The Soundtrack Of Skating

In the early days of international figure skating competitions, music was a lot like a floral garnish on a dinner plate. It was there, it was pretty... but it really didn't serve any real purpose. 

The first free skating performances skated in the Olympics weren't designed with any specific music in mind. It really didn't matter if the band played a military march or "I'm A Little Teapot" when Ulrich Salchow first demonstrated his namesake jump. The judges were far more interested in his rockers and spins than the jumps he performed or how he kept time with the music anyway.

After a flag was dropped to signify the start of a skater's program, a band played a waltz or a march until 'time' was called by the referee. The style of background music used was sometimes not even of the skater's choosing. Such was the case at the 1932 Olympics in Lake Placid, when the band played the exact same tune for all twelve of the men's competitors. It was said that it was the only classical piece they knew. 

By the mid-thirties, the orchestra or band was replaced with specially cut gramophone records and more consideration was given to a skater's musical interpretation. In the decades that followed, cassette tapes and CD's were used. In today's world, everything is digital. 

In today's blog, we'll take a look at the soundtrack of figure skating - the music that Olympic Gold Medallists have used for their winning performances over the years. A very special thanks to Dr. Matthias Hampe and Frazer Ormondroyd for their assistance in compiling this information!

"Belle De Jour", the opening track from Robin Cousins' Olympic gold medal winning free skate in 1980

MEN

Year

Winner

Short Program

Free Skate

1908

Ulrich Salchow

(N/A)

Live accompaniment

1920

Gillis Grafström

(N/A)

Live accompaniment

1924

Gillis Grafström

(N/A)

Live accompaniment

1928

Gillis Grafström

(N/A)

Live accompaniment

1932

Karl Schäfer

(N/A)

Live accompaniment: Medley including "Orpheus at the Underworld" (Jacques Offenbach)

1936

Karl Schäfer

(N/A)

Waltz and modern selections

1948

Dick Button

(N/A)

"Roumanian Rhapsody" (George Enescu, Andre Kostelanetz)

1952

Dick Button

(N/A)

"Roumanian Rhapsody" (George Enescu, Andre Kostelanetz)

1956

Hayes Alan Jenkins

(N/A)

"Scheherazade" (Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov)

1960

David Jenkins

(N/A)

"Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 16" (Edvard Grieg)

1964

Manfred Schnelldorfer

(N/A)

"Carmen" (Georges Bizet)/"Grandfather's Dance" from "The Nutcracker" (Pyotr Ilrich Tchaikovsky)/
"Boccaccio: Overture" (Franz von Suppè)

1968

Wolfgang Schwarz

(N/A)

"Grand March" from "Aida" (Giuseppe Verdi)/"Symphony No. 9 in E- Minor - From The New World" (Antonín Dvořák)/"Semiramide" (Gioachino Rossini)

1972

Ondrej Nepela

(N/A)

"Homage March, Op. 22 No. 4" from "Sigurd Jorsalfar" (Edvard Grieg)/"Bacchanale" from "Samson and Delilah" (Camille Saint-Saëns)

1976

John Curry

"Rhapsody On A Theme Of Paganini Op.43: XII Variation" (Sergei Rachmaninoff, arranged by Nikolai Lugansky)

"Don Quixote" (Ludwig Minkus) from "Nureyev's Don Quixote" (The Elizabethan Trust Melbourne Orchestra, arranged by John Lanchbery)

1980

Robin Cousins

"The Railway Children" (Johnny Douglas and His Orchestra)

"Belle De Jour" (Saint Tropez)/"Dragons Of Midnight" (The Mike Theodore Orchestra)/"Murder On The Orient Express: Finale" (Charles Taylor, Marcus Dods, Orchestra of the Royal Opera House)/"Paint It Black" (Johnny Harris)

1984

Scott Hamilton

"Samson and Delilah" (Camille Saint-Saëns)/ "The Sharish Polka" (Lúčnica, Czechoslovakian Folk Ballet from Bratislava)

"Overture" from "Guardian Of The Light" (George Duke)/"Ren" (Hiroshima)/"Swan Lake" (Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky)

1988

Brian Boitano

"Entrée" from "Les Patineurs" (Giacomo Meyerbeer, National Philharmonic Orchestra)

"Pozzo Theme", "Fort Carré Prison", "Victorious In Italy and Finale" from "Napoléon" (Carmine Coppola)

1992

Viktor Petrenko

"Carmen" (Georges Bizet)

"Raymond: Overture" (Ambroise Thomas)/"Le Cid" (Jules Massenet)/"Waltz op. 64 No. 2" (Frédéric Chopin)/"I Vespi Siciliani overture" (Giuseppe Verdi

1994

Alexei Urmanov

"Rigoletto", "La donna è mobile" (Giuseppe Verdi)

"Semiramide: Overture", "La Gazza Ladra - The Thieving Magpie", "The Barber Of Seville" (Gioachino Rossini)

1998

Ilia Kulik

"Overture" from ""Révolution Industrielle" (Jean-Michel Jarre)

"Rhapsody In Blue" (George Gershwin)

2002

Alexei Yagudin

"Winter" (Bond)

"Surrounded", "Heart Of A King" from "The Man In The Iron Mask" (Nick Glennie-Smith)

2006

Evgeni Plushenko

"E lucevan le stelle" from "Tosca" (Giacomo Puccini)

"The Godfather" (Edvin Marton)

2010

Evan Lysacek

"The Firebird" (Igor Stravinsky)

"Scheherazade" (Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov)

2014

Yuzuru Hanyu

"Parisienne Walkways" (Gary Moore)

"Romeo and Juliet" (Nino Rota)

2018

Yuzuru Hanyu

"Ballade No. 1 in G minor, Op. 23" (Frédéric Chopin)

"Seimei" from "Onmyōji" (Shigeru Umebayashi)


Jeannette Altwegg and Tenley Albright both interpreted Offenbach's "The Tales Of Hoffmann" in their winning performances at the Winter Olympic Games in the fifties

WOMEN


Year

Winner

Short Program

Free Skate

1908

Madge Syers

(N/A)

Live accompaniment

1920

Magda Julin

(N/A)

Live accompaniment

1924

Herma Szabo

(N/A)

Live accompaniment

1928

Sonja Henie

(N/A)

Live accompaniment

1932

Sonja Henie

(N/A)

Live accompaniment

1936

Sonja Henie

(N/A)

"Rosen aus dem Süden" (Johann Strauss II)

1948

Barbara Ann Scott

(N/A)

"Les Patineurs" (Giacomo Meyerbeer)/"March Of The Toys" from "Babes In Toyland" (Victor Herbert)/"Coppélia" (Léo Delibes)

1952

Jeannette Altwegg

(N/A)

"Tales Of Hoffmann" (Jacques Offenbach)

1956

Tenley Albright

(N/A)

"Belle nuit, ô nuit d'amour" from "Tales Of Hoffmann" (Jacques Offenbach), Selections by Antonin Vivaldi, Johann Strauss Jr.

1960

Carol Heiss

(N/A)

"Giselle", "If I Were King" (Adolphe Adam)/"Second Suite" from "The Nutcracker" (Pyotr Ilrich Tchaikovsky)/"La Gazza Ladra - The Thieving Magpie" (Giaochino Rossini)

1964

Sjoukje Dijkstra

(N/A)

"Les Patineurs" (Giacomo Meyerbeer)/"Scène et pas d'action", "Scène: Arrivée de Nouredda" from "La source" (Léo Delibes)

1968

Peggy Fleming

(N/A)

"Symphony No. 6 - Pathetique" (Pyotr Ilrich Tchaikovsky)/"Mon cœur s'ouvre à ta voix" from "Samson and Delilah" (Camille Saint-Saëns)/"La Gazza Ladra - The Thieving Magpie" (Giaochino Rossini)

1972

Trixi Schuba

(N/A)

"Man Of La Mancha" (Mitch Leigh)/"Medley" (The Boston Pops Orchestra, Arthur Fiedler)/"The Impossible Dream" (Mitch Leigh)

1976

Dorothy Hamill

"Konzertstück in A-Flat Major, Op. 113" (Vienna Symphony Orchestra)

"Captain Blood" (Erich Wolfgang Korngold)/
"Overture" from "Elizabeth & Essex", "Nora's Theme" from "The Sea Hawk" (Charles Gerhardt)/"Between Two Worlds" (Erich Wolfgang Korngold)/"Escape Me Never - Love For Love" (Erich Wolfgang Korngold)

1980

Anett Pötzsch

"Something's Coming", "America" from "West Side Story Medley" (Frank Chacksfield and His Orchestra)

"Overture" from "Funny Girl" (Jule Styne)

1984

Katarina Witt

"Csárdás" (Vittorio Monti)

"I Got Rhythm", "Embraceable You", "Mona Lisa" from "Crazy For You" (George Gershwin)

1988

Katarina Witt

"Overture", "I Am What I Am", "Hello, Dolly!" from "Jerry's Girls" (Jerry Herman)

"Introduction", Dance", "Carmen's Entrance and Habañera", "Finale" from "Carmen" (Georges Bizet, Rodion Shchedrin)

1992

Kristi Yamaguchi

"Blue Danube" (Johann Strauss, Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra)

"Malaguena" (Ernesto Lecuona, Stanley Black and His Orchestra)

1994

Oksana Baiul

"Pas de deux, Intrada - Tempo di Valse", "Variation d'Odile" from "Swan Lake" (Peter Llyich Tchaikovsky, Bolshoi Theatre Orchestra)

"The Rain In Spain" from "My Fair Lady", "My Favourite Things" from "The Sound Of Music", "Somewhere" from "West Side Story", "One" from "A Chorus Line", "Cabaret" from "Cabaret" (Andre Kostelanetz and His Orchestra)

1998

Tara Lipinski

"Once Upon A December", "Journey To The Past" from "Anastasia" (David Newman)

"Prelude and Opening" from "The Rainbow" (Carl Davis)/"Scenes of Summer: Festival" (Lee Holdridge, London Symphony Orchestra, Glenn Dicterow)

2002

Sarah Hughes

"Ave Maria" (Charles Gounod)

"Daphnis et Chloé" (Maurice Ravel, Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra)/"Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini" (Sergei Rachmaninoff)/"Piano Concerto No. 2" (Sergei Rachmaninoff)

2006

Shizuka Arakawa

"Fantaisie-Impromptu" (Frédéric Chopin, performed by Stanley Black and the London Festival Orchestra)

"Violin Fantasy on Puccini's Turandot" (Vanessa-Mae)

2010

Yuna Kim

"Fight On The Disco Vilante/Finale" from "Thunderball" (John Barry), "Girl Trouble" from "From Russia With Love" (John Barry), "Going Down Together" from "Die Another Day" (David Arnold), "James Bond Theme" from "Dr. No" (Monty Norman)

"Concerto In F" (George Gershwin)

2014

Adelina Sotnikova

"Habanera" from "Carmen" (Georges Bizet)

"Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso in A Minor Op. 28 for Violin and Orchestra" (Camille Saint-Saëns)

2018

Alina Zagitova

"Black Swan" (Clint Mansell)/"The Middle Of The World" from "Moonlight" (Nicholas Britell)

"Don Quixote" (Ludwig Minkus)


Barbara Wagner and Bob Paul used Victor Young's "Love Letters" to great effect in their winning free skate at the 1960 Winter Olympic Games in Squaw Valley

PAIRS


Year

Winner

Short Program

Free Skate

1908

Anna Hübler and Heinrich Burger

(N/A)

Live accompaniment

1920

Ludovika and Walter Jakobsson

(N/A)

Live accompaniment

1924

Helene Engelmann and Alfred Berger

(N/A)

Live accompaniment

1928

Andrée Joly and Pierre Brunet

(N/A)"

Live accompaniment - "Les Patineurs" (Giacomo Meyerbeer)

1932

Andrée (Joly) and Pierre Brunet

(N/A)

Live accompaniment

1936

Maxi Herber and Ernst Baier

(N/A)

Original composition (Rudolf Zeller)

1948

Micheline Lannoy and Pierre Baugniet

(N/A)

(unknown)

1952

Ria Baran and Paul Falk

(N/A)

"Egmont, Op. 84" by Ludwig van Beethoven/"Oberon" (Carl Maria von Weber);

1956

Sissy Schwarz and Kurt Oppelt

(N/A)

"Light Cavalry Overture" (Franz von Suppé)

1960

Barbara Wagner and Bob Paul

(N/A)

"Amor" (Percy Faith)/"Love Letters" (Victor Young And His Singing Strings)/"Gräfin Mariza" (Emmerich Kálmán)

1964

Ludmila Belousova and Oleg Protopopov

(N/A)

"Präludium und Fuge", "Liebestraum" (Franz Liszt), "Rhapsody On A Theme Of Paganini", "Piano Concerto No. 3" (Sergei Rachmaninoff)

1968

Ludmila Belousova and Oleg Protopopov

"Bugle Call Rag" (Glenn Miller)/"Fascination" (Liberace)

"Moonlight Sonata", "Symphony No. 5 in C Minor, Op. 67" (Ludwig van Beethoven)/"Piano Concerto No. 1" (Sergei Rachmaninoff)/"Le Poème de l'Extase op. 54" (Alexander Scriabin)

1972

Irina Rodnina and Alexei Ulanov

"Csárdás" (Vittorio Monti)

"Autumn Bacchanale" from "The Seasons" (Alexander Glazunov)/"Gayaneh" (Aram Khachaturian)

1976

Irina Rodnina and Aleksandr Zaitsev

Gypsy and Moldovan music (Moiseyev Dance Company)

Gypsy and Moldovan music, "Tsigany" (Moiseyev Dance Company)

1980

Irina Rodnina and Aleksandr Zaitsev

"Flight 76 (Flight Of The Bumble Bee" (Walter Murphy)

Selections by Georgy Vasilievich Sviridov and Alexandra Nikolaevna Pakhmutova

1984

Elena Valova and Oleg Vasiliev

"Kalinka" (traditional Russian music)


"Get Back" (Libera Orchestra Sinfonica)/"Für Elise" (Ludwig van Beethoven)/"Stairway To Heaven" (London Symphony Orchestra)

1988

Ekaterina Gordeeva and Sergei Grinkov

"Les Toreadores", "La garde montante" from "Carmen" (Georges Bizet)

"Symphony No. 4" (Felix Mendelsohhn)/"Concerto No. 2", "Etude No. 12", "Concerto No. 1" (Frédéric Chopin)/
"Overture" from "The Marriage Of Figaro" (Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart)

1992

Natalia Mishkutenok and Artur Dmitriev

"Don Quixote" (Leon Minkus)

"Liebestraum" (Franz Liszt, The Philadelphia Orchestra)

1994

Ekaterina Gordeeva and Sergei Grinkov

"Zapateado"/"Farrucas" (Pepe Romero)/ "Picasso Suite: The Dancer" (Michel Legrand)

"Pathétique Sonata (No. 8)", "Moonlight Sonata (No. 14)" (Ludwig van Beethoven)

1998

Oksana Kazakova and Artur Dmitiev

"Thus Spake Zarathrusta" (Richard Strauss)

"Passacaglia" from "Suite de pièce Vol. 1 No. 7 in G minor" (George Frideric Handel)

2002

Jamie Salé and David Pelletier

"Jalousie" (Jacob Gade)

"(Where Do I Begin?) Love Story" (Stanley Black and London Festival Orchestra)

2002

Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze

"Nocturne" from "La Califfa" (Ennio Morricone)

"Meditation" from "Thaïs" (Jules Massenet)

2006

Tatiana Totmianina and Maxim Marinin

"Romance" from "The Blizzard" (Georgy Sviridov)

"Romeo and Juliet" (Edvin Marton)

2010

Xue Shen and Hongbo Zhao

"Who Wants To Live Forever?" (David Garrett)

"Adagio In G Minor" (Eroica Trio)

2014

Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov

"Masquerade Waltz" (Aram Khachaturian, performed by Kiril Kondrashin and RCA Victor Symphony Orchestra)

"Jesus Christ Superstar" (Andrew Lloyd Webber)

2018

Aliona Savchenko and Bruno Massot

"That Man" (Caro Emerald)

"La terre vue du ciel" (Armand Amar, Maxime Rodriguez)


Michael Nyman's jarring score from "The Cook, The Thief, His Wife And Her Lover" served as the perfect vehicle for Oksana Grishuk and Evgeni Platov's winning free dance at the 1998 Winter Olympic Games in Nagano, Japan

ICE DANCING


Year

Winner

OSP/Original/Short Dance

Free Dance

1976

Lyudmila Pakhomova and Aleksandr Gorshkov

"Miami Beach Rhumba" (Edmundo Ros)

"The Chase" (Out Of Place)/"Flamenco Fantasy" (101 Strings Orchestra)

1980

Natalia Linichuk and Gennadi Karponosov

"Potpourri" from "Die Frau meiner Träume" (Franz Grothe, Wolf Lorey Quintett)

(unknown pieces)/"Train Number Forty-Five" (Earl Scruggs)

1984

Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean

"Cappricio Espagnol" (Nikolai Rimsy-Korsakov, arranged by Robert Stewart, Richard Hartley and Alan Hawkshaw)

"Boléro" (Maurice Ravel, arranged by Robert Stewart, Richard Hartley and Alan Hawkshaw)

1988

Natalia Bestemianova and Andrei Bukin

"Hernando's Hideaway" (Václav Hybš)

"Polovetsian Dances" from "Prince Igor" (Alexander Borodin)

1992

Marina Klimova and Sergei Ponomarenko

"Ballet Suite No. 2: III. Polka" (Dmitri Shostakovich, Lev Atovmyan and Bolshoi Theatre Orchestra)

"Suite No. 3: Air on the G String, "Toccata and Fugue in D Minor" (Johann Sebastian Bach, The Philadelphia Orchestra)

1994

Oksana Grishuk and Evgeni Platov

"Historia de un Amor" (Carlos Eleta Almarán)

"Rock Around The Clock"/"Humming Bird" (Micky Ashman)

1998

Oksana Grishuk and Evgeni Platov

"Jailhouse Rock" (Elvis Presley)

"Memorial" from "The Cook, The Thief, His Wife & Her Lover" (Michael Nyman)

2002

Marina Anissina and Gwendal Peizerat

"Tangos De Málaga (Cante, Baile Y Guitarra" (El Trini)/"Tango Güell" (Eric Woolfson)

"I Have A Dream" (Martin Luther King)/"Non Merci" from "Cyrano de Bergerac" (Jean-Claude Petit)/"Canone Inverso Primo" (Ennio Morricone)

2006

Tatiana Navka and Roman Kostomarov

"Chilly Cha Cha" (Jessica Jay)/"Historia de un Amor" (Carlos Eleta Almarán)/"Samba Vocalizado" (Luciano Perrone)

"Carmen" (Georges Bizet)

2010

Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir

"Farrucas" (Pepe Romero)

"Symphony No. 5" (Gustav Mahler, performed by The London Symphony Orchestra)

2014

Meryl Davis and Charlie White

"I Could Have Danced All Night", "With a Little Bit of Luck", "Get Me to the Church on Time" from "My Fair Lady"
(Frederick Loewe)

"Scheherazade" (Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov)

2018

Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir

"Sympathy For The Devil" (The Rolling Stones)/"Hotel California" (The Eagles)/"Oye Como Va" (Carlos Santana)

"The Show Must Go On", "El Tango De Roxanne", "Come What May" from "Moulin Rouge" (David Baerwald, Kevin Gilbert)


Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford's interpretation of Adele's "Hometown Glory" earned them an Olympic gold medal in the team event at the 2018 Olympic Games

TEAM EVENT


Year

Winner

Short Program

Free Skate

2014

Evgeni Plushenko

"El Tango De Roxanne" from "Moulin Rouge" (Ewan McGregor)

'The Best Of Plushenko' medley (arranged by Edvin Marton): "Criminal St. Petersburg" (Igor Kornelyuk)/"The Godfather" (Nino Rota)/"Sheherazade" (Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov)/"Tango Amore" (Edvin Marton)/"Tosca" (Giacomo Puccini)/"Adagio" (Tomaso Albinoni, Remo Giazotto)


Julia Lipnitskaia

"You Don't Give Up On Love" (Mark Minkov)

"Schindler's List" (John Williams)


Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov

"Masquerade Waltz" (Aram Khachaturian, performed by Kiril Kondrashin and RCA Victor Symphony Orchestra)

N/A


Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov

N/A

"The Addams Family" (Marc Shaiman)


Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev

"Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend" from "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" (Jules Styne)/"I Wanna Be Loved By You"/"That Man" by Caro Emerald

N/A


Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov

N/A

"Swan Lake" (Pyotr Ilrich Tchaikovsky)

2018

Patrick Chan

"Dust In The Wind" (Kansas)

"Hallelujah" (Jeff Buckley)


Kaetlyn Osmond

"Sous le ciel de Paris", "Milord" (Edith Piaf)

N/A


Gabby Daleman

N/A

"Rhapsody In Blue" (George Gershwin)


Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford

"With Or Without You" (April Meservy)

"Hometown Glory" (Adele)


Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir

"Sympathy For The Devil" (The Rolling Stones)/"Hotel California" (The Eagles)/"Oye Como Va" (Carlos Santana)

"The Show Must Go On", "El Tango De Roxanne", "Come What May" from "Moulin Rouge" (David Baerwald, Kevin Gilbert)

Skate Guard is a blog dedicated to preserving the rich, colourful and fascinating history of figure skating and archives hundreds of compelling features and interviews in a searchable format for readers worldwide. Though there never has been nor will there be a charge for access to these resources, you taking the time to 'like' the blog's Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/SkateGuard would be so very much appreciated. Already 'liking'? Consider sharing this feature for others via social media. It would make all the difference in the blog reaching a wider audience. Have a question or comment regarding anything you have read here? Have a suggestion for a topic related to figure skating history you would like to see covered? I'd love to hear from you! Learn the many ways you can reach out at http://skateguard1.blogspot.ca/p/contact.html.

Sunflowers And Stilts: The Sidney Charlton Story


Born May 1, 1883 in the London suburb of Lambeth, Sidney James Mitchell grew up in one of England's earliest 'show biz' skating families. His Roman Catholic father Horace was one half of the roller duo Charlton & Tyme (the 'Arctic skaters') who performed at the rink at the Royal Leamington Spa in Warwickshire in the 1870's. Sidney's father later taught ice skating at the Glaciariums in Australia in the late Edwardian era under the name 'Professor Charlton'. His sister Lillian, one of England's first female skating instructors, accompanied him on these trips down under.

Horace and Lillian Mitchell. Photo courtesy Dan Weller.

At the age of fourteen, Sidney (adopting his father's stage name Charlton) skated alongside World Champion Henning Grenander in a carnival at Prince's Skating Club. Among the spectators were the Prince of Wales, the Duchess of Teck, the Countess of Minto and Lady Randolph Churchill. He was billed as "the boy champion", having been presented by the future King Edward VII with a medal at another Prince's carnival that year.

Engraving of Sidney Charlton with the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII). Photo courtesy Dan Weller.

Sidney's promising skating career was cut short for a time, when he served with the First Imperial Light Horse regiment in South Africa in the Second Boer War. After the War, he taught skating at Prince's for a time, working with Olympic Silver Medallist Arthur Cumming early in his career. 


In 1905, Sidney travelled to North America to pursue his dream of becoming a professional skater. Not long after his arrival, he won the 'fancy skating contest' for the 'World's Champion fancy roller skater' at the Lenox Lyceum Rink in New York City and headlined on rollers at the New Ocean Park Casino Rink in Long Branch, New Jersey and the Third Regiment Army Rink in Atlanta, Georgia. 

Photo courtesy Dan Weller

In his signature act, Sidney portrayed a 'Black Hawk Chief', jumped barrels and demonstrated his prowess at both figure and speed skating. He performed on the ice in Montreal and on rollers everywhere from Albany, New York to Nashville, Tennessee. 

In 1909, Sidney married Emmy Campbell in Canada, returned to England and resumed teaching at Prince's, giving lessons to King Alfonso XIII of Spain. The T.H. Deane Company designed a special model of skates, The Charlton, in his honour.


Right photo courtesy Dan Weller

Though Sidney was living in England when The Great War broke out, he was able to join the Canadian Army Medical Corps. Not long after enlisting with the Canadian Expeditionary Force, he was admitted to a troop hospital to recover from trench fever and pleurisy. He returned to the trenches and saw considerable action on the front lines in France.

Photo courtesy Dan Weller

It was during the roaring twenties that Sidney's skating career really took off, thanks to a novel new addition to his specialty act. A pioneer in stilt skating, he toured small theatres in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland and took to the ice at the Palais de Glace at Champs-Élysées, Paris with Megan Taylor's famous father Phil, performing a double act on stilts. He taught figure skating for a time in Switzerland and had his fifteen minutes of fame in 1928, when he carved out an intricate special figure with a sunflower design. Pictures of Sidney and his sunflower appeared in newspapers around the world. He claimed that "he dreamed that he was skating before a large crowd who seemed to applaud out of all proportion for his act. When he looked on the ice he found that he had drawn, with his skates, a sunflower. The surprise awakened him and he jumped out of bed to jot down the turns which he found next day to be practicable." Eminent skater, judge and historian T.D. Richardson credited him as the first man to skate on stilts, but others - like Captain John Miner - had in fact beat him to the punch. He was, however, one of the first to achieve widespread attention for the feat, helping popularize the novelty.


When the Streatham Ice Rink opened in 1931, Sidney was hired on to serve as the venue's floor manager. His wife worked as a waitress at a Lyons teashop. He continued to perform sporadically in various events, such as the famous "St. Moritz" spectacle at the London Coliseum which featured Pamela Prior, Eva Keats and Erik van der Weyden and Hans Witte and the 1932 World's and British Open Professional Championships. By this point in time, a handful of other skaters had copied his stilt skating act. He performed a comedic roller skating act with The Derby Skaters during this period.

Sidney (top right, bottom middle) performing a comedy act on rollers with The Derby Skaters in 1937. Photo courtesy Dan Weller.

Sidney passed away three days before his sixty-third birthday on April 28, 1946. The "Whitstable Times and Herne Bay Herald" noted that during World War II, "An intense patriot, Mr. Mitchell... joined the A.R.P. at Streatham and was in action through many of the blitzes. It was while carrying a stretcher after one of the blitzes that he collapsed due to heart trouble - an affliction which incapacitated him for some time and was ultimately responsible for his sudden death." His legacy as one of the great pioneers in the nearly obsolete art of stilt skating is sadly all but forgotten.

Skate Guard is a blog dedicated to preserving the rich, colourful and fascinating history of figure skating and archives hundreds of compelling features and interviews in a searchable format for readers worldwide. Though there never has been nor will there be a charge for access to these resources, you taking the time to 'like' the blog's Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/SkateGuard would be so very much appreciated. Already 'liking'? Consider sharing this feature for others via social media. It would make all the difference in the blog reaching a wider audience. Have a question or comment regarding anything you have read here? Have a suggestion for a topic related to figure skating history you would like to see covered? I'd love to hear from you! Learn the many ways you can reach out at http://skateguard1.blogspot.ca/p/contact.html.

The Pôle Nord

Photo courtesy Bibliothèque nationale de France

The much-anticipated opening of The Pôle Nord on October 14, 1892 marked a very important milestone in French figure skating history. The rink at 18 rue de Clichy in the 9th arrondissement of Paris, next to the Casino de Paris, was the first permanent artificial ice rink in the country.

A grand but temporary ice rink on La rue Pergolèse, closed since the Exposition Universelle of 1889, had been well-attended. This was largely due to proclamations by several French physicians that skating was a health cure. However, Parisians had never seen anything quite so lavish as The Pôle Nord.

The rue Pergolèse rink of 1889. Photo courtesy "The National Ice Skating Guide".

The timing of The Pôle Nord's grand opening coincided with the formation of the International Skating Union and the release of a French translation of Montagu Sneade Monier-Williams' textbook "Figure-Skating Simple And Combined".


The six thousand square foot circular ice rink had a wood and cork floor flooded with eight thousand cubic meters of water. It was frozen by a seven hundred and twenty square meter track with four hundred iron pipes "full of calcium chloride incessantly cooled by ammonia in motion." It was powered by two fifty horsepower steam motors - a system credited to Edouard de Stoppani and similar to one used at the Exposition in Frankfurt the year prior. The Pôle Nord featured dressing rooms and a rinkside bar, where wealthy patrons were served French wine, American cocktails and German beer at their tables. 

Monsieurs Blandin and Gribouval

The beloved directors of The Pôle Nord were Monsieurs Blandin and Gribouval. Blandin was a former director of the Théâtre des Folies-Dramatiques and Grand Théâtre de Reims. Gribouval was described as a "likeable, intelligent man [and] a distinguished and courteous organizer." 

Emilienne d'Alençon

The Pôle Nord was open seasonally, seven days a week from morning until midnight. Gorgeous Belle Époque posters for the rink, designed by Paul Balluriau, Jules Chéret and Alexandre Jean Louis Jazet (under the pseudonym 'Japhet') and others, were widely distributed around Paris in various formats and contributed greatly to the rink's quick popularity. Regulars at the rink included actresses Cécile Sorel, Emilienne d'Alençon and Clémence de Pibrac. 

Photo courtesy Bibliothèque nationale de France

An article in the October 14, 1892 issue of "Le Petit Journal" remarked, "Amateur skaters are quite numerous in Paris, but the softness or better the humidity of our winters prevents them from skating as much as they wish on the mirror ice dear to the peoples of the North. Everyone knows the joke. As soon as it freezes a little in the Bois de Boulogne, the Cercle des Patineurs, which is composed of the best Parisian and foreign skaters, announces a party. Immediately the thaw arrives. This inconsistency and inconstancy of ice in Paris brings two unfortunate results: well-practiced skaters cannot engage in their favourite sport and their skates rust in the armoires, and aspiring skaters, those who would like to learn, never learn because they do not find the opportunity. The new establishment on the Rue de Clichy, which its creators spiritually called The Pôle Nord (North Pole) avoids these inconveniences. It is a perpetually frozen piece of winter that it offers Parisians."

Photo courtesy Bibliothèque nationale de France

The Pôle Nord became a mecca of high fashion, with patrons turning to designers like the House Of Worth and Maison Gagelin for their skating dresses. However, department stores - thinking they had a hit with "the most extraordinary skating toilettes... baptised Russian, Canadian, Polish, etc." - were disappointed to find not only Parisiennes but visiting Canadians and Russians turn their nose up at the novelties. An 1893 account from an unnamed British correspondent in Paris remarked, "Skating has already begun in Paris. Last week the 'Pôle Nord' opened its doors, and many enthusiastic votaries of the pastime put in an appearance. Very natty and smart were some of the costumes worn. Furs, being suited to the occasion, were much 'en evidence'. The wide short skirts now in vogue are admirably suited for skating purposes. Many black gowns were conspicuous, and during the graceful evolutions of the fair patineuses glimpses of gay-coloured linings occasionally flashed out." 

Photo courtesy Bibliothèque nationale de France

Louis Laporte of Rhe Paris Conservatory led the rink's resident forty member orchestra. Blandin and Gribouval wisely employed professeurs - skating teachers who both gave lessons and performed exhibitions for the rink's patrons. Monsieurs Léon and Plumet served as two of the rink's main professeurs. Jean Richard, another French professeur, introduced the Waltz to Parisians. Visits from Axel Paulsen and George Meagher warmed them up to speed and figure skating. 

Nadja Franck. Photo courtesy Bibliothèque nationale de France.

Decorated Scandinavian skaters Nadja Franck and Thidolf Borgh joined the staff and helped introduce patrons to the techniques of school figures and free skating. There was a minor scandal when another of the club's professeurs, François Boleslas de Zdzienski, was fired for "failure to use the rules and regulations imposed on skating teachers". The hullabaloo centered around him showing up at the rink not wearing the required uniform for professeurs.

Photo courtesy Bibliothèque nationale de France

The rink's entertainments ranged from charming to downright bizarre. On Christmas Eve 1982, a lavish holiday party was thrown at The Pôle Nord. The walls were decorated with snowflakes and a gigantic fir tree decorated with garlands was erected at center ice. There were raffles for flowers, soaps, chocolates, brooches and necklaces from the House Of Bluze and even a bicycle. Skaters enjoyed taking part in races and games so much that The Pôle Nord's owners kept the rink open an extra hour. And then there was the rabbit hunting...


A very theatrical scene indeed took place on the ice during a fête The Pôle Nord in the winter of 1896. A report from Jules Roques' "Le Courrier français" stated, "We witnessed a brilliantly fantastic procession: the fantasia of the Golden Calf, borne by four servants in Assyrian costumes, and with a Norman peasant leading it by the nose: beautiful young girls in silver and gold dresses and dripping with gold, accompanied it, burning incense and throwing flowers before it and encircling it with enormous garlands, whilst the Pig, King of Enjoyment, was borne along on his throne by his exquisite adorers; frail and graceful, gilded, silvered, suggestive, and frightfully seductive; an enormous success for all the little company and especially for Carmen, a love of a Love, and Amélie, a Mercury who was ogled to death. The saraband starts. Gold and silver is showered down from above; Bengal lights are set off; burning perfume sends out scented clouds; Projectors shoot forth green, lilac and purple rays; the effect is really magical. Then fanfares of trumpets blare out whilst the orchestra plays, supported by the choir. Now the chase of the Golden Calf begins, a mad race round the rink which ends in a battle of golden ingots in which the public mix with the skaters in a most amazing scene. The conception of these amusements did not lack a little amiable philosophy. Was it not the definite triumph of Love over the brutality of physical enjoyment and the power of gold, that was celebrated with such joy and with such blaring of trumpets? At the end there was tremendous applause and the crowd of spectators departed with memories of a delightful evening and with the dazzle and sparkle of all this brilliant scene still before their eyes."

Photo courtesy Bibliothèque nationale de France

Admission at The Pôle Nord was initially two francs or one franc for members of the Club des Patineurs - a steep enough price to keep anyone but the rich away. During the first couple of years, the take at the door was the equivalent to one hundred and twenty pounds a day. The managers were forced to lower prices when the Palais de Glace opened at the Champs-Élysées in December of 1893 and business dwindled quickly. Many of the elite patrons migrated to the new rink, disgusted that it had "deteriorated [to the point of becoming] quite impossible for a lady to go to nowadays." A big part of that 'deterioration' was also the fact that hockey players were pushing pleasure and figure skaters to the sidelines.


The Pôle Nord closed in 1898, validating naysayers who believed that there simply weren't enough Parisian skaters to keep two rinks going. The following year circus impresario C.M. Ercole took over The Pôle Nord's lease for Carl Hagenbeck, who presented his living panorama "Life At The North Pole", which had been a major success at the Vienna Exhibition. The space later became absorbed into the Casino de Paris with the section near the present rue Blanche demolished to make way for the Nouveau-Théâtre.

Skate Guard is a blog dedicated to preserving the rich, colourful and fascinating history of figure skating and archives hundreds of compelling features and interviews in a searchable format for readers worldwide. Though there never has been nor will there be a charge for access to these resources, you taking the time to 'like' the blog's Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/SkateGuard would be so very much appreciated. Already 'liking'? Consider sharing this feature for others via social media. It would make all the difference in the blog reaching a wider audience. Have a question or comment regarding anything you have read here? Have a suggestion for a topic related to figure skating history you would like to see covered? I'd love to hear from you! Learn the many ways you can reach out at http://skateguard1.blogspot.ca/p/contact.html.

The 1933 North American Figure Skating Championships

Linen postcard of the third Madison Square Garden, Manhattan Post Card Publishing Co.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt had just been declared President-Elect of the United States. Couples waltzed in nightclubs to the strains of Annette Hanshaw's "Moon Song". The radio series "The Lone Ranger" debuted, as did a new novelty in communication: the singing telegram. A cold snap resulted in record low temperatures in many American states and in Canada, the CRBC - CBC Radio's predecessor - made its grand debut. The year was in 1933 and on February 10 and 11, most of the Continent's top skaters gathered in New York City for the North American Figure Skating Championships.


It was the first time The Big Apple played host to the biennal event. School figures for men and women and preliminary rounds for pairs and fours were skated at The Ice Club in front of sparse audiences, but the finals for all disciplines were contested at Madison Square Garden. There were in excess of five thousand spectators for the events at the Garden - one of the largest crowd for any figure skating competition in the city at that point.


The judges for the event were Rosalie Knapp and Joel B. Liberman of New York, Charlie Morgan Rotch of Boston, Allan Howard and Norman V.S. Gregory of Montreal and John S. McLean of Toronto. Closed marking, coupled with the fact many spectators didn't see the initial rounds which counted for two thirds of the final score, added to the suspense for spectators. Let's take a look back at how things played out!

THE PAIRS, FOURS AND ICE DANCE COMPETITIONS

Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine

Pairs and fours teamed performed their programs before the judges twice. In the preliminary rounds, they were judged on "contents of their program, difficulty, variety and manner of harmonious composition." In the final round, they were judged solely on performance. As expected, Canadians dominated in the fours event. The 'Minto four', consisting of Margaret Davis, Prudence Holbrook, Melville Rogers and Guy Owen, took top honours, followed by the Toronto four, consisting of Bud and Constance Wilson, Elizabeth Fisher and Hubert Sprott. America's lone entry, a Boston four consisting of Theresa Weld Blanchard, Suzanne Davis, Fred Parmenter and Richard L. Hapgood, placed third and last. Reporter Will Wedge remarked, "We thought the evolutions in fours last evening by [the Minto four] was one of the most graceful and charming spectacles we ever saw anywhere, and that big, crinkly haired, aquiline-nosed Rogers chap as distinguished looking a bloke as ever performed in this man's town."

Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine

Siblings Constance and Bud Wilson won the pairs event, ahead of Maude Smith and Jack Eastwood, Kay Lopdell and Donald B. Cruikshank, Grace and James Madden and Gertrude Meredith and Joseph K. Savage. The pairs event marked the first podium sweep by Canadians at the North American Championships in any discipline. It was also the third time in succession the Wilson siblings managed to win both singles titles and the pairs at the Championships.


There was no 'official' dance event, but Waltz and Fourteenstep contests were organized by the Skating Club of New York "to entertain the spectators while the judges [compiled] their results." Valerie Jones and Oscar L. Richard won the Waltz; Grace and James Madden the Fourteenstep. The winners of both events were decided solely by audience applause. Theresa Weld Blanchard asked judge Joel B. Liberman to mention the dance events in his write-up in "Skating" magazine. He responded by writing, "How can you ask me to so descend from the Olympian heights of a North American competition? But in view of our long friendship I will 'throw-in' a few words."

THE WOMEN'S COMPETITION

Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine

Twenty year old Maribel Vinson, the defending U.S. Women's Champion, withdrew from the competition at the eleventh hour, explaining to reporters she wanted to focus her energy on the Skating Club of Boston's carnival, which was to be held just two days after the event. 

This essentially made the event a two-way race between Cecil Smith Gooderham, the 1930 World Silver Medallist and Constance Wilson-Samuel, the two-time and defending North American Champion. Both Canadian women performed exceptionally well in figures and were especially praised for their loop change loop and bracket change bracket. The "New York Times" reported, "As the morning progressed the participants seemed to gain in confidence, and their execution was so keen in the last three figures that a small group on onlookers, composed of critical, ardent enthusiasts of the sport, found ample opportunity to applaud."

Cecil Smith Gooderham, Audrey Peppe and Constance Wilson-Samuel

In the free skate, Constance Wilson-Samuel performed in a white dress edged with black, white gloves and a black ribbon around her head. A reporter recalled, "To the strains of a waltz, Mrs. Samuel went through an elaborate series of spins and jumps, the slow and fast one-foot spin bringing considerable approval from the crowd. A number of loop jumps added to the variety of her program and with several [Axel] Paulsen jumps she finished with a [Jackson] Haines spin right before the concluding fadeaway." In a direct contrast in fashion, Cecil Smith Gooderham skated in a black dress trimmed in white with a cluster of gardenias on her shoulder. Her program, set to a tango-foxtrot, included an Axel, Salchow and Jackson Haines spin. Beatrix Loughran's niece Audrey Peppe so impressed the audience in the free skate that she was called back on the ice after her performance to give another bow.

Audrey Peppe

When the marks were tallied, it was found the judges were divided between Wilson-Samuel and Smith Gooderham. "As a consequence," one reporter explained, "An itemized accounting had to be made of the point tabulation for both days, so slim was the margin of victory, and it was later announced that Mrs. Samuel had won by a 17-point advantage." Suzanne Davis of Boston took the bronze, ahead of New Yorkers Audrey Peppe and Dr. Hulda Berger.


In "Skating" magazine, Theresa Weld Blanchard remarked, "It was perilously close. Both of these skaters are real champions in school figures. Both make excellent turns, but Cecil's figures are rounder, she skates on a keener edge, but by the same token she is forced to sacrifice somewhat the retracing of the circles. In the latter department of the school figures Connie is superb. This necessarily involves flattening for an instant to make the circles overlap, but it takes a high degree of talent and a complete mastery of the skate to do it. Sonja [Henie] is mistress of that art, although she relies on it less and less. Cecil skates her figures like Maribel Vinson, that is, once on a hard edge it is difficult to depart from the natural arc of the edge."

THE MEN'S COMPETITION


There were almost no spectators for men's school figures, owing to the early morning hour they were held. Despite a self-professed 'bad ear' for music, two-time and defending North American Champion Montgomery 'Bud' Wilson "gave a marvellous demonstration in his free skating. So clear-cut and well-executed were the more intricate jumps and spins that he made them appear easy. His slow toe-spin and his varied Salchow and [Axel] Paulsen jumps were the essence of smoothness. The six-foot Canadian marked his program with several loop jumps and never wavered in his effective skating. The crowd was especially keyed to see young [Robin] Lee in action. Wearing his noted blue beret and a blue sweater, the youngster saved himself from a fall almost at the start of his program in attempting a back-loop jump, but he rallied quickly and continued through his skating and was loudly applauded. Partly because he has become a favourite in New York and partly due to his fundamentally sound skating that he showed last night in the school figures, the little fellow had to doff his beret as he made his way off the ice. His double [Haines] spin, up and down, and his scratch spin that he intermingled with the regular assortment of jumps, won many plaudits. [James] Madden had two unfortunate spills in trying jumps, but otherwise did very well, characterizing his skating with a number of spins. [William] Nagle, too, gave a good performance," according to a write-up in "The New York Times". Wilson easily won his third North American title, besting Madden,  Lee and Nagle. There was a thirty-four year age difference between Lee and Nagle - Lee was thirteen; Nagle forty-seven.

Skate Guard is a blog dedicated to preserving the rich, colourful and fascinating history of figure skating and archives hundreds of compelling features and interviews in a searchable format for readers worldwide. Though there never has been nor will there be a charge for access to these resources, you taking the time to 'like' the blog's Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/SkateGuard would be so very much appreciated. Already 'liking'? Consider sharing this feature for others via social media. It would make all the difference in the blog reaching a wider audience. Have a question or comment regarding anything you have read here? Have a suggestion for a topic related to figure skating history you would like to see covered? I'd love to hear from you! Learn the many ways you can reach out at http://skateguard1.blogspot.ca/p/contact.html.

A Whirling Wren: The Elizabeth Fisher Story

Elizabeth Fisher posing in her costume for one of the Toronto Skating Club's carnivals. Photo courtesy City of Toronto Archives.

The daughter of Elsie May (Hobbs) and Robert Grant Fisher, Mary Elizabeth Fisher was born November 27, 1910 in London, Ontario. She and her two siblings grew up in Toronto, where her father worked as a barrister and solicitor. Her father was a Presbyterian; her mother a Methodist. 

Elizabeth took up figure skating at the Toronto Skating Club's rink on Dupont Street in the roaring twenties and quickly showed promise as one of the club's top up-and-coming skaters. After finishing third in the junior women's event at the 1928 Canadian Championships, she won the national junior title the following year, defeating Veronica Clarke and Frances Claudet. In 1930, she finished second to Constance Wilson in the senior women's event and was part of the winning Toronto four.

In 1931, Elizabeth made history as only the fifth person (and third woman) to pass the Figure Skating Department of the Amateur Skating Association Of Canada's eighth (Gold) test. That year, she also won her second consecutive Canadian fours title, finished third in the Canadian women's event behind Constance Wilson and Cecil Smith and second behind Wilson at the North American Championships in Ottawa

The 1931 Toronto four: Hubert Sprott, Mary Littlejohn, Elizabeth Fisher and Jack Hose. Photo courtesy City Of Toronto Archives.

Elizabeth's successes in 1931 earned her a spot on the 1932 Olympic and World teams. She placed an unlucky thirteenth in both events, but earned ordinals as high as ninth in free skating at the Games in Lake Placid. In the years that followed, she won another two medals at the Canadian Championships in fours skating and was part of the second-place Toronto four at the 1933 North American Championships in New York. 

From fours to eights - the "Swing-Time" act from the 1936 Toronto Skating Club carnival. From left to right: Elizabeth Fisher, Osborne Colson, Mary Jane Halsted, Hubert Sprott, Margaret Leslie, Sandy McKechnie, Lorraine Hopkins, Jack Eastwood, Helen Hobbs and Donald Gilchrist. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine.

Elizabeth retired from competitive figure skating in 1936, but remained active in the sport. She worked as a coach at the University Skating Club and played an important role in the production of the Toronto Skating Club's popular carnivals in the thirties.

During World War II, Elizabeth joined the Women's Royal Canadian Naval Service. Members of the Women's Royal Canadian Service (WRENS) took on many essential positions in the military. They served as plotters, wireless telegraphists, motor transport riders, messengers, stenographers, cooks, stewards, clerks and supply assistants. 

After serving as a Unit Officer on the HMCS Discovery, Elizabeth was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant. For much of the War, she worked in the Naval Distributing Section, Naval Intelligence Division and Naval Service Headquarters in Ottawa. Archived copies of "The Tiddley Times" from the Archives of the CFB Esquimalt Naval and Military Museum reveal that when she was off duty, she was an enthusiastic member of the WRENS shooting club that hoped "to become so skilled in the art of shooting that [she could] join the opposite sex in hunting expeditions."

Lt. Elizabeth Fisher and Lt. Josephine Barrington aboard the HMCS Nanaimo (K101 in Sechelt, British Columbia in 1944. Photo courtesy Joan Balch.

After the War, Elizabeth married Walter Luke Lawson and had a son, Robert. Sadly, her husband passed away in 1966. She was a dedicated volunteer at the Royal Ontario Museum and was known for her wonderful sense of humour. She passed away in Toronto on April 28, 2004 at the age of ninety-three.

Skate Guard is a blog dedicated to preserving the rich, colourful and fascinating history of figure skating and archives hundreds of compelling features and interviews in a searchable format for readers worldwide. Though there never has been nor will there be a charge for access to these resources, you taking the time to 'like' the blog's Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/SkateGuard would be so very much appreciated. Already 'liking'? Consider sharing this feature for others via social media. It would make all the difference in the blog reaching a wider audience. Have a question or comment regarding anything you have read here? Have a suggestion for a topic related to figure skating history you would like to see covered? I'd love to hear from you! Learn the many ways you can reach out at http://skateguard1.blogspot.ca/p/contact.html.