Abbotsford’s Lisa Elmore practices her skills at The Rinks at Summit Centre. She is competing against the world’s best in compulsory figures this weekend. (Ben Lypka/Abbotsford News)

Bringing the figure back

Abbotsford skater competing at World Figure Championships

Some might consider it literally a lost art.

Since its removal from international competitions in 1990, compulsory figure skating has mostly vanished from ice rinks all around the world.

Known as the actual art of tracing figures on the ice, at one time compulsory figures accounted for up to 60 per cent of the score in singles figure skating. It meant that skaters could build up a big lead in that portion of the competition, and not worry about the free skate.

More television coverage of the sport led to more importance being placed on the free skate, and by 1968 the International Skating Union began to reduce the worth of figures and introduced the short program in 1973. The sport of figure skating shifted to more of a focus on athleticism, and figures were worth only 20 per cent by 1989 before they were removed the next year.

But, recent years have seen the sport experience a bit of a comeback, and one Abbotsford resident is set to compete at the 2018 World Figure and Fancy Skating Championships in Vail , Colo. this weekend.

* * * * *

Lisa Elmore stands out during a free skate.

Twisting, turning and shredding the ice at a fast speed, the Abbotsford resident looks down at her finished product traced onto the frozen surface.

Elmore and her specially designed skates are a rare sight at the rink.

“Some of the younger skaters are blown away by what I can do,” she said.

Elmore fell in love with figures and skating at a young age. She has been on and off the ice for 40 years, including a five-year run with Disney on Ice, and said her interest in figures was re-ignited after getting her old gear back from her mom about four years ago.

She remembers just how important figures used to be.

“It was called figure skating because what you were doing was making figures and patterns on the ice,” she said. “Some of the patterns people could make were just mind-blowing. You would submit a design for what you would be presenting and over the years it evolved into a testing format with eight figures.”

Elmore said figures was eventually replaced by the more flashy aspects of the sport in competitive.

“The public decided that watching figures is kind of boring and I understand it,” she said, chuckling. “But it led to kids not learning how to do any of the technique. It’s all about control, balance and discipline and can be very challenging. It’s also something you can do when you’re older and not worry about falling and injuring yourself.”

She eventually became aware of the sport’s revival south of the border. Since 2015, the World Figure and Fancy Skating Championships have breathed new life into the dying activity.

Skaters from North America, Japan, Russia and Europe have all competed since the event’s debut, and athletes from as young as 12 and as old as 70 are hitting the ice for 2018.

Elmore has been training five days a week for at least an hour a day at Abbotsford skating rinks in anticipation of the event. Competitors have to do all 16 standard figures in a time limit based on the complexity of the design. The designs will then be judged on clean edges, turns, tracings, centres and alignment of all circles.

The event uses black ice to increase the visibility of all the designs.

“I have no idea how I will do because I’ve never been to one of these events,” Elmore said. “But I think I’ll be presentable. I should be up there in the rankings.”

The event opened on Thursday and runs until Sunday. For more information, visit worldfigurechampionship.com.

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