With the Winter Olympics just wrapped up and the release of the movie, I, Tonya, it’s no wonder everyone’s talking about figure skating. I, Tonya tells the story of Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan, two American figure skaters who were vying for a spot at the top, and the chance to be the nation’s golden girl. Kerrigan’s career was brought to an abrupt halt when Harding’s husband had her knee smashed in with a baton to ensure Harding’s place on the team, and controversy has dodged Harding ever since.
How have the Olympics past and present influenced Canada’s figure skating history and culture? There aren’t any Harding like scenarios that we are aware of, but lets have a look.
Canada has amassed 25 medals for figure skating since it first competed in the winter Olympics in 1924. This year in Pyeong Chang they brought home the Gold in the team skating event.
Historically, Canada has always excelled in the figure skating arena, and in 1930 Cecil Smith became the first woman to bring home a medal for international figure skating. Followed by another Gold in 1948 from Barbara Scott and another two teams, one in 1960 and the other in 2002. Figure skating is one of the oldest national sports.
Canada led the world in developing commercial rinks and the first under cover rink was opened in Quebec City in 1952. They have continued to lead the world in all things skating.
The Lasting Benefits of The Olympics
Since Canada hosted its first winter Olympics in Calgary in 1988, the growth of Canadian figure skating just exploded. It is as popular as online casino games, and it is as exciting too. Up till then most athletes came from Vancouver, Ottawa and Toronto as that’s where the big training centres were, but the Calgary games resulted in large investments in construction to house the event, and left the residents with access to top class training facilities.
Today the well-known Canadian sports coaches agree, the Olympics and the facilities created to host such an event have attracted young men and women to participate and persevere in their training for the opportunity to compete.
The games also made Calgary, Vancouver and Whistler well known destinations. The Canadian planning team planned the games with an eye 5 – 10 years further down the line from when the games were held, and viewed it as a longer-term investment. So, although the initial investment was substantial, the result was a bumper tourism year in 2010, which continued and resulted in excellent years in 2014, 2015 and 2016.
The town of Whistler now hosts annual ski competitions and events, which bring large revenues to the town and local business. The Olympics made them a household name.
Canadian Figure Skating Today
The Annual Canadian Figure Skating Championships is held in Vancouver, and Canada sends teams to the World Championships, as well as the Four-Continent Championships.
This year Canada made 11 entries for their 17-strong figure skating team. Their goal? To bring home another three Olympic medals to match the previous high, but they didn’t. They brought home four. They are entering the world championship with a formidable team but it will take a massive effort for the team to be able to repeat their Olympic achievements.