Photo courtesy Cynthia Miller
Lester B. Pearson was Canada's Prime Minister, the cost of a dozen eggs was thirty eight cents and Aretha Franklin was busy rehearsing her soon to be number one hit "Respect". From January 25 to 29 of that year - 1967 - Canada's best figure skaters gathered in Toronto, Ontario to compete for laurels at the Canadian Figure Skating Championships.
A gaggle of great champions at the Varsity Arena. Photo courtesy Valerie (Jones) Bartlett.
The event, which was sponsored by the University, Leaside and Lakeshore Clubs, had been scheduled to be held at the Maple Leaf Gardens, but due to a scheduling conflict was moved to the Varsity Arena and Lakeshore Lions Memorial Arena at the last minute. Judges sat on chairs on the ice throughout the competition and skaters from the B.C. Section cleaned house when it came to medals. Let's take an in-depth look at how things played out!
Photo courtesy Cynthia Miller
THE NOVICE AND JUNIOR EVENTS
Multiple panel judging was used for the novice and junior singles events. Four foot eight Patrick McKilligan, the younger brother of senior pairs skaters Betty and John McKilligan, might have been the smallest of the eleven novice men's competitors, but what he lacked in size, he made up for in strength. Capitalizing on the mistakes of the two young men placed above him in figures, he moved up to claim the gold medal with a free program that featured Axels in both directions, a double flip and Lutz.
Sandra and Val Bezic (left) and Louise (Lind) and Barry Soper (right). Photo courtesy "Skating magazine.
Louise (Lind) and Barry Soper, students at the University Of British Columbia who had only been skating together for three months, were unanimously first in novice dance. Also unanimously first were novice pairs champions Sandra and Val Bezic. At ten and fourteen, Sandra and Val dreamed representing Canada at the World Championships in both singles and pairs like another famous Canadian sibling team, Constance and Bud Wilson. Despite a fall in her free skate, Mary McCaffrey took the gold in the novice women's event, ahead of Cynthia Miller and Diane Hall. Another McCaffrey - Jill of the Burnaby Skating Club - was the winner of the free skate, but was only able to move up to fifth after placing an unlucky thirteenth in figures.
Mary Jane Oke and Victor Irving (left) and Donna Taylor and Bruce Lennie (right). Photo courtesy "Skating magazine.
With first place ordinals with five of the seven judges, Mary Jane Oke and Victor Irving topped Mary Petrie and Bob McAvoy in junior pairs. The junior dance title went to Donna Taylor and Bruce Lennie. Bob Emerson moved up from second after figures to claim the junior men's title, besting early leader David Coffin - who landed two double Axels - four judges to one. Only three ordinals separated the top four skaters in the junior women's event. With a dazzling free skate that included a double flip and Lutz, Heather Fraser of the Victoria Figure Skating Club managed to close the gap on Diana Williams' thirty point lead over her in figures to clinch the title.
THE PAIRS COMPETITION
In a practice prior to the compulsory pairs program, siblings Betty and John McKilligan got their skates tangled following a lift, with Betty pulling a tendon in her right toe. Though she was walking with a limp and grimacing in pain, the talented pair managed to soldier through both of their programs in Toronto. Though Betty struggled on some of the side-by-side jumping passes, the talented twosome was still ranked first by six of the seven judges. Another sibling team, Alexis and Chris Shields, were disappointed to be placed second after being in the runner-up position to the retired Susan and Paul Huehnergard the previous two years. They took solace in the fact that no less a skating authority than Donald B. Cruikshank had them ranked first. Anna Forder and Richard Stephens rounded out the three pair field, impressing the audience with a reverse overhead lift and showing great improvement.
Valerie (Jones) Merrick recalled an important historical footnote that related to the pairs event: "Mr. [Sheldon] Galbraith brought his video replay equipment to these Championships. This was the first time there was instant replay equipment. This was perhaps an indication of what future judging would include with the current judging system... Up until the summer of 1966, Mr. Galbraith used 8mm and 16mm films that took time to be developed before we could analyse and study our work. Mr. Galbraith was so happy when we were able to analyse an element instantly. His first video equipment was an Ampex 3/4 inch reel to reel recorded. The recording unit was very heavy and had to be carried by two people, usually two of Mr. Galbraith's pair skaters. This equipment travelled with us to our practices at Canadians and North Americans in 1967. During the figure event in Canadians I had the opportunity to watch my skate as soon as the marks were given. This was truly the beginning of a very electronic based IJS that we watch today. There was a controversy regarding a circular step in the senior pairs event. After the marks were awarded, he was asked to replay that portion to the referee of the event to clarify if the circular step performed was indeed a complete 360 degree circle. It did not affect the scores."
THE ICE DANCE COMPETITION
Joni Graham and Don Phillips. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine.
After the compulsory dances, the four teams who competed were separated by only nine points. In the absence of the previous year's champions Carole Forrest and Kevin Lethbridge, the leaders were 1966 junior champions Joni Graham and Don Phillips, who represented the Kerrisdale Figure Skating Club in British Columbia. With a showy free dance, Graham and Phillips managed to defeat the previous year's bronze medallists, Judy Henderson and John Bailey of the Weston Skating Club, five judges to two. Wayne Palmer, who'd finished second the year prior with Gail Snyder, took the bronze with his new partner Maureen Peever in another five-two split with fourth place finishers Dale Newmarch and Bryce Swetnam of the Capilano Winter Club.
THE MEN'S COMPETITION
Donald Knight. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine.
1967 marked the fourth year in a row that Donald Knight, Dr. Charles Snelling and Jay Humphry stood on the podium together at the Canadian Championships. Though the faces were the same, the skating the fourth time around was a little bit different. Previously, Knight (who'd won the previous two years) had been regarded as somewhat of a figure specialist who relied heavily on his early leads to coast to victory... a male Trixi Schuba if you will. Things were much the same in that regard at this particular event. Knight won the school figures, some eighty five points ahead of Humphry and one hundred and thirty three ahead of Snelling. However, his free skate in Toronto showed a remarkable improvement over the ones he'd given the three previous years. He wisely chose to leave the triple Salchow out of his program and landed two double Axels and two double Lutzes in his clean and confident performance. He earned a huge ovation from the six thousand spectators and unanimous first place marks from the seven judges. Not only did Knight win his third consecutive Canadian title, but he won the free skate for the first time. Humphry missed a triple toe-loop early in his free skate but managed to retain second position ahead of Snelling, who received his lone second place vote from judge William Lewis, one of his earliest rivals. David McGillvray, who finished fourth due to his placement in figures, landed a triple toe-loop in his free skate. Toller Cranston, Steve Hutchinson and Joey Summerfield rounded out the seven man field.
THE WOMEN'S COMPETITION
Valerie Jones and Donald Knight receiving the Minto and Devonshire Cups from Bert Penfold. Photo courtesy Cynthia Miller.
"There are so many things I still have to learn," Petra Burka told reporter Margaret Phillips. She was referring to her evolution as a skater since turning professional and leaving the Canadian women's crown up for grabs. Burka's logical successor was Valerie Jones, who had been her runner-up at the Championships the two previous years in Calgary and Peterborough. Though Jones surprised no one when she took a strong lead in the figures, she faced considerable competition in the free skate from fourteen year old Karen Magnussen, who had almost beaten Burka in the free skate the year prior in Peterborough when she made her senior debut.
Women's medallists. Photo courtesy Valerie (Jones) Bartlett.
Jones landed two double Lutzes and flips but omitted her double Axel in the free skate. She recalled, "I skated a free program that included a vocal at the end, which was the first time a vocal was used for a competitive program. There was no rule other than the time requirements for programs at that time. I think everyone was very surprised. I didn't really hear any great concern at Canadians... I think Mr. Galbraith was held in high regard here. There were more questions about the vocal in Montreal [at the North American Championships] with the Americans. I remember Tina Noyes saying to me at the first practice 'you aren’t really skating to a vocal are you?'. There was a quite a bit more discussion when we got to Europe. The only rule was that Ladies had to skate to four minutes of music plus or minus ten seconds. There was no specification as to what form of music. The normal program selection for skaters at that time was classical music that began with fast music, then a slower tempo/lyrical piece and then a quicker tempo for the last piece. Mr. Galbraith decided to be a bit radical with me and chose a very slow opening that began to build in tempo in the middle and then end with the vocal. His strategy was perhaps not the best! I didn't help by making mistakes during my skate in Vienna. The ISU made a clear statement when they created the rule forbidding vocals in competition after Vienna. I must add that I was quite protected during the events from hearing any negative remarks about my music. I guess my little bit of history was that I was responsible for a rule that lasted almost fifty years and it was the last free skate in a World competition outdoors. I drew last to skate and the ladies were the last event."
Karen Magnussen again electrified the crowd in Toronto, landing three double Axels before skipping a fourth when she came too close to the boards and earning four 5.9's for her effort. She won the free skate, but when the marks from figures were factored in, Jones was the unanimous winner. The bronze medal went to Roberta Laurent of the Cricket Club, who faltered on both a double Axel and double Lutz. She was beaten in the free skate by Linda Carbonetto, who skated a performance that rivalled Magnussen's and featured the competition's only triple jump - a Salchow.
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