The Dutch were arguably the earliest pioneers of skating. They began using canals to maintain communication by skating from village to village as far back as the 13th century. Skating eventually spread across the channel to England, and soon the first clubs and artificial rinks began to form. Passionate skaters included several kings of England, Marie Antoinette, Napoleon III and German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.
The first known skating competition is thought to have been held in the Netherlands in 1676. However, the first official speed skating events were not held until 1863 in Oslo, Norway. In 1889, the Netherlands hosted the first World Championships, bringing together Dutch, Russian, American and English teams.
Skating in China (冰嬉 Bīng xī)
You might not imagine it from watching ice skating today, but ice-skating was once a warriors' art. Manchu men needed to master the skill to move 350 kilometres in a single day to get to their enemies. When they came to power in the Qing Dynasty (1616-1911) and moved from the north to the capital city of Beijing, it became a traditional sport. Each winter, 200 proficient ice-skaters were selected to perform on the frozen royal lake for the court. Skaters would wear knee pads and secure their shoes with leather, shoes fitted with single iron blades for speed or double blades for security. Competitions for figure skating, ice acrobatics and speed skating were also held for the benefit of the royal family.