Sports on Ice

Two-thirds of the world is covered with water. And when it gets cold enough, some of that water freezes to form some of the best athletic venues around. Simply by lacing up a pair of skates, you can take advantage of a number of entertaining sports.

Actually, many of today's ice-skating sports take place in indoor arenas and ice rinks. But whether you're inside or outside, the excitement remains the same.

Ice hockey: Sports fans pay so much attention to the passing and scoring abilities of the world's best hockey players that sometimes we forget about the most basic hockey skill of all - skating. Before hockey players learn how to snap off a wicked wrist shot or send a crisp pass to their teammate, they have to learn how to skate. They have to know how to speed up, slow down, turn and stop on a dime. Some players learn on frozen ponds and lakes; others in covered rinks. But for every hockey player, moving around on ice skates is second nature.

Speed skating: This is the fastest sport on ice. Skaters race head to head, either as individuals or as part of a relay team. The tracks are usually oval shaped, and the sport is simple - the fastest skater wins. Like in track and field events, the length of speed skating races differ. Some are shorter sprints, when athletes go all-out for the entire race. Others are longer races, where athletes have to conserve their energy and test their endurance.

Figure skating: One of the most graceful sports, figure skating combines elements of dancing and gymnastics. As individuals or pairs, athletes develop a routine that involves a number of jumps, spins, twirls and even flips. It's amazing to watch and is an extremely difficult form of competition. Figure skaters train for endless hours to get their routines down, making it one of the most challenging sports around.

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