Ice skating has been around for at least 5,000 years, but for most of that time, it was a method of transportation. The first competitive skating was racing. Figure skating is called that because in the beginning, it was all about making a perfect figure 8 on the ice. There were also some rudimentary "tricks" for show-offs, like jumping over things. Then came Jackson Haines, who is now considered the father of figure skating.
The person credited with developing the artistic side of skating in the late 19th Century is Jackson Haines, an American skater and dancer from New York. “Haines saw in skating tremendous theatrical and artistic possibilities,” Adams writes. “Haines experimented with a form of skating inspired by dance. He fit his skating to music, developed new moves (including the sit spin, which for many years was called the Jackson Haines spin, and invented a one-piece skate.”
But his style and innovations did not gain much traction in the U.S., which was more taken with the English style. So Haines went to Continental Europe to see if he could do any better there.
He did well, indeed. And the style he promoted is the reason why we watch young Olympians do amazing things in PyeongChang. Read about Jackson Haines at Deadspin.