‘Ice Skating’ as the term denotes is skating on ice, both indoors and outdoors. Specially prepared surfaces like ice skating tracks and arenas are found mostly indoors for competitions and events while in the outdoors lakes, ponds and rivers that naturally freeze over in winter offer excellent ice skating surfaces.
Ice skating as a sport probably began when people found themselves with fewer options for outdoor activity and games during winter and may have been done for many reasons like exercise, fun sport, for travel etc.
There are no clear indications as to when frozen water skating originated. Some views are that it originated in Switzerland around 3000 BC based on dating done on a pair of skates retrieved from a lake bottom. These were made from animal bones are strapped on to the fee using leather thongs. A researched study by Oxford University points to earliest frozen water skating activities more than 3000 years ago in southern Finland. All earlier versions of ice skates were made of flattened and sharpened bone which helped skaters glide on top of the ice unlike modern skates that cut into the ice. This is because the skates in use today are made from steel blades with sharpened edges that allow easy movement; the Dutch invented the idea of adding edges to skates in the 13th century.
Besides Europe, this kind of skating seems to have been practiced in China too around the same time line, gaining popularity during the rule of the Qing dynasty. However, the universal view is that ice skating originated in ancient Europe, though where exactly is unclear.
The introduction of frozen water skating as a sport came about gradually as the sport spread to other parts of the world and more and more people began to take it up as a fun sport before it became competitive. Figure skating is the competitive part of ice skating which has become a keenly contested sport comprising individual and pair events; the pair events involving a man and a woman are more like ice dancing where the pair executes intricate steps, patterns and rotations on ice to the accompaniment of music. The jumps in the air and loops are most fascinating; currently there six kinds of jumps counted as ‘jump elements’ according to competitive skating regulations. These are the Flip, Lutz, Toe Loop together known as ‘toe jumps’ and the Axel, Loop and Salchow which comprise the ‘edge jumps’.
The jumps are identified by the number of revolutions completed and the Axel is considered the most difficult jump. The specific jumps have been named after famous skaters who invented the steps.