Ice skating is one of the most popular winter activities that can be enjoyed by both adults and children. Ice skating can be done informally for fun or taken as a serious sport or career choice. People can start learning to casually ice skate as young as aged three or four and can continue ice skating into their old age.
Ice skating dates back centuries; a study by the University of Oxford suggested that the earliest ice skating on record occurred in Finland more than 3000 years ago! Dutch paintings dating to the 1600s have depicted ice skating themes and the practice of ice skating was widely popular in the United Kingdom at least since the 1700s.
Original ice skates were simply sharpened and flattened animal bone that was strapped to the bottom of a person’s food. Adding edges to ice skates was invented by the Dutch in either the 1200s or the 1300s. These skates were made of steel (much like those worn in the present day) and were much easier to navigate around the ice on.
Competitive ice skating is far more rigorous than casual ice skating. Figure skating and ice dancing require the skater to be able to do elaborate jumps and twirls in the air. Figure skating can be done with one person or two people working as a team. It is often closely associated with an art form (an “artistic sport”) and most performers accompany their skating acts with outlandish costumes and music that is synchronized with their movements. Figure skating is one of the most watched events in the Winter Olympic Games.
Speed skating is yet another popular Olympic Winter Games sport that requires ice. In this event, skaters race each other around a track (there are also rely teams). The sport is strongly linked to traditional track and field except that the competitors wear ice skates. Likewise, the game called “curling” (that involves pushing a heavy weigh across the ice toward a target) is yet another Olympic event that requires the presence of ice to play.
In winter months, places that experience freezing temperatures have many outdoor ice skating rinks (such as the famous New York “Rockefeller Centre” rink). However, due to the invention of indoor skating rinks it is now possible to ice skate even on the hottest day of the year in the warmest part of the country!