Thursday, 28 April 2016

Did You Know?: Ten Slick Skating Anecdotes For Your Next Dinner Party


You know how it goes. You have your Hors d'Oeuvres elegantly plated, supper is coming along nicely and the cocktails are flowing just as they should be. Everyone's having a great time and suddenly an awkward hush falls over the crowd... Yes, friends, the inevitable lull in conversation can always seem like the end of the world at the time, but every host with the most of a skating dinner party has a trick or two up their sleeves. One or two of these fascinating facts could save you faster than you could pronounce Elizaveta Tuktamysheva! In the infamous words of Mrs. Peacock, "someone's about to break the ice and it might as well be me":


- 1951 World Champions John and Jennifer Nicks weren't the only star athletes in their family. Their father Jack was a great-nephew of nineteenth century cricket pioneer John Wisden.

- Margaret Brown, the larger than life Chicago socialite perhaps best known as 'The Unsinkable Molly Brown' for her courageous life saving efforts during the sinking of the Titanic in 1912, loved ice skating. Her and husband J.J. would travel to outdoor skating parties by horse and sleigh. The Brown's loved skating so much that in October 1895, J.J. Brown even helped foot the huge bill to construct a giant Ice Palace complete with a skating rink in Leadville, Colorado. After a couple of months of lavish skating parties and contests, The Ice Palace melted. Speaking of the Titanic, Canadian first class passenger John Hugo Ross was described by the Winnipeg Free Press in his youth as "a rosy faced boy in knickerbockers, riding his dog sled or off skating." He was also described as "dapper and flamboyant." He lost everything in the Gold Rush but inherited a family fortune afterwards. Ross was extremely ill while travelling on the Titanic and accounts note that he didn't take the ship's collision with an iceberg seriously. He is believed to have drowned in his bed.

- Barbara Ann Scott was quite superstitious. She considered green her lucky color (her birthstone was emerald) and in her autobiography "Skate With Me", she wrote "I have, I think, some reason for being superstitious about the number five, because several times when I was growing up I came in fifth in a competition the first year I entered and then, the next time the competition was held, went back and came in first. And I like to draw the number thirteen, because I think that is lucky for me. My armband at the Olympic Games was Number 13 and I skated on Friday the thirteenth in the World Championships in '48."

- Royalty from around the world have long enjoyed ice skating. In addition to Queen Victoria and The Romanov Family, famous skating royals over the years include Queen Ena of Spain and her husband Alfonso XIII, Princess Viktoria Louise of Prussia and Crownprincess Margareth of Sweden. Howard Bass noted that "at the British Industries Fair of 1950 a skate manufacturer exhibited a famous pair of skates that were once worn by Queen Victoria, each blade being decoratively extended at the toe in the shape of a swan's head. When the present Queen, then Princess Elizabeth, passed the stand she remarked to the exhibitor that there is a photograph in the Royal Family Album of Queen Victoria skating on that self-same pair of skates."

- In 1971, Carol Burnett parodied three time Olympic Gold Medallist Sonja Henie on season five of The Carol Burnett Show, performing her comic interpretation of skating moves as 'Sonja Honey'.

- Figure skating was the inspiration behind the theme and choreography of Kenneth Mansfield's 1961 ballet "Once Upon A Pond". Mansfield was a professional skater before turning to dance and came up with the concept after noticing how the castanets in Massenet's "Le Cid" sounded like skates moving on the ice.

- In 2016, the sporting world has been abuzz with chatter about athletes testing positive for meldonium. Back in December 1982, the International Skating Union had to deal with its very first case of a positive doping result in international competition. At the World Junior Championships, French ice dancers Christina Chiniard and Martial Mette claimed the bronze medal but were later stripped of their honour. The drug of choice? Diet pills. Americans Christina and Keith Yatsuhashi, who placed fourth, were never even told they got bumped up a spot after the disqualification. They found out from a member of their club who happened to read the ISU bulletin. 

- In the 1996 movie "The Preacher's Wife", Whitney Houston did her own skating in the scene where her and Denzel Washington skated on Portland's Deering Oaks Park. And I... will always love her!

- West German ice dancer Ferdinand Becherer skated with a glass eye for the latter half of his competitive career after being seriously injured in a car accident. With his twin sister Antonia, he went on to win three National titles in his country and finish in the top ten in the 1988 Calgary Olympics.

- Back in the eighties, the Canadian Figure Skating Association had a really bizarre loophole in its rulebook seemingly designed to punish (winning) skaters receiving low scores in senior events at the Canadian Championships. Rule #5716(e) of the 1984 Rulebook stated that "to win a Senior Championship of Canada a competitor shall have obtained a mark of at least 4.0 from a majority of the judges for two-thirds or more of the compulsory figures of dances, and for both technical merit and artistic impression in free skating or free dancing. If the competitor placing first in an event has failed to meet these standard the most recently declared Champion, unless he was competing in the event, shall retain the title."

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

2 comments:

  1. Love your blog, but please correct your use of "she" and "her." Molly Brown: "She" and husband J.J...
    Whitney Houston: "She" and Denzel...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for your feedback, "Carmina Burana"!

      Delete