With the 2014 Winter Olympics quickly approaching, it’s time to examine a sport that typically skates under the radar. When you think of the winter Olympic highlights, it’s easy to consider hockey, curling, and extreme mountain sports—but what about the art of figure skating?
The sport that combines grace, skill, and strength also has a presence on UVic campus. The UVic figure skating club (FSC) has been around for about 10 years and boasts a strong yearly membership.
Karley Talbot, a UVic masters student studying clinical neuropsychology, has been involved in the UVic figure skating club since 2005, on and off. She has seen the program grow in cycles to become what it is today.
“I’ve been here for a while, so I’ve seen the club go kind of like a roller coaster. But right now, we have a lot of members,” Talbot says.
The club has available ice time four times per week. The biggest deterrent to getting more members and more commitment is the ice time. The only ice available at UVic’s Ian Stewart Complex is in the middle of the day, which for students can be an almost sure conflict. Ice time is one thing Talbot would like to see improved over the next few years.
The skating club takes advantage of club days for recruiting and is open to all levels of skaters. Although it is encouraged to have skating experience before joining the club, according to Talbot, some of the most dedicated members are brand new. Furthermore, the UVic FSC is open to anyone, but Talbot says the turnout is predominately female.
“There have only been a small handful of men, maybe two or three since I’ve been here, that have skated with UVic,” Talbot says. “It varies each year, and the males aren’t always available for the skating times.”
UVic FSC is gender inclusive, but a stigma around male figure skaters exists in youth skating, and the club primarily recruits people who have skated before. With fewer males coming in through youth skating programs, it makes it tough for UVic to recruit male skaters.
“The males that grew up skating with me were definitely stigmatized as being homosexual,” Talbot says. “People in the figure skating world get frustrated by this stigma.”
The lack of men can cause a problem for skaters who are looking to skate pairs. Pairs skating, a competitive division in the Winter Olympics, is a dynamic sport, requiring strength, speed, and skill. An overabundance of one side of the pair can result in people being forced to skate alone.
“It’s frustrating for some of us. A lot of us were growing up looking for pairs and wanting to skate pairs, but couldn’t find males that were willing,” Talbot says.
Sometimes compared to hockey, figure skating males often come across as less tough, which in actuality may not be the case at all. Alison Gurney, club president and fourth-year bio-psych student at UVic, says that the speed and lack of pads can make figure skating very dangerous.
“Hockey is portrayed as being very tough, and figure skating isn’t,” Gurney says. “There are a lot of stereotypes with men figure skating. Many boys are pushed towards hockey when they are young—only few stick it out in figure skating.”
Even without a huge male contingency, the UVic figure skating club powers on. The club focuses primarily on its recreational component, but skaters from UVic will enter the occasional competition. Gurney says the program made a switch a few years ago, and as a result, the club doesn’t often enter competitions any more.
“If you want to enter a competition, it’s better to just register with your old club or a club here on the island,” Gurney says.
Because of the reduced competition, the UVic FSC has started going in the show direction.
Gurney says, “We are aiming to do more shows. Shows are less stressful and put less emphasis on the competition aspect.”
The UVic figure skating club has a show coming up on March 28, 2014.