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Column: Skating in Finland

Column: Roos Hekkens
Photo: Anni Savolainen

Ice skating was developed mainly in my home country the Netherlands. I had high hopes for skating in Finland but left the ice disappointed.

Recalling the winters of my youth, I see myself ice skating on the little pond close to my home with other children from the neighborhood. It is cold outside but the games we play keep us warm. Ice skating has a long tradition in the Netherlands and it is very much part of my national identity.

When I moved to Finland I had high hopes to continue ice skating and dreamed of making long treks in the freezing weather. In the Netherlands recent winters haven’t been very strong and skating on natural ice hasn’t always been possible.

Therefore I remember the first time I went to an ice skating rink here in Turku. I had brought my own metal blades from the Netherlands – traditional racing skates with straight blades that gain great speed and make long distances.

Confident and excited I stepped outside the dressing room, ready to make big strokes on shiny ice. Little did I know that everybody else at the rink was wearing ice hockey skates and zigzagging all over the space. There was no way I could skate a straight line or cover a distance of more than a few of meters. I left the ice disappointed and a little traumatized.

Even though my hopes for long treks in Finland were crushed, they weren’t that far-fetched. In the article Human Locomotion on Ice: The Evolution of Ice-skating Energetics Through History it is estimated that the first people to put on skates made from bone as means of transportation on ice must have been Finns about 4 000 years ago. Because of the myriad of lakes, especially in the southern area, skating was a way to save time and energy on daily journeys.

However ice-skating mainly developed in The Netherlands, where it has been the most popular means of winter transport for centuries. Nowadays this ancient technique has been brought back to Finland by the Dutch and tour ice skating (retkiluistelu) is gaining popularity here as well. There is even a Finnish Skating Union that organises tours on lakes.

In some way I couldn’t be closer to my ice skating roots here in Finland. If the winter is as extreme as the past summer was hot, I will have a decent chance to skate on natural ice and continue my national tradition on the same track with its ancestor.

Roos Hekkens

The writer thought she had to leave behind her roots but realised she was tracing her past.

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