Like many winter sports, figure skating's roots grew from necessity. As a mode of transportation for warfare and hunting in Northern Europe, skating was a swift way to traverse frozen lakes, ponds, rivers and streams. Warriors and hunters crafted makeshift skates of reindeer antlers or elk bones, and later iron and steel. By the 16th century, skaters were transporting goods across frozen waterways.
As the technology of the skate and blade improved, skating slowly emerged as a recreational and leisure sport. In the 1600’s, the Dutch used their frozen canals to skate from village to village, mastering the skating manoeuvre known as the "Dutch Roll," a simple skill that involves pushing off from one skate and gliding on the other.
To this, the French added pirouettes and spins. In 1892, the International Skating Union (ISU) was founded. Six years later, the first ISU-sanctioned event was held, and organisers hoped it might soon become an official Olympic sport. Because competitions could be held indoors, figure skating was added to the Olympic program for the 1908 Summer Games. Figure skating became an official Olympic Winter Games sport at the 1924 Winter Games in Chamonix.
Figure skating made its Olympic debut at the London 1908 Summer Games and appeared later at the Antwerp 1920 Games. It became an official Olympic Winter Games sport at the inaugural Winter Games in Chamonix 1924 and has remained on the program ever since. It is the only winter sport to have mixed competitions. The ice dancing competition was added at Innsbruck 1976.
One of the superstars of the Winter Olympics was Sonja Henie, who at just 11 years of age, made her Olympic debut finishing eighth at Chamonix 1924. Four years later she returned to win her first of three consecutive gold medals.
Team GB has won five gold medals, three silver medals and seven bronze medals at Olympic figure skating events. The most recent being Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean’s ice dance bronze in 1994.