The Qualifying Round Quagmire


Prior to the late fifties, the sky was the limit in terms of how many skaters any country could send to the World Figure Skating Championships. More accurately, the real limit was in who could afford to go. While some skating federations paid the way of full teams, others only financed the national champion and permitted other high ranking skaters in their country to attend if they paid for their own travel expenses. Still other countries left the cost of attending the World Championships completely up to the skaters themselves. Despite this, there was a marked increase in the number of entries at the World Championships in Paris in 1958.

THE NUMBERS GAME

In "Skating World" magazine, Dennis Bird lamented, "Before the War, except for the Olympic years, there were rarely more than a dozen in each event. Since 1947 the numbers have increased, and we have grown used to seeing about twenty ladies and fifteen men; the pairs have remained fairly constant at about twelve. This year, however, the entry was enormous: thirty ladies, twenty-four men, seventeen pairs and sixteen dance couples. (There were one or two non-starters, but not enough to reduce the entries.) The situation is serious. Twenty-nine girls, for instance, skating six figures, take, at the very least, some fifteen hours of actual skating time, not allowing for meals or coffee breaks. 7 a.m. starts become necessary, with skating continuing until well after tea-time each day. A competitor who has just skated has two or more hours to wait before her next figure, with inevitable strain on her morale. If she is unfortunate enough to be first to skate any one figure, the interval is five hours. And what of the judges? How can a human brain possibly maintain a constant standard of judging after nine or ten hours?... The remedy lies in restricting the entry, and it could be done very simply by using the European Championships as qualifying events. If, for instance, the top twelve skaters only in the European solo events were allowed in the World's, together with four each from the U.S.A. and Canada, there could not be a total entry of more than twenty. Some people may say that even that is too large, but at least it is manageable, and I hope the ISU will give urgent consideration to the subject."

In June of 1959, at the Biennal ISU Congress in Tours, France, fifty-three delegates from twenty-three ISU member nations voted to pass a new rule that limited the number of entries that each member nation could send to the World Championships to two per discipline, or three if any competitor from that nation placed in the top twelve at the previous World Championships. Considering that the United States was the only country to boast more than three entries (four in men and women's singles and ice dancing in fact) at that year's World Championships in Colorado Springs, one has to wonder if this may have been targeted at the Americans, who medalled in all four disciplines that year.

However, as a response to the 1961 Sabena Crash that took the lives of the entire U.S. and cancelled the World Championships in Prague, in 1962 the ISU made an exception to the 'two skater' per nation, per discipline rule, allowing Barbara Roles Pursley to compete in the women's event based on her previous Olympic medal. At that spring's Biennal ISU Congress in Bergen, Norway, a Canadian proposal that U.S. entries in the 1963 and 1964 World Championships would not have to qualify for admission was approved. It was later decided that only the top five skaters or teams in each discipline would earn three entries for the following year at any ISU Championship. At 1982 ISU Congress in Stavanger, Norway, the rules were again revised, this time only permitting the top three finishers in singles and ice dancing to earn three entries. Pairs remained at five for some time before ultimately being changed to three as well.

QUALIFYING ROUNDS

From the early twentieth century well into the fifties, many domestic ice dance competitions would start with an initial round where all teams would perform the compulsory dance in question - often the Waltz or Tenstep in the early days of the Canadian and U.S. Championships, for instance - and a final 'championship' round consisting of the top four couples. In the preliminary or qualifying round, all teams would dance around the ice at the same time - sometimes being required to switch direction from counterclockwise to clockwise or to skate around chairs which marked the pattern. Though an ice dance competition conducted in this matter may seem primitive to us today, the format allowed judges to weed out the weaker couples early on and focus their attention on evaluating a smaller number of more capable couples more accurately. The format also shortened what at times would have been very long events, as waltzing competitions in the twenties and thirties in particular often drew huge numbers of competitive and recreational skaters alike.

The same elimination format used in early ice dancing competition was also employed in the U.S. in singles events to pare down fields after the figures. Spencer E. Cram discussed the reasoning behind this in a Q&A feature that appeared in "Skating" magazine in February of 1961. He wrote, "The timing and scheduling of a competition is one of the most difficult tasks to accomplish. Frequently total free skating, dance and pair finals will aggregate over eight hours. Scheduling has to be done with respect to public interest and ticket sales, three and one half hours maximum per night, free skating on days following compulsory figures whenever possible, etc. Having a set maximum of eight [skaters per discipline] makes it possible to accomplish this. The Referee has the authority to permit more than eight (but not more than fifteen) to free skate but not be judged when time permits. A line has to be drawn somewhere when classes of twenty and thirty are not uncommon. A percentage could be established, of course, but what purpose would be accomplished? Seldom anyone lower than the first four can enter the next higher competition anyway. To permit more than any given number to free skate and be judged when time permitted would be impractical. The given number might well be four or six rather than eight; eight, however, is the maximum that most competitions can handle."

In the mid-eighties, when more and more nations joining the ISU fold swelled the number of entries at international competitions, the struggle to find a solution to the problem of 'too many entries' became a recurring talking point. More than once, the possibility of using the European Championships and a "Pacific Championship" for non-European members as a qualifying competition was discussed and rejected. In 1982, the ISU voted to approve a "B" or consolation round if more than twenty-four skaters entered a competition. The combined results of the figures and short program (or the compulsory dances and OSP) determined which fifteen skaters or teams would make it to the final and which skated their free skating program or free dance separately in the "B" round.  The "B" round was shortly thereafter changed to a semi-final, with seventeen skaters qualifying for the final by way of the combined figure and short program scores and the top three finishers in the semi-final earning the right to compete in the 'actual' competition. This short-lived attempt to separate the best from the rest was terribly unpopular with competitors and audiences alike and proved to be short-lived. It was decided at the 1986 ISU Congress that the top twenty-four entries after the initial rounds would advance to the final, with the remaining skaters being eliminated from the competition and placing twenty-fifth, twenty-sixth, etc. overall based on their rankings after the initial rounds.

Fast forward to the nineties. At the 1992 World Championships in Oakland, California, judges were faced with the seemingly impossible task of marking thirty-five men's short programs and forty women's short programs - no easy task under the 6.0 system to say the least! Though only twenty-four skaters made it through to the free skate in each discipline at the time, all too often judges were boxing themselves in and running out of marks, especially considering the fact that random draws didn't seed the top tier of skaters near the end. 

Clipping about the qualifying rounds at the 1993 European Championships

At the 1992 ISU Congress in Davos, the ISU voted in favour of introducing qualifying rounds to help ease the burden on the judges. The singles fields were split in two, with the top twelve skaters from each group making it through to the short program and free skate. This was first tried at the 1993 European Championships in Helsinki.

Dan Hollander skating in the qualifying rounds of the 1996 World Championships in Edmonton

Endless changes were made over the years to the qualifying round system at major ISU competition, from the number of skaters who made the cut to who did and didn't have to participate. At the June 1994 ISU Congress, the USFSA submitted a proposal "to eliminate the requirement that the previous year's top four placements in any given event at ISU Championships compete in qualifying rounds the following year, i.e. to bye these persons by name to the final round; no substitutions permitted." In 1995 and 1996, ten 'seeded' skaters (based on a classification sheet published by the ISU that took into account the results from the previous year's World Championships) weren't required to participate and the qualifying placements didn't factor into the overall result. Afterwards, all skaters were required to participate, with qualifying results factored in with short program and free skate scores to determine the overall result. For much of the period, at least one skater per discipline from the host country earned an automatic spot through the free skate regardless of their result in the qualifying rounds.

Long before the days of live streaming on ye olde internet, the only people who saw these qualifying rounds in their entirety were those in the building. Some exceptional skaters had bad days and didn't make even make it to the short program over the years. In 1993, Maria Butyrskaya and Tonia Kwiatkowski were the first notable victims. In 1994, Laetitia Hubert and Nicole Bobek followed suit. In the years that followed, Dan Hollander, Michael Shmerkin, Kevin van der Perren, Yulia Vorobieva and Tomáš Verner were among the top international skaters who failed to make the cut at one point or another.  

Midori Ito's winning performance from Qualifying Group A at the 1996 World Championships in Edmonton

While the qualifying rounds were popular with judges, they were highly unpopular with skaters. Some argued that having to perform two free skates made competitions too long and tiresome and that if the qualifying rounds were rarely televised - at least in their entirety - what was the point? Following the 2006 World Championships in Calgary, the ISU Congress voted to give them the boot, only to briefly reintroduce preliminary elimination rounds for lower ranking skaters at the 2011 and 2012 World Championships to whittle down the fields. This was axed when the system of requiring skaters to achieve a minimum scores to even attend the events was introduced. The system of requiring a certain score to even attend the World Championships was met with a similar disdain, many arguing that skaters from all ISU member federations should have the right to send one skater or team per discipline to an event called... the World Championships.

QUALIFYING/PRELIMINARY ROUND WINNERS AT THE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS

Year

Men (A)

Men (B)

Women (A)

Women (B)

1993

Kurt Browning

Elvis Stojko

Surya Bonaly

Lu Chen

1994

Elvis Stojko

Alexei Urmanov

Yuka Sato

Josée Chouinard

1995

Todd Eldredge

Michael Shmerkin

Irina Slutskaya

Nicole Bobek

1996

Rudy Galindo

Takeshi Honda

Midori Ito

Maria Butyrskaya

1997

Todd Eldredge

Alexei Urmanov

Michelle Kwan

Tara Lipinski

1998

Todd Eldredge

Alexei Yagudin

Michelle Kwan

Maria Butyrskaya

1999

Alexei Yagudin

Evgeni Plushenko

Michelle Kwan

Maria Butyrskaya

2000

Alexei Yagudin

Elvis Stojko

Maria Butyrskaya

Irina Slutskaya

2001

Evgeni Plushenko

Takeshi Honda

Michelle Kwan

Irina Slutskaya

2002

Alexei Yagudin

Timothy Goebel

Michelle Kwan

Irina Slutskaya

2003

Evgeni Plushenko

Michael Weiss

Michelle Kwan

Fumie Suguri

2004

Evgeni Plushenko

Emanuel Sandhu

Shizuka Arakawa

Sasha Cohen

2005

Evgeni Plushenko

Stéphane Lambiel

Irina Slutskaya

Sasha Cohen

2006

Stéphane Lambiel

Nobunari Oda

Fumie Suguri

Joannie Rochette

2011*

Takahiko Kozuka

(not held)

Maé Bérénice Méité

(not held)

2012*

Song Nan

(not held)

Jenna McCorkell

(not held)


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.

Meet The Major: The A.G. McLennan Story

Photo courtesy Stu McLennan

With gratitude to Gordon's grandson Stu, Estelle Lane of the Governor General's Footguards Museum and military historian Michael M. O'Leary, it is my pleasure to introduce you to a Canadian figure skater who was also a war hero!

The son of Elizabeth Ann 'Annie' (Wells) and Andrew McLennan, Andrew Gordon McLennan was born June 30, 1885 in Nepean Township, Ontario. A.G. - who went by his middle name, Gordon - grew up in Ottawa's Glebe neighbourhood in the family's home on Cobalt Avenue. His parents were devout Presbyterians and his father was employed as a civil service clerk.

By the time Gordon was in his early twenties, he had followed in his father's footsteps and taken a job as a civil servant. He had developed a reputation as not only one of Ottawa's finest rowers but also one of the Minto Skating Club's finest skaters. Under the tutelage of Arthur Held, Gordon and his partner Muriel Burrows became Canadian pairs champions in 1913. The following year, they finished as runners-up to Jeanne Chevalier and Norman Mackie Scott.

Left: Gordon McLennan. Right: Military medals awarded to Gordon McLennan after his service in the Great War.

In September of 1914, the twenty nine year old, five foot nine skater with brown hair and blue eyes put his figure skating career on hold when he enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force. Military service was nothing new to Gordon. He had already served for fourteen years with the 43rd Regiment (The Duke of Cornwall's Own Regiment) . He headed overseas with the 2nd Infantry Battalion - the Governor General's Foot Guards - to fight in the Great War. Sadly, he was wounded during the Battle of Ypres in April of 1915 and sent to an infirmary in London to recuperate. His service records noted that he was the victim of a gunshot wound to the right arm and that "his nervous condition still continues, there being pain and disability in the right arm, especially during exposure to cold or wet weather. Does not sleep well." After he recovered, Gordon returned to Canada and was appointed to the Office Of The Provost Marshal at the Militia Headquarters in Ottawa. By the conclusion of the War, he had been given the rank of Major as well as the Colonial Auxiliary Forces Long Service Medal, Colonial Auxiliary Forces Officers Decoration - V.D., the British War Medal and The Victory Medal.

Alden Godwin and Gordon McLennan. Photo courtesy Minto Skating Club.

Gordon's injury during the war didn't stop him from returning to the ice. In 1920, he was a member of the Minto Four that finished second at the Canadian Championships. Two years later, he reclaimed the Canadian pairs title he had won nine years prior with a second partner, Alden Goldwin. 

Top: Dorothy Jenkins and Gordon McLennan. Photo courtesy Minto Skating Club. Bottom: Pairs trophy from the 1923 Canadian Championships. Photo courtesy Stu McLennan.

In 1923, Gordon teamed up with a third partner, Canadian women's champion Dorothy Jenkins, and finished second at the Canadian Championships. That same winter, Gordon and Dorothy made history by winning the very first North American Championships in pairs skating, defeating Boston's Theresa Weld Blanchard and Nathaniel Niles. According to "Minto Skating Through Time" author Janet B. Uren, Jenkins later said that she "loved skating with a partner that felt the music just as she did."

Gordon and Ruth McLennan on their wedding day. Photo courtesy Stu McLennan.

Gordon married Ruth Lumsden McPherson on September 4, 1924 and took a job as an insurance broker, later managing his own agency. Though he never competed after his marriage, he continued to skate for pleasure on dance sessions at Minto Skating Club and perform in the Minto Follies long after he retired from competitive skating. 

Left: Edward and Diana McLennan. Gordon McLennan with his first grandson Edward. Photos courtesy Stu McLennan.

Gordon was an also an avid golfer and member of the Royal Ottawa Golf Club. During World War II, he served with the Veterans Guard and Royal Canadian Ordnance Corps. He was in his late fifties at the time.

Gordon and Ruth McLennan, Girlie Craig Reid and Drew McLennan. Photo courtesy Stu McLennan.

Gordon passed away in Ottawa on March 28, 1955 at the age of sixty-nine. His victories at the Canadian and North American Championships and service to Canada during the Great War have sadly been underacknowledged.

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.

Exploring The Collections: Oral History


Every Skate Guard blog that is put together draws from a variety of different sources - everything from museum and library holdings and genealogical research to newspaper archives and dusty old printed materials I've amassed over the last ten years or so. This year, I thought it would be fun to give you a bit of a 'behind the scenes' look at the Skate Guard Collections, which include books, magazines, VHS tapes, show and competition programs, photographs and many other items. These Collections date back to the nineteenth century and chronicle figure skating's rich history from the days of quaint waltzes in coats and tails to quadruple toe-loop's. Whether you're doing your own research about a famous 'fancy' skater in your family tree or a long-lost ice rink in your community or just have a general skating history question you can't find the answer to online, I'm always happy to draw on these resources and try to help if I can.

This month, I'd like to talk a little bit about the Oral History Collection. Ever since the blog first started back in 2013, interviews have been a key component of the research that I have done. For the first couple of years, I conducted several dozen interviews, about half of which were done over the phone. Unfortunately, due to a technical issue (let's be honest, it was a cat that knocked a cup of coffee on my laptop) almost all of these early interviews were lost. Since that whole mess, I've been really good about making sure anything digital is backed up regularly on flash drives. 

 

There are currently just under twenty interviews in the Oral History Collection, including several with late ISU Historian, Judge and Referee Benjamin T. Wright, who was a walking encyclopedia of skating knowledge in his mid nineties. There are also conversations with Olympic Medallists Paul Wylie and Debbi Wilkes and World Medallists like Lorna Dyer, Gary Visconti and Warren Maxwell. Other interviews include conversations with the relatives of champion skaters who have sadly passed away and a lengthy conversation with Sharon Cohen, the founder of Figure Skating In Harlem

Often when I'm interviewing someone, the focus on a specific topic but as we get to talking the conversation flows and other stories come up. Not not everything that we discuss always makes it into the blog that I'm speaking to them about, so if you're doing research on a topic a skater I might have interviewed is related to, I'm happy to re-listen to the interviews and see if they yield any information that may be helpful to you.

The Oral History Collection is one that will inevitably continue to grow as I continue to write, so stay tuned to Skate Guard's Collections page to see who I've been chatting with. If you'd like to make a donation to the Collections, feel free to reach out!

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 Best Compulsory Dancers In The World


Ice dancing has long been criticized for the lack of movement in the standings from one phase of the competition to the next, particularly in the days of the 6.0 judging system. 

At the 1988 Winter Olympic Games in Calgary, twenty couples competed in three compulsory dances, an OSP and free dance. The only movement in the standings through the entire competition was that the Czechoslovakian couple who ranked fourteenth in the compulsories dropped to fifteenth overall. In response to the outrage over Isabelle and Paul Duchesnay placing eighth overall at those Games, World Champion and ISU Council member Lawrence Demmy complained, "In ice dancing, the positions invariably do not change... We have to change the attitude of the judges. The judge has got to realize there are three distinct stages and they have to be judged separately on style and merit. And that is not happening. And it's beginning to look ridiculous. We've got to look for a new concept in ice dancing. If we don't accept new concepts, ice dancing is going to stagnate." Many changes were made in the years that followed, including the ultimate demise of compulsory dances in senior international competition.

Let's take a look at the winners of the compulsory dances at the Olympics and World Championships and see just how rare it was for the winner of that phase of the event not to win the overall title. A '*' by a couple's name denotes that they also won the overall competitions.

 
Natalia Bestemianova and Andrei Bukin skating the Paso Doble at the 1988 Winter Olympics

WINTER OLYMPIC GAMES

Year

Winning Couple

1976

Lyudmila Pakhomova and Aleksandr Gorshkov*

1980

Natalia Linichuk and Gennadi Karponosov*

1984

Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean*

1988

Natalia Bestemianova and Andrei Bukin*

1992

Marina Klimova and Sergei Ponomarenko*

1994

Oksana Grishuk and Evgeni Platov*, Maya Usova and Alexandr Zhulin

1998

Oksana Grishuk and Evgeni Platov*

2002

Marina Anissina and Gwendal Peizerat*

2006

Barbara Fusar-Poli and Maurizio Margaglio

2010

Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin


Only twice (in 2006 and 2010) have the winners of the first segment of the ice dance competition at the Winter Olympics not gone on to win the overall title. Both of these occasions were after the IJS system was implemented. In 1994, the eventual winners tied in the compulsory dances with the reigning World Champions, who finished second overall.

 
Marina Klimova and Sergei Ponomarenko skating the Westminster Waltz at the 1989 World Championships. Video courtesy Frazer Ormondroyd.

WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS

Year

Winning Couple

1950 (U)

Lois Waring and Michael McGean*

1951 (U)

Jean Westwood and Lawrence Demmy*

1952

Jean Westwood and Lawrence Demmy*

1953

Jean Westwood and Lawrence Demmy*

1954

Jean Westwood and Lawrence Demmy*

1955

Jean Westwood and Lawrence Demmy*

1956

Pamela Weight and Paul Thomas*

1957

June Markham and Courtney Jones*

1958

June Markham and Courtney Jones*

1959

Doreen Denny and Courtney Jones*

1960

Doreen Denny and Courtney Jones*

1962

Christiane and Jean Paul Guhel

1963

Linda Shearman and Michael Phillips

1964

Eva Romanová and Pavel Roman*

1965

Eva Romanová and Pavel Roman*

1966

Diane Towler and Bernard Ford*

1967

Diane Towler and Bernard Ford*

1968

Diane Towler and Bernard Ford*

1969

Diane Towler and Bernard Ford*

1970

Judy Schwomeyer and Jim Sladky

1971

Lyudmila Pakhomova and Aleksandr Gorshkov*

1972

Lyudmila Pakhomova and Aleksandr Gorshkov*

1973

Lyudmila Pakhomova and Aleksandr Gorshkov*

1974

Lyudmila Pakhomova and Aleksandr Gorshkov*

1975

Colleen O'Connor and Jim Millns

1976

Lyudmila Pakhomova and Aleksandr Gorshkov*

1977

Irina Moiseeva and Andrei Minenkov*

1978

Natalia Linichuk and Gennadi Karponosov*

1979

Natalia Linichuk and Gennadi Karponosov*

1980

Natalia Linichuk and Gennadi Karponosov

1981

Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean*

1982

Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean*

1983

Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean*

1984

Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean*

1985

Natalia Bestemianova and Andrei Bukin*

1986

Natalia Bestemianova and Andrei Bukin*

1987

Natalia Bestemianova and Andrei Bukin*

1988

Natalia Bestemianova and Andrei Bukin*

1989

Marina Klimova and Sergei Ponomarenko*

1990

Marina Klimova and Sergei Ponomarenko*

1991

Maya Usova and Alexandr Zhulin

1992

Marina Klimova and Sergei Ponomarenko*

1993

Maya Usova and Alexandr Zhulin*

1994

Oksana Grishuk and Evgeni Platov*

1995

Oksana Grishuk and Evgeni Platov*

1996

Oksana Grishuk and Evgeni Platov*

1997

Oksana Grishuk and Evgeni Platov*

1998

Angelika Krylova and Oleg Ovsiannikov*

1999

Angelika Krylova and Oleg Ovsiannikov*

2000

Marina Anissina and Gwendal Peizerat*

2001

Marina Anissina and Gwendal Peizerat, Barbara Fusar-Poli and Maurizio Margaglio*

2002

Irina Lobacheva and Ilya Averbukh*

2003

Shae-Lynn Bourne and Victor Kraatz*, Irina Lobacheva and Ilya Averbukh

2004

Albena Denkova and Maxim Staviski, Tatiana Navka and Roman Kostomarov*

2005

Tatiana Navka and Roman Kostomarov*

2006

Albena Denkova and Maxim Staviski*

2007

Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon

2008

Isabelle Delobel and Olivier Schoenfelder*

2009

Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin*

2010

Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir*


Including the two International Ice Dancing Competitions held at World Championships that haven't been historically recognized as World Championships (1950 and 1951) and ignoring the three years that ice dancers were put in two groups for the compulsories (2001, 2003 and 2004), there were only seven occasions where the winner of the compulsory dances didn't win the overall World title in ice dancing. It's interesting to note that two of those couples were American. If you don't count Lois Waring and Michael McGean's win in 1950, which no one seems to, American dance teams would have won two World titles in the seventies had there have been no free dance. Definitely some interesting food for thought!

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.

#Unearthed: Progress In Ice Dancing?

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. This month's 'buried treasure' is an essay by Erik van der Weyden who (with his wife Eva Keats) invented the Rocker Foxtrot, Viennese Waltz and Westminster Waltz. His essay appeared in the January 1958 issue of "Skating World" magazine and discusses progress in ice dance at that point in history.


PROGRESS IN ICE DANCING (ERIK VAN DER WEYDEN)

In the last twenty years, how far have we progressed in dancing on ice? For that matter, has dancing progressed or deteriorated? Those and similar questions have occupied my mind while considering what the ultimate goal really is, and what developments we may expect in the next decade. Will dancing become a purely technical achievement - figure skating to music, with accurate superimposed patterns, with a veto on all the subtle little variations, so that all dancers look alike - or will the pendulum swing back towards art, with less emphasis on pattern and the stilting effect it brings in its train?

Each younger generation tends to feel that it enjoys a new peak of achievement, and views the efforts of its elders with a degree of pity and even of condescension, whereas the older generation looks back nostalgically, and wishes that it could once again see dancing as an art and enjoyable pastime, rather than a grim business requiring such wooden determination, as exemplified by many whose dancing is governed by the yard-stick. Several times in recent years, when a test candidate has failed for manner of performance and has asked for the reason, he has been completely bewildered and not a little indignant when told that while time-keeping, correctness of steps and pattern were all in order, never-the-less the execution was below standard. Is it not likely that this very perfection of technique makes people look like automatons moving along a rail, completely artless and sexless?

The point at issue is, 'Is dancing an art or a science, and can the two be blended more happily?' My own feeling is that science is but a necessary adjunct to the art, with the accent on art. I think we may legitimately compare the ease of a painter (and I mean a real painter, rather than one of the modern extremists who specialize in puzzles rather than pictures) whose art cannot be complete without a sound knowledge of perspective, light and shade, and colour values, but in whom these purely technical achievements are of no avail unless directed by something stemming from the soul - it is this combination of inspiration and technique which enables the great artist to display a subject to the public, through his trained eyes, bringing out the points which need emphasizing, and softening others so as not to detract from the main theme.

We encounter a similar situation in photography - the inspired use of lighting, angle, pose and background can all make the difference between two treatments of the same subject - the one alive, and the other dead.

Of course, these two examples are of purely static arts, but in the case of skating (dancing and figures) it is permissible to make a direct comparison. Surely we may allow individual interpretations of such points as flow, suppleness, carriage, continuity of movement, and body-line, etc., without detracting from the basic correctness of performance - always remembering that in view of the numerous re-shuffles of steps, edges, timing and free leg positions, the officially approved method of today may be frowned upon in the future.

Jean Westwood and Lawrence Demmy at the 1955 European Championships

Of course, I do not think all dancers of today are wooden and bad. On the contrary, it is a fact that in the last few years we have seen a few top-notchers whose performance has been so superb that one cannot imagine anything better. Rather have I in mind the masses who comprise the backbone of modern dancing, and whose sole object is passing the next test in the shortest possible time, as opposed to the old school of pre-war dancers who danced for the fun and social enjoyment they got out of it. Of course, in the early 1930s, with practically no sort of standard to work to, we did see some most extraordinary interpretations of dancing - wildly swinging free legs, pump-handle arm movements, bodies swaying in all directions from the hips - but no authority could say who was wrong, and in terms of sheer exhilarated enjoyment, there was no doubt at all. The bolder skaters were at liberty to improvise steps without notice, and in the waltz made frequent use of rockers, mohawks, deliberate deep changes of edge and inside threes, quite impromptu. The general effect was frequently enchanting, while the ladies for their part really had to learn to follow, for they never knew what was coming. Today, let any man try to turn a rocker when approaching the end of the rink, and he will find himself looking for a new partner for the next waltz. Poor dear, it's not in the schedule, so spoils her dancing, in which the placing of every three on a more or less fixed point is pre-ordained.

It was all very jolly, but a change was inevitable, and no doubt what we lost on the swings we gained on the roundabouts when the advent of the third class test for ice dancing the whole atmosphere of the dance intervals began to change.

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.

Harvard, Houses And Half-Loops: The George Hill Story

Maribel Vinson and George Hill. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine.

"If figure skating could be mastered easily it might become dull, but there is little danger of that." - George Hill, "Skating" magazine, May 1945

George 'Geddy' Edward Bellows Hill was born April 24, 1907 in Boston, Massachusetts. His father, Edward Burlingame Hill, was a noted composer who taught music to Leonard Bernstein at Harvard University. His grandfather, Henry Barker Hill, was a professor of chemistry and director of the Chemical Laboratory of Harvard College. His great grandfather, The Reverend Thomas Hill, served as Harvard's President from 1862 to 1865. Allison Bixby, George's mother, raised her three boys with the help of two nurses, a cook, a waitress and laundress. The Hill's resided on historic Brattle Street in Cambridge, Massachusetts - a street that even today is considered one of the most prestigious addresses in America.

"Stevensonia Suite No. 1" by George's father Edward Burlingame Hill

Educated at the Noble and Greenhough School in Dedham and New Preparatory School in Cambridge in his youth, George found time between lessons to join both the Cambridge Skating Club and Skating Club of Boston. Surrounded by a who's who of the Boston skating scene at a time when the Continental (or International) Style was first 'taking hold' thanks to the efforts of his mentor George Henry Browne, he dabbled in everything from figures and free skating to fours and ice dancing. 

Coached by Willie Frick, George claimed the Cambridge Skating Club's men's free skating title for the first time in 1925, when was eighteen years old. In the years that followed, he'd win the same title four more times, along with pairs titles with Clara Frothingham Rotch and Polly Blodgett and a Waltz title with his dear friend and future pairs partner, Maribel Vinson.

Maribel Vinson and George Hill

George's competitive record is quite frankly astonishing. He won the U.S. junior men's title in 1929, along with four bronze medals in the senior men's event at the U.S. Championships. With Maribel, he won the North American title in 1935, along with seven medals at the U.S. Championships in senior pairs - four of them gold.

Photos courtesy "Skating" magazine

George represented the U.S. at two World Championships and the 1936 Winter Olympic Games in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, where he competed in both singles and pairs. He also claimed the Original Dance championship at U.S. Championships in 1930 and 1932 with Clara Rotch Frothingham, defeating a who's who of U.S. skating at the time, including Theresa Weld Blanchard and Nathaniel Niles, Beatrix Loughran and his own pairs partner, Maribel. When he won the 1930 Dance title, it was the first time Boston skaters had won an ice dancing title since 1922. His latter win with Clara moved Bedell H. Harned to proclaim that "it was the best combination of steps this contest has ever produced."

The Boston Twelve: Olivia Stone Holmes and Teddy Goodridge, Polly Blodgett and Richard L. Hapgood, Leslie Eustis and Bernard Fox, Grace and Jimmie Madden, Joan Tozzer and George Hill, Bunty McKaig and William Penn Gaskell-Hall. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine.

An impressive highlight of George's competitive career was the bronze medal he won at the 1934 U.S. Championships in Philadelphia. ISU historian Benjamin T. Wright noted, "Maribel was not there, having gone to England to train and also to compete in both the Worlds and Europeans (as an NSA member then), so she did not defend either her Senior ladies singles title or her Senior Pairs title with George, so he was left as a singles skater and actually got third in the senior men that year behind Roger Turner, the long time champion and Robin Lee, from Saint Paul, Minnesota who represented  the future. Hence the 'door was wide open' for Maribel's perennial rivals, Suzanne Davis in Senior ladies singles and Grace and James Madden in Senior pairs, to enjoy their 'moments of glory', which they did. Suzanne had also won the Senior original dance event with Goodridge in 1933, so competed in that again in 1934 and also in a Boston four consisting of herself, Theresa Weld Blanchard, Goodridge and Richard Hapgood. In the end the representatives from The Skating Club of Boston won seven out of the eleven titles in play. No other club to my knowledge has ever achieved that domination in a Nationals as in 1934, and yet it was in effect by the 'second string', a remarkable accomplishment."


Top: George Hill, Roger Turner, James Lester Madden, Maribel Vinson and Virginia Badger. Bottom: George Hill, Maribel Vinson, Robin Lee and Erle Reiter.

When Maribel went overseas to England to train, George, James Madden and Willie Frick followed suit for a time. They gave two 'All American' shows in London, in which George dazzled audiences with his free skating program, which included spread eagles and jumps in both directions.

Left: George Hill with Jimmie and Grace Madden. Right: George Hill, Robin Lee and Erle Reiter.

George and Maribel pioneered the Hope Chest Lift - a "lift in which the man raises the girl directly in front of him and 'hopes' he can get her at least as high as his chest." They also developed a spiral that became known for a time in the Western States as the 'Vinson-Hill spiral'. Maribel described it thusly:  "Skate fast, turn a left mohawk in reverse rotation onto a LOB edge, side by side, the girl on the inside track, the man's left arm around her waist, right hands clasped to the side, heads looking in toward each other - and there you have it. Speed and lean over a well-bent skating knee are of the essence." Maribel also had nothing but praise for her partner's signature move: "Geddy Hill...does without shadow of doubt the finest half-loop jump I have ever seen - and I have seen all the world's greatest skaters during the past dozen years. Ged gets his tremendous 'rise' by the fling of his free leg backward and upward as he takes off; the great distance his jump covers comes from the speed with which he goes into it. As he lands, his free leg passes close by his skating leg into a high extended position and he bends his skating knee very deep, by adding an arched back and well-checked arms held easily away from his body, Geddy sails away from his jump in a beautiful inside back spiral."


Maribel Vinson and George Hill. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine.

One of George's other signatures was a popular carnival act with James Madden... 'Pansy' the skating Russian pony. 'Pansy' had audiences in stitches all over the Eastern Seaboard. Richard L. Hapgood recalled how Joseph K. Savage's wife had told him "it nearly broke her heart" when an eighty piece symphony orchestra was asked to play "Horses" at the Skating Club of Boston's carnival for Madden and Hill. The black-tie orchestra had played Wagner in the first half.

Maribel Vinson and George Hill

Impressively, George followed in his father, grandfather and great grandfather's footsteps, graduating with a fine arts degree from Harvard College in 1933. While attending Harvard, he was a member of the Speakers' Club and the controversial Phoenix-S.K. Club. He attended Harvard Architectural School for two years but his studies were interrupted by the Winter Olympic Games in Garmisch-Partenkichen.

Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine

In 1937, George transferred to the Massachusetts Institute Of Technology, where he received an architectural degree. Quoted in the Harvard College Class Of 1933 Quindecennial Report in May 1948, he recalled, "After this I settled down to become the world's greatest architect only to have World War II and time alter this ambition. During the war I was a Naval Architect at Charlestown, Mass. - a good excuse for a 4 F'r. I survived thanks to my wife and children. At the end of the war I moved to California, an unheard-of-act for a dyed-in-the-wool New Englander. True to all expectations, California is wonderful and so is New England." By the fifties, George was well established in Marin, California with his wife Leslie (Eustis) and three children, running his own architectural office. In 1958, he admitted, "I am becoming a renovation expert and do any kind of work from dog-houses to palaces."


Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine

George was devastated by the death of his dear friend and partner Maribel Vinson Owen in the 1961 Sabena Crash. The tragedy struck just a year after he'd buried his father. He attended a memorial for the Owen's held at St. Clements Episcopal Church in Berkeley, California. Many of Maribel's friends and former students were in attendance, and he was visibly moved by the service.
Photo courtesy HUD 333.25, Harvard University Archives. Used with permission.

Later in life, George played tennis and golf and held memberships with The Harvard Club and Lagunitas Country Club. A devout Episcopalian, he was a Life Trustee at Grace Cathedral of San Francisco and Vestryman emeritus at St. John's Church in Ross. As for his politics, he unapologetically proclaimed, "I am a strong Republican in an area dominated by strong Democrats who have little effect on me." His hobbies included collecting records and stamps, but he admitted, "One of my greatest pleasures is working in my garden of flowers and vegetables. It has a very stabilizing effect on my soul and body." 

George passed away on May 7, 1992 in Marin, California at the age of eighty five. He was inducted posthumously to the U.S. Figure Skating Hall Of Fame 'along side' his partner, Maribel, who had already been inducted in 1976.

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

Tensteps And Torches: The Frederick Goodridge Story


"Everything that is skating - good form, sureness, rhythm, and music." - Frederick Goodridge, "Skating" magazine, 1932

Frederick 'Teddy' Goodridge was born September 2, 1906 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. His mother, Susan Blake McPherson hailed from Nova Scotia and his father Dr. Frederick James Goodridge was a physician and Harvard graduate. 

Frederick and his younger sister Elizabeth grew up in the family home on Appian Way, just around the corner from Brattle Street, where George 'Geddy' Hill lived. Like Geddy, Frederick attended Browne and Nichols school, where he was mentored by George Henry Browne, who played an instrumental role in bringing the Continental or International Style of skating to America.

Frederick, George and Elizabeth all became regulars at the Cambridge Skating Club, where Freddy won his first competition - the club's Tenstep competition - in 1922 with partner Rachel Winlock. The Club's President was Freddy's uncle Arthur. Rachel and Frederick defended their Tenstep title the following year, and he took home top honours in the club's men's free skating competition as well. Those were just the first of his many competitive achievements.

Left: Ten year old Frederick Goodridge, Right: Group of young skaters at the Cambridge Skating Club, circa 1919. To the right is Elizabeth Goodridge.

Three years after he graduated from Harvard University himself, Frederick claimed the U.S. junior men's title in New York City. In the years that followed, he claimed eleven more gold medals at the Cambridge Skating Club's Championships in singles and ice dancing events and twice finished second in the senior men's event at the U.S. Championships behind Roger Turner. He also won a fourteenstep contest with a fourteen year old Maribel Vinson.

James Lester Madden, Frederick Goodridge and Roger Turner at the 1929 U.S. Championships. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine.

Frederick also finished third at the 1929 North American Championships in Boston behind Montgomery 'Bud' Wilson and Roger Turner. His biggest successes arguably came in 1933 and 1934, when he won the Original Dance event at the U.S. Championships twice with Suzanne Davis and the fours title with Davis, Theresa Weld Blanchard and Richard L. Hapgood.

James and Grace Madden, Frederick Goodridge, Maribel Vinson and Geddy Hill

Interestingly, the 'Boston four' (with Geddy Hill replacing Hapgood) was invited to skate in a carnival in Baltimore during this period. When Geddy (who was to act as Susie's partner) was unable to attend, Theresa Weld Blanchard and Frederick were forced to come up with a pairs act at the last minute. They stole the show, performing an eerie number in a darkened arena where the carried flaming torches as props.

Frederick Goodridge and Suzanne Davis' "A Bicycle Built For Two" act. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine.

Frederick also excelled as an ice comedian in carnivals and performed a duet in shows with Suzanne Davis set to "A Bicycle Built For Two" where they "gave their interpretation of skating as it was done in the Gay Nineties."

Suzanne Davis and Frederick Goodridge's winning Original Dance in 1933

Frederick retired from competitive skating in the mid-thirties, but remained incredibly active in the skating world, mentoring many skaters including a young Benjamin T. Wright. He taught Wright the loop jump, spread eagle and grapevine. Both he and his father acted as Incorporators of the Cambridge Skating Club, and he served as both Secretary and Treasurer of the other club he held a membership with, the Skating Club of Boston. He also served as a member of the USFSA Executive Committee from 1933 to 1938 and as the chairman of the Competitions and Rules Committee from 1934 to 1935. By the early forties, he was certified by USFSA as National, International and World Judge and Referee. Unfortunately, he never got to test his judging mettle due to the cancellation of ISU Championships during World War II.

The Boston Twelve: Olivia Stone Holmes and Frederick Goodridge, Polly Blodgett and Richard L. Hapgood, Leslie Eustis and Bernard Fox, Grace and James Lester Madden, Joan Tozzer and Geddy Hill, Bunty McKaig and William Penn Gaskell-Hall. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine.

In August of 1952, Frederick married Meriale Catherine Lund in Boston. Though he had remained active 'behind the scenes' in U.S. figure skating following the War, much of his later life was devoted to taking care of his mother and working as a statistician for an investment firm. He passed away on November 3, 1967 in Haverford, Pennsylvania at the age of sixty-one, never losing his love of skating for one minute.

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 1971 European Figure Skating Championships


The third manned lunar landing, achieved by the Apollo 14 mission, was a top news story. A carton of eggs cost sixty cents and bacon a pound of bacon was less than a dollar. The film "Love Story", starring Ali MacGraw and Ryan O'Neal, was number one at the box office. Lynn Anderson's "(I Never Promised You A) Rose Garden" topped the music charts.


The year was 1971 and from February 2 to 7, the Hallenstadion in Zürich, Switzerland played host to the European Figure Skating Championships. The historic city had only played host to the competition once before, exactly twenty years prior. However, the 1951 event had been held outdoors on the Dolder Kunsteisbahn, a massive open-air ice rink atop the city's biggest hill, surrounded by a forest. 

Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine

How did things pan out in Zürich that chilly February? Let's take a look back at the stories and skaters that shaped the event.

THE PAIRS COMPETITION 

Pairs medallists

In 1969 in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Soviet pairs had swept the pairs podium at the European Championships for the first time. In 1970 in Leningrad, the East German pair of Heidemarie Steiner and Heinz-Ulrich Walther had taken the bronze - putting a wrench in the hopes of the Soviets repeating their 1969 feat on home soil. In Zürich, Steiner and Walther stood at the boards as coaches, hoping that their efforts teaching in East Berlin would propel another East German team to the European podium. 

Left: Irina Rodnina and Alexei Ulanov. Right: Lyudmila Smirnova and Andrei Suraikin. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine.

Two-time and defending European Champions Irina Rodnina and Alexei Ulanov took the lead in the compulsory short program. Despite an uncharacteristic tumble from Ulanov in the free skate on a side-by-side double Axel attempt, they managed to best their teammates Lyudmila Smirnova and Andrei Suraikin both in the free skate and overall. Both teams received huge ovations from the Swiss crowd. In a dramatic battle for the bronze, Soviets Galina Karelina and Georgi Proskurin completed the Russian sweep of the podium. They outranked East Germans Manuela Groß and Uwe Kagelmann by just three points and one ordinal placing. 

Manuela Groß and Uwe Kagelmann

Fourteen year old Groß and twenty year old Kagelmann completed side-by-side double Lutzes in their free skate, which were just as rare as Rodnina and Ulanov's planned side-by-side double Axels at the time. 

THE ICE DANCE COMPETITION

 Left: Lyudmila Pakhomova and Alexander Gorshkov. Right: Angelika and Erich Buck. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine.

Twenty couples representing eleven countries competed in Zürich, but the two most talked about were Lyudmila Pakhomova and Alexander Gorshkov and Angelika and Erich Buck. In her book "Figure Skating History: The Evolution Of Dance On Ice", Lynn Copley-Graves noted that at that event, "Gossip and publicity brought about prejudging in the case of the Bucks. The judges marked them higher than both British teams who, many believed, had programs of equal technical merit but richer in style. The Bucks, however, were well-matched and smooth in their free dance to 'Music of the Mountains' and Kaempfert's 'Swiss Polka'... Lyudmila Pakhomova and Alexander Gorshkov brought to Zürich a free dance to real dance music that displayed their athleticism. Their Spanish theme blended tango ['Jalousie'] and paso doble rhythms.'" 

Video courtesy Frazer Ormondroyd

However, as would happen at several events in the next couple of years, Angelika and Erich's strengths versus those of Pakhomova and Gorshkov's divided Communist and Western bloc judges. Both teams ended with same total of place ordinals and only a 0.4 difference in points. The Czechoslovakian, Hungarian, Soviet and Polish judges voted for the Soviets, while judges from West Germany, Austria, Great Britain and Switzerland voted for the West Germans. The deciding vote in favour of Pakhomova and Gorshkov was made by France's Lysiane Lauret. 

Susan Getty and Roy Bradshaw. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine.

Skating to "Oye Negra", "Hernando's Hideaway", "A'Agapo" and "Millionaire's Hoe-Down", Britons Susan Getty and Roy Bradshaw took the bronze, besting Soviets Tatiana Voituk and Vyacheslav Zhigalin by a comfortable margin. In fact, the fifth place British couple - Janet Sawbridge and Peter Dalby - were only two points and ordinals behind the second Soviet couple. 

THE MEN'S COMPETITION

Men's medallists

Patrick Péra and Günter Zöller, medallists at the 1970 European Championships in Leningrad, were both absent from Zürich. Zöller was recovering from a foot operation and Péra slashed his foot only three days before the competition. These absences would have somewhat taken the pressure off of Ondrej Nepela, the two time and defending champion. 

Video courtesy Frazer Ormondroyd

After racking up a solid lead over Soviets Sergei Chetverukhin and Sergei Volkov in the school figures, Nepela delivered a steady and confident free skating performance that was enough for him to coast to victory. He actually outranked Chetverukhin, the silver medallist, by a margin of almost sixty three points. 

Sergei Chetverukhin. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine.

That said, the star of the show was Great Britain's Haig Oundjian. Skating to "Carmen", Oundjian landed a triple Salchow and triple toe-loop on the way to becoming the first British man since Michael Booker in 1956 to win the free skate at the European Championships. He earned the bronze overall, climbing all the way up from sixth after figures. At the time, he was ranked second in Great Britain to John Curry.

   

John Curry had been training in Switzerland prior to the competition with Arnold Gerschwiler, and managed a comeback of his own. He moved up from eleventh to seventh with a fine free skating performance, marred only by a tumble on a triple loop. 

Video courtesy Frazer Ormondroyd

Places fourth through sixth were filled with Eastern bloc skaters - East Germany's Jan Hoffmann and Soviets Yuri Ovchinnikov and Sergei Volkov. With his high flying jumps and unique style, Ovchinnikov was a favourite of the Swiss crowd.

THE WOMEN'S COMPETITION


With the retirement of defending European Champion Gaby Seyfert, little stood in the way of nineteen year old Trixi Schuba of Austria finally winning the competition she had medalled at but not won the previous three years. In true Trixi Schuba fashion, she amassed an astonishing one hundred and nineteen point lead over Italian Champion Rita Trapanese in the school figures. In the free skate, Trixi struggled on two jumps but managed marks ranging from 5.2 to 5.6. On the strength of her figures, she managed to best Hungary's Zsuzsa Almássy and Trapanese to win her first European title. 

Zsuzsa Almássy. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine.

Interestingly, all three of the medallists were criticized for their free skating efforts... among other things. Almássy, the showgirl of the bunch, was called out on her dramatic weight loss. A report in "Skating" magazine noted, "The dynamic champion's chances of winning the European title this season were real, and to jump higher, she went on a strict diet. The successful results were very evident when she appeared for training the first day; a journalist at the usual press conference asked her about her diet. The gay Zsuzsa said, 'I went to the doctor, who gave me pills. I asked him if I had to take them before or after meals. He replied, 'Instead of the meal.'"

Sonja Morgenstern. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine.

The women who earned the most praise were a pair of Frau Jutta Müller's students, sixteen year old Sonja Morgenstern and fourteen year old Christine Errath, and Zürich's own Charlotte Walter, who was skating on home ice. 

Video courtesy Frazer Ormondroyd

Sonja Morgenstern won the free skate, landing a triple Salchow and moving all the way up from eighth to fourth overall. Christine Errath leaped from tenth to seventh with a technically demanding performance of her own. Charlotte Walter placed an impressive fifth, the highest finish ever in singles skating by a Swiss woman at the European Championships at that point in time.

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.