Tuesday, 2 February 2016

The Marvel From Milan: The Anna Galmarini Story


Born in the height of World War II on October 15, 1942, Anna Galmarini grew up in Milan, Italy. The four foot ten, ninety five pound dynamo with dark hair and bright green eyes started skating  at the age of ten at the Sport Palace in downtown Milan during school gym periods because she hated tennis. In an interview in the April 1, 1971 issue of the Kingsport Post, she explained, "my older brother was interested in ice skating. I thought it looked like fun." She also showed an interest in hockey, but her parents made it clear, "you may skate, but no ice hockey." Figure skating it was. She started without a coach at the beginning, then began to take lessons twice a month. By age thirteen, she was Italian junior champion and training eight hours a day. At the age of fourteen, she went to Garmisch-Partenkirchen, West Germany to study with the best European coaches.  In 1957, representing del Circolo Pattinatori Artistico di Milano, she won her first of four consecutive Italian senior women's titles. However, when she entered her first international competition, the 1957 European Championships in Vienna, Italian silver medallist Carla Tichatschek placed sixteenth to her nineteenth. This forgettable debut only prompted Galmarini to train even harder.

When she returned to the European Championships the following year, her progress was so remarkable that she moved all the way up to tenth place in a field of twenty two. However, at the World Championships that year in Paris, she floundered and finished a disappointing twenty first... again behind Tichatschek. A big part of the reason she struggled was her inexperience in skating world class school figures. The Milwaukee Sentinel on January 11, 1968 recalled that "she scored erratically in her earliest European and World Championships, but her free skating was so poetic that she gradually crept up on the prima ballerinas of the frozen stage - Carol Heiss, Sjoujke Dijkstra and the late Laurence Owen. She was a tone poem on the ice." The following season, the judges finally rewarded her with an eleventh place finish at the European Championships and a ninth place finish at World Championships. Though not exactly a medal threat heading into the Olympic season, her strength in free skating - particularly on the second mark - made many competitors nervous.

Anna Galmarini's strength as a free skater wasn't the only thing that made her competitors take notice. Keeping in mind that this was during Carol Heiss' era where 'young ladies' were expected more than ever to uphold a 'perfect ice princess' image, she didn't quite fit the mould. While training in West Germany, she introduced Olympic Silver Medallist Marika Kilius to smoking cigarettes. She also found her name in the West German newspapers and courts. The February 24, 1960 issue of "Der Spiegel" purported that after a twenty year old Berliner, Manfred Pfaff, had a liason with seventeen year old Galmarini, he was beaten by Anna's father and her coach Erich Zeller. Pfaff filed a criminal complaint against Zeller, saying he'd beat Galmarini during the incident as well. Despite the press attention, 1960 was her most successful year as a competitor. After winning her fourth Italian title, she placed in the top ten at the European Championships, Olympics and World Championships. So impressive was her free skating that year in Squaw Valley that on February 21, 1960 the Italian newspaper La Stampa-Domenica called her style "very whimsical and elegant" and "quite different from what they are accustomed to [in] Europe."


Immediately after the 1960 World Championships in Vancouver, Galmarini started touring with Holiday On Ice in Europe. During her six year stint with the company in Europe, she often played second fiddle to skaters like Alain Giletti and Sjoukje Dijkstra but after winning the 1965 World Professional Figure Skating Championships at Wembley, people really started finally recognizing her star potential. She joined Holiday On Ice's U.S. tour in 1966 and in America found far more recognition and respect touring alongside skaters like Ronnie Robertson, Eva Romanová and Pavel Roman, ice comic Jimmy Peacock and World Professional Champions Marianne Althamer and Karl-Heinz Kramer. After a brief return to the European tour, where she again took second billing - this time to Olympic Bronze Medallist Hana Mašková - she returned to the America for good as a featured soloist on Holiday On Ice. On the tour, she also skated pairs with Gary Visconti; one of her co-stars was Marei Langenbein, the mother of future British Champion Charlene von Saher.


Tiring of being shipped back and forth across the ocean, Galmarini left Holiday On Ice and joined Ice Capades, skating for several years in the seventies alongside skaters like Karen Magnussen, Jojo Starbuck and Ken Shelley, Tommy Litz, Linda Villela, Billy Chapel, Freddie Trenkler, Sashi Kuchiki and Melissa Militano and Johnny Johns. It was while she was with the Ice Capades that she met her husband Jules Mayeur, a technician with the show. They travelled together while on tour, living the 'gypsy life' in a thirty one foot motor home.


Not only did Galmarini live a nomadic 'gypsy life' while on tour, she portrayed a gypsy princess on the ice as well. Her programs were always described as very interpretive. She skated as a gypsy princess, a clown and even a cat, skating to Les Baxter's "Jungalero" on the 1968 Holiday On Ice tour. In the September 18, 1968 issue of The Norwalk Hour she mused, "I cannot just skate. I must skate like a cat - feel like a cat, become a cat. You must think your part. Ballet training helps tremendously in this way." After her own performing career ended, she actually worked as a skating coach for the Ice Capades when her husband was promoted to technical director in the early eighties.

In reading many interviews with Galmarini, it became absolutely apparent that she was a remarkably fascinating woman. She spoke English, Italian, French, German and Spanish and dreamed of becoming an interpreter and building a forty foot sail boat and just sailing around the world. She expounded upon the virtues of dance training and the joys of getting involved in the sport. Her biggest passion though? Cooking. In the August 31, 1975 issue of The San Antonio Express, she explained, "I cook everything from lasagna to beef stroganoff to chow mein and sometimes I combine the entrees. It's my own concoction of Chinese-Italian cooking." In an article in The Miami News on March 27, 1969, she even shared her recipe for Veal Cutlets Milanese, which I'm including below.


Although she sadly passed away in 1997 at the age of fifty four, there's no denying that Anna Galmarini's story is unique and worthy of appreciation. From her late start and incredibly quick rise in the standings as an amateur skater to the 'bad girl' stories to touring on two continents, her love for cooking and interpretive style, she was clearly one cool cat both on and off the ice. Although the photos and videos may be grainy, her exuberance jumps out at you and becomes as crystal clear as a freshly resurfaced sheet of ice.

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2 comments:

  1. Anna with her unique and extraordinary talent enjoyed an exceptionally long and successful career touring with Ice Capades and Holiday On Ice.
    Enjoyed this article! Good job!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks so much Don - so glad you enjoyed reading! Have been wanting to feature Anna's story for a while and glad I (hopefully) did her some justice.

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