Uisutamine, Uisutamine, Uisutamine: Three Estonian Figure Skating Pioneers

Say it thrice like Beetlejuice if you must... "Uisutamine" is the Estonian word for ice skating. Today, we'll meet three fascinating Estonian figure skating pioneers, each with an off-ice story as compelling as their role in the early development of the sport in their country. Track down a bottle or three of Luscher & Matiesen wine and ponder over what life must have been life for this trio of talented athletes!


Photo courtesy Estonian Sports And Olympic Museum

Born May 30, 1894 in the historic town of Paide in Järva County, Estonia, Eduard Kõppo was a versatile athlete who excelled at weightlifting, skiing, wrestling, bandy, swimming, rowing, volleyball... and yes, figure skating.

Photo courtesy Estonian Sports And Olympic Museum

After finishing second at the first recorded Estonian Figure Skating Championships in 1917, he returned to Tallinn the following year to claim the men's title. Though he never proved his skating mettle at the Olympics, he led the weightlifting contingent at the 1936 Summer Olympics in Nazi Berlin. A tireless promoter of sports, Kõppo also fought in the Vabadussõda (Estonian War Of Independence) and in North Africa during World War II. Spending his latter years in the administration of Estonia's postal service, he passed away in Tallinn on November 6, 1966 at the age of seventy two.


Dr. Ellen Frey and Aleksander Reeder. Photo courtesy Estonian Sports and Olympic Museum.

Born January 5, 1892 in Moscow, Russia, Ellen Frey was perhaps the one of the first women in history to combine an ambitious medical career with a decade long stint as a champion figure skater. In the twenties, Frey studied at both the Moscow Faculty Of Medicine and the University Of Tartu, graduating cum laude in 1925 as a doctor from the latter. After her graduation, she practiced in a medical clinic at the University Of Tartu before working as a surgeon in a Tartu hospital and as a specialist in children's medicine in Põltsamaa.

During this exact same period, Frey won no less than no less than eight medals at the Estonian Championships including gold medals in singles skating in 1926 and 1927 and pairs skating with Aleksander Reeder in 1922, 1926 and 1927.  In 1939, she moved to Germany, where she worked as a doctor during World War II. She retired in 1970 and passed away ten years later in Bonn. Her partner Aleksander Reeder, who passed away in 1977, was imprisoned from 1941 to 1959.


Born December 19, 1889 in the town of Otepää in the Valga region in southern Estonia, Eduard Hiiop was one of the most well-rounded athletes out there. While living in Tartu in 1908, he started training in gymnastics, cycling, athletics and figure skating. Prior to World War I, he won a silver medal in the long jump at an international sporting competition in Russia and following the war, won Estonian titles in the 4 X 100 relay, decathalon, long jump, 100 meters, hurdles, tennis and bandy. Perhaps most impressive were his figure skating accomplishments.

Photo courtesy Estonian Sports and Olympic Museum

Competing concurrently in singles and pairs, Hiiop won an unprecedented twenty three medals at the Estonian Championships. After acting as Estonia's flag bearer at the 1928 Winter Olympics in St. Moritz, Hiiop returned to the Olympic stage in Garmisch-Partenkirchen in 1936, placing an unfortunate last place with partner Helene Michelson in the pairs figure skating competition. At forty six years old, he was one of the oldest figure skaters at those Games. He later shifted his focus to coaching, working in Helsinki and Tallinn. In August 1941 - three months after the Nazis occupied Estonia - he was arrested and later declared missing. He is presumed to have been killed the same month.

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