The Sixth Annual Skate Guard Hallowe'en Spooktacular


It's the ghost wonderful time of the year! Hallowe'en has once again fallen upon us and all of you loyal Skate Guard readers know that means. It's time for a yearly Skate Guard tradition... The Annual Skate Guard Hallowe'en Spooktacular! This year, I'll be telling you a chilling true story that gripped newspaper readers during the roaring twenties. Dim the lights, light a candle and prepare to be spooked.

THE BUNGALOW MYSTERY

On the afternoon of February 15, 1922, Dorothy Parker sat in her parlour listening to a record on her gramophone, deciding whether to have kedgeree or sardines on toast for supper. A sudden knock on her door startled her, causing her to choke on her tea and clank it down so roughly on the saucer that she spilled some from the side. "Bloody hell," she thought to herself. "I did not even hear anyone coming up the path."

When Dorothy opened the door, she was greeted by a queer looking couple. The man was unusually tall with piercing dark eyes and was wearing a coat that appeared a size too big for him. The woman, well dressed in furs, looked down at the doorstep and appeared nervous and fidgety. The man explained he and his wife were newlyweds and he had seen her advert in the papers about a cottage to let. She thought it odd that they hadn't written a letter of inquiry first as it wasn't holiday season, but explained that the thatched bungalow cottage wasn't in New Forest, but was the nearby village of Woodgreen. He didn't balk at the price, and she was happy to have a few extra pounds to get her through the long winter months. She handed the man the key to the cottage, which was called Carpe Diem -  taken from Horace's "Odes" - "Seize the present; trust tomorrow e'en as little as you may."

Dorothy only saw the honeymooners twice over the course of the next week or so, but others had noticed them around the village, picking up supplies at the store and the like. The last time she saw them was on February 23, but she didn't think much of it, assuming they had gone to Salisbury. On February 24, John Phillip Legg, the proprietor of the Horse and Groom public house interacted with the couple. The man came in and purchased a bottle of port wine, but the woman waited outside. The proprietor later recalled, "He appeared to be normal, but the woman was strange."


On March 3, Dorothy arrived at the cottage and found the doors locked and curtains drawn. No one responded when she knocked at the door. Upon returning home, she expressed her concerns about this to her husband, who decided to telephone the police. When the police arrived at Carpe Diem, a constable climbed a ladder and saw the couple lying in bed through a window. Worried they might have taken ill,  the police forced their way in to the cottage and found the couple's bodies undisturbed in bed as if they were sleeping... but they weren't sleeping at all. They were dead as a door-nail. The March 7, 1922 issue of the "Western Morning News" noted, "Dr. Finnigan said that when he found the bodies on March 3 they must have been lying in the bed for a week. On either side of the bed was a wine glass, and at the bottom of the wine glasses was a thick red viscid liquid, which had evidently been drunk along with some port wine. Both bodies were healthy, and the woman was aged about 30. Witness believed that death was due to poisoning, but he could not say until analysis had been made of the stomachs. Apparently the couple had prepared for death. Both were facing the light, and the woman's arms were folded across her chest. He thought they both died in their sleep."

Dr. Finnigan believed the whole thing must have been thought out meticulously. The doors were locked from the inside and the cottage had been left in clean and orderly condition. The bottle containing the poison, along with several Scandinavian coins, a foreign tobacco pouch and a Black Watch badge were found in the fireplace. After some inquiries, the man was identified as twenty seven year old Arthur Vincent Quinn, a figure skating instructor at the Manchester Ice Palace on Derby Street, just off the main road in Cheetham Hill. Quinn had served in the Great War with the Black Watch in Salonika, and had suffered from malaria. His brother recalled recalled receiving a letter from him within the last month mentioning that he planned to "bring over a woman from Petrograd", but as far as he knew Arthur had never gotten married - a strange fact considering he'd given the names "Mr. and Mrs. Quinn" to Dorothy Parker. The papers ran with the Petrograd lead and announced the other victim was an unidentified Russian woman.

Only a handful of villagers attended the funerals. The two victims were buried in separate graves, and there was an hour and a half between both ceremonies. The woman's grave bore a nameless plate, as the Coroner from Southampton had stated the name should not be made public "as there was grave comprehension that a further tragedy might follow the disclosure." Hours after the funeral, the police released her name anyway... and guess what? She wasn't Russian.

Thirty six year old Lesley Hicks was the wife of Charles William Hicks, the manager of the chemical plant of a Manchester brewery company. Her husband had last seen her on February 15, the same day she checked in to Carpe Diem. She'd disappeared, leaving a note that read, "Please don't try to find me. When I tell you I have gone to V---- you will understand that it is impossible in any circumstances for me to ever come back." Mr. Hicks knew V---- as [Arthur] Victor [Quinn], a skating instructor that his wife had become acquainted with while taking lessons from him at the Manchester Ice Palace.

On March 31, 1922, a jury, the coroner, a few witnesses and a handful of reporters met for the inquest into the deaths of the figure skating instructor and his pupil. The inquest was held in the dining room at Carpe Diem, directly underneath the bedroom where the couple's bodies were found. It was all rather macabre. Dr. Finnigan, who had done the post-mortem investigation, read a report from the County Analyst, who had done a toxicological investigation of the substances found in the bottle found in the fireplace and the wine glasses. It was concluded that both Arthur and Lesley had been killed by an overdose of opium and prussic acid. Coroner P.B. Ingoldby remarked, "It seems to me these two unhappy young people realized they had come to the end of their tether, and there was no way out of the predicament they found themselves in." The jury reached a verdict of felo-de-se.

Today the New Forest area is considered one of the most haunted parts of Great Britain, for the sheer quantity of ghost sightings. They say that a young couple dressed in clothing from the roaring twenties have been spotted in the area from a distance at night, but when you approach them, there's not a soul in sight. Are these spirits a figure skating instructor and his pupil, earthbound as a result of their decision to commit suicide? If you have a chance to catch up with them, do let us know how that goes.

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.

The 1983 Skate Canada International Competition


"One Thing Leads To Another" by The Fixx topped the music charts, American troops were invading Grenada after the assassination of Prime Minister Maurice Bishop and the cost of a liter of milk was two dollars. From October 27 to 30, 1983, a who's who of figure skating gathered in beautiful Halifax, Nova Scotia to mark the tenth anniversary of Skate Canada International. It was only the second time in history that the prestigious invitational competition was held in Atlantic Canada, the first being the 1977 event in Moncton. The CFSA picked up the tab for airfare, accommodations and meals of all skaters who participated. Figures were contested across the MacDonald Bridge at the Dartmouth Sportsplex and free skating events were held at the Halifax Metro Center on Brunswick Street - now known as the Scotiabank Center. The competition received extensive coverage on television and in the local and national print media.

Photo courtesy Halifax Public Library

Members of the Halifax Skating Club and Dartmouth Figure 8's volunteered as flower retrievers and runners and participated in the opening ceremonies and Parade Of Champions. These young skaters not only had the chance to watch some fabulous elite level skating; they also got to interact with the competitors. A group of girls even pooled their money to buy flowers for Paul Wylie on his birthday!

Photo courtesy Halifax Public Library

Prior to the competition, Brian Orser told "Chronicle Herald" staff reporter Marilla Stephenson, "The most exciting part of my skating career was [1981 Canadians] in Halifax, because it was so unexpected, even more than winning the bronze last year at Worlds. When I heard Halifax was hosting Skate Canada I got good vibes right away. I'm excited to be here. The audience was great the last time and I'm sure they will [be] just as enthusiastic this weekend."

Photo courtesy Halifax Public Library

The event included competitions for men's and women's singles and ice dancing. Though pairs skating wasn't included, Barbara Underhill and Paul Martini were on hand to give several exhibitions. Fortunately, it was announced in Halifax that a pairs event would finally be included in Skate Canada in 1984. David Dore explained that when the event was first planned, "Our prime concern was to upgrade dancing in Canada. It was at a low ebb. And we didn't think that many nations had that many pairs. Pairs teams are always difficult to pull together."

Photo courtesy Halifax Public Library

The big story from Skate Canada in 1983 had to do with the Soviet Union. When a Soviet fighter plane shot down a South Korean airliner with nearly two hundred and seventy passengers aboard, Canada had imposed a sixty day ban on Soviet Aeroflot flights to Canada, forcing the Soviet team of skaters to first fly to Frankfurt, West Germany, then fly with Lufthansa to Mirabel in Montreal, and then take an Air Canada flight to Halifax. Ingrid Butt expressed, "It was a 'coup' for the Canadians to have the Soviet skaters there, especially since not only had Russia not participated in Skate America but had withdrawn at the last minute from the St. Ivel." The Soviet team had been invited to compete at Skate Canada at the previous year's World Championships. CFSA officials and Mayor Ronald Wallace had no intention of 'uninviting' them. Volunteer interpreters from Dalhousie University spoke to members of the Soviet team upon their arrival. Judge Tatiana Danilenko told them Skate Canada was a pleasure to judge as the competitors were all on an even playing field. Natalia Lebedeva, then only ranked fifth in her country, was thankful for the invitation and excited to welcome Canadian skaters at Skate Moscow the following spring.

Now that we've looked at a little background, let's hop in the time machine and revisit the most important part of Skate Canada International... the skating!

THE MEN'S COMPETITION

For the first time in his career, Brian Orser won all three figures in an international competition. He credited his success with the counter, bracket change and change loop to his work with Olympic Silver Medallist Karol Divín. Orser's achievement was even more remarkable because he was wearing two different types of contact lenses at the time, having misplaced the one for his right eye... and was suffering from the flu. Rounding out the top five after figures were Poland's Grzegorz Filipowski, France's Laurent Depouilly (a last minute replacement for Jean-Christophe Simond), Sweden's Lars Akesson and America's Paul Wylie.


Grzegorz Filipowski and Laurent Depouilly both went clean in the short program, landing double loop/triple toe-loop and triple toe-loop/double loop combinations. The strength of Filipowski's program was his dynamic choreography, whereas Depouilly brought the power in his program to Jeff Wayne's "The Eve Of The War".


However, neither skater was a match for Brian Orser, who performed a triple Lutz/double loop combination, double flip and double Axel with absolute ease and confidence. After the short program, Orser continued to lead, followed by Filipowski, Depouilly, Mark Cockerell and Paul Wylie. Canada's second entry in the men's event, twenty two year old Dennis Coi, missed two elements and dropped from eighth to tenth. Brian Orser told reporter Jim Gowen, "This is a new program and this is the first time I have used it in a major competition. I used a double into a triple last year without much success, so I went to the triple."

Brian Orser described his free skate in Halifax as "a reasonable performance". Skating to "King Of Kings", he successfully performed several triples including a Lutz, but put his hand down on a triple Axel attempt. Orser's effort was outshone by Japan's Masaru Ogawa, who was only sixth after the short program... and landed six triple jumps. With some help from a disappointing performance by Laurent Depouilly, Ogawa was able to move up and take the bronze medal behind Orser and Filipowski. Dennis Coi settled for tenth, behind skaters from America, France, the Soviet Union, Sweden and West Germany and ahead of Czechoslovakia's Thomas Hlavik.

THE ICE DANCE COMPETITION


Photo courtesy Halifax Public Library

Eleven couples vied for gold in the ice dance event... but none faced pressure like Tracy Wilson and Rob McCall. Not only were they the defending Canadian Champions, they were skating in McCall's hometown. They took the lead after the compulsory dances, but were much closer to the British team of Wendy Sessions and Stephen Williams than many would have imagined. In fact, three of the seven judges placed the British bank clerk and 'go-fer' at engineering firm ahead of the Canadians in the Starlight Waltz. However, Wilson and McCall's polished Tango OSP increased their lead significantly... making it clear to many that the Britons were in a battle for silver instead of a battle for gold.

Left: Tracy Wilson and Rob McCall. Right: Wendy Sessions and Stephen Williams. Photos courtesy Halifax Public Library.

Wilson and McCall's free dance, set to Elmer Bernstein's score for TV program "Johnny Stoccato", had a gangster theme. Wilson played a femme fatale and McCall as a well-meaning detective. The detective was hired to save the heroine before she got mixed up with 'the bad guys'.


In her book "Figure Skating History: The Evolution Of Dance On Ice", Lynn Copley-Graves recalled, "In the free, Tracy and Rob's jazzy gangster theme to 'Staccato' stimulated the home crowd, despite Tracy's weakness from strep throat. Rob's skating friends peppered the Halifax audience. Wendy and Steve, coached by Gladys Hogg, Bobby Thompson and Anne Crompton, used Hungarian gypsy music to end second. [Natalia] Annenko/[Genrikh] Sretenski - using the quick steps and constant changes in direction typical of Soviet free dances - needed to clean up their footwork and double-tracking but Natalia stretched well and had beautiful arm positions. Roca/Adair skated their showy Parisian motif to music from 'Irma La Douce' and 'Can Can' with effect... showing potential in moves copied from [Torvill and Dean's] 'Mack and Mabel' and 'Barnum'." Roca and Adair finished fifth behind West German high school student Petra Born and her partner Rainer Schönborn, a mountain trooper in the Bundeswehr, and ahead of the second Canadian couple, siblings Karyn and Rod Garossino. Wilson and McCall's win was historic. Not only did they receive a standing ovation, they were the first Canadian ice dance team ever to win Skate Canada. McCall's grandmother was in the audience and it was her first time seeing him skate live at a major competition.

THE WOMEN'S COMPETITION

After the women's school figures, nineteen year old Kay Thomson of Toronto led the thirteen skater field, ahead of Italy's Sandra Cariboni, who won the first figure. East Germany's Katarina Witt, West Germany's Manuela Ruben and Tiffany Chin of the United States rounded out the top five.

Photos courtesy Halifax Public Library

Four thousand spectators showed up at the Metro Center for the women's short program. Katarina Witt and Tiffany Chin took the top two spots with clean performances. Kay Thomson, who was suffering from both strep throat and tendinitis in her right foot, opted not to attempt her planned triple Lutz/double loop combination. She nailed a double Axel/double loop instead, earned a standing ovation and held on to overall lead after the first two rounds of the competition with a third place in the short. Interestingly, after the short program there was actually a three-way tie for fourth place between Sandra Cariboni, Manuela Ruben and the second Canadian entry, Calgary's Kerry Smith.


In the free skate, Katarina Witt landed two double Axels, a triple toe-loop, triple Salchow and slightly two-footed triple flip. Tiffany Chin, fresh off wins at Skate America and St. Ivel, missed two triple toe-loops but landed a triple Salchow and ended her program strongly. Kay Thomson attempted the triple Lutz she'd omitted in the short program and fell, but otherwise gave an outstanding performance chock full of world-class spins and choreography. With a win in the free skate, eighteen year old Witt took home the gold ahead of Thomson, Chin, Natalia Lebedeva, Ruben and Smith. It was the first time since 1974 that an East German skater participated in Skate Canada. A fourteen year old Anett Pötzsch had won the silver medal behind Lynn Nightingale that year. As we know, both Pötzsch and Witt went on to win Olympic gold medals.


Following the event, Kay Thomson told Jim Gowen, "It's a new program. I'm feeling good about it. Things didn't go as well out there as I would have liked, but Katarina is ranked fourth in the world. It was nice while it lasted, being first. It [her triple jump] hasn't gone well in practice. My program is still so new there may be a lot of changes. I'm not discouraged. It was a tough competition." Thomson's silver medal helped contributed to Canada's win of the Nova Trophy for the team who accumulated the most points throughout the competition, ending a three year streak of American victories.

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.

The Disappearance Of Emma Cothrell



Seventeen year old Emma Cothrell left her father's home in Chicago, Illinois at two in the afternoon on December 30, 1893 wearing a black dress and a short black jacket trimmed with white fur. She told her grandmother she was going skating with a young man named Frank Patten, who was a grocery clerk, and that if she did not come back, "she would be drowned." She never returned. Her father, a railroad switchman named Charles, called upon the Chicago police to investigate his daughter's disappearance.

Chicago detectives Wilbasky and Ross took up the case, scouring local ponds and rivers for any sign of five foot five, one hundred and thirty five pound Emma and questioning skaters that may have seen her on the ice. Naturally, Frank Patten was questioned. Quoted in the January 5, 1893 issue of the "Chicago Tribune", he said, "I do not think she drowned. The last I saw of her was Wednesday, in the evening. We never went skating together nor did I leave the house with her the day she disappeared. The idea that she could be drowned is improbable, as she always went to Jefferson Park to skate, where the water is shallow."

In the days following her disappearance, Emma's grandmother told authorities that she had taken "special pains with her toilet" that day... and her father discovered she'd in fact left her skates behind. Unless she'd borrowed a pair of skates from somebody else, which didn't make any sense as she had a pair of her own, the detectives surmised Emma had lied to her father and grandmother about her plans to go skating with Frank Patten that day.

At the time she went missing, her father was living with Emma's grandmother at 154 South Wood Street in Chicago. Emma usually resided with her mother (also named Emma) in Fort Wayne, Indiana, so it was theorized that she may have simply 'ran away' from her father and grandmother's residence. However, when her mother was contacted, Emma hadn't materialized there either.

The mystery of Emma's disappearance was solved on January 11, 1893 when a telegram arrived at her mother's home in Fort Wayne: "Have eloped. Am now Mrs. George Fredericks. Will write particulars." What those particulars were or how the aftermath of Emma's dramatic disappearance played out is anyone's guess, but one thing is for certain... if you're going to elope and use skating as part of your cover story, you just might want to take your skates with you.

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.

The 1981 Skate America Competition


Diana Ross and Lionel Richie's "Endless Love" topped the Billboard music charts, Ronald Reagan was America's new President and the latest fads were the Space Attackers watch and Monchhichi dolls. From October 5 to 11, 1981, some of the world's top figure skaters gathered at the Olympic Center Arena in Lake Placid, New York during the Columbus Day and Canadian Thanksgiving weekend vying for top honours at the 1981 Skate America competition.


Two years previous, Lake Placid had played host to Norton Skate, which historically has been considered 'the first Skate America'. After Norton Skate in 1979 and the Kennedy International Memorial Winter Games in 1970, the 1981 event was actually the third major international invitational event held in America, not counting the North American Championships. Prior to the event, there had been some talk about calling the event Flaming Leaves, but event publicity director Ed Lewi pushed for the name Skate America to give it more prestige.


Skaters from fifteen countries showed up in Lake Placid that October. Skate America posters and t-shirts were on sale in local stores and tickets ranged between four dollars and fifty cents and eight dollars and fifty cents. The Garden Club of Lake Placid took care of flowers, carefully recycling geraniums that had been used at a horse show and hospital dance that summer. Skaters from the North Country Council, which stretched from Watertown to Plattsburgh, came to help as runners and flower retrievers.


The Associated Press and United Press International newswires were in town, as were media representatives from Canada, Austria and Great Britain. A Russian-born skater from Lake Placid named Arthur Tripadush acted as an interpreter and escort to Soviet team. Despite an army of volunteers and excellent publicity, only half of the arena's eight thousand seats were filled for the pairs free skate and the attendance on the first day was far worse. The event was far from a flop though. The exhibition was nearly sold out and the USFSA's sale of rights to ABC for one hundred thousand dollars wiped out a deficit of at least forty thousand dollars. Let's take a look back at all the excitement!

THE PAIRS COMPETITION

Six pairs vied for gold in the pairs competition. In the short program, both Kitty and Peter Carruthers and Barbara Underhill and Paul Martini skated exceptionally well. All but one judge gave the nod to the Americans. Soviets Elena Valova and Oleg Vasiliev finished third and the second Canadian pair, seventeen year old Katherina Matousek and twenty three year old Eric Thomsen of New Westminster, British Columbia finished last after she fell on a required side-by-side double toe-loop.


The free skate, recently shortened from five to four and a half minutes by the ISU, was extremely well skated. Underhill and Martini and the Carruthers' again both skated near-flawless routines, but this time the scales tipped in favour of the Canadians, even though the Polish, Soviet and American judges had the Americans first. Valova and Vasiliev, skating to "Scheherazade", took the bronze. Lea-Ann Miller and Bill Fauver placed fourth, exciting the crowd with their trademark bucket lift and Axel/death spiral. Fifth place went to Maria DiDomenico and Burt Lancon, who skated to the soundtracks of recent films "Superman", "Other Side Of The Mountain" and "Raiders Of The Lost Ark". Matousek and Thomsen, unable to overcome their short program error, remained in sixth.

THE ICE DANCE COMPETITION

Twenty four year old Judy Blumberg and twenty one year old Michael Seibert were the heavy favourites in Lake Placid, but many thought Nathalie Hervé of Boulogne and Pierre Béchu of
Viry-Châtillon would be their biggest competition. The French couple, ranked eighth in the world, took themselves out of the running in the compulsory dances, which were won by Blumberg and Seibert. Twenty six year old Elena Garanina and twenty five year old Igor Zavozin of the Soviet Union were second ahead of the team ranked seventh in the world, Karen Barber and Nicky Slater of Altrincham.

In the Blues OSP, Blumberg and Seibert opted to restart their program after their music stopped early in their performance. Near the end of their second go at it, they took a nasty spill. At the time, Seibert was skating with torn ligaments in his left thumb and the fall only made matters worse. On the ice after their performance, Seibert took off the bandage on his thumb as it was turning blue from the pressure... and earned a standing ovation. Despite their uncharacteristic tumble, Blumberg and Seibert remained in first place entering the free dance. In fact, the standings barely moved an inch, as was the fashion in ice dance at the time.

In her book "Figure Skating History: The Evolution Of Dance On The Ice", Lynn Copley-Graves recalled, "In practice, Nicky Slater collided with Igor Zavozin from Leningrad, who towered over him. All of a sudden, they collided a second time. Igor patted Nicky on the head, and the two couples stayed at opposite ends of the rink."

Reprising their free dance from the year previous which began with "Big Noise From Winnetka", Blumberg and Seibert skated carefully but with precision and charm to glide to fold. Garanina and Zavozin's unique free dance made them favourites with a crowd, but they were penalized for separating half the width of the rink. In a three-two split of the judging panel, they earned the silver ahead of Barber and Slater. America's Elisa Spitz and Scott Gregory, France's Nathalie Hervé and Pierre Béchu, Canada's Joanne French and John Thomas, America's Nancy Berghoff and Jim Bowser, Canada's Donna Martini and John Coyne and Japan's Yumiko Kage and Yoshitaka Nakajima rounded out the nine team field.

THE MEN'S COMPETITION

Struggling on his third figure - the change loop - twenty three year old defending World Champion Scott Hamilton barely managed a win in the first phase of the men's event. He was suffering from tonsilitis at the time. West Germany's Rudi Cerne took second and Canada's Gary Beacom third. Three judges placed Beacom ahead of Hamilton in the change loop.

Robert Wagenhoffer and Brian Boitano, only eighth and seventh in figures, took the top two spots in the short program after Hamilton and Cerne fell on their flip combinations. However, after the marks were tallied neither was able to move up significantly in the overall standings. Scott Hamilton led the pack, Gary Beacom was second and Rudi Cerne and the Soviet Union's Konstantin Kokora were in a tie for third.

Scott Hamilton started to feel slightly better the afternoon before the free skate and delivered a creditable performance, missing two jumps but landing his triple Lutz. In contrast, Wagenhoffer and Boitano both skated brilliantly. In fact, Wagenhoffer received two 5.9's for artistic impression to Hamilton's one and earned a standing ovation. Based on his lead after the short, it was obvious to those in the know that he'd win the gold, but the silver and bronze were another story. Mary-Lucile Ager recalled, "The suspense was thick as the accountants struggled with the marks. It wasn't until the skaters took the podium the results were known. A thunderous cheer went up from the audience when Robert Wagenhoffer was announced as silver medallist and Boitano the bronze, giving the United States all three places." Rudi Cerne, Konstantin Kokora, Gary Beacom, Grzegorz Filipowski and Gordon Forbes rounded out the top eight. Forbes had been a last minute replacement for Brian Pockar, who had an appendectomy.


THE WOMEN'S COMPETITION

Ten days prior to the competition, seventeen year old Vikki de Vries of Colorado Springs had injured her knee in practice. She showed up in Lake Placid bruised and suffering from a cold, but you wouldn't have known it when she came out on the ice to skate her school figures. She placed a creditable second to unanimous winner Claudia Kristofics-Binder of Austria. The twenty year old from Vienna was ranked third in the world and was a specialist in figures. Reiko Kobayashi, a Japanese skater who was only ranked seventeenth in the world, finished third. Seventeen year old Kay Thomson of Toronto, the daughter of a foreman for an appliance manufacturer, was fourth. Sixteen year old Elaine Zayak, the reigning U.S. Champion and World Silver Medallist, finished fifth... one spot ahead of her future rival Rosalynn Sumners. Eighteen year old Kerry Smith of Calgary was eleventh out of fifteen entries.

Both Elaine Zayak and Vikki de Vries were successful at their attempts at the double flip/triple toe-loop combination in the short program. Of the variations possible for the required flip combination, it was the most difficult the women were attempting. Dinging Zayak for the quality of her footwork and spins, the judges gave the nod to de Vries. This moved her up to first entering the free skate, ahead of Kristofics-Binder and Zayak.


In practice, Elaine Zayak had been attempting the triple Axel. Vikki deVries told Beverley Smith, "I don't try it and it doesn't bother me that she does." While Zayak missed a triple Salchow and didn't perform as many triples as usual, she was the only woman in the event to the triple loop in the free skate, albeit shakily. Vikki de Vries skated a traditional program, but included an impressive three triple toe-loops, a triple Salchow and a double Axel. In only her second international competition, she took the gold medal. In the fight for silver, Zayak and Claudia Kristofics-Binder both had 5.8 points, but their tie was broken by the free skate where Kristofics-Binder had placed fourth. Rosalynn Sumners and Kay Thomson gave two of their best performances up to that point in the free skate, but settled for fourth and fifth. Kerry Smith remained in eleventh.

Nancie Battaglia photo of the women's medallists in Lake Placid from Christie Sausa's book "Lake Placid Figure Skating: A History". Used with permission.

At press conference, Zayak told reporters with a smile instead of a tear, "I know what I'm going to do... go home, really work on my figures and work very hard."

Scott Hamilton and the Soviets were the big hits in the exhibition gala. In a feisty performance, Valova threw her partner on the ice stomach first. Besides Hamilton, Garanina and Zavozin were the only skaters to perform three encores. In a bid to become the first skater in history to perform a quadruple jump, Wagenhoffer tried a toe-loop but fell.

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.

The Etiquette Of Skating


During the Victorian era, all of 'the best people' turned to etiquette books for advice on everything from what to wear and how to behave at the dinner table to how to properly entertain guests that called for afternoon tea. As skating parties were invariably a common and popular winter diversion at the time, advice surrounding the etiquette of skating made its way into many of these books and today we'll take a look at some of these pearls of wisdom!

"Dancing, skating, swimming, archery, games of lawn tennis, riding and driving, and croquet, all aid in developing and strengthening the muscles, and should be practiced by ladies. The better the physical training, the more self-possessed and graceful she will be. Open-air exercise is essential to good health and a perfect physical development." - Mrs. Walter R. Houghton, "Rules Of Etiquette And Home Culture: What To Do And How To Do It", 1893


"Be ready at all times when skating to render assistance to any one, either lady or gentleman, who may require it. A gentleman may be distinguished at all times by the willingness with which he will give up his sport to render himself agreeable and kind to any one in difficulty. Should you have one of the skating-sleds so much used for taking ladies on the ice, and should your own ladies, if you are accompanied by any, not desire to use it, the most becoming thing you can do is to place it at the disposal of any other gentleman who has ladies with him, and who is not provided with such a conveyance." - Cecil B. Hartley, "The gentlemen's book of etiquette, and manual of politeness: being a complete guide for a gentleman's conduct in all his relations towards society... from the best French, English, and American authorities", 1873


"In skating, a gentleman carries the skates of the lady whom he accompanies. He fastens on her skates, guides, support, and instructs her if she be a novice." - Mrs. H.O. Ward, "Sensible Etiquette Of The Best Society, Customs, Manners, Morals, And Home Culture", 1878


"A gentleman should... be as chivalrous in his behaviour as any knight in the olden time. The ladies, on their side, must not tax the patience of their instructors too severely. It is sometimes days before they are able to stand upon their skates or dare to venture out without a strong arm to lean upon for fear of of a fall. Let them practise by themselves on some small pond, where a tumble with hurt neither them nor their modesty." - Lady Colin Campbell, "Etiquette Of Good Society", 1893

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.

Heroes From Holyoke: The Doris Schubach And Walter Noffke Story

Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine

"Figure skating challenges the total abilities of the person. We are on the way to becoming a nation of conformists and spectators. Something like skating, which each person can achieve on his own level and which can be enjoyed from the cradle to the grave, fulfills a real need." - Doris Schubach, "Skating" magazine, January 1967

Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine

Doris Virginia Schubach was born January 11, 1924 in Holyoke, Massachusetts, a small city on the outskirts of Springfield. She grew up with her parents Gustave and Lepha (Brunelle) and older sister Mae on Norwood Terrace. Her father was a machinist at the White and Wycoff Manufacturing Company, which produced specialty paper products. A stone's throw away on Chestnut Street, Walter Robert Noffke Jr. grew up in a home with his parents Walter and Esther, step-brother Joseph and his two aunts. His parents and step-brother all worked at an alpaca wool mill, his father as a percher (examining textiles for defects), his mother as an industrial nurse and his step-brother as a loom fixer.

Doris and Walter's high school yearbook photos. Photos courtesy Holyoke Public Library.

Doris was persuaded to start skating by her father when she was twelve.  She joined the Springfield Ice Birds and teamed up with Walter in 1937 when they were both attending Holyoke High School. For the majority of Doris and Walter's career, Doris' father acted as her coach. Though Gustave Schubach's only knowledge of skating came from the books he read, he eventually worked his way up the ladder to become a USFSA judge.

Photo courtesy Holyoke Public Library

In an article in "Skating" magazine in 1967, Doris recalled, "We were very close and when he decided that I should learn to skate, there just didn't seem to be any choice... There were times when I thought off him as a Simon Legree! He had little formal education but he possessed an enlightened and imaginative mind and enough determination for both of us! I was always  afraid to perform alone and consented to enter competition only when my father suggested that Walter and I perform as a pair." Doris and Walter's only formal instruction came in the form of dance lessons from Gustave Lussi in Lake Placid... and those lessons only occurred in the summers after both had graduated from high school.


Doris and Walter won their first two competitions together - the junior pairs titles at the 1941 Eastern and U.S. Championships - enroute to claiming the U.S. senior pairs titles in 1942, 1943 and 1944. Their signature music was "Sleepy Lagoon" by Henry Mancini. "We had many compliments on the originality and imaginative qualities of our programs," Doris recalled.

Photo courtesy Springfield City Library

In addition to skating pairs, Doris and Walter performed as a four in Lake Placid carnivals with Barbara and John House of Niagara Falls and won an impressive collection of trophies in ice dance competitions at the New England and Eastern Championships in the early forties. In "Skating" magazine, Joseph K. Savage raved, "Their soft knee action coupled with their excellent hand and arm positions has been the cause of their success and could well be copied by our dancers. It also makes the Tango something worth seeing."

Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine

Unfortunately, Doris and Walter had the 'bad timing' of reaching the peak of their success during World War II... when the opportunities of competing at the Olympic Games and World Championships didn't exist. They also had the misfortune of living in an area where ice time was scarce. After the Quartermaster Corps of the U.S. Army took over their home rink - the Eastern States Coliseum - they were forced to travel by car to an outdoor rink at McKenzie Field some distance from a bus line. This was complicated by a government ban on pleasure driving to conserve fuel. Eventually, in 1944 the Springfield Ice Birds purchased a tract of vacant land near Roosevelt Avenue and set up a permanent outdoor rink.

Photo courtesy Holyoke Public Library

In 1943 - at the height of their competitive success - Walter left his job at the Holyoke Savings Bank and enlisted in the U.S. Navy. After attending the Naval Supply Corps School at Harvard University, he was stationed as a Midshipman at Fort Schuyler. During the same period, Doris attended Holyoke Secretarial College and worked as a private secretary for Maurice Park, Vice-President of the Marvellum Company. Though Walter's military service put their skating career on hold, Doris and Walter made their on-ice partnership an off-ice one and walked down the aisle together in 1945.

Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine

In the summer of 1946, Doris and Walter were asked by the USFSA to compete in the 1947 World Championships in Stockholm. At the time, they were parents of a young daughter... and quite untrained. Doris recalled, "We were, of course, extremely flattered to be asked to participate. However, considering the fact that we had been out of competition... [and] had scarcely any time for practice, and met with formidable ice and weather conditions on the night of the competition, we were not surprised when we didn't win." Doris and Walter finished sixth in their only appearance at the World Championships, but two judges had them in the top three - one in fact placing them ahead of the champions, Micheline Lannoy and Pierre Baugniet of Belgium. They returned to America aboard a Norwegian airlines flight with Gustave Schubach and Gustave Lussi. Uninteresting in turning professional, they gave up the sport for good. They were remembered fondly by many, including Dick Button, who recalled in his February 2014 interview on The Manleywoman SkateCast, "The movement, their parallelism of their moves was extraordinary. They couldn’t do throw Axels and they couldn’t know what triple side-by-side jumps were and so forth, but their pair skating quality was without compare. I mean, it was just extraordinary."

Walter got a job as a bank teller and Doris worked as a bookkeeper for Laminated Papers. They raised two daughters together and spent their summers digging for Native American artifacts. In 1967, Doris remarked, "When the warm weather comes we're off to our favourite remote places in search of Indian remains. I guess you could call us amateur archaeologists!" Not long after this interview, Doris and Walter divorced. Walter remarried to Pamela Adams and passed away in South Hadley, Massachusetts on June 8, 1971. Doris went on to live in Granby, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Colorado and finally, Belchertown, Massachusetts, where she passed away at the age of seventy nine on August 10, 2003.

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.

The Defection Of Ede Király


In the post World War II era, Budapest, Hungary's Ede Király accomplished something many figure skaters wouldn't dream possible. In just three seasons, he amassed an Olympic silver medal, five World medals (gold, three silvers and a bronze) and four European medals (three golds and a silver) in two disciplines.

Photo courtesy Hungaricana

Studying under legendary Swiss coach Arnold Gerschwiler, Ede was one of the finest skaters of his era. With partner Andrea Kékesy, he was the one of the first to execute an overhead Axel lift. As a singles skater, he was attempting triple jumps in practice at the same time his competitor Dick Button was introducing them to competition. In 1950, he graduated from the Budapest University Of Technology with a degree in civil engineering... but behind the scenes life was anything but the fairy tale it appeared to be on the ice.

Andrea Kékesy and Ede Király. Photo courtesy Hungarian Skating Federation. Used with permission. 

As the defending European Champion, Ede entered the men's event at the 1950 World Figure Skating Championships held at Wembley in London as Europe's best hope to challenge Dick Button. Although he finished a strong second ahead of Hayes Alan Jenkins in both the school figures and free skating, Button was really in a class of his own. In the end, Ede settled for silver but his biggest victory would come after the competition ended.

Elek Bolgár, the Hungarian Ambassador to Great Britain, hosted a reception for the participants in the competition. Dick Button recalled, "Ede Király, who had the day before finished second to me, and had also won the World Pairs title, appeared in an extremely lighthearted mood at the embassy. His conversation was pleasant and casual as he greeted the Ambassador effusively. Király was booked on a plane the following morning with all the contenders for the Grande Coupe de France to be held in Paris. In the grayness of the morning, with the rush of checking baggage... no one noticed Ede Király was not among the passengers. It wasn't until Paris papers blared forth the news the next morning that we all realized Ede had too joined the growing ranks of dissenters asking sanctuary of the Home Office in London."

As expected, Bolgár and the powers that be in the Hungarian government were none too pleased to have had the wool pulled over their eyes - to put it mildly. They'd invested considerably in their star, placing trust in Ede and his partner to train in England under Arnold Gerschwiler without 'causing any problems'. Bear in mind that this was six years prior to the Hungarian Uprising, but Hungary was under the authoritarian rule of Communist leader Mátyás Rákosi, and thousands of members of the 'bourgeois' class were arrested, imprisoned, tortured, tried and deported as part of 'the Purge' during this period. The story of Ede's refusal to return to Hungary even reached North America. On March 12, 1950, "The Milwaukee Journal" reported, "Penniless and without a passport or identity papers, the slight 24 year old engineering lecturer said he thought his life would be in constant danger if he went home. He stated that he had been ordered to join the Communist party 'or suffer the consequences.'"

While seeking asylum in London, Ede explained, "An intelligence officer of the Hungarian state security police went with us to Oslo for the European Championships and came along to London. He has my passport and all my papers." Rezső Dillinger, a former European and World Medallist in pairs skating who was serving as the Hungarian team's trainer, denied press accounts of Ede's defection altogether, stating "Kiraly was staying in [London] for an extra four weeks, with Home Office permission, to continue his training and would then return to Hungary. We are all members of the Communist Party, including Király."

Ede's ticket to safety came in the form of an invitation from Dick McLaughlin to coach at the Oshawa Skating Club in Canada. It was there where he taught a young future World Champion by the name of Donald Jackson. In George Gross' 1977 biography of Jackson "King Of Blades", he recalled, "Ede's love for the sport had made his life, brought him fame, travel, happiness. He never failed to project his sense of enjoyment to his pupils. The message was, 'Aren't we lucky to be doing what we love doing, and doing it better every day?'... Ede had the revolutionary idea of teaching figures in such a way as to help free skating. He wanted to bring figures and free skating together to form a unit."

Although Ede briefly left the coaching world and parted ways with Donald Jackson to work as an engineer, the two reunited for a time when he was coaching at the Peterborough Memorial Centre and Elgin Memorial Arena until the strain of commuting became too much. Bringing things (almost) full circle, Donald Jackson went to England to work with Ede's former coach Arnold Gerschwiler for a time.

Like fellow World Champions Otto and Maria Jelinek, Oleg and Ludmila Protopopov and Ája Vrzáňová who had all also defected from Communist countries to the West following their wins, Ede returned later in life to his home country and found that times had changed. After his 2009 death, the Budapest Skating Club made a proposal to the Hungarian Skating Federation that a new rink be named in his honour. The motion was passed with great applause. Although time doesn't always make up for the wrongs people face during their lifetimes, every so often history gets it right. This was one of those times.

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.

The 1889 Championships Of America


A year before boarding the Cunard royal mail steamer Ertruria and beginning his long journey to St. Petersburg, Russia in early 1890, Montreal's Louis Rubenstein - who you may remember from the final episode of the Axels In The Attic podcast series Allison Manley and I put together  a while back - firmly established himself by winning two competitions back to back in a ten day span. Today, we will take a look back at how a young man from Montreal trounced the competition and became both the U.S. AND the Canadian Champion in the same year.

The 1889 Championships Of America were held on January 30 of that year on Van Cortlandt Lake in The Bronx borough of New York City.  The weather that day was a balmy zero degrees Celsius - or thirty two degrees Fahrenheit for those of you reading down in the States - with not a flake of snow in sight. The ice was described as "fairly smooth and keen." Rubenstein's only real competition in New York City that day came from speed skater George Dawson Phillips. Due to frequent postponements and the short notice in which the event had been announced, only two competitors had initially entered. A third and less experienced skater, New York's S.J. Montgomery signed up at the last minute and actually quit midway through the competition, trailing so far behind the leaders it was almost becoming embarrassing.

George Dawson Phillips and Louis Rubenstein

You think a few dozen men skating a short program and a free skate makes for a long event? Think again. At the 1889 event, there may not have been quadruple toe-loops but there were twenty-three rounds of competition, described thusly: Plain forward and backward skating, lap foot (as field and cutting circles), outside edge roll (forward and backward), inside edge roll (forward and backward), figure eight, one foot (forward and backward), cross roll (forward and backward), change of edge roll (yes, you guessed it - forward and backward), the "On To Richmond", locomotives and waltz steps, spread eagles, curvilinear angles, Grapevines and The Philadelphia Twist, toe and heel movements, single flat foot spins and double whirls, serpentines and changes of edge, loops and ringlets (inside and outside), a display of 'complex movements' and specialties of 'original and peculiar movements'. The judging system was points based, with a maximum of three awarded per skater per round and a minimum of of zero. No half points, no GOE, no levels... Back in Rubenstein's day, the judges subscribed to the old KISS principle.

Although Phillips actually won five rounds of the competition, tying with Rubenstein in a sixth category, in the end Rubenstein finished the event with fifty one points to Phillips' forty seven. New York's S.J. Montgomery ended the competition with a mere twelve points, calling it a day after round sixteen. An account of Rubenstein's performance from the February 2, 1889 edition of The Sun noted, "His toe spins and whirls were revelations, and as a one-foot performer he excelled all previous exhibitions seen here. His flying ornamental threes and fives, and small, endless rings joined together by short lines were simply wonderful. Scraping a little powdered ice together about the size of a dinner plate, he cut a perfect American star with five points on one foot, and followed by forming a Maltese cross, as true in shape as though carved by a chisel."

A second account from "Outing: An Illustrated Monthly Magazine Of Sport, Travel And Recreation, Volume XIV" elaborated, "Rubenstein is twenty-six years old, 5 ft. 7 1/2 in. high, and weighs 168 lbs. He has never used tobacco or intoxicating liquors, and is consequently in perfect physical condition. His first appearance, eight years ago, was made at a moment's notice, by request, to fill an entry list, and he was unsuccessful. Since then he has won the successive Canadian championships and the American championships in 1888 and 1889, not competing at the first one in 1887. In what may be called the fundamental or elementary portion of the National programme, Mr. Rubenstein is no better, or possibly less exact, than some of our New York skaters, but in the more complicated figures, in one-foot work and in original combination and specialities he is without a peer. Mr. Phillips has been a noted speed skater and record breaker for many years. He did not give special attention to figure skating until last year, and deserves credit for his plucky entry in what seemed in advance almost a hopeless struggle - while more experienced, and presumably, more skillful skaters declined to compete. Mr. Montgomery entered at the post merely to fill the list, and had no intention of serious competition, but surprised everybody by a fair execution of the first half of the programme."

Nine days later, Rubenstein won the Canadian title on home turf at the Victoria Skating Rink in Montreal, again beating New York's Phillips. Rubenstein's brother Abraham finished third. To again hammer home the fact that the judging and scorekeeping of every competition back in those days was often completely different, Rubenstein's winning score at the Canadian competition was over three hundred and seventy five points, a far cry from the fifty one he earned in winning the New York event.

The March 14, 1889 issue of "The Montreal Herald" reported that Rubenstein (for reasons lost to history) didn't actually receive the gold medal he won at the 1889 Championships Of America until the afternoon of March 13. A delay that long makes Nancy Kerrigan's complaint of Oksana Baiul taking too long to 'prepare herself' to receive her gold medal at the Lillehammer Olympics in 1994 seem particularly petty in comparison. A month and a half wait, though? I guess the mail wasn't any faster then than it is now.

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

Don't Worry, It's Just A False Alarm!


Serious falls, costume mishaps and of course, Tonya Harding's famous skate lace incident at the 1994 Winter Olympic Games in Lillehammer... these are the things we tend to first think of when it comes to interrupted skating performances. Strangely enough, false fire alarms have more than once weaved their way into figure skating history.

One time a fire alarm went off in a hotel in the middle of the night and famed Canadian coach Osborne Colson refused to leave his room, saying he'd rather die in the fire than be seen in his pajamas. At the 1984 World Championships in Ottawa, a fire alarm went off at the Holiday Inn where many skaters, coaches and officials were staying at four thirty in the morning. They all clambered down to the lobby in their white fluffy bathrobes, only to be told it was a mechanical false alarm.

Twenty one year old Jozef Sabovčík of Czechoslovakia slept through it and finished strong fourth in the men's school figures. Ironically, Jozef later admitted to setting off a fire alarm in the middle of the night after a Skate Canada competition to see the women without their make-up on.

At the 2003 World Championships in Washington, D.C., Brian Joubert of France was awoken in his hotel room at one in the morning by a fire alarm that went off for twenty five minutes. He couldn't fall back asleep, had a practice session at six and was second to skate in his qualifying group that day. He placed a disappointing ninth in his group and later told reporters he thought the alarm had something to do with "the war".

Three of the most memorable fire alarm stories happened in the late nineties. At the 1996 Canadian Championships in Ottawa, someone broke the glass and pulled a fire alarm three minutes and fifteen seconds into Kristy Sargeant and Kris Wirtz's four minute free skate. Wirtz had suffered a concussion during a recent practice session and the loud noise disoriented him. At first, they thought it was a program with their cassette tape. P.A. announcer Wilf Langevin said, "We think it's the fire alarm. That was not part of the program. Just relax for a minute, Kristy and Kris." They were given the option of restarting the program or picking up where they left off. Kris told the referee, "Are you nuts? I may not make it to the end as it is." The team chose the latter option, earned a standing ovation and won the silver medal behind Michelle Menzies and Bombardier.

Sargeant and Wirtz's silver medal at the 1996 Canadian Championships earned them a ticket to the 1996 World Championships in Edmonton... where an another fire alarm went off. Ten seconds before the free skate warm-up for the second to last group of women was to end, the noise began. The problem was quickly solved but it further unnerved an already off kilter Midori Ito, who was first to skate in the group. The former World Champion made several mistakes and placed a disappointing seventh.


Three years later at the 1999 Sun Life Skate Canada International event at Harbour Station in Saint John, New Brunswick, six foot three Laurent Tobel took to the ice to perform his "Austin Powers" free skate. Not long into his program, the fire alarm went off. The funny Frenchman ignored the noise and skated his program unphased. His wonderful sense of humour won over the Atlantic Canadian crowd and the alarm stopped practically when his program ended. Disappointingly, he received marks between 4.6 to 5.5, which earned a chorus of boo's from the audience. Mia Urquhart of the "New Brunswick Telegraph Journal" joked, "And, by the way, to whatever idiot pulled the alarm: 'Oh, behave!'"

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.