Thursday, 20 March 2014

The Other World Champions, Part 2

I wrote a series of articles called "The Other Olympic Gold Medallists" (Part 1Part 2 and Part 3) that shared the stories of 18 mens, ladies, pairs teams and ice dancing duos that won Olympic Gold and were lesser known to North American audiences. Their stories highlighted everything from love triangles and judging scandals to criminal convictions, a pop music career and winning an Olympic gold medal while pregnant. With the glory, magical memories and heartbreaking moments of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games now one for the record books and the 2014 World Figure Skating Championships in Japan just around the corner, I thought it only fitting to examine the stories of 6.0 World Champions that we may not know as much about we should... and I did in part one of The Other World Champions! Why stop there, right? In part two, let's take a look at the stories 6.0 more World Champions:

EMMERICH DANZER


No, he didn't inspire the Elton John lyric "Hold me close, young Emmerich Danzer". He did, however, stand atop the World podium for three consecutive years from 1966-1968. His success in international competition (which included four European title wins) was largely due to his balance of both strong compulsory figures and free skating. However, it was a fourth place finish in compulsory figures that kept the young Viennese skater from claiming an Olympic gold medal to complete his set in 1968, even though he won the free skate at those Games. He bounced back to win his final World title in 1968, then turned professional and toured with Holiday On Ice and the Wiener Eisrevue (Peter Griffin laugh) better known as the Vienna Ice Revue until 1975. Although he didn't inspire the Elton John lyric, Danzer did dabble in a little night music of his own, recording a hit single in Austria called "Sag Es Mir". Following the end of his professional career two years after the highly successful Vienna Ice Revue went under, Danzer coached in the U.S. for over ten years then returned to Austria in 1989 and took up a career in sports insurance and funding. He's commentated figure skating events for Austrian television and previously served as president of Austria's skating federation.

JACQUELINE DU BIEF



Almost twenty years before Emmerich Danzer didn't inspire "Hold me close, young Emmerich Danzer", people also weren't asking "Where's du Bief?" I'm just full of bad puns today, aren't I? Jacqueline du Bief of Paris, France was both an accomplished singles and pairs skater. As a pairs skater, she won two French titles with Tony Font in 1950 and 1951 and as a singles skater du Bief won six consecutive French titles, the bronze medal at the 1952 Winter Olympics and two European medals. Unlike Danzer, du Bief's reputation wasn't as both a specialist in figures and free skating - her strongest suit was clearly her free skating, which was considered by many to be quite innovative and ahead of her time. After ending her amateur career in 1952 with a World title win, du Bief turned professional and toured for over ten years with Ice Capades, Hollywood Ice Revue, Scala-Eis-Revue and other shows, sometimes skating with her sister Raymonde. Although France has produced major stars in ladies skating over the years like Surya Bonaly and Laetitia Hubert, du Bief remains the first and only ladies World Champion from France.

IRINA VOROBIEVA AND IGOR LIVOSKY



Part of a long reign of Soviet pairs coached by the legendary Tamara Moskvina, 1981 was Irina Vorobieva and Igor Livosky's year. They won both the European and World title that year in only their third season together, Vorobieva having previously skated with and won European and World medals with her previous partner Aleksandr Vlasov. After falling out of favor and finishing third at the next year's Soviet and European Championships and fifth at the 1982 Worl Championships in the rise of a new four year cycle of Olympic contenders, the pair retired early the following season after a second place finish at the NHK Trophy. The pair, like many Soviet pairs it seems, were married but later divorced. Vorobieva eventually moved to Colorado and has coached many top U.S. pairs teams including Shelby Lyons and Brian Wells and Tiffany Vise and Derek Trent, while Livosky also moved to the U.S. and took up a coaching career in Missouri.

FRITZ KACHLER



Interestingly, Fritz Kachler won three World titles both before and after World War I but made the choice not to ever participate in a Winter Olympic Games, subscribing to the belief that sport and nationalism should not be mixed. I don't know if I entirely agree. I could see it if he was talking gin and root beer, but we all have our own beliefs and I certainly respect Kachler's. That said, Kachler was a member of the Nazi Party but was later dismissed and turned to careers in both judging skating and working as a mechanical engineer. Success came to Kachler in engineering. He became the head of the Vienna/Lower Austrian section of the Austrian Railways. After working on the railroad all the live long day, Kachler passed away in 1973 in Vienna, Austria. He holds the distinction of being one of only four skaters to have won World titles both before and after World War I, the other three being pairs skaters.

SABINE BAESS AND TASSILO THIERBACH


The only East German pair to ever win a World title, Sabine Baess and Tassilo Thierbach's long career certainly wasn't without great successes. They complemented their 1982 World title win with four other World medals from 1979 to 1984 and narrowly missed the podium at the 1984 Winter Olympic Games in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia. In watching this video of their 1982 pairs free skate, it's very evident that their throws were ahead of their time and a great asset. After ending their career together in 1984, Baess married (she's now Sabine Marbach) and turned to coaching in Germany. She also had a professional career with another East German Champion pairs skater named Tobias Schröter who Baess and Thierbach previously competed against. Baess and Schröter finished third at the 1990 World Professional Figure Skating Championships in Jaca, Spain behind Anita Hartshorn and Frank Sweiding. Thierbach coaches in Germany as part of Ingo Steuer's team and owns his own machine installation business in Chemnitz, Germany.

MEGAN TAYLOR


Along with teammate Cecilia Colledge, Megan Taylor and Colledge were both the youngest ever competitors in any Olympic sport at age eleven when they competed at the 1932 Winter Games. Taylor finished second at two World Championships to three time Olympic Gold Medallist Sonja Henie and faced stiff competition at home and internationally from Colledge, an excellent skater in her own right. Despite finishing second to Colledge at both the 1938 and 1939 British and European Championships, Taylor had the last laugh, winning the World title both years. With World War II ending any chances of her international career continuing, Taylor turned professional and toured with Ice Capades, later retiring from skating, marrying twice and passing away in 1993 in Jamaica. She is remembered not only a World Champion but as an excellent free skater.

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' on 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 or 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.

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