7. Skating Backward

While you are working to perfect your cross-overs forward, you must progress from the back sculls to a strong back skating stroke (Illus. 8), preparatory to adding backward cross-overs to the front ones. Surprisingly enough, even advanced skaters often don't know how to stroke evenly backward in a racing stroke around the ice. Crowded rinks make it difficult to prac­tice safely, but pond skaters should have no trouble. In a rink ask a friend to guide you at first until you are secure enough to look around on each stroke. At any rate do not neglect this next important step.

Start with a couple of back sculls (8-1, 2, 3) and, as your feet come together for the glide at the end of the second one (8-3), bend both your knees, then transfer all your weight onto the bent right leg, at the same instant sliding the left skate off the ice in front of you (8-4). Point the toe of this left foot, straight­ening the knee and making sure the skate is in the air in a direct line in front of the right skate. Do not raise this free skate more than a few inches from the ice! Keeping it low will help to keep your balance forward on the ball of your foot, where it belongs. Any sudden upward jerk of this free leg will tend to pitch you backward toward the back of your head—the one thing we don't want to have happen.

Now bring the left foot back, parallel to the right so that the toe of your left boot touches the toe of your right boot, but not the ice! (8-7). Swing your right heel out in a single sculling movement to an approximate 45 degree angle, catching your right inside back edge as you do so; push against the ice by straightening the right knee and at the same split second drop the left skate on the ice directly underneath you (8-8), allowing all your body weight to shift onto it. This quick shift of weight will mean that your right skate will lift from the ice in front and slightly to the side. Move it over directly in line with your left skate, again pointing and turning out the free toe (8-9). The push has automatically straightened the free knee. Leave it that way—until ready for the next stroke.

As you make your next few push offs, lean your body to the side so that you will be stroking each time onto the outside edge. Thus you will realize that skating backward is the same as skat­ing forward, except that all movements are reversed. In other words, we skate always on the outside edge, pushing always from the inside edge; we lean the body toward the side of the new outside edge as we catch the inside edge of the push off just be­fore the new stroke starts; we push and shift weight to the new skate with both feet just as close together and as directly under­neath the body as possible; we glide on a bent knee with the body erect above it for accurate balance; the free leg is stretched with toe pointed, whether behind on the forward stroke or in front on the backward stroke; momentum comes from the thrust against the ice gained by the straightening of the bent pushing knee; on all simple stroking the free arm is in front and the arms change as the feet change (as in walking).

Practice this backward stroking until you can "sit" straight down on each new edge comfortably (skating hip pressed hard in and back straight); hold each stroke for at least three slow counts, even longer if you can. But be sure they are even; don't hold on one leg longer than the other or lean more strongly to one side or the other. The ideal is an absolutely even stroke, forward and backward. For proper balance and maximum glide, be sure your body weight is just back of the center of your blade whenever you skate forward, just forward of the center (on the ball of your foot) whenever you skate backward.

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