What's It Like to be a Figure Skater
14-year-old Sophie Juliana has been ice skating for eight years and says the secret to figure skating is making it look easy.
• “The first time I put on skates I was 6 years old. I went to a free public skate in honor of the Independence rink opening. I loved it and had my mom sign me up to learn to skate.”
• “Skating can be very scary sometimes. In fact, recently I have begun working on a jump called double axel, which is 2½ rotations in the air. When I first tried it on my own it was super scary, but I’m starting to become more comfortable with attempting them.”
• Ice skating began more than 3,000 years ago in Finland when people strapped sharpened bone to the bottom of their feet. The Dutch created ice skates with iron blades in the 1200s. In the 1740s the first organized skating club was formed, called the Edinburgh Skating Club.
• “To be a good skater you must be strong, flexible and work on things to hopefully stay injury-free. So, I do off-ice jump exercises, stretching and workouts for about three hours each week.”
• Sophie attends Truman High School in Independence, Mo., and is a member of the Kansas City Figure Skating Club. She competes from February to October. Her last big win was placing 11th overall in the 2018 Southwestern Regional Championships in Fort Collins, Colo.
• Figure skaters can pivot and stop short thanks to a serrated edge on the tip of their blades known as a “toe pick.” The pick grabs the ice and helps skaters prepare for jumps.
• “I will get nervous while watching the Olympics because I want my favorite skaters to do well. But most of the time I don’t worry because I know that they will do amazing because they have solid training, and are beautiful skaters.”
• Figure skating is the oldest winter sport at the Olympics, debuting during the London games in 1908. That’s 16 years before the beginning of the formal winter games.
• “My favorite thing to do on ice is probably jumps. It helps me get out all my energy for the morning. I also love it because it is so satisfying to jump up high, spin around multiple times in the air, and cleanly land on a thin strip of metal. It’s an experience that nothing can mimic.”
• Skaters, while doing a spinning jump, reach more than 300 revolutions per minute. That’s as much RPM as astronauts in centrifuge training.
• “In my opinion the most difficult figure skating move is a quad. I mean, it’s four rotations in the air in a matter of seconds.”
• “I wish that people knew that skating was a lot harder than it looks, and there is a lot more than an ice practice that helps you become a better skater. As skaters, we’re supposed to make what we are doing look easy, which is very hard, trust me.”