Something strange started to happen on my Vermont rink as the 2000s approached: When I arrived for my 18 hour pre-school lesson, the ice seemed to be more empty than the week before. The way it had always worked in our skating club was that as the kids grew into their teens a new group of young skaters would take their place, learning scratch laps and waltz jumps. Suddenly, and without explanation, the harvest thinned.
Sports are all the rage for all kinds of reasons. Rollerblading was an extremely popular form of exercise in the 1980s and 1990s before become a punchline for homophobic jokes and subsequently extinguishing – just as professional skateboarding and BMX have become widespread. Field hockey, a predominantly male activity game in Europe, is played almost exclusively by girls in the United States due to the passage of Title IX in 1972, which banned gender discrimination in public schools and made field hockey a counterweight to men’s football.
But something more complicated seemed to be happening with figure skating, which only a handful of years ago had ranked among the favorite sports of Americans to watch on television, when Champions on Ice…
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