My sister and niece both figure skate competitively, so I figured it was time to learn something about their sport. "Ice Skating" by Dan Gutman is a good beginner's book with lots of memorable quotations, although even I know that his description of a `death spiral' is incorrect:
"The couple originated the `death spiral' spin---the one in which the lady is held by her legs [sic] and spun in a wide circle so her head nearly scrapes the ice."
This book was published in 1995 and contains short biographies and color pictures of some of the skaters (mostly but not entirely American) who were popular back then, including Michelle Kwan, Christopher Bowman, Scott Hamilton, Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean.
One of my favorite biographies is that of Dick Button, who is pictured as an earnest young man in a flying sit spin. I have always loved him for his acerbic commentary on the TV ice skating championships, but he was first and foremost a top skater, and the first American to win an Olympic gold medal in figure skating. (He also used to have a full head of hair!). I had always thought Button was famous for his spins, but he also introduced many new jumps, including the double salchow, the double loop, the double flip, the double lutz, the double axel, and the difficult triple axel (which some men still have problems performing, including the current world champion).
The author spins a sprightly history of ice skating (mainly figure skating), starting with the unfortunate Swiss skater who tumbled through a hole in the ice and drowned some time around 3000 B.C. This accident preserved for posterity the first primitive pair of bone skates ever discovered, although historians believe the people of Finland were actually the first to don skates.
"Ice Skating" is a quick, enjoyable read for those of us who would like to learn more about this graceful sport.