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Ladies Figure Skating: Peggy Fleming and Styles

Updated on February 24, 2015

Peggy Fleming: the first lyrical skater

Figure Skating is a physiological sport.

This means that physiology actually governs the sport and athletes. Skaters who share the same physiological traits tend to almost always share the same skating type.

They also tend to form a group that pass down the same characters in their skating to skaters of next generation.

As younger skaters emulate their predecessors and aspire to grow even beyond them, particular stylistic emphasis in figure skating help skaters to grow to a certain type of figure skaters with distinguished traits.

This mechanism has long facilitated the development of the sport, and created a sort of figure skating tradition like academic sectors. Unlike other sports, figure skating, especially ladies figure skating has been on the track of a series of evolution. And its progress still is on.

Then a question arises. Who was the first figure skater that defined styles in modern figure skating?

Although there were a few great figure skaters who led fashion and style in ladies figure skating, such as Sonja Henie or Barbara Ann Scott, it's virtually meaningless to think about figure skating styles without free skating.

Peggy Fleming in 1967


Barbara Ann Scott: first skater of physiological ideal

A style, either athletic or artistic, is a creative product that skater's comprehensive skating asset produces. Therefore it's hard to imagine figure skating styles without free skating.

Remember, free skating hadn't been established as an independent genre until Tenley Albright.

Since the dawn of ladies figure skating, long before the great Sonja Henie stunned the world with her charismatic star power, people pondered what the ladies figure skating was supposed to be about, however vague it might to them.

It was Henie that first drew the picture of ladies figure skating for the people. Then, Barbara Ann Scott offered another vision, the so called ice princess.

But the sport changed so dramatically that Henie's legacy in her towering athleticism quickly faded. On the other hand, Barbara Ann Scott was a doll-like attraction. And as the sport evolved, Scott's once fairy like image seemed utterly incompatible with athletic demand that would brutalize femininity embedded in the sport.

Especially as female skaters were pushed to the territory men used to resort such as difficult jumps, they needed manly assets such as power, stamina, strength, etc in order to handle technical demands stacking up on their shoulder.

People began to wonder if it's ever possible to see a new ideal that balances aestheticism and athleticism. It seemed all but impossible; the two appeared an irreconcilable pair.

Peggy Fleming: skater of line aesthetics

Very few then understood what the ideal should look like, or how it could be accomplished, because the ideal could be found only in the perfect balance between the two seemingly incompatible characters.

It was Peggy Fleming that showed how the evasive ideal should be.

Peggy Fleming was a fulfillment of the old prophecy.

No skater before her, or after her, demonstrated the sport more definitely in line and its extensions than Fleming.

Aside from her countless contributions she made to the ladies figure skating, Peggy Fleming was a skater of rarity, whose skating emphasizes aestheticism in physiological line.

As self-evident in the history of compulsory, figure skating is all about lines. Fleming was the first who understood the profound principle and put it into practice in her skating.

In compulsories, skaters are required to demonstrate perfect line in 2-dimensional ice. So aesthetics of free skating is also bound to work in line.

It's not about how many jumps are done or how difficult spins are done or how fast they are done. All elements are supposed to ideally evoke linear aestheticism. This is figure skating.

Fleming's free skating is an artistic rendition of what compulsories envision in geometric perfection.

Lisa Marie Allen

Yuna Kim in 2009


Lisa-Marie Allen and Yuna Kim are different in skating level and time, but they share one thing:

Both do a line-conscious skating like Fleming.

As obvious in two skaters above, Fleming's model became the standard of ladies figure skating today. Fleming was the first lyrical skater, and perhaps the best, as yet, from whom all lyrical skaters modeled themselves.

What is the greatest feature of Peggy Fleming's skating?

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