The first Skate Canada International was partially inspired by the CFSA's frustration with the USFSA, who declined to send some of its top skaters to the North American Championships. Former CFSA President George J. Blundun complained at the 1971 CFSA AGM at the Chateau Laurier Hotel in Ottawa, "Julie Holmes, who placed third in the 1970 World Championships, did not represent the USFSA in [the 1971 North American] Championships. Consideration should be given to either changing the time of year when the North American Championships are held or dispensing with it altogether and substituting an open or invitational championships to be held possibly in September on an annual basis."
The first Skate Canada was held from October 25 to 28, 1973 at the Stampede Corral in Calgary. It featured competitions in only three disciplines - men's and women's singles and ice dancing. Pairs skating, which Blundun once called "kick boxing on skates", wasn't included. The CFSA invited nine countries (Austria, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, France, Great Britain, Japan, the Soviet Union, the United States and West Germany) to send one competitor in each discipline. As hosts, the CFSA decided, Canada would have three entries in each discipline. With a budget of less than five thousand, nine hundred dollars, the CFSA absorbed the travel and lodging costs of all competitors, team managers, referees and judges the first year Skate Canada was held.
Now that we've set the stage, let's take a look at the most important part of this historic event... the skating!
THE MEN'S COMPETITION
Managing a strong lead in the compulsory figures, Toller Cranston led the men's event from start to finish, entrancing the audience with his avant garde and exciting style. Shaver and Sano claimed the silver and bronze. Canada's third entry, Robert Rubens of Willowdale, Ontario, placed sixth overall.
THE ICE DANCE COMPETITION
With Japan opting not to send an ice dance team, there were eleven entries in the first Skate Canada ice dance competition... but there were actually twelve ice dance teams in Calgary. World Champions Lyudmila Pakhomova and Aleksandr Gorshkov attended the event as special guests, performing an exhibition to Aram Khatchaturian's "Masquerade Waltz" which drew accolades from many. Frank Nowosad called Pakhomova "the essence of dance on ice."
THE WOMEN'S COMPETITION
With Karen Magnussen having left the amateur ranks, there wasn't a great sense that any of the three Canadians competing in Calgary would challenge the invited skaters for the women's title.
Great Britain's Jean Scott took a strong lead in the school figures, ahead of America's Juli McKinstry.
Lynn Nightingale, only seventh in the figures, surprised everyone by rebounding with outstanding performances in both the compulsory short program and free skate and moved all the way up to first. Her teammate, Barbara Terpenning, moved up from third in figures to take the silver ahead of Scott. McKinstry finished fourth, just ahead of Czechoslovakia's Liana Drahová and Liudmila Bakonina of the Soviet Union. The unexpectedly strong finish for the Canadian contingent gave great hope at the time to the CFSA, who believed its next great women's champion may not be long in the making. Later, Lynn Nightingale admitted she'd climbed to the very top row of the Stampede Corral while the final group was warming up and hexed the final group, wishing they'd all fall at least once. They did, she felt horrible about it and never did it again. On the trip home to England, Jean Scott celebrated her twenty-first birthday in the skies. Howard Bass recalled, "The Air Canada flight captain turned up trumps by providing a special cake and champagne to complete [the British team's] happiness."
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