Canada will be sending 17 figure skaters to the Sochi Olympics. The team includes world senior men’s champion Patrick Chan and Olympic gold medalist dance pair skaters Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir. While these stars will shine bright in Sochi, they will also be outshined by Canada’s hockey stars who continue to steal the spotlight as hockey remains Canada’s most popular sport.
Hockey has always gained more national attention, intrigue and funding than figure skating. Such bias is unjustified. The cry from figure skating enthusiasts that figure skating is clearly the more challenging and strenuous sport is, however, well justified. And it is time that this debate came to a close.
Figure skating requires physical endurance and strength, along with balance, precision, footwork and flexibility. Hockey requires speed and brute force. Figure skating requires intense training in dance and ballet and at least 30 hours a week of ice time for professional and competitive skaters. Hockey, while it teaches team building skills, does not require the same diligence and persistence as its more elegant sister sport.
“Figure skating takes a little more skating skill, yes,” said Kristin Kuzel, skating programmer at the University of Calgary, when asked which was the harder sport. Kuzel has skated for over 25 years and has tried both sports.
Hockey is even more popular than figure skating at the University of Calgary — the Dinos receive a lot more attention, while the Figure Skating Club is constantly looking for new enrolment.
“Now that girls can go into hockey, and now that ringette is getting more popular, there are just more options,” said Kuzel. The Figure Skating Club at the Olympic Oval has been available since the early ’90s, and they provide lessons to beginners and more advanced skaters.
“With our sports club, I feel that [registration] is going down,” said Kuzel.
While it may not be possible to keep up with Chan, Virtue and Moir, figure skating offers a good opportunity to try something new. Training in figure skating can help train hockey and ringette players, and the latter two sports will seem a lot easier in comparison.