Victoria Drazdova

The world has changed a lot over the past two years, with the COVID-19 pandemic affecting the ways we work and study - and even the ways athletes train.

I am Victoria Drazdova, a figure skating coach with 12 years of teaching experience and founder of Victory Skating Academy (VSA), an innovative online training platform that connects aspiring skaters worldwide with world-class coaches. We conduct our trainings via Zoom and have seen our students make tremendous progress in a virtual setting.

Two years ago, it would have been hard to imagine that athletes might be able to train successfully online. But my experience since founding VSA has proven that face-to-face training is not always necessary for skaters to improve their skills with the help of an experienced coach. Our team has helped hundreds of skaters make progress and become better athletes. 

Moreover, even though sports facilities are reopening in most countries, our athletes (and their families) still prefer the convenience and efficiency of virtual training sessions. With this in mind, I would venture to say that online training has the proven potential to be more effective than in-person training if implemented and administered correctly.

Technology is changing figure skating and the ways in which our athletes train. This trend has democratised the sport and made high-level training more accessible to aspiring skaters. According to Brian Ourser, a world leader in our sport, "Zoom training is a bridge for the future beyond the end of the pandemic. It creates a better connection with the skater, believe it or not."

But tech is not limited only to the ways in which we train. We’ve also seen figure skating competitions launched in an online format, with the Figure Skating Federation of the United States organising a series of online tournaments. Moreover, increased technology in our sport may result in lower injuries during training and help make the learning process for complex moves easier.

Jumps are the first things the coaches and athletes would like to know about. Simulations outside of the ice rink have suggested that skaters exert a force magnitude of up to six times their body weight when taking off and landing from a jump. Most overuse injuries are likely related to the landing or ineffective posture during the flight phase of the jump specifically. 

Figure skaters of the future could receive assistance from artificial intelligence as technological advancements are increasingly incorporated into coaching programmes ©Victoria Skating Academy
Figure skaters of the future could receive assistance from artificial intelligence as technological advancements are increasingly incorporated into coaching programmes ©Victoria Skating Academy

In the past people haven’t had a proper way of measuring those forces or even tracking the resulting injuries. However, a team at Brigham Young University has created a device as small as a smartwatch that tracks athletes’ movements and other data. 

This device provides coaches with information about a skater’s jump count, jump height and how fast they spin during a jump. From an injury prevention standpoint, this information is vital. While technology is not available to the general public as of now, it should be soon - allowing any athlete the chance to train smarter and safer with a simple Amazon purchase

Additionally, the possibility of introducing artificial intelligence (AI) into figure skating is an exciting one. Scientists are using AI in newly developed skating motion sensors that could replace judges during the competitions. 

In the nearer future, AI will be able to create unique programmes for skaters based on all previous performances, so the process of programme creation will become incredibly simple. Improvements in technology will continue to advance our ability to analyse and improve performance. 

As technology improves and becomes more widely available, I expect to see skaters and coaches relying on small devices and smartphone apps as key parts of the training regimen.

Technology will continue transforming the world of figure skating over next five to seven years. Skaters' performance will be improved with the help of accessible measurement devices, AI, 3D imaging, new skating technologies and online trainings. I believe that is a great thing: athletes can perform better and reduce the risk of serious injury.

Technology is valuable - but it’s not the only component involved in a successful training process. We will still need qualified coaches to prepare athletes physically and mentally, in addition to hard and consistent skater’s work. A blended training approach, which combines technology and experienced coaches, can bring incredible sports results.