Digital Project Proposal-Olympic Figure Skating

In February 2010, the only place you would be able to find me (when not at school) was glued to the television, watching Olympic figure skating. By that point, I had been skating competitively for four years, and I was convinced that by Sochi 2014, I would be on that ice. That Olympic ice. While that didn’t quite happen, my love for and interest in figure skating has remained. I still skate whenever possible, and I am still enchanted by watching figure skating competitions when they roll around. No other figure skating competition captivates the world in the same way that the Winter Olympics Games do. Consistently one of the most-watched Olympic events, figure skating draws audiences in with its stunning blend of artistry, athleticism, emotion, and daring. But there is a hidden history to figure skating that is worth exploring in much more depth: who gets to do it? Who gets to win? Who gets to dominate? I’ve paid close attention to developments in skating over the last twelve years, and more recently, I’ve begun thinking about how the national and international events of the 20th and 21st centuries have affected not only the music and the jumps and the scoring of Olympic figure skating, but also the most basic aspect of who competes in this event, and how they get themselves there.

Russia’s Adelina Sotnikova won the nation’s first gold medal in women’s figure skating at the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games. Video courtesy of the Olympics.

Throughout the history of the Winter Olympics, certain years have brought more changes than others. The 1968 games saw the first athletes competing from East and West Germany, the Soviet Union, Romania, and Korea. Italy did not bring any figure skaters, or any athletes for that matter, to the Olympics until 1948. Chinese Taipei brought its first figure skater in 1994 and the Philippines brought its first in 2014. The 2022 games welcome the first Mexican figure skater in history. The conditions of the sport and of these nations have resulted in an incredibly western-centric quality within Olympic figure skating. I hope, with this proposal, to dive deeper into the specifics of some of these figure skaters, these Olympic Games, and these nations.

Ondrej Nepela Archives – International Figure Skating
Ondrej Nepala competed for Czechoslovakia at the 1972 Olympic Games, winning the nation its first gold medal in figure skating. Image from International Figure Skating Magazine.

My digital proposal is for a timeline and if I can figure it out, a map embedded within the timeline. The timeline would begin in 1924, with the Chamonix Olympics, and would include 6-8 other significant Olympic games, ending in 2022. Each year would reveal which countries were represented in men’s and women’s figure skating, as well as which countries were new to the year, which athletes represented the new countries, and what the stories surrounded their entrance to the Olympics. I hope to include photographs, and later, video footage, of the figure skaters, as well as any newspaper articles regarding their entrance. I also hope to include primary sources about the political or cultural developments in their countries at that particular moment. For example, with the 1968 Olympics, I would explore how the post-World War II and Cold War events in Germany affected their Olympic representation in figure skating. At the same time, what was it about 1968 in Korea that allowed three figure skaters to represent their nation for the first time. Why then? These questions and more are the proposed purpose of my timeline. The Olympics are a massive topic, with too many ins and outs to discover in just one timeline, but I hope by narrowing the topic down to just figure skating, and just a handful of Olympic Games, that I can begin crafting answers to some of these fascinating questions.

–Molly Foster

2 Replies to “Digital Project Proposal-Olympic Figure Skating”

  1. Hi Molly,

    Focusing on the history of Olympic figure skating is a great idea for a project. It is something that there is bound to be a good bit of interest in and, as you’ve noted, it also offers a point of entry into a wide range of issues and questions in social, cultural, and political history.

    If you do run with this as your course project, I think you are going to want to think through a bit about who your intended audience is, how you would focus your content to connect with their interests, and what kinds of outreach you would need to do around this to get it to them.

    As far as what platform to work in, I think you could build this out in one of the timeline specific platforms, like TimelineJS, or you could set it up in something like WordPress or Storymaps. If you build it in one of the timeline specific platforms, you get a lot of timeline focused features, which is great, but those tend to also present challenges about how much context or information you can actually include in the timeline itself. In contrast, if you wanted to build this out as a series of pages in a WordPress site, you could then build a chronological landing page which links to each of the pages about specific events or points in time. That would likely offer a lot more flexibility for what you can do with images and videos associated with individual events.

    In any event, this is an interesting idea and it’s something that I think has a lot of potential.

    Best, Trevor

  2. Hi Molly,

    Very interesting subject ! I think it would be interesting to include some of the controversies of the figure skaters as well as why the countries decided to compete at those particular games. It could be interesting to connect the controversies to the social or cultural expectations/pressures the skaters face from their country.

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