Just some idle musing…
Traditionally, the “sport” of figure skating comprised the tracing of school figures. To do this at the championship level required fine muscular/nervous/motor control that is beyond the physical abilities of all but a few superbly talented athletes. It took years of study to hone the proper techniques (edges, turns, etc.) required to participate in this sport.
Judges were not always unanimous, but at least the skaters were judged against an objective standard (the template of the perfect figure). The difference between a well-drawn figure and a sloppy one was obvious.
Alongside this “sporting” aspect of skating, in the 1870s Jackson Haines introduced the idea of “artistic” skating – performing for an audience. Haines was a former ballet dancer from New York. He traveled to Austria and introduced his ideas to Europe. Drawing on his background in ballet, Haines introduced such novelties as skating to music and punctuating his performance with various crowd-pleasing tricks (like the sit-spin, which he invented.) Dare-devil antics like barrel jumping were also included in early ice shows, as comic relief.
In the 1970s the ISU decided that no one was interested any more in the sport of figure skating. People did not want to watch it, and the skaters themselves were more caught up in the “show” aspect of the endeavor. Figure skating became exclusively “performing for an audience.” Nowadays, the skater wins who does the most dramatic and crowd-pleasing quads, the most contortionist spins, the most frenetic footwork, and who presents the best choreography, costume and emotion.
Is this sport? Or did we leave sport behind on the figures patch?