Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Chris Knierim react after their routine during the Pair Skating Short Program on day five of the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 on Feb, 14, 2018 in Gangneung, South Korea.
Did you know that figure skating was in the Olympics before the first Winter Games were held? That’s right, for two cycles it was considered among the sports competing in the summer.
It was added to the winter program at the same time as ice hockey. Both sports share another distinction; they are the second most expensive sport to compete in.
Olympic bronze medal pairs skater Alexa Knierim — who will be competing in Skate America this week in Las Vegas with her new partner, Brandon Frazier — shared with us the sport that took the number one spot, and five other things about figure skating that might shock you.
1. Figure Skating Was In The Summer Olympics First
The first time figure skating was in the Olympics, it was actually considered a summer sport. The Olympic Games London 1908 was where figure skating made its debut. Because the traditionally winter sport could be performed indoors, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) agreed to include it in summer. It wasn’t until 1924 when it was moved permanently to the winter program when Chamonix held the first Winter Games in 1924. Knierim said the fact that figure skaters perform indoors and “technically don’t have an offseason like football or basketball,” explains how they are able to train and compete year-round.
2. Figure Skaters Don’t Necessarily Love Cold Weather
Despite officially being a winter sport for almost 100 years now, Knierim said that doesn’t mean ice skaters love the cold weather, or the frigid temperatures commonly found inside their training facilities. “That’s a huge misconception,” she revealed. “When I first come across people, or even my family members, and I say, ‘Ohh, I’m so cold,’ they’ll be like, ‘How can you be cold? You live in an ice rink!’”
While Knierim admitted that is true, the difference is that when they are at the rink, “we’re always moving, and our blood flow is going.”
So if given the choice between a beach and a mountain, Knierim said “beach, 100%,” she laughed. “It’s one of the reasons why I love living in California. Plus, during my breaks at the rink I can go outside to sit in the sun and thaw out.”
3. Yes, It Hurts When They Fall
For anyone who might think that figure skating looks “dainty and doesn’t require a lot of strength and conditioning,” Knierim said that’s okay. “We don’t want to make it look labored. The whole point of figure skating is to make it enjoyable to watch.”
However underneath all those costumes and crystals, is a lot of pain and perseverance. “I’ve witnessed a lot of injuries,” she revealed. “But that’s part of the sport. It says a lot about figure skaters when we’re taking these horrendous falls from very high, and we don’t have any padding.”
And just like they can’t be seen wearing shin guards or kneepads, they also can’t be seen with a grimacing look on their face, no matter the pain they’re in. A trick Knierim uses is to pretend practice is a competition. “I tell myself, this fall could happen in my program at a competition, and I would have to keep going. So you want to train that way in practice too,” she admitted. After some stumbles “you literally have to shake the snow off your pants, but that’s part of it.”
4. No, They Can’t Do The Tricks You See In Ice Skating Movies
When it comes to iconic figure skating movies Knierim said the two best, in her opinion, are “The Cutting Edge” and “Blades of Glory.” But since the 1992 film about a hockey player turned figure skater came out when she was only one, the 29-year-old said the 2007 film starring Will Ferrell and Jon Heder is more “my generation”.
“I appreciate movies that highlight figure skating — even if it’s sometimes a little gimmicky. It’s better to shed light on our sport than none at all,” she said. As a result of that spotlight, she said people often wonder how true-to-life those movies actually are.
She recalled being asked if she can pull off the daring Flying Lotus move from “Blades of Glory”. It’s a move that involves one person performing a flying kick (known as a butterfly in figure skating) with their blade coming inches from their partner’s neck. She said she always laughs and replies that she absolutely can perform it. “When they say, ‘Really?’ I have to tell them, ‘No! Are you crazy?’”