By Maura Sullivan Hill, Team FSO contributing writer
Photos by Maura Sullivan Hill
Whenever two-time Olympic Champion Yuzuru Hanyu competed, you could expect the shower of Winnie the Pooh toys and gifts from fans following the performance. Tossing flowers, stuffed animals, or gifts on the ice is a longtime tradition in the elite levels of competitive skating, but it’s also a major part of the adult skater competition circuit.
“It started in 2002, 2003 at the Peach Classic, which is held in Atlanta each year,” said Rob Lichtefeld of the Georgia FSC, the host of Peach Classic. Lichtefeld is a longtime competitor in adult competitions, in free skate, pairs, and dance, and skated in the bronze pattern dance event at the ISU International Adult Figure Skating Competition in Nashville.
Lichtefeld credits skaters from Alabama with the original tossies idea: “One year, they went to Goodwill before the competition and bought all this underwear, and for all the guys that skated, they threw them on the ice. It was called the Underwear Phantom, and that kind of got into Adult Nationals the next year, because the same people loaded their luggage up. And then people started throwing things on the ice, and it just got bigger and bigger.”
As the tradition grew, it started to take too much time to clear the ice between skaters. So now, in the interests of efficiency, the tossies are collected in buckets in the stands after each performance. There was an adjustment period for this change in process, and the U.S. Adult Skating Committee made a video and hashtag campaign to educate the competitors on the new policy. It starred Lichtefeld and they called it #BeLikeRob:
Lichtefeld had a custom #BeLikeRob stamp with him in Nashville, and it seemed like everyone was accustomed to the new process, which started in 2021.
“People just do creative things,” Lichtefeld said. “Some people do rocks and paint them with different sayings and stuff. A lot of Kleenex. [Skaters ask each other:] ‘What are you tossing this year?’”
Lichtefeld tosses rubber ducks every year, complete with a card congratulating the skater and featuring his contact info. The contact info on the tossies is how many skaters connect, or find each other on social media.
Kelli Hambleton of North Carolina said this was the first competition where she came prepared with tossies.
“My first [U.S. Adult] Nationals was in 2021, and I had no idea [about tossies], but it was so cool to get that,” Hambleton said. “It was like if you watch the Olympics, people throw things on the ice, it’s the same concept. But we just keep it safer and we throw it into the buckets. They’re notes from competitors, we encourage each other. We keep the camaraderie going.”
“They all say something a little different, like ‘You rock!’ or ‘Congratulations, you’re a star!’” Hambleton said. “On the other side of the index card, I added a little note. This one says, ‘You accomplished something today that many only dream of – congratulations!’”
For more on the ISU International Adult Competition that took place in Nashville in October 2023, read our story here.