The History of Skating and of Synchronized Skating

The History of Skating

For thousands of years, skating was the only mode of transport over frozen waters.

The oldest skate-like items found were used more than 20,000 years ago in the Netherlands. From there, the concept of putting blades on shoes “over the water” to northern Europe and England.

In Scandinavia, about 3000 years ago, something similar to today’s skates developed. The first skates were made of rib bones or shank from elk,oxen and reindeer. It’s not exactly known when the skate blade began to be manufactured in metal, but proof has been found that steel skating blades were used in the Netherlands as early as the 13th century.

As a recreational sport, ice skating has been practiced by both women and men on the canals of the Netherlands since the Middle Ages. Skating on frozen lakes became popular in Great Britain in the 17th century and the first skating club was formed in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1742. In 1740, the British brought ice skating to North America.

Of course, skating was even popular in France, where Marie-Antoinette herself was known to skate.

It took until the twentieth century for skates to be manufactured with their characteristic toepick. With this, skaters were able to have a better grip on the ice and thus reach for new abilities within ice skating, progressing towards today’s figure skating.

The History of Synchronized Skating

In 1954, in Ann Arbor, Michigan, a local hockey team was playing a game. During a break, a group of figure skaters came out on the ice and began to skate in different formations. It was Dr. Richard Porter who organized this team of skaters – as entertainment for the hockey audience during the break.

On that day, synchronized figure skating was born, now commonly called synchro. With its origin more like cheerleading on ice, synchro offers daring lifts, exciting formations and other acrobatic arts, which together make synchro a truly spectator-friendly sport. During the 60’s and 70’s, new teams emerged around U.S. and Canada, and in the 80’s, the sport reached Europe.

A competing team consists of 16 skaters on the ice and up to four reserves. The team competes with a short program and a free skating program. The programs consist of various elements, such as intersections, wheels, circles, blocks and lines, woven together with different transitions and steps.

Inspire of its 64 years, the synchro is a relatively new sport, actually the youngest in the figure skating family. The first international competition
took place in Mölndal in Sweden in 1989 and in 2000 the first official World Championships in Minneapolis was held. The first world champions became no less than Swedish Team Surprise. Since then, the world championships in synchronized skating have been held each year, out of which Sweden’s Team Surprise has won six times.

Learn more in our Synchro School!