Ice skating originated at least three thousand years ago with people using bones to slide on ice as a means of communication and transportation. Skating, as it is known today, probably started in the Netherlands, where metal skates fixed in wooden soles and tied to shoes were first used around 1250. Skating for pleasure was developed mainly by the British. The first club was formed in Edinburgh in 1742, while the first national skating association was founded in Britain in 1879. The International Skating Union was established in 1892 as the world’s governing body for both figure and speed skating. The ISU is now the governing body for figure skating, speed skating, short-track speed skating and synchronized skating.

The South African Ice Skating Association (SAISA) was established in 1937 and encompassed both figure skating and speed skating disciplines. Professor JYT Greig was the first president, a position he held from 1937 until 1950. It was only really in 1970, when ice rinks began popping up all over the country, that SAISA became a true national controlling body for the sport.

South African became a member of the International Skating Union (ISU) family in 1938 and has been the only member on the African continent, until the recent addition of Morocco. South Africa is also an affiliated member of the SOUTH AFRICAN SPORTS CONFEDERATION AND OLYMPIC COMMITTEE (SASCOC), previously NOCSA, which was formed in 2005.

At the ISU Congress in 1994, Speed Skating split from the then SAISA, and the two bodies SAFSA (South African Figure Skating Association) and SASSA (South African Speed Skating Association) were formed and each became full members of the ISU in their own right and the controlling bodies of their sport in South Africa. At the request of the then NOCSA and National Sports Council (NSC) a “loose” association was formed, i.e. South African Ice Skating Federation (SAISF), as we both have the same international controlling body. Although technically this association is still in place, each association is completely autonomous.

Milestones – Down Memory Lane:

Mrs. Dale Lace started South Africa’s first ice rink in Johannesburg
This ice rink was likely situated at the South African Party’s club in Eloff Street, Johannesburg (information from Miss Sylvia Strasheim and Rev. Kevin Reynolds’ history of SAISA)

SAISA formed and national headquarters were established in Johannesburg
The first competitions held were mainly ice dancing. The Wembley Ice Rink opened in Springfield, Johannesburg.

South Africa becomes a member of the ISU

The first national championships were instituted where skating had progressed from only ice dance to singles and pairs skating
Singles sections were mixed men and women.

South Africa’s second rink opened in Durban
This was originally an full size ice rink, but was later reduced to a half-size ice rink. Separate men and women sections were established for competitions.

A Team of ice skaters, namely Gwyn Jones, Marcelle Mathews, Patricia Eastwood, and Penny Sage, competed in the Winter Olympic Games in Squaw Valley, California.
Lennie Mills and Glenda Slabbert (O’Shea) competed in the British Junior Pair skating competition, ‘African Mirror 2-30 March 1960’.

SAISA assumes true national status
SAISA’s national executive moved to Natal from Southern Transvaal, where it had been headquartered from its inception in 1937.

SAISA’s first official journal – “The Outside Edge” – was established
The Protea Test Series was introduced and SAISA’s draft of a new constitution came into effect.

SAISA National Colours awarded for the first time to administrators and officials

The first international competition was held in Johannesburg
The Protea Test Series was extended to include dance and pair skating. A decision was also taken to form a National Judges Committee.

The first National Judges Committee was elected
The first proposal to the South African Olympic Committee was made that the then Springbok colours should be awarded to sportsmen and women irrespective of race.

The first inaugural Skate Safari International competition was held in Johannesburg from the 2 – 4 April
Nineteen competitors attended this competition from Austria, Great Britain, Luxembourg, USA, and West Germany and eight South African skaters. It was also the first visit by Howard Bass to this country. Mr. John Shoemaker, first vice-president of the ISU for figure skating, was SAISA’s guest of honour. SAISA’s national public relations directorate was also established.

Max Staub, SAISA’s most highly appointed international judge and referee, passed away
Precision team competitions were introduced at national competitions (now known as synchronized skating)

SAISA instituted its highest award – the “Max Staub Star” (designed in the shape of the Star of David)
The first two recipients of the award were the president of the ISU, Mr. Jacques Favart and the president of SAISA at that time, Mrs. Pat Jackson.

The ice rink in Port Elizabeth closed
The revised test structure was introduced where two separate tests were instituted for figures and free skating. These tests allowed for skaters to be awarded Springbok Colours for passing the high-grade tests and who were unable to compete in ISU recognized international competitions. The second Skate Safari was held in Johannesburg from the 4 – 8 October

Aegis Insurance becomes a major sponsor for South African Ice Skating for the next 14 years

President Jacques Favart of the ISU passed away.
Olaf Paulsen of Norway succeeded him.

Derrik Simons was elected “Sportsman of the Year” by the South African Police Force.  This was the highest recognition figure skating had yet received in this country.

In the ISU’s centenary year, 1992, also a historical year for South Africa as it was the first year South Africa had been re-instated into the international arena.

This marked an absence from ISU recognized international competitions of 23 years! During the period when South Africa were not permitted to participate in ISU recognized event, SAISA still retained our ISU membership of the ISU (of which SAISA is one of the longest serving members) but did not hold a vote. The vote was reinstated in this year at the ISU Congress held in Switzerland. It was also announced at this Congress that Speed Skating would separate from Figure Skating. SAISA was then converted to the South Africa Ice Skating Federation (SAIF) and became the umbrella for the two separate organizations – SAFSA (Figure Skating) and SASSA (Speed Skating).

Two teams participated in the World Championships held in the USA, one of which was a young Skater by the name of Tanya Lauterbach, accompanied by Penny Sage, as her coach, competed in Junior Worlds in Hull, Canada.  The other team consisted of Juanita-Anne Yorke, Dino Quattrocecere and Ice Dancers Clinton King and Fiona Kirk, competed in Senior Worlds in Oakland, USA.

A small team from figure (Dino Quattrocecere) and speed skating participated in the 1994 Winter Olympics

Shirene Human sent as a development skater to the Winter Olympics held in Nagano, Japan.  She was placed 24th out of 30. Patricia Norton (SAFSA’s then Secretary-General) was the first Chef de Mission appointed for South Africa and only the 4th woman in the world to ever hold such a position.

Shirene Human was again 24th out of 30 – this time at the Senior World Championships held in Nice, France.  She received an official world ranking at this competition.