Olympic Figure Skating: The Early Years

By Sherry L. Brukbacher

Edward Bushnell, an industrial-era businessman from Philadelphia, revolutionized winter sports in 1850 by fitting a steel blade to a common boot. This allowed a skater to perform intricate spins and turns on the ice. By the turn of the century, figure skating was introduced to the Olympic movement. Figure skating owes much of its development as a sport and as an art to the Olympic Games.

The first Olympic figure skating competition took place at the 1908 London Games, 16 years before the first Winter Games. Above are British figure skater Madge Syers and her husband, Edgar, who won bronze in the pairs competition. Syers brought women into competitive figure skating when she entered the 1902 World Championships via a loophole: there was no rule barring women from competition. She placed second behind Ulrich Salchow, namesake of the classic figure skating maneuver. Salchow felt so strongly that Syers had outperformed him, he offered her his gold medal. Syers won her own gold medal in the women’s figure skating event in 1908.

ShareAmerica writer Emily Louise Bowman contributed to this article.

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