The ease and fluidity with which the performers glide the ice is unbelievable. It looks effortless, as if they were born knowing how to perform all of the insane spins and jumps. However, when you consider the density of ice, the thinness of skate blades and the immense body strength necessary to execute most elements successfully, it becomes evident that one mere slip can cause a true disaster on the ice and colour the mood of everyone watching very dimly. So what are the actual stakes when it comes to safety and figure skating?
Knowing how to fall
As controversial as this might sound, this is an important thing to learn for all figure skaters from the very beginning. In a sport where precision is so important for successful completion of different elements, falls are inevitable. Knowing how to fall becomes even more crucial when it comes to pairs skating, because lifts mean the person would fall from even higher up than normal.
First and most importantly, the skater has to avoid falling backwards by all means. These falls are the worst because there is little one can do to protect their head. To prevent this, skaters are taught to lean forward and lower themselves to the ice as soon as they feel they have lost their balance. Following this, the skater is supposed to reach for the ice with their hands in that way stopping themselves and preventing larger impact on other parts of their body. They then stand up by holding on to one of their bent knees to regain balance. Knowing how to do that is important for ice skaters in order to protect themselves at all costs.
People are known to push themselves to their limits. A lot. Figure skating, in its essence, is supposed to be elegant and entertaining and since no one in their right mind enjoys watching people get seriously hurt, international competitions have unanimously forbidden certain elements that were doomed as too risky. One of those is a backflip, which, although theoretically possible on ice, carries great risks and unsuccessful execution can lead to disastrous outcomes.
Legal but dangerous moves
- The Triple Axel – this element involves impressive three and a half turns in the air, which are extremely difficult to land without falling. The only person to ever successfully execute it in the Olympics was America’s Mirai Nagasu. Prior to that, Tonya Harding went down in history after performing this move in 1991.
- The Triple Lutz – this element requires the toe pick in order for the skater to take off into the air. It involves starting on the toe of the outside edge of one foot and landing on the outside edge of the other foot (yes, skates have two thin and tiny blades with a gap in between). It is spectacularly difficult, and you can be sure that the skater has broken a sweat attempting to learn it.
- The Throw Quad Salchow – one of the most insane things you can do on ice as a pair. The female is thrown into the air by her partner to perform quadruple turn and has to land perfectly. It is immensely dangerous and thus adds a certain level of anxiety to the viewing of the performance.