A History of the World Figure Skating Championships

Written By: Riedell | March 14, 2022
Photo courtesy @fsphoto_syo

This year, the World Figure Skating Championships are scheduled to take place between March 21st and March 27th in Montpellier, France. In the spirit of the season, we thought we’d take the time to put together a post dedicated to the history of figure skating’s World Championships.

As an ice skate manufacturer for over 75 years, Riedell has seen a fair share of figure skating championships over the decades. In fact, we sponsor our own team of talented athletes who take part in competitive skating around the globe. We’ll cover where and when the championships started and how far they’ve come since. Read on to learn more.

The First International Ice-Skating Championship

Figure skating championships on an international scale date back to 1896 when the Internationale Eislauf-Vereinigung (what you may know as the International Skating Union or ISU) held the first championship in St. Petersburg, Russia. Gilbert Fuchs, a self-taught German figure skater, was the championship’s first-ever winner that year. Only three other men competed.

Who was the first female figure skater in the World Figure Skating Championships?

There were no gender-restrictive rules for the competition at the time. So, in 1902, the international championship had its first female competitor. She was British figure skater Florence Madeline Syers aka Madge Syers. She took home the silver medal.

In the years following, the ISU established separate gender classes for the competitions. And in 1906, Syers won the first-ever ISU ladies’ championship competition.

Notable Changes Throughout the Years

-1908 brought the first pairs competition for the ISU, also held in St. Petersburg. Anna Hübler and Heinrich Burger of Germany won the pairs competition that year.

-It wasn’t until 1924 that all involved competitions, including the ladies and pairs, received the encompassing title of “World Championships.”

-The first non-European location for the World Figure Skating Championships was in New York City in 1930 and was also the first occasion in which all three competitions (men’s, ladies,’ pairs) were held simultaneously.

-Speedskating was introduced to the ISU in 1967 and was held as an official championship competition in 1981.

1988 – 2022: A Growing World of Competitors

Figure skating has evolved tremendously in the last few decades. Skaters are able to better train, for example, with technological changes like video analysis and innovative ice skates. And the term “international” has never taken on a truer context.

By 1988, there were thirty-eight nations in the union and even more have been added since then, including federations of Chile and Vietnam in 2019. Today there are 50 countries competing across four disciplines. The addition of new skating federations in the ISU also results in heavier competition in the championships.

Consequently, there are some boundaries in place for competition entries. If, for example, a federation only has one competitive entry (all members are entitled to at least one entry) for the World Championships, they must place “in the top ten to earn a second entry and in the top three to earn three entries to next year’s championships.”

Today’s Best Skaters Face-Off in Front of Millions

The World Figure Skating Championship went from a small, single competition between just a few nations to an epic event that funnels 300 million viewers internationally. This year the championships take place very soon after the Winter Olympics, which means some athletes may not attend. However, it also means the competition may be all the more exciting as countries who may have missed the mark in the Olympics could rise to the top.  

What competitions will be included in the 2022 World Figure Skating Championships?

The 2022 World Figure Skating Championships in Montpellier will hold the typical competitions: women’s, men’s, pairs, and ice dancing. An exhibition will also be held on Sunday, March 27th, and tickets may be purchased for fans who wish to watch their favorite skaters train in person.

Riedell Ice Skates – An International Ice Skate Manufacturer for Eight Decades

Riedell has developed industry-leading skates since the early days of the World Championships and we’re proud to sponsor competitors and ice skating heroes whose dedication to the sport is unmatched. 

Our hand-crafted ice skates come in a variety of styles. We provide models for casual and beginning skaters, fierce competitors, and even custom skates to fit individual needs. Check us out to learn more or see if there’s an ice skate dealer near you.