Thursday, 31 August 2017

#Unearthed: An Account Of Napoléon III's Skating Parties


When you dig through skating history, you never know what you will unearth. In the spirit of cataloguing fascinating tales from skating history, #Unearthed is a once a month 'special occasion' on Skate Guard where fascinating writings by others that are of interest to skating history buffs are excavated, dusted off and shared for your reading pleasure. From forgotten fiction to long lost interviews to tales that have never been shared publicly, each #Unearthed is a fascinating journey through time.

As you might recall from the blog on Jean Garcin, the Gilets Rouge and the Cercles des Patineurs, Napoléon III hosted extravagant, private skating parties on a secluded portion of the Bois de Boulogne called "la pelouse de Madrid" for the Cercles des Patineurs in the nineteenth century which were tremendously popular in Parisian society at the time. To gain a sense of what these exclusive affairs were really like, in this month's #Unearthed we will step back into Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte and his wife Eugénie de Montijo's time and explore an account from a British newspaper correspondent reporting for the "South Australian Register" on Friday, March 29, 1861!

Napoléon III and the Empress Eugenie Skating in the Bois de Boulogne, Culverhouse, Johann Mongels (1820-91) / FORBES Magazine Collection, New York, USA / Bridgeman Images. Used for educational purposes.
AN ACCOUNT OF NAPOLÉON III'S SKATING PARTIES (UNNAMED BRITISH NEWSPAPER CORRESPONDENT)

Last night I had the luck to be present at a grand Court skating match by torchlight. In Paris the streets were muddy; it was supposed a decided thaw had set in, the ice on the lake in the Bois de Boulogne was pronounced unsafe - it was, as I ascertained myself, watery on the surface, and not a soul was to be seen upon it. But beyond the Longechamps racecourse, and on the banks of the Seine near M. de Rothschild's splendid villa, and just opposite Suresne, there is a meadow studded with pretty clumps of high trees which was overflowed during the late floods, and which, although the thermometer had risen to a shade above zero, still presented a smooth coating of solid ice, there being scarcely any water underneath. At this spot the Emperor, with as much secrecy as possible, had made a rendezvous for 10 o'clock at night. The great Golidot, undertaker of public rejoicings, hung the branches of the trees with hundreds of Chinese [lanterns], and serving-men, as numerous as those peasants who erst walked all night long up and down the ponds about the royal palaces to prevent the frogs waking the Kings of France, promenaded the frozen meadow with lanterns fixed on their heads. Besides this constant illumination, there was an intermittent succession of Bengal fire and fizzing torches, which lighted up the scene al giorno. A body of men in white blouses - a special ice police - formed a cordon round the field of operations, and kept off those who were uninvited; but the crowd of spectators, though considerable, consisted mainly of the inhabitants of St. Cloud, Suresne, and the neighbouring villages. The population of Paris knew nothing of the fête, and up to this hour neither the 'Moniteur' nor any other journal has said a word about it. As soon as the Emperor and the Court arrived the sport commenced in very business-like style. The Empress got into a sledge, and M. Hartogs, a German gentleman, whose proficiency as a skater attracted the imperial notice two years ago, and who is now called at Court the Emperor's Aide-de-Camp de glace, had the honour of pushing Her Majesty on the ice. He took her along at railroad speed, and was out of sight of shore in less than a minute. The Emperor then put on his skates, and conducted the sledge of a lady whose name I could not learn. The Countess de Morny, enveloped in velvet and white furs, essayed her prowess, but was supported by two gentlemen, who gave her a hand on each side. The Princess Poniatowski went along very well by herself. In a short space of time the ice was thickly studded with a host of chamberlains, generals, aides-de-camp and even judges, who had come with the Court party to join in the fashionable amusement of the hour. The notion of coming to skate in a thaw was highly approved, for the night was by no means cold. The Emperor and Empress remained on the ice till half-past 11. This afternoon, the frost in the meantime having returned with considerable intensity, the sport was resumed by the imperial party at the same spot. M. Hartogs gave the Empress a promenade in a beautiful sledge, which was sent for by telegraph from Germany, and only arrived this morning. Afterwards Her Majesty ventured to skate, but only with the assistance of two gentlemen. She is not at her ease upon the ice, and considering that she comes from sunny Spain, this is not to be wondered at. The Emperor is a very good skater. He does not attempt any tours de force, but he is perfectly master of his movements. His wont is to go along rather slowly, and he stops frequently to contemplate the animated scene around him. Not the least etiquette is observed on the ice. No clear space is kept about the Emperor or Empress. They go about just like anybody else, and today, unlike last evening, everybody without exception was allowed to skate at the same time with them. The Emperor had nothing whatever but his own adroitness to prevent him from being knocked over by the first tyro in the sport whose skates might run away with him. It was an interesting sight to see the master of so many legions, the mighty potentate upon whose mysterious breath the fate of so many nations hangs, slipping about unpretentiously on the ice, no squire, or even servant following him, and apparently as much on an equality with the people about him as a carter is with a ploughman on an English farmyard pond. Once a young man, who saw the Emperor skating slowly along the middle of the lake, steered almost indiscreetly close to him and gave him the go-by, with the evident intention of getting credit with spectators for being the best skater. The Emperor then, without any apparent effort, increased his speed, gracefully distanced his opponent by a few yards, and contented with his victory, resumed the steady pace which, as I said before, he seems to affect."


This writer's account seems to ease the notion of the Emperor being beyond reproach on the ice. Although these affairs were indeed exclusive, he was not surrounded by servants and bodyguards; he was out there taking in the pleasures of skating like everyone else. The history books so often fail to capture the simple humanity of political leaders and this tale of the last French Emperor gliding along the ice in competition with an unnamed young man less than ten years before he was captured at the Battle of Sedan reminds us all that the ice has a way of levelling the playing field.

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

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Bygone In Budapest: Four Forgotten Hungarian Skating Stars

Figure skaters in Budapest, circa 1896

From the many champions who graced Budapest's historic Városligeti Műjégpálya to the legendary Zsófia Méray-Horváth, figure skating history has been peppered with stories of Hungarian figure skaters who have made important contributions to the sport's rich history. Today on the blog we will take a look at the stories of four forgotten Hungarian skating stars from days past!

NADINE SZILASSY



Born in 1918, Budapest's Nadine Szilassy reigned as the queen of Hungarian figure skating during the mid to late thirties. She won her country's national title three times from 1935 and 1938 but ultimately missed out on a chance to represent Hungary at the 1936 Winter Olympics to her rival Éva Botond, the skater who finished one spot ahead of Belita Jepson-Turner in Garmisch-Partenkichen. Though by accounts a fine free skater, she was a specialist in school figures. 

Nadine Szilassy and Ferenc Kertész. Photo courtesy National Archives of Poland

In 1939, she turned her attention to pairs skating and teamed up with Ferenc Kertész to place seventh at that year's World Championships in her hometown. After winning a fourth national title in 1940, she ended her competitive figure skating career during World War II. 

GYÖRGI KORDA AND PÁL VÁSÁRHELYI



For seven years from 1959 to 1965, Györgi Korda and Pál Vásárhelyi reigned supreme as Hungary's ice dance champions. Although they never medalled at an international competition, their insistence on pushing the envelope didn't go unnoticed by audiences around the world at a time when no team dared upset the apple cart. One of the earlier teams to attempt a 'four-piece' free dance, their 1964 effort included a mixture of ballet, modern jazz, ballroom dance and comedy. John Noel called their skating "a little too unconventional" and Lynn Copley-Graves noted that "much of it was deliberately angular and looked ugly." They attempted to introduce a national folk dance to the fold in 1963 and were known for their showmanship but a lack of elite level coaching in Hungary coupled with the fact they only made it to England to touch up their compulsories once a year kept them from making the leap to the medal podium. However, their one year leap from twelfth to fourth at the European Championships from 1962 to 1963 was unprecedented at the time and a testament to their determination to succeed in an era when British teams dominated the international ice dancing scene. They retired in 1965 after receiving marks that ranged from fifth through twelfth at the World Championships in Colorado Springs.

DR. ELEMÉR TERTÁK



Born November 2, 1918 in Budapest, Hungary, Elemér Terták was the son of Ádám and Löwi Regina Terták. His father was a notable economist. Although his mother was Jewish, Elemér attended a Roman Catholic school. He started skating at the age of eight at the Városligeti Műjégpálya and made his debut on the international stage in 1934, winning the bronze medal at the European Championships in Seefeld, Austria behind Karl Schäfer and Dénes Pataky. Though a three time Hungarian Champion, he skated in the shadow of Pataky for much of his earlier skating career. Despite this, he earned two top ten finishes at the World Championships in 1934 and 1935 and at the age of seventeen, placed eighth at the 1936 Winter Olympic Games in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany. The following year he placed third at the European and World Championships behind Felix Kaspar and Henry Graham Sharp but in the two years that followed, he fell out of medal contention and stopped skating competitively.


In 1940, Elemér earned a doctorate degree in law at University Of Budapest. In the years that followed, he served as Vice President of the Hungarian Skating Association and played an important role in the rebuilding of skating programs in his country after World War II. From the forties through the eighties, he served on the ISU Council and various ISU committees and acted as an international judge and referee. He was assistant referee in the men's event at the 1980 Winter Olympics and the referee of the pairs event at the 1984 Games in Sarajevo.

As a judge, he often went against the grain. At the 1948 World Championships in Davos, he placed Eva Pawlik ahead of winner Barbara Ann Scott. His scoring of Frances Dafoe and Norris Bowden in 1955 in Vienna almost cost them their second World title. At the 1963 World Championships in Cortina d'Ampezzo, he placed controversial Hungarian ice dance team György Korda and Pál Vásárhelyi fifth. Four other judges didn't even have them in the top ten. In the eighties and nineties, he penned five books about figure skating including "Műkorcsolyázás és jégtánc". He also worked closely with Benjamin T. Wright in the development of "Skating Around The World", the ISU bible of figure skating history. He was given an honorary membership to the ISU in 1988 and passed away July 8, 1999 in Budapest at the age of eighty, having dedicated nearly his entire life to the development of figure skating.

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.

Saturday, 26 August 2017

The Magnificent Miss Hogg

Warren Maxwell, Gladys Hogg and Janet Thompson in 1978. Photo courtesy Warren Maxwell.

"Listen to them, but we'll do it anyway." - Gladys Hogg to Bernard Ford on judges

"I don't know everything and I'm not always right... but I think this is right." - Gladys Hogg to Warren Maxwell on ice dancing

"It is no exaggeration to assert that Gladys Hogg lives for the rink and on it. She has made the rink her habitat. It would be incorrect to describe it as an obsession. It is more than that; it is an all-absorbing enthusiasm for what constitutes her career; she is forever striving to attain still greater efficiency." - Erik van der Weyden


Born January 14, 1910 in Brentford, a historic town in the London Borough of Hounslow, Gladys Margaret Hogg started roller skating at the age of twelve. Incredibly, in three short years she had reached such a degree of proficiency that she won the British Roller Dance Championships with partner John Blaver. After defending that title in both 1926 and 1927, she took to the ice. Under the tutelage of legendary Swiss coach Jacques Gerschwiler, she was taught in the Modern English School. Fusing this very scientific style of skating technique with original concepts from ballroom dance, she turned professional in 1930 and began coaching at Queens Ice Rink in Bayswater on the first day the rink opened. Eight years later, she presented two new dances - a Rhumba and a Swingstep - at a competition at the Westminster Ice Rink. During this period, she also became a champion at another sport... fencing.

Miss Hogg, as her students called her with the utmost reverence, coached with a philosophy founded on bringing out the best in each skater and respecting their differences. In his 1968 book "Winter Sports", Howard Bass noted,"Gladys Hogg once told me no two skaters really tackle a jump in exactly the same way, and as long as the basic edges are correct they should be encouraged and helped to find the method which suits them best, and should not try to copy somebody else. To be one's self and not exactly like anyone else is the first step towards attaining that indefinable asset so invaluable in any kind of public appearance - contemporarily known as 'a gimmick.'" She was a stickler for technique and in turn, her students all stood out as having impeccable timing and a strong foundation of correct skating skills. Nigel Brown wrote in his 1959 book "Ice-Skating: A History" that Hogg "became the first woman teacher in the world to equal the highest pedagogic qualities of the male." She also made history in 1944 by becoming the first person - male or female - to pass the National Skating Association's Bronze, Silver and Gold teacher's certificates in one day.


Early in her coaching career, Miss Hogg continued to roller skate and also taught fencing until demand for her services became so great she closed her fencing studio. In the late thirties, with Jacques Gerschwiler, Howard Nicholson and Erik van der Weyden she founded the Ice Teachers Guild, a predecessor to the Imperial Professional Skating Association and British Ice Teachers Association, which offered voluntary tests to coaches to ensure competence in both figures and free skating. She even went through the process herself and earned first-class awards in singles, pairs skating, ice dance, instructor and roller dance. Remaining active as a skater, she claimed the 1947 Open Professional Championships in both pairs and ice dance with Ronald Baker and the 1950 Open Professional Championships in ice dance with Bernard Spencer. She even appeared on BBC programs "Sportstime" and "That's The Style" in the early sixties, introducing the British general public to the basics of ice dancing.

The list of skaters - and future coaches - who at one point or another studied under Miss Hogg is truly astounding! Courtney Jones and partners June Markham and Doreen Denny, John Curry, Robin Cousins, Diane Towler and Bernard Ford, Jennifer and John Nicks, Jean Westwood and Lawrence Demmy, Peter and Elizabeth Cain, Peter Burrows, Carol Lane, Robin Jones, Janet Sawbridge and partners Jon Lane and David Hickinbottom, Joan (Dewhirst) and John Slater, Janet Thompson and Warren Maxwell, Diana Clifton-Peach, Karen Barber and Nicky Slater, Wendy Sessions and Stephen Williams and countless others benefited for her depth of knowledge.

Miss Hogg also touched the lives of many young people who eventually chose paths other than skating. Dickie Arbiter, a Buckingham Palace Press Secretary, wrote in his memoir "On Duty With The Queen" of Miss Hogg's consternation with him when he wore white skates in her classes as a young boy: "'Ah Dickie,' she said, as I appeared on the ice, my beet-red face contrasting with the snowy leather on your feet. 'Are these your boots?' Stifling her guffaws, she added, 'I see. Well, well, how... erm... nice.' I did what one would at that age, and burst into tears. As if that wasn't bad enough, the crying set off a second reaction - I wet myself, creating a yellow puddle on the ice beneath me... Before long, my feet outgrew the hated white boots, and though I had no idea where the money came from, my mother gave me five £5 notes with which I was finally able to buy a pair of black skates."

Miss Hogg was almost single-handedly responsible for the seemingly endless stable of winning British ice dance teams in the fifties and sixties. Her teams swept the podium at both the British and World Championships in 1966. Two years later, they made a clean sweep of the British, European and World podiums. Sadly, she seldom saw her student's winning performances at overseas events because she refused to board an airplane. She told her students she "wasn't afraid to fly, I just don't like it." If an event were held across the Atlantic, her students would get an American or Canadian coach to take care of them, but if events were in Europe, she'd travel by train.

Jean Westwood and Bernard Ford - both World Champions and Hogg pupils who would go on to make great impacts on the discipline of ice dance as coaches in North America after their competitive careers ended - reflected fondly on Miss Hogg's impact. Bernard recalled, "I honestly don't ever remember any lessons because she was such a great coach. She bred into you a way learning without ever making you feel like you were taking a lesson. She obviously taught a great technique too. It was just bred into you." Jean reflected, "She taught me to teach myself and do the choreography for the pair. This also taught me choreography to give my students. Nowadays, coaches also have a choreographer or trainer. That is the reason so many of her pupils became top international coaches in North America as she trained us to do it all. I even did embroidery on my students costumes... The biggest gift she gave to all of her students was to teach ourselves. A great lady. In 1965, she congratulated me on my pupils winning silver and bronze. I replied that she had trained the top five couples."

In June of 1969, Miss Hogg became Dame Gladys Hogg, MBE when she was was honoured as a  Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire. She was the first skating professional in Great Britain to ever be bestowed with the title. At a party in her honour at the Queens Ice Club, she was welcomed with a spontaneous standing ovation and top competitors and even judges joined beginners on the ice to celebrate her passion for ice dancing.

Miss Hogg remained very active as a coach through the seventies but was initially dubious of some of the changes in direction the sport was taking. In particular, she was concerned that the judging of the OSP might be influenced by rhythm preferences and that ice dance teams would end up duplicating themes from the OSP in their free dances. It was during this period that she began coaching Janet Thompson and Warren Maxwell, who would go on to win two British titles and a silver medal at the 1977 World Championships. Warren recalled, "She was an interesting person but she didn't like very many people and she would never let people get close to her. She took me under her wing. All the other kids were rich and happy and I was this poor kid with a big problem. My mother stole a bunch of money from a very powerful judge. There was a big push by this judge to get me kicked out of the sport. I was only fourteen at the time and obviously I had nothing to do with it. Gladys came to my rescue just like an attack dog. She just cleaned everyone's chops and got it set right. I was depressed for weeks but she took care of me, she brought me back, she helped me, she mentored me. She knew I was a sort of ship without a rudder. I didn't know what the hell was going on and I wasn't well brought up. She taught me how to be a good person, how to behave, how to be a much better person. I saw a part of Gladys that not many people did because she always had this hard exterior. You know, tough as nails like you couldn't get close to her... Diane [Towler] told me a couple of years ago, 'You were the only one that Gladys ever liked.' I loved her so much."

When Warren and Janet had their first lesson with Miss Hogg at Queens, Warren became quickly aware of a trait he shared with his beloved teacher... a bit of a potty mouth. "We had come from the Callaway's, and Betty Callaway was very on the ball... very well-mannered, never got upset, never raised her voice. We were doing the Kilian and Gladys used to get the more senior skaters to skate the dances with the junior couples. She got Peter [Dalby] to do the Kilian with Janet, my partner. They did the Choctaw, and two steps later, they wiped out because Queens was such a weird shape and the Kilian was such a round dance. So I'm standing beside Gladys when these two wipe out and she says, 'Fuck! What a stupid bastard he is!' And I was like 'Whoa!' especially after Betty Callaway.'" On another practice session at Queens, Warren was at one end of the rink arguing with his partner. "Gladys was right down at the other end of the rink," he laughed. "It was a public session, so there were a lot of people on the ice. She screamed out at the top of her lungs down the ice, 'Warren! Watch your fucking language!' I used to swear a lot. I would swear at my partner very loudly because she was not as focused as I was. One time we were at the National Championships in Nottingham and one of the judges, Lenore Jennings, and Gladys were sitting talking in this lounge. Lenore called me over. She says, 'Warren, Warren, come over here'. So I go, and she kicked me in the shin. I didn't say anything, and she did it again. Then she says, 'Gladys told me you say 'fuck' all the time, so I wanted to hear you say it!' One time, Miss Hogg and Warren got into an argument and she refused to teach him for a couple of days. He said to her, "I don't want to keep up all this fencing all the time!" and she replied, "Fencing? You fence with me and it'll be the last fucking thing you ever do!" I was talking about verbally fighting, and as usual, she was right. She was always right."

From the beginning to end of her career, Miss Hogg was a creature of habit. She'd arrive at Queens from her flat in Chiswick by half past five in the morning and would work until twelve. "That was her life. She didn't go to parties. Ice dancing was really the number one thing in her life. She was totally dedicated to it. She didn't have an outside life at all," recalled Warren. A life that is, except for her cars. "I've got to go wash George!" she would announce to her confused students. George was her car.

Miss Hogg retired from coaching in 1984 after an incredible fifty-four year career as a professional after watching Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean claim Great Britain's first Olympic gold medal in ice dance. She passed away in London at the age of seventy five just one year later.

Posthumously, Miss Hogg was finally inducted into the World Figure Skating Hall Of Fame in 1999.
Benjamin T. Wright, former chairman of ISU Technical Committee and ISU and USFSA historian remembered, "She was the dominant dance coach... She was THE coach." In her 1992 book "Figure Skating History: The Evolution Of Dance On Ice", Lynn Copley-Graves noted, "She used her technical and competitive experience on rollers to groom her pupils in a new way, exposing them to media attention and exhibitions and smaller competitions... After making her pupils powerful skaters with deep edges and excellent, close technique, she added an intangible 'plus' quality to draw in the judges and spectators, right down to the costuming. She learned from Courtney Jones how to dress skaters and colour their hair to match the theme and music. The 'packaging' concept worked. If skaters looked good, judges treated them as if they were good. She blended clarity of explanation, patience, understanding, and firm discipline in her teaching. Her pupils did not waste time."

Warren Maxwell felt it was important to stress that the way in which Miss Hogg is often portrayed historically as a tough taskmaster who didn't progress with the times is in no way accurate. He recalled, "She had such a hard exterior, but she had a soft heart. I would describe her as the fountainhead of ice dancing. She made ice dancing was it is, and everyone else is just an extension of that... and I'd say that even if she wasn't my coach. Most people saw her as a severe, military type coach but if you got under the skin a little bit, she was amazingly interesting. She was sort of intellectually curious. You could really talk to her about things... If you could see the way that Demmy and Westwood danced, the way that Courtney Jones danced, the way Towler and Ford danced, saw the way that we danced and then saw the way Torvill and Dean danced - who were taught by Betty Callaway who was taught by her - she had to be very progressive to coach people through all of those times. There were no choreographers in ice dancing in those days. We all did our own music and choreography and she would sort of help you and tell you what to change. We all thought we were so damn smart doing our own choreography but she was the one manipulating the program to suit the judges. I remember sitting down with her at our very first European Championships in Zagreb... wondering why our marks were so low.  I didn't know about all of the politics and the bullshit and I got angry. She calmed me down and after that, Gladys and I sat and watched every single practice. Back in London, she admitted the Russian style was overcoming ours and that the Russian style - because of both politics and the fact it's more pleasing - is going to be ascending. She said, 'Our judges are never going to change. So when you choreograph, you're going to have to choreograph two different free dances... One for Great Britain and one for international judges... and she walked me through how to do that. As successful as Gladys had been, she always saw what was coming. She was always a person to put her couples in a place where we could be slightly ahead of the trends of the time, which was pretty strong for an older lady who had been doing things the same way for a very long time. It says a lot about how she thought."

Although perhaps not as well known to North American audiences, Miss Hogg remains to this day one of the most influential coaches that figure skating has ever known and the gratitude that we as supporters of the sport owe to her legacy is just immeasurable.

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

Thursday, 24 August 2017

The Deutscher Eissport-Verband And The Berlin Wall


East German authorities called it the Anti-Fascist Protective Wall. West Berlin's mayor called it the Wall Of Shame. What many may not know is that the erection of The Berlin Wall in 1961 had a significant impact on the trajectory of figure skating history.

In response to The Berlin Crisis, the fifteen member nations of NATO (Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Great Britain, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Turkey, the United States and West Germany) voted with the Warsaw Act to bar East German citizens from receiving entry visas to their countries.

East Germany's Irene Müller and Hans-Georg Dallmer. Photo courtesy German Federal Archive.

With the exception of exclusion from participating in the Richmond Trophy in England, East German skaters went virtually unaffected by the NATO decision during the 1961/1962 skating season. A full contingent of skaters were sent to neutral Switzerland for the 1962 European Championships that year. The team of Irene Müller and Hans-Georg Dallmer even cracked the top five in the pairs competition. Müller and Dallmer, Gaby Seyfert and Bodo Bockenauer represented East Germany in the 1962 World Championships in Communist Czechoslovakia. At the following year's European Championships in Budapest, Hungary, East Germany again had a full slate of entries. 1961 European Bronze Medallists Margit Senf and Peter Göbel returned to competition and finished fourth in the pairs event. However, when it came time for the 1963 World Championships in Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy, things got political.

Following Italian government policies, the Federazione Italiana Sport del Ghiaccio refused to allow the East Germans to participate. Instead of withdrawing in support of their Communist peers, the Soviet and Czechoslovakian skaters showed up... and presented the International Skating Union with an official protest. To say that there was palpable tension between ISU members at the June 1963 ISU Congress in Helsinki, Finland was really the understatement of that skating season. In her wonderful book "Figure Skating History: The Evolution Of Dance On Ice", Lynn Copley-Graves noted, "The ISU faced a decision to hold all international events behind the Iron Curtain or in neutral countries (Austria, Switzerland, Sweden, Finland or Japan), where all entrants could go... The East German, Soviet, and Swedish delegates... tabled motions requiring guarantees from host countries that host competitors and officials would be admitted to international events without discrimination as to race, religion or politics. These idealistic motions meant nothing because a national skating association could not transcend the political decisions of its federal government."

A proposal submitted by Great Britain's National Skating Association was perhaps a little more tempered, taking into consideration how a similar situation had been dealt with some ten years earlier and the impact on all sides. Then-NSA secretary E.G. Coggins, in a proposal submitted to all ISU members, wrote: "In 1953, the World Championships were awarded to Czechoslovakia (Prague). Shortly before these Championships were due to take place, the Czechoslovak Government refused entry permits to two Canadian skaters [Otto and Maria Jelinek], and, in consequence, the Council of the International Skating Union cancelled these Championships and transferred them to Switzerland (Davos). The Council of the International Skating Union allocated the World Championships of 1963 to Italy (Cortina), having received an assurance on behalf of the Italian National Association that entry permits would be granted to intending competitors from all countries. Shortly before these Championships were due to start, the Council of the International Skating Union was informed that the Italian Government refused entry permits to competitors from East Germany. Instead of adopting the principle of 1953 in connection with Czechoslovakia, the Council of the International Skating Union decided to allow the World Championships to take place in Italy, although intending competitors from East Germany were excluded, thereby yielding to discrimination, instead of cancelling these Championships or transferring them to another country, as was done in 1953. The reason why the Italian Government refused entry permits for East German Skaters was because Italy is one of the fifteen [NATO] States (thirteen in Europe and two in North America) which decided in 1961 to place restrictions upon East German nationals desirous of participating in international events in connection with athletics, sports, games and pastimes, consequent upon the erection of the wall between East and West Berlin. The National Skating Association of Great Britain considers that it is regrettable that the Council of the International Skating Union yielded to discrimination in connection with World Championships in Figure Skating and Ice Dancing in 1963, and urges that the Council will not yield to discrimination in connection with any future International Championship. The National Skating Association of Great Britain urges, further, that each member country of the International Skating Union whose National Government is a member of the North Atlantic Organization should strive to persuade its Government to assist in the removal of the restrictions placed upon the East Germans which has had the effect of depriving the western sporting circles from holding World and European Championships in various sports, including Skating."

On one side, members of those fifteen NATO member nations would have been excluded from hosting international figure skating competitions until NATO lifted its ban on East German entry visas. At the time, three of the four World Championship titles were held by skaters who represented NATO nations (West Germany, Canada and The Netherlands) and skaters from France and Great Britain had also both had skaters medal in Cortina d'Ampezzo. Many of these NATO nations were highly influential ISU members. On the other side, East German skaters would be essentially barred from competing in the European or World Championships if they were held in a NATO nation. The ISU needed a two thirds majority to guarantee admission of skaters of all nations. In a vote of twenty four to twenty three, those against ensuring the East Germans would be guaranteed admission won out. To add insult to injury, the 1964 European Championships were awarded to France, the 1964 World Championships to West Germany and the 1965 World Championships to the United States.

1964 Olympic Gold Medallist Manfred Schnelldorfer of West Germany

With the possibility of sending skaters to compete at the European or World Championships during the 1963/1964 season having essentially flown out the window, the Deutscher Eissport-Verband was placed in the totally awkward position of having to work with the Deutscher Eislauf-Verband to form a joint Olympic team for the 1964 Winter Olympics in Innsbruck. This business of 'putting aside differences' and joining forces to form a Gesamtdeutsche Mannschaft (Unified Team of Germany) to compete in the Winter Olympics was nothing new. Both countries had managed just fine prior to the wall's erection in 1956 and 1960. So charged was the political atmosphere following the 1963 ISU Congress that talks became heated less than a month after the Helsinki meeting when the East Germans refused to accept West Berlin as the venue for an Olympic qualifying competition. In the end, both sides put on their big girl Lederhosen and sucked it up. Under the Unified Team Of Germany banner, West German skaters Manfred Schnelldorfer, Marika Kilius and Hans-Jürgen Bäumler medalled in Innsbruck. None of the East German skaters on the team managed to make the top ten. Things again fell apart at the World Championships in Dortmund, when the West German organizers insisted on announcing the East German skaters by their federation and not country name. The entire East German team withdrew from the competition in protest.

The following season, the European Championships were held in the Communist Soviet Union. East Germany was finally represented in all four disciplines. By this time, NATO sanctions on entry visas were relaxed sufficiently to allow skaters from East Germany to compete at the World Championships at the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs. Gaby Seyfert of Chemnitz, coached by her mother Jutta Müller, finished fifth in the women's competition. Problem solved, right?

1970 World Champion Gaby Seyfert of East Germany

Wrong. At the 1969 ISU Congress, East Germany got itself briefly suspended for circulating a letter accusing the ISU of discrimination and being politically influenced by West Germany. As in 1964, they wanted to use the name 'Deustche Demokratische Republic' - or German Democratic Republic - which ISU officials thought would be too easily confused with that of the Federal Republic Of Germany. The suspension was lifted in November of 1969 after the East German federation withdrew their protest and apologized for its accusations. The following year, East German skaters claimed medals in the men's, womens and pairs events at both the European Championships in Leningrad and the World Championships in Ljubljana.

In the years to come, Katarina Witt, Anett Pötzsch, Jan Hoffmann, Christine Stüber-Errath, Manuela Groß and Uwe Kagelmann, Romy Kermer and Rolf Österreich and Manuela Mager and Uwe Bewersdorf would all claim Olympic medals... but that didn't mean the East German federation had learned its lesson. At the 1987 World Championships in Cincinnati, they threatened to pull Katarina Witt's entry when the event program was released listing East Germany instead of the German Democratic Republic under her name. Organizers spent hours affixing German Democratic Republic stickers over the words East Germany in each of the programs that were printed. Then, in 1989, the Berlin Wall came crashing down and the East German skating dynasty's golden days were over.

The moral of the story from this whole sixties skating scandal? Building a wall between two countries only generates a hell of a lot of conflict and drama... and it absolutely can spill into the skating world more than you would think.

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.

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Tokei - Adieu L'Hiver


Initially released for Fuji Television Network in Japan on October 10, 1986, the film "Tokei – Adieu l'hiver" marked the directorial debut of Japanese screenwriter Satoshi Kuramoto. Kuramoto had written a 1981 film called "Eki" directed by Yasuo Furuhata that starred an accomplished singer and actress from Ikeda in Japan's Osaka Prefecture named Ayumi Ishida. Ishida's mother Haruko was twice a medallist at the Japanese Figure Skating Championships and a competitor at both the 1968 Winter Olympics in Grenoble, France and the 1968 World Championships in Geneva, Switzerland. After retiring from competitive skating, she went on to a successful career as a coach.

Kuramoto cast Ishida as the lead in "Tokei - Adieu l'hiver" and drew on her her own family history when crafting the screenplay. Elements of the plot loosely mirrored the real life story of Ayumi's mother Haruko training for the 1968 Winter Olympic Games in Grenoble under the legendary Etsuko Inada. In the film, Ishida plays a figure skating coach named Reiko Hayami coaching her young daughter Yuko, played by Tomoko Nakajima. Scenes were filmed over a period of several years to reflect Nakajima's real life growth.


In the film, Reiko met her daughter's father when he was playing hockey and she was competing in figure skating in the 1968 Winter Olympics. Jiro, the father, goes east to coach hockey and young Yuko wears a locket with a picture of her father. A young film director named Kitani magically shows up at the rink where mother and daughter are practicing and announces that he wants to take a film of a child transforming into a woman on the ice. Sparks fly between Reiko and Kitani while little Yuko trains five years for a chance to compete in one 'Frozen Cup' skating competition. However, while the romance blossoms, young Yuko's skating doesn't improve drastically. In the end, there's another woman in the picture and Reiko's relationship with Kitani goes sour. At the Frozen Cup, Yuko falls twice and then crashes into the bleachers. She gets hauled off in a stretcher. Reiko goes to Hokkaido to work on an ice show, meets up with Jiro and the film ends with a sappy Japanese love song by Yukari Kaneko.

Although the film "Tokei – Adieu l'hiver" itself received poor ratings, Ayumi Ishida won the 1986 Best Actress Award at both the Hochi Film Awards and The Association Of Tokyo Film Journalist's Blue Ribbon Awards. Unlike the Academy Awards or Golden Globes for instance, Japanese film awards base their decision around the body of work of an actor or actress. I think it's pretty safe to imply Ishida's appearance in Kinji Fukasaku's blockbuster hit "House On Fire" that year contributed to her success. Considering that at the time this film was released, a Japanese skater had yet to win an Olympic medal or World title, the fact that a director had chosen to centre the storyline of a film around figure skating would have been quite unique. "Tokei - Adieu l'hiver" may have been no "Sun Valley Serenade" or "Suspense", but it sure is one more fascinating footnote from figure skating history.

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.

Saturday, 19 August 2017

The 1990 U.S. Figure Skating Championships


Commemorative t-shirt and button from the 1990 U.S. Figure Skating Championships

From February 6 to 11, 1990, over two hundred skaters descended upon Salt Lake City, Utah to compete in the 1990 U.S. Figure Skating Championships. The event marked the second time the city had hosted America's national competition, the first being in 1984 when Scott Hamilton, Rosalynn Sumners and Kitty and Peter Carruthers were victorious on their way to winning Olympic medals at the Winter Olympic Games in Sarajevo.

In actuality, the Utah organizers were given the opportunity to host the 1989 U.S. Championships, which were ultimately held in Baltimore, Maryland. Quoted in the February 6, 1990 issue of "The Deseret News", local chairperson of development Talitha Day explained, "They called in August of '88 and wanted us to hold the championships in February of '89. We could have done it. But it would have meant hosting it two years in a row and we decided we would rather assure ourselves of a really great event in '90".

Hosted by the Utah Figure Skating Club and the Junior League of Salt Lake City, the 1990 event marked the final time that school figures were included in the championship events. Figures were contested at the Bountiful Recreation Center (about a half an hour drive from the main venue) and free skating events at the Salt Palace. Six skaters participating (Kristi Yamaguchi, Rudy Galindo, Troy Goldstein, Natasha Kuchiki, John Frederiksen and Brad Cox) took on double duty, competing in both singles and pairs, making the drive time between two rinks extremely tight at times.

Attendance wasn't the best, to say the very least. The senior women's free skate fell well short of a sellout with less than five thousand, three hundred tickets sold and less than four thousand watched the senior men's free skate. Event co-chairperson Nita Sniteman claimed a rumour that tickets were sold out when they in fact were not contributed to the empty seats. Others cited the fact decent television coverage was available and the fact it was a non-Olympic year as reasons that people chose to stay away. Whatever the case may have been, those who did not attend missed a fascinating event full of drama and double Axels galore. Today, we'll hop in the machine and set the dial back to 1990 to explore the stories, skaters and scandals of those Salt Lake City Nationals!

THE NOVICE AND JUNIOR EVENTS

Novice pairs and ice dance competitions were not contested at the U.S. Championships until 1991. Lakewood, Ohio's Lisa Ervin was victorious in the novice women's event, defeating Joanna Ng of Woodland Hills, California and Victoria Pietrasik of Northbrook, Illinois. In the novice men's event, fifteen year old Clay Sniteman of Farmington, Utah seemed destined for a medal in front of a hometown crowd. Second heading into the free skate, his free skate was so disastrous that he dropped to fifteenth place in a field of seventeen. "Bad isn't the word for it," said the disappointed teenager in the February 9, 1990 issue of "The Deseret News". The novice men's free skate turned out to be a bit of a splatfest - twelve skaters took tumbles - but Ryan Hunka emerged victorious over John Frederiksen and Eric Bohnstedt with one of the few clean skates of the competition. Both Hunka and Ervin were coached by Carol Heiss Jenkins.

In the junior men's event, Scott Davis emerged victorious over Michael Chack, John Baldwin Jr., Steven Smith and a host of other young upstarts. Tristan Vega and Richard Alexander maintained their original program lead to win junior pairs, while Susan Purdy and Scott Chiamulera moved up to second and Aimee Offner and Brian Helgenberg dropped to third. After only skating together for ten months, Beth Buhl and Neale Smull dominated the junior ice dance event from start to finish, winning the event over Krista Schulz and Jonathan Stine, Rachel Lane and Eric Meier and Cheryl Demkowski and Jeffrey Czarnecki with an intricate free dance to Leonard Bernstein's "On The Town". Fourteen year old Alice Sue Claeys of Burnsville, Minnesota defeated sixteen year old Geremi Weiss of Silver Spring, Maryland and sixteen year old Dana MacDonald of Arlington Heights, Virginia to win the junior women's title. Claeys' victory was particularly significant in that she had placed only eleventh the year before.

THE PAIRS COMPETITION


Los Angeles' Bob Pellaton and Kellie Creel withdrew due to injury prior to the senior pairs event and were replaced by Ann-Marie and Brian Wells. Californians needn't have worried, for Kristi Yamaguchi and Rudy Galindo had zero problems defending their national title despite rumours swirling in the stands that they were breaking up. With two outstanding performances, the two future U.S. singles champions easily bested Natasha Kuchiki and Todd Sand, Sharon Carz and Doug Williams and Calla Urbanski and Mark Naylor for the top spot. Two months prior to the event, Kristi and Rudy's coach Jim Hulick had passed away at the age of thirty eight. In the December 12, 1989 issue of the "Los Angeles Times", Galindo remembered, "It always seemed like he blocked out his sickness for us. It was like he was living through us. I really do have admiration for him, to put all the medical things aside to do something for us. I'll never forget him standing there just before we would go out onto the ice and saying, 'Just go out there and have fun.'"

THE ICE DANCE COMPETITION


Susie Wynne and Joseph Druar

Fifteen teams contested the senior ice dance title in Salt Lake City. In their tenth trip to the U.S. Championships, Susie Wynne and Joseph Druar were the class of the field, expanding upon their lead in the compulsories with a fine Samba OSP and a sensational free dance to "Hit The Road, Jack" and "Singin' In The Rain" choreographed by Phillip Mills, replete with intricate tap dance sequences. Silver medallists April Sargent and Russ Witherby wisely scrapped a Rachmaninoff free dance that hadn't gone over well with the judges at that autumn's Skate America and returned to the more traditional, ballroom piece that they had used the year previously.


Skating an unconventional free dance to "Fire And Ice" and "Remembering A Heartbeat", Suzy Semanick and Ron Kravette settled for bronze ahead of Jeanne Miley and Michael Verlich, Elizabeth Punsalan and Jerod Swallow and Elizabeth McLean and Ari Lieb.

THE MEN'S COMPETITION


Christopher Bowman. Photo courtesy Los Angeles Public Library.

The name on everybody's lips in Salt Lake City was Christopher Bowman. The defending U.S. Champion and World Silver Medallist arrived in Utah with a purported back injury. As a result, he had missed five weeks of training and was five pounds overweight. Many felt that there was much more to the story. Quoted in E.M. Swift's piece "Hans Brinker From Hell" in the February 12, 1990 of "Sports Illustrated" magazine, coach Frank Carroll said, "No more arguing with him... No spooning him pabulum. If he doesn't want to train, he can take his skates off. I'm not going to hold his hand. Christopher is a wonderful person, has great personality and can charm the skin off a snake. But to get him out on a day-to-day basis, to get improvement from him, to get him to love what he's doing is sheer hell. There's no doubt he's the most talented boy in the world, but he has an awful lot to sort out." Whatever the reality of the situation might have been, Bowman opted to compete. After losing in the school figures to eighteen year old Todd Eldredge, Daniel Doran and Paul Wylie, he missed two of his three jumping passes in his original program. He placed fourth and opted to withdraw. Quoted in the February 12, 1990 issue of "The Montreal Gazette", Bowman surmised, "When I cranked the throttle full speed, it knocked me out." Backstage, rumours persisted that the USFSA told him to pull out and offered him a bye to the World Championships because he was the one that earned the spots. Allusions were made to the effect that Bowman might have been told to withdraw because he would have failed drug tests. Quoted in a June 2008 piece in "International Figure Skating" magazine, Bowman claimed, "I never competed while under the influence. I was terrified of that. I was very conscientious of the time frame I would most likely be tested. I knew exactly how long a drug would be in my system before I needed to stop for testing. I never failed a test."



Both Eldredge and twenty five year old Paul Wylie gave outstanding performances in the original program, Wylie earning two 6.0's for composition and style for his effort and winning that phase of the event. However, Eldredge held the overall lead entering the free skate. With one of his finest competitive performances, Wylie won the free skate, earning another four 6.0's for composition and style but Eldredge's second place finish in the free skate was enough to secure him his first U.S. title. Hamden, Connecticut's Mark Mitchell claimed the bronze, ahead of Erik Larson and Daniel Doran.


I spoke with Paul Wylie in September 2016 regarding the event. "80% of the competition I won," he said with a chuckle. "I was third in the figures and it was a factor system. It was the closest I ever came to winning Nationals. Because of the way the factor system was structured, Chris' points (even though he withdrew) didn't disappear. But it's all water under the bridge!" At the time, Paul was coached by Evy and Mary Scotvold. "I was training as much as I could," he explained. "There were times when I had to prioritize school when I had finals or exams come up. Generally... I didn't prioritize skating as much as I did school. If something had to give, I would skip skating, or go late in the day. In '89... the courses I had to take were just not at the right time of day essentially and so, I ended up having to skate in the afternoons which was notoriously crowded at the rink where I was skating. So, I was skating with all these little kids and also, the way I had my schedule I took Wednesdays off, so I was training maybe five days a week but with a giant day off in between and my coach was not happy about it but it was the only way I could get the full load in and move things along. What I remember about those Nationals is that it was kind of do or die for me because the year before I had taken a full load at Harvard and didn't have my best skate at Nationals. I was third and didn't make the World team so I was kind of fighting my way back on the World team again. I felt like 'man, I don't even know if I want to continue skating.' At the end of the day, it was a shame that I didn't win. I skated the last figure - I did the loop - and that was the last figure at the Nationals. Obviously, they all say 'there was senior competition afterwards for figures' but they were the last sort of real, qualifying figures." Doug Mattis, who placed fifth in the figures in 1990 and eighth overall, recalled it differently, claiming it was he and not Paul who skated that final figure. Still competing, decades later, those fabulous men are!

THE WOMEN'S COMPETITION



Twenty one year old Jill Trenary was a heavy favourite to win a third U.S. title in Salt Lake City but things almost went awry in the school figures when hometown favourite Holly Cook won the final school figure, the loop. However, Trenary took the overall win in the school figures ahead of Cook and Tonya Harding. Kristi Yamaguchi was fifth; Nancy Kerrigan sixth. In the original program, Trenary fell on a double Axel and was defeated by Yamaguchi and Harding but still luckily managed to hold on to her overall lead.

The free skate was a different story altogether. Trenary came out guns blazing and delivered what was arguably one of the best free skates of her entire career, earning six 5.9's for technical merit and eight 5.9's and one 6.0 for composition and style, winning her third and final U.S. title with first place ordinals from all nine judges. Quoted in the March 18, 1992 issue of "The Deseret News", she stated, "I've never felt better about myself. This is the best I've ever skated - by far." Though she botched multiple jumps in her free skate, Yamaguchi delivered a technically demanding free skate to hold on to the silver medal, narrowly placing ahead of Kerrigan in the free skate in a five-four split. Quoted in "The Deseret News", Yamaguchi commented, "I was a little disappointed after both falls but I had to regain my concentration and go on with the rest of my program. I think I was thinking too much and wasn't letting my body do what it's trained to do." Held back by her result in the figures, Kerrigan lost out on the bronze medal to Cook. Recalling the experience of skating in front of a hometown crowd at Nationals in the February 6, 1999 issue of "The Deseret News", Cook recalled, "I felt a lot of pressure. It was like everyone had heard of Holly Cook, but now they were going to watch her skate. I was terrified. But I felt nothing but support from the community." Jeri Campbell placed fifth, Tonia Kwiatkowski sixth and Tonya Harding imploded with a disastrous free skate that featured only one clean triple jump and plummeted to seventh. She claimed to have been deathly sick all week with what later turned out to be pneumonia. Prior to the free skate, she allegedly had a fever of one hundred and three and her doctors told her to withdraw. She elected to compete anyway. Quoted in the February 8, 1990 issue of "The Globe And Mail", Harding said, "I would have to be dying not to skate. I've worked too hard this year to let it stop right here."

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.

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Brackets And Bonds: The Adrian Swan Story


"People overseas are amazed to learn that Australia has ice skaters. They think that ice and sunny Australia don't go together." - Adrian Swan, November 26, 1952, :The Argus"

Born May 3, 1920 in Melbourne, Australia, Adrian Wildman Swan had quite the unconventional career as a competitive skater. After serving as a Corporal in the Australian Army's Air Liaison Section during World War II, he returned home and competed as a pairs skater, first with Betty Stringer and later with Gwenneth Molony, with whom he won the Australian pairs title in 1950 at age thirty. Thirty?! Can you imagine? The internet trolls today would have already have him signed up for a nursing home... but I digress. That October, Gwenneth and Adrian gave an exhibition at the opening of Australia's only open-air ice rink at the time, the Tasmanian Glaciarium, performing not only pairs and singles skating but ice dancing as well. According to the October 24, 1950 edition of "The Examiner", they skated "versions of the waltz, foxtrot and tango, as well as novelty items." Shortly thereafter, Swan gave up pairs skating and left to train as a singles skater in England.

Valda Osborn, Adrian Swan and Ann Robinson

At the 1952 Olympics in Oslo, Norway, Adrian made history as Australia's first men's competitor in figure skating at the Olympics. Only in twelfth place after the school figures, a ninth place in free skating assured him a spot in the top ten. He followed that up with a top ten finish at the 1952 World Championships in Paris. In April of that year in London, England, the Australian won both the British junior and senior men's titles, joining three other skaters from Sydney, New South Wales who competed in the event that year.



Then the controversy began. On July 16, 1952, the "Sporting Globe" in Melbourne reported, "A first-class Olympic storm is brewing over whether skater Adrian Swan signed a bond. Swan competed for Australia in the Olympic Games... at Oslo last January. At the time there were rumours that he had not signed the bond. These were officially denied by AOF secretary, Mr. Edgar Tanner. He told the chairman, Mr. H.G. Alderson, that every member of the winter sports team had definitely signed. Now Swan already has turned professional and is skating at Earl's Court, London, under contract. He will not say whether or not he signed the bond. Mr. Alderson states that action will taken against Swan if he is proved to have become a professional. In view of the trouble over Russell Mockridge's bond, Olympic officials will have to take a stand over Swan. If there has been any irregularity there are bound to be complaints from the cyclists." The drama continued for several months at a high octane, with Swan (residing in England at the time) ultimately leaving the ball in the AOF's court as E.J. Molony, the manager of Australia's skating team at the 1952 Olympics and Edgar Tanner couldn't seem to agree as to whether or not he signed a bond or not. Swan accepted a retainer while the whole mess got sorted out prior to skating in the Earl's Court show. To explain the 'bond system', the Australian Olympic Federation had a rather ineffective system at the time that required that skaters sign bonds stating that they would remain amateur athletes for two years as a sort of guarantee if they wanted to compete internationally. If Swan did indeed turn professional after competing in the Olympics, in essence the most they could do was tear it up. That's essentially what happened.

Adrian performed in several ice pantomimes at Earl's Court and Brighton in the fifties, appearing as one half of a shadow skating pair with Errol Lake. In the sixties, he moved to America and coached at the Valley Ice Skating Center in Tarzana, California. Known as a particularly tough coach, he coached in California for many years before returning to his home country. He died on February 21, 2006 in Melbourne at the age of seventy three... taking the truth about the murky details surrounding his decision to turn professional to the grave with him.

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

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

The Frosty Frolics


Debuting June 15, 1951 on Los Angeles' Channel 5 (KLTA), The Frosty Frolics was the brainchild of the television station's late manager Klaus Landsberg. Combining figure skating, live music and dance as a kind of variety hour, it became an instant hit with California audiences. Don't believe me? The Frosty Frolics actually became the fourth most watched television show in L.A. less than two months after it first aired!


An effort was made in the first year of the show's production for coast to coast syndication and in early October 1951 the show went national. However, the show's sponsor for syndication went bankrupt after only network broadcasts and The Frosty Frolics returned to being a show that only aired in California, continuing to be popular among audiences until it last aired in 1956. The only known full episodes of the show exist in the UCLA Film and Television Archive.


The skating cast included members of the Ice Follies and Ice Capades troupes as well as professional skaters based in California who wanted a much needed break from the gypsy world of touring productions. Among the skaters were Mabel Fairbanks, the husband and wife team of April and Roy Schramm (stars of The Skating Schramms Ice Show which appeared in Hollywood, Hawaii and The Pacific National Exhibition), Evy Scotvold, Joanne and Buff McCusker, and Mae Edwards. The production was choreographed by Bob Turk.



In the book "KTLA's News at Ten: Sixty Years with Stan Chambers", the late Stan Chambers, the show's host, offered a behind the scenes glimpse into this effort: "If a skater fell, he had no choice but to get up and continue his routine. If a set tipped over or a prop broke, there were no re-takes... The audience watching at home was made to believe that Frosty Frolics took place at the Alpine Hotel, somewhere in the green forests of a beautiful mountain retreat. In reality, everything came from the prop department at Paramount Studios. Fake trees and real plants, tables, chairs, red carpeting for a walkway on the ice, cloth flats that were used to make the side of the hotel, and banisters for the dining area were all hauled over to the Polar Palace in the afternoon as the stage crew created their Alpine Hotel. The flimsy cardboard 'stone' walls were sprayed with a paint gun by an artistic genius, Sherman Laudermilk. He bent, twisted, and cut the cardboard, sprayed it with fast-drying paint, and created settings that you couldn't tell weren't the real thing... The crew wore ice skates, and the props were brought in on sleds or pushed across the smooth ice surface by skating stagehands. Several members of the crew were hired for their professional hockey playing experience. Most, however, were novices who learned to skate in record time. KLTA received countless calls from viewers who wanted to know the location of the Alpine Hotel so they could make dinner reservations or spend the weekend there. It made for interesting conversation when the switchboard operator explained that the Alpine Hotel wasn't real, and was broken down and returned to Paramount Studios every night." Costumes for the show came from a warehouse of old, forgotten costumes that was part of Paramount's wardrobe department. Reduce, reuse, recycle... believe me, I remember all that from my own skating club's shows. We had circus animals and snowflakes every single year and I'm betting we weren't the only club that did either.

Stan Chambers also reflected, "Few would have been so daring at the time to rent a rink, put together such a large cast, create new stories every week, and know the entire production would come together at airtime. Klaus had confidence in what he did, and he knew that the show would come off. I feel fortunate to have been a part of that production." I would have felt fortunate just to watch it every week, to be honest. Professional skating on television today has been reduced to a handful of carefully edited hour long specials every year. I don't think you'd ever see anything like The Frosty Frolics again... but the idea of a weekly live, old-timey theatrical skating show like this making a comeback is enough to make me smile, sip my tea and dream a little. It would be something, that's for sure!

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.

Saturday, 12 August 2017

The 1937 World Figure Skating Championships

Women's competitors at the 1937 World Figure Skating Championships. Photo courtesy National Archives of Poland.

While much of the world was focused on the alarming rise of Nazism in Germany, the newly inaugurated President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the Spanish Civil War, all the figure skating world cared about was the 1937 World Figure Skating Championships. As was common at the time, the men's competition was held separately from the women and pairs events, with the former taking to the ice to compete on February 12 and 13, 1937 at the Wiener Eislaufverein in Vienna and the latter competing on March 1 and 2, 1937 at Empress Hall, Earl's Court in London, England.

THE MEN'S COMPETITION

 Elemér Terták, Felix Kaspar and Henry Graham Sharp in Vienna. Photo courtesy National Archives of Poland.

Though well-attended, the men's competition that year received less press coverage than usual in Austria. This was perhaps owing to the fact that after Karl Schäfer had turned professional. Many felt the title would go to Great Britain's Henry Graham Sharp, who had been the runner-up at the World Championships in Paris the year prior. To the surprise of many, Austria's Felix Kaspar utterly dominated the competition, placing first on every judge's scorecard in both the school figures and free skate. Sharp was second in the figures but placed behind his teammate, Freddie Tomlins, in the free skate. Outside of the top six after the figures, Tomlins was only able to move up to fifth after his
dazzling free skating performance. Eighteen year old Elemér Terták of Hungary defeated Austria's Herbert Alward four judges to one for the bronze.

THE WOMEN'S COMPETITION

Cecilia Colledge

If the men's competition in 1937 received little attention, the women's and pairs events were the polar opposite. More than seven thousand spectators crowded Earl's Court to cheer on teenagers Cecilia Colledge of London and Megan Taylor of Manchester, both considered worthy successors to fill the title vacant after Sonja Henie left for Hollywood. BBC Radio even interrupted the National Programme to give listeners at home a play-by-play of the proceedings. Colledge handily took the lead over Taylor by some nineteen points in the school figures, all but giving her the lock on the title before she even stepped foot on the ice for her free skate. Swedish skating historian Gunnar Bang recalled that Vivi-Anne Hultén, third after figures, delivered a free skate reminiscent of Gillis Grafström: musically sensitive but lacking in technical difficulty. In contrast, Hedy Stenuf packed her program full of double jumps but her music served as a mere backdrop for her acrobatic highlights. Taylor, in a silver dress trimmed with blue feathers, had the most speed and power of the top skaters but Colledge showed cool precision and seemed to find a balance between the technical and artistic side of free skating. Six judges had Colledge first in the free skate, with the Swedish judge preferring Taylor and placing Colledge and Hultén in a tie. Colledge won with 2528.9 points to Taylor's 2488.0, with Hultén, Stenuf and Emmy Puzinger trailing in positions third through fifth.


In seventh was Belita Jepson-Turner, with ordinals ranging from fifth through tenth. Former World Champion Fritz Kachler, judging for Austria, had her third in the free skate... ahead of Hultén both in the free skate and overall. Jacline Brown, reviewing the event for French newspaper "Le Figaro", raved about Belita: "She is certainly the most acrobatic skater and also the youngest in this tournament. Her positions are impeccable and her lightness, her flexibility and dance training allow her to do anything."

Lord Doneraile and Cecilia Colledge. Photo courtesy National Archives of Poland.

In winning, Cecilia Colledge became the first British woman to claim the World title since Madge Syers in 1907. The "London Daily Telegraph" raved that her free skating performance was "of an exceptionally high order" and within a week of winning, she boarded a steamship and crossed the Atlantic to give exhibitions in Toronto and Montreal.

THE PAIRS COMPETITION

Lord Doneraile presenting Maxi Herber and Ernst Baier with their championship trophy. Photo courtesy National Archives of Poland.

Though Germans Maxi Herber and Ernst Baier skated exceptionally well in London and earned 80.1 points for their effort, some felt that Austrian siblings Ilse and Erik Pausin would come dangerously close to defeating them. British reporters posited that the next time the two pairs met, the Pausin's could very well dethrone the reigning Olympic Champions. When the marks were tallied, five of the seven judges had Herber and Baier first. The Austrian judge tied the two teams and British judge Jack Ferguson Page had the Pausin's ahead of their elder rivals and Britons Violet and Leslie Cliff (who won the bronze) down in fifth.

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.