Why You Should Watch Figure Skating

Figure skating is a well-known sport across the world, but how many people in Singapore actually follow it? In Singapore, there are 3 ice rinks in total, including the only Olympic-size one at JCube. Many people go there on the weekends to skate, yet not many pursue figure skating as a serious hobby or career. This is understandable considering the lack of facilities and resources to support figure skating here. However, Singaporeans do have access to live streams and videos of figure skating competitions online, so why are figure skating scores not a hotly debated topic in Singapore? Here are some reasons that figure skating should have a larger audience in Singapore. 

Firstly, not many competitive sports have an artistic component. In figure skating, artistry, which includes choreography, intricate footwork and interpretation of accompanying music1, makes up a huge chunk of the final score. Figure skaters have to be graceful as dancers, minding their every step and turn on the ice, all the while attempting almost Physics-defying jumps. For fans of figure skating, watching a figure skating competition is just as thrilling and moving as watching a dance performance. Not to mention the fact that artistry in figure skating can mean anything from a modern rock-star style performance to something you would see in a ballet theatre, meaning everyone can find a programme that suits their taste. 

However, just like all other sports, fans get to experience all the excitement that comes from watching a competition. Personally, I often cannot sleep soundly due to the anticipation before a major competition2. Moreover, there are a multitude of thrills and shocks that unfold during the event itself, favourites to win may suddenly stumble and a skater debuting on the senior level3 may beat the defending champion! There is certainly fun to be had if you are passionate about the sport or like a certain skater. Towards the end of most major competitions, when the bigger names in figure skating step onto the ice, the enthusiasm in the crowd is also not to be missed. For one Japanese skater, Yuzuru Hanyu, the ice is flooded with gifts from his adoring fans, mainly consisting of Winnie-The-Pooh plush toys, a sight that bewilders newer fans of figure skating!  

Regarding the sport itself, everyone knows that figure skating involves jumps, but watching skaters do quadruple jumps is mind-blowing. Yes, quadruple. That means 4 complete 360° revolutions in the fraction of a second figure skaters get in the air after taking off. It takes years, even decades, of hard work to perfect these jumps4. In fact, competitive skaters can spend around 4 hours a day on the ice practising. A more extreme example is South-Korean figure skater You Young, who was training 10 hours per day at age 11. In an interview, the first male Singaporean skater at the SEA games, Pagiel Sng, mentioned how he had to take a year off school in order to train and talked about the difficulty in dealing with academics while finding time to train for competitions. Furthermore, Singaporean skaters have to deal with the lack of facilities by going to the rink late at night. These figure skaters definitely put in a lot of effort to perfect their performances and deserve to have their achievements celebrated. 

What achievements, you might ask? Despite what you may think, Singapore has actually produced many young talents in figure skating. Notable people include Paigel Sng (mentioned above) and SEA Games champion Chloe Ing. Other than that, we also have a team of aspiring skaters who represent us at regional and international competitions. Interestingly, the Korean skater Young You (mentioned above) trained in Singapore in her early days and competed in the Singapore National Figure Skating Championships. She has since become the 2020 Youth Olympic champion and silver medalist at the 2020 Four Continents Championships. Just like how we support the athlete Joseph Schooling, we should be cheering on our skaters at competitions. 

Figure skaters often use their fame as a platform for raising awareness to specific issues. Singapore’s SEA Games gold medalist, Chloe Ing has posted on her social media account about problems like eating disorders and mental health, stating, “I want to utilize my platform in a positive manner to inspire my audience and spread awareness on causes I advocate for. Yuzuru Hanyu (mentioned above) has donated to reconstruction efforts after earthquakes in his native Japan and performed a tribute to the victims at the Olympics. Hanyu has been called an inspiration by many of his fans, allowing them to persevere in tough times. Recently, American ice dancers5, Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani have started a GoFundMe charity page in order to raise money to provide health care workers Personal Protective Equipment in response to the COVID-19 situation. These skaters definitely make a difference in people’s lives. 

If you want to give watching figure skating a shot, but find the unfamiliar terms daunting, do not fret, for there are helpful guides online to guide you along this journey. The website ‘So You Want To Watch Figure Skating?’ (https://soyouwanttowatchfs.com/) provides information on the rules and competition schedule as well as links to watch events online. Note that aside from competitions, there are also ‘Gala Exhibitions’ or ‘Ice Shows’ if you want to see skaters perform without the pressure of having to impress the judges. If you are looking for recommendations, Origin by Yuzuru Hanyu, Rocket Man by Nathan Chen and Don Quixote by Alina Zagitova are great programmes to start off with. So go forth and start watching this mesmerising winter sport! 

Russian skater Alina Zagitova at the 2018 Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea.
Russian skater Alina Zagitova at the 2018 Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea. 
https://www.wsj.com/articles/how-the-pyeongchang-olympics-delivered-a-figure-skating-revolution-1519386064 

Glossary: 

  1. accompanying music: all modern figure skating programmes are set to music that is played in the stadium, the skaters are expected to follow the beat of the music they have chosen 
  1. major competition: there are 5 major competitions, the World Figure Skating Championships, the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating, the Olympics, the Four Continents Figure Skating Championships and the European Figure Skating Championships 
  1. senior level: skaters of different ages and abilities compete in different groups. The highest level is the senior level. 
  1. jumps: there are 6 kinds of jumps in figure skating that differ in the way a skater takes off from the ice. For more information one can look at online sources 
  1. ice dancers: ice dancing is very similar to figure skating, although some may consider it a seperate sport as there are no jumps and scoring heavily relies on artistry 

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