#Unearthed: The Ice Show As An Attraction For Hotels And Night Clubs


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 gem is an article from the 1946 edition of "The National Ice Skating Guide", penned by Rube Yocum - husband and pairs partner of Gladys Lamb, who for many years skated with Norval Baptie.
In this piece, he shares a fascinating history and timeline of hotel and nightclub ice shows in America in the first half of the twentieth century.

"THE ICE SHOW AS AN ATTRACTION FOR HOTELS AND NIGHT CLUBS" (RUBE YOCUM)

"Let's go out for dinner, tonight dear." "Where would you like to go?" "Oh! Let's go to the hotel that has the ice show - they say its marvelous!"

So they went to the hotel that advertised the ice show. They had a fine dinner and saw a grand show - and they went again and again - and they told their friends about it. And business in the hotel continued to grow, with reservations at a premium.

Photo courtesy "National Ice Skating Guide"

Ice shows as an attraction for hotel dining rooms and night clubs are not a new idea - but the present interest in skating makes them increasingly popular.

In 1914 the first permanent ice rink was installed in the Sherman Hotel in Chicago and the laurel wreath should be given to Mr. Frank Bearing for having the foresight and vision to introduce the ice stage at his hotel - for it was so popular that it remained there for five solid year's as one of Chicago's famed attractions!

The managers of leading hotels and night clubs in other cities were not long in emulating Mr. Bearing's example. The next show blossomed forth on the roof of Shubert's famous 44th Street Theatre in New York; then Healey's Golden Glades, also in New York, installed a permanent rink. The Terrace Garden in the Morrison Hotel and the North American Restaurant, both in Chicago, followed suit to be followed by the Hotel Winton in Cleveland and the Biltmore in New York. Then the vogue swept west. The Hotel Muehlebach in Kansas City, the Cafe Bristol in Los Angeles and the Portalouvre in San Francisco, all installed permanent equipment.

In 1927 the great Norval Baptie built a portable ice rink that made real ice. The refrigerant used was dry ice or CO2 gas. Baptie was a leading factor in popularizing this type of attraction. He pioneered the field and should with Mr. Bearing be given credit for introducing and making the small rink shows the success they are today. Baptie, whose name is synonymous with skating, now manages the fashionable Chevy Chase Ice Rink in Washington, D.C.

Ice shows continued in popularity until the Prohibition era which ushered in the speakeasies with their small rooms in which the ice show hardly had a place. In 1935, shortly after repeal, Frank Bearing again booked an ice show in the Hotel Sherman and rekindled the present flaming interest in this form of entertainment.

The following year, Mr. Ralph Hitz of the New Yorker Hotel, New York, installed a permanent ice floor. Gladys Lamb starred and produced the shows for the first three years. This is the tenth anniversary for the Hotel New Yorker ice show - and interest is keener now than when it opened.

Photo courtesy "National Ice Skating Guide"

Gladys Lamb and I, in 1939, decided to invest in a portable rink with which we could tour the country, and after much research decided on the new miracle gas Freon, as the refrigerant. Our portable rink was constructed by Dick Baker, president of the Baker Ice Machine Company in Omaha, and we have operated it continuously for the past seven years. We opened at the Fontenelle Hotel in Omaha for Mr. Gene Eppley and the success of the engagement and rink equipment influenced the Nicolett Hotel in Minneapolis to install a permanent rink of the same type in 1940 and bring in the talented star, Dorothy Lewis, who has appeared there every year since.

We are proud of the fact that our travelling portable show was a real success. There were a lot of headaches but we took pride in pioneering the way. We were the first show to open up the Adolphus Hotel in Dallas, where they have had an ice show ever since. we also had the pleasure of opening the ice show in the Netherland Plaza in Cincinnati, the Copley-Plaza Hotel in Boston, the Hotel Schrader in Milwaukee the Hotel Peabody in Memphis and the Benjamin Franklin in Philadelphia which has ran uninterrupted for the past three years. Mr. Joseph E. Mears, managing director of the Benjamin Franklin Hotel considers the ice show a permanent part of his organization.

We also had the pleasure of stimulating interest in ice shows when we introduced this form of attraction to night clubs in Boston, New York, Washington, Buffalo, Chicago and Hollywood and also played leading theatres with the unit from coast to coast.

When we started in 1939 the only other so-called travelling ice shows for hotel work were not skating on real ice but on imitation ice or 'muck' made of melted hypo spread on boards. Skating on the 'muck' proved so difficult that it has gradually dropped out of the picture.

At the present time some of the leading hotels - namely the New York, Netherland Plaza in Cincinnati, St. Regis in New York, the Adolphus in Texas, and the Benjamin Franklin Hotel, Philadelphia, have their own permanent rinks.

Besides our portable units, other skater-producers that have invested their own money in portable rinks, purchased their own equipment and costumes and produce their own shows ready for booking in as a complete unit are Everett McGowan and Ruth Mack and Maribel Vinson and Guy Owen. These people all have an extensive background of experience and are star skaters in their own right. They have helped immeasurably in keeping up the standards of the ice shows and in making the travelling small units an attractive proposition for hotels and good clubs. George Arnold is another skater who recently has invested in his own portable rink.

Photo courtesy "National Ice Skating Guide"

Ice shows as an attraction for hotels and night clubs haven't scratched the surface yet. They have proven themselves to be one of the most popular and high-class attractions in the amusement field.

The small travelling skating shows, like other new fields of endeavor, have not been handled or managed to best advantage. Agents booking skating shows must be made to realize that unlike other attractions the ice show builds up each week - each performance is different - they need a much longer engagement than ordinary stage entertainment. At the end of a six months booking an ice show will be drawing better than when it first started! And, anticipating the future, agents should make sure that they book a good ice show. The rink itself is merely the floor for the performers to work on - they should make sure that they are selling competent skaters - not just the ice itself.

This type of entertainment has more than a 'beach-head' on the public fancy. It is no longer an experiment or novelty. It is sound, basic entertainment. It is probably the greatest value in the amusement field today.

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 1926 U.S. Figure Skating Championships

Grace Munstock's silver medal from the junior women's event at the 1926 U.S. Championships

Held February 15 and 16, 1926 at the Boston Arena in Boston, Massachusetts, the 1926 U.S. Figure Skating Championships were perhaps the most unusual U.S. Championships to take place in the roaring twenties. For starters, the competition was held on a Monday and Tuesday (hardly prime ice time) with all but three rounds of school figures crammed into the second day. Two of the more important skating clubs in America at the time were poorly represented due to circumstances largely out of their control. The Philadelphia Skating Club And Humane Society's rink had closed for a time, forcing members to train outdoors on the Merion Golf Club Pond that season. The New Haven Skating Club's rink had burned down but was rebuilt not long before the competition in Boston.

In the days before records, tapes and CD's, the thirty six competitors were at the mercy of the organizers when it came to their free skating programs. The announcement for the event in "Skating" magazine noted, "If notified at time of entry the Committee will endeavor to provide any special piece of music selected by the contestants for the Free or Pairs Skating or Fours competitions, and have the same played at the desired tempo. This, if possible, should be indicated by the metronome speed number, or beats per second." So, to clarify, entries paid a two dollar entrance fee to compete at the National level... and the live band who accompanied their programs may or may not have performed the music they'd practiced to leading up to the event.

Two of the three junior titles were claimed by members of the Skating Club Of New York. Beatrix Loughran and Raymond Harvey took the junior pairs title, while Julia Honan fended off a challenge from Grace Munstock to win the junior women's title. Roger Turner of The Skating Club of Boston was the victor in the junior men's event. The Waltz and Fourteenstep competitions were only allotted twenty minutes each. In her book "Figure Skating History: The Evolution Of Dance On Ice", Lynn Copley-Graves recalled, "The judging in the Fourteenstep was very close. Sydney Goode and James Greene regained the title they had held in 1923 and 1924. The wide swing of their free legs may have influenced the judges in their favour, because the defending champions, Virginia Slattery and Ferrier Martin, again skated with remarkable precision. The top two couples in the Waltz, both from the New York SC, gave the host club in Boston its best display of the Waltz to date. Sydney Goode and James Greene could not quite close in on Rosaline Dunn and Joseph Savage, who waltzed with a 'subtle yet distinct superiority' that was evident to judges and spectators alike. Edna Gutterman and Frederick Gabel, also from the New York SC, displayed good dancing for third place in both events." Though a fours event had been held the two years previous, there was no competition in 1926 due to a rule that said the event couldn't be contested unless there were entries from two or more clubs. Theresa Weld and Nathaniel Niles won an unprecedented eighth consecutive U.S. pairs title, defeating Sydney Goode and James Burgess Greene and Grace Munstock and Joel B. Liberman. The senior pairs had to perform a five minute program, which was a whole two minutes longer than the program the junior pairs were required to do.

Beatrix Loughran and Theresa Weld Blanchard in 1926

Beatrix Loughran defended her U.S. title with ease, defeating former U.S. women's champion Theresa Weld Blanchard for the second straight year. Maribel Vinson finished third, winning her first senior medal at the U.S. Championships. Sherwin Badger's business interests didn't allow him to compete in Boston in 1926. His absence allowed fifty one year old Chris I. Christenson of St. Paul - one of the judges in the senior women's event - to defeat hometown favourite Nathaniel Niles and Ferrier T. Martin. Of Christenson, an unattributed newspaper 1926 article cited in a 1996 "New York Times" piece published around the time of Rudy Galindo's U.S. title win reportedly noted, "His figures were smooth and precisely correct. He looped and spread-eagled with an unhurried calm that must have piled point after point in his favor on the score-pads of the judges. But his was an exhibition of mathematical certainty. It was a typically masculine performance, devoid of teeming nervous energy and one of cold and accurate calculation." Not only did Christenson make history as the oldest man ever to win a U.S. senior men's title, but he was the first man from the Midwest to lay his stake on U.S. gold as well.

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 Forgotten Frau: The Ellen Brockhöft Story


"I adhere with body and soul to skating." - Ellen Brockhöft, 1926, "Die Dame auf Schlittschuhen"

Her name may be all but forgotten today but in the roaring twenties in Germany, Ella Gertrud Auguste 'Ellen' Brockhöft was the grand dame of German figure skating. Born April 29, 1893 in Berlin, she didn't begin skating until 1912 at the rather advanced age (by figure skating standards) of nineteen.

Photo courtesy Julia C. Schulze

Ellen was a member of the Berliner Schlittschuhclub and trained at the Berlin Sportpalast, which at the time was a brand new facility and the largest enclosed rink in the world.

Photos courtesy Julia C. Schulze

Though late to the game, Ellen very quickly became absolutely entranced with the sport and spent all of her free time on the ice tracing and retracing figures. However, during the Great War there were few trainers available. She looked to Gillis Grafström and Elli Winter as mentors and picked up what seeds of knowledge she could from them. Following the War, she went to Werner Rittberger and Andor Szende for advice and coaching.


Ellen made her debut at the German Figure Skating Championships in Berlin in 1920 and placed a strong second behind Elli Winter. The next year, she claimed her first of six German titles. Although Gaby Seyfert won ten East German titles and Katarina Witt eight, to this day no woman who has ever competed at either the West German or unified German Championships has since equalled or bettered her record of six national titles.

Left: Ellen Brockhöft and Paul Franke. Right: Illustration of Ellen Brockhöft spinning.

Ellen also made history in Oslo, Norway in 1924 as the first woman from her country to win a medal at the World Championships in singles skating, a feat she repeated the following year in Switzerland for good measure. Both years, she lost to Austria's Herma Szabo but received first place ordinals from the German judge in the school figures. Ironic in spite of the help she received from her own judge in her first two trips to the World Championships, nationalistic judging proved to be her downfall on her third go around in 1927.

Herma Szabo and Ellen Brockhöft. Photo courtesy National Archives of Poland.

At those World Championships in Oslo, Herma Szabo controversially lost the gold medal to Norway's Sonja Henie. The fact that three of the five judges were Norwegian sparked a later rule change with the International Skating Union that only allowed one judge per country on a panel in international competitions. At that same event, Ellen lost the bronze medal in a three-two split to a second Norwegian skater, Karen Simensen. Neither woman ever competed at the World Championships again.


Ellen Brockhöft at the German Sports Press Ball in 1925. Photo courtesy Julia C. Schulze.

In 1925, Ellen attended the prestigious German Sports Press Ball in Frankfurt. An English account of the affair from the November 14, 1925 issue of "The Evening Independent" noted, "Germany's women athletic champions were brought together at a unique dinner party. Frau [Nelly] Neppach, holder of the woman's tennis title, who failed to wrest the world title from the great Suzanne Lengllen in the Vienna tournament recently, invited the following champions to dinner: Frau [Else] Samek, golf; Fraulein [Hertha] Aschenbacher, high jumping; Fraulein [Margarete] Rieve, javelin throwing; Frau [Ellen] Brockhoeft, ice skating; Frau [Any] Gordan, fencing; Fraulein [Cilly] Feindt, fancy riding. A record of this unusual gathering was made for posterity in the form of two contrasting, photographs, one showing the champions wearing highly fashionable dinner gowns, and the other depicting them in their athletic garb, each member of the party holding a symbol of her speciality, such as a tennis racquet, golf club or riding whip."


Although Ellen was not permitted to compete in either the 1920 Summer Olympics or 1924 Winter Olympics due to a ban on German athletes participating in the Olympics following the Great War, she finally make her one and only appearance at the Games in Switzerland in 1928 at the age of twenty nine.

Photo courtesy Nasjonalbiblioteket 

Ellen's skating at the 1928 Olympics was met with a mixed bag of reviews - her ordinals in both figures and free skating ranged from sixth through thirteenth - and she finished a disappointing ninth place overall. If it was any consolation, Karen Simensen - the Norwegian who had defeated her at the 1927 Worlds - finished a disastrous sixteenth.


Left: Elisabeth Böckl, Herma Szabo and Ellen Brockhöft. Right: Ellen Brockhöft

Ellen later married and taught skating for a time in St. Moritz, Switzerland. She applied to the ISU for reinstatement as an amateur in 1936 and her request was granted on April 7, 1937 but she never competed again. She passed away in Bonn, Germany at the age of seventy nine on December 19, 1977.

   

Although Ellen's story has been largely forgotten today, there is truly something quite unique about any skater who takes up their sport in their late teens and goes on to make history... twice. Her story serves as yet another reminder that not every skater's story fits the usual script.

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 1960 World Figure Skating Championships


"We have been to Championships that have been well organized, but no better than here. We have been to Championships with a very fine welcome, but never to Championships where we have received the warmth of welcome that we have had in Vancouver." - Jacques Favart

Canadians had just won four medals at the Winter Olympic Games in Squaw Valley; two of them in figure skating. Women rushed to department stores to buy patterns for bell-shaped skirts and blouson silhouette dresses. A quart of milk cost twenty four cents; a dozen eggs was fifty five. John Diefenbaker was Canada's Prime Minister and everyone was bopping to Brenda Lee's latest hit "Sweet Nothin's". The year was 1960 and from March 2 to 5, Vancouver, British Columbia played host to the World Figure Skating Championships.


When Georg Häsler travelled to Colorado Springs to meet with Thayer Tutt at the Broadmoor Hotel to discuss the planning of the 1957 World Championships, his old friend Dr. Hellmut May invited him to the CFSA's AGM at the Hotel Vancouver. Häsler's talks with CFSA executives, Billie Mitchell and June Pinkerton sparked interest in bringing the world to Canada. Häsler sent Mitchell all of the necessary information pertaining to the organization of the event. She went to Granville Mayall, a CFSA executive member from Vancouver, with the idea of hosting the World Championships in Vancouver. He suggested Calgary take on the event but she persisted and he finally agreed to help make it happen. Mitchell and Mayall then enlisted the help of George Sherwood of the Capilano Winter Club. A CFSA committee was formed, chaired by Herbert Crispo. He estimated that over twenty eight thousand dollars was needed to cover the costs of advertising, transportation, publicity and room and board for the judges. The fact that the 1960 Winter Olympics were in Squaw Valley and some of the competitors actually made the long drive up the Pacific Coast instead to attend helped lower transportation costs significantly. Rather than place the burden of hosting the event on one club, Mitchell, Mayall and Sherwood devised a plan where the Burnaby, Capilano, Connaught, Kerrisdale, Vancouver and Totem clubs would share the hosting duties. Over two hundred volunteers were recruited and  the CFSA enthusiastically applied to the ISU to host the 1960 World Championships in 1957. They were provisionally awarded the event the following year, and given the official nod a year later. Though the Figure Skating Department of the Amateur Skating Association of Canada had hosted the 1932 World Championships in Montreal, figure skating was a completely different beast some twenty eight years later. The showmanship of Sonja Henie had been replaced by the athleticism of Dick Button. Outdoor competitions were slowly becoming a thing of the past and the introduction of open marking in the thirties had led to the almost instant computation, tabulation and printing of marks by 1955.

The interior of the the Vancouver Forum. Photo courtesy City Of Vancouver Archives.

Ultimately, the 1960 World Figure Skating Championships were held just after the Closing Ceremonies of the 1960 Winter Olympics. "Most of the competitors came directly from Squaw Valley, wearing their Olympic uniforms and looking tanned and healthy," recalled Patricia Shelley Bushman in her book "Indelible Tracings". Upon arriving in Vancouver, the skaters - who were relieved to be at sea level after competing at an altitude of six thousand feet at the Olympics - received welcome baskets, which included boot polish, Coca Cola soft drinks, skate laces and fresh fruit. Practice sessions were held at the Capilano Winter Club. The host venue, the Vancouver Forum on the grounds of the Pacific National Exhibition, had a dark history. During World War II it was used as an internment and processing camp for Japanese Canadians.

Left: Program for the 1960 World Championships. Right: Advertisement for Harlick & Co. Photo courtesy "World Ice Skating Guide".

The Vancouver World Championships marked and inspired an important series of firsts. Johnny Esaw, then with CFTO (a precursor of CTV) was contacted by ABC to negotiate the television rights for the event. He bought the North American rights for ten thousand dollars and turned them over to Roone Arledge, the President of ABC. Though the competition was ultimately only broadcast down in the States, it was the first World Championships broadcast in North America. Esaw's involvement led to Canadian figure skating's first televised broadcast the following year - a series of exhibitions featured on "On The Scene", a program sponsored by Simonize Wax Of Canada. The event also marked the first time that the number of entries per country per discipline was limited to three by the ISU.

Editorial cartoon from the "Vancouver Sun" in 1960: "All right Carol Heiss... never mind the fancy figure skating... just serve the tea." Photo courtesy Library And Archives Canada, Estate Of Leonard Norris.

The event drew standing room only crowds and brought in an impressive seven thousand, seven hundred and eighty three dollar profit, which went to back into the five British Columbian clubs who hosted the event. Canadian skaters enjoyed their best showing at the World Championships in many years, trumping the Americans in medal wins for the first time. Let's take a look back at how things played out in Vancouver!

THE ICE DANCE COMPETITION

Nine teams representing six nations vied for gold in the ice dancing competition in Vancouver. Though Courtney Jones forgot his skates for one of the compulsory dances - causing great distress to the Canadian referee - he and partner Doreen Denny easily took the lead after the Foxtrot, Viennese Waltz, Quickstep and Tango were completed. Writing in "Skating" magazine, Edith Ray lamented, "Dance followers saw excellent dancing [from Denny and Jones] and not-so-excellent dancing by some in the field. The general fault in the compulsory dances was the lack of individual flavour. There was bad timing, many flats and much two-footing displayed in the Viennese; the Tango was executed with some badly flatted mohawk sequences, and two couples skated this dance on the weak or secondary beat."


In matching gray outfits, Denny and Jones were the class of the field in the free dance, earning first place marks from all seven judges on the way to their second World title. It was Jones' fourth, as he had of course struck gold in 1957 and 1958 with June Markham. Edith Ray noted, "Their program was better constructed than last year, and showed masterful composition, with moves flowing into one another in kaleidoscopic variety. They covered the surface with these interesting moves and dance steps. into which they wove their highlights... although, just as everyone else does, they wasted time and motion on a few 'cutenesses'."

Canadians Virginia Thompson and William McLachhlan surprised many by finishing a decisive second behind the British favourites in their international debut, much to the delight of the Vancouver crowd. Moving up three places from the year previous, France's Christiane and Jean-Paul Guhel claimed the bronze with a free dance Ray described as "refreshing". The other two Canadian teams entered, Ann Martin and Gille Vanasse and Svata and Mirek Staroba, placed sixth and seventh.

Margie Ackles and Chuck Phillips Jr., the American team who placed fourth, earned the USFSA's new Hickok Memorial Trophy as the top placing American pair. Placing fifth and eighth were Ackles and Phillips' American teammates Larry Pierce and Roger Campbell. Though they skated with Marilyn Meeker and Yvonne Littlefield in Vancouver, they'd both team up with new partners the following season... and perish in the Sabena Crash.

THE MEN'S COMPETITION


Alain Giletti

With Olympic Gold Medallist David Jenkins telling the USFSA to go ahead and "suspend him" for opting to return to his studies at Western Reserve University rather than competing in Vancouver and Olympic Silver Medallist Karol Divín withdrawing due to the same hip injury he'd endured in Squaw Valley, the men's competition in Vancouver was set to be a showdown between the two French Alain's - Calmat and Giletti - and Canada's Donald Jackson. All three men were superb skaters who had studied under Pierre Brunet.


Though Donald Jackson was clearly favoured by the Canadian crowd, it was twenty one year old Giletti who amassed a thirty-three point lead and placed unanimously first in the school figures. An Associated Press writer noted, "Opportunity finally beckons for the 21-year old Giletti after 14 years of skating. Eight times he has been champion of France; four times champion of Europe. But in world skating there has always been a Dick Button, Hayes [Alan] Jenkins or David Jenkins to win for the United States."

Donald Jackson

It was standing room only for the men's free skate, and Assistant Referee Alec Gordon surprised many by insisting on doing his job despite having a temperature of one hundred and three. Though Giletti landed two double Axels, he fell twice - once just after the landing of one of the Axels and once on the entrance to a flying camel spin. Donald Jackson, who landed two double Axels and a triple Salchow, was placed unanimously first in the free skate. However, hampered by his showing in the figures, he lost the gold by one tenth of a point to Giletti, who made history as the first skater from France to win a World men's title. After the results were announced, Jacqueline Vaudecrane threw her arms around both Alain Giletti and Donald Jackson and said, "Now we have two champions; one in figures and one in free skating." In his November 2013 interview on The Manleywoman SkateCast, Jackson surmised, "Maybe it was good that [I lost] because I stayed in for another two years."

British Champion Robin Jones practicing for the event at Queen's Ice Club. He finished fourteenth. 

Moving past Austria's Norbert Felsinger, Alain Calmat claimed the bronze despite falling on a double Axel early in his program. Canada's other two entries, Donald MacPherson and Louis Stong, placed eighth and eleventh. Bradley Lord and Gregory Kelley, the American men who placed sixth and ninth, were both victims in the Sabena Crash the following year in Belgium.

Video courtesy Frazer Ormondroyd

THE WOMEN'S COMPETITION

Vancouver airport policeman Ed Perry and Carol Heiss

A whopping twenty four entries made the women's field in Vancouver the largest of the four disciplines. The start of the school figures was delayed by five hours when it was learned several competitors would arrive later than planned. To the surprise of absolutely no one, twenty year old Olympic Gold Medallist Carol Heiss took a commanding early lead ahead of Holland's Sjoujke Dijkstra and America's Barbara Roles, the silver and bronze medallists from Squaw Valley.

Video courtesy Frazer Ormondroyd

The weather, which had been beautiful, took a turn for the worse just prior to the women's free skate. A rare snowstorm prevented Frank Ross, the Lieutenant-Governor of British Columbia, and his wife from attending, but the rink proved to be standing room only anyway.

Though the Italian judge gave a lone first place vote to Sjoukje Dijkstra in the free skate, Carol Heiss' four-minute free skating effort was more than enough for her to claim her final World title... at the stroke of midnight in front of three thousand spectators. Though she played it a little safe and left out her double Axel, sportswriter Jack Hewin noted, "People who saw both performances said this was better than the free skating effort that helped win Miss Heiss an Olympic gold medal." In her December 2012 interview on The Manleywoman SkateCast, Heiss reminisced, "Worlds was a very hard competition, because you’re so excited from the Olympics, and there’s an exhaustion that sets in. And I don’t think there’s an Olympic gold medal winner who doesn’t say that. There’s such excitement winning the gold medal, and the interviews, and the crowds, even back then. It was sort of a whirlwind and it was hard to keep training, even though Mr. [Pierre] Brunet was very good about trying to keep me on the ice and keep me training. And then going to Worlds for the fifth world title - I never went in for the record, that never dawned on me. It was just finishing my career. And I probably would have gone on to Nationals, but that was the first year that they put nationals before Worlds and Olympics, and it’s stayed that way ever since. And after that, I just wanted to get married, and there was a ticker tape parade in New York. They just couldn’t have treated me better. Carol Heiss Day, the key to the city, and then Long Island did the same thing. But then the offers came in and there were decisions. The first decision was, I said, I want to get married and make the decisions together. So we managed with good friends and my dad and the Brunet's to put my wedding together in six weeks."


Barbara Roles somewhat outshone Sjoukje Dijkstra in the free skate, but the Dutch Champion bested her for the silver on the strength of her showing in the figures. Canada's three entries, Wendy Griner, Sonia Snelling and Shirra Kenworthy, placed seventh, thirteenth and fifteenth. Japan's Miwa Fukuhara placed only fourteenth, but garnered considerable attention by skating to 'Oriental' music and landing a superb double Axel.

The judges didn't know what to do with the second American woman, young Laurence Owen. Her ordinals in the figures ranged from fifth to fourteenth; in the free skating from fifth to thirteenth. She ended the competition in a disappointing ninth, and perished the following year in the Sabena Crash before her natural talent was ever rewarded on the World's biggest stage.

THE PAIRS COMPETITION


Maria and Otto Jelinek

Capping off an incredible career with a flawless final competitive performance, Olympic Gold Medallists Barbara Wagner and Bob Paul delighted the Vancouver audience and judges alike by claiming the gold in the pairs competition. They did so with unanimous first place marks from all nine judges and a smattering of 5.8's and 5.9's.

Finding redemption after their disappointment in Squaw Valley, siblings Maria and Otto Jelinek claimed the silver in a six-three split over West Germans Marika Kilius and Hans-Jürgen Bäumler, making it one-two for Canada. Nancy and Ron Ludington, who had won the bronze at the Olympics, had an off night and placed only sixth. The Jelinek's didn't skate as well in Vancouver as they did in Squaw Valley either, but they placed higher. Muriel Kay, who covered the event for "Skating World" magazine, was impressed though. She wrote, "The young Jelineks skated the most thrilling and dynamic programme of the evening - it was fast and sure, with exuberant vitality. Maria missed landing her double loop, and there were a few other minor faults - but for this, the judges would have been hard put to make their decision for first place. A year ago they were two youngsters skating very well - now they have matured and gained poise and a depth of feeling for their music which led to this first-class performance."

Oleg Protopopov, Maria Jelinek, Ludmila Belousova and Otto Jelinek

Ludmila Belousova and Oleg Protopopov were competing in only their second Worlds but were already garnering considerable consideration for their virtuosity. Unfortunately, a fall from Ludmila on the side-by-side double flips kept them down in eighth. Muriel Kay wrote in  "Skating World" magazine, "Their opening music sounded like the cascading of fountains, and their interpretation was exquisite and beautifully flowing... Their lifts were some of the best in the entire competition, with that quality of hovering for a long second at the peak... For those who really wondered just what 'light and shade' really means, it was demonstrated here superbly. It was just not interpretation as dictated by loudness and softness, crescendo and diminuendo and change of speed, but all the subtle variations of the moods of the music, born of the soul and not merely of the intellect. Once they perfect their skating movements and lengthen their stroke, which is still a little choppy in places, they will be serious challengers for the title."

Maribel Yerxa Owen and Dudley Richards

The American teams who finished tenth and twelfth, Maribel Yerxa Owen and Dudley Richards and Ila Ray and Ray Hadley, were among the Sabena Crash victims in 1961.

Fresh off Olympic victory, Barbara Wagner and Bob Paul

Canada's third team, thirteen year old Debbi Wilkes and fifteen year old Guy Revell, placed eleventh in their debut at Worlds.  In her book "Ice Time", Wilkes recalled, "The championships were the culmination of my Dad's dreams for me and, for one of the few competitions of my career, both my parents came... I had a great time. I tried to make friends with a Soviet pairs skater, [Ludmila] Belousova, who was skating with Oleg Protopopov... I thought [Ludmila] was my age and that we'd have great fun together. She turned out to be twenty-five. I also got word from the CFSA through my mother that I should watch out who my friends were... I was very happy about [the Canadian one-two finish], not only because of Otto and Maria, but because Marika Kilius, the German ice princess, was the most hateful person I had ever met. Years later, when Marg [Hyland] thought my competitive instinct needed a boost, she just whispered in my ear, 'Marika Kilius.'"

Postcard of the Hotel Georgia. Photo courtesy City of Vancouver Archives.

Following the competition, a who's who of figure skating gathered at the Hotel Georgia for an afternoon awards banquet. The over three hundred attendees each received a small silver maple leaf and a small slate totem pole with a silver medallion as keepsakes. The Japanese team all wore traditional costumes from their home country, and the Russian Federation presented the CFSA with a pennant of goodwill. Following the banquet, attendees went on a pleasure cruise of the Vancouver harbour and Howe Sound on a privately owned yacht and attended a cocktail party and buffet dinner and ice dancing session at the Capilano Winter Club. By this time, noted June Pinkerton, the chair of the Entertainment Committee, "It was evident... that the language barrier was no obstacle. Farewells were said, and with the end of another World Championship it was felt that a lot of new friends had been made."

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.

What Did They Do In '62?

1962 World Champions Maria and Otto Jelinek. Photo courtesy Toronto Public Library, from Toronto Star Photographic Archive. Reproduced for educational purposes under license permission.

The cancellation of the 2020 World Figure Skating Championships in Montreal, Quebec due to the COVID-19 pandemic marks the first time in history a major ISU Championship has been cancelled specifically due to a global health emergency. As we all know though, this wasn't the first time the World Championships have been cancelled. The Great War and World War II forced the cancellation of Worlds from 1915 to 1921 and from 1940 to 1946. In 1961, the ISU (despite protestations from the Czechoslovakian organizers) cancelled the Worlds in Prague after the tragic Sabena Crash that killed the entire U.S. figure skating team, along with coaches, officials and members of their families. The cancellation of the 2020 Worlds has left many speculating as to how the ISU will handle entries for the 2021 World Championships, slated for Stockholm, Sweden. Some have wondered what they did back in 1962.

Oleg Protopopov, Maria Jelinek, Ludmila Belousova and Otto Jelinek in 1962

In the fifties, the number of entries at ISU Championships was growing by leaps and bounds. The number of entries in the women's event more than doubled from fourteen in London in 1950 to twenty nine in Paris in 1958. A big part of the problem at the time wasn't the number of federations sending skaters, but the number of skaters each federation sent. The United States, for instance, sent no less than five men and women to the 1951 Worlds in Milan. At a time when strict rules of amateurism were very much at play, it often came down to who could afford to pay their own way.

Nobuo Sato, Marika Kilius and Donald Jackson in 1962

Hoping to curb the number of entries at its Championships, the ISU passed a rule change at its 1959 Congress in Tours, France allocating each member federation two entries in each discipline, with a third spot available "if such Member had a representative in the first twelve in the same event in the preceding Championship." The catch was the skater or team who earned their country a third spot had to be the one(s) to return the following year to use it. If not, they lost it.


Though the ISU based entries for the 1962 Worlds on the results of the 1960 Worlds in Vancouver, their 'use it or lose it' policy for a third spot cost the Americans (who were still grieving from the Sabena Crash) entries at the 1962 Worlds because the skaters who had earned a third spot had well, died. At the 1960 Worlds, every single American skater or team had placed in the top twelve in their respective discipline, earning a maximum of three spots for the 1961 Worlds in Prague - but one of each of those three spots would have 'belonged' to the highest finishing returning skaters or teams - Bradley Lord, Laurence Owen, Maribel Yerxa Owen and Dudley Richards and in dance, either Larry Pierce or Roger Campbell with their new partners. Rather than allowing the USFSA to send three entries per discipline as a courtesy, the ISU ruled that they could send only two entries per discipline because the skaters who earned third spots weren't returning. An exception was made for Barbara Roles Pursley, who was a past Olympic and World Medallist and had earned a spot by placing third in 1960 but took a year off in 1961.

Announcement of the 1962 U.S. World team. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine.

The Americans weren't the only ones to get dinged by the rule. Great Britain, a powerhouse in ice dance in the sixties, was only able to send two couples after the retirement of Doreen Denny and Courtney Jones. Denny and Jones were the World Champions in 1960... but they were the only British couple entered that year.

The men's podium (Alain Calmat, Donald Jackson and Karol Divín) and the women's podium (Regine Heitzer, Sjoukje Dijkstra and Wendy Griner) at the 1962 World Championships. Photos courtesy "Skating" magazine.

If entries for the next World Championships were based on the system that was in place in 1962, here's what we'd be looking at, taking into account retirements, skaters not entered to compete at the 2020 Worlds, etc.

Men:

USA - 3 spots (1 reserved for Nathan Chen, Vincent Zhou or Jason Brown)
JPN - 3 spots (1 reserved for Yuzuru Hanyu or Shoma Uno)
CHN - 3 spots (1 reserved for Boyang Jin)
ITA - 3 spots (1 reserved for Matteo Rizzo)
CZE - 3 spots (1 reserved for Michal Březina)
FRA - 3 spots (1 reserved for Kévin Aymoz)

- Russia would lose a third spot if Alexander Samarin, Mikhail Kolyada or Andrei Lazukin weren't sent.

*All other countries would have 2 spots.

Women:

JPN - 3 spots (1 reserved for Rika Kihira, Kaori Sakamoto or Satoko Miyahara)
USA - 3 spots (1 reserved for Bradie Tennell or Mariah Bell)

- Canada would lose a third spot if Gabby Daleman wasn't sent
- Russia would lose a third spot if Evgenia Medvedeva or Sofia Samodurova weren't sent
- Kazakhstan would lose a third spot if Elizabet Tursynbaeva wasn't sent.
- Belgium would lose a third spot if Loena Hendrickx wasn't sent
- Korea would lose a third spot if Eun-soo Lim wasn't sent.

*All other countries would have 2 spots

Pairs:

CHN - 3 spots (1 spot reserved for Wenjing Sui and Cong Han or Cheng Peng and Yang Jin)
RUS - 3 spots (1 spot reserved for Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov or Aleksandra Boikova and Dmitrii Kozlovskii)
CAN - 3 spots (1 spot reserved for Kirsten Moore-Towers and Michael Marinaro or Evelyn Walsh and Trennt Michaud)
ITA - 3 spots (1 spot reserved for Nicole Della Monica and Matteo Guarise)
USA - 3 spots (1 spot reserved for Ashley Cain and Tim LeDuc)
AUT - 3 spots (1 spot reserved for Miriam Ziegler and Severin Kiefer)

- France would lose a third spot if Vanessa James and Morgan Ciprès weren't sent.
- North Korea would lose a third spot if Tae-ok Ryom and Ju-sik Kim weren't sent.

*All other countries would have 2 spots

Ice Dance:

FRA - 3 spots (1 spot reserved for Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron)
RUS - 3 spots (1 spot reserved for Victoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov or Alexandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin)
USA - 3 spots (1 spot reserved for Madison Hubbell and Zach Donohue, Madison Chock and Evan Bates or Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker)
CAN - 3 spots (1 spot reserved for Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier or Laurence Fournier Beaudry and Nikolaj Sørensen)
ITA - 3 spots (1 spot reserved for Charlène Guignard and Marco Fabbri)
POL - 3 spots (1 spot reserved for Natalia Kaliszek and Maksym Spodyriev)

- Spain would lose a third spot if Sara Hurtado and Kirill Khaliavin weren't sent.

*All other countries would have 2 spots

As you can plainly see, if the rules at play in 1962 were reintroduced to address the entries to the World Championships, the number of entries in every discipline would swell dramatically - perhaps to the point that the ISU would have to reinstitute qualifying rounds unless the 'two slot' rule for all other countries was reduced to one.

While it is entirely unlikely the ISU would ever consider going back to a system used to address the cancellation of the World Championships from decades past, it is interesting to consider how the worldwide popularity of the sport and increased number of member federations would substantially increase the number of entries at Worlds if this system was reintroduced today.


Now that we've talked history, I want to just say that I hope all of you are hanging in there. Whether you're in self-isolation, have lost your job or are forced to continue to work for any number of ridiculous reasons, take care of yourself. Rather than focus entirely on the present, embrace the past and look forward to a brighter future. The world may be on pause, but it is not over. Stay happy, healthy and for the love of Sonja Henie, wash your hands.

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

The 1993 Canadian Figure Skating Championships


Brian Mulroney was just weeks away from resigning as Canada's Prime Minister. Booker Prize winner Michael Ondaatje's novel "The English Patient" was on everyone's nightstand. Walkmans blared with the Snap! hit "Rhythm Is A Dancer". Grunge fashion was the recession rage and for some unknown reason, pacifiers were a thing. The year was 1993 and from  February 4 to 7, Canada's best flocked to Copps Coliseum in Hamilton, Ontario for the Royal Bank Canadian Figure Skating Championships.


The use of such a large venue paid off in dividends for the CFSA. With sellout crowds of upwards of over hundred and sixteen thousand over the three days of senior championship events, it was the highest attendance ever at the Canadian Championships at that point in time. In fact, more people attended the event than one of the Toronto Maple Leafs' NHL home games the week prior.

Left: Barbara Ann Scott backstage. Photo courtesy Hamilton Public Library. Right: Commemorative lapel pin sold at the event.

A who's who of Canadian figure skating were in the stands - World and Olympic Champions like Barbara Ann Scott, Donald Jackson, Donald McPherson, Brian Orser, Kurt Browning, Petra Burka, Karen Magnussen, Frances Dafoe, Barbara Underhill and Paul Martini and Barbara Wagner and Bob Paul. A CFSA Hall Of Fame ceremony was held during the event, where Suzanne Morrow and Wally Distelmeyer, Mrs. Ellen Burka, Dr. Sidney Soanes and Granville Mayall were inducted.

Clipping about Mrs. Ellen Burka's CFSA Hall Of Fame induction. Photo courtesy Hamilton Public Library.

Fans were thrilled with a new technological advancement - an electronic scoreboard which showed the standings of the top five skaters or teams right after the marks were shown. Previously, many die-hard's were forced to scribble down marks on scrap paper and try to figure out 'who was where' on their own until the announcer read the read the results at the end of each event.

Hop in the time machine - we're going to take a look back at the stories, skaters and scandals from this fascinating event!

THE NOVICE AND JUNIOR EVENTS

Left: Collin Thompson. Right: Novice ice dancers Nicole and Derek Brittain. Photos courtesy Toronto Public Library, from Toronto Star Photographic Archive. Reproduced for educational purposes under license permission.

Teams from Quebec dominated the novice pairs and ice dance events. Representing the CPA Boucherville and CPA Jonquiere, Guylaine Brasseur and Kevin Boucher were victorious in novice pairs. Julie Lirette and Jonathan Pankratz took gold in an all Quebec medal sweep in novice dance.

Although compulsory figures had been eliminated from the junior and senior events, novice men and women were still required to perform the scales of skating in addition to technical programs and free skates. Louis-Georges Dufour of Quebec City led the way after the novice men's figures but lost his early lead, finishing off the podium. The winner was Toronto's Collin Thompson.

Photo courtesy Hamilton Public Library

In winning, fifteen year old Collin Thompson made history as the first skater of colour to win a Canadian title at any level. When reporter Larry Moko asked him about the significance of this, he said, "I think I'm just a regular person. It doesn't matter what colour I am." He had been skating for six years, was coached by Osborne Colson and came from a single-parent family.

In the novice women's event, Victoria's Lisa Murdoch and Dorval's Della Pike tied for the lead in the figures, but neither skater earned a medal. In fact, Pike dropped down to eleventh. The title went to Isabelle Thibeault of the CPA Chicoutimi, who had won the Eastern Divisionals the month prior but finished only twelfth at the 1992 Canadians.

Junior men's medallists Ravi Walia, David Pelletier and Matthew Knight. Photo courtesy Skate Canada Archives.

Julie Laporte and David Pelletier of the CPA Rimouski defeated Isabelle Coulombe and Bruno Marcotte and Kelly McKenzie and David Annecca to take the junior pairs title. Laporte and Pelletier's winning free skate featured a triple twist and throw triple Salchow - tough elements for a junior pair. After winning, Pelletier said, "I think it's the international experience that helped a lot and the fact that we've been skating together for three years. Many junior teams haven't been together that long." They'd previously placed fifth at the World Junior Championships and won a silver medal at the Blue Swords event in Germany.

After the junior compulsory dances, Quebec held the top six spots. As in novice dance, Quebec dancer made a sweep of the podium, with Martine Michaud and Sylvain Leclerc besting Elizabeth Hollett and Pierre-Hugues Chouinard and Josée Piché and Pascal Denis for the gold. Nineteen year old Ravi Walia of the Kerrisdale Figure Skating Club won both phases of the junior men's event and landed five triples in his free skate to win gold ahead of future Olympic Gold Medallist David Pelletier and his twenty year old training mate in Kerrisdale, Matthew Knight.

Photo courtesy Hamilton Public Library

In the junior women's event, Keyla Ohs, a student of Linda Brauckman from Maple Ridge, British Columbia, defeated Jessica Sheard and Andreanne Plante to claim the gold medal. Ohs was the youngest of sixteen entrants in the event, having just turned fourteen the week prior the event.

Photo courtesy Hamilton Public Library

Seventeen year old Christy Ness student Tammy Smigelski had the third best free skate but was an unlucky thirteenth in the short program and only able to move up to sixth overall. A young Jamie Sale placed eighth; a young Jennifer Robinson eleventh. After winning, Keyla Ohs said, "I'm excited. My goal was top give when I came here."

THE PAIRS AND FOURS COMPETITIONS

A unique Canadian specialty, fours skating, was included on the bill of senior competitions in Hamilton and proved a big crowd favourite. A cross country team featuring skaters representing both British Columbia and Ontario came out on top: Jodi Barnes, Rob Williams, Jodeyne Higgins and Sean Rice. Tiina Murr, Cory Watson, Alison Purkiss and Scott MacDonald took the silver for Ontario, followed by Julie Leithead, Jonathon Allen, Shannon Robb and Scott Cornfoot. The number of fours skaters that came out of the Preston Figure Skating Club spoke to the strength of Kerry Leitch's school and his important role in keeping the discipline alive for so many years.

Isabelle Brasseur and Lloyd Eisler. Left photo courtesy Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec, right photo courtesy Hamilton Public Library.

It wasn't an easy year for twenty two year old Isabelle Brasseur and twenty nine year old Lloyd Eisler. Though the team took a new approach to training, focusing on having fun rather than taking things so seriously, Isabelle was grieving the loss of her father. Though they were the reigning Olympic Bronze Medallist, they'd finished off the podium at the NHK Trophy in Japan in the fall, held just two weeks after his death. Neither of the teams that had beaten them at the Albertville Olympics had competed. Just prior to the event, Isabelle told Steve Milton, "I didn't want to pack it in. You can't stop your life. I mean my Dad died, and he showed me so much stuff... He wouldn't be proud if I did that."

Left: Allison Purkiss and Scott MacDonald. Middle: Kristy Sargeant and Kris Wirtz. Right: Jamie Salé and Jason Turner. Photos courtesy Hamilton Public Library.

Whatever may have been going on in Isabelle Brasseur's head, you wouldn't have known anything was wrong in Hamilton. In the short program, she and Lloyd Eisler skated clean as a whistle to "Tequila", earning marks mostly in the 5.8 and 5.9 range and a standing ovation. They easily outranked Michelle Menzies and Jean-Michel Bombardier, Kristy Sargeant and Kris Wirtz, Jodeyne Higgins and Sean Rice and Jamie Salé and Jason Turner, with first place ordinals from all nine judges. Menzies and Bombardier and Sargeant and Wirtz were both new partnerships; Higgins and Rice were competing in seniors for the first year. Lucky to even compete were Higgins and Rice's Preston training mates Tiina Muur and Cory Watson. Watson had been in a car accident just ten days before the start of the competition. He'd spent nearly a week in the hospital with a collapsed lung and only started practicing lifts during the pre-short program practice.

Isabelle Brasseur and Lloyd Eisler. Photos courtesy Hamilton Public Library.

Despite a fall from Isabelle on the side-by-side double Axels in their free skate to Rachmaninoff's "Rhapsody On A Theme Of Paganini", Brasseur and Eisler won their fourth Canadian pairs title in a convincing fashion. They received 5.6's and 5.7's for technical merit and 5.8's and 5.9's for artistic impression and again received first place ordinals from every judge. Menzies and Bombardier remained in second and Higgins and Rice moved up to take the bronze medals. Higgins and Rice's medal win was so completely unexpected that their coach Kerry Leitch was teary-eyed.

After the event, Lloyd Eisler told "Montreal Gazette" reporters, "The program is world-calibre gold material if we do everything we're supposed to do... Axels are jumps that strong individual skaters nail all the time but if we could nail them one after another, we would be in singles not pairs... We really are revved up now for Prague, very optimistic because of our program what we feel is a good combination of artistry and athletics."

THE ICE DANCE COMPETITION


Shae-Lynn Bourne and Victor Kraatz. Photo courtesy Hamilton Public Library.

You want to talk drama? Let's talk about the ice dance competition at the 1993 Canadian Championships. To give you some perspective, we need to look back on what happened in Canadian ice dance the two years prior. In 1991, former rivals Michelle McDonald and Martin Smith joined forces to win the Canadian ice dance title ahead of Jacqueline Petr and Mark Janoschak and Penny Mann and Juan-Carlos Noria. The following year, Petr and Janoschak claimed gold in a five-four split over Mann and Noria. McDonald and Smith dropped to third. The Canadian Olympic Association kept Mann and Noria off the Olympic team even though Canada had earned two spots but the CFSA sent them to Worlds, where they finished just four spots behind Petr and Janoschak. McDonald and Smith turned professional and everyone was expecting the next two seasons to be a seesaw battle between Petr and Janoschak and Mann and Noria... and then a third team entered the picture.

1992 Canadian Junior Champions, seventeen year old Shae-Lynn Bourne and twenty one year old Victor Kraatz moved up to the big leagues and placed a strong sixth to Petr and Janoschak at the Skate Canada International in Victoria in the autumn of 1992. Rumours swirled that the talented young team was being fast-tracked forward ahead of Petr and Janoschak and Mann and Noria before they even took the ice in Hamilton. There were even whispers that Bourne and Kraatz might pull a 'Duchesnay' and skate for another country, as Kraatz was born in Germany and held a Swiss passport. Coach Josée Picard admitted that both countries had made inquiries about Kraatz. Jacqueline Petr pointed out that since her parents were born in Czechoslovakia, she could have represented another country as well but she "was born here and [wanted] to represent Canada." Both Mark Janoschak and Juan Carlos Noria weren't buying into the hype over Bourne and Kraatz. Juan Carlos Noria told Steve Milton, "I know they are very young and very talented. They are the 'dream team'. But they're pretty young and in dance you need experience. Of course it is between us and Mark and Jacqui. How could it not be?"

And so... in the compulsory dances, Bourne and Kraatz placed ahead of Petr and Janoschak and Mann and Noria. Then, in the original dance - the Viennese Waltz - Mann and Noria took top spot, followed by Bourne and Kraatz and Petr and Janoschak. In the free dance, Petr and Janoschak opted for an avant garde program set to music by Michael Nyman dressed as the King and Queen of Hearts.


Mann and Noria took a traditional route with a Fred and Ginger program and Bourne and Kraatz showed off youth, exuberance and strong edges in a gypsy-themed program. Eight of the nine judges placed Bourne and Kraatz first in free dance, with one opting for Mann and Noria. Bourne and Kraatz won their first Canadian title, Mann and Noria settled for silver and the reigning Canadian Champions Petr and Janoschak were pushed down to third... a similar scenario to the one McDonald and Smith had faced the year prior.

Quoted in the "Ottawa Citizen", Victor Kraatz said, "I'm amazed at how quickly things have picked up for us. We came here just to get experience. There was no pressure on us to win at all." Bourne added, "I'm surprised. You usually have to wait your turn. This is just amazing." Their competitors didn't hide their frustration with their losses. Penny Mann said, "It's really frustrating. We worked really hard this year, with the one goal in mind: to win. We put it all out there. I don't like to say that we got dumped on, but it is a bit of a slap in the face." Mark Janoschak said, "I'm disappointed and a little bitter. I don't necessarily agree with the results, but they were so unanimous that it's hard to disagree. At least we went out fighting. We can hold our heads high and say we did our best job." Quoted in the "Toronto Star", Bourne and Kraatz's coach Eric Gillies defended the judge's decision: "We tend to talk a lot in Canada about the so-called 'norms' and sometimes have a fear of making big moves, even when that's the right thing to do. But this time, what was right was done and the best pair in this competition was judged to be the best, the way it should be, even if it isn't the norm."

THE WOMEN'S COMPETITION

Twenty one year old Karen Preston of Mississauga, a part-time humanities student at the University of Toronto, was the reigning Canadian Champion and as is always the case, there was the expectation for her to defend her title. Prior to the event, she told reporter Larry Sicinski, "I'm really trying not to think about what's on the line. What I did last year in Moncton is a completely different competition. A lot of skaters at other times have, maybe, put too much emphasis on whether or not they were going to lose their title. So I'm just trying to look at this year's Canadians as an event by itself... A lot of personal confidence came out of last year. I worked real hard and learned what I needed to do to get my job done. What kind of schedule I needed to be on. How much on-ice, off-ice work needed to be done. I learned an awful lot about myself as an athlete and it's given me a lot of confidence."


Josée Chouinard. Photos courtesy Toronto Public Library, from Toronto Star Photographic Archive. Reproduced for educational purposes under license permission.

Twenty two year old Kerry Leitch student Tanya Bingert pulled off an upset and won the short program, ahead of Canadian Champions Josée Chouinard and Karen Preston, who both missed their combinations. Seventeen year olds Susan Humphreys and Sherry Ball followed in fourth and fifth places. 1990 Canadian Champion Lisa Sargeant-Driscoll, coached by Michael Jiranek, bravely attempted a comeback. Overrating on a triple Axel attempt and falling on a double Lutz, she found herself buried in ninth place entering the free skate. Sargeant-Driscoll rebounded in the free skate, vaulting from ninth to fifth with an outstanding performance that featured five triples, including a two-footed triple Axel. Her only error was a fall on a triple loop. It's worth noting that she landed the triple Axel in one of the official practices.

Josée Chouinard. Photos courtesy Hamilton Public Library.

Josée Chouinard's six triple free skate was the talk of the town. Skating to Slavic folk music, she nailed her triple Lutz late in her program and captivated the audience with her charm and athleticism. She received marks ranging from 5.7 to 5.9 for technical merit, mostly 5.9's for artistic impression and received a standing ovation from the crowd for her gutsy effort.

Tanya Bingert. Photo courtesy Toronto Public Library, from Toronto Star Photographic Archive. Reproduced for educational purposes under license permission.

Karen Preston fell on one triple and touched down on another but was rewarded with second place marks. Susan Humphreys skated very well to move up to third. She'd missed the previous season due to shoulder injury, placed thirteenth in junior in 1991 and fifteenth in novice in 1990, so her medal was considered quite a surprise to many. Tanya Bingert crumbled, falling twice and dropping to fourth place overall. Sherry Ball played it clean but safe and the judges buried her in the standings.


Behind the scenes, things weren't all rosy. In her book "All That Glitters", Chouinard recalled, "In 1993, when I was about to skate my long program that would earn me my second Canadian title, I stayed up all night fighting with Jean-Michel, who had already finished his competition. I wanted him with me during the evening, but he had other obligations with his partner. Because my nerves were raw and I was concentrating only on myself, I lashed out at him when we finally caught up with each other. Wanting to settle the argument before I went to bed, I can remember some pretty serious yelling going on in the hotel hallway. Poor Jean-Michel. Nothing he said made any difference, and I went to bed determined that I wasn't going to let him affect my skating. The following day, I didn't speak to him at all. Arriving at the rink, I realized I didn't have any toothpaste with me. Most skaters rub a little of the substance inside their mouths to keep them from getting dry. Jean-Michel ran to the store to get me a tube and I didn't even thank him. I went on the ice, stubborn and determined. But I won the championship. Afterwards, I hugged and kissed Jean-Michel as if nothing had happened. No doubt about it, I'm totally impossible to be around before a competition."

THE MEN'S COMPETITION


Kurt Browning. Photo courtesy Toronto Public Library, from Toronto Star Photographic Archive. Reproduced for educational purposes under license permission.

1993 was a game-changing year for twenty six year old Kurt Browning. He was coming back from injury and a split with longtime coach Michael Jiranek that saw him move to Toronto to train with Louis Stong at the Granite Club. To top it off, he had only debuted his new programs week prior at the Western Divisionals. Though he won and received standing ovations at that event, he'd had to skate his new "Casablanca" free skate in a practice outfit as his costume at the time proved too restrictive.

Photo courtesy Hamilton Public Library

In the short program in Hamilton, both Kurt Browning and his nineteen year old rival Elvis Stojko made identical errors, stepping out of their triple Axels in the exact same spot on the ice. Seven of the nine judges placed Browning first. While Stojko received 5.8's and 5.9's for artistic impression, Browning received a slew of 5.9's and a 6.0 from judge Joy Forster for his new program to Led Zeppelin's "Bonzo's Montreux".

Left: Sébastien Britten poses right in front of the commentators, getting the audience smiling. Right: Kurt Browning gets a kiss on the cheek from a fan. Photo courtesy Hamilton Public Library.

Finishing a surprise third was twenty year old Jean-François Hebert, who was competing in the senior ranks for the first time. The twenty year old from Warwick, Quebec only started skating five years prior and had never placed higher than third at the junior level. He took a year off at one point because he "was tired of skating". Fourth through seventh were Marcus Christensen, Brent Frank, Patrick Brault and Sébastien Britten. Quoted in the "Edmonton Journal", Kurt Browning remarked, "It's not every day Elvis misses a jump... That's very strange. I know my own skating, and when I'm hot, I don't miss. But on a normal day, I miss jumps. Elvis doesn't. He's a machine. So I got a little bit lucky we chose the same time to make exactly the same mistake - and then the strength of the program came through for me."

Kurt Browning and Elvis Stojko posing for photographers after both programs. Photos courtesy Hamilton Public Library.

There was a full moon outside the night of the men's free skate - a fact that was chuckled about in the stands when some of the lower-ranked men missed jumps. Jean-François Hebert dropped to fifth and twenty two year old Marcus Christensen of the Royal Glenora Club moved up to third to claim his first senior medal and the third spot on the World team. Kurt Browning's "Casablanca" was a huge hit with the Hamilton crowd. He landed a triple Axel/triple toe-loop combination, solo triple Axel and triple Salchow/triple loop but fell on a triple Lutz and stepped out of a triple toe-loop. He received a standing ovation and two perfect 6.0's for artistic impression and was ranked first by all nine judges.

Senior men's medallists Marcus Christensen, Kurt Browning and Elvis Stojko. Photo courtesy Skate Canada Archives

Though the judges unanimously placed Kurt Browning first and Elvis Stojko second, some in the audience felt Stojko, who skated what he deemed "the best performance of his life", upstaged Browning. He received five 5.9's and a perfect 6.0 for technical merit, but his artistic marks weren't enough for first place. Quoted in the "Edmonton Journal", Stojko's coach Doug Leigh said, "I didn't see the other guy skate. I only know what Stojko did. When you see those kinds of marks in front of you, and then you go out and skate like that - well, he's got great courage. Sooner or later, he's got to break through. He can't be stopped." Browning called his performance, "One of the sweetest skates of my life... a very personal victory. Coming back from the injury, moving to Toronto, not having my parents here . . . there were a lot of things that have happened. The last month and a half have been really tough. There were a few days when I was really scared that whatever I had that made me do what I do was slipping away. But these last five or six days I felt it coming back, and tonight something just pushed me over the edge. I think it was the crowd." While Stojko handled his loss gracefully, local radio talk shows were abuzz with 'Elvis was robbed' calls.

THE PARADE OF CHAMPIONS AND AN AMUSING 'CONTROVERSY'

Canada's best let their hair down in the Parade Of Champions, the annual post-competition gala. Both Isabelle Brasseur and Lloyd Eisler and Marcus Christensen used music by Bryan Adams. Karen Preston and Josée Chouinard both selected music by Céline Dion: Karen an English piece and Josée a French one. Elvis Stojko rocked out to Van Halen's "You Really Got Me" while Kurt Browning mesmerized with a "Casablanca" reprise and a program to Louis Armstrong's "What A Wonderful World".

Photos courtesy Hamilton Public Library

And then there was a manufactured 'controversy' that was so far out of left field that it left many scratching their heads going "are you for real?" On February 9, 1993, the"Toronto Star" published a piece by humour columnist Joey Slinger suggesting that Kurt Browning be stripped of his Canadian title because he was promoting smoking by taking a drag off an imaginary cigarette twice in his "Casablanca" program. Slinger quoted an unnamed anonymous member of an anti-smoking group, who said, "I don't care. He can pee in a bottle all he wants. This is a moral outrage." Joey Slinger also cited an anonymous 'government source' who claimed, "Browning was thumbing his nose at our efforts to improve national well-being... It looked as if he was on the ice as a spokesman for the tobacco industry. What if he had pantomimed buying smack and cooking it in a spoon over a candle and filling a hypodermic syringe with it and injecting it into his vein, and claimed this was based on Frank Sinatra in the old move The Man With the Golden Arm? There would have been hell to pay. Especially if he did it twice." While the piece was obviously poking fun at the Helen Lovejoy "won't someone PLEASE think of the children?" moral outrage bandwagon against smoking in the nineties in Canada, some people missed the joke and took Slinger's article literally. The imaginary cigarette stayed in, and helped Kurt Browning win his fourth World title that spring in Prague.


Thanks to a generous donation of VHS tapes by Skate Guard reader Maureen, you can take a trip back in time and rewatch highlights of the 1993 Canadian Championships in digitized video form. The YouTube playlist, which includes a handful of performances from the men's and pairs events, can be found above or at https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL6c_NN6KdCfJQb_iLlcFe0hdsDU84Bppq.

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.