalist in figure skating history.

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2002 Olympic Figure Skating Scandal

Both the Canadians and Russian Wer Awarded Olympic Gold Medals - 2002 Olympic Scandal
An Illustrated History of Olympic Figure Skating David Pelletier and Jamie Sale of Canada AND Anton Sikharulidze and Elena Berezhnaya of Russia Were Awarded Olympic Gold Medals due to the 2002 Winter Olympic Pair Skating Scandal. Photo by Clive Brunskill - Getty Images

David Pelletier & Jamie Sale AND Anton Sikharulidze & Elena Berezhnaya were awarded Olympic Gold Medals due to the 2002 Winter Olympic Pair Skating Scandal.

At the 2002 Winter Olympics, Russians Yelena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze were awarded the Gold Medal over Canadians Jamie Salé and David Pelletier. The Canadians skated perfectly in their long program, but the Russians made a mistake.

It was discovered shortly after that the French Skating Federation had "made a deal" with the Russians. The "deal" was to give the French the gold medal in ice dancing and the Russians the gold in pair skating.

It was alleged that the French judge, Marie-Reine Le Gougne, had given the Russian pair higher marks due to pressure from the French Skating Federation. (Her score was the deciding factor on who would win the gold medal.)

There are now two sets of 2002 Olympic pair skating champions. Russians Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze kept their gold medals, but the Canadian pair of Jamie Salé and David Pelletier were also awarded Olympic gold medals a few days after the controversy was made public.

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Sarah Hughes - 2002 Olympic Figure Skating Champion

Sarah Hughes - 2002 Olympic Figure Skating Champion
An Illustrated History of Olympic Figure Skating Sarah Hughes - 2002 Olympic Figure Skating Champion. Photo by John Gichigi - Getty Images

2002 Olympic Figure Skating Champion, Sarah Hughes, was not expected to win the gold medal at the Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City. She was in fourth place after the short program, but in the freeskate, she landed seven triple jumps. The other competitors made mistakes, and Hughes won gold.

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2006 New International Judging System for Figure Skating Used For the First Time

Figure Skating Judges
An Illustrated History of Olympic Figure Skating Figure Skating Judges. Photo by Doug Pensinger - Getty Images

At the 2002 Olympics, it was discovered that the French Skating Federation had "made a deal" with the Russians. The "deal" was to give the French the gold medal in ice dancing and the Russians the gold in pair skating.

Until that incident, it was suspected that some figure skating competitions were fixed and that the figure skating judging system was not fair, but no changes in ice skating judging took place. What happened at the 2002 Olympics changed figure skating forever since shortly afterwards, a new system of judging was implemented.

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2006 - Japan's First Ladies Olympic Figure Skating Champion Shizuka Arakawa

2006 Olympic Figure Skating Champion Shizuka Arakawa
An Illustrated History of Olympic Figure Skating 2006 Olympic Figure Skating Champion Shizuka Arakawa. Photo by Al Bello - Getty Images

Shizuka Arakawa is the 2006 Olympic Figure Skating Champion. She is Japan's first ever ladies figure skating Olympic Champion.