G’day Bucketeers. Today I have a very special treat for you.
Most of my previous History Tutorials were the product of many hours poring over the Encyclopaedia Britannica or pawing my way through ancient manuscripts with white-gloved hands.
Occasionally however I took short cuts and copied information directly from all the documents which I stole from the National History Museum during the sixteen year period when I was having a torrid extracurricular love affair with the Curator’s widowed aunt.
She unceremoniously dumped me last year after developing a limp, a lisp and a drooping right eyelid, all of which she said were the result of stress caused by my tireless and persistent romantic ministrations.
For our subject today however, I am proudly able to draw upon a vast reserve of personal experience.
As an Australian living in the tropics I naturally have an extraordinary stash of ice-skating knowledge which has accrued from three main sources;
1. Examining the behaviour of my de-icing spatula when, once or twice each year, I defrost the freezer compartment of my refrigerator.
2. Studying Australia’s magnificent history of gold-medal skating performances at Winter Olympics.
A grand total of ONE.
In the men’s 1000 metre speed skating event at the 2002 Winter Olympics in South Korea, Steven Bradbury, after trailing for most of the race went on to win gold after every other competitor ended up in a spectacular pile-up on the final corner. Steven casually threaded his way through all the carnage to the finish line and in doing so covered himself and his country in the pompous pong of provincial superiority.
3. Viewing countless hours of figure skating on television. (Primarily involving shapely young women dressed in short diaphanous yellow skirts…..research can indeed be a very onerous and tedious task.)
I also once fell in sympathy-love with Nancy Kerrigan (pictured above) back in 1994 after the very charming Tonya Harding conspired to have harm done to Nancy’s gorgeous, long, splendid, shapely, sensuous, sylphen, sexy……..my apologies…..I almost drifted off into old-man’s fantasies there. Now where was I up to?
Oh yes. Back to business. You are here for the formal history of ice skating, so here it is;
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Ice skating enables a minority of people in the world to make the most of the appalling decision their ancestors made in migrating from hospitable African climes to the frozen extremities of the planet.
It is generally accepted that ice skating began on the frozen canals of The Netherlands more than 1000 years ago, when animal rib or shin bones were strapped to the feet.
When Dutch people travelled to North America in the 19th century, they brought with them their schaatsen along with clogs, windmills, and (presumably) courage, elm disease, auctions and ovens.
The first steel skate blade appeared in 1860 and speed skating was introduced as a winter Olympic sport for men at Chamonix, France, in 1924, and for women at the 1960 Olympiad in Squaw Valley, California after a protest march by the girls demanded equal ankle-sprain and tibia-fracture rights with the men.
Canada gave birth to the game of Ice Hockey shortly after a mob of unemployed English soldiers were observed swinging sticks at a little flat rock on the icy surface of Kingston Lake, Ontario in 1867 before the whole lot of them were immediately confined to barracks then hauled off by their superior officer to the nearest Sanitorium for psychological intervention followed by repatriation back to Britain.
Figure skating is an activity originally perfected and made popular by Norwegian world champion Sonja Henie. (1913-1969)
I, for one, would like to thank Sonja.
Figure skating is without doubt the most beautiful, graceful and elegant sport in my world.
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P.S. I have just received an urgent communique from Father George O’Dowd who is The Bucket’s newly-appointed Consultant for matters of Morality, Pop-music, Childbirth and Contraception.
After viewing a draft of this Tutorial, he has invited me to spend some time in his confessional. Immediately.
This may take awhile folks.
So if you don’t mind I’ll just look at a couple more pictures to tide me over until I get out.
More of GOF’s comprehensive History Tutorials can be found HERE.