A Sensation From Skövde: The Henning Grenander Story
"Grenander, though not the most accurate, is quite the most graceful skater I have seen, the effect of his manner of carrying the unemployed leg far away from the body, the toe always pointing downward and outward, the unemployed knee only slightly bent... the arms carried so as to assist the movement as much as possible, but always presenting a perfectly harmonious effect. As may be gathered from this description, Grenander is essentially a poseur in skating; but his attitude is always graceful, and his wonderful command of body and limb can only be the result of a long course of gymnastic training; in which the Swedes excel, and which no doubt tended to the evolution of their characteristic style." - Edgar Syers, "The Badminton Magazine Of Sports And Pastimes", January 1899
Left: Henning Grenander and The Duchess Of Bedford. Right: Henning Grenander and Ragnhild Nissen.
internationally, Henning's considerable talent led to an invitation to train at Prince's Skating Club in Montpelier Square, London as a protege of The Duchess Of Bedford, who was an early advocate in England for skaters practicing the Continental Style. He first gained attention internationally when he appeared at the controversially judged 1893 European Championships in Berlin as a twenty year old then disappeared from the competitive arena for five years... but disappear from the ice he did not.
In 1896, Henning demonstrated the Continental Style at the National Skating Palace in London and was given an honorary lifetime membership to the National Skating Association. Two years later, he returned to the National Skating Palace and won the World title, defeating two previous World Champions and earning both admirers and detractors. Though practitioners of the English Style abhorred his style of skating, Henning's graceful free skating sparked a whole era of copycats in both England and Continental Europe. British skater Arthur Cumming literally followed him around like a puppy at Prince's and attempted to copy his every move. Henning, in turn, was one of the judges who helped Cumming win the silver medal in the special figures event at the 1908 Summer Olympic Games in London.
Henning Grenander's special figures, circa 1892
Engraving of Henning Grenander skating before the Prince Of Wales in 1898
T.H. Deane of Knightsbridge, London manufactured 'The Grenander', a design of round toed iron skate popularized by the Swedish star. Henning continued to command attention on the ice well into his forties, partnering two time World Pairs Champion Phyllis (Squire) Johnson in Valsing competitions at Prince's Skating Club, passing the Gold Figure Test of the National Skating Association and teaching at Grosvenor House.
Even after the Great War, skaters were still emulating Henning's style... or being taught by coaches who did. Although often overshadowed by his Swedish successors Ulrich Salchow and Gillis Grafström, he has been largely ignored in modern accounts of figure skating history largely because he really didn't enter many competitions... which is unfortunately often the measure of one's true impact on the sport.
Surviving two World Wars, Henning passed away on March 11, 1958 at the age of eighty four. At the time of his death, he was retired and living at the Ashley Court Hotel in Torquay, England. How incredible it must have been for him to see free skating develop as it did and how unfortunate it is today that his influence hasn't been the credit it duly deserves.
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