Figure skating vs ice dancing?
February 15, 2018 7:22 AM   Subscribe

How do wannabe Olympian skaters decide between pairs figure skating and pairs ice dancing? At what age are you set into one or the other? There are probably other related questions I would love answers to here that I can't think of asking.
posted by jeather to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (4 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I would imagine jumping ability (or lack of) plays a great role, for starters.
posted by Dolley at 8:39 AM on February 15, 2018 [6 favorites]

Here's an interesting article about selecting partners. It doesn't address the age where you need to commit to a particular form, but does mention the importance of developing individual skill.

Height is going to play into this as well as talent. Women in pairs skating tend to be quite short and their partners are taller. This is necessary for the lifts.
posted by TORunner at 8:51 AM on February 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

I imagine it's kind of like the decision to go into regular figure skating versus precision/synchronized skating (which should be an Olympic sport, please!): often linked to jumping ability.
posted by urbanlenny at 8:58 AM on February 15, 2018

I had a close relative who managed a skating rink, and I was a synchronized skater myself. Tiny tots start with USFSA's "Snowplow Sam" program (adorable!) and then kids move on to the "Basic Skills" program which has different tracks (ice dancing, figure skating, etc.) but lays the groundwork for basic skills needed in figure skating, speed skating, and synchronized skating. I wouldn't say which track kids go with is linked directly to jumping ability. Not everyone wants to do that. Synchro and individual figure skating are completely different sports.

Another factor is whether the skater's family has the money to spend on a coach and parents who are personally willing to go to the rink at 5:30 AM for extensive skating practice. Figure skaters who make it to the top do so through an extreme amount of discipline, desire, training and hard work, but also possess the material supports to allow them the time and space to make that happen. Ice time, supplies and maintenance (e.g. Reidell skates, Goldstar blades and hand-sharpening) aren't cheap. And they're necessary to land those jumps if you're an individual figure skater. Even as a synchro skater, there was a hierarchy of who had what. Middle class/poor kids got used skates with blades that had X number of sharpenings left in them that were conformed to another one's foot. Rich kids got brand new Goldstars like Nancy Kerrigan, whose skate conformed to their feet only. And gorgeous new blades - that the kid would outgrow before they even needed a new blade.

Synchro is no different than figure skating in some ways - we had very intense practices multiple times a week before school started because hockey took up all the ice time. Uniforms, even for synchro, were custom made and expensive, which precluded some kids from continuing the sport due to the ongoing expenses. Travelling, paying for ice time in another city, and missing school are all hidden costs of the sport. Some kids were just home schooled, and most were tutored.

Kids decide what track they take largely in part on those factors - money and to some degree, ability. I came from a family who didn't have the means for a private coach for individual skating lessons, which I would have enjoyed, but I happily went for synchronized skating because it was within my means and seemed much more attainable than competitive individual skating. Less pressure, but all I wanted to do was skate.

I loved synchro, and totally agree it should be an Olympic sport. There are synchro teams who come from towns where children are started at 2 years old, and their synchro teams are literally unbeatable. I skated against the Haydenettes in the nineties, and they're still incredible.
posted by onecircleaday at 2:36 PM on February 15, 2018 [5 favorites]

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