Why they Flood and Clean the Ice Surface

Recently, I purchased an excellent power washer that I discovered here on Wash Wisely. The reason I mention this is that as I was using my new power washer to clean my deck the other day, it got me to thinking about how important the process of flooding and cleaning the ice is for figure skating competitions. I thought that would make for a great subject for our next post.

Why do they Flood?

If you’ve ever had the opportunity to watch the arena crew preparing the ice for a major figure skating competition, you may have wondered why they were flooding the ice with water. It’s actually quite intuitive when you think about it. Ice is just frozen water, so when the ice becomes damaged from excessive use you have to fill the gaps with fresh water to create the smooth surface that the skaters need to perform their routines. That’s exactly what the ice crew is doing when they flood the ice with fresh water. It’s a painstaking process, but without the efforts of these tireless individuals we wouldn’t get to enjoy the finest of exhibitions in world class figure skating.

What About the Zamboni?

A friend of mine asked me the other day “What exactly is a Zamboni?” That was a good question, and one that does require a bit of clarification. A Zamboni is actually just a certain brand of ice resurfacer, and it does have its competitors. It just happens to be the frontrunner, and that’s why most people associate these machines synonymously with this company’s name. It’s an honest mistake for the uninitiated.

So the question still remains – what exactly is a Zamboni or ice resurfacer? Essentially, it’s a machine that automates the process of flooding the ice with fresh water to repair the surface. In the past this was done by a team of individuals with shovels and buckets of water, and that was a rather time-consuming process that also made for some unpredictable results. The Zamboni was definitely a game changer.

What’s the Difference Between Fast Ice and Slow Ice?

Another couple of terms that are often used when referring to figure skating are fast ice and slow ice. In fact, these are terms that actually originated with the game of hockey, but they apply just as well to figure skating. Fast ice refers to fresh ice that’s just been resurfaced. It is completely free of debris and is categorized by a fresh sheen on the surface that is the newly-applied water. That smooth surface allows the skaters to skate more accurately, but it also makes the surface a little slippery, of course.

Slow ice is what you can expect after the first few competitors have had a spin around the ice. That freshly-flooded surface is quickly covered in ice shavings that can slow down the pace. Slow ice gives the skaters something more to grip, but they can’t get the speed that skaters on fast ice experience.

Periodic Manual Repairs

Something else you’ll notice if you’re attending a live event is that on occasion arena workers will be called in to make periodic manual repairs. The skaters’ safety must always be in the forefront for event organizers, and large holes in the ice have to be fixed as soon as possible. The way they normally do this is by shoveling some of the nearby ice shavings into the hole and then packing it down. If this doesn’t quite fix the problem, they may have to apply a little water, but this takes time to freeze, so it’s not an ideal solution in the middle of a competition.

Can You do It In Your Own Backyard?

Recreating the professional ice surface you find in arenas is pretty difficult to achieve in your back yard, but not impossible. With a lot of painstaking effort and patience, it can be done. Obviously, you can’t afford a Zamboni for the backyard, but by using the manual methods we’ve touched upon above you can create a very smooth surface for practice – you just have to be dedicated to the process.

The Four Most Famous Figure Skaters of All Time

There have been many famous figure skaters over the years, and that makes it difficult to narrow down the list to the four best. That’s why we decided to put together a list of the four most famous instead. These four skaters are our choice for the most famous, but there are certainly many who can match their skill – we simply believe these have had the biggest impact on the sport.

Kurt Browning

One of the best male figure skaters to come out of Canada was Kurt Browning. He was known for a bit of artistic flare that many of his contemporaries found hard to match. In figure skating, personality can be the difference between making it to the top and being an also-ran. Browning had that little something special, and that’s why he was able to capture the world title four times, as well as to lead the way for his country. While he never did capture Olympic gold, he was the first man to successfully land a quadruple jump in competition, making it next to impossible to leave him off this list.

Brian Boitano

Between 1985 and 1988 Brian Boitano became a household name for US figure skating fans, and throughout the world. He captured the world championship twice during that period, and in 1988 he reached the pinnacle of the sport by capturing the Olympic gold medal. While 3 years may seem like a short period of time to be at the top of the figure skating world, it was a memorable three years that few will ever forget. He was known as a strong technical skater, but in the early days he struggled with the artistic side. It was the extra attention to his perceived artistic weakness in the time period leading up to the Olympics in 1988 that enabled him to establish his rightful place in the annals of figure skating history.

Katarina Witt

As far as female figure skaters are concerned there’s one name that always comes to mind first – Katarina Witt. Most skaters find it difficult to win an Olympic medal, but Witt was able to find the strength and tenacity to win two Olympic golds. She was also European champion an amazing six times. Witt was known for her solid technical skills and almost flawless execution. She also happened to be in amazing physical shape her whole career, which is why she was able to remain at the top of her sport for so long.

Kristi Yamaguchi

The last skater to make our list is Kristi Yamaguchi. She was a two-time world champion, and in 1992 she reached the top of her sport by winning Olympic gold. She may not have quite the pedigree of some of the female skaters that came before her, but she was still one of figure skating’s shining lights during a successful career. It didn’t hurt that she was also a celebrity champion on Dancing with the Stars!

The Importance of Image for the Figure Skater

For a champion figure skater there may be nothing more important than picture-perfect grooming, and that means every little detail from clothing to hairdo and make-up. You’re trying to create an image that will impress the judges and influence their perception of you in a positive way. In a cutthroat and competitive sport like figure skating, every advantage counts. Here are some things you’ll want to keep in mind, on and off the ice, to help improve your image for the judges.

Personal Grooming

We’ve already touched upon personal grooming being of huge importance in the figure skating world, but this comes down to more than just a couple of stray nose hairs. Now, the best choice for removing nose hair is a special trimmer, but details like this are just the easy part. It also means making sure your hair is neat and tidy and that it suits your overall appearance – it’s all about the whole package. The right amount and the style of your make-up is also something you have to consider. Remember, you’re being judged on everything as a professional figure skater; not just your ability on the ice. This may seem very subjective and a little unfair, but it is the reality that the figure skating world deals with at every major competition.

Weight and Physical Appearance

Think back to the last figure skating competition you watched on TV. Were there any overweight competitors or ones that seemed to have anything but flawless features? It’s doubtful, for three main reasons. First, the rigors of the sport demand that competitors keep themselves in the best of shape, so it’s rare that they’ll appear anything other than slim and trim. Secondly, when it comes to doubles skating, male skaters are expected to lift their female partners; for this to work well both skaters need to be light enough to pull it off. Last, it comes down to the judges again. Even if you could remain competitive while packing a few extra pounds, it’s doubtful you’d do well with the judges. This may sound a little dubious, but it’s the simple truth of today’s current figure skating reality.

The Costumes

The final thing that’s important to get right, if you want to impress the judges with your impeccable image as a figure skater, is your costume. This should be carefully chosen to match your choreography and your chosen music. You’re trying to impress the judges with your talent as well as your artistic impression. This is probably even more important for anyone competing in pairs skating, where you also have to coordinate your costume with your partner’s. Of course, professional figure skaters get a lot of help from a team behind the scenes, but the most successful skaters have a lot of control over their costume and their image as a whole.

Money is No Reason to Keep your Child from Skating

Any sport can be expensive for parents and that can be stressful – especially if you know your child has the talent to succeed at the highest level. Every parent wants to believe their kid has something special, of course, so you have to really be honest with yourself before making a strong financial commitment. If you really, truly believe that your child has what it takes, don’t use “I can’t afford it” as an excuse. Here’s why.

Second Hand Skates

The most expensive piece of equipment for the newbie figure skater is the skates – these can easily cost you a couple hundred dollars or more. Instead of saving your pennies for the most expensive pair you can find, look on sites like Kijiji for great deals you can afford now. It’s better to get your child’s figure skating journey started with older skates than to not start at all.

Look for Free Ice-Time Opportunities

Ice time is not cheap, so rather than jumping in feet first by renting ice in a rink, look for free opportunities. Many towns have free outdoor skating rinks in the winter and these are a great place for your child to begin learning to skate. There’s no point in rushing them off to lessons if they can’t handle the basics as yet.

Local Clubs May Help

Once you’ve gotten past the initial introductions to skating and you’re confident that your child does have potential, try looking for local clubs that may offer to sponsor them along the way. These sponsors may not pay for everything, but their help may be enough to make the financial burden bearable for parents that are struggling with the expense.

Find a Coach that Offers Mini Lessons

Full hour lessons with a professional figure skating coach can be expensive, but don’t be shy in asking your local coach if they offer mini lessons. Some coaches offer half-hour or even 15 minute lessons. That may not sound like much, but the skills your child can learn this way will be invaluable.

Try Every Other Week

If you can’t afford to have your child enrolled in weekly figure skating lessons, why not consider every other week? An enthusiastic student will still make strong progress towards their figure skating goals as long as they can learn to practice on their own during the off-weeks. No challenge is insurmountable, you just need to get creative.

Living with Adversity as a Champion Figure Skater

If you’re like me, you enjoy all sports, no matter how diverse they are. While this site may be dedicated to figure skating sports, I also happen to be an avid fan of motorcycle racing and I love to ride. I keep my bike in a shared garage so I decided to get a motorcycle stand to work on it in a tight space – it could be either a front or rear wheel stand, it didn’t really matter which.

The reason I bring this up is because I believe that no matter how different one sport is from another, those who enjoy them share one thing in common – the need to be able to perform when dealing in less-than-ideal conditions. That tight space in the garage is where I work on my bike, to get it in the best condition so that I have a better chance in my weekend races. Figure skaters are also used to performing in less-than-ideal conditions, and here are some reasons why.

Poor Ice

For the figure skater just starting out, it can be difficult finding the ice for practicing, let alone ice that qualifies as good ice. Most rinks are used for purposes other than figure skating, such as ice hockey or concert events, and all that traffic can result in slushy ice that makes skating a challenge. If you’re lucky enough to live in a northern environment, you may have access to a relatively private outdoor skating service that allows you to practice to your heart’s content, but this isn’t the typical experience for most figure skaters. The majority have to put up with poor conditions in shared facilities. This shouldn’t be too discouraging, though, as many champions got their start under similar circumstances.

Bad Coaches

Something that may be a little bit more difficult for a promising figure skater to overcome is a bad coach. As is the case in any sport, a coach’s ability will vary. And there may not even be a figure skating coach in your area. Many find it necessary to travel considerable distances to train with a good coach, and that can be quite expensive. Those that can’t afford to travel to further their opportunities have to work through the adversity of turning their promise into something more, even if that means doing it without proper direction. That takes a lot of determination and individual dedication.

Minimal Ice Time

Even if you can find a good coach in your area, that doesn’t mean you’ll have access to an unlimited amount of ice time for practice. As we’ve already mentioned, figure skaters have to compete with a lot of other sports and events for ice time, which can mean spending a lot of time practicing some aspects of your sport on dry land. This isn’t the end of the world, but it certainly makes life a little more challenging if you really want to succeeed.

Outdated Equipment

Perhaps the biggest problem many figure skaters face when starting out is outdated or wrong equipment. By equipment I mean skates, of course, and if you’ve ever skated before you’ll know how difficult it is to skate on dull or thin blades. It’s even more difficult to try figure skating with standard skates, but I’ve seen a lot of people attempt it over the years. Dealing with this type of adversity will make you either quit the sport or double down with determination; which one you decide to do really depends on your personality and commitment.