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Olympic champions all start somewhere, such as at MRFS

Double bladed skates from dating from 1910 made sport challenging.   - Contributed
Double bladed skates from dating from 1910 made sport challenging.
— image credit: Contributed

Over the last two weeks, Canada’s Olympic athletes competed in Sochi, Russia in more than 98 events in 15 different sports, taking in a total of 25 medals.

Around the country, Canadians have been huddled over screens and tuned into coverage celebrating the worlds finest athletes. As we look forward to the future and the possibility of new disciplines being added, it is interesting to note the roots: which event came first?

Figure skating is the oldest discipline in the Olympic Winter Games.

It was first included in London in 1908 in the Summer Olympics, and it was not until the Games in 1924 that pairs were added to the program, in what was the first Winter Olympics.

Figure skating today includes both singles and pairs, but also ice dancing and team events.

The single program consists of compulsory elements and a free skate program, including jumps, spins and steps.

In pairs’ there is a short and free program as well, including lifts, spirals, throws and synchronized jumps. The goal of a pairs’ program is the degree in which each skaters movements mirror one another.

Ice dancing is the only program in figure skating that allows music with vocals. Dancers rely on the rhythm of the music to express proper emotion and feeling.

However controversial the judging in figure skating is, there is no denying that it is one of the most watched and loved of the sports at the Games.

It’s hard to imagine a time when figure skating costumes where made out of wool and even harder to image a pair of skates that affixed to a pair of shoes that do not encompass a full leather boot, like the ones we are accustomed to today.

This pair of “bob skates” dates back to 1910, belonging to Mrs. V. Hoover of Haney. They had adjustable leather straps that would hold the ankles in place. Similar versions of this skate still exist today, mainly as a tool to teach young toddlers how to skate. Although modern versions are made from plastic, not metal.

The importance of teaching the youth skating was something that was not lost on founding members of the Maple Ridge Figure Skating Club, which celebrates its 45th anniversary this year. The club started not long after the Centennial Arena was built in 1967.

Figure skating was a natural fit for the new rink, and the club applied to the Canadian Figure Skating Association, and soon after hired its first club professional, Gail Hudson.

Enrolment was high, as it was a new activity, and classes were filled with children wanting to learn.

In the first years that the Centennial Arena opened, figure skaters were sharing the ice with hockey players and others who wanted to free skate. Sections of the rink would be roped off and classes would take place in a confined space.

Today, the Maple Ridge Figure Skating club offers a variety of classes and is part of Skate Canada, which is designed for beginners to all ages, to learn the basics of skill development.

As children progress,  one-on-one teaching and coaching is offered through the club.

Often, sports history is so specifically tied to individual events that club histories tend to fall through the cracks.

Unless a club or organization has approached the museum specifically, there is no way outside of coverage in the local paper, to track its history.

The Maple Ridge Museum would love to take this opportunity, with sport still in our mind from the Olympics, and remind various clubs and organizations that our museum is a repository for your histories as well. Whether it’s through photographs, artifacts or archival documents, the museum would love a chance to collect and tell your story.

 

– Allison White is curator at the Maple Ridge Museum.

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