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.


In 1912, Basil competed in his first British Championships and placed a surprise 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, he returned to claim the British men's title in 1932 before retiring from competitive figure skating and finding 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."

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.