Elsa Rendschmidt posing with a skeleton racer in Schierke in 1911
At times, life may have been anything but a cabaret for Germany's Elsa Rendschmidt, but somehow she made it through, making history more than once along the way.
Although we know very little about her youth, we do know that Elsa was born January 11, 1886, grew up in Berlin, Germany and learned to skate at the Berliner Schlittschuhclub alongside her talented brother Max. A contemporary and rival of Madge Syers in the early days of women competing at the World Figure Skating Championships, it's safe to say that in what was very much an 'old boys club', Elsa was a respected pioneer of women's figure skating in her own country. She trained alongside Werner Rittberger, the inventor of the loop jump. In a 2010 interview with HNA, her grandson Ulrich Sander recalled her as "a scary self confident woman" and it would have been that sense of determination that resulted in her breaking many gender barriers along the way and even winning prizes from the Russian Czar and Swedish royal family.
Anna Hübler, Elsa Rendschmidt, Elna Montgomery and Lili Kronberger
|Scores from the 1908 Summer Olympics in London|
Elsa didn't challenge Lili Kronberger for the World title in 1909. Instead, she opted to participate in a separate senior women's competition at the same event, in which she finished second to Vienna's Jenny Herz. We can only speculate as to why Elsa made this decision, but it may have had something to do with the fact was Kronberger was competing at her home rink. However, that same winter Elsa won the Championships Of Berlin and the Nordic Games, defeating Zsófia Méray-Horváth and Elna Montgomery in the latter. The following February when the World Championships for women were held in her home city, she again won the silver behind Kronberger and in 1911, she made history in her final competition by becoming Germany's first women's champion in Olmütz.
Retiring from competition, Elsa headed to Switzerland and became a skating instructor in both St. Moritz and Davos. It was there she met her husband Siegfield 'Fritz' Sander, who ran his family's business in Hannover. In 1913, Elsa and Fritz married and three years later, they had their only child, son Günter, during the Great War. While raising her son, Elsa worked as a librarian.
Elsa Rendschmidt skating with Felix Lochner in St. Moritz in 1912
Hardened by her loss, Elsa moved to the small German village of Volpriehausen (now incorporated in the city of Uslar) and only spoke about her skating career, even to family, when pushed. She lived out her days in that small resort village before moving into a nursing home in Celle, Niedersachsen, Germany in 1969 and passing away October 9 of that year.
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