Interviewer: Can you think of any superstitions or rituals you had when you were figure skating?
Informant: Me? No I wasn’t superstitious at all. I remember other girls that would do stuff. Stuffed animals are a big part of skating culture. Some skaters have one singular stuffed animal that they carry everywhere, throughout their entire career. Sometimes when a skater performs really well at some event, fans will throw their animal onto the ice.
Background: The informant is my mother. She started skating at a very young age when she was growing up in Maine. For her, figure skating was an outlet from a rough home life. She learned of the significance of stuffed animals to figure skating through first-hand experience at her local ice rink. This interview was recorded in person when she came to visit me here at school.
Context: The informant remembers the symbolism of the stuffed animal through continued exposure to high-level figure skating, where it is common-place for fans to throw stuffed animals onto the ice after a successful routine is completed. However, the informant stated that the act of continually carrying around the same stuffed animal is hardly mentioned on TV broadcasts. I did some extra research into this and could not find any info regarding the continued possession of a singular stuffed animal. However, the practice of tossing a stuffed animal onto the ice is widely known, even among those not familiar with the sport of figure skating.
Analysis: I assume there is probably good reason for the relatively low notoriety of this piece of figure skating lore. For one, it is exclusive to high-level figure skaters who are performing in a competitive environment. As such, this tradition hasn’t permeated into the mainstream due to the difficult barriers-to-entry within the figure skating community. The informant stated that fellow skaters would treat their own stuffed animals “like they we’re diamond encrusted”. Off of that, I assume that high-level figure skaters are naturally protective of their totems. If the most prominent members of this community are reluctant to speak on this significance of the stuffed animal to the figure skater, it is difficult anyone to learn of this tradition. I was also curious to see if the informant could remember why one skater would pick a certain animal over another. The informant couldn’t remember exactly but thought the decision was based on personality. If you consider Figure Skating to be a form of artistic communication, which is the consensus, than the significance of the animal combined with the act of throwing stuffed animals on the ice in praise takes on a different meaning. The figure skater chooses a specific stuffed animal that aligns with her identity. When they are performing they are conveying their own identity through their art form, which is figure skating. If done successfully, the audience will then affirm the figure skater’s performance and identity by throwing the same stuffed animal onto the ice in an act of approval.