#Unearthed: Linichuk And Karponosov's Road To Olympus


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. Today's 'buried treasure' is an interview with Natalia Linichuk and Gennadi Karponosov that originally appeared in the January 1979 edition of "Soviet Life" magazine. The interviewer was Andrei Batashev. At the time, Natalia and Gennadi were the reigning World Champions, looking to defend their World title in Vienna and compete for Olympic gold the following year in Lake Placid.


"THE ROAD TO OLYMPUS WASN'T COVERED IN ROSES" (ANDREI BATASHEV)

Gennadi Karponosov is the very incarnation of temperament, while Natalia Linichuk is serenity itself. But she has the knack of unobtrusively getting her femininity and lyricism to lead in their dance.

Q: How did you come to figure skate, and why did you choose ice dancing?

A from Linichuk: My parents used to to work in the morning, and to keep the 'baby' busy, they enrolled me in a figure skating group when I was seven. I skated alone at first, but my leaps were so bad that - this was in 1970 or 1971 - I was told: "Better start dancing or stop skating altogether." The latter was completely out of the question.

A from Karponosov: I was a sickly child, and the doctors advised my parents to keep me out-of-doors as much as possible. In those days - the late fifties - our figure skaters trained in the open, and so my parents took me to the rink. I didn't care for figure skating at all, especially singles. But during the European championship in Moscow in 1965, I saw Eva Romanová and Pavel Roman of Czechoslovakia skating and discovered that ice dancing was just the thing for me.

Q: What is peculiar to this form of figure skating?

A from Linichuk: The partners must be completely integrated, an ensemble. Each of them must, under the influence of the music, create a world of images. And they must fuse these worlds. Then the blend will turn out to be far more expressive than its individual parts. Of course, I'm speaking of
the ideal variant.

A from Karponosov: In ice dancing there must not be any blank spots, any "running starts," which are acceptable for singles and ordinary pairs. Complexity here is achieved by the pattern of the steps, turns and various tricks performed with filigree precision. The technique has to be refined to the point where the spectators won't detect it. And they often don't. Unfortunately, I once suggested that a well-
known singles performer dance to a pattern. He tried it and ended up by banging into the wall of the rink.

Q: Have you ever had a wish you couldn't realize?

A from Linichuk: My dreams have always come true.

A from Karponosov: When I was in the eighth grade, I was told that I ought to transfer to a school for mathematicians. It was a very tempting invitation, but when I went there the principal was out, and I never could muster up the courage to go back again. I'm not sorry now.

Q: Still, you got your degree in economics at Moscow University, so that you didn't avoid mathematics altogether.

A from Karponosov: I always liked math. I just didn't want to specialize in it. In the Economics Department you study both math and the humanities. I liked the combination. I'm now writing my thesis on the economics of industry.

Q: And what are your plans, Natasha?

A from Linichuk: I want to be a skating coach. This year I'll be graduating from the Central Institute of Physical Culture.


Q: Is there anything you don't like about yourself?

A from Linichuk: It takes me too long to learn new things.

A from Karponosov:I'm very short-tempered and don't forgive people easily.

Q: What qualities do you prize most?

A from Linichuk: The ability to forgive easily.

A from Karponosov: Industriousness and a sense of humor. The kids on our figure-skating home team are past masters at practical joking.

Q: What kind of jokes do they go in for?

A from Karponosov: I once forgot my cap on a bus. I went back and asked if anybody had picked it up. The answer was No. That evening we gave an exhibition performance. As always, the ice was sprinkled with flowers and notes from the audience. They were mostly for Natasha. But suddenly a
large package "For Karponosov" came hurtling down. I was pleasantly surprised, anticipating something interesting. Back in the dressing room, our team gathered around me, saying: "Aren't you the lucky one!" But when I unwrapped the package, there was my cap.

Q: Natasha, have you any bones to pick with your partner?

A from Linichuk: He's very obstinate. Even if he knows he's wrong, he won't ever admit it.

Q: And you, Gennadi?

A from Karponosov: I want to thank Natasha for making me a world champion.

A from Linichuk: We're both indebted for our victory to coach Yelena Tchaikovskaya. She found the form and the music that enabled us to express our natures and temperament in the dance.

A from Karponosov: Usually coaches offer their skaters the same program with a few variations. Tchaikovskaya finds a style to suit each pair.


Q: What do you wish for most?

A from Linichuk: To enter the Olympic Games at Lake Placid.

A from Karponosov: To enter and win. And to skate well enough to please our audiences.

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 Magical Melitta Brunner

Photo courtesy National Archives Of Poland

"Melitta, who possessed a speedy, spacious, easy and powerful style that was typically Viennese, combined this with a warm and sparkling personality designed to 'draw' the public and she made herself a remarkable personality in the skating world." - Jacqueline du Bief, "Thin Ice"


Born July 28, 1907 in Vienna, Austria, Melitta Brunner grew up in an athletic family. Her father was the President of a local rowing club and an avid ice skater. He taught Melitta and her only brother how to skate on the frozen Danube River when she was seven. After five years of skating for pleasure, she became a member of the Wiener Eislaufverein. After only a year of formal instruction in figure skating from coach Pepe Weiss, she entered and won her first competition. Her prize for winning was a silver brooch.

Melitta Brunner and Ludwig Wrede. Photo courtesy National Archives Of Poland.

A graceful skater, Melitta supplemented her on ice instruction by studying dance and rhythmic gymnastics at the Festspielhaus Hellerau in Dresden. After entering an endless stream of smaller international competitions in Berlin, Troppau and Vienna, she teamed up with Ludwig Wrede - eleven years her senior - and placed third in the 1922 Austrian Championships. Competing concurrently in both singles and pairs, Melitta always seemed to find herself in the shadow of the grand dames of Austrian skating at the time, Herma Szabo and Fritzi Burger.


Melitta made her debut in 'the big leagues' at the 1928 Winter Olympic Games in St. Moritz, Switzerland. She placed seventh in the women's competition and won the bronze medal in the pairs event with Ludwig Wrede. In both events she received ordinals as high as second. At the World Championships that followed in London, she placed fifth in the women's event and again, third in pairs. The following year, she won an international figure skating competition for women held in conjunction with the European Championships in Davos. At the World Championships in Budapest, she medalled in both the women's and pairs competition. In the women's event, Finnish judge Walter Jakobsson had her in first place, ahead of both Sonja Henie and Fritzi Burger. In fact, she only lost the silver medal at that event to Burger by one ordinal placing.


During her competitive career, Melitta studied textiles at the Vienna College Of Design and often sewed dresses for fellow skaters. She got on well with many of her competitors, maintaining friendships with Sonja Henie, Fritzi Burger and young Hilde Holovsky.

Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine

In her first overseas trip, Melitta won the silver medal in the pairs event behind the reigning Olympic Champions and placed fifth in the women's event at the 1930 World Championships in New York City. Gunnar Bang felt she got lost in the shuffle at this event: "Her free skating is so uniquely beautiful and artistic... Her musicality... her stylish jumps and pirouettes... Yes, I would go so far [as to agree with what] Miss Blanchard says: that whatever Miss Brunner showed was exactly contrary to what [the North American women] showed." That event proved to be Melitta's swan song in the amateur ranks. She retired from the competitive scene an Olympic Bronze Medallist and four time Medallist at the World Championships in two disciplines.


In 1931, Melitta headed to Switzerland, where she taught skating for a time before heading to England to teach at the Westminster Ice Club. While there, she won the World Professional title and started seeing a German skater named Paul Kreckow who placed second in the pairs competition with partner Trudy Harris. Paul and Trudy debuted their creation at that event, the Harris-Kreckow Tango, which later became known as the Tango compulsory dance. In December of 1932, Melitta and Paul married in London. Their marriage was short-lived and Paul was rumoured to be hauled off by two men from the Home Office as a suspected spy.

Left: Melitta Brunner and Paul Kreckow. Right: Melitta Brunner

After continuing her dance training at the Kurt Jooss Ballet School at Dartington Hall in Devon, Melitta starred in Claude Langdon's lavish ice pantomime "Marina" before sailing to America from Southampton aboard the French Line's S.S. Paris.


Upon her arrival, Melitta took part in several club carnivals. The March 14, 1937 issue of "The Philadelphia Inquirier" raved, "A golden-haired fraulein, 26-year-old Melitta Brunner from Austria, proved to be an enchanting butterfly as she danced on skates last night at the Arena before an overflow crowd of 6300 which included standees. Striking the very keynote of Schiaparelli's latest motif for butterflies this spring, Melitta's interpretation was an evanescent and fragile as the winged messenger she personified... Fraulein Brunner selected a light blue shade for her costume that embodied her from neck to foot, fitting like a glove of her svelte figure. Her colorful wings, light and airy, seemed more of a part of her as she glided over the rink in the blue shadows of the spotlight that traced her movements." One of her signature numbers was a performance to Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov's "Scheherazade".


Melitta headed to Hollywood for a screen test, which didn't go so well. Instead, she joined The Black Forest revue, dazzling audiences at both the New York and Dallas Expositions. She helped with choreography for several of Sonja Henie's ice revues and her image appeared on the cover of "Sports Illustrated" magazine, which then sold for a quarter.

Melitta Brunner and Karl Schäfer

Heading back to Great Britain, Melitta appeared in the show "Winter Sports" at the Alhambra Theatre in Glasgow. Throughout much of World War II, she taught skating in Scotland in one of the handful of ice rinks in Great Britain that weren't commandeered for war purposes or damaged by bombing.


After the War, Melitta taught skating in London and took part in several of Tom Arnold's pantomimes. She later toured with a revue in Italy called "La Féerie de la glace" as a replacement for Olympic Gold Medallist Micheline Lannoy, toured Sweden with her own ice show, travelled in India and returned to Tom Arnold's employ, starring in the "Ice Circus" show at the S.S. Brighton.

Photo courtesy National Archives of Poland

Moving to America, Melitta supplemented jobs coaching skating at the Philadelphia Skating Club and Humane Society, Princeton Skating Club and the Philadelphia Marriott Motor Hotel's ice rink by teaching interpretive dance, yoga and gymnastics in the summers. In December 1957, she remarried to U.S. army veteran Gale Leisure in Miami, Florida.

Keeping one skate in the fashion world, in 1964 she exhibited a line of custom lounge wear, après-ski clothing and sportswear at the New York World's Fair as part of a presentation by Hess' Department Store. Unhappy with many of the options available during her own days as a competitor, she also helped revolutionize skating costumes utilizing many of the new stretch fabrics available at the time.

Photos courtesy "Skating" magazine

Melitta retired from coaching in 1968 but skated well into her nineties. In a rare performance at age ninety one in Philadelphia in the "Skaters' Tribute To Broadway" show at the First Union Center, she performed to "Rhapsody In Blue". She quipped to reporter Bill Fleischman, "Old age has been merely a nuisance."

Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine

Living out her final years in a seniors apartment in Philadelphia, Melitta recalled her Olympic experience in the twenties with perspective, saying, "To take place in any Olympics is an honour. No matter if you take second place or tenth place." Inducted into Pennsylvania Sports Hall Of Fame, Delaware County Chapter in 2000, she passed away three years later on May 26, 2003 in Philadelphia of leukemia.

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 1968 Canadian Figure Skating Championships

Pierre Trudeau was Canada's Prime Minister. Newspapers and radio shows chronicled the trial of Sirhan Sirhan, the accused murderer of U.S. Presidential Candidate Bobby Kennedy. Paisley and high-waisted pants were the grooviest fads and everyone was swinging and swaying to Tommy James and The Shondells' hit "Crimson And Clover".


From January 9 to 14, 1968, many of Canada's best figure skaters convened at the Kerrisdale Arena in Vancouver to compete in the Canadian Figure Skating Championships for berths on the 1968 Olympic and World teams. It was the first time that British Columbia had played host to the Canadian Championships since 1951, and the chairperson of the event was Billie Mitchell, the first woman to serve on the CFSA's Board Of Directors and later, its first female President.

The event, which was well promoted and attended, was one of the first Canadian Championships to net a profit. For the first time in history, British Columbian skaters broke through the Eastern 'stronghold' and swept the gold medals in all four senior events... an especially sweet milestone as it occurred in their home province. Let's take a look back at the stories and skaters that made this event so memorable!

THE NOVICE AND JUNIOR EVENTS 


Photo courtesy Cynthia Miller

Multiple panel judging was used in the junior and novice singles events. Two young duos from the Unionville Skating Club, Debbi Jones and Michael Bradley and Janette D'Altroy and David Porter, took top honours in novice pairs and dance. The novice men's title was claimed by the Cricket Club's Steven Sugar. In the novice women's event, Madeleine Begg moved up from seventh after figures with an outstanding free skate to beat the winner of the figures, Karel Lathem. Both young women represented the North Shore Winter Club. The bronze medal went to a young Sandra Bezic, who forced to withdraw from the junior pairs event when her brother Val injured himself during practice.

Maureen Walker and Dick Shedlowski. Photo courtesy Cynthia Miller.

The junior pairs event was won by Maureen Walker of Brantford, Ontario and Dick Shedlowski of Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. Another youthful Toronto duo, Mary Church and David Falls, led the junior dance from start to finish.

In the junior women's competition, Judy Williams of the Guelph College Skating Club moved up from sixth after figures to narrowly defeat the early leader, Alana Wilson of Toronto. The junior men's event was won by four foot five Patrick McKilligan, the younger brother of senior pairs skaters Betty and John McKilligan. The bronze medallist, John McWilliams of the Upper Canada Skating Club, landed a triple Salchow in his free skate, which was absolutely a rarity in the junior ranks in those days.

THE PAIRS COMPETITION

Six teams vied for the senior pairs title in 1968. Siblings Betty and John McKilligan, who represented the Hollyburn Country Club, were the unanimous choices of all seven judges. Their winning free program was a brand new one for them that featured a one-handed reverse overhead lift, overhead Axel lift and a novel series where they began a layback spin, he separated and performed a solo Axel, then returned directly to the spin and finished with a death spiral. Their only major error was a fall on a throw Axel. A unanimous second were Port Perry, Ontario's Anna Forder and Richard Stephens, who rebounded after a missed split double Lutz twist to execute a daring performance. The bronze medal went to another sibling team, Alexis and Chris Shields of the Cricket Club.

THE ICE DANCE COMPETITION


Joni Graham and Don Phillips. Photo courtesy Toronto Public Library, from Toronto Star Photographic Archive. Reproduced for educational purposes under license permission.

Joni Graham and Don Phillips made it two for two for the Hollyburn Country Club went they absolutely dominated the ice dance competition from start to finish, defending the Canadian title they'd won the year prior in Toronto with ease. They were first on every judge's scorecard in both the compulsories and free dance, and earned rave reviews for their dramatic free dance. The previous year's junior champions, Donna Taylor and Bruce Lennie of Toronto, took the silver over the junior dance champions of 1968 'skating up' in seniors, Mary Church and David Fells in a five-two split of the judging panel. Two other British Columbian teams, Sandi Kattler and Bryce Swetnam and Lorraine Hyne and Richard Madden, rounded out the five team field.

THE WOMEN'S COMPETITION


Karen Magnussen with her winning trophy. Tim Huntingdon photo.

The retirement of Valerie Jones left the women's title ripe for the picking. In the school figures, Karen Magnussen amassed an incredible twenty two point lead over her former training mate Lyndsai Cowan and Toronto's Linda Carbonetto. When the nine women took their ice to skate their free skates, nearly four thousand spectators crammed themselves into the old rink. Magnussen didn't disappoint in the free skate, breezing her way through a walley/reverse walley/two walley combination and two double Axels and earning a standing ovation and marks ranging from 5.6 to 5.8. Cowan fell on a double Lutz attempt, but rebounded with a solid double Axel and double flip. Carbonetto stole some of Magnussen's glory with an elegant free skate that featured Axels in both directions and gorgeous spins. When the marks were tallied, Magnussen became the first woman in history from British Columbia to claim the senior women's crown at the Canadian Championships. Carbonetto managed to overcome the wide deficit between her and Cowan in the figures and move up to claim the silver. Cathy Lee Irwin of Toronto was fourth; Judy McLeod of the North Shore Winter Club fifth.

THE MEN'S COMPETITION  


Jay Humphry. Photos courtesy "Skating" magazine, Toronto Public Library.

Six worthy contenders representing clubs in three provinces vied for the senior men's title in 1968. As in the women's event, Donald Knight and Charles Snelling's decisions to leave the competitive ranks meant that a new champion would be crowned. Knight commentated the event for television after performing in Ice Capades at the Pacific Coliseum.

Jay Humphry, the favourite, amassed a strong lead over six foot tall Steve Hutchinson of the host Kerrisdale Club and Toronto's David McGillvray in the school figures. Humphry didn't disappoint in his free skate set to strains of Offenbach and Strauss, wowing the audience and judges alike with two double Axels, a triple toe-loop and a double Lutz. His marks for both technical merit and artistic impression ranged were all 5.8's and 5.9's. David McGillvray was also more than impressive, performing a double Axel with his hands on his hips and a split jump into a triple toe-loop in his free skate to Mikolov's "Romanca". Steve Hutchinson, who wasn't known for his free skating, faltered on both of his triple toe-loop and double Axel attempts.

Toller Cranston, fifth in figures, skated last and delivered what many believed was the performance of the night - a program jam packed with double jumps, expressive footwork and creative spins. His marks, which ranged from 5.4 to 5.9, were met with a chorus of loud boos. Humphry, McGillvray and Hutchinson took the medals, while Cranston was only able to move up to fourth ahead of Paul Bonenfant and Bob Emerson. Interestingly, in a 2013 interview with PJ Kwong, Cranston claimed that at this particular competition, "There were twenty competitors. I had marks from first through last. That is so controversial really, so cruel. It's really, really hard to digest. That event and what happened to me was the fuel that pushed me on for the next fifty years or something." Cranston's actual ordinals at this event were two thirds, three fourths and a fifth place overall. As he did not compete at that year's Olympic Games or World Championships and specified that this first through twentieth ideal occurred during the 1968 season, his recollection of the event may have been dramaticized for effect, simply referred to one section of this competition or a different competition entirely.

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.

A Jackes Avenue Juggler: The Jack Eastwood Story

Maude 'Jim' Smith and Jack Eastwood

John Coulter 'Jack' Eastwood was born March 7, 1908 in Toronto, Ontario. He was the eldest of John and Florence (Coulter) Eastwood's three sons and was raised wanting for little in a devout Presbyterian household on Lynwood Avenue in South Hill. His father was a successful salvage broker.

Clipping from "The College Times", Courtesy Jill Spellman, Archivist, Upper Canada College

As a teenager, Jack and his brothers Frank and Joseph were educated at Upper Canada College. While at the school, Jack played on the preparatory rugby team and was described as "a valuable member of the line" but his prowess on the ice at the Toronto Skating Club drew him far more attention. It's interesting to note that Montgomery 'Bud' Wilson and Stewart Reburn both attended Upper Canada College at the same time as Jack and went on to skate fours with him. In fact, Jack's first big success competitively was a win in the fours event at the 1926 Canadian Championships, and his partners were Bud, Cecil and Maude Smith.

Bud Wilson, Maude and Cecil Smith and Jack Eastwood. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine.

The following year, the 'Toronto four' (as they were known) repeated their win at the Canadian Championships and Jack handily finished third behind Melville Rogers and Bud in the senior men's event. That June, he graduated from Upper Canada College.

Competitors and judges at the 1927 Canadian Championships. Back: Miss Morrissey, Dorothy Benson, Margot Barclay, John Machado, Elizabeth (Blair) Machado, Cecil MacDougall, Mr. Sharp, Norman Mackie Scott, Evelyn Darling, Constance Wilson, Jack Eastwood, Maude Smith, Bud Wilson. Front: Kathleen Lopdell, Paul Belcourt, Frances Claudet, Jack Hose, Henry Cartwright, Isobel Blyth, Melville Rogers, Marion McDougall, Chauncey Bangs. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine.

The next month at the age of nineteen, Jack married Yolande Audrey Gooderham, the daughter of Norman Gooderham, a successful yachtsman who was related to U.S. President Harry Truman's Secretary Of State Dean Gooderham Acheson.

Jack Eastwood, Maude 'Jim' Smith, Cecil Smith and Stewart Reburn. Photo courtesy City Of Toronto Archives.

At six feet tall with brown hair and blue eyes, Jack was a striking figure on the ice who excelled in multiple disciplines. From 1926 to 1937, he amassed no less than fourteen medals in the Canadian Championships in singles, pairs, fours and the Tenstep. He competed at the North American Championships in 1927, 1931, 1933 and 1937, his best finish being a silver medal in the pairs event in 1933 with his first partner Maude Smith.

Jack Eastwood, Maude 'Jim' Smith, Cecil Smith and Stewart Reburn. Photo courtesy City Of Toronto Archives.

At the age of nineteen in 1928, Jack travelled to St. Moritz, Switzerland and represented Canada in the pairs event at the Winter Olympic Games and in 1930 and 1932, competed at the World Championships in New York City and Montreal. His many pairs and fours partners included Veronica Clarke, Margaret Leslie, Osborne Colson and Mary Jane Halsted.

Stewart Reburn, Maude 'Jim' Smith, Cecil Smith and Jack Eastwood. Photo courtesy City Of Toronto Archives.

After finishing fifth in the pairs event with Mary Jane Halsted at the 1937 North American Championships in Boston, Jack decided to draw an end to his long and rather illustrious competitive career at the age of twenty eight. He turned professional and took up residence on Jackes Avenue.
He taught during much of World War II at the Buffalo Skating Club in New York with Charlotte Walther. Continuing in the tradition of one his own coaches, Gustave Lussi, he worked diligently to keep the Buffalo club's tradition of lavish skating carnivals alive during wartime. One of his most successful efforts was the club's Eleventh Annual Carnival-On-Ice on March 28 and 29, 1941, a benefit for the Buffalo and Erie County Chapter of the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis. The two-day affair drew in massive crowds and featured a cast of over two hundred and seventy including Norah McCarthy, Edi Scholdan... and his old friend Bud Wilson.


After the War, Jack devoted his time to judging and raising his four children. He passed away on March 22, 1995 at his home in Toronto at the age of eighty seven. Though he never performed triple or even double Axels, his longevity as a competitive skater was certainly remarkable. It was a different time and Jack's partner Maude Smith explained it best when quoted in "The Globe And Mail" on October 9, 1986: "We were much more graceful in our time. We didn't have any of that jumping or herky-jerky stuff. You have to be an acrobat now to be a skater." An acrobat he wasn't, but in terms of succeeding in multiple disciplines Jack Eastwood was a remarkable juggler.

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.c

A Stockholm Sensation: The Gösta Sandahl Story


"In no other sport but figure skating is one given the opportunity to show as much of their personality. It gives so much joy, the feeling... One develops one's grace, fills up the chest and inhales the lovely winter day's strengthening air, all during a body exercise that is free from any harmful effects... For each little progress you make, more and more expanses open up, and you soon find yourself standing in the middle of a kingdom of unlimited possibilities. Figure skating is a difficult art but your whole individuality comes out when you compose your own characters and perform them for your own fun." - Gösta Sandahl

The son of Alma Charlotta (Carlman) and Harald Gustaf Hjalmar Sandahl, Knut Gustaf Elof Sandahl was born January 13, 1893 in Stockholm, Sweden. He was the youngest of three siblings, with an older sister named Märta Sofia and an older brother named Carl Edvard Harald. The Sandahl family shared a home with a marine superintendent and his daughter on the base of the Svea Artilleriregemente (Artillery Regiment), where Harald Sandahl worked as a clothing storeroom manager, chamberlain and administrator.


Harald Gustaf Hjalmar Sandahl and Carl Leonard Sandahl 

Knut Gustaf Elof went by the name 'Gösta'. Swedish skating historian Lennart Månsson explained, "In Sweden at the time, 'Gösta' was a very common, familiar name to use for a person that was christened 'Gustaf', much in the same way that a lady named 'Elizabeth' may be commonly known as 'Lisa'. In Sweden we do not have a strict convention of using a middle name, so if you have three first names, as in this case, it is perfectly normal for any of the three to be the intended 'main' first name." Gösta's uncle Carl Leonard Sandahl was a renowned architect and artist who designed the Danmarks Hus as well as schools, banks, church and parish buildings, bathhouses and a large stone barn building at Steninge Castle.


Gösta and his brother Carl learned to skate at the Stockholms Allmänna Skridskoklubb, which was a great hub of skating in the early twentieth century. They shared the ice with great champions like Ulrich Salchow, Bror Meyer, Richard Johansson and Per Thorén and soon became extremely proficient in both school figures and free skating. The Sandahl brothers also developed a friendship with Gillis Grafström, who was around the same age and was also an intellectual.


After winning the junior men's title at the Nordic Games in 1909, Gösta made his first appearance in the senior men's class at the Swedish Championships in 1910. He placed second behind Richard Johansson and ahead of his older brother. The following year, he won his first of five Swedish men's titles and incredibly in 1912, he won the European men's title on his first try in his home city. In 1913, Gösta was "barely out of his sick bed" when he won the senior men's title at the Nordic Games, defeating Harald Rooth, Arthur Cumming, his brother Carl and Olof Hultgren. Not long after, his brother gave up competitive skating and focused on his education. Carl grew up to become a highly regarded physician in Lidköping who experimented with laser surgery in the fifties.


Gösta came from behind after the figures with an outstanding free skate to become the surprise winner of the 1914 World Championships in Helsinki. The fact that the Swedish judge placed his competitor Fritz Kachler tenth in free skating may have helped a little. Finnish newspapers noted that Gösta's free skating program was "versatile, self-conscious, safe and elegant." Otto Bohatsch remarked, "He is a smart youngster... with flight and speed, though his program is not different from Salchow in his younger days." Though the Scandinavian press raved about the twenty one year old's victory, several of his older (Continental) competitors claimed he had been a less than gracious winner and had in fact gloated about defeating them. This may have been the case, however there may have also been egos at play. Whatever the truth, Gösta's mother never lived to see him win a major international title. She passed away in October of 1912, when he was only nineteen.


Although major ISU Championships were not held during The Great War, Gösta continued to compete in Scandinavia for a time. In 1915, he won a figure skating competition in Stockholm for a cup donated by the Duchess of Bedford, the owner of Prince's Skating Club in London, for the fourth time. He was also victorious at an international competition in Oslo, Norway in February of 1916, defeating the Stixrud brothers.


Gösta's decision to stop competing had very little to do the War and much to do with his religious and philosophical beliefs. He was an absolutist, theosophist and vegetarian who wasn't a big fan of the Olympic movement. An essay that he penned in "Idrottsboken: en handledning för skolungdom samt praktisk vägvisare för varje idrottsintresserad" in 1914 seems to support the fact he had ethical concerns about the direction in which Sweden's sports system was headed at the time. He lamented, "One no longer knows sport as his good friend in life and work but at most becomes a fettered prisoner, a comrade who has little or no joy. If he is a good jumper, he may not run. If he is a good one at discus or sledgehammer, he must not do anything else... Scriptures whose suitability and usefulness are of course raised over all doubts and criticisms (they are given by experts, whose regulations, one of course must unconditionally submit to, because otherwise they threaten to resign their positions, and this would be the least death for our public health), he is threatened and by harassment may even be disqualified. In this way, a sportsman is forced under the coach's knuckle whip, thus reshaping him from an individual person to a cog in the machine who at the next Olympic Games will prove our people's physical power and superiority over other peoples, from a racial hygiene point of view. If we made everybody in Sweden sacrifice two hours [of their day to sport] would we seize every single point in 1916 at the Olympics... It must be pointed out that it is not against competitions per se, I turned, but against competitions in the form that they are now being conducted, and against the spirit towards the rules of the participants that is common, as well as the leaders... Competitions are [meant to be] had to raise interest in sports."


In December of 1922, Gösta announced his intention to come out of retirement and compete in the World Championships in Vienna. Considering it had been eight years since he'd participated in an ISU Championship, it was quite the comeback attempt. He trained for the Championships in Davos, where he entered a competition that January and placed second. That same month, he bested France's Francis Pigueron and Pierre Brunet at a competition in Font-Romeu-Odeillo-Via, a commune in the Pyrénées. At the World Championships, he placed a disappointing third behind behind Fritz Kachler and Willy Böckl, two of the Austrian men he'd beat at the 1914 World Championships. The bronze medal was actually an upgrade. The results were initially tabulated incorrectly and it was first announced that Ernst Oppacher, another of his pre-War competitors, had also defeated him. He returned to Sweden to win his final national title and hung up his skates for good.

Having graduated from the Vänersborg Universitet with a degree in law, Gösta had absolutely zero involvement in the figure skating world as a coach or official after he retired for the second time. He focused on his career, playing tennis and swimming and passed away on December 16, 1963 at the age of seventy. He was unmarried, had no children and his obituary didn't even bother to mention that he had been a figure skater, let alone a European or World Champion.

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' 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? 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 1940 U.S. Figure Skating Championships

Matchbook from the Cleveland Skating Club, circa 1940's

In dance halls, they foxtrotted to "A Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square" and waltzed to "Beautiful Ohio". Those with a quarter to spare made their way to theaters to watch Walt Disney's new film "Pinocchio". President Franklin Delano Roosevelt announced that he was sending his Undersecretary of State to Western Europe on a 'fact-finding mission' but it wasn't for another seven months that men between the ages of twenty one and forty five were required to register for the draft.

Welcome Little Stranger's cover of "Beautiful Ohio"

World War II was raging overseas but in Cleveland, Ohio, figure skating was thriving. The city boasted two skating clubs - the Elysium Figure Skating Club and the Cleveland Skating Club - and the latter was only one of two skating clubs in the country at the time who had built their own rink. It was that very rink in Shaker Heights where ninety one of America's best singles skaters, couples and fours convened on February 9 and 10, 1940. Let's take a look back at the skaters and stories from this historic event!

THE NOVICE AND JUNIOR EVENTS


Junior men's champion Bobby Specht

To the delight of the hometown crowd, Cleveland's own Caroline Brandt waltzed away with the novice women's title in a record field of twenty five entries. The novice men's title was won by William Grimditch Jr. of the Philadelphia Skating Club and Humane Society. In winning, Grimditch defeated a young Eddie LeMaire, who twenty one years later perished in the Sabena Crash.

The junior women's champion, twelve year old Ramona Allen of the Oakland Figure Skating Club, had her own brush with tragedy. The February 11, 1940 issue of "The Philadelphia Enquirer" noted, "When the Athenia was sunk early in the War, Ramona was carried off the sinking ship in the arms of her mother, but nobody 'carried' the young lady in the two days of the figure skating tournament here." The Athenia had been torpedoed by a German U-boat off Glasgow in September of 1939. Of the almost one thousand, five hundred passengers and crew aboard, over hundred were killed - almost half when a lifeboat was crushed by one of the ship's propellers.

Dorothy Glazier and Stephen Tanner of the Skating Club Of Boston defeated Nettie Prantel and George Boltres of the Skating Club of New York, Jean and Robert Matzke of Philadelphia and Dr. and Mrs. Howard E. Wilkinson of the Buffalo Skating Club to win the junior pairs event. In the junior men's event, San Francisco brothers Murray and Sheldon Galbraith led the way after the school figures. Sheldon Galbraith, who would later coach a who's who of Canadian figure skating, dropped to third behind Superior, Wisconsin's Bobby Specht and his brother with a disastrous free skate. PJ Kwong and Mel Matthews' article "Sheldon Galbraith: The Early Years" recalled, "Suffering from a cold, and used to the much larger ice surface where he had been training, he turned in a poor performance in the freestyle event. There were seats for spectators on one side of the rink, and skating on this much smaller ice surface, he crashed through the barrier, landing in someone's lap."

THE MEN'S COMPETITION


Illustration of U.S. senior men's champion Eugene Turner

When five time U.S. Champion Robin Lee turned professional in 1939, his expected successor was young Ollie Haupt Jr. of St. Louis. An exciting free skater, Haupt had been named to the 1940 Olympic team that never was. However, in Cleveland his dream of being the next U.S. men's champion was dashed by a handsome nineteen year old Californian named Eugene Turner. With an outstanding free skate, Skippy Baxter surpassed Arthur Vaughn Jr. for the bronze medal. In winning, Turner became the first U.S. Champion in history from the Pacific Coast. Benjamin T. Wright recalled, "The elements of program and choreography versus strong athletic ability came into play... and made the decision of the judges that much more difficult. The ultimate results were a source of controversy for some years thereafter."

THE WOMEN'S COMPETITION


Joan Tozzer

Although the Skating Club Of Boston's Joan Tozzer had reigned as both the U.S. women's and pairs champion the two previous years, in the months leading up to the Cleveland Nationals pretty much everyone expected an upset. Seventeen year old Austrian Hedy Stenuf had finished second to Megan Taylor at the 1939 World Championships in Prague, had relocated to Rochester, New York to live with her father and announced her intention to win the U.S. title. Though not even a U.S. citizen at the time of the event, a special concession was made by the USFSA allowing her to compete as she was due to receive her citizenship the next month.


Hedy Stenuf

In the school figures, Tozzer trounced Stenuf by a wide margin and in the free skate, both Stenuf and Jane Vaughn of Philadelphia defeated Tozzer. The final results were extremely close with Tozzer winning her third and final U.S. women's title over Stenuf three judges to two. Vaughn, who had earlier defeated Charlotte Walther of Buffalo to win that year's Eastern title, edged a young Gretchen Merrill for the bronze. At the time time of her win, Joan Tozzer had been engaged for less than a month to  a Princeton grad living in Honolulu. Less than two years later, she was living in Hawaii with her husband and infant son during the attack on Pearl Harbor.

THE PAIRS, ICE DANCE AND FOURS COMPETITIONS

Joan Tozzer and Hedy Stenuf, the top two finishers from the women's competition squared off again in the pairs competition, finishing in the same order with partners Bernard Fox and Skippy Baxter. William and Eva Schwerdt Bruns repeated as the bronze medallists. Missing from the pairs event were 1939 U.S. Junior Champions Betty Lee Bennett and John Kinney of Seattle. They were suspended by the USFSA for six months for participating in unsanctioned carnivals. Ultimately, Bennett and Kinney turned professional and skated in a show at the New York State Fair.

Sandy MacDonald and Harold Hartshorne defended as American Silver Dance champions. Finishing second with George Boltres was Harold's former partner Nettie Prantel. Vernafay Thysell and Paul Harrington and Oakland's Barbara Ann Gingg and J. Drexel Gibbins finished third and fourth. In the fours event, Mary Louise Premer, Janette Ahrens, Robert Uppgren and Lyman E. Wakefield Jr. of the St. Paul Figure Skating Club narrowly defeated the Philadelphia Skating Club and Humane Society's four, which consisted of Mary Stuart Dayton, William Weaver Lukens Jr., Anna McKaig Hall and W. Penn Gaskill Hall III. They became the first Midwestern four in history to win the U.S. title.

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.