#Unearthed: How Do You Figure It?


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 fascinating gem, entitled "How Do You Figure It?", originally appeared in the June/July 1980 issue of "Canadian Skater" magazine. Ten years prior to the elimination of compulsory figures, the skating world weighed in on their potential elimination.

"HOW DO YOU FIGURE IT?" 


Table of figures from the 1980 CFSA Rulebook

After the World Championships in Dortmund, West Germany, ISU President Jacques Favart spoke out in favour of eliminating school figures from major International Championships. "Canadian Skater" posed the following question to a number of well-known skating enthusiasts.

M. Favart has been quoted as saying, "The compulsory figures must die. They are a waste of time and prevent skaters from being more creative."

Do you agree with him?


GARY BEACOM (MEN'S BRONZE MEDALLIST)

I am rigidly opposed to M. Favart's proposal to eliminate figures from world competitions. It is not only because of the direct contribution school figure proficiency plays in the development of a well-rounded free skater and disciplined individual. Equally important is the maintenance of the elite element in our sport which involves the combination of intellectual and physical demands.

My reference to the benefits of figures to free skating is appreciably slanted towards the creative and artistic merit derived from a well-established conceptual understanding of and precision-trained adeptness at, the compulsory school figures. Without hand waving dismissal of this point and wishing to avoid unduly complicated analysis, I suggest that a creative and expressive skater is one who, in the development of a repertoire, spontaneously combines previously acquired coordination with an inventive and commanding portrayal. A good repertoire can only be accomplished in that order - technique first, then artistry. Acutely balanced manoeuvrability is vital if a skater wishes to develop the confidence necessary to perform an uninhibited and effortless free skating program.

I disagree with anyone who argues that such a facility is not increased by the accuracy-oriented activity of school figures. This discipline instills in a skater a profound awareness of the proper carriage and the constant balance compensations required for the variety of one-footed movements fundamental to both figures and free skating. Although the mastery of total body control and versatility is more explicitly compulsory for success in school figures, I believe that nothing less than a comparable degree of excellent and accuracy is needed for a truly distinguished free skating performance, and I will always maintain that a well-versed figure technician will almost invariably be a sure-footed free skater able to direct his or her full effort to creative ends.

For an athlete, amateur sport of any kind can be  a total commitment, a challenge. Each sport requires a few or several types of specialized physical and mental abilities. Figure skating is unique in its balanced demand of all these skills. The elimination of compulsory figures would make it less fulfilling and much less instructive and would not we, in fact, have to rename our sport?


DON JACKSON (WORLD CHAMPION 1962; OLYMPIC BRONZE MEDALLIST 1960)

Figures! Should they be done away with in world competitions? My answer is a decided No!

Once they are taken [out] of the World's, it would only be a question of time before school figures would be dropped from all competitions, National, Sectional, etc. and the deterioration in free skating would begin to set in.

The disciplined application of school figures makes for a better free skater. It may be argued that certain skaters with an aptitude for laying down good school figures on the ice, are, nevertheless, not up to par with other competitors in their free skating. That may be so, but even they would admit to being better free skaters than they would have been without the disciplined practice of figures. Most world champions have either been on top in figures or very close to the top. Those well back in figures were usually well back in free skating as well.

Rather than scrapping figures in competitions, it would be more to the point to upgrade them. Starting at the lowest test level, the skater should be made aware of the importance of doing the figures with form and flow. The tracing should be considered secondary in importance. There should be two sets of marks given on the judge's sheet - one for form and flow and the other for the tracing. The coaches will then be in a better position to teach and impress on the skater the importance of developing the art of stylized motion in figures. In due course the skater will realize that with this form of practice even the tracings will improve without having to resort to steering. Most important, the maximum benefits to free skating from this form of figure practice will be achieved.

I cannot over-emphasize the effects the elimination of figures would eventually have on free skating skills of competitors. Although they only comprise a mere handful of skaters, as compared to the tens of thousands of serious skaters in the many clubs throughout Canada, the are the backbone of the wonderful activity called 'Figure Skating'. If the figures were dropped from competitions, their value would start to diminish throughout the ranks.

The passing of a first test, a fifth test, or the attainment of the gold medal is indeed something for the non-competitive skater to take great pride in. It goes without saying, that if figures are taken out of competitions their value will diminish in the eyes of most skaters, and the feeling will be, if they don't consider figures important in competitions - then why bother?

KAREN MAGNUSSEN-CELLA (WORLD CHAMPION 1973; OLYMPIC SILVER MEDALLIST 1972)

To discontinue compulsory school figures would be to take away a very important part of figure skating. Even though figures may not be as spectacular as the free skating portion of the sport and many people may not understand them, they are without a doubt the backbone of figure skating.

What I mean by 'backbone of figure skating' is that figures represent the point where a young skater learns a sense of body balance on the inside and outside edges and the location of the body in relation to the ice. A skater learns correct posture while practicing figures and that must be the most important element of good figure skating. Concentration is also a key factor in skating because skating itself, be it school figures or free skating, is very technical. Skaters learn to concentrate while learning school figures and this skill can be carried over to the free skating program.

Discipline is something else that can be learned through the compulsory figures. To build a career in skating requires hours of hard work. In there is no discipline many skaters will not go on as they should. I have witnessed so many cases of skaters with a wealth of natural talent who have gone nowhere because of lack discipline that it could make you cry. That is not to say that free style skating is not important also. But all the basic control a skater will need for free skating is learned in figures. The same edge principles apply for jumping and ice dancing. Just as all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, so all figures and no free skating will, make for a dull skater. A balance of the two is required.

The school figures are the ultimate test of a skater's control. There is still room to show creativity in the free skating segment. As a past skater and world champion and now as a teacher, I feel very strongly that we have champions who are GREAT in all aspects of figure skating.

HELLMUT MAY (FORMER OLYMPIC COMPETITOR FOR AUSTRIAN TEAM AND FSCC PRESIDENT; COACH; DOCTOR OF ECONOMICS)

The two major changes of the last fifteen years intended to update figure skating were the introduction of the compulsory free skating program and the drastic reduction from 60% to 30% in the compulsory of this reduction, figures have not lost their importance. A skater with good figures still holds a considerable edge as, particularly in international competition, judges put more emphasis on the figure portion by allowing larger spreads in the marks given to figures. In reality, the figure portion carries a much greater weight than the 30% it appears to be allotted. The dominance figures still hold in competition is proof that they are an important and integral part of skating and should not be eliminated.

Why are figures so important? They are the essential basis of all skating skills. They teach the skater the kind of discipline necessary to be successful in the sport. Figures are undoubtedly the purest part of figure skating. Here we see the achievement of motor skills not influenced by any other elements. Free skating and dancing are often called the 'art sports' as many other elements besides skating (music, dance, etc.) are used and combined with the skating. This combination makes skating beautiful.

However, they also add to its controversy and difficulty in evaluation. The International Olympic Committee is frowning upon sports which are no truly measurable. Figures have set standards which lend themselves to more precise evaluation than free skating. If figures are dropped, the ISU is playing into the hands of professionalism and show business. It is conceivable that a group of acrobatic performers with sufficient audience and television appeal could abandon the ISU rules and create its own championship. Without figures the doors would be wide open and the ISU would be leaving itself vulnerable to outside competition.

Because figures occupy such a large portion of ice time, lesson time and school schedules, their elimination would endanger the very structure of our coaching system, including the operation of facilities and the teaching faculty.

The position of the ISU regarding figures was first revealed at the ISU/IPSU (International Professional Skating Union) Liason meeting during 1978 Worlds. In the IPSU meeting the following day, the subject was discussed emphatically and a unanimous vote of one hundred international coaches strongly rallied against the elimination of compulsory figures at world competitions. The united statement of coaches from around the world should bear sufficient weight to ensure that FIGURE SKATING REMAINS FIGURE SKATING.


BRIAN POCKAR (THREE TIME CANADIAN CHAMPION, RANKED 9TH IN THE WORLD)

I strongly disagree with M. Favart's statement. The best comparison I can think of is a pianist. Scales are the basic technique that must be mastered before any pianist can hope to become proficient. School figures, like scales, are where it all starts. They teach the basics of skating and give the skater a feel for the sport - the inside edges and turns. As well, they teach the body control and discipline so crucial to mastering the sport.

There were many criticisms of the judging of figures at Olympics and World's this year. In my opinion, judging is improving every year. Of course, some mistakes are made. This is to be expected, and there injustices in the judging of figures as there are in any competition. If there is a 'problem' with the judging of figures, it is surely with the system - not with the figures themselves. A solution to this 'problem' should come through a thorough examination of the system of judging figures, not through their elimination.

Without figures, a skater will never really learn to skate, and that, after all, is the point of the exercise.

BARBARA ANN SCOTT KING (WORLD CHAMPION 1947, 1948; OLYMPIC GOLD MEDALLIST 1948 - WINNER OF BOTH FIGURES AND FREE SKATING)

The very name of the sport is FIGURE SKATING - not free skating; not exhibition skating. It is a competitive sport. The basic foundation of figure skating is a strong grounding in school figures. Ballet has barre work... pianists have finger exercises... figure skating has school figures.

My feeling is that youngsters today are not willing to spend the hours necessary to perfect school figures. The years of practice spent of figures teaches a young person the discipline that is so sadly lacking these days. It not only gives one a solid grounding for good free skating, but also helps one to learn concentration and the ability to work hard at something that is not always fun but demands the sacrifice of practice and patience. This discipline carries over into everyday life and teaches the importance of work before play.

Unfortunately, TV does not show this important part of skating competitions because figures are not of interest to the general public. But this notwithstanding, the important question is - Are figure skating competitions commercial ventures, entertainment or serious forums for top athletes to compete against each other? There are other opportunities for purely creative endeavours. A real skating competition is not an ice show, exhibition or television special. It should be an entirely separate activity.

As one who truly loves the sport of figure skating, I hope and prat that the tradition will never be compromised or abolished.

LILIANE DE KRESZ (COACH; FORMER HEAD COACH OF NATIONAL SEMINAR)

While the figures are by no means the end to it all, and often make the end result hard to justify for a TV audience at large, it can't be denied that they do have a vital role in the development of a fine skater.

Figures mean discipline, balance, coordination, edges, flow, just to name a few components. But above all, what they mean to the skater is a strive for excellence.

The elimination of figures from high level competition could bring about the decline of the sport as we know it. Because if no longer required at the top, skaters would take a more casual attitude towards figure practice and would not be willing to spend the time practicing skills to perfection for which there is no direct reward.

OTTO HUGIN (COACH)

Even if compulsory figures were eliminated at the international level, they would still be required at national competitions. Therefore, skaters would continue to spend time learning and practicing their school figures in order to succeed within their own countries. These hours and years of wasted time would negatively affect their progress at school and their education. Since the ISU itself does not consider a total elimination of the compulsory figures it has become necessary to search for a fair compromise that has national and international validity. The time spent in exercising the compulsory figures (70% of the total  training time) has to be more reasonably adjusted in relation to the final rating where they count for 30% of the total points in a competition. Moreover, the draw for the starting order in the short program should be made independent of the result of the compulsory competition. Until now the rule has been that mediocre compulsory skaters have been relegated to a poor group draw for the short program; the effect of this is felt up to the final rating since the usual group evaluation system only fails to do justice to the actual performance in the short program and in free skating.

A proposed solution of the problem:

a) Compulsory figures

The compulsory figures can be reduced from 41 to 23 figures without deleting a single element. The ISU and National Figure Tests would be as follows:

4th test No. 1, 2, 3, 5, 9 (5 figures)
3rd test No. 4, 6, 8, 14, 15 (5 figures)
2nd test No. 16, 17, 18, 19, 22, 23 (6 figures)
1st test No. 20, 21, 31, 38, 39, 40, 41 (7 figures)

b) Draw for the starting order in the short program

The right to a draw in groups 3 and 4 is based on the ranking in the 1st-12th evaluation rank in the short program/free skating program at the European or World's competition of the previous year.

Example World Competition in 1981

Group 4
Linda Fratianne, Emi Watanabe, Denise Biellmann, Anett Pötzsch , Dagmar Lurz, Elaine Zayak

Group 3
Katarina Witt, Lisa-Marie Allen, Claudia Kristofics-Binder, Deborah Cottrill, Sanda Dubravčić, Carola Weissenberg

Kristina Wegelius and Tracey Wainman would move up to take the place of the retiring Linda Fratianne and Dagmar Lurz.

c) Draw for the group of compulsory figures

The draw for the figure group to be skated would take place at the ISU Conference in June (similar to the short program). On the evening prior to the competition, the only draw to be made would be for the foot on which to skate.

This would greatly reduce the practice time and it would probably much improve the quality of the figures.

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.

Why Skating Shows Without Booze Don't Mix


"Skate for beauty and not so much for business. The seriousness of mastering technique is one thing, but the lissomeness and grace of a figure in abandon to time rhythm is what elevates skating to the highest form of poetry of motion." - Gladys Lamb, December 30, 1915

The Great War may have been raging overseas in Europe, but in 1915, social life in New York City was buzzing with electricity. At Rector's on 48th Street, diners could take in a meal, two orchestras and a comedian for whopping dollar and seventy five cents. Murray's on 42nd Street competed with a seventy cent lunch and a revolving dance floor. Owing in part to the popularity of Charlotte Oelschlägel's performances at The Hippodrome, skating was hugely popular in the city at the time and it was only natural that several enterprising nightclub owners cashed in on the craze. In 1915, The 44th Street Theatre installed an Ice Palace in its latticed rooftop 'Bull Ring' dance floor and stage area. They opened the rink in the afternoons to theatre patrons who brought their own skates and by the next year, added skating performances as a novelty act to their popular Castles In The Air vaudeville shows.

Castles In The Air at the 44th Street Theatre

In 1916, Thomas Healy installed an ice rink atop the Golden Glades restaurant on the northeast corner of Columbus Avenue and West 66th Street. The four story building had been a popular spot since the nineteenth century and was known for its lavish menus. Peter Salwen's "Upper West Side Story: A History and Guide" noted Egyptian quail, French partridge, English partridge and three kinds of duck were served - but in no time flat the hottest thing on the restaurant's menu were the ice shows on the roof. The very first Golden Glades 'Midnight Parade and Extravaganza Ice Ballet' show was held on Saturday, December 2, 1916 at 11:30 PM.


Following an a la carte dinner earlier that evening, World Speed Skating Champion Karl Alfred Ingvald Næss and five time Norwegian Figure Skating Champion Harry Paulsen headlined a cast of skaters, dancers in a variety style show that included everything from singing to figure skating to a demonstration of ice hockey. The audience was enthralled, erupting into spontaneous applause while they guzzled back gin rickeys and spiked raspberry ices.


The show was an instant hit and soon the rooftop ice rink was (like at the 44th Street Theatre) opened in the afternoons for public skating before a suppertime and midnight ice show. The venue was often dangerously overcrowded and bookings for private parties came pouring in. By 1917, Thomas Healy was presenting Golden Glades diners with 'Summer Ice Skating Ballets' in June and July starring Margot Georges, a skater at The Hippodrome.


How did Thomas Healy pack his joint with skating fans so quickly? Why, with the help of a crack PR team! He employed the St. Nicholas Rink's publicity director - a young writer by the name of Bide Dudley - who had a habit of (ahem) embellishing the truth to get people in the door. A shining example of Dudley's handiwork is this gem from the March 11, 1917 issue of The Sun: "Harry Paulsen, one of the premiere skaters at Thomas Healy's Golden Glades, will introduce [in his] performance the sensational 'Bell Jump,' a trick which has already cost the lives of a score of European exhibition ice gliders. A miss is considered almost sure death. It is done by a tremendous leap and a clicking of the skates together, then landing on the ice and spreadeagling until the impetus of the motion ceases." If a waltz jump, a clicking of the heels and a spread eagle is 'almost certain death', I guess I should be writing this blog from beyond the grave. I digress.



Over the next two years, Thomas Healy beefed up the cast of his shows with special guests like Norval Baptie and Gladys Lamb, Laura Jean Carlisle, Ellen Dallerup, William P. Chase and Cathleen Pope. He staged a new combination musical/skating revue in the spring of 1919 called "Blossom Festival" which was so popular it was extended into the summer months. A costume designer was hired to dress the skaters to the nines and a composer was brought in to write music specifically for chanteuses Helen Hardick and Peggy La Velle to belt out while standing on rugs laid on the ice in between skating performances. An account from the July 27, 1919 edition of "The Sun" noted, "Diners sitting in semicircle at tables around an ice skating stage can order their food or drink at their pleasure while 'Blossom Festival,' the only ice skating show in the East is being presented." That autumn, "Blossom Festival" was replaced by a show fittingly called "Cheer Up, New York". The show's name pleaded to Big Apple residents to forget their wartime woes by watching skating until the wee hours of the morning. "The New York Tribune" called it "the best in the series" and matinee performances were added that winter. The show was even staged on Christmas Day and New Year's Eve.


By 1920, it was all over. As the liquor dried up with prohibition laws in place, patrons flocked to speakeasies and not even Dudley's creative PR skills could fix the mess of a restaurant devoid of sweet, sweet gin. Thomas Healy tried abandoning the ice shows, then bringing them back, but nothing worked. He finally ditched the rooftop skating shows in the spring of 1922 and converted the Golden Glades into a series of banquet rooms. The main floor restaurant passed into control of two of his former employees and the building's Balconades Ballroom was converted into a dance hall run by his orchestra man. Like the olive in the bottom of a martini, Healy was sunk...

Pictorial spread featuring Gladys Lamb

Or so it seemed! During the heyday of the Golden Glades' rooftop ice spectaculars, Thomas Healy acquired the lease of the Old Astor Market which spanned Broadway from 95th to 96th Street. On the site, he had briefly attempted an ice rink called the Crystal Palace. It had failed miserably so he converted an old fish market into restaurant there instead and called it the Sunken Galleries. He found a new business partner in fellow restauranteur John Wagoner and decided to fire up the venue's old ice plant and revive the same combination of stage and skating shows at the Sunken Galleries that had worked atop the Golden Glades. Although they do say that beating your head against the same wall and expecting different results is the definition of insanity, there was some logic to Healy and Wagoner's plan. The restaurant was in the heart of the uptown theatre district, so he would be more easily able to grab theatre patrons as they were coming and going more easily. Sadly, this second effort quickly failed too and the Golden Glades, once home of marvellous skating and martinis, burned to the ground in a fire. The moral of the story? Skating shows without booze just do not mix.

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.

Tensteps And Threes: The Max Bohatsch Story


The son of naturalist Albert Bohatsch, Maximilian 'Max' Bohatsch of Vienna, Austria came from a skating family. His siblings Otto and Mizzi were an accomplished pairs team who claimed a gold medal at the Nordic Games in Stockholm in 1905, while his younger brother Ferdinand won the Austrian junior men's title in Innsbruck in 1905.


Max - arguably the most successful of the Bohatsch bunch - first rose to prominence in 1901, when he won the Austrian men's title in the city of Lviv, then part of Austria-Hungary and known to its citizens as Lemberg. He defeated Ernst Fellner and Martin Gordan (two far more experienced skaters) in the process.


Two years later, Max made his international debut at the World Championships in St. Petersburg, Russia. He placed an impressive third behind Ulrich Salchow and Nikolay Panin-Kolomenkin, earning a first place ordinal from the Austrian judge and defeating Panin-Kolomenkin in the free skate. In 1904, he won the Austrian men's title again and finished second to Salchow at the European Championships in Davos. All but one judge, Austria's Gustav Hügel, had him ahead of Salchow in the free skate at that event. During this period, he also partnered his sister Mizzi in competitions when his brother Otto was unable to.

Left: Max, Mizzi, Otto and Ferdinand Bohatsch. Right: Max Bohatsch in 1904.

1905 was Max's most successful season. He claimed a third and final Austrian title in Innsbruck and won the European title in Bonn with first place ordinals from every single judge in both the figures and free skate.

Max Bohatsch, Per Thorén and Ulrich Salchow at the 1905 World Championships, held in conjunction with the Nordic Games. Photo courtesy National Archives Of Norway.

At the World Championships that followed in Stockholm, he again defeated Ulrich Salchow in the free skate but placed second overall. At his final World Championships in Vienna in 1907, Max defeated Salchow in the free skate at the World Championships for a third time, but again frustratingly settled for second place. Resigned to the fact that Salchow was near unbeatable at the school figures, he retired from competitive skating. For his contributions to figure skating, he was awarded a gold watch chain by Archduke Eugen Ferdinand Pius Bernhard Felix Maria.

Elements of Max's free skating program. Courtesy Irving Brokaw's "The Art Of Skating", 1910 edition.

Max made quite an impression on skaters and audiences alike during his era. He popularized a version of Franz Schöller's Tenstep in his free skating performances to gain speed, an ice dance which became known for a time internationally as the 'Bohatsch March'. T.D. Richardson claimed that Max performed it "with a tremendous lilt."


Skating historian Gunnar Bang recalled, "His acrobatics overthrew all that had been shown before. What was most [unusual] was that [his] whole program seemed improvised, but in each case, choices were thought through and beautifully realized [so] that the whole thing remained a picture of perfection." Edgar Syers noted, "The skating of Herr Bohatsch... was delightful to watch... It was given to 'snatch a grace beyond the reach of art'... [He] in a marked degree excelled in the rare ability to move [his] feet quickly - so rapid was the play of movement that the eye often failed to register an impression of the sequence of dance steps of [this] performer... There is no rending and tearing of the ice; indeed, Bohatsch appears to drift on it like a dry leaf impelled by the wind." Even the pro-Salchow "Svenska Dagbladet" newspaper admitted, "Bohatsch has a high level of muscle strength and softness in his movement."


Following his competitive career, Bohatsch worked on the the Wiener Eislaufverein's Construction Committee until he was elected to the club's board in 1927. He served as the treasurer for a time and posed a strong and eloquent opposition to factions of the Wiener Eislauverein's management who many members felt were destroying the club. Though his brother Otto was a more prominent skating judge, Max did judge the 1925 World Championships where a trio of Austrian men swept the podium. He passed away in April of 1962 at the age of eighty in Vienna, the city where he lived his entire life.

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 1958 U.S. Figure Skating Championships

Karl and Gayle Freed, Nancy and Ron Ludington, Judy Lamar, David Jenkins, Donald Jacoby and Andree Anderson, Carol Heiss, Jimmy Short, Barbara Roles, Rhode Lee Michelson and Harvey Balch. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine.

Requests for Perry Como's "Catch A Falling Star" and "Lollipop" by The Chordettes flooded the switchboards to radio stations, Dwight Eisenhower was America's President and Rice-A-Roni and Cocoa Krispies hit the shelves of grocery stories. The year was 1958 and from March 26 to 29, the Minneapolis Figure Skating Club played host to the 1958 U.S. Figure Skating Championships. The event marked only the second time in history that the state of Minnesota played host to the U.S. Nationals, the first being the 1939 Championships in St. Paul. Let's take a look back at the skaters and stories that made this event more than memorable!


THE NOVICE AND JUNIOR COMPETITIONS

Bill Kipp's student Rhode Lee Michelson narrowly defeated Maribel Vinson Owen's student Joanna Niska in the novice women's competition. The junior pairs title went to Danny Ryan's students Gayle and Karl Freed. Bill Hickox, fourth in the novice men's event, would go on to win the junior pairs title with his sister Laurie two years later. Barbara Ann Roles of Temple City, California bested Stephanie Westerfeld and Laurence Owen in the junior women's event. A second place finish in the school figures kept Boston's Gregory Kelley from defeating Jim Short, a Southern California student from Alhambra, in the junior men's event. Similarly hampered by his figures, Doug Ramsay placed only fifth despite gaining many admirers with his inspired free skating. Ten teams vied for the Silver Dance title, won by sixteen year old straight 'A' student and Harvard football coach's daughter Judy Ann Lamar and her much older (married) partner Ron Ludington. The duo took dance lessons from Cecilia Colledge in Boston. Second place went to Jim Short and Barbara Ann Roles, the junior men's and women's champions. Marilyn Meeker and Larry Pierce of Indianapolis took third, ahead of Paula Flynn of Buffalo and Wilson Hess of Rochester, New York. Finishing last with partner Robert James was Dorothyann Nelson, who would go on to win the senior pairs title in 1962 with Pieter Kollen.

Reviewing the event for "Skating World" magazine, Cecilia Colledge remarked, "Barbara [Roles] is a sure, strong skater, while Jimmy [Short] is an attractive and easy performer, with a respect for his skating seldom seen. It might be mentioned that a 'courteous regard' for figure skating was sadly lacking throughout the events."

THE PAIRS COMPETITION

The husband and wife team of Nancy and Ron Ludington of Boston, proud parents of a six-month old girl, solidly won their second U.S. title, besting Sheila Wells and Robin Greiner and Maribel Yerxa Owen and Dudley Richards. Fourth were Ila Ray and Ray Hadley, Jr., who had just returned from giving an exhibition in Paris during the World Championships. Though the Ludington's were solidly first, the marks of the teams in second through fifth place were all over the place. It was particularly close between the third and fourth place teams. Reiner had previously held the title four times with his prior partner Carole Anne Ormaca. Mary-Jane Watson and John Jarmon, who placed ninth in Paris as America's second entry at the World Championships, did not compete.

THE ICE DANCE COMPETITION

Left: Andree Anderson and Donald Jacoby. Photo courtesy Ice Follies archives. Right: Claire O'Neill and John Bejshak. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine.

Defending champions Sharon McKenzie and Bert Wright had retired, leaving the Gold Dance title up for grabs. Engaged to be married on May 31, 1958, Andree Anderson and Donald Jacoby of the Genesee Figure Skating Club took gold in the Gold Dance competition with first place ordinals from all five judges and a final score of 292.84 points. Second were Claire O'Neill and John Bejshak, third Susan Tebo and Tim Brown and fourth Margie Ackles and Chuck Phillips, Jr. Cecilia Colledge praised Tebo and Brown's "refreshingly original free dance which showed courage and imagination."

In her book "Figure Skating History: The Evolution Of Dance On Ice", Lynn Copley-Graves recalled, "Each [of the teams] was different, and the couples, led by Andy and Jake, all introduced new moves. On the day of their first National title, Andy celebrated her 22nd birthday; Jake was 27. Soon they would become 'the Jacobys'."

THE MEN'S COMPETITION

Barlow Nelson

After the school figures - which Cecilia Colledge bemoaned were of a low standard considering the competitors included the top skaters in the world - Tim Brown sat ahead of David Jenkins. This wasn't exactly new territory as the exact same thing had happened at the previous year's U.S. Championships in Berkeley and the World Championships in Paris. "Skating" magazine noted that prior to the free skate, "You could feel the tension and expectancy in the entire arena". One by one, the competitors came out and each seemed to outdo the last. However, twenty one year old David Jenkins rebounded with a dazzling free skating performance and stole the show. The Niagara Falls Gazette noted, "When he finished, one of the judges, Edward LeMaire of Rye, N.Y., who had drawn jeers from the crowd for what the spectators thought was too low scoring, gave the champ a perfect 10 points for performance. It was the first time in 15 years that a 10 had been registered in national competition. Jenkins got nothing lower than 9.7 for the content of his program, and nothing lower than 9.8 for how he performed it. Brown, an accomplished figure skater who so far does not have Jenkins' dynamic style in the free skating, turned in what he said was 'the best performance I have ever given, but it wasn't enough."

David Jenkins

With unanimous first place ordinals in the free skate from all five judges, David Jenkins won the free skate. All but one judge had him first overall ahead of Brown, Tom Moore of Seattle, Robert Brewer of Pasadena, Bradley Lord of Boston, Barlow Nelson of Hanover and Tom Weinrich of Colorado Springs. After finding out he'd won, David told an Associated Press reporter, "I may have skated well in practice or outside of competition but never that well when it counted. Sure, I felt the pressure from Tim. You always feel it in situations like that."

THE WOMEN'S COMPETITION

Five women vied for supremacy in the women's event in Minneapolis. World Champion Carol Heiss, an eighteen year old New York University co-ed from Ozone Park, racked up an insurmountable seventy two point lead over her training mate Carol Wanek, a part-time model, in the school figures. Both Carol Heiss and her coach Pierre Brunet felt she'd performed "about as well" in the figures as she had at the World Championships in Paris. Cecilia Colledge remarked, "School figures were better than those of the men, but on the whole dull."


Though Carol Heiss fell on a double Axel in the middle of her free skating program, she wasn't phased by her error and skated a near flawless performance otherwise, earning first place ordinals from all five judges both in free skating and overall on her way to her second U.S. title. Wanek took the silver, ahead of Boston's Lynn Finnegan, Carol's sister Nancy and Claralynn Lewis of Colorado Springs. Following her win, Carol was lovingly teased by skaters for her fall in the free skate. She told an Associated Press reporter, "My friends used to say I wasn't normal because I never fell in competition. I hadn't fallen since 1952. Now I'm getting it from all directions. It keeps you humble. That ice can be awfully hard."

Carol Heiss

After the dust settled, Edi Scholdan's students had won six medals and Maribel Vinson Owen's students had won five... and you just know Maribel must have had something to say about that. Immediately following the competition, Carol Heiss, the Ludington's and Tim Brown left for a three-week exhibition tour in Japan.

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.

Brilliant Britons: Three More Forgotten British Skating Pioneers

Photo courtesy Wellcome Library

Without a doubt, Great Britain played one of the most important roles in the early development of figure skating. From The Skating Club to the earliest textbooks on the technique of skating, the sport would not have evolved in the way it did had it not been for that stiff British upper lip. Today, we'll meet three more more unique skating pioneers whose stories really haven't been explored to any degree of depth previously and learn about their roles in figure skating history.

LADY URSULA BLACKWOOD



Born February 7, 1899 in Chelsea, London, England, Lady Ursula Florence Hamilton-Temple-Blackwood was the second daughter of Captain Terence Hamilton-Temple-Blackwood, the second Marquess of Dufferin and Ava, and the Marchioness of Dufferin, Flora Davis, a wealthy American singer who was the daughter of a banker in New York City.

In their youth, Lady Ursula and her sisters Doris and Patricia divided their time between Curzon House in Mayfair, London and the family's country estate Gopsail in Leicestershire. They were doted on by servants and had the pleasure of viewing paintings by Rembrandt, Murillo and Van Dyke in their own home.


Lady Ursula's father served with the Diplomatic Service, as did her grandfather Lord Dufferin. When Lord Dufferin served as Governor General of Canada from 1872 to 1878, he played a very important role in developing figure skating in Canada, shelling out over a thousand dollars to furnish Rideau Hall in Ottawa with an outdoor skating rink for members of the public who were "properly dressed"... so I guess you could say Lady Ursula had skating in her blood.


Like all of 'the best sort of people' in London at the turn of the century, Lady Ursula got her start on skates at Prince's Skating Club at Knightsbridge. In the spring of 1908, she finished second to Herbert James Clarke at the club's annual junior competition, besting future Olympic Medallist Arthur Cumming in the process. Unfortunately, her early success never translated to a top three finish at the British Championships. In her only appearance at the World Championships in Stockholm in 1913, she placed dead last. During The Great War, her uncle was seriously wounded in action and her father died of influenza. She returned to the ice, but never chose to compete again.

Lady Ursula, Lady Doris and Lady Patricia Blackwell

In 1924, Lady Ursula took charge of a 'unique store' just behind Londonerry House called the Department of General Traders. A year later, her mother passed away of heart disease, and in 1926 she married Arthur Swithin Newton Horne, the brother of Sir Allan Horne and a former Government Secretary of the Federated Malay States. She passed away on February 9, 1899 in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, England. In his book "A Bundle From Britain", Alastair Horne recalled, "Newt's wife, Aunt Ursie, who always had the purest of white hair as far back as I can ever remember, had a devastating Irish sense of humour, replete with a certain Celtic addiction to embroidery. As a child, I was wary of her tongue."

BASIL WILLIAMS



Born March 11, 1891 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Basil John Williams was the son of Nicolas and Edith Isabela (Freeland) Williams. His father was Irish; his mother Brazilian. In the early twentieth century, Basil moved to Aighton, Lancashire with his mother. As a very young man, he had some luck in the stock market. In fact, he was lucky enough to be able to afford not only a pair of skates... but the winters in Switzerland that went along with it.


Basil burst on the skating scene in 1910, winning both the Woodward Cup and Valsing Contest at a gymkhana in Switzerland. He defeated the likes of Lord Lytton, Arthur Cumming and Ulrich Salchow, putting the skating world on notice. 

In 1912, Basil competed in his first British Championships and placed second to Arthur Cumming, the 1908 Olympic Silver Medallist in special figures. That same year, he entered the World Championships for the first and only time. He placed fifth with his partner Edna Harrison, but the duo were the top ranked of the three British couples who entered. The following year, Basil won the British title, defeating Phyllis (Squire) Johnson and a host others. He did not defend his title in 1914. Instead, it was reclaimed by Arthur Cumming, who skipped the 1913 Championships.

During The Great War, Basil served in the army in Gallipoli. He was wounded in Palestine, but remained in the army for the duration of the war. After the War, he went into partnership with a London man named Horton. They traded as merchants under the name of Paton, Horton, and Co.

In 1920, at the age of twenty nine, Basil travelled to Antwerp, Belgium to compete in the 1920 Summer Olympics. He placed seventh out of nine entries in the men's event, but won the bronze medal in pairs skating with Phyllis (Squire) Johnson, acting as a replacement for Phyllis' ailing husband James who sadly passed away the following year. Interestingly, Basil never even competed in pairs at British Championships! Basil continued to skate well into the roaring twenties, competing in a waltzing competition in 1928 with Lady Rachel Stuart. He married the daughter of Wilbur Cherrier Whitehead, a well-known American bridge player, author and automobile company President.

Unfortunately, Basil's misadventures off the ice eclipsed his Olympic success in 1920. In April 1921, he found himself in court after being indicted for "obtaining false pretences" from a golf club steward named Thomas Frederick Newstead, with the intent to defraud the man of ten pounds. The case boiled down to the fact that Basil had been trying to collect old debts after he ended his affiliation with Paton, Horton, and Co. The case was ultimately dropped by the prosecution but earned him more than his fair share of bad publicity in the press. Ten years later, when he was managing the Richmond Ice Rink, he pled guilty to drinking and driving and was fined. The "Western Daily Press" claimed he was so tipsy when he was arrested that he did a step dance in the police station. Basil passed away in 1951 in Surrey, England, his successes as a figure skater largely forgotten.

THE CHEVALIER CROWTHER

The Chevalier Crowther was something of an enigma. Newspaper accounts from his era list his initials as T.H., G.H., T.E. and C.M... but his stage name was The Chevalier Crowther. He hailed from Yorkshire, but what his real name was a bit of a mystery. Beginning in the mid-1870's, The Chevalier began touring the world, performing his hodge podge of a vaudeville act for princes and paupers. Though primarily a roller skater, he was also a swordsman, juggler, equilibrist, unicycle and bicycle rider. Not only did he combine as many of these varied talents as he could in his act, but he also would cut the carcass of an animal - usually a sheep - in half with his sword as a grand finale.

Trying to separate the fact and fiction of The Chevalier's story is like trying to get the Caramilk out of the Caramilk bar. He loved to tell tales - some of which were true and perhaps embellished upon, and others which may well have been a big tall. He claimed to be able to speak ten languages and to have ridden his bicycle in the 1896 Olympics in Athens, where he was decorated by the Prince of Denmark. He also purported to have been shipwrecked twice, kept a pet tiger for five years and indulged in a bullfight on a bicycle. Once, while lost in a snowstorm, a kitten allegedly laid on his chest for days. "The warmth," he stated, "kept his heart beating." In Turkey, revolvers he used in his act were apparently seized by authorities. He maintained that while staying in a hotel room in Constantinople, he witnessed the execution of Americans on Stamboul Bridge from his window. He  also purported to have been shot at in a garden in Salonica. The bullet that was intended for him whistled by his right ear and ended up in the shoulder of the man standing behind him... and his mysterious assailant fled into the shadows. His most infamous claim involved riding on an eight foot bicycle over a nine inch plank across Niagara Falls. Whether or not he achieved the feat or not, he was indeed issued the title "The King Of Skaters And The Hero Of Niagara Falls" at St. Leonards Assembly Rooms, Hastings in 1892.

While few of these stories can be verified whatsoever, there's certainly more than enough evidence to support The Chevalier's fame and popularity in music halls and circuses. Passenger manifests confirm his claims of spending several years performing in Mexico and newspaper accounts place him in such varied locales as St. Petersburg, Cairo, Vienna, Guernsey, Copenhagen and Hamburg. An article in the August 1880 edition of "A Monthly Review Of The Drama, Music And The Fine Arts" raved, "The roller-skating performances of M. Crowther, at the Westminster Aquarium, eclipse anything of the kind that has ever been seen in London, and should be one of the greatest successes of the present management. M. Crowther's grace and dancing on the skates are beyond description."

The Chevalier wasn't just a daredevil... he was an unlucky one. In 1889, he was injured in Halifax when the wheel on his eight foot bicycle collapsed. He fell off, suffering a compound fracture of his left wrist. In 1904, he fell while performing a jump on roller skates at Bradford, hitting his head and suffering a concussion. He also had to take two years off from performing due to a case of the rheumatism.

Though figure skating rarely - if at all - made an appearance in 'his act', The Chevalier was no slouch on the ice. Prior to The Great War, he was a regular at the Palais de Glace in Nice, France. This rink opened for five o'clock tea and stayed open until one or two in the morning. It was staffed with an impressive team of instructors from England, France and Belgium and supported by small gambling casino. T.D. Richardson recalled, "The greatest of all, not as a skater but as a character straight from Dickens was 'Chevalier Crowther'. A Yorkshireman by origin, how he ever came to be there as a skater I never knew. A tall and commanding figure of a man, with a superb physique and a dominating personality; clad in a frock-coat, white waistcoat, tight pepper-and-salt trousers, white sided kid boots, gardenia, gloves and Malacca cane, all surmounted by a rather wide 'boater', the gallant 'Chevalier' would drive from his lodgings each morning in a ficare, down to the sea-front, past what is now the Jardin Roi Albert and then, large cigar rampant, slowly and with tremendous dignity he would stroll nonchalantly along the Promenade des Anglais - to the admiration of the ladies. It was an extraordinary sight and one unlikely to be seen ever again. The same curious control over the public was seen when he gave his almost nightly exhibition, even when really great performers were on the same programme. He would do a spiral or two, a ponderous hop which might be called a jump, a spread-eagle or two and some kind of a 'swiggle' and then come to a stop, left arm across his heart, right hand in the air pointing to the sky, while he waited for the tumultuous applause that invariably followed. He was indeed a unique personality and a great showman. [He had] a certain glamour, an air of romance; and above all a tremendous sense of style and a feeling for elegance - but then it was still an age of elegance, of luxury and opulence."

 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.

Brilliant Britons: Three Forgotten British Skating Pioneers

Photo courtesy Wellcome Library

Without a doubt, Great Britain played one of the most important roles in the early development of figure skating. From The Skating Club to the earliest textbooks on the technique of skating, the sport would not have evolved in the way it did had it not been for that stiff British upper lip. Today, we'll meet three unique skating pioneers whose stories really haven't been explored to any degree of depth previously and learn about their roles in figure skating history!

KATHLEEN SHAW


Born January 15, 1903 in Manchester, England, Gertrude Kathleen Shaw was the daughter of hydraulic engineer Percy Shaw and Gertrude Anne Hind. Raised in Barton-Upon-Irwell, Kathleen and her younger Constance grew up comfortably, attending school and being well fed by the family's cook, Florence. A successor of Madge Syers, Kathleen trained at the Manchester Skating Club and in Switzerland and regularly competed against men at the British Championships before becoming Great Britain's first women's champion when a separate women's event was added in 1927.


Though an NSA Gold Medallist who represented her country at both the 1924 and 1928 Olympics, Kathleen's biggest claim to fame was a bronze medal at the 1926 World Championships in Stockholm, behind Herma Szabo and Sonja Henie. T.D. Richardson claimed that her spread eagle was the best of the women competing in her era and many accounts note her grace as a skater.
However, Kathleen faced considerable competition from Henie, Szabo, Maribel Vinson, Constance Wilson and Cecil Smith.




Though she never managed to translate her success in England to a gold medal internationally, Kathleen did enjoy a brief professional career in the late thirties. She passed away on the island of Ynys Môn off the Welsh coast on July 19, 1983 at the age of eighty.

IAN BOWHILL

Born May 27, 1903 in Edinburgh, Ian Home Bowhill was one of the first Scottish figure skaters to achieve success in Great Britain once the Continental Style became de rigueur. A stockbroker by day, Salchow lover by night, Bowhill trained at the Edinburgh Ice Rink and won the Fosterson Waltzing Cup with Miss V. Jeffrey in 1924. He placed a disastrous fourteenth out of sixteen skaters in the men's event at the 1928 Winter Olympic Games in Chamonix, France and dead last in his final international outing, the 1929 World Championships in London.

After marrying Elizabeth Mabel Robertson Durham in 1930, Ian returned to claim the British men's title in 1932. Two years later, he demonstrated a novel creation - the Bowhill (or reverse Schäfer) jump - at the British Championships. Megan Taylor described it thusly: "It is begun from a deep outside back edge, and the skater makes a complete turn in a rocker-wise direction to land on the outside back edge of the opposite foot."

After retiring from competitive figure skating, Ian found more success on the putting green than he ever did in the ice rink. Prior to World War II, he was active as an international figure skating judge. He passed away in the small town of Bachory, Scotland in 1975.

WINTER RANDELL PIDGEON

Born in January of 1860 in the London borough of Lambeth, Winter Randell Pidgeon was the son of Daniel and Lydia Pidgeon. Following in the footsteps of his father who was a civil engineer, Pidgeon studied engineering and married Mary Constance Heap of South Kensington in January 19, 1888 at the age of twenty eight. Settling in South Paddington, Pidgeon lived in the lap of Victorian luxury, with a cook, parlourmaid, nurse and housemaid catering to his every whim.


Illustration of The Pidgeon Machine. Photo courtesy "Philosophical Magazine", 1893.

By day, Mr. Pidgeon worked as the chairman of a brush factory and by night, he was an avid amateur scientist who belonged to the Physical Society. In the early 1890's, when he was in his early thirties, he invented the Pidgeon Machine, a unique 'influence machine' or electrostatic generator. Just prior to The Great War, Mr. Pidgeon was the chairman of the British Vacuum Cleaner Company, Ltd. The newfangled appliance he peddled transformed the lives of domestic servants in Great Britain.



A Freemason, Mr. Pidgeon spent much of the rest of his free time on the ice skating figures in the stiff English Style at the Wimbledon Skating Club. He was one of the most respected skaters at the club and soon became regarded as somewhat of an expert in good form, carriage and figure technique. In 1892, Mr. Pidgeon collaborated with Montagu Sneade Monier-Williams and Arthur Dryden to write an updated edition of "Figure-Skating Simple And Combined", where he extolled his views on what he believed to be the essence of the 'proper' way one would skate. He wrote: "Anyone who hopes to skate with the ease and finish characteristic of the best men, must sedulously avoid all acrobatic feats and tricky figures, and must work patiently through those only which can be properly skated in combination... Quietness of demeanour and grace of carriage should go hand in hand with concentration of energy and certainty of purpose." Although the popularity of the Continental Style of skating ultimately won out over Mr. Pidgeon's vision of what figure skating should be, his timely writings on the sport certainly helped contribute to the evolution of the sport and undoubtedly brought many Victorians to the ice who hadn't skated previously. He passed away on May 24, 1926 in Falmouth, Cornwall, England at the age of sixty six, leaving his widow a small fortune.

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.

Progress And Prophecy: The Paul Armitage Story

Photo courtesy Library Of Congress

Born February 10, 1873 in Brooklyn, New York, Paul Armitage was the son of Herbert Grayson and Helen 'Kittie' (Harbeck) Armitage. He grew up on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, where his father worked as an importer of small wares. Kittie Armitage 'kept house' with the help of a live-in servant, and raised Paul and his sister Martha. As a boy, Paul was both athletic and studious. He excelled at skiing and snowshoeing and while attending J.H. Morse's School, won the Alumni prize of free tuition to Columbia University after receiving the highest grade on his entrance exam.

Paul took up residence in Bay Shore, Long Island and graduated from Columbia University in 1894. Two years later he graduated from the University's law school. While attending Columbia, he was active in a number of student organizations and social groups. He even appeared in the Columbia College Dramatic Club's production "Confusion" in 1892.

After being admitted to the bar, Paul entered into a business partnership with one of his Columbia classmates, Archibald Douglas. Their law firm endured several name changes with comings and goings of various lawyers. The firm was one of the first tenants in the Woolworth Building on Broadway when it opened in 1912 and remained operational for over fifty years.

Paul served as counsel of the Woolworth Estates, the United Verde Extension Mining Co. and the G. R. Kinney Company. He also served as a trustee of the James Douglas Trusts, and was involved in the work of Memorial Hospital for the Treatment of Cancer and Allied Diseases. A busy bee to say the least, he also served as director and chair of the American Mining Congress, Hazeltine Research and Electronics. Harnett Electrical Corporation, the Suffolk Products Corporation and the Educator Shoe Corporation Of America. An expert in taxation law, he penned several articles on mining taxation in journals of the American Institute of Mining and Metallurgical Engineers.

A member of the Skating Club Of New York, Paul was also one of the most influential members of his city's figure skating community during The Great War and in the roaring twenties. He acted as a skating judge at many of the competitions that took place at the Hippodrome and St. Nicholas Rink.

At the Annual General Meeting of the International Skating Union Of America hosted by the Sno Birds in Lake Placid in 1921, Paul - then the chair of the Figure Skating Department - requested that control of figure skating be turned over to those who were 'directly interested' in the sport. The governing body promised that if a satisfactory organization was formed, this could happen. As a result, a notice was sent to skaters in New York, Philadelphia and Boston, and a meeting was held in New York where the USFSA was formed. In the autumn of 1922, Paul served as the first chair of the USFSA's Publications Committee, alongside Edith Eliot Rotch, Theresa Weld Blanchard and Nathaniel Niles.

In the twenties, Paul served as Chairman of the USFSA's Executive Committee for four years. as well as on a five member special committee of the Skating Club of New York devoted to reviving interest in figure skating in the city, which waned slightly after the 'Charlotte craze' during The Great War. He was instrumental in organizing some of the club's first carnivals.

In addition to his important work behind the scenes, Paul was an accomplished skater in his own right. In 1924 and 1925, he teamed up with Clara Hartman, Grace Munstock and Joel B. Liberman to win the first two U.S. fours titles in history. At the first North American Championships in Ottawa in 1923, this New York four finished second to the Minto Four in the contest for the Connaught Cup. The New York four - minus Grace Munstock - also competed for the Connaught Cup in 1921, before it was contested at the North American Championships. In his book "Fifty Years Of Skating", Joseph Chapman recalled, "Perhaps, however, I can touch upon Paul Armitage, Rosalie Dunn, Clara Hartman and Joel Liberman who composed the first New York 'four' - any one of whom would demonstrate a 'loop jump' or a 'rocker' in any hotel lobby or railroad station any time they happened to think of it." After his divorce from his first wife Alice Lyon Watson, Paul actually married his fours partner Clara Hartman. The couple raised two children.

An advocate for the musical and artistic possibilities of figure skating, Paul was passionate about both music and ballet. His obituary noted, "He was believed to be the possessor of one of the largest collections of phonograph records of classical music."

In one of his many articles for "Skating" magazine, Paul prophesied about an ice theatre of the future. He expressed, "When, some day, there be found a group possessed of sufficient energy, vision, and courage to build and support... a skating Theatre, they will dedicate it to the young skater who has not only the daring to stifle the unholy triad of tradition, technical display, and virtuosity, but the imagination and curiosity to look over the walls that tend to hem in this Fine Art, and in a spirit of adventure and with the radiance of the new day explore the horizon lying in the Beyond. He will not only be a skater but a dancer or musician, in short an artist. And on the proscenium arch of the theatre they will place the inscription, Ici L'inspiration Deploye Ses Ailles."

Paul passed away on June 28, 1949 at the age of seventy six of a heart attack in the office of his law firm... working tirelessly until his last day at one project or another that he felt would better the world of tomorrow.

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 1990 European Figure Skating Championships


Held from January 30 to February 4, 1990 in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg), the 1990 European Figure Skating Championships provided a welcome distraction from the long Russian winters for some fifteen thousand spectators. Without a doubt, it was a historic competition.


The event marked the final time in history that compulsory figures would be included in the singles categories at the European Championships and the first time in twenty years that the Europeans would be held in Leningrad. It was the final time in history that the Europeans would ever be held in the Soviet Union.


Three venues were used. The official opening draws were held at the Pulkovskaya Hotel, men's and women's figures were held at the Yubileiny Sports Palace and all other events were held at The Lenin Sports and Concert Complex. The ISU's representative was Josef Dědič and the chairman of the local organizing committee was Vasily Rogovtsev, who also acted as the first deputy chairman on the Executive Committee of the Leningrad City Soviet of People's Deputies.


Today on the blog, we will look back at many of the fascinating stories from those 1990 Championships!

THE PAIRS COMPETITION



Thirteen teams competed in the pairs event in Leningrad, which many perceived was going to be a cake walk for Ekaterina Gordeeva and Sergei Grinkov, the defending Olympic and World Champions. However, three shocking errors - a missed double Axel from Gordeeva, unison problems on the side-by-side spins and a slip on the death spiral - found them third in the short program behind their teammates Natalia Mishkutenok and Artur Dimitriev and Larissa Selezneva and Oleg Makarov. "We weren't in very good shape," admitted Gordeeva in "My Sergei: A Love Story", her 1996 book. "Sergei's shoulder was only part of the problem. I was still having difficulty with my jumps, because of my body change... We were atrocious." The next morning on Soviet television, they were lambasted. They responded with one of their finest performances of their free skate set to "Romeo And Juliet", choreographed by Marina Zoueva.


Gordeeva and Grinkov earned a spate of 5.8's and 5.9's and sole perfect mark of 6.0 to move up and claim the gold medal ahead of Selezneva and Makarov and Mishkutenok and Dimitriev. East Germans Peggy Schwarz and Alexander König and West Germans Anuschka Gläser and Stefan Pfrengle rounded out the top five.

THE MEN'S COMPETITION



American born Richard Zander, representing West Germany, earned the distinction of being the final men's figure skater in history to win the figures at the European Championships. However, a disastrous short program ultimately plummeted him out of medal contention. The short program was won brilliantly by Czechoslovakia's Petr Barna, whose masterful performance, which included a triple Lutz/triple toe-loop, triple loop and double Axel, was rewarded with marks ranging from 5.5 to 5.9. He held an ever so slight lead over Soviets Viktor Petrenko and Viacheslav Zagorodniuk and Poland's Grzegorz Filipowski, who trained in Rochester, Minnesota, entering the final phase of the competition.


When Petr Barna faltered on a quad attempt in the free skate, twenty year old Viktor Petrenko responded with an outstanding free skate that featured six triple jumps (including a solid triple Axel/triple toe-loop combination) to move up and win his first European title in his home country. Barna took the silver, followed by Zagorodniuk, Filipowski, Zander and Switzerland's Oliver Höner. Although he finished eighth after placing fourteenth in the figures, a young Frenchman named Philippe Candeloro turned many heads by coming out of nowhere and landing two triple Axel's in the short program in his European debut... and placing eleven spots above French men's champion Éric Millot.

THE WOMEN'S COMPETITION


"It was one of the worst events I've ever seen," remarked Scott Hamilton, commentating for American television. He was pretty much spot on. After winning the figures and short program, the competition appeared to be Natalia Lebedeva of the Soviet Union's to lose. And that's precisely what she did in her meltdown of a free skate in Leningrad, settling for silver behind eighteen year old Evelyn Grossmann of Karl Marx-Stadt, a student of Jutta Müller, who really didn't fare much better.


West Germany's Marina Kiellmann took the bronze ahead of a sixteen year old dynamo from France named Surya Bonaly. Coached by Didier Gailhaguet, Bonaly wasn't even in the top ten in the school figures but she grittily attempted two different quads - the Salchow and the toe-loop -in the free skate.


West Germany's Patricia Neske, the Soviet Union's Natalia Skrabnevskaya and Yugoslavia's Željka Čižmešija, who had placed second through fourth in figures, all turned in disappointing free skating performances as well to place fifth, seventh and thirteenth respectively. In contrast with the outstanding skating in the pairs and men's event, the women's event in Leningrad is unfortunately remembered as one of the most lacklustre in the history of the European Championships. It also marked the final time a skater from East Germany won a European title.

THE ICE DANCE COMPETITION



Less than two months before the competition, Paul Duchesnay told reporter Herb Zurowsky, "We try to come up with something new, with innovative programs. This sport can be so much more attractive if a certain degree of freedom is allowed. There are so many rules that are not flexible, that take away the possibilities of what can be achieved on the ice. It's a shame, because the sport isn't progressing. Watching the same routines is like watching reruns on television." Armed with a sizzling Samba OSP set to Paul Simon's "Late In The Evening" and a brand new "Missing" free dance to "Dolencias" and "Sikuriadas" - both choreographed by Christopher Dean - the Canadian born brother/sister duo, representing France hoped to break the Soviet ice dance stronghold in Leningrad.

The Duchesnay's were fourth after the compulsories behind Marina Klimova and Sergei Ponomarenko, Maya Usova and Alexander Zhulin and Hungary's Klára Engi and Attila Tóth and a third place finish in the OSP all but dashed any hopes of challenging the top two Soviet teams for the gold. However, in the free dance, the unthinkable happened. In her book "Figure Skating History: The Evolution Of Dance On Ice", Lynn Copley-Graves recalled, "One expected the Soviet audience at Leningrad to support its own ice dancers, but the rebels brought the audience... to its collective feet with the first international unveiling of of the political dictatorship in 'Missing'... The Soviets dared applaud this danced plea for liberty."


Despite the audience's unexpected response to The Duchesnay's performance, Klimova and Ponomarenko's comparatively safe and elegant free dance set to "My Fair Lady" got the nod for the judges for gold. Usova and Zhulin's "Tango Argentina" free dance, termed as "relatively cold" by Nathalie Depouilly in her review in "Patinage" magazine, earned the silver. The Duchesnay's settled for bronze with mostly 5.7's and 5.8's... and one 6.0 for artistic impression from the French judge. Klára Engi and Attila Tóth and Oksana Grishuk and Evgeni Platov (making their debut at Europeans) rounded out the top five.

After the event, Isabelle Duchesnay remarked, "We wanted to prove we could compete against the Russians in Russia. Everybody was thinking that the Duchesnay's didn't have the guts to come and everything was against them. We had to prove that not only we would come, but also were able to do a good job.'' Paul added, "Death, the rain and the judges, we found, are three things you can't control. We are quite happy with the way we skated."

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