1991: Skating Odyssey

In 1972, Irwin J. Polk published an article in Skating, the USFSA’s official magazine, predicting what skating competitions would be like in 1991. It describes a skater doing figures with lights affixed to her skates and an overhead camera recording every move. The figures are scored by a computer based on the video. Skaters with high enough scores get to do freestyle, which “is much the same as it was back in the 1970’s”—but the judges can use instant replays and watch in slow motion if they like.

Perhaps the greatest benefit is to the skaters. They take to the ice secure in the knowledge that the impartial computer is judging the figures and that, win, lose or draw they have the best judging that modern society and technology can provide.

Polk 1972, 59.

A note at the top of the article reports the use of such technologies in judging even before it was published. Still, Polk would have been surprised to see what actually happened. In 1991, the figures requirement was dropped entirely, and instant replays took somewhat longer to be incorporated into the judging system. I wonder what he would think of the new ISU judging system.


Irwin J. Polk. 1972. “1991: Skating Odyssey.” Skating, January 1972, 58–59.