The sport of Figure Skating has changed quite a bit in the past decades. Now, the inaugural World Figure Championship & Figure Festival from August 25-29 in Lake Placid is poised to create a new skating history.
Before 1990, figures were recognized as the essential component of figure skating in both training and competition. Figures are also known as school figures, or colloquially “patch”, to represent the patch of ice each skater was allotted to practice their figures. During practice, skaters would use “scribes”, metal devices that resemble a large protractor, to imprint into the ice the outline of a perfect circle. The skater would then follow the imprint on the ice by tracing the pattern with their blade.
They followed the circle as they traced over it as precisely as possible. In the absence of scribes, skaters can use the back of their skate blade to draw their own circle outline into the ice. Figures required an exacting skill set that helps to develop demanding freestyle skating skills. During figures practice, skaters were required to trace increasingly difficult patterns that sometimes included turns, while maintaining edge quality and accuracy within the pattern.
During a figures event, whether it was competition or testing, the judges would walk out onto the ice and examine the figure’s edges and turns closely. Precise circles, cleanliness of the edges, quality and cleanliness of the turns executed and precise centers in the figure eight patterns were all considered. If the circle patterns were not precisely traced and the edges and turns were not executed cleanly, then the skater’s score were
Because of the importance of figures in competition, skaters often spent
hours per day practicing. The necessary skills required to complete figures improve a skaters overall skating quality. The practice of figures was considered the greatest factor in creating skaters with style, line, technique, and quality. Therefore, the choice to discontinue figures in 1990 in World and Olympic competition is considered by some to be one
of the greatest mistakes in the sport’s history.
“Biased judging plagued the figure events along with television not knowing how to showcase its exactitude and beauty (art on the ice), and these two components fractured figure skating’s essential base. Figure competition is actually older than the modern Olympic movement itself — the first Olympic Figure event was in the summer Olympic Games in London of 1908, and competing in the sport of Figures predates the first modern Olympic Games of 1896,” said Karen Courtland Kelly, a member of the Organizational Team for the event. “We have worked hard and have a great team behind the World Figure Championship and Figure Festival and are striving to be a big part of the solution for our incredible
It’s hoped the problem of bias in figure skating will be prevented at the event as well. “Skaters, coaches, officials and skating enthusiasts will want to converge in the historic 1932 Olympic Arena for the first World Figure Championship to witness unbiased judging,” said Courtland Kelly. “The judges will not watch the competitors skate the figure, they will only judge the tracings that are left behind on the beautiful black ice.”
Peak Edge Performance (the organizers) of the new World Figure Championship & Figure Festival believe that the new event is a solution to the problem of biased judging that destroyed the essential component in the first place. The inaugural World Figure Championship will have the most distinguished judging panel assembled in the history of the sport.
The World Figure Championship will be judged by skating legends like 1972 Olympic Champion Trixi Schuba, 1972 Olympic Bronze Medalist Janet Lynn, and 1962 World Champion Don Jackson. Skating celebrities such as legendary skater and commentator Dick Button and elite choreographer Sandra Bezic will also be in attendance.
Although the event organizers are receiving inquiries and registration from throughout the World, local skaters and coaches also look forward to participating. The World Figure Festival, preceding the Championships and taking place from August 25 through 27, gives all skaters the opportunity to practice figures and enjoy skating on the black ice.
“I am very excited for the 2015 World Figure Championship and Figure Festival,” said coach Alicia Walter, a gold (8th) figure test medalist. “This event will create a great opportunity to encourage all to learn the figures and to reveal the truly important foundational role that they have
in our sport.”
“I will be attending the Figure Festival with a group of my students and I cannot wait to share my joy and passion for the discipline of figures,” Walter said.
“I am thrilled to brush up my figures for the World Figure Championship and will be participating in the Figure Festival portion,” said adult skater and former Skating Club of Lake Placid President Rosemary Gole.
“This is a historic event that I would not miss. I started skating as an adult so the dream of reaching the eighth test and competing in the new World Figure Championship is just that: a dream. However, I am so excited to be there to watch and give my support to the most accomplished skaters in the sport.”
“[Skaters can benefit] everything [from figures] if they want to become World and Olympic champions again; remember the U S dominated World and Olympic competition in men and women divisions for over 60 years, not so in the past ten years.” said Tim Wood, former ABC figure skating commentator and judge for the World Figure Championship.
“I feel privileged to have been asked and want to share how important figures are to the structural integrity of all positional control and movement in skating; jumping directly dependent upon ballet.”
The event will have two components — the World Figure Championship, open to only those who have earned their 8th (Gold) figure test (the highest in the discipline) to compete against the best figures participants in the world; and the Figure Festival, which will teach figures to new generation of skaters.
The Figure Festival is open to skaters of all ages and levels to experience the foundation of skating. There are two optional components in the Figure Festival. Participants can experience Figure Tests and enjoy the optional Figure Festival Competition that is open to everyone. The ice will be painted black for the World Figure Championship & Figure Festival to enhance visibility for skaters, judges, and spectators.
Spectators will be permitted, and admission can be purchased on the WFC website, or at the door.
The general public will be able to join in on the Festival as well. There will be tours given for the public, plus book and autograph signings, social skating and arts educational events for all ages.
Special events at the event include “Memorable Moments of Greatness” presented by legendary ABC producer Doug Wilson; a film screening of Ludmila and Oleg Protopopov’s beautiful pairs programs; and an art show featuring artwork by WFC judge and coach Tommy Litz.
To commemorate the event, the US Postal Service has created a special pictorial postmark for the event. There will be a pictorial postmark booth open from 12 pm – 3 pm on Friday August 28 at the 1932 rink to pick up the pre-ordered postmarks, and from August 25-27 they can be pre-purchased and reserved at the WFC welcome booth. Postmarks can also be pre-purchased on the website.
The World Figure Championship & Figure Festival competition is endorsed by the International Skating Institute (ISI) and organized by Peak Edge Performance, Inc.
To see frequent updates from the event, including photos and times for events as they become available, visit the event’s Facebook page.
For more information about the World Figure Championship & Figure Festival, including to purchase tickets or special events, visit their website at worldfigurechampionship.com.