Divine Duos Of The British Ice Dance Dynasty


Fashionably late to the game, ice dancing was first officially contested at both the World and European Championships in the early fifties. Although it was an American pair (Lois Waring and Michael McGean) that won the first international ice dance competition held in conjunction with the World Championships in 1950, British couples won every single European and World dance title from 1951 to 1959.

Photo courtesy "Skating World" magazine


The very first World and European Champions, Jean Westwood and Lawrence Demmy, were succeeded by Pamela Weight and Paul Thomas in 1956. In the late fifties, Courtney Jones dominated the international dance scene. With partners June Markham and Doreen Denny, Jones won every ISU Championship he entered from 1957 until his retirement in 1961.

June Markham and Courtney Jones. Video courtesy Frazer Ormondroyd.

It is important to recognize that the domination of British dancers during this period extended far beyond this particular string of gold-medal winning couples. Today's Skate Guard blog celebrates the achievements of some of the other British teams who medalled at these early international dance events in the fifties... divine duos whose stories are often overlooked.

KAY MORRIS AND MICHAEL ROBINSON

Kay Morris and Michael Robinson. Photo courtesy "Skating World" magazine.

Like 1984 Olympic Gold Medallists Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean, Catherine 'Kay' Morris and Michael Robinson came from Nottingham. Throughout their skating career, they regularly travelled to London to perfect their craft with some of the best instructors in England. Though they worked with Jacques Gerschwiler and Monty Readhead early in their career, their coach at the height of their career was Len Liggett, who then taught at Queen's.

Christiane and Jean-Paul Guhel, Doreen Denny and Courtney Jones and Kay Morris and Michael Robinson on the podium at the 1959 European Championships. Photo courtesy Elaine Hooper, BIS Archives.

Kay and Michael won three consecutive medals at the European Championships in 1957, 1958 and 1959. Their best finish at the World Championships was fourth in 1958. At their first World Championships in 1957, they placed only sixth. Some thought the fact they drew first to skate in the free dance played a role in their result. They finished a disappointing seventh at their last trip to Worlds in 1959. They married in 1960 and both later served on the NSA Council and Ice Dance Committee and as international judges. Michael invented a Variation Foxtrot that was adopted as part of the NSA's Inter-Gold Dance schedule in the sixties. Kay sadly passed away last month. BIS Historian Elaine Hooper penned an outstanding obituary that highlights her important contributions to British skating. You can read it here.

BUNTY RADFORD AND RAY LOCKWOOD

Bunty Radford and Ray Lockwood on the podium at the 1955 World Championships

Raymond 'Ray' Lockwood got his start as a pairs skater. He and Peri Horne placed fifth at the 1953 World Championship, defeating future Olympic Gold Medallists Sissy Schwarz and Kurt Oppelt. When Peri turned professional to teach at Queen's, he teamed up with Alex D.C. Gordon's former partner Barbara 'Bunty' Radford to win bronze medals at the 1954 and 1955 European Championships and the 1955 World Championships. 

Photo courtesy "Skating World" magazine

Bunty and Ray's partnership ended when Ray turned professional. He and wife Rosina Blackburn won the World and British Open Professional pairs title in 1957 and 1958 and the dance title in 1958. Ray later taught at the Minto Skating Club, University Skating Club, Granite Club and Toronto Cricket Skating and Curling Club. Among his students were Canada's Virginia Thompson and Bill McLachlan, two-time World Medallists, North American and Canadian Champions. Ray sadly passed away on New Year's Eve in 2009.

Ray Lockwood. Photo courtesy "Skate" magazine

Bunty teamed up with Terence Orton after Ray turned pro but finished only fourth at the 1956 British Championships, missing a spot on the European and World teams by a hair. She later designed her own line of skating fashions called 'Bunty Sportswear' and coached at Streatham Ice Rink in London, in Italy with Guiliano Grossi and Alex McGowan and in Fort Wayne, Indiana and Troy, Ohio.

JOAN DEWHIRST AND JOHN SLATER

Photo courtesy "Ice Skate" magazine

Like Jean Westwood and Lawrence Demmy, Joan Dewhirst and John Slater hailed from Manchester. John was actually Jean's partner previous to her teaming up with Lawrence. Joan and John and Jean and Lawrence were close rivals in the early fifties. Jean and Lawrence were more known for their precision, speed and strong technique, whereas the Joan and John had "freer movement" and flashier skating. T.D. Richardson recalled, "In their free skating they skated, instead of kicking their legs in the air, waving their arms and tails about, swaying like straws in the breeze with both feet firmly planted." Joan and John finished second to Jean and Lawrence in the dance events held in conjunction with the World Championships in 1951, 1952 and 1953 but defeated Jean and Lawrence at the British Championships in both 1952 and 1953. Interestingly, some of the same judges who voted for Joan and John to win their British dance titles over the World Champion gave them lower marks when they competed internationally.

Photo courtesy Elaine Hooper, BIS Archive

Joan and John got married and turned professional in 1954, toured for a time in North America with the Ice Cycles and were perennial winners at the World's and British Open Professional Championships in the late fifties and early sixties. 

Left: Joan (Dewhirst) Slater. Right: John and Nicky Slater

Joan and John both went on to impressive coaching careers, working everywhere from the Molitor Rink in Paris to Las Palmas in the Canary Islands to the Liverpool, Manchester and Altricham rinks in England. Together, they invented the Jamaican Rhumba and in 1964 made history as one of the first professional couples to demonstrate compulsory dances at the World Championships. Joan's students over the years included Susan Getty and Roy Bradshaw, Isabella Micheli and Roberto Pelizzola, Sharon Jones and Paul Askham and of course, her son Nicky Slater and his partner Karen Barber. John passed away in 1989; Joan in 2020.

BARBARA THOMPSON AND GERARD RIGBY

Courtney Jones and June Markham, Paul Thomas and Pamela Weight and Barbara Thompson and Gerry Rigby in 1956. Photo courtesy BIS Archives, Courtney Jones Collection.

Gerrard 'Gerry' Joseph Rigby was born March 23, 1932. He grew up on City Road in the market-town of St. Helens in southwest Lancashire. He learned to skate at the Ice Palace rink on Prescott Road, next to the Casino Cinema in Liverpool and soon teamed up with Barbara Thompson of Oldham. The unlikely duo of small-town skaters were taught by Fred Borrodaile, a mechanic who gave up his job at a garage to coach them.

In 1955, Barbara and Gerry won the very first British junior dance title ever contested, having tried out their free dance during a hockey game interval in Liverpool. That autumn, they finished third in their very first go at the senior title and earned spots on the European and World teams. Though they had absolutely zero international experience, Barbara and Gerry surprised many by claiming the bronze medals at both the 1956 European and World Championships.

Kay Morris and Michael Robinson, June Markham and Courtney Jones and Barbara Thompson and Gerard Rigby, 1958 British dance medallists. Photo courtesy "Skating World" magazine.

The following season, Barbara and Gerry claimed the Northern and Midland Counties dance titles and moved up to second at the British and European Championships. At the World Championships in in Colorado Springs, nerves affected their compulsories. The Canadian judge gave them a 3.8 on the Foxtrot and had them tenth of the eleven couples and they had to come from behind to finish fifth. In 1957, Barbara and Gerry dropped to third at the British and European Championships and remained fifth at Worlds. In their final competition together, the British Championships in November of 1958, they finished second ahead of Catherine Morris and Michael Robinson, the team that had bumped them out of the second slot the year before. Two judges even had them first over World Champion Courtney Jones and his new partner Doreen Denny.

Joyce Coates, Anthony Holles, Gerry Rigby and Barbara Thompson taking a tea break from practice in Liverpool in 1958

Though named to the 1959 European and World teams, Barbara and Gerry's partnership ended abruptly when she announced her engagement and plans to move to America to be with her future husband. After a time overseas, she later returned to England, partnered up with Alan Hickman in Nottingham for a time and took up judging.

Gerry taught dance in Southampton and at Birmingham's Silver Blades ice rink. Among his students were European Champions and World Medallists Linda Shearman and Michael Phillips. In 1961, Gerry was involved in a serious car accident, where firefighters had to release him when he became trapped in his vehicle. He recovered, returned to coaching and skated with Gillian Thorpe in the televised program "Hot Ice And Cool Music" and the British and World Professional Championships.

While Barbara enjoyed married life, Gerry's fate wasn't so happy. He was found dead in his Solihull flat on May 23, 1971 at the age of thirty-nine. An inquest determined that Gerry had committed suicide. The cause of death was ruled to be a barbiturate overdose. He had lost his job as a skating instructor "because of nervous tension" and checked himself into the Birmingham Nerve Hospital. His friend Jane Martin claimed that when he was discharged, the "Inland Revenue descended on him, saying that he owed nearly three thousand pounds." Gerry had been facing bankruptcy proceedings as a result.

SYBIL COOKE AND BOB HUDSON

Photo courtesy "Skating World" magazine

Bob Hudson hailed from the Old Swan area of Liverpool; Sybil Cooke from the nearby town of Warrington. They trained in both pairs and dance in the afternoons and evenings with Len Liggett, later working with Miss Gladys Hogg in London. They were a very popular couple at the time, known for their rhythm and "fast, energetic style", regulars in the Northern Ice Dance League's contests and winners of the Manchester Skating Club's prestigious Ice Dance Trophy, Liverpool's Pairs and Dance Competitions and Birmingham's Laughton Trophy for pairs.


After winning the 1949 British dance title, Sybil and Bob became the first team in history to win both the British pairs and dance crowns in the same year in 1950. At that year's World Championships, they competed in both disciplines as well, placing a dismal eleventh out of twelve couples in pairs but second in dance. Esteemed British judge Reginald Wilkie had them in first. Though they were the first British couple in history to medal in an ice dance event held at the World Championships, their achievement has historically been overlooked because the ISU didn't officially deem the dance event an 'official' World Championships until 1952.

Sybil Cooke and Bob Hudson (center) as winners of the 1949 British Ice Dance Championships. Second (left) were Julie and Bill Barrett and third (right) were Bunty Radford and Alex D.C. Gordon. Photo courtesy "Skating World" magazine.

Sybil married William Hartley after the 1950 World Championships and her partnership with Bob came to an end. Skating with sisters Vivien and Jean Higson, he won another two British pairs titles and place fourth at the 1953 European Championships. 

Photo courtesy "Skating World" magazine

In 1954, Jean married Forest Morton, a farmer from Lanarkshire and took up coaching for a time. At the time, Bob remarked, "At twenty-six, I am an old man for championship skating. Jean and I were the oldest pair at the championships last year - the rest were teenagers. Children have more time to practise." Rather than hang up his skates, he reunited with Sybil the following year for a final, unsuccessful kick at the British dance crown. After retiring, Bob was active for many years as a high-level dance judge. He judged at the 1969 World Championships in Colorado Springs, when Diane Towler and Bernard Ford won their final World title.

Skate Guard is a blog dedicated to preserving the rich, colourful and fascinating history of figure skating. Over ten years, the blog has featured over a thousand free articles covering all aspects of the sport's history, as well as four compelling in-depth features. To read the latest articles, follow the blog on FacebookTwitterPinterest and YouTube. If you enjoy Skate Guard, please show your support for this archive by ordering a copy of figure skating reference books "The Almanac of Canadian Figure Skating", "Technical Merit: A History of Figure Skating Jumps" and "A Bibliography of Figure Skating": https://skateguard1.blogspot.com/p/buy-book.html.

Contraptions And Contrivances: Figure Skating's Oddest Inventions


"The most curious things amongst these models are those of various machines for enabling the unpractised hand to throw lines to people in danger. These ingenius contrivances - whether they survived the test of trial does not appear - consist mostly of a line wound round a stick, to which are attached wheels or a ball, so that it may be rolled in the direction required; but it does not appear what would happen if the ice were not quite smooth." - excerpt from an unattributed article in Charles Dickens' weekly journal "All The Year Round" referring to the life-saving apparatuses in the possession of the Royal Humane Society in England for saving drowning skaters.

Victorian skating 'safety frame'

When we think about innovations like improvements to skate design, the Zamboni and jumping harnesses, we can clearly see how inventions can change the course of skating history. 

It is hard to imagine what figure skating would look like today without computerized judging or internet streams of skating competitions. Yet, for every success story in this world like the cell phone or the television, there's a Smell-O-Vision, a mechanical horse brush, a shoe umbrella or a lipstick stencil. 

Skating has plenty of its own odd inventions that proved to be colossal flops. Today on Skate Guard, we will explore a handful of the most epic ones!

THE SKATER'S FRIEND

Photo courtesy Wellcome Library

One imaginative Victorian era British skater was so concerned about the idea of taking a tumble on the ice that he conceived the idea of a crinoline cage called 'The Skater's Friend' that would prevent injuries. The unattributed engraving found in the Wellcome Library's collection reads, "'Some good account at last.' - Amateur skater. 'Entirely my own idea, Harry. - Ease, elegance and safety combined, - I call it the skater's friend." The engraving was later published in "Punch" magazine on January 7, 1860. The 'Skater's Friend' never caught on, and in 1919, George Woolliscroft Rhead frowned upon the engraving in his book "Chats On Costume" thusly: "Unkind Mr. Punch! Must we, then, measure the value of everything in this world by its bare utility? The crinoline will endure as a sweet solace to senses tired by the ennui of this dull earth. The memory of it will outlive the ages."

REVITALIZING SKATING TONICS

Right: William H. Bishop, a.k.a. Frank Swift

William H. Bishop, a rather unscrupulous theatrical and minstrel show producer who skated under the alias Frank Swift, was one of America's best-known skaters after Jackson Haines left for Europe. He had a bit of a dubious history in the sport - to put it mildly. In the January 7, 1893 edition of "Harper's Weekly", champion skater George Dawson Phillips wrote a column describing an act of deception on the famed skater's part: "Proficient judges are sometimes misled, as in the contest of 1867, when Frank Swift, the old time champion, almost succeeded in getting the best of them. He was only able to make the one-foot 8's with his left foot, and in order to throw the judges off, he first skated the figure facing them, and turning around a few times, he started with his back to them, but on the same foot. The deception was not noticed at first but when Mr. E.B. Cook, one of the judges, asked him to repeat the figure, it was discovered that he could not use his left foot." He couldn't have pissed Cook off that much though, because the next year when Swift and 'noted skating critic' Marvin R. Clark penned "The Skater's Textbook", Cook wrote a glowing forward. Back in those days, many of the fancy skating contests were blatantly rigged, with the skaters bringing their own 'judges' and everyone involved getting a piece of the pie. 

William H. Bishop and Marvin R. Clark's "The Skater's Textbook" didn't just provide instruction on  signature grapevines and scuds. It also suggested a 'cure-all remedy' for skating induced aches that was rather unorthodox at best.


Swift and Clark weren't the only ones peddling patent medicine to skaters during the Victorian era. Dalley's Magical Pain Extractor was a salve invented by a New York merchant named Henry Dalley, Sr. It didn't catch on, but after his death in 1852, a druggist named Cornelius V. Clickener (who later became the first mayor of Hoboken, New Jersey) took over Dalley's business and advertised the heck out of his ointment in newspapers, booklets and trade cards - one of which pictured a happy skater pushing a woman on a sledge across the ice. 

Trade card for Dalley's Magical Pain Extractor, circa 1875. Photo courtesy Library Of Congress.

The salve claimed to cure "burns, scalds, cuts, chafes, sore nipples, corns, bites, bunions, strains, poison, chilblains, biles, ulcers, fever sores, felons, ear ache, piles, sore eyes, gout, swellings, rheumatism, scald head, salt rheum, baldness, erysipelas, ringworm, barber's itch, small pox, measles, rash, &c." It was also used to 'treat' everything from poison oak to cancer and claimed to "take out all pain in ten minutes". What (no doubt) questionable and even dangerous ingredients were in this magical salve are a mystery, but it was rubbed on many a skater's 'weak ankles' and chilblains back in the day.

ANCHORS AWAY!

In 1953, forty year old Hollywood would-be inventor named Charles E. Smith was picked up three miles off the Los Angeles harbour breakwater by the Coast Guard. "The Madera Tribune", on April 13, 1953, reported that "that was about three miles further than he had gotten earlier this month when he tried to make it in a plastic ball that became water-logged when only three feet off the beach. Smith's latest contraption consisted of a revolving barrel supported by four airplane gas tanks and aluminum tubing. He explained his idea was to stand on the barrel wearing roller skates and skate his way to the island. The roller skates didn't work, so Smith tried it in his stocking feet. Five hours later the contraption collapsed and the Coast Guard pulled Smith out of the water. Smith, not downhearted, said he would try something new." God bless his pointy head, that one!

AND WE HAVE LIFT OFF...

Mr. Hawkins' 'rink protector' for roller skaters were an epic fail to say the least. Bouncing... chandelier... lawsuit. Need one say more?

Clipping from the May 6, 1885 issue of "The Evening Star"

KILLED BY HIS OWN INVENTION?

From the comical to the calamitous is the story of an eighteen year old from Lawrenceburg, Indiana named Warren Mitchell. Following the death of his father Robert, the Gilded Age Midwesterner was left in the precarious situation of  his mother and siblings.An avid skater, Mitchell recognized the life-saving (and money-making) potential of a device to save people from drowning when they fell through the ice while skating. 

Life-saving equipment for skaters was nothing new. Skating clubs in Philadelphia, England and Scotland made ice safety apparatus - everything from ropes to ladders to axes and boats - an absolute priority. Sadly, Mitchell's invention almost killed him... and many believed it did. 

An erroneous dispatch led to this article being published in newspapers from New York to California on February 22, 1907: "Warren Mitchell, a young inventor, lost his life today while testing an apparatus which he had invented for preventing loss of life from skating on thin ice. The device consisted of a light framework to be fastened about the skater's body and extending three feet on each side. Mitchell took his contrivance to Tanner's Creek this morning, and while skating his foot came in contact with an obstruction and he was thrown headlong upon the ice. The ice gave way, and the upper part of his body went under water. The device about his waist hampered him so that could not raise himself up, and when taken from the water he was dead." Fortunately, local accounts of Mitchell's accident improved his condition from dead to alive. "The Elwood Daily Record" corrected the dispatch's error, noting that Mitchell instead "struck an obstruction and was precipitated headfirst through the ice, softened by the recent rains, and his invention held him fast beneath the water. He would have assuredly drowned, but his plight was discovered by Ray Myers, who rescued him at the risk of his own life. Mitchell is in a precarious condition." 

The young skating inventor recovered, got a job as a labourer for J.C. Wright & Son in Aurora, Indiana, married and was drafted into the U.S. army during The Great War. His fate during or after the war is a mystery... but we do know one thing - his apparatus is quite likely at the bottom of Tanner's Creek where it belongs.

THE HYGIENIC SKATING POND

Back in 1907 in Billings, Montana, a doctor named Jeremiah Wight decided to open to a 'hygienic skating pond'. Wight was full of ridiculous ideas that never would have worked including - according to the "Los Angeles Herald" on January 4, 1907 - "a hot-water system circulating through the ice sheet... [so if] a skater breaks through he will find himself in hot water and all danger of pneumonia will be eliminated" and "a skate that generates a current of electricity as it slides over the ice. Wires convey the current to foot warmers in the shoes, and girls can skate for hours without having their toes frostbitten." Because what's safer than mixing electricity and water, right? I suppose I shouldn't snicker too much at Wight's latter idea. Julius Czaja of Syracuse, New York actually patented a heating apparatus where electric batteries mounted on ice skates warmed the feet and increased "the lubricating water film caused by the combination of pressure and fiction". Czaja's heating apparatus was featured in "Popular Mechanics" magazine in April 1964. In case you didn't guess, both Wight and Czaja's inventions didn't make it any further off the ground than a death spiral.

HOTBUGS

Photo courtesy "World Ice Skating Guide"

Patented in February of 1952 by Detroit's Elizabeth Paster, Hotbugs were without a doubt one of the most unusual fads in skating fashion of the fifties and early sixties. Made of lambskin and scrap pieces of fur, Hotbugs were muffs for skates that were 'supposed to keep your toes warm'. They came in three colours (black, red and blue), had little plastic googly eyes and were fastened on with a hook.

Photo courtesy "World Ice Skating Guide"

Hotbugs inspired several copycats, including Hans Altinger's Skate-Mufs, which were manufactured out of Woodside, New York.

Barbara Ann Scott modelling Hotbugs in 1959

How something so silly ever become popular? Simple. Barbara Ann Scott appeared in print ads for the Lowell B. Worley company that distributed them.

Skate Guard is a blog dedicated to preserving the rich, colourful and fascinating history of figure skating. Over ten years, the blog has featured over a thousand free articles covering all aspects of the sport's history, as well as four compelling in-depth features. To read the latest articles, follow the blog on FacebookTwitterPinterest and YouTube. If you enjoy Skate Guard, please show your support for this archive by ordering a copy of the figure skating reference books "The Almanac of Canadian Figure Skating", "Technical Merit: A History of Figure Skating Jumps" and "A Bibliography of Figure Skating": https://skateguard1.blogspot.com/p/buy-book.html.

The 1967 European Figure Skating Championships

Press pin from the 1967 European Championships

Filming of Charlie Chaplin's final motion picture wrapped up, "I'm A Believer" by The Monkees topped the music charts and Apollo 1 was destroyed by fire during a launch rehearsal test at Cape Kennedy Air Force Station Launch Complex 34.


These were just some of the events in the weeks leading up to the 1967 European Figure Skating Championships, held January 31 to February 5 of that year at the eight thousand seat Tivoli Hall in historic Ljubljana, nestled between the Adriatic Sea and The Alps. The eight thousand seat venue had played host to the World Ice Hockey Championship just one year prior.

Photos courtesy BIS Archive, Elaine Hooper

Over one hundred and ten skaters from seventeen nations competed in Ljubljana and the event marked the first time in history a major ISU Championship was held in what was then Yugoslavia. However, there was fly in the ointment. Yugoslav transmissions of the event weren't carried over Eurovision and for the first time in years, skating aficionados not in attendance were forced to rely solely on print coverage of the event. In an attempt to explain why the ball had been dropped on international television coverage, commentator Alan Weeks wrote in "Winter Sports" magazine, "Quite simply, the answer was advertising. You may have noticed in last year's Championships that advertising slogans were painted on the ice side of the barriers. As these advertisements were not confined to products manufactured in the country concerned, it was very obvious that they had been aimed specifically at television audiences. As advertising of this kind is contrary to the rules of most European television organizations - some have a total ban on television advertising and others have strict limitations in this respect - the European Broadcasting Union (Eurovision, of which BBC and ITV are members) were reluctantly compelled to forego transmissions from Ljubljana. Some viewers have mentioned the advertising one sees at motor racing tracks. These are quite specifically permanent adverts and, as such, part of the general scene expected at a motor racing event... The adverts at Bratislava last year were painted on the barriers two weeks before the Championships took place and they involved most European countries. In other words, the people in the building would be hardly likely to purchase some of the items advertised. The European Broadcasting Union hopes viewers will understand television's need to put a stop to the commercial exploitation of its programmes by advertising agencies and some sports promoters and that big sporting events will not be deprived of international audiences in the future." The matter was a hot topic in Yugoslavia, but one that was ultimately resolved through communication and negotiation.

The music room. Photo courtesy BIS Archive, Elaine Hooper.

Now that the stage has been set, let's take a look back at the stories and skaters that made this competition so interesting!

THE PAIRS COMPETITION


Ludmila and Oleg Protopopov

Dressed in powder blue, reigning Olympic and World Champions Ludmila (Belousova) and Oleg Protopopov navigated through their split Lutz lift, trademark one-handed death spiral and side-by-side jumps on the way to unanimously winning the compulsory short program. They received two 5.9's - one for technical merit from the Norwegian judge, another for artistic impression from the Soviet judge. Trailing the Protopopov's were West Germany's Margot Glockshuber and Wolfgang Danne and East Germany's Heidemarie Steiner and Heinz-Ulrich Walther. Controversially, British judge Pamela Peat placed East Germany's top team only twelfth. No other judge had them lower than fourth.

The pairs podium. Photo courtesy BIS Archive, Elaine Hooper.

In the free skate, the Protopopov's skated to strains of Tchaikovsky and appeared poised to skate another clean program until Oleg fell on a side-by-side double flip attempt. Despite their error, the Norwegian judge still gave them a 5.9. Eight of the nine judges placed them in first place in the free skate, with the exception being the West German judge, who placed them third behind the two top West German pairs, Margot Glockshuber and Wolfgang Danne and Gudrun Hauss and Walter Häfner. When the overall marks were tallied, the Protopopov's defeated Glockshuber and Danne eight judges to one. The bronze medal went to Heidemarie Steiner and Heinz-Ulrich Walther. The event was viewed as a rather anti-climactic one, as the Protopopov's closest rivals, Tatyana Zhuk and Alexander Gorelik, were not in attendance due to a severe head injury that Zhuk had suffered in a serious fall on a footwork sequence during a training session earlier in the season.

THE MEN'S COMPETITION


Top: Wolfgang Schwarz, Austrian coach Herta Wächtler and Emmerich Danzer in Ljubljana. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine. Bottom: The men's podium. Photo courtesy BIS Archive, Elaine Hooper.

If Emmerich Danzer's career was characterized by narrow wins, what he accomplished on the ice in Ljubljana certainly silenced those who thought he'd benefited from bloc judging or reputation in the past. After amassing an incredible sixty eight point lead by winning all six school figures, he skated one of the finest free skating performances of his career, which included a double Axel and triple Salchow. His marks, which included sixteen 5.9's, were a credit to the training he'd done in Lake Placid the summer prior with Gustave Lussi. He deservedly won the title with first place ordinals from every judge in both figures and free skating and an almost ninety three point lead over his closest competitor.

Emmerich Danzer. Photo courtesy "Winter Sports" magazine.

Some felt that Wolfgang Schwarz, who won the silver, was propped up by the judges. Though he landed a (then rare) triple toe-loop in his free skate, he botched his double Axel. In comparison, Ondrej Nepela who won the bronze landed a triple Salchow and two double Axels. France's Patrick Péra and the Soviet Union's Sergei Chetverukhin rounded out the top five. Michael Williams, the only British entry, placed an unlucky thirteenth despite landing a triple Salchow in his free skate. The figures had not been his friend.

THE WOMEN'S COMPETITION

Women's medallists in Ljubljana. Right photo courtesy BIS Archive, Elaine Hooper.

With twenty four entries, the women's event in Ljubljana was the largest. As two time and defending European Champion Regine Heitzer had turned professional, the title was also up for grabs. Great Britain's Sally Anne Stapleford won the first school figure, but eighteen year old Gaby Seyfert rallied to earn first place marks from eight of the nine judges in the competition's first phase.

Gaby Seyfert and Emmerich Danzer

Rumours circled that Gaby Seyfert wasn't in top form as she had recently undergone a stomach operation, but she went out and skated a strong but cautious free skating program that included a double Axel, Lutz and Salchow. Her only major error was a faltered split jump. If Seyfert was good, seventeen year old Czechoslovakian Hana Mašková was great. Skating a flawless performance, she managed to narrowly win the free skate but was unable to overcome Seyfert's strong lead in the compulsories and had to settle for silver. The bronze went to Hungary's Zsuzsa Almássy, who performed so poorly in the free skate that three judges placed her tenth. Sally Anne Stapleford placed fourth overall, just ahead of Austria's Trixi Schuba, who placed third in the free skate.

THE ICE DANCE COMPETITION

Diane Towler and Bernard Ford

To the surprise of literally no one, Britons Diane Towler and Bernard Ford won the ice dance title in Ljubljana by a mile, earning first place ordinals from every judge in all four compulsories (the Foxtrot, European Waltz, Quickstep and Blues) and the free dance. They actually debuted a brand program, which drew a hearty applause from the capacity crowd and earned 6.0's from the French and Dutch judges - the only two perfect marks awarded in any discipline at the Championships.

Left: Janet Sawbridge and Jon Lane. Photo courtesy "Winter Sports" magazine. Right: The ice dance podium. Photo courtesy BIS Archive, Elaine Hooper.

The surprise of the competition was the silver medal win of Yvonne Suddick and Malcolm Cannon. Though Suddick had medalled at the European Championships the past three years with Roger Kennerson, her partnership with Malcolm (a British Champion in singles) was only months old. On the strength of their free dance, French ice dancers Brigitte Martin and Francis Gamichon managed to defeat Janet Sawbridge and Jon Lane for the bronze by only one ordinal placing, preventing a British sweep of Gladys Hogg's pupils in the process. They became the first French dance team since Christiane and Jean-Paul Guhel, who won in 1962, to stand on the European podium.

Skate Guard is a blog dedicated to preserving the rich, colourful and fascinating history of figure skating. Over ten years, the blog has featured over a thousand free articles covering all aspects of the sport's history, as well as four compelling in-depth features. To read the latest articles, follow the blog on FacebookTwitterPinterest and YouTube. If you enjoy Skate Guard, please show your support for this archive by ordering a copy of figure skating reference books "The Almanac of Canadian Figure Skating", "Technical Merit: A History of Figure Skating Jumps" and "A Bibliography of Figure Skating": https://skateguard1.blogspot.com/p/buy-book.html

French Connection: The Jacques Favart Story

Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine

The son of Germaine (Perdreau) and André Gabriel Marie Favart, Jacques Jean Fernand Favart was born on July 30, 1920 in Paris, France. His father was a salesman. He got his start in figure skating at a young age at the Molitor ice rink. By the time he was only thirteen, he was recognized as a skater of promise and from 1936 to 1939 won the silver medal four times at the French Championships behind Jean Henrion. 

Jacques' first big success as a figure skater came during the Occupation of Paris by the Nazis, at the 1942 French Championships. He defeated Guy Pigier, Paul Gaudin and Jean Vivés to finally win the national senior men's title and finished second in the pairs event with partner Claude Martin-Chauffier. Held at the four-year old Patinoire Victor-Hugo at rue Mesnil, the same building as the Saint-Didier swimming pool, the 1942 French Championships were the only major figure skating competition held in France during World War II

After the War, Jacques teamed up with his competitor Paul Gaudin's sister Denise to win the French pairs title four times. Coached by Jacqueline Vaudecrane, Denise and Jacques represented France at three World Championships and the first Olympics held after World War II in St. Moritz in 1948. Their best international finish was eighth at the 1947 European Championships in Davos. Their on-ice relationship blossomed to an off-ice one and the couple soon married. Denise and Jacques divorced in 1952. A second marriage to Madeleine Marie Anne Planchet lasted from 1956 to 1960. 

Denise Gaudin and Jacques Favart

Jacques turned to judging in the late forties and was appointed an ISU Championship (World) judge in 1952. He served as a judge at the 1953 European Championships, 1954 World Championships and 1955 European Championships before being elected as a member of the ISU's Figure Skating Committee in 1955. He became the Committee's chair in 1957, served as a member of the Organization Committee for the 1958 World Championships in Paris and in 1959 was elected as the ISU's Vice-President for figure skating. He also served as a referee at four European and three World Championships between 1956 and 1960. As a judge, he wasn't afraid to stand up for what he felt was right. At the 1953 European Championships in Dortmund, he was only one of two judges to place silver medallist Alain Giletti over winner Carlo Fassi. At the 1954 World Championships in Oslo, he placed winner Hayes Alan Jenkins' younger brother David (a talented jumper) first in free skating. 

When ISU leader Ernest Labin died in office in 1967, Jacques took over as the governing body's President - the first person from France to hold the position. During the second and third year of his Presidency, he was also the President of the Fédération Française des Sports de Glace. Off the ice, he served as the Administrative Director of La Fondation Mouvement pour les Villages d'Enfants, a charitable organization that provided assistance for orphaned and endangered children.

Skating endured monumental change during the thirteen years Jacques served as the ISU's President. Ice dancing became an Olympic sport. The North American Championships were scrapped and several new events including the World Junior Championships, Skate Canada and the NHK Trophy were introduced. When Vern Taylor landed his triple Axel at the 1978 World Championships, it was he and Sonia Bianchetti Garbato who made the call to ratify the jump as the first performed in international competition. He was the tie-breaking vote in support of  a year-long suspension of Soviet judges in 1978. He was a strong supporter of the introduction of the short program and 1980 revisions to the scoring system that attempted to address the imbalance between school figures and free skating. He pushed for a minimum age of sixteen for the Olympics and World Championships and was a big supporter of a move to eliminate school figures from international competition but retain them at lower levels for training. His stance was particularly popular in Europe at the time, but faced staunch opposition from many North American coaches and officials. Interviewed for "The Globe And Mail" in 1980, he said, "The compulsory figures must die. They are a waste of time and prevent skaters from being more creative."

Jacques Favart's address from the 1978 World Championships in Ottawa

For his services to figure skating, Jacques was honoured with the title Chevalier de l'Empire with the Légion d'honneur and inducted as an Officer of the Ordre national du Mérite. At the 1980 ISU Congress in Davos, he was re-elected for his seventh term as ISU President. Shortly afterwards, he suffered a heart attack after a major surgery. He passed away on September 27, 1980 at the age of sixty in Le Chesnay, France. The following June, the ISU decided to honour him with a special Jacques Favart Trophy, to be given to figure and speed skaters who made remarkable contributions to their sports. Its recipients have been a very select group of Champions, including Irina Rodnina, Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean, Kurt Browning, Katarina Witt, Scott Hamilton and Natalia Bestemianova and Andrei Bukin. Jacques was also honoured with a posthumous induction to the World Figure Skating Hall Of Fame in 1993. 

Though not a name that many skaters today may be familiar with, Jacques paved the way for the sport as we know it today by embracing and engineering sweeping changes. At the time of his death in 1980, John R. Shoemaker remarked, "He was intelligent, fair, honest, forceful, innovative, gifted with a marvelous sense of humor, and in every way a person eminently fitted to lead our sport." 

Skate Guard is a blog dedicated to preserving the rich, colourful and fascinating history of figure skating. Over ten years, the blog has featured over a thousand free articles covering all aspects of the sport's history, as well as four compelling in-depth features. To read the latest articles, follow the blog on FacebookTwitterPinterest and YouTube. If you enjoy Skate Guard, please show your support for this archive by ordering a copy of figure skating reference books "The Almanac of Canadian Figure Skating", "Technical Merit: A History of Figure Skating Jumps" and "A Bibliography of Figure Skating": https://skateguard1.blogspot.com/p/buy-book.html.

Kaleidosoap Contest Winners

Pre-order is now live for the Kindle E-Book edition of "Jackson Haines: The Skating King" and to promote to the upcoming book, there was a giveaway contest for two fantastic exclusive products created by a wonderful small business from Lunenburg, Nova Scotia called Kaleidosoap - Ice shower gel and Figure Eight body butter!


The winners have been selected by random draw - congratulations to Lisa, Dawn and Megan! You will be getting an e-mail from me shortly and your goodies will be in the mail this week. Thank you to everyone that entered!


Intrigued by the giveaway and the book? Pre-order your copy of the Kindle E-Book edition of "Jackson Haines: The Skating King" today! The e-book will launch alongside hard cover and paperback editions on November 1, 2023.

Featured Post

Pre-Order Your Copy of "Jackson Haines: The Skating King"

  "Jackson Haines: The Skating King" won't be available for purchase until November 1, but the good news is that you can place...