Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Eyvind Skaldaspiller And The Precious: Skating In Iceland


George Frederick's 1878 book "Swimming, skating, rinking, and sleighing : their theory and practice" referenced sixteenth century Scandinavian writer, exiled Catholic ecclesiastic and traveler Olaus Magnus as a source on Iceland's skating history so of course, I decided to do a little digging. His book "History Of The Nations Of The West" indeed does tell us that skates in Iceland were "made of polished iron, or of the shank bone of a deer or sheep, about a foot long, filed down on one side, and greased with hog's lard to repel the wet."

Magnus' account of skating in Iceland isn't the only archaic one... nor the oldest. Originally written in old Norse in approximately 1225 A.D. by poet and historian Snorri Sturlason, "Heimskringla Or The Chronicle Of The Kings Of Norway" includes a verse about Eyvind Skaldaspiller, an enemy of King Harald: "King Harald forced Eyvind to submit himself to his clemency. Eyvind had a great gold ring, which was called Molde, that had been dug up out of the earth long since. This ring the King said he must have as the mulet for the offence; and there was no help for it. Then Eyvind sang:-- 'I go across the ocean-foam, Swift skating to my Iceland home. Upon the ocean-skates, fast driven By gales by Thurse's witch fire given. For from the falcon-bearing hand Harald has plucked the gold snake band
My father wore--by lawless might Has taken what is mine by right.' Eyvind went home; but it is not told that he ever came near the king again." Chuckling, all I could think of reading this tale of Skaldaspiller skating away after the King stole his ring was...



God love that Smeagol one, always wanting its precious. ANYWAY... The Icelandic Sports Federation (Íþróttasamband Íslands) was founded in 1912 and the country's Olympic Committee nine years later, but elite competitive figure skating in the country never really caught on in the country until recently despite the rich skating history in other Nordic countries. That's not to say people weren't skating. "A Pocket Guide To Iceland", a 1983 publication aimed at military personnel from the U.S. stationed in Iceland, names ice skating as a popular winter pastime in the country. In present day. the ice skating rink in Laugardalur plays host to the figure skating events in the Reykjavik International Games. The country is indeed an ISU member and has recently started entering skaters in international competition.

   

Vala Run Magnusdottir, the country's 2014 junior ladies champion, has competed internationally in Junior Grand Prix events and other competitions in Europe. With events like the Junior Grand Prix, Nordic Games and ISU Development Trophy competitions offering skaters from 'developing skating nations' like Iceland opportunitiies to hone their craft, it may only be a matter of time before an Icelandic skater gets to turn back the hands of time and do what Eyvind Skaldaspiller couldn't... skate away with the gold.

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