15 Surprising Facts About Figure Skating

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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.

Wayfair’s Fourth of July Clearance Sale Takes Up to 60 Percent Off Grills and Outdoor Furniture

Wayfair/Weber
Wayfair/Weber

This Fourth of July, Wayfair is making sure you can turn your backyard into an oasis while keeping your bank account intact with a clearance sale that features savings of up to 60 percent on essentials like chairs, hammocks, games, and grills. Take a look at some of the highlights below.

Outdoor Furniture

Brisbane bench from Wayfair
Brisbane/Wayfair

- Jericho 9-Foot Market Umbrella $92 (Save 15 percent)
- Woodstock Patio Chairs (Set of Two) $310 (Save 54 percent)
- Brisbane Wooden Storage Bench $243 (Save 62 percent)
- Kordell Nine-Piece Rattan Sectional Seating Group with Cushions $1800 (Save 27 percent)
- Nelsonville 12-Piece Multiple Chairs Seating Group $1860 (Save 56 percent)
- Collingswood Three-Piece Seating Group with Cushions $410 (Save 33 percent)

Grills and Accessories

Dyna-Glo electric smoker.
Dyna-Glo/Wayfair

- Spirit® II E-310 Gas Grill $479 (Save 17 percent)
- Portable Three-Burner Propane Gas Grill $104 (Save 20 percent)
- Digital Bluetooth Electric Smoker $224 (Save 25 percent)
- Cuisinart Grilling Tool Set $38 (Save 5 percent)

Outdoor games

American flag cornhole game.
GoSports

- American Flag Cornhole Board $57 (Save 19 percent)
- Giant Four in a Row Game $30 (Save 6 percent)
- Giant Jenga Game $119 (Save 30 percent)

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

5 Ways to Keep Your Dog Calm on the Fourth of July

iStock/Getty Images Plus/melissabrock1
iStock/Getty Images Plus/melissabrock1

The Fourth of July can be rough for dogs. Fireworks displays light up their senses with unfamiliar noises, flashes, and smells, and parties flood their homes with strange guests who may invade the rooms they usually have as private retreats. And when distressed dogs escape, howl, or thrash around the house, Independence Day can quickly become a nightmare for their owners, too. To minimize Fido's stress this holiday, we spoke to some dog experts to discover the best ways to keep your canine calm on the Fourth of July.

1. Exercise Your Dog

Anthony Newman, the dog whisperer who runs New York City's Calm Energy Dog Training, says that exercise is a great way to help your dog let off some nervous energy. "Whenever Fido is going to be neglected for an extended period of time, or around any stressful stimuli, it always helps to tire him out just before—and even during the night if you can," Newman says. "As the saying goes, a tired dog is a good dog! He'll be calmer, happier, and more peaceful."

2. Keep Your Dog Indoors

Dr. Stephanie Liff, head veterinarian at Pure Paws Veterinary Care, says the best place to keep your pet during a fireworks show is inside and away from the windows. "If the pet is very scared, an escape-proof crate or a sound-insulated room, such as an internal bathroom, may help the pet to feel more secure," Liff tells Mental Floss. "If you cannot keep your pet inside, make sure that the pet is prevented from escape (monitor all exits and tell guests to monitor your pet)."

3. Socialize Your Dog

While your dog may feel more secure in a room away from all the noise, Newman points out that keeping your dog isolated in another room for too long can be stressful for your pet. "Release his curiosity and let him in on the fun, to run around and play with both two-legged as well as four-legged guests," Newman says. "Then back to his obedient room, bed, car, crate, or spot. Rinse and repeat as needed throughout the night."

4. Take Control of Your Dog

According to Newman, the best way to keep your dog calm during the chaos of July 4th is to stay in charge. "If your dog winces, shivers, and runs away at loud noises, the last thing he wants is to feel like nobody else is looking out for him," Newman says. Don't let your dog run rampant around the house or follow him around trying to soothe him. Instead, Newman says it's important to "take control by attaching a super-light leash that you can grab and lead him whenever you need."

5. Explore Medicating Your Dog

In extreme cases of nervousness, Liff says that you should talk to your vet about medication to sedate your dog.