Book Review: "Skating on Air"

A History of the Sport on the Small Screen

"Skating on Air"

I grew up in the golden age of televised skating in the United States. Every weekend, from the comfort of my living room sofa, i would soak in the glamour of the skating world. Those of us who recall those glory days are often frustrated by the effort it takes to follow skating now.

In less than two decades, televised skating in the United States has been reduced to occasional broadcasts, rarely on the main networks. How did we get here?

Kelli Lawrence, author of the new book “Skating on Air,” was full of questions about the trajectory of skat- ing broadcasts, so she set out to answer them. having skated when she was young, and later worked in television, her interest in this was natural.

The result of her research is a detailed history of televised skating with captivating stories from some of the most influential names involved, including directors, commentators and athletes.

Lawrence researched how skating was brought
to the general public in the 1950s and ’60s and examined why coverage ballooned in the wake of the Harding-Kerrigan scandal.

Longtime ABC skating guru Doug Wilson’s story is not front-and-center very often, but talking with him really had an impact on Lawrence.

“He’s seen and lived so much of this sport for so long,” Lawrence said. “He pretty much invented the ‘camera blocking’ technique that lives on via many of today’s TV producers. His contributions were astounding.”

While reading “Skating on Air,” i had the impression that the author felt compelled to explore this untold side of the sport. one important thing she learned was how important it is for directors, producers and commentators to properly shape each broadcast.

“The directors often spend long hours studying skaters’ practices, trying to think of the best way to present the individual programs on television,” Lawrence explained. “Commentators give a lot more thought to the way they do their job than some of us give them credit for.”

With over 70 photos, many of which come from the personal collections of broadcast staff, “Skating on Air” is truly a unique book.

This aspect of figure skating had never been chronicled before Lawrence took on the project. Beyond being an important record, the book is an entertaining read with many good stories.

if you like skating history, this is a must-read.

Originally published in October 2011