Figure Skating is one of the oldest and most loved winter sports. In the old days, people used to make skates from carving bone into sharp blades. Eventually, metal blades were invented and it completely revolutionized the sport, enabling skaters to do more complex and thrilling tricks. And as the technology evolved, so did the sport itself. Today, Figure Skating has become a very nuanced and intricate sport, and the most talented athletes never fail to amaze and dazzle us with their amazing grace, skill, and sheer athleticism.
And yet, as glamorous and the beautiful the figure skating world might seem from the outside, there is much more than meets the eye. Just like an iceberg, we only see the beautiful, white frosted tip - we have no idea about the dark underbelly lurking beneath. And there are some dark facts about figure skating, make no mistake. Those who have trained to do this know all about these facts. The things that figure skaters have to go through are actually quite shocking, and yes, really messed up... Here are some of the most startling rules and things figure skaters must go through if they want to compete at the highest level...
15 Figure Skaters Are Pressured Into Maintaining A Perfect Body
One of the darkest secrets of figure skating is something that would shock the world if more people knew about it. Figure Skaters are under enormous pressure not just to succeed and train hard, but also to maintain a near perfect body. Just like dancers, figure skaters must really watch their weight and their diet becomes something that is extremely enforced. And for many, these factors can lead to some very serious body issues.
More than one figure skater has admitted to suffering from body disorders and eating disorders such as anorexia.
Some retired figure skaters have admitted that the pressure to keep a perfect body and appear as beautiful as possible was almost too much to handle. Some even admit that it was why they quit in the first place. Although not all figure skaters suffer from these disorders, it's probably a lot more common than you might think.
14 There Is No Talking Allowed On The Ice
Ice skating is a pretty ancient activity. And Figure skating is almost as ancient. For many hundreds of years, humans have been dancing on ice, and it's evolved into a very traditional activities with a very clear set of rules and an "etiquette" if you will. This activity is heavily influenced by high class attitudes and "proper behavior." As such, the female athletes are still referred to as "ladies" even though in modern times this might not be politically correct.
And in addition, the ice rink during figure skating events is a strangely quiet place.
There is virtually no talking on the ice, either between contestants, Pairs couples, or between coaches and figure skaters.
When you get on that ice, it's basically a matter of smiling and staying silent the entire time. It can sometimes seem like you're watching lifeless dolls or robots, but that's just the way figure skating has always been traditionally.
13 They Have To Hire Special Psychologists
We've already established how much time, money and effort goes into training and equipping each figure skater. So can you imagine how much pressure they must feel before they compete on the big stage? Their parents have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in their career, and to them, failure is not an option. That's why so many figure skaters confess to extreme anxiety before each competition. Some even throw up before each performance, without fail.
This should make it pretty understandable why so many figure skaters rely on special sports psychologists.
There are some very serious and potentially dangerous mental health issues faced by almost every single figure skater.
They have to be trained and specially coached to deal with the pressure by these psychologists. And even the ones that don't rely on psychologists create routines for themselves designed to calm them down, like eating at exactly the same time every day, and arriving at the rink at the same time before each competition.
12 Figure Skaters Must Say Goodbye To Their Social Life
With so much training and effort going into figure skating, there is almost no time left over for any semblance of a social life. Because of the amount of hours spent training, very few figure skaters actually have time to socialize with friends, or hang out after school during high school. Instead, figure skaters must fully focus on their careers without letting anything get in the way of that, and this includes friends and even relationships.
In fact, most figure skaters are actually home schooled.
It just makes sense given their hectic schedules, and this is actually common with other types of athletes as well. And in terms of marriage, very few figure skaters have time for that since so much time is spent travelling and training. The only real friends figure skaters have are other figure skaters, and the rivalry between them can often make friendship pretty much impossible.
11 While Training, Skaters Are Sometimes Forced To Wear "Butt-Pads"
On a slightly lighter note, figure skaters have to prepare to land on their butt... a lot. This is just part of learning, and every professional and amateur figure skater knows exactly how it feels when the hard icy surface below smack them mercilessly on the butt. You never really get used to it, and it's something that beginners experience a lot of when trying those crazy spins and other tricks that are risky to pull off. But in the end, the memory of that pain helps them learn not to make the same mistakes twice.
But there is something that figure skaters can do to provide a little bit of protection. These are referred to as "butt pads" in the figure skating world. No, we're not talking about the same things that are rumored to be implanted in some celebrities behinds, this is completely different. They just protect the skater from too much pain falling on their backside, and they actually look pretty funny!
10 You Have To Be Prepared For Some Serious Drama
Probably the biggest thing that people don't know about figure skating is the sheer level of drama that goes on between the skaters.
Figure skating is a fiercely competitive sport. Sabotage and mind games are just par for the course,
and even at the highest level this behavior has been observed. One figure skater famously had her knees smashed by the husband of another competitor... No, we're not making that up. In fact, there's a movie coming out about that incident very soon, and it's called Tonya.
But perhaps the most drama in the ice skating world is at the amateur to semi-professional level, particular in the case of young girls. Many ice skaters have admitted that girls at that age can be brutal to each other. Stories of girls stealing each other's outfits before competitions are no uncommon. Basically, if you want to be a figure skater, you have to prepare yourself for some serious drama.
9 They're Banned From Wearing Costumes That Are Too Revealing
You might think that Figure Skaters wear some seriously skimpy outfits, but the truth of the matter is that they used to be much more revealing. There are in fact regulations in place that determine what a figure skater can and can't wear. In certain competitions, you cannot wear too many sequins, beads, feathers, or other things that could fall off your outfit and pose a safety hazard. There's also a ton of regulations about how revealing an outfit can be.
This all began with the so-called "Katarina Rule" that came about in 1988. Named after a famous Russian figure skater who loved to wear revealing outfits, these regulations started to really enforce how much skin could be showing when figure skaters hit the ice. These rules state that the entire buttocks and hip area must be covered, and that tights and or legging must be worn. And to clear things up - they don't get too cold, in fact they overheat.
8 If You Want To Win An Olympic Medal You Have To Be Older Than 15
Another rule that started to come into play was an age restriction over who could enter the Winter Olympics and compete in the figure skating competition. This was after a very young athlete started winning lots of gold medals. In order to stop this from happening, the Olympic Committee decreed
that anyone below the age of 15 is not eligible to enter the Winter Olympics, and therefore has no chance of winning any medals.
This might sound harsh, but the reasons behind it make sense.
You see, it's all in order to protect the figure skaters from injury. You might not realize this, but figure skating is actually a pretty dangerous sport, and it can put enormous strain on the body. Injuries are extremely common. More on that later. But the committee's reasoning was to protect young people from suffering extreme injuries early on in life, before their bodies had really matured and strengthened.
7 You Must Be Trained In Ballet As Well
Figure Skating is famous for having some of the most intense training regimes in all of sport. Many people inside the sport confess that there are no words to describe how hard they train. On average, ice skaters spend about 14 hours a week training on the ice. But that's just what they do on the ice. In addition, their coaches will ask them to do a whole variety of other training exercises, and so they end up with very little free time on their hands.
One type of training all figure skaters must do is Ballet. If you think about it, the two activities are very closely related. Figure Skating is essentially Ballet on ice. This is why it's imperative that all figure skaters start learning Ballet from a very young age, so they can use those skills on the ice. But that's not all. Figure Skaters might also be told to do other types of training, such as yoga for example. All of these things are designed to make them better at Figure Skating.
6 Most Skaters Start Training Before The Age Of Six
If you're thinking about getting into Figure Skating and you haven't been training since the age of about two, chances are you'll never even come close to competing professionally. That's because most professional figure skaters have been training since or before they could walk. They often come from families that are also massively into figure skating, so there is a tradition there of teaching their children from a very young age.
One figure skater admitted that she had her baby daughter out on the ice at the age of one. She used a special walker to stabilize herself on the ice,
and she watched her mother practice. That probably gives you some insight into how seriously people take figure skating. There are certain skills that figure skaters learn before they are ten that most people will never be able to do.
5 In Pairs, You Have To Pay For Their Male Partners' Expenses
One of the most interesting and exciting forms of figure skating is the Pairs competition. This is when a male and female figure skater dance together on the ice, and are judged together as a team. There are many more possibilities with Pairs dancing in terms of moves, but there is also the added element of teamwork and trust. The two dancers must work as a unit. This is made even harder by the fact that there are very few men interested in Figure Skating.
This is such a big problem that female figure skaters virtually fight over the few men that are available. Not only that, but they will offer to pay all of his expenses. And just so you know, that amounts to tens of thousands of dollars each year. Many men take up these offers, but others feel understandably strange about the thing. Some male figure skaters have described it as being "bought" by a figure skater, and you lose your independence.
4 Hip Replacements In Old Age Are Common For Figure Skaters
As previously mentioned, injuries and strains are a huge issue when it comes to figure skating. There is always the possibility of slipping and falling, and the impact on hard ice can seriously damage the athletic Ice Skaters. It is not uncommon for a particularly bad fall to end an Ice Skater's career. But even if you don't fall, injuries are unavoidable. Apparently, just the motions that ice skaters go through are enough to cause lasting, permanent damage.
The twisting and the bending of the spine throughout spins and landings can cause huge problems with the spine.
The base of the spine is usually broken or completely disabled by the end of a figure skater's career. Not only that, but their hips suffer enormous pulls and strains, to the point where almost all figure skaters will need hip replacements in old age. That is just one thing that figure skaters must face if they want to succeed.
3 They Have To Constantly Buy New Skates, Which Can Be Very Expensive
The actual skates work by figure skaters are very different from your average pair of ice skates. The blades on the bottoms are extremely fine, and their thin edges are what makes figure skating so wonderful to watch. But this thin blade also represents a tiny margin of error, and it takes enormous skill to even wear these on the ice. Figure skaters must land on the right side of that thin edge after completing each spin or trick, and if they don't, they will go hurtling to the ground.
And there's also the fact that these immaculately designed ice skates wear out incredibly quickly. Within about 6 months, the blades will go flat from all of the friction and high speeds on the ice - and that's even if you sharpen them religiously. New skates every six months is just one thing that figure skaters must drop big buck on, which brings us nicely to our next point...
2 You Have To Pay $30 to $50k A Year In Expenses If They Want To Compete In A High Level
Top level figure skaters earn large amounts of money, through cash prizes and sponsorship deals. But these are only the very top level of athletes. And even then, the sponsorship deals are surprisingly little when compared to other top level athletes. So if you're committed to being a figure skater, you have to be there because you're passionate about it. Most figure skaters don't care about the money, and just want to succeed however possible.
But before you even reach the stage where you're getting sponsorship deals,
you first have to spend years and years training, and this training costs some serious cash.
On average, competitive level skaters who are trying to make a name for themselves spend $30 to $50k a year. This is for skates, renting ice time, coaching, travel expenses, and many other things that are just considered part of the sport. The parents of Ice Skaters are the ones who have to pay this bill.
1 You Have To Keep Your Arms Outstretched The Entire Time
One of the most overlooked thing about ice skaters is their perpetually good form. You never, ever see an ice skater who looks inelegant or awkward on the ice, and this is due to years and years of training. But part of the magic of Ice Skating is that this amazing form doesn't look forced or rigid - it looks natural, and completely effortless. This is where dance training comes into play, especially Ballet. Because these girls are deceptively strong.
For example, each routine takes about four minutes to complete. During this time, skaters pretty much have their arms outstretched the entire time. That's before and after they complete crazy spins and other tricks. This might not seem like a big deal, but just try putting your arms completely outstretched for four minutes straight. It's not easy. Also, skaters always keep their shoulder back and their chest relaxed, even if they're breathing heavily and working very hard.