Figure Skating: Confessions of a first timer

Toronto, ON- I’ll be honest, figure skating isn’t a sport that I have watched very much in my life, and I’ve never witnessed it live. That changed after spending hours watching the sport at the Ontario University (OUA) Provincial Championships this week. 

Joshua Allen of the Western Mustangs (Benjamin Steiner)

I knew that it was a very rigorous sport, despite what some may think, but  I had never experienced or seen what athletes put into their off-ice routines, especially on competition day, which were the days I watched.

One of the things which caught me by suprise was the distance away from the rink the skaters went when warming up. At any time over the two-day competition, it was very rare to find an empty hallway in the arena. Every alcove you could find at Ryerson University’s Athletic’s Centre had music playing and skaters practicing their routines for hours on end. 

The Queen’s Gaels practice their routine in the hallways (Benjamin Steiner/49Sport)

At one point  I walked through one hallway and passed five teams practicing, some coaches watched intently, some critiqued and others were nowhere to be found. It was a unique approach from each team, a characteristic that is rare to find in other sports. 

Of these warmups, run-throughs of routines were very common, but there were also things that align themselves more with popular sports such as soccer. A dynamic warmup is a moving exercise that activates many muscles in the body prior to a game or performance. It’s such an important warmup that it is even required by FIFA before competitive soccer matches. The figure skaters did the same exact warmup that I’ve seen so many times by the world’s greatest soccer stars. It’s no suprise that they do the same warmup, but to see it in a different context than on the pitch was interesting. 

While the athletic pursuits were one thing, the other aspect which was intriguing was the camaraderie between the teams. Despite the sport being largely individually focused, the support from teammates was unparalleled to anything I’ve seen before. I’m sure that the cheering and outwardness of the athletes is relevant in every sport, but I had never seen it as public as it was between these university teams. 

There are a few factors that could contribute to this outwardness of the athletes. It is a university event, and post-secondary students are known for their often rambunctious ad outgoing personalities. Combine that with the fact that the tournament is a trip for most teams and competition is over a 16-hour stretch, you see where the special camaraderie comes from.

The coach and select teammates celebrate a fellow athletes performance (Benjamin Steiner/49 Sport)

Every team in the competition had their own chants. Some were short, as Ryerson’s only consisted of the traditional “Give me a letter, R-A-M-S What does that spell? RAMS!” Meanwhile, others were so complex their words were not comprehensible, or there were even ones with various hand gestures such as the chant for the Western Mustangs. However, the issue is not if some guy in the press I.E me, can understand, but that the teammates o the ice get a push from their fellow teammates in the crowd. 

Western teammate’s cheer on their on-ice athlete with a chant and gestures (Benjamin Steiner/49 Sport)

The resilience was another thing.  I have noticed before, yet it still done very well at the university level. Every athlete had visible resilience when they did not do what they had hoped for. There were mistakes, but each time somebody tripped, caught an edge or something that was not intended, not only did they keep with their routine afterwards but also kept smiling through it. 

Watching the 2020 OUA Figure Skating Championship widened my sports coverage and watching horizons, as it exposed me to a sport that I had only ever seen on television. 

Cover Photo: Ryerson Rams women’s quad team (Benjamin Steiner/49 sport)

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