15 Surprising Facts About Figure Skating

iStock
iStock

If you only pay attention to figure skating once every four years, you’re missing out on one of the most passionately-practiced sporting events in the world. To get you up to speed, we’ve gathered some fast facts about this perfect pairing of art and athleticism. 

1. IT’S THE OLDEST WINTER GAME. 

Figure skating debuted during the London Olympic Games in 1908, pre-dating the beginning of the formal winter games by 16 years.  

2. SKATES USED TO BE MADE OF ANIMAL BONES. 

Before people began to develop artistic expression through skates, they used them as a practical form of transportation. Thousands of years ago, residents in Finland strapped animal bones to their feet to glide across frozen lakes rather than walk around them. Scientists believe they might have also used wooden poles to propel themselves forward. Metal blades didn’t arrive until the 13th century. 

3. A CLEVER INVENTION MADE FIGURE SKATING POSSIBLE. 

Prior to E.V. Bushnell inventing a secure clip for metal skates, it wasn’t possible to perform intricate maneuvers on blades—they’d simply fall off, or injure the wearer. But when Bushnell unveiled skates that could be clipped to the foot in 1848, more elaborate moves became possible. 

4. ICE DANCING GREW OUT OF THE WALTZ. 

Modern figure skating can involve “ice dancing,” an activity dating back to a harsh London winter in 1862. But the first concrete example may have come in the 1880s, when the Vienna Skating Club began to mimic the Waltz on ice during their gatherings. Ice dancing wasn’t recognized in the Winter Games until 1976.

5. THE FIRST WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS WERE GENDER-MIXED. 

Skating competitions haven’t always been broken up by gender. During a St. Petersburg, Russia event in 1896, there was one division and only men were allowed to compete. When the world championships were held in London in 1902, a woman named Madge Syers entered and took second behind male winner Ulrich Salchow. A separate division for women was instituted three years later. 

6. A PLANE CRASH WIPED OUT THE ENTIRE U.S. TEAM. 

The best American skaters were en route to a competition in Prague in 1961 when their plane crashed, killing everyone on board. Out of respect for those who were lost, the competition was canceled. It would be several years before the U.S. could rebound from the tragedy and once again become a presence on the international scene. 

7. THE BLADE IS SERRATED IN FRONT. 

Figure skaters can pivot and stop short thanks to a barely-visible serrated edge on the tip of their blades. Also known as a “toe pick,” it grabs the ice and helps skaters prepare for jumps. 

8. YOU DON’T WANT TO BE ANYWHERE NEAR THEM DURING A LANDING.

Male skaters weighing 150 pounds or more can land on the ice following a jump with extraordinary force: more than 1000 lbs. of pressure. 

9. THERE ARE MOVES MALE SKATERS CAN’T DO.

The “layback spin” that requires skaters to lean back with their shoulders and head puts considerable pressure on the spinal column and demands a great deal of flexibility. It’s thought that female skaters typically have more success doing the maneuver than men. 

10. THEY SPIN AT 300RPM.

Have you wondered how skaters can endure the seemingly-impossible speed reached when they execute a spinning jump? So do we: At more than 300 revolutions per minute (RPM), figure skaters experience as much RPM as astronauts in centrifuge training. 

11. VOCALS ARE BANNED DURING ROUTINES.

You may not have noticed, but at many top level competitions, skaters who take to the ice with musical accompaniment have to abide by a strict rule: None of the music can include vocals.

12. THE WRONG COSTUME CAN COST THEM POINTS. 

In many skating competitions, judges can deduct a point if they consider a skater’s costume to be overly garish or provocative. While that sounds dangerously subjective, the point is deducted only if multiple judges agree that the outfit is in poor taste.

13. THEY CAN’T USE PROPS. 

Skaters performing routines are expected to succeed or fail based on their individuality and skill-set: They can’t use props. The only time you’ll see a figure skater accessorizing is during exhibitions, like the one held during 1972 when a silver medalist appeared with a plastic umbrella.

14. THEY USE CRASH PADS. 

Inexperienced figure skaters are best served adding padding to their bodies to cushion against hard falls on the ice. While helmets are not uncommon, particularly for younger skaters, many also wear crash pads that are essentially cushioning for the buttocks in the event of a rear landing. 

15. THE U.S. MEDALS EVERY TIME. 

Despite stiff competition from perennial rival Russia, the United States has been well-represented in figure skating competition during the Winter Games. The country has won at least one medal during every event dating back to 1948—that’s 18 consecutive competitions.

14 Retro Gifts for Millennials

Ravi Palwe, Unsplash
Ravi Palwe, Unsplash

Millennials were born between 1981 and 1996, which means the pop culture they grew up with is officially retro. No matter what generation you belong to, consider these gifts when shopping for the Millennials in your life this holiday season.

1. Reptar Funko Pop!; $29

Amazon

This vinyl Reptar figurine from Funko is as cool as anything you’d find in the rugrats’ toy box. The monster dinosaur has been redesigned in classic Pop! style, making it a perfect desk or shelf accessory for the grown-up Nickelodeon fan. It also glows in the dark, which should appeal to anyone’s inner child.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Dragon Ball Z Slippers; $20

Hot Topic

You don’t need to change out of your pajamas to feel like a Super Saiyan. These slippers are emblazoned with the same kanji Goku wears on his gi in Dragon Ball Z: one for training under King Kai and one for training with Master Roshi. And with a soft sherpa lining, the footwear feels as good as it looks.

Buy it: Hot Topic

3. The Pokémon Cookbook; $15

Hop Topic

What do you eat after a long day of training and catching Pokémon? Any dish in The Pokémon Cookbook is a great option. This book features more than 35 recipes inspired by creatures from the Pokémon franchise, including Poké Ball sushi rolls and mashed Meowth potatoes.

Buy it: Hot Topic

4. Lisa Frank Activity Book; $5

Urban Outfitters

Millennials will never be too old for Lisa Frank, especially when the artist’s playful designs come in a relaxing activity book. Watercolor brings the rainbow characters in this collection to life. Just gather some painting supplies and put on a podcast for a relaxing, nostalgia-fueled afternoon.

Buy it: Urban Outfitters

5. Shoebox Tape Recorder with USB; $28

Amazon

The days of recording mix tapes don’t have to be over. This device looks and functions just like tape recorders from the pre-smartphone era. And with a USB port as well as a line-in jack and built-in mic, users can easily import their digital music collection onto retro cassette tapes.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Days of the Week Scrunchie Set; $12

Urban Outfitters

Millennials can be upset that a trend from their youth is old enough to be cool again, or they can embrace it. This scrunchie set is for anyone happy to see the return of the hair accessory. The soft knit ponytail holders come in a set of five—one for each day of the school (or work) week.

Buy it: Urban Outfitters

7. D&D Graphic T-shirt; $38-$48

80s Tees

The perfect gift for the Dungeon Master in your life, this graphic tee is modeled after the cover of the classic Dungeons & Dragons rule book. It’s available in sizes small through 3XL.

Buy it: 80s Tees

8. Chuck E. Cheese T-shirt; $36-$58

80s Tees

Few Millennials survived childhood without experiencing at least one birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese. This retro T-shirt sports the brand’s original name: Chuck E. Cheese’s Pizza Time Theatre. It may be the next-best gift for a Chuck E. Cheese fan behind a decommissioned animatronic.

Buy it: 80s Tees

9. The Nightmare Before Christmas Picnic Blanket Bag; $40

Shop Disney

Fans of Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas will recognize the iconic scene on the front of this messenger bag. Unfold it and the bag becomes a blanket fit for a moonlit picnic among the pumpkins. The bottom side is waterproof and the top layer is made of soft fleece.

Buy it: Shop Disney

10. Toy Story Alien Socks; $15

Shop Disney

You don’t need to be skilled at the claw machine to take home a pair of these socks. Decorated with the aliens from Toy Story, they’re made from soft-knit fabric and are big enough to fit adult feet.

Buy it: Shop Disney

11. Goosebumps Board Game; $24

Amazon

Fans that read every book in R.L. Stine’s series growing up can now play the Goosebumps board game. In this game, based on the Goosebumps movie, players take on the role of their favorite monster from the series and race to the typewriter at the end of the trail of manuscripts.

Buy it: Amazon

12. Tamagotchi Mini; $19

Amazon

If you know someone who killed their Tamagotchi in the '90s, give them another chance to show off their digital pet-care skills. This Tamagotchi is a smaller, simplified version of the original game. It doubles as a keychain, so owners have no excuse to forget to feed their pet.

Buy it: Amazon

13. SNES Classic; $275

Amazon

The SNES Classic is much easier to find now than when it first came out, and it's still just as entertaining for retro video game fans. This mini console comes preloaded with 21 Nintendo games, including Super Mario Kart and Street Fighter II.

Buy it: Amazon

14. Planters Cheez Balls; $24

Amazon

Planters revived its Cheez Balls in 2018 after pulling them from shelves nearly a decade earlier. To Millennials unaware of that fact, this gift could be their dream come true. The throwback snack even comes in the classic canister fans remember.

Buy it: Amazon

Sign Up Today: Get exclusive deals, product news, reviews, and more with the Mental Floss Smart Shopping newsletter!

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

10 Great Gifts for Teens

Fjallraven/Polaroid
Fjallraven/Polaroid

If it’s been a few years since you were a teenager, you might be feeling at a loss when it comes to finding the perfect gift for the teen in your life. But you don’t have to worry—we’ve culled the internet to figure out what’s cool these days, and we found 10 items to suit any teen (and any price point).

1. Fjällräven Kånken Mini Classic Backpack for Everyday; $70

Fjällräven/Amazon

Fjällräven’s Kånken backpack was originally introduced in 1978 as an affordable and comfortable bag for Swedish schoolchildren, but it recently took off as a trend among American high schoolers and college students. With 43 different color options, chances are you’ll be able to find the perfect trendy backpack for the teen in your life.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Hydro Flask Standard-Mouth Water Bottle; $30–$35

Hydro Flask/Amazon

Hydro Flasks aren’t only trendy, they’re sturdy and environmentally friendly. Plus, they keep hot drinks warm and icy drinks cool for an absurdly long amount of time. The standard-mouth water bottle is currently available on Amazon in 17 different colors, but the brand also offers tumbler cups and coffee mugs depending on your niece/nephew/cousin/friend/child’s preference.

Buy it: Amazon

3. Polaroid Originals OneStep+ Bluetooth-Connected Instant Film Camera; $140

Polaroid Originals/Amazon

Teens can kick it back old school with this Polaroid camera that hides some surprisingly contemporary features. Using a special app, users can fine-tune their camera settings to suit their personal tastes. Plus, this camera makes it possible to capture two scenes in a single frame, so it's that much easier to create uniquely artsy Polaroid pics.

Buy it: Amazon

4. 4th-Generation Echo Dot with Clock; $60

Amazon

Tech-wise, the fourth-generation Echo Dot is almost identical to its third-generation predecessor. But the updated spherical design seems poised to make the Echo Dot a worthy contender for traditional alarm clocks—the speaker face shows the time and it even includes a tap-to-snooze function for drowsy sleepers.

Buy it: Amazon

5. Bubble Tea Kit; $38

Uncommon Goods

Part of the reason bubble tea is so popular is that it’s customizable—and what could be more customizable than making it yourself? This kit, made by an Atlanta-based couple, comes with two reusable straws and enough supplies to make up to eight servings.

Buy it: Uncommon Goods

6. Mixtape Card Game; $20

Uncommon Goods

This party game challenges players to find the perfect songs to suit specific prompts. Some cards might prompt players to use Spotify or Youtube to search for the songs with the best guitar solos, while other cards call for participants to play their “favorite slow dance love jam from junior high.” This game is sure to be a hit at any high school sleepover or house party—or, in true 2020 style, at any digital hangout or Zoom meeting.

Buy it: Uncommon Goods

7. Giant Flour Tortilla Throw Blanket; $18-$35

Mermaker/Amazon

This goofy double-sided blanket turns any human into a giant-size burrito, and it comes in four different sizes to suit any height. One reviewer even went so far as to say that “once you wrap yourself in it, you will be convinced that you are a burrito.”

Buy it: Amazon

8. The Cup of Destiny; $22

Shelter Harbor Press/Amazon

Here’s a prediction: Your hunt for the perfect gift is almost over. This kit is ideal for the teenager who is fascinated by the supernatural and loves exploring new ideas. Included, you’ll find a 96-page illustrated instruction book along with a cup and a saucer marked with patterns and symbols.

Buy it: Amazon

9. Wreck This Journal: Now in Color; $9

Penguin Books/Amazon

This journal is not intended to be pretty. It’s made for messiness and exploration and a little bit of chaos. Artistic-minded teens will love filling out pages that prompt them to catalog various stains or poke holes through the paper. Reviewers say it’s not only a source of creative inspiration, though—it’s also a stress reliever. And considering that the middle-school and high-school years aren’t exactly known for being relaxing, this journal could be a welcome reprieve from the daily pressure of managing homework and a social life.

Buy it: Amazon

10. Therapy Dough; $15

Uncommon Goods

Some teens focus better and relax more easily when they have something to fidget with. If the teen in your life fits that description, this therapy dough may be the perfect gift for them. Each 4.5-ounce container is infused with essential oils like lavender, eucalyptus, orange, or pine, making relaxation smell delicious (and all natural!).

Buy it: Uncommon Goods

Sign Up Today: Get exclusive deals, product news, reviews, and more with the Mental Floss Smart Shopping newsletter!

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.