World Figure Skating Championships - History


The Internationale Eislauf-Vereingung (International Skating Union) formed in 1892 to govern international competition in speed and figure skating. The first Championship, known as the Championship of the Internationale Eislauf-Vereingung, was held in Saint Petersburg in 1896. The event had four competitors and was won by Gilbert Fuchs.

The championships were presumed all-male since competitive skating was generally viewed as a male sport, however there were no specific rules regarding the gender of competitors. In 1902 Madge Syers entered the championships, and won the silver medal.

The 1903 ISU Congress considered gender issues but passed no new rules. The 1905 Congress established a second class ladies competition. Winners were to be known as ISU, not World Champions. Men's and Ladies events were normally held separately. The first ladies competition was in 1906 and held in Davos.

The first pairs competition was held in St. Petersburg in 1908, even though in some countries pairs competition was illegal and considered indecent. One such country was Japan, which had applied for the Winter Olympics in 1940. Early championships for both ladies and pairs were retrospectively given World Championship status in 1924.

In the early years judges were invited by the host country and were often local. At the 1927 ladies' event held in Oslo, three of the five judges were Norwegian. The three Norwegian judges gave first place to Norwegian competitor Sonja Henie, while the Austrian and German judges placed defending champion Herma Szabo first. The controversial result stood, giving Henie her first world title, however following the controversy the ISU introduced a rule allowing no more than one judge per country on the panel.

The 1930 championships in New York combined all three competitions into one event for the first time, and was also the first championships to be held outside Europe. Ice dancing entered the program officially in 1952, after having been an unofficial part of the championships since 1936.

In 1960, the number of participants per country was limited to a maximum of three per discipline.

Compulsory figures were removed from the World Championships in 1991.

The 6.0 system was used for judging until the 2004 championships, and the ISU Judging System was used from the 2005 edition onwards.

In the years of the Winter Olympics, when the World Championships are held around a month after the Olympic Games, there have been cases of Olympic medalists not attending. Reasons for forgoing the post-Olympics Worlds have included skaters needing rest for physical and mental exhaustion, and/or Olympic medalists wanting to go professional to cash in on their Games success. The ISU has begun discussing lengthening the time between the Games and the Worlds.

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