Tiao-Chin Hung and May L.H. Wu

All sport leaders have one thing in mind when we get to lead a sport in our local community - to build a sustainable, successful, and scalable sport development eco system, we need to align ourselves with the international stakeholders, build bridges between tradition and innovation, and commit fully to shaping the future of the sport of figure skating towards a culture of innovation.

It was in 2005 when the first ice rink adhering to the international technical standard became operational in Taiwan, and since then figure skating has been transformed from a leisure activity to a competitive sport. Our current elite athletes are those kids that started skating 16 years ago, and they are constantly inspiring the new generations of skaters in Taiwan.

However, like many other developing International Skating Union (ISU) member federations, in face of a lack of winter sports culture in Taiwan, we need much more to sustain the development of the sport.

And that’s why we are looking to exchange ideas with other National Federations on the ways to promote our sport. We are looking out for embracing innovation and digital transformation that will allow us to continue the growth in the post pandemic era.

With this goal in mind, we organised the Figure Skating Marketing Summit in September 2021 inviting top speakers from all around the world to have quality discussions and exchange of expertise. The takeaways from this Summit will pave the foundation for us to make the first step to grow a vibrant community with relevant stakeholders online and offline.

One of the key learnings from the Summit was how to use the new technologies that are already available to grow our sport, and the ISU virtual judging system proves to be the perfect start. This is a virtual toolkit, developed to allow athletes to compete against others skating in different rinks, and judges to score them virtually, in real time.

During the pandemic, the athletes were able to train but it was difficult to give them opportunities to compete at the international level, with all the travel restrictions. This system allows the athletes to continue training, judges to have more experience, and it is great for educational purposes and can be implemented easily. 

It allows our skaters to compete against athletes from other nations, it allows international judges to score in our domestic events. It is a perfect tool to grow the sport in Taiwan and be more responsive to the ISU community as a developing member. The future is digital.

The virtual judging system was discussed during September's Figure Skating Marketing Summit ©CTSU
The virtual judging system was discussed during September's Figure Skating Marketing Summit ©CTSU

The virtual judging system has been already used in different countries like Spain, Russia, and Canada, and we want to go next. We will use it extensively in the upcoming championships in Taiwan, which is a direct result from the discussion at the Marketing Summit. We are willing to provide a platform to facilitate the exchange of knowledge within the global figure skating community.

We also want to leverage the hosting of international tournaments to build a distinguishable ice-skating brand locally. Tools like this virtual judging system are perfect both for our local goals and for us to become more and more involved in the international sphere.

We are motivated to look for pathways to overcome the obstacles, and continue the plans of growing the sport, supporting not only athletes and coaches, but also looking at other possibilities that technology brings when it comes to deliver events, engaging with broader audiences and therefore minimise the impact of the pandemic while continue investing in the future of the sport. 

We need innovative marketing approaches to mobilise mass participation and sustain commercial development around events. Most importantly, we want to progress together with other ISU member organisations following the leadership of the ISU administration. That is what builds solidarity and trust. That is what builds a community.

Aiming to make our sport more accessible, to draw figure skating fans’ interests and grow the sporting connoisseurship among the public, sponsors, and media, we decided to live-broadcast our figure skating national championships in 2020 and strive to organise our national tournaments at the same level as the international elite tournaments. 

ELTA TV, Taiwan’s Olympic broadcaster, has assisted us by showcasing our events and our athletes on television with six high-speed cameras on-site. 

We also have introduced the ISU judging system, provided by the Olympic technology supplier Swiss Timing, which allows the athletes and coaches to review their performance on a detailed categorised scoresheet. Together with the local figure skating community, our efforts bolster our confidence in growth, in participation and in commercial development.

Domestically, it is key to create a collaboration framework to bring on board local corporates and city Governments’ resources to ensure that our athletes and coaches are exposed to high-level expertise and can participate in quality training and development activities. 

The Chinese Taipei Skating Union hopes its recess programme can help develop the next generation of figure skaters ©CTSU
The Chinese Taipei Skating Union hopes its recess programme can help develop the next generation of figure skaters ©CTSU

We are focused on being an accelerator of the transformation of our sport, embracing innovation and technology as well as building a strong ecosystem that brings in investment.

We also seek to tap into the wealth of technical know-how within the ISU member community, especially the stronger nations and the ISU administration, to create synergies and contribute to the development of the sport. The ISU e-learning platform has already provided us with a good base to foster an online community among members. We want to be a good partner.

Figure skating viewership in Taiwan has been steadily growing over the past years, thanks to our hosting of ISU Four Continents Figure Skating Championships in 2016 and 2018. 

The rise of figure skating superstars at proximity, notably Yuna Kim from South Korea and Yuzuru Hanyu from Japan, also have contributed to this growth. 

Quite a few online communities organised by the fans themselves or TV broadcasters have provided sustained engagement keeping the figure skating fan base constantly entertained.

It is evident that having international tournaments taking roots locally is central to reinforcing the eco system of ice-skating development. It is time now to take some more steps in this direction by not only hosting events, but also maximising their impact. 

It is important to forge strong relationships with sponsors and media, generating more revenues and growing the interest in our sport and our athletes.

As it appears that the global COVID-19 pandemic is here to stay, we invite all stakeholders, international and domestic, the ISU and national federations, the government, the Olympic Committee, the venue operators, the athletes and coaches, corporates, and brands, all that care to leave a rich legacy for the next generations of skaters to join us to seize the digital opportunities ahead.