The 1983 European Figure Skating Championships


The seatbelt became mandatory in Great Britain for drivers and front seat passengers just one day before gales lashed the country, contributing to several fatal automobile accidents. To the shigrin of the Finnish, the Soviet Union was attempting to introduce Russian as the official language of Estonia. "Are You Being Served?" was a favourite on British television and Men At Work's "Down Under" topped the music charts.


The year was 1983 and from January 31 to February 6, the best figure skaters in Europe descended on the Große Westfalenhalle in Dortmund, West Germany to compete head to head in the European Figure Skating Championships. The event was attended by a who's who of figure skating - the Protopopov's, Peter Jonas, Angelika and Erich Buck and Hans-Jürgen Bäumler were all prominent spectators. Irina Rodnina and Alexander Zaitsev, Tamara Moskvina and Alexei Mishin and Stanislav Zhuk stood at the boards as coaches; Lawrence Demmy, Elemér Terták and Sally-Anne Stapleford were judges. Janet Lynn, Petra Burka, Emmerich Danzer, Ingrid Wendl and Joan Haanappel all served as commentators and 1980 Olympic Bronze Medallist Dagmar Lurz worked the press office. Let's take a trip back in our trusty old Skate Guard time machine and explore some of the unique stories from this competition. Buckle up, we're in for a bumpy ride!

THE PAIRS COMPETITION

Photos courtesy "Skating" magazine

In Innsbruck in 1981, the talk of the competition was the fact that the number of pairs entries (six) was the lowest in thirty years. Many felt that the dwindling numbers reflected the injuries that were resulting from the push for pairs teams to include more difficult technical content in their programs. Keep in mind that only twenty years prior, throws weren't even a thing in amateur pairs skating.

The perils of practicing throw double Axel's didn't phase the East German pair of Sabine Baeß and Tassilo Thierbach, who became the first non-Soviet pair in over fifteen years to claim the title the following year at the 1982 Europeans in Lyon, France. In Dortmund, the numbers had doubled from 1981 to twelve and the East Germans again prevailed, winning both the short and long programs in decisive fashion to defend their title.

Veronika Pershina and Marat Akbarov with coach Irina Rodnina

With clean side-by-side triple-toe-loop's, the Soviet pair of Elena Valova and Oleg Vasiliev moved up from fourth after the short program to claim the silver, knocking a second East German pair, Birgit Lorenz and Knut Schubert down to third and their compatriots, Veronika Pershina and Marat Akbarov off the podium. Siblings Naija and Pekka Pekkala were the first pairs team from Finland to compete at the European Championships since 1965 and finished a creditable eighth after the short program but a disastrous showing in the free skate knocked them all the way down to last place.

THE WOMEN'S COMPETITION

Great Britain's Karen Wood had to pull out after the women's short program in Dortmund after being diagnosed with a viral throat infection. "After what the doctor gave me - pills and injections - I could not have passed the dope test, anyway," said Wood. She would have ended up in the 'B' Final anyway: a controversial consolation round of sorts tested at the event for skaters who didn't place in the top fifteen after figures and the short program. Rather ironically, France's Agnes Gosselin won the 'B' group with a clean triple Lutz/double toe-loop combination... which a grand total of zero of the 'A group' skaters even attempted. Coach Erich Zeller echoed the sentiments of pretty much everyone in attendance when he said, "I think the new ISU regulation with 'A' and 'B' finals very unfair. It should be annulled." English sportswriter Howard Bass shared his sentiments, remarking, "Somewhat comparable to the Wimbledon Plate in Tennis, [it is] a somewhat pointless exercise."

Elena Vodorezova. Photo courtesy "Canadian Skater" magazine.

With the retirements of Austria's Claudia Kristofics-Binder and Great Britain's Debbie Cotrill, both exceptional in the school figures, seventeen year Witt (who we obviously know was a strong free skater) perhaps faced on paper little challenge in the 'A' championship. That wasn't really the case. Elena Vodorezova, who had finished third behind Witt in Lyon, was right at her heels again in Dortmund.


Katarina Witt later wrote, "Having placed, up to now, 14th, 13th, 5th and 2nd in the previous European Championships, I had no doubt that now it was time to win. My 2nd place position after the compulsories was an excellent starting point. The flawless short program gave me a little leeway, so that despite a fall in the freestyle, I managed to eke out my first European Championship title. While doing my most difficult jump, a triple Rittberger, I fell down. I'm proud that I took the risk, anyway... I am skating to a Rondo Veneziano Medley, which among others, includes a melody by Mozart. Because of this, we agree to stay consistent with the theme, and I become 'Mozart'. Naturally, I am wearing knickerbockers on the ice... Afterwards, there was a heated discussion over my outfit. In fact, it was decided that there should be a regulation requiring women to wear skirts for figure skating. Performing the same short program as in Dortmund at the European Championship, I skated a month later at the World Championship in Helsinki as Mozart wearing a skirt! I really felt ridiculous. For a figure skater, it is tremendously important to feel comfortable in her costume, and in this case, I did not. I felt that the knickerbockers much more effectively underscored the essence of the character I was representing. During the freestyle competition, I am skating to the music 'Rhapsody in Black', and am, of course, wearing a black dress. Like the blue dress in 1979, it, too, was handed down by Anett Pötzsch. This wonderful dress was made for her for role in the skating show 'Hello Dolly' in 1980. She only wore it a few times. She had meanwhile ended her ice skating career, and had told [Jutta] Müller that it would simply be a shame to keep it hanging in the closet unused, so, a few alterations were made, and presto, it was mine. Off the ice, traditional waltzes were the source of excitement at the closing banquet. The European Champion Norbert Schramm from West Germany and I from the GDR stepped on each other's feet more than dancing with twinkle-toes. The fun we were having had some of the officials and operatives raising their eyebrows. The press was already alluding to the new 'dream couple'."

Photos courtesy "Skating" magazine

Katarina Witt's triple loop attempt in Dortmund, though failed, was a rare gamble from her - one that paid off in her first European title win, ahead of silver medallist Elena Vodorezova, who fell on a triple toe-loop, but skated quite well otherwise. Claudia Leistner of West Germany climbed all the way from ninth after the school figures to claim the bronze.

THE ICE DANCE COMPETITION

Natalia Bestemianova and Andrei Bukin performing their Rock n' Roll OSP

When Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean were forced to withdraw after Jayne injured her shoulder working on a lift for their "Barnum" free dance, the door was opened wide for twenty three year old Natalia Bestemianova and twenty five year old Andrei Bukin.

'B and B' indeed rose to the occasion, taking a strong lead in the compulsories ahead of Britons Karen Barber and Nicky Slater. Although criticized by the media for a lack of speed in the OSP, Lynn Copley-Graves, in her book "Figure Skating History: The Evolution Of Dance On Ice" noted, Barber and Slater's "new OSP to 'The Hungry Eye' by the rock group Johnny and the Hurricanes drew both cheers for its comic section where Nicky strummed Karen's leg like a guitar and boos for low marks. For once they escaped [Torvill and Dean's] shadow but the judges did not reward them with the marks. They dropped to third." In fourth in the compulsories but second in the OSP that year were sixteen year old Marina Klimova and her twenty two year old partner Sergei Ponomarenko.


At the end of the day, Klimova and Konomarenko dropped down to fourth when another Soviet pair, Olga Volozhinskaya and Alexander Svinin, rose two spots to claim the silver behind Bestemianova and Bukin and ahead of Barber and Slater. Lynn Copley-Graves stated, "Betty Callaway thought Marina Klimova and Sergei Ponomarenko, in their first Europeans, had the best compulsories of all the Soviets although not yet the presence of ice, but they could pull out only fourth. The German press wrote that 80% of B&B's moves could be accomplished in the theatre, that they did not really ice dance." The two skaters who made the "80%" comment to the West German press were former European Champions Angelika and Erich Buck.

The ice dance medallists in Dortmund. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine.

Jayne Torvill was sympathetic towards Bestemianova and Bukin. She later remarked, "I've no doubt that people will have asked them if they thought they would have won had Torvill and Dean been there. That can't have been very nice for them."

THE MEN'S COMPETITION

After the school figures, France's Jean-Christophe Simond led the pack ahead of Jozef Sabovčík, Heiko Fischer, Norbert Schramm, Grzegorz Filipowski, Vladimir Kotin, Rudi Cerne and Fernand Fedronic despite badly faltering in the third figure, the loop. In an interview after the figures in Dortmund, Simond said, "I kind of missed the first tracing. It was too small, so I tried to compensate in the second. But it was worse, and I lost balance and tried to cover up. It was just a bad figure. I'm disappointed with it, but I'm pleased overall." 

Jean-Christophe Simond's lead evaporated when West Germany's Norbert Schramm won the short program in a spectacular fashion in his home country. The shuffling in the standings actually put Sabovčík into first place entering the free skate, but in winning the free skate, Schramm took home the title ahead of his Czech challenger and Alexandr Fadeev, who wasn't even in the top eight after the figures. Some felt Vladimir Kotin, who finished only fifth, had the skate of the night in the final round of the competition.

Video courtesy Frazer Ormondroyd

In his book "Jumpin' Joe", Jozef Sabovčík recalled, "As I was the unfortunate one to skate after [Schramm], I had to wait until the masses of flowers were cleared off the ice before I could begin. Although I started well and put in a good triple Axel, I could feel myself fading and left out a couple of elements. But I wasn't disappointed with my silver-medal finish. In fact, I found very exciting - until I talked to my coach and officials from the federation. Although they were happy I had taken a medal, they weren't pleased with the way I had skated. I tried not to listen. This was my first medal at Europeans and I didn't want my confidence to disappear. I needed something to hang on to and so I turned a deaf ear to their words."

Left: Jozef Sabovčík. Right: Norbert Schramm. Photos courtesy "Canadian Skater" magazine.

Conversely, in his 2012 interview with Allison Manley on The Manleywoman SkateCast, winner Norbert Schramm recalled, "1983 was probably my most difficult competition I've ever done. I was European champion the year before and I competed in my own country, so everybody expected me to win again. And this is really tough pressure, not only that you know that you want to win and show what you could do, but you know more or less that you have to win and that everything has to work out. And this is very very tough competition. The arena was full, it was covered to the last seat, and they all were expecting me to do a great job. You have to do it, you can't say to anybody else, oh, go out and skate for me, you have to go out and skate yourself. You have a hell of a pressure, and I was more than happy and more than released after everything was done, and it worked out how I planned to do it."

Left: Thomas Hlavik. Photo courtesy "Canadian Skater" magazine. Right: Norbert Schramm.

Twenty two year old Norbert Schramm's come from behind win wasn't the only thing that had audiences in Dortmund talking. The technical accomplishments of two other young men had certainly turned heads. The February 4, 1983 issue of "The Globe And Mail" noted, "Thomas Hlavik, a 17-year-old Austrian student, startled the audience with a perfect triple axel, the first time it has been performed succesfully at the European competition. Then [Fadeev] went one better. He, too, performed a triple Axel, landed beautifully and followed with a double-jump combination - the first time a triple Axel had been landed with a combination jump in international skating. Fadeev's accomplishments included eight triple jumps, two in combination with each other. He also attempted a quadruple [toe-loop] jump but landed on both feet after only 3 1/2 revolutions." Fadeev wasn't alone in attempting the quadruple toe-loop in Dortmund; a young Petr Barna, competing in his first Europeans and placing eighteenth, attempted the jump on practice sessions.

Photos courtesy "Skating" magazine

Suitably impressed with the skaters who followed in his footsteps, World Champion Emmerich Danzer remarked, "I have never seen a more impressive free program. The medals were awarded to three completely different types of skater."

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 Finse Skøitehallen

Photo courtesy Nasjonalbiblioteket

"I spent unforgettable vacations at Finse. It is wonderful on this earth to find places where everything tastes good, everything smells good, everyone seems young, and everyone young seems witty and wise. Ponce de Leon may or may not have discovered springs in Florida, but I am one of thousands who discovered Finse." - Florence Jaffray Harriman, "Mission To The North", 1941

Surrounded by glaciers and snow-covered slopes, Finse was largely uninhabited until the late nineteenth century. Its barren land was used solely by hunters and farmers. Due to its altitude - some four thousand feet above sea level in the mountains of Hordaland, Norway - it was winter there for almost ten months of the year.

Photo courtesy Nasjonalbiblioteket

Finse became a popular winter sports destination for British and Russian tourists when a mountain lodge style hotel was opened in the spring of 1909 after the Bergen Railway was completed. The hotel had 'all the modern conveniences' - central heating, electric lights, a billiard room and baths. As was the local custom, guests sliced their own Fjellbrød and served themselves salt-cured meat and fish, coffee and beer. Laps often passed the hotel's front doors while driving herds of reindeer. The hotel played host to many distinguished guests, among them King Haakon, Ernest Shackleton, Fridtjof Nansen and Baroness Karen Christenze von Blixen-Finecke. When they stayed at the hotel, Sir Francis Lindley taught the Prince Of Wales how to ski. The hotel was right by a lake, but as temperatures often dipped as low as minus thirty five degrees Celsius, owners Alice Lister Fangen and Joseph Klem came up with the idea of constructing an indoor rink in the hotel out of sensibility for the hotel's guests.

Photo courtesy Nasjonalbiblioteket

The Finse Skøitehallen was a one thousand and thirty six square meter ice rink with no columns and windows on all three sides. Wood stoves heated the building and two hundred bulbs installed in the ceiling provided ample lighting at night for skaters. Though originally used only for recreational skating by the hotel's guests, the nearly year-round soon drew in Norway's top curlers, speed and figure skaters. Prior to his 1916 trip to America, famed speed skater Oscar Mathisen practiced in Finse. Less than four years later, Norway's 1920 Summer Olympic figure skating team - Ingrid Guldbrandsen, Margot Moe, Andreas Krogh, Martin Stixrud and Alexia and Yngvar Bryn - took up residence there before heading to Antwerp to compete.

Sonja Henie at the Finse Skøitehallen. Screenshots courtesy video from Nasjonalbiblioteket.

As a fifteen year old preparing for the 1928 Winter Olympic Games, Sonja Henie trained with Martin Stixrud at the Finse Skøitehallen during the off-season when there wasn't ice at the Frogner Stadion. Her family had a hunting lodge less than fifty kilometers away in Geilo, so it was familiar territory. Footage of her training in Finse was used in the Swedish film "Sju Dagar For Elizabeth". In her book "Wings On My Feet", Henie recalled, "Finse had become our private training place to a large extent, since I used the ice most and more seriously than anyone else in the good spot... The ice was excellent early in the fall, making it quite unnecessary to go abroad, and father was sticking to his wise principle that it is good to train away from one's rivals... I put on small exhibitions of the most informal sort, and interested people of the neighbourhood turned out in large numbers to watch them. Sometimes people came all the way from Geilo for these homespun performances, though all we had to offer were nearly impromptu improvisations with father in charge of the music and that often amounting to no more than a gramophone."

Andreas and Joseph Klem on the ice at the Finse Skøitehallen. Photo courtesy Nasjonalbiblioteket.

Not all visitors were impressed with the Finse Skøitehallen's facilities. In 1912, H.K. Daniel lamented, "If this venture is to be pursued on the same scale as in Switzerland, then Swiss methods must also be adopted... Public moneys must be forthcoming for the acquisition and upkeep of the necessary... skating terrenes."

Photo courtesy Universitetsbiblioteket, Universitetet i Bergen

During World War II, Finse was occupied by Nazi forces, who planned to build an airport on the Hardangerjøkulen glacier. Only one plane landed there and the project was scrapped. In 1940, the Finse Skøitehallen was hit by an Allied bomb and badly damaged. Tourism at Finse's hotel slowed after the War and the local population, which relied largely on tourism, diminished greatly. The Finse Skøitehallen was quietly demolished in 1973, its glory days as one of Norway's first indoor ice rinks all but forgotten.

Skate Guard is a blog dedicated to preserving the rich, colourful and fascinating history of figure skating and archives hundreds of compelling features and interviews in a searchable format for readers worldwide. Though there never has been nor will there be a charge for access to these resources, you taking the time to 'like' the blog's Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/SkateGuard would be so very much appreciated. Already 'liking'? Consider sharing this feature for others via social media. It would make all the difference in the blog reaching a wider audience. Have a question or comment regarding anything you have read here? Have a suggestion for a topic related to figure skating history you would like to see covered? I'd love to hear from you! Learn the many ways you can reach out at http://skateguard1.blogspot.ca/p/contact.html.

Premier Danseur: The Alfred Mégroz Story

Photo courtesy Bibliothèque nationale de France

If you were a Lutz lover in Switzerland in the roaring twenties, you definitely knew the name Alfred Mégroz. The thirtysomething skater was the pride of the Club des Patineurs de Lausanne at the time, amassing win after win at the Swiss Figure Skating Championships from 1919 to 1924 while serving on the board of his skating club. After placing a disastrous eighth out of nine competitors in the figure skating competition at the 1920 Summer Olympics in Antwerp, Belgium, he penned a report to the Olympic organizers advocating for a Winter Sports Week in Chamonix, France. We now remember that event as the 1924 Winter Olympic Games.

At the Bandy Rink in St. Moritz in a skating competition held in conjunction with a reunion of skating enthusiasts who frequented the Kulm Hotel, Alfred won the men's event, waltzed to first place ahead of Britons Madeleine and Kenneth Macdonald Beaumont and Ethel Muckelt and Leslie Hoov and judged the women's competition. Though an accomplished competitor who wore many hats, Alfred's most important contributions to the skating world came after he turned professional in 1925.

After training skaters at the Patinoire Ste-Catherine for two years, Alfred made a living at the Caux-Palace, where he took the (then) unorthodox step of instructing skaters both on the ice... and at the ballet barre. His students included Louis Pache, Francoise Benois, Martine Galie, Riviana Casella and Claudine Huguenin. In between skating lessons, he took the ice himself in a neverending series of exhibitions throughout Switzerland, extolling to anyone who would listen the virtues of artistic skating to classical music. In every sense, he was the obscure thirties version of John Curry.

Alfred Mégroz and Yvonne de Ligne

It was a 1928 exhibition at the Palace à Montana with Belgian Champion Yvonne de Ligne that first really made everyone take notice. In between demonstrations of school figures, Alfred performed exhibitions to Ernest Gillet's "La Lettre de Manon", Franz Schubert's "Impromptu" and Arthur Rubinstein's "Valse Caprice in E flat major". The January 31, 1928 edition of the "Nouvelliste Valaisan" called it a "superb artistic and athletic event" full of "wonderfully harmonious undulating movements." The following year, he wowed the residents of Neuchâtel with the city's first true ice show, which featured Alfred's interpretations of waltzes by Frédéric Chopin and an artistic duet with his student, Ada Muller of Montreux.

Alfred Mégroz and Mme. Goudet skating in Geneva, Switzerland

Like John Curry, Alfred Mégroz developed his own troupe, consisting mainly of students and those who shared his belief that skating should be approached moreso an art than a sport. Though lacking in flashy costumes and travelling spotlights, the troupe created pieces set to the music of Franz Schubert and Claude Debussy. They even took on Charles Gounod's "Faust". Describing one of the troupe's shows - which consisted of seven separate acts - in January 1932, a reporter from "L'Express" wrote: "One begins to understand just what that 'physical pleasure' of the mysterious skating [means], this thirst for air, light, movement. It provides joy... opens new horizons. One could not be surprised to see skaters such as Grafström and Henie enter deliberately into the footsteps of the stubborn creator of this genre, Alfred Mégroz." The testimonials continued to pour in. "La Villageoise", describing one of his performances in January 1934 raved that he was "an artist who worked with a grace and infinite ease on ice... His interpretations of classical music are excellent, especially 'The Swan' by St-Saens [which was] a great success."

Alfred Mégroz ice dancing with Emmy Andersen

One chilly December afternoon at the Molitor Rink in Paris in 1935, Alfred hosted a séance, followed by an exhibition where he skated to classical music. It went over so well, the next month two time Olympic Gold Medallists Andrée and Pierre Brunet joined in on the fun in a rousing encore. The French loved the theatrics of the Swiss skating artist and hired him on to work with French Champions Gaby Clericetti and Jean Henrion. The Swiss newspaper "L'Temps" praised the decision of their neighbours: "We must congratulate Mr. Mégroz for the trust placed in him, perfectly justified in the eyes of those who know his incomparable mastery."


Alfred's artistic chops were put to to the test in 1937, when he went to Great Britain to work with Claude Langdon on "Rhapsody On Ice", a lavish skating production developed by impresario Claude Langdon and staged at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden. The production consisted of two bona fide ice ballets, "The Enchanted Night" and "The Brahman's Daughter". Alfred conceived "The Enchanted Night" and choreographed both productions, working with a who's who of professional skating in the process, including Belita Jepson-Turner, Phil Taylor, Harrison Thomson, The Brunet's and Frick and Frack. In his 1959 book "Ice-Skating: A History", Nigel Brown wrote, "It was mainly through the enthusiasm of Alfred Mégroz... that 'Enchanted Night' and 'The Brahman's Daughter' saw the light of day. He sought to combine the principles of ballet and skating, a unification as he believed of art and sport. He made the vital mistake of not understanding that skating was... a very different art form from ballet." Although the shows were largely panned by critics, skater after skater he worked with in "Rhapsody On Ice" went on to long and influential professional careers, shaping the artistic landscape of figure skating through both their performances and work as coaches and choreographers.


Following the Covent Garden production, Alfred returned to Switzerland and taught with Alexander Schlageter at the Patinoire de Montchoisi in Lausanne before opening l'Ecole de patinage du Windsor Palace in Villars-Chesières, where he kept skating lessons and tests for youngsters alive throughout World War II. In the forties, he served as President of the Swiss Skating Association and in in the fifties, acted as President of the Schweizer Eislauflehrer-Verband (Swiss Professional Skating Teachers' Association). 

After dedicating a lifetime to the betterment of the sport, Alfred retired to Montreux and died June 30, 1956 at the age of seventy two while visiting Pregny-Chambésy, Switzerland, after living with diabetes for many years. Though rarely given a lick of attention, his contributions to figure skating were extremely valuable.

Skate Guard is a blog dedicated to preserving the rich, colourful and fascinating history of figure skating and archives hundreds of compelling features and interviews in a searchable format for readers worldwide. Though there never has been nor will there be a charge for access to these resources, you taking the time to 'like' on the blog's Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/SkateGuard would be so very much appreciated. Already 'liking'? Consider sharing this feature for others via social media. It would make all the difference in the blog reaching a wider audience. Have a question or comment regarding anything you have read here or have a suggestion for a topic related to figure skating history you would like to see covered? I'd love to hear from you! Learn the many ways you can reach out at http://skateguard1.blogspot.ca/p/contact.html.

A Number Of U.S. Novice Men's Champions

In today's world, technology has played an important role in increasing the visibility of novice and junior figure skating competitions. In years past, novice and junior winners at national figure skating competitions were treated as footnotes in newspaper articles and their performances were rarely - if ever - featured on television broadcasts. Today, we'll be taking a trip down memory lane and exploring the stories of 6.0 young men who each had one thing in common - they were U.S. novice men's champions.

SAMUEL FERGUSON

"One Samuel F. should heed the rumour
And read that which a costumer
Of highly celebrated rating
Has put in glowing words in 'Skating.'
Let him think more of fabric pliable,
Of Glitter Ray and Taffeta reliable.
And for her poem thank Miss Bijur,
Although its truth may be abjured
For men who skate may well make haste
And go consult a lady's taste,
Since what men wear on skates
Is more important than their eights.

Oh men, remove your eyes for skirts
And pay attention to your shirts!
Your habits - such as price can buy -
Should never with the rainbow vie.
With double-breasted coat enhance
Your manly form - (and also pants),
And never merely buy a cap
But have one made that has some snap.
The moral: Gentlemen look nice
For skating if you'd cut some ice."

- Samuel Ferguson, "Skating" magazine, February 1931

Would-be poet Samuel Ferguson of the Skating Club of New York holds the distinction of being the first person in history to win a U.S. novice men's title. He took top honours back in 1932 at the Ice Club in New York City.

DICK MORE

Photo (HUD 346.04, Page 181) courtesy Harvard University Archives. Used with permission.

The son of William and Dorothy More, Richard 'Dick' Wilson More was born July 28, 1924 in Buffalo, New York. His father was a second generation fur hat and men's clothing merchant. The More family was well off, with a live-in cook and maid attending to their needs. Dick attended the Nichols School in Buffalo and enjoyed playing golf as a young man.

Dick started skating at the Buffalo Skating Club during The Great Depression, and won the Eastern novice title in 1940. The following year, he took the Eastern junior title (on his first try) and placed third in the novice men's event at the U.S. Championships. In 1942, he held on to a strong lead after the school figures to best Marcus Nelson of Oakland, California and win the U.S. novice men's title at the age of eighteen.

Al Richards and Edith Whetstone, Walter Noffke and Doris Schubach, Jane Vaughn Sullivan, Walter Sahlin, Bobby Specht, Dorothy Goos, Dick More and Mabel MacPherson at the 1942 U.S. Championships. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine.

Dick's figure skating career ended due to his military service in the Navy V-5 plan in World War II. After being released as an Ensign to inactive duty in 1946, he briefly entertained a comeback to skating "with dreams of a slot on the Olympic team until I saw Dick Button really unwind one day at the Boston Skating Club, whereupon I decided I could never beat him no matter what."

Dick completed his Bachelor Of Science degree at Harvard University, married a Dutch woman and had three sons, two of them twins. After working for the Durez Division of the Hooker Chemical Corporation, a plastic and chemical concern in North Tonawanda, New York, he was transferred to New England as a sales rep for the company's Resins Division. After over a decade living in Massachusetts, he returned to Buffalo, where he got his M.B.A. at the University of Buffalo. He and his wife got divorced in 1983 and he remarried to a Canadian. In his later years, he served as Chairman of the Friends of School of Architecture at the University of Buffalo and was involved in the restoration of the Frank Lloyd Wright Darwin Martin House. In his spare time, he enjoyed woodworking and model building. He passed away on May 19, 1996 at the age of seventy one.

AUSTIN HOLT



Born March 20, 1926 in Los Angeles, California, George Austin Holt was the son of George Herbert Holt, a Kansas born Baptist minister, and Rose (Edmonds) Holt, who originally hailed from Massachusetts. As a youngster, he lived on Hargrave Street in Inglewood, California, but he later moved to Piedmont Avenue in Berkeley.

Austin had the good fortune of taking to the ice at the St. Moritz Ice Skating Club around the time Maribel Vinson Owen was teaching there and he came out of nowhere to win the 1943 U.S. novice men's title at the age of sixteen. After his win, Maribel told Associated Press reporters, " Imagine! He never had on a skate - literally that - until two years ago November. For a time he skated with groups and had no individual instruction. He's the kind of boy - and a real boy, too - who doesn't need to be told twice. The fact he is majoring in orchestral music has been beneficial, in the development of rhythm. He's... a really good prospect." Like Dick More, military service forced Austin to put his skating career on hold. While serving in the Navy V-12 course at the University of Southern California, he only found time to take to the ice on weekends. Unlike Dick More, Austin came back to the skating world. After his navy stint, he married Anne Fitzhugh Wright in April of 1947... and then returned to competition the following year at the age of twenty.

Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine

Unfortunately, Austin had the terrible timing of competing during the same era as Dick Button, Jimmy Grogan, the Jenkins brothers and Richard Dwyer. He placed off the podium in fourth in the senior men's event at the U.S. Championships for three consecutive years, but managed to place a very respectable seventh and fifth at the 1949 and 1950 World Championships. In fact, at the 1950 World Championships, the Canadian judge had him ahead of Hayes Alan Jenkins and Hellmut Seibt. Cognizant of the fact that defeating Dick Button would be next to impossible, Austin decided to switch to pairs. With wife Anne, he finally managed to win a senior medal at the U.S. Championships in 1951, but placed a dismal eleventh in his only trip to the World Championships as a pairs skater, with ordinals ranging from sixth through last place. After turning professional, Austin became a coach in Berkeley, California and at San Bernadino Valley's Arrowhead Figure Skating Club. He passed away in 2007 in Charleston, South Carolina.

JIM SHORT


Barbara Roles and Jim Short. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine.

Sandy-haired, blue-eyed Jim Short of Alhambra, California started skating in 1947 after seeing a professional show. Representing the Los Angeles Figure Skating Club, he won both the figures and free skate on his way to claiming the 1955 U.S. novice men's title. He was seventeen years old at the time, and coached by Nancy Rush. After finishing third in the junior men's event in 1957, he handed Gregory Kelley his first defeat ever on his way to winning the 1958 U.S. junior men's title. That same year, he and Barbara Roles took the silver in Silver Dance. After winning the novice and junior titles, moving up to the senior ranks was the next step for Jim. Fortunately, Deane McMinn stepped in and talked judges into showing up when the test session where he was going to take his seventh and eighth tests was almost cancelled. After a dismal last place showing in the senior men's event at the 1960 U.S. Championships, Jim decided to call it quits and get a job at a high end furniture store. 

David Edwards, Scott Ethan Allen, Monty Hoyt and Jim Short at the 1962 U.S. Championships

After the Sabena Crash, Jim vowed he'd never skate again. After several months, he rethought his decision and felt the USFSA needed him to come back. He began training again, only to be drafted for military service. He got assigned at a missile site in Pasadena but only was able to train for two hours a day. He finished off the podium in fourth in the 1962 U.S. Championships and later told Patricia Shelley Bushman, "I did as well as I could [but] my skating was kind of a shadow of what it had been." After retiring for a second time, Jim became a coach... and regularly placed ads in competition programs that said, "Skate because you love it!"

HARVEY BALCH



Born March 13, 1943 in Los Angeles, California, Harvey Michael Balch was a precocious young skater at the Blade and Edge Club who came out of nowhere to claim the U.S. novice men's title in 1958. Fifteen year old Harvey was the unanimous winner that year, defeating a young Monty Hoyt as well as Bill Hickox, Jr. who perished in the Sabena Crash along with his sister Laurie.

Harvey Balch (front right)

Unfortunately, Harvey was one of those skaters who never quite managed to translate his novice win to success in the junior or senior ranks. After finishing seventh in the junior men's event at Nationals in 1959, he dropped to eighth the following year. Though his poor results were disappointing, they saved him from getting on that ill-fated flight in 1961. He went on to study at the University Of Southern California and become a dentist.

JIMMY DEMOGINES


Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine

Jimmy Demogines hailed from Pacoima, a city in the San Fernando Valley in Southern California. One of his brothers served in the Vietnam War, and both his paternal and maternal grandparents came from Greece. Because of his heritage, he was nicknamed 'Zorba The Greek'. He started roller skating when he was eight, but switched to figure skating when his roller rink was furnished with ice. As a young man, he divided his time between his studies at the Hollywood Professional High School and on-ice sessions at the Los Angeles Figure Skating Club.

Left photo courtesy "Skating" magazine

Jimmy's first big breakthrough was when he pulled up from sixth to first in the intermediate class at the Southwest Pacific Championships in 1968, and his biggest accomplishment was when he unanimously won the 1969 U.S. novice men's title in Seattle. Jimmy and Mahlon Bradley (the silver medallist) were the smallest competitors that year and Jimmy was Frank Carroll's first student to win a national title. After winning the Pacific Coast junior men's title and U.S. junior silver medal in 1970, Jimmy moved up to the senior ranks - and to Colorado Springs to train - and finished an incredible fourth in a field of twelve at Nationals. Unfortunately, over the next few years he dropped down to sixth and then eighth, and his hopes of translating his novice success to a senior medal were never fully realized.

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.

Peppe In Her Step: The Audrey Peppe Story


The daughter of Frank and Alice (Loughran) Peppe, Audrey Frances Peppe was born October 12, 1917 in New York City. She grew up in Manhattan - and later, Hempstead Town in Nassau - with her younger brothers Kenneth and Allen. Her father was a very successful real estate broker in Washington Square, bringing in sixty five thousand dollars a year during The Great Depression. Her paternal grandparents were Italian immigrants.

Audrey Peppe and Robin Lee in 1931

Brown haired and freckled Audrey was educated at Friends Seminary Day School, the Gardner School For Girls and Long Beach High School. In 1939 she recalled, "I started in ballet dancing when I was four years old. After I had acquired some confidence in that line, and after having heard so much about skating, it was only natural to transfer my affections to the ice." She started skating at the age of six at the Skating Club Of New York and was taught the basics by her aunt Bea Loughran, who would go on to become the only American in history to win three Olympic medals in figure skating. Later, Bea would accompany her to competitions though her primary coach was Willy Böckl.


Appearing in her first club carnival at the age of ten, Audrey was on the ice at six in the morning every day. Her little free time was spent swimming, golfing, playing tennis and attending dance classes. Though European skaters like Sonja Henie, Belita Jepson-Turner and Melitta Brunner complemented their skating with off-ice dance, Audrey was one of the first American skaters of note to do so.

Audrey Peppe with Ollie Haupt Jr. (left) and Robin Lee (right)

Audrey made her national debut in 1930, losing the junior women's title to Dr. Hulda Berger but winning "the hearts of spectators with a remarkable performance" in the free skating. The following year, she won the Skating Club of New York's junior women's 'Class A' competition for the third time, gaining permanent possession of the winner's cup presented by Gertrude Cheever Porter. She also won the Waltz at that event, skating with female partner Nancy Church. In the years that followed, she amassed top six finishes at four U.S. Championships and the 1933 North American Championships.


The judging system in place at the time which placed so much of the emphasis on school figures hurt Audrey greatly, particularly so early in her career. Many of her competitors were excellent at figures and she - suffice it to say - was not. She finished dead last in figures in many of the events she entered but was in the top three in free skating practically every time. She had an Axel and a Lutz in her repertoire and newspapers raved of her "lightning fast" speed. Maribel Vinson Owen recalled her fine crossfoot spin. One account of her performance at the 1934 U.S. Championships from "The Philadelphia Inquirer" raved, "Audrey skated like wildfire and looked like a comet as she spun around on her skates. Her egg shell colored velvet costume blended with crimson accoutrements tended to heighten her daring leaps, jumps and twists." She placed only fourth at that event.


Audrey's first break came in 1936 at the age of eighteen, when she won the bronze medal at the U.S. Championships and earned the right to represent America at the Olympics and World Championships. In Garmisch-Partenkirchen, she placed twelfth but defeated several better known skaters in free skating. In Paris at the Worlds, she placed an unlucky thirteenth.


In 1937, Audrey went to London to train under Howard Nicholson, one-time coach to Sonja Henie. A membership with the National Skating Association allowed her to compete in the European Championships in Prague, where she placed eleventh. At the World Championships in London that followed, she placed dead last despite the Polish judge having her tied for third in the free skate. In both instances, it was again the figures that did her in.

Photos courtesy "Skating" magazine

Perhaps most famously, Audrey ever so narrowly lost the 1938 U.S. women's title to Joan Tozzer. Egbery Cary, Jr., a judge from Philadelphia, placed her third behind Tozzer and Jane Vaughn, sealing her fate at that event. "TIME" magazine recalled, "To the tune of the Hungarian Rhapsody, she delighted the crowd with flaring spins, jumps and dance steps. But Joan Tozzer so impressed the judges with the simplicity and smoothness of her free-skating repertory that they gave her performance almost as many points as Miss Peppe's. When the two-day totals were tallied, Joan Tozzer was awarded the crown by the slim margin of one-tenth of a point." The result really ticked off the 'powers that be' at the Skating Club Of New York, adding fuel to the decades long rivalry between the old Eastern Seaboard clubs - Boston, New York and Philadelphia. Later that year,
Audrey headlined her club's carnival at Madison Square Garden with Felix Kaspar, making history as the first 'leading lady' in the production not shipped over from Europe.


After finishing second to Joan Tozzer again at the 1939 U.S. Championships, Audrey was named to the 1940 Winter Olympic team. When those Games were cancelled in September of that year due to the outbreak of World War II, she decided to call it a day.



Audrey turned professional, signing with the Skating Artists Agency of Chicago and touring with the U.S. with the "Hello America!" European Ice Revue. In 1940, she married David Benner, the assistant manager of the tourist lodge at Sun Valley and became the 'skating instructress in charge of ice revues' at the resort. Sonja Henie's hit film "Sun Valley Serenade" came out in 1941 but it was Audrey - not Sonja - who starred in the first ice summer revues in Sun Valley during the second World War. She also appeared in the second edition of "Stars On Ice" at the Center Theatre at Rockefeller Center in New York, which Sonja produced with Arthur M. Wirtz. Through their mutual work with Howard Nicholson, the two were acquainted and Sonja only had very nice things to say about Audrey in the press.

Audrey Peppe and Oscar L. Richard posing at the Playland rink in Nye, New York. Photo courtesy Westchester County Archives.

In 1944, Audrey divorced her first husband and married Robert Rapée, the son of famed symphonic conductor Ernö Rapée. She returned to New York and taught skating for many years at the Rye Skating Club and Skating Club Of New York. Sadly, she passed away on April 1, 1992 in Flushing, Queens at the age of seventy four. Her only child passed away of multiple sclerosis two months after she did.

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.