Figure skating, sport in which ice skaters, singly or in pairs, perform freestyle movements of jumps, spins, lifts, and footwork in a graceful manner. Its name derives from the patterns (or figures) skaters make on the ice, an element that was a major part of the sport until recently. There are various kinds of figure skating, including freestyle, pairs, ice dance, and synchronized team skating. The style of competition, as well as the moves and techniques of the skaters, varies for each category of skating. Figure skating has become one of the most popular sports of the Winter Olympics.
A Treatise on Skating (1772) by Robert Jones, an Englishman, is apparently the first account of figure skating. The sport had a cramped and formal style until American Jackson Haines introduced his free and expressive techniques based on dance movement in the mid-1860s. Although popular in Europe, Haines’s style (called the International style) did not catch on in the United States until long after he had died at the age of 35.
In the early 20th century, Americans Irving Brokaw and George H. Browne helped formalize the style created by Haines by demonstrating it to American audiences. Brokaw, the first American to represent the country at international competitions, participated in the 1908 Olympics, where he finished sixth. Browne, who organized the first U.S. championships in 1914 for men, women, and pairs, wrote two important books on skating and was involved in the establishment of a national skating organization.