10 Books Every Skating Lover Should Have In Their Collection


If anyone evers says that you have too many books, there is only one appropriate response. You politely ask that person to leave so that you can read another one in peace. 

Over the years, many figure skating books have been written. 99%  have been worthy of positive GOE's, personal best scores and Olympic gold medals. An unfortunate 1% shouldn't have made it out of a qualifying round at the Bull's-Eye Barbecue Sauce Summer Skating Invitational and Corn Boil in Wichita, Kansas. If only writing a book were as easy as Dame Sally Markham led us to believe...


The truth is that some of the best skating books out there haven't been bestsellers - they have actually been rather obscure! Today I'd like to share ten skating books that I truly believe every skating lover should have in their collection. I haven't included biographies, but instead only books that are of general interest to anyone with a passion for the sport's history. 


10. THE ICE SKATING BOOK 

This engaging book was written by Robert Sheffield and Richard Woodward and published in 1980, shortly after Sheffield's death. It divides ice skating into five categories - Elements, History, Sport, Spectacle and Pleasures and ends with William Wordsworth's famous poem about skating from "The Prelude". Though mostly in black and white, the book is resplendent with stunning photographs and works of art and peppered with interesting quotes gleamed from diaries and fictional works that touch on skating. Much of the information included can be found elsewhere, but the chapter on Ice Shows is a great overview, touching upon the grand shows at the Admiralspalast in Germany and Charlotte's successful career in America, the popularity of hotel shows during The Great War, British ice pantomimes, Sonja Henie's popularity as a professional and those great touring ice revues everyone knew and loved - the Ice Follies, Ice Capades and Holiday on Ice. John Curry also got his own chapter in the Spectacle section. I wouldn't purchase this one expecting any great revelations, but I think it does a very good job at touching on the 'key points' of skating history and not glossing over ones that weren't Americentric.

Where to find a copy: Available on Thriftbooks and Biblio.


9. REFLECTIONS ON THE CFSA: A HISTORY OF THE CANADIAN FIGURE SKATING ASSOCIATION 1887-1990

Written by Teresa Moore, edited by Sheila Robertson and published by the Canadian Figure Skating Association Hall of Fame in 1993, this wonderfully crafted book does a marvellous job at tracing back the history of Skate Canada (then the CFSA) to the very beginning through the careful study of minutes and records, as well as extensive interviews with many of the people who helped shape the sport in Canada behind the scenes. It focuses very much on the governance of the sport, not the skaters who helped shape it. There are some interesting appendices, including a full listing of skating clubs in Canada (as of 1990) and the year they joined the CFSA and the origins of many cups and trophies that were presented to winners of competitions over the years. This book wouldn't have happened without the persistence of CFSA President Barbara Ryan, who played an important role in the establishment of the Hall of Fame and wanted to establish a Canadian Figure Skating Museum that was accessible to the public, much like the World Figure Skating Museum in Colorado Springs. At least two additional volumes were planned to follow this book, but they never materialized.

Where to find a copy: Available on AbeBooksThriftbooks and Biblio.


8. ICE-SKATING: A HISTORY

For the first half of the twentieth century, Switzerland was skating's mecca. Davos and St. Moritz played host to many championships and a who's who of figure skating trained there. Who better to chronicle the sport's history than a British ex-pat who represented Switzerland in the World Championships as an ice dancer? Nigel Brown's 1959 formidable 22 chapter book divides the sport's history into four parts: Early Times, The Pioneer Stage, The Heroic Era and Modern Times. The book's format gives an excellent timeline of skating's development over the years, drawing from a good balance of early written accounts of the sport penned in different countries. Bearing in mind any one of the chapters could have really been the subject of its own book, Brown does an outstanding job at giving readers a sense of how skating evolved from a pastime to a legitimate sport. The book serves as a fantastic starting point for anyone wanting to take a deep dive into the sport's history.

Where to find a copy: Available on Biblio.


7. MINTO: SKATING THROUGH TIME, 1904-2004

Ever since the Minto Skating Club played host to the first Canadian Figure Skating Championships (then termed 'the first annual figure skating competition for the Minto Challenge Cups and other prizes') in 1905, the Ottawa club has borne witness to skating history for decades. There's a lot to love about Janet B. Uren's 2004 history of the club. She treats each decade with equal attention. She offers fascinating tidbits about some of the sport's early champions - as well as penning an excellent biography of Lord and Lady Minto themselves. The book is brimming with well-appointed photos and interesting little tidbits that never would have surfaced had she not interviewed the right people.

Where to find a copy: Available on Amazon and Biblio.



6. INDELIBLE TRACINGS AND IMAGES

The fateful crash of Sabena Flight 548 in 1961 was not only a horrific tragedy - it really reshaped the sport's history. Patricia Shelley Bushman's "Indelible Tracings: The Story of the 1961 U.S. World Figure Skating Team" and its companion coffee table picture book "Indelible Images", were published in 2010. Another book about the tragedy was published just over a year prior and as a result many people didn't read these two, which is so unfortunate because they really are superior in every way. Dozens upon dozens of members of the skating community were interviewed at length, offering rare insight. Rare photographs from almost all of the families of those were perished are shared. The generation of U.S. figure skating that was lost in the crash are remembered not just as skaters, coaches or judges - but as people. These books not only tell the stories of the victims of the tragedy, but they paint a rich and detailed picture of U.S. figure skating in the 1950's and early 60's. 

Where to find a copy: "Indelible Tracings" is available on AbeBooksThriftbooks and Biblio. "Indelible Images" is not currently available on major used book outlets. Check your local library as it may be available for inter-library loan.


5. SKATING AROUND THE WORLD 1892-1992: THE ONE HUNDREDTH ANNIVERSARY OF THE INTERNATIONAL SKATING UNION

The late Benjamin T. Wright was not only a well-respected international judge and referee (along with his beloved wife Mary Louise) but also served for many years as the ISU's Historian. Truth be told, both this 1992 book and his 1996 book "Skating in America (1921-1996): The 75th Anniversary History of the United States Figure Skating Association" deserve to be on this list. Through extensive research in the Archives of the ISU, Wright shares the good, bad and ugly of skating's international governing body's development. All of the great winners you know and love are in there, but so too are the politics, judging scandals and rule changes that shaped the sport - gleaned from the minutes of Congresses and Council Meetings. If you're always horny for skating gossip, you won't find it here - but you will absolutely find many clues that will lead you to it. If you want facts and figures about the sport's history you can trust, you will absolutely find them in this book. It's a fascinating read from cover to cover and an important resource everyone should have in their collection.

Where to find a copy: The book is available through the International Skating Union's shop.


4. FIGURE SKATING AND THE ARTS: EIGHT CENTURIES OF SPORT AND INSPIRATION

No one else could have pulled a book like this off but Frances Dafoe. It is a huge shame that more people don't have this 2011 coffee table book in their collections. Dafoe's book is divided into five chapters: Skating in the Arts, Blades on Ice, Diversions on the Ice, The Sport of Skating and Entertainment on the Ice. The book uses stunning visuals to share fascinating elements of the sport's history. Paintings, sculpture and photography are all very well-represented, but so too are the art of costumes, skates, coins, stamps, dolls and much, much more. The real highlights are the works of Russian-born surrealist artist Sergey Tyukhanov and many items from the private collections of Dafoe, the Bezic family and Dick Button. I think it would impossible to be disappointed by this book. It is one I enjoy revisiting often.

Where to find a copy: The book is available through Schiffer Publishing.


3. FIGURE SKATING HISTORY: THE EVOLUTION OF DANCE ON ICE

To say Lynn Copley-Graves' 1992 encyclopedia is the bible of ice dance history is something of an understatement. A book that so comprehensively covers the discipline has not been written before or since. The first 21 pages of the book cover the Foundations of ice dancing. It's no coincidence that the book starts a season by season format in the early twenties, when "Skating" was first published, as the book draws heavily from the magazine's back catalogue to chronicle the sport's development year by year and share results from past competitions. This book is not only a well-researched record book though. Copley-Graves does a marvellous job at explaining trends and changes in dance technique and judging. The real shame is that companion volumes weren't written for singles, pairs and synchro skating. 

Where to find a copy: Available on AbeBooks and Biblio.


2. OUR SKATING HERITAGE: A CENTENARY HISTORY OF THE NATIONAL SKATING ASSOCIATION 1879-1979

Writer and historian Dennis L. Bird's 1979 history of the National Skating Association (now British Ice Skating) is not at all what you would expect from a one hundred and four page book, but it is everything you would expect if you were at all familiar with Bird's writing. Bird was a prolific writer and expert on the sport's history, often penning articles for skating periodicals under the pen name John Noel. When tasked with writing this book for the NSA's Centenary, he absolutely outdid himself. The book is divided into five chapters: Skating's Early Days, The Formative Years, The Edwardian Era, Between Two Wars and The Modern Age. Each chapter is jam-packed with interesting tidbits about the people who helped shape the sport's history. You learn about a father and son who both played an important part in the sport's Governance, the NSA's feuds with Madge Syers' husband Edgar, the clash of the English and Continental Styles and the impacts of both World Wars on British skating. There's a lot to love about this book but what I love most is that Bird's research is so reliable - and that's something that is so often not the case with skating books.

Where to find a copy: Available on Biblio.


1. ICE SKATING

Olympic figure skater, judge and prolific author T.D. Richardson penned nearly a dozen books on figure skating, most being half instructional/half anecdotal. This particular book, first published in 1956, focuses entirely on the sport's history... and is it ever a delightful book. Richardson divides the history into seven chapters: Origins, The Years to 1914, Between The Wars, After The Second World War, Tests, Judging and The Professional Ice Show. There is also a Postscript that briefly speculates on how revolutions in boot design might shape the sport's future. Spoiler alert: he was right. Bearing in mind that Richardson personally knew most of the sport's great champions of the first half of the twentieth century, he was in a very unique position as a writer of the sport's history - and he didn't disappoint. The book is chock full of interesting anecdotes about the sport's early champions and does a good job of recounting the history of championships and ice rinks of yesteryear. The book is very much written from a European perspective, but one interesting aspect that you really don't see in other books about the sport's history is the inclusion of information on Australia's early skating history.

Where to find a copy: Available on AbeBooks. Please note that the author wrote several books with similar titles. The book you are looking for is a 1956 book called "Ice Skating", not his earlier book "Ice Rink Skating".

I hope you enjoy reading these wonderful books about the sport's history as much I did! I also hope you will consider ordering a copy of my own little book, "The Almanac Of Canadian Figure Skating". The book is available worldwide on Amazon in hard cover, paperback and Kindle E-Book editions. If you are down in the States, you can also pick up a copy through Barnes & Noble


A quick note to those of you ordering via Amazon. Paperbacks are printed here in Canada; hard covers in the States. There is a 2-3 week printing delay for hard covers. If you are ordering hard cover books as Christmas gifts, I would highly recommend buying them in November for this reason. Paperbacks ship really quickly and Kindle E-Books, of course, show up in your library instantly. The E-Book is of course free if you have Kindle Unlimited. Get your copy today - they make great Christmas gifts for skaters, fans, coaches, test partners and judges!

If you have already received your copy of the book, it would be a huge, huge help if you could leave a short review on Amazon or Barnes & Noble so that more people are able to find it.

I'd also like to give a shout out to the latest Amazon Best Seller in Canada... Nathan Chen's new autobiography "One Jump At A Time: My Story". Being #1 was fun while it lasted, but I would have been very naive to think I could beat The Quad King! Pick up your copy of Nathan's book on Amazon today!

Skate Guard is a blog dedicated to preserving the rich, colourful and fascinating history of figure skating and archives hundreds of compelling features and interviews in a searchable format for readers worldwide. You can like Skate Guard on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/SkateGuard. 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 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 1977 European Figure Skating Championships


Jimmy Carter had just been sworn in as America's thirty-ninth President. The Emmy Award winning dramatic series "Roots" began its run on ABC. Scandinavians were mourning the loss of the twenty-two passengers on the doomed Linjeflyg Flight 618. Fonz jackets and checkbook clutches were the latest fashion fads. Boney M topped the music charts with their smash hit "Daddy Cool". 


The year was 1977 and on January 25, Europe's best figure skaters gathered at the Helsingin Jäähalli in Helsinki, Finland for the first day of that year's European Figure Skating Championships. The event marked the very first time in history the European Championships were held in Finland. The Scandinavian country had played host to the World Championships for men in 1914 and pairs in 1934. 

Among those responsible for bringing the event to Helsinki were the Suomen Taitoluisteluliitto's President Marjaata Väänänen and philanthropist and official Jane Erkko, who later coined the term 'Kiss and Cry' when she was on the organizing committee for the 1983 World Championships. Let's take a look back at how things played out!

THE PAIRS COMPETITION



Irina Rodnina and Aleksandr Zaitsev were the only two defending European Champions to return to defend their title in Helsinki. Six of the top ten teams had moved on at the end of the Olympic season the year prior, including Olympic Medallists Manuela Groß and Uwe Kagelmann and Romy Kermer
and Rolf Österreich.

Marina Cherkasova and Sergei Shakrai. Video courtesy Frazer Ormondroyd.

Soviet pairs were one-two-three in the short program, with all nine judges placing Rodnina and Zaitsev first. A packed house watched the free skate final, where Rodnina claimed her ninth title and Zaitsev his fifth. Irina Vorobieva and Alexandr Vlasov, the previous year's bronze medallists, moved up to take the silver and twelve year old Marina Cherkasova and her eighteen year old partner Sergei Shakrai gained the greatest applause of the day and the bronze.

Sabine Baeß and Tassilo Thierbach

It was the second Soviet sweep of the medal podium in pairs at Europeans - the first being in Garmisch-Partenkirchen in 1969. The fourth and fifth places went to two East German pairs who would go on to achieve great things in the sport - Manuela Mager and Uwe Bewersdorf and Sabine Baeß and Tassilo Thierbach.

THE ICE DANCE COMPETITION

The defending Olympic, World and European Champions Lyudmila Pakhomova and Aleksandr Gorshkov had retired as had three time World and European Medallists Hilary Green and Glyn Watts. Irina Moiseeva and Andrei Minenkov, who had won the World Championships in 1975 and the silver medal at the 1976 Olympics, appeared to be the heirs apparent to the European dance crown and there was little surprise when they amassed a comfortable lead in the compulsories and OSP.

Irina Moiseeva and Andrei Minenkov. Video courtesy Frazer Ormondroyd

Eight thousand, five hundred spectators showed up for the free dance and the Helsingin Jäähalli was actually over capacity! Though 'Min and Mo' earned two perfect 6.0's and walked away with the title, their one-theme "West Side Story" free dance had the judges and audience divided. Some people absolutely loved it, while others found it overdramatic. A minority of judges had Betty Callaway's Hungarian students Krisztina Regőczy and András Sallay ahead in the final phase of the competition, but they took the silver. The bronze went to Natalia Linichuk and Gennadi Karponosov. These three couples would trade titles over the coming years.

Janet Thompson and Warren Maxwell

Twenty year old Janet Thompson and twenty-four year old Warren Maxwell lived in South Acton with Janet's parents Betty and Eddie. They placed a strong fourth - a credit to their coach Miss Hogg. Their British teammates, Kay Barsdell and Kenneth Foster of Cricklewood, were sixth of the fourteen couples.

THE WOMEN'S COMPETITION

World Champions and Olympic Medallists Dianne de Leeuw and Christine Errath had moved on from the amateur ranks, as had Isabel de Navarre, the winner of the figures at the 1976 Olympics in Innsbruck. Anett Pötzsch, who had medalled at the 1975 and 1976 Europeans, trained alongside Errath with Jutta Müller in Karl-Marx-Stadt. She took a healthy lead in the figures and won the short program as well, giving her a two and a half point lead over West Germany's Dagmar Lurz entering the free skate.


In one of her finest performances, Anett Pötzsch landed three triples to easily win her first European title. The silver went to Dagmar Lurz; the bronze to Italy's Susanna Driano.

Anett Pötzsch. Video courtesy Frazer Ormondroyd.

Fourteen year old Denise Biellmann stole the show in the free skate, earning the loudest applause and exactly the same points total in the free skate as Pötzsch. Unfortunately, as was all too often in the case, her poor showing in the figures kept her down in sixth overall in her first bid for the title.


Fourteen year old Debbie Cottrill of Solihull almost didn't compete. Shortly after the British Championships, the National Skating Association announced that they wouldn't pay for her coach Armand Perren's travel expenses. Debbie's father Clem threatened to pull her out unless her coach attended. The Midland Soccer Writers' Association heard of the unfortunate situation and with the aid of the Midland industralists, raised four hundred and fifty pounds to pay Perren's fare. It wasn't the first instance of the National Skating Association being funny about covering travel costs. If you haven't read Courtney Jones' book yet, there's an interesting little anecdote in there about that!

THE MEN'S COMPETITION


Robin Cousins

1976 Olympic, World and European Champion John Curry had turned professional and as one might expect, the British press closed in on Robin Cousins liked a zombie after brains. In a 'next big thing' article in "The Daily Mirror", the nineteen year old from Bristol told reporter Graham Baker, "The East Germans and Russians look as though they've come out of factory... Like John, I always prefer individualism to that manufactured look."

Robin Cousins placed seventh in the figures, six places higher than he'd been in 1976. It was the first time he'd cracked the top ten in the compulsories at an ISU Championship. He placed an impressive sixth on the counter, a remarkable finish considering the fact he'd broken his toe two weeks before the British Championships in Richmond the month prior. The winner of the figures was 1976 Olympic Silver Medallist Vladimir Kovalev. Former European Champion Jan Hoffmann placed second and Finland's Pekka Leskinen was third.

Jan Hoffmann. Video courtesy Frazer Ormondroyd.

With a clean triple toe-loop/double loop combination and double Lutz, Robin Cousins moved up to fourth overall with the second-best short program. Though third in the short program, Vladimir Kovalev maintained a narrow lead entering the free skate.

Jan Hoffmann

Twenty one year old Jan Hoffmann regained his title from 1974 with a five-triple free skate, while Kovalev dropped to second with two successful triples and a fall on a triple toe-loop.

Vladimir Kovalev. Video courtesy Frazer Ormondroyd

Robin Cousins earned the highest marks for presentation. He was third overall but earned a supplementary silver medal for his placements in the free skating events in addition to his bronze. Like Hilary Green and Glyn Watts in the dance, he was coached by the redoubtable Miss Gladys Hogg. She didn't fly, so Robin went alone. Joan Slater sat with him in the kiss and cry. It was in Helsinki that he began his relationship with the Fassi's. They advised him at that year's Worlds in Tokyo.

Robin Cousins. Video courtesy Frazer Ormondroyd.

Pekka Leskinen's fifth place finish was quite a big deal at the time. A Finnish man hadn't placed in the top five at Europeans since Marcus Nikkanen in 1935. 

Soviet judge Evgenia Bogdanova, who had been suspended in 1975, placed a trio of Soviets - Kovalev, Yuri Ovchinnikov and Konstantin Kokora - first through third. They placed second, fourth and sixth overall. Bogdanova's blatant national bias earned her a second suspension and was a key contributing factor to the one-year ban of Soviet judges that followed.


Yuri Ovchinnikov

In a write-up for "Skating" magazine, Jean Kavalski made a point of noting how much of a standout Yuri Ovchinnikov was in Helsinki artistically. She wrote, "Great artistic strides have been taken in the men's competition, especially in the skating of Yuri Ovchinnikov. Yuri placed fourth in all aspects at Helsinki and changed his style considerably this year. He said Toller Cranston's innovativeness made him think that he should develop his own style more freely and more naturally. He does not skate like Toller and makes it clear that it was not so much Toller's own style of skating that caused him to change, but rather Toller's courage to follow his own creative desires in skating. Thus, Yuri has created a unique style which dazzled the audiences in Helsinki. In the past, Ovchinnikov's jumps were the highlight of his program, the excellence and artistry of the overall performance is now his goal." 

Though John Curry and Toller Cranston had moved on to the professional ranks, the importance of artistry in skating still reverberated on the Continent a year later in artists like Irina Moiseeva and Andrei Minenkov, Robin Cousins and Yuri Ovchinnikov. 

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. 'Like' the blog's Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/SkateGuard. 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.

How The Almanac of Canadian Figure Skating Was Made


Over the last decade of writing Skate Guard, there have been times that I thought to myself, "How many more stories about figure skating history could there possibly be out there?" Every single time, without fail, an idea - or ideas (plural) - have simply presented themselves. The truth is, there will always be more about this fabulous sport's history for us to learn. 

The premise for "The Almanac of Canadian Figure Skating" came about after I consulted a wonderful reference book by late sports journalist and baseball commentator Bob Ferguson. Bob published his first edition of "Who's Who in Canadian Sport" in 1977 and in the years that followed, three updated editions were released. 


Bob Ferguson's books contained short biographical stubs of hundreds of great Canadian athletes - hockey, rugby and soccer players, gymnasts, swimmers and curlers among them. Obscure sports like roller skiing were even included. And yes, look it up - it is a thing! Less than twenty-five figure skaters were included in the first edition. By the time the final edition was published in 2005, figure skating had considerably more representation. I thought to myself why shouldn't there be a book like this about figure skating?

Putting together the biographies was a massive undertaking. First I had to make a list of all of the skaters, coaches, judges and builders I wanted to include. Then I had to try to find birth (and sadly, in many cases, death) dates and places for each. I combed through dozens of sources to find the information I needed to do a little blurb on each person. I consulted everything from newspaper archives to books, magazines, Sports Hall of Fames from coast to coast, government records of Governor General's awards, war records, videos and even genealogical records. Along the way, some people had to be eliminated because of missing information. Many new names were also added. 

A clipping of the master file used as a starting point for the biographies included in the book

I tried my best to include not only the Canadian skating stars everyone knows and loves, but many others whose stories have gone untold. There are firsts from people of colour and people of Asian heritage. The contributions of LGBTQ+ skaters are celebrated. Skaters who excelled in disciplines that have been underrepresented in past coverage of the sport's history like fours and precision (synchro) skaters, Atlantic Canadians and Francophone skaters all made the cut.

A clipping about Harold Hartley, one of Canada's first coaches of colour, whose story is featured in the book

Initially, that first section of the book - the Who's Who of Canadian Figure Skating - was going to be it. Then I decided to tackle what turned out to be an even more daunting process... reconstructing the results of the Canadian Championships going back to the very beginning. If you Google "Canadian Figure Skating Championships", Wikipedia will of course pop up. The results on there are quite incomplete. The earliest you'll really find more than the top three in any discipline is 1996 and several of the years after that are missing novice results. Prior to 1996, the top three are listed, but there are errors - particularly in the very early years. A table of junior medallists starts in 2006, exactly a century after the first prize for young skaters was awarded at the Canadian Championships. 

Tracking down these missing results was no easy feat. I had to sift from over a century of newspaper archives and books to find many of them. The archives of "Skating" magazine were invaluable, but complete results stopped being published around the time "The Canadian Skater" came out. Because no digital archive of the magazine exists, I had to borrow bound editions of the latter magazine from a library to fill in certain missing events. There were still many missing years I had to find elsewhere. To get the results from the 1981 Canadian Championships here in Halifax, for instance, I had to go old school and use a microfiche reader at a library.

Microfiche file of results from the 1981 Canadian Championships

Other interesting facts and figures were added to the manuscript and I did a lot of editing and cross-referencing to ensure that the information included was as complete and factual as possible. Then began the real fun... prepping my self-published book for publication. Researching and writing I can do, but trying to figure out things like margins, page bleeds and spine dimensions was like reading a stereo catalogue in a foreign language. I had about as much luck at first as I did the first time I tried to put together a rolling stand from IKEA. The finished result is nothing flashy, but the information contained inside is truly fascinating stuff. 

Next came my crash course into the wonderful world of book marketing. I could write another blog on that itself, but instead I'll just encourage to pick up a copy of this little book that could. If you love Canadian figure skating, I can absolutely promise you that you will learn things about the sport you didn't know before.


The book is available worldwide on Amazon in hard cover, paperback and Kindle E-Book editions. If you are down in the States, you can also pick up a copy through Barnes & Noble

A quick note to those of you ordering via Amazon. Paperbacks are printed here in Canada; hard covers in the States. There is a 2-3 week printing delay for hard covers. If you are ordering hard cover books as Christmas gifts, I would highly recommend buying them in November for this reason. Paperbacks ship really quickly and Kindle E-Books, of course, show up in your library instantly. The E-Book is of course free if you have Kindle Unlimited. Get your copy today - they make great Christmas gifts for skaters, fans, coaches, test partners and judges!

If you have already received your copy of the book, it would be a huge, huge help if you could leave a short review on Amazon or Barnes & Noble so that more people are able to find it.

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. 'Like' the blog's Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/SkateGuard. 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 Legacy Of Shirō Kawakubo

Shirō Kawakubo on Lake Yamanaka, near Mount Fuji. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine.

From 1912 to 1926, Emperor Taishō ruled over the Empire of Japan. During his reign, democracy, modernization and the arts flourished... and thanks the pioneering efforts of a man we know very little about, figure skating gained popularity amongst the Japanese people.

Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine

Shirō Kawakubo hailed from Ikebukuro, in what is today an entertainment and commercial district in Toshima, Tokyo. He took up skating around the start of Emperor Taishō's reign, when he was a high school student, on outdoor ice at the Kanaya Hotel in Nikkō. In a letter penned to Theresa Weld Blanchard in 1933 that appeared in "Skating" magazine, he wrote, "At that time the reckless plain skating is only prevailing and there is no figure skating at all. I have got by chance in 1914 a skating book, 'Handbook of Figure Skating' by the late Mr. Browne, by which I have learnt for the first time 'what is the figure skating,' 'how to learn it.' I was the only Japanese as a figure skating pursuer at that time and have taught it to our younger plain skaters. Since then I have bought quite a lot of skating books, regardless of language (I have now over fifty books) and have studied from simple curve to loop-change-loop, from simple steps to Jackson Haines spins, etc., by myself. Twenty years have elapsed, three indoor rink have established in Japan (one in Tokyo, the other two in Osaka) and the ideal ones (25 by 60 meters) are now under construction in Tokyo. Really skating boom has come in Japan!"

Photo courtesy National Diet Library, Tokyo

Shirō Kawakubo published what were perhaps the first Japanese language books on figure skating in 1912 and 1915. In the decades that followed, he translated over half a dozen figure skating books by George Henry Browne, Herbert Ramon Yglesias, Nikolay Panin-Kolomenkin and Gustave Lussi into Japanese and penned several more of his own books, covering everything from figure skating history to instructional diagrams of school and special figures, jumps and spins, pairs skating, ice dancing and "model programs of well-known skaters". As qualified instructors really didn't exist in Japan during the Taishō period, the first generation of elite figure skaters in Japan would no doubt have been heavily reliant on these texts.

Photo courtesy National Diet Library, Tokyo

In addition to publishing figure skating books, Shirō Kawakubo wore a few other hats. He was a judge at the first Japanese Championships and served as the Secretary of the Japanese Skating Association from 1926 to 1932. He also served a one-year term as the Association's President in 1935, after his contemporary Masamitsu Katano stepped down. For seven years, he taught Prince Kuni Asaakira and his wife Princess Tomoko how to skate. 

Photo courtesy National Diet Library, Tokyo

Shirō Kawakubo's passion for figure skating was evident not only his books, but his correspondence to "Skating" magazine in the late twenties and early thirties. He worked tirelessly behind the scenes to promote skating in Japan during the early Shōwa period, when Japan sent its first skaters to the Winter Olympic Games and World Championships. 

Very little is known about Shirō Kawakubo's later life, but the fact that he continued to publish new figure skating books in the fifties confirms that he survived World War II. The seeds planted by this pioneering skater paved the way for great Japanese skaters of today like Yuzuru Hanyu, Kaori Sakamoto, Shoma Uno and Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara. His views on figure skating can well be summed up by a William Shakespeare quote he chose to use at the beginning of one of his books: "Grace is grace, despite of all controversy." 

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.

Win A Copy Of The Almanac Of Canadian Figure Skating!


Win a free copy of the Kindle E-Book edition of "The Almanac of Canadian Figure Skating"

Entering is easy. All you have to do is leave a comment on the posts announcing this contest on Skate Guard's Facebook or Twitter pages, telling me who your favourite Canadian skater (or team) of all time is. You will earn one entry into the random draw automatically with your comment. In order to be eligible, you must be following Skate Guard on Facebook and/or Twitter. One entry per person.

Contest closes on Wednesday, November 9 at midnight and the winner will be announced on Skate Guard's Facebook and Twitter pages on Thursday, November 10 at 10 AM (Atlantic Standard Time).

Enter now and share with your friends on social media for your chance to win a copy of this one of a kind reference book about Canada's most exciting winter sport!

John Zalvidar Machado, A Forgotten Canadian Champion With An Unforgettable Story

Photo courtesy City Of Toronto Archives

Born February 17, 1897 in Plainsfield, New Jersey, John (Juan) Zaldivar Machado was the son of Cuban born banker José Machado and his Nova Scotian born wife Eleanor Esmond Whitman. In 1902, Señor Machado moved the family to the Ottawa area when he was appointed President of the American Bank Note Company.

Left: John's father Jose A. Machado. Right: Minto Skating Club trophy for Best Boy Skater, 1914.

John grew up in a large log house on Lac Bernard with his parents, older brother José, younger sisters Angela, Cecilia, Theodora and three servants named Hattie, Jessie and Eva. John spent his youth attending Presbyterian church services, studying at Lisgar Collegiate and skating with his sister Theodora at the prestigious Minto Skating Club. When The Great War broke out in 1914, he was the Club's 'Best Boy Skater'.


During The Great War, John enrolled in studies at Harvard University in Massachusetts but in 1917, he interrupted his education and travelled to France with the United States Army Ambulance Service. He earned the Croix de Guerre for his military service. A clipping from the April 10, 1919 issue of "The Ottawa Journal" noted, "Sgt. Machado offered his services in the C.E.F. in September 1916 but was turned down, and in the spring of 1917 he went to France as a volunteer, without pay, in the American Ambulance Service with the French army. In September 1917, the U.S. took over this service and since that time it has been a portion of the American Expeditionary Forces, though still serving in the French army. Sgt. Machado was second in command of his ambulance section, which was attached to the 41st division of the French army. This is one of the most famous divisions of the 'shock troops' and was known as 'La Division Granit', taking part in many of the great attacks both before and after July 18, last. Sgt. Machado saw active service with the division at many points on the front from the North Sea to Lorraine and finally accompanied the unit into Germany and was for a time stationed at Cologne. Later he returned to France with his section and when they had gathered to say good-bye to those with him they had worked so long, the French officers gathered to express their thanks and appreciation and bid them adieu. The French Government at their departure presented the American Ambulance Section with the Field Service Medal in commemoration of their service."

Upon returning from France, John immersed himself in his studies, graduating from Harvard in 1920. He returned to Ottawa to work as a salesman and spent considerable time practicing at the Minto Skating Club, focusing particularly on improving his school figures. In 1921, he made his debut at the Canadian Championships, earning top three finishes in both the men's event and pairs, skating in the latter event with Alden Goldwin. The following two years, he was a medallist in the men's event at the Canadian Championships. The February 18, 1922 issue of "The Ottawa Citizen" described his performance at the 1922 Canadians thusly: "John Machado, Ottawa, came on with a dash in an 'S' before music started. He raced down beautifully, jumped and changed to back inside circle. He tried successfully the spins that had brought [Melville] Rogers to the ice and did some very pretty spirals and seemed to combine a grapevine and Virginia creeper all in one, showing wonderful balance. He covered the whole rink with his patterns and did some wonderful spins on one foot, without touching the other to the ground or losing his balance, jumping and changing edge during the jump frequently. He finished with a long, beautifully executed jump and straight run out to the center of the ice, reversing on the way."

John and Bet (Blair) Machado. Photo courtesy City Of Toronto Archives.

In 1924, John returned to the Canadian Championships with a renewed vigour, claiming both the men's title and pairs titles, making history as the first skater of Latin American ancestry to win a national title. His pairs partner, Elizabeth 'Bet' Blair of Saint John, New Brunswick, became his wife that September. Unable to successfully defend his men's or pairs title in 1925, John and his wife Bet moved to Montreal and joined the Winter Club, where they took first prize in a Waltzing contest. In Quebec, they raised two children - a son (also named John) and a daughter (Nora).

Competitors and judges at the 1927 Canadian Championships. Back: Miss Morrissey, Dorothy Benson, Margot Barclay, John Machado, Elizabeth (Blair) Machado, Cecil MacDougall, Mr. Sharp, Norman Mackie Scott, Evelyn Darling, Constance Wilson, Jack Eastwood, Maude Smith, Bud Wilson. Front: Kathleen Lopdell, Paul Belcourt, Frances Claudet, Jack Hose, Henry Cartwright, Isobel Blyth, Melville Rogers, Marion McDougall, Chauncey Bangs. Photo courtesy "Skating Through The Years".

In 1927, John and Bet made their return to the Canadian Championships, finishing third in the pairs event behind Marion McDougall and Chauncey Bangs and Constance and Montgomery Wilson. It would be the Machado's final appearance in the pairs event at the Canadian Championships. The Machado's relocated to Toronto, where John became involved in the management of the Toronto office of the Canadian Bank Note Company (the successor of the American Bank Note Company) around the time his father Juan retired as the company's President after over thirty years of service.

John Machado, Biddy Clarke, Margaret Henry and Stewart Reburn. Photo courtesy Hilary Bruun.

Increased responsibilities couldn't keep the successful engraver from carving out time to etch fancy figures on the ice. He was a regular in skating carnivals of the period and in 1929 starting competing in fours skating. He was part of the winning Toronto Four at that year's Canadian Championships. With Veronica Clarke, Margaret Henry and Stewart Reburn, John defeated fours from the Minto Skating Club, Granite Club and Montreal Winter Club and won the Earl Grey Trophy. Three years later at the Granite Club, John, Veronica Clarke, Louise Bertram and Stewart Reburn again won the Canadian fours title, making John a four-time Canadian Champion. In 1933 and 1934, that four-time Canadian Champion succeeded J. Cecil McDougall, serving as President of the Figure Skating Department of the Amateur Skating Association of Canada. Around the same period, he was serving as a director of the Toronto Golf Club.


In January of 1936, John became a naturalized Canadian citizen. Interestingly, he was actually an American citizen at the time of all four of his Canadian title wins. His eleventh hour citizenship allowed him the opportunity to travel to Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, where he was to act as Canada's judge at the Winter Olympic Games. It didn't all go as planned. After spending six hours outside in a snowstorm evaluating the men's school figures while suffering from pneumonia, John ended up deathly sick and had to pull out. He was replaced mid-competition by a German judge. National bias and politics were very much a thing in judging back in those days and without a Canadian judge on any of the panels, no medals were won by the Dominion's top skaters.

Sadly, John passed away after a brief illness only six years later, on April 19, 1942 in a hospital in Toronto. He was only forty-five years of age. After his death, his widow Bet donated the John Z. Machado Memorial Trophy to the Toronto Skating Club, which was awarded to the best senior ice dance team in the club's competition for many years.

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. 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.

You've Read The Blog... Now Read The Book!


I have been writing the Skate Guard blog since 2013 and I cannot thank all of you enough for your readership and kind words of encouragement over the years. It is truly a labour of love.

For far too long, family and friends have said to me, "You should write a book!" I am a firm believer in creating the things that you wish existed and that's why I finally decided to test my mettle and write "The Almanac of Canadian Figure Skating".

A truly in-depth history of Canadian figure skating hasn't been published since 1993, when Skate Canada (then the CFSA) published a wonderful book called "Reflections on the CFSA: A History of the Canadian Figure Skating Association 1887-1990". Peter Newman, who was the chair of the CFSA's Museum and Historical Committee around that point in time, wrote that the book did "not attempt to deal fully with the Association's skaters nor with its programs because these important parts of the Association's history will be the subject of further volumes." Sadly, those books never came and the Museum that the CFSA hoped to eventually open never materialized. 

Though some wonderful efforts have been made to celebrate Canada's rich skating history, so much of it has fallen into obscurity. The achievements of many of the sport's earliest champions have gone unrecognized. Results from competitions that took place before the days of the internet have never made it online. Records of many early happenings in the sport's history were sadly thought to be destroyed forever when the Minto Skating Club lost its rink for a second time in a tragic fire in 1949.

Through careful research in newspaper and magazine archives, books and other records, "The Almanac of Canadian Figure Skating" reconstructs that 'lost' history. The book features hundreds of short biographic stubs highlighting the accomplishments of Canada's skaters, coaches, choreographers, judges and builders. Complete records of the Canadian Championships at the senior, junior and novice level are featured as well. The book is also chock full of fascinating facts and figures - everything from tours to skating clubs to Section Presidents over the years. You can read a free preview on Amazon below.

 

It is my sincere hope that you will enjoy flipping through this fascinating reference book as much as I enjoyed researching it and putting it together. Treat yourself or the skating fan in your life to a copy this Christmas! To purchase a copy of the hardcover, paperback or Kindle e-book edition on Amazon, click here. The book is also available through Barnes & Noble

I would love to hear what you think about the book - please leave a review! It would be an incredible help in getting this important history out there to more people.

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. You taking the time to 'like' the blog's Facebook page 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.

Veterans' Week

 

One hundred and three years ago on November 11, 1918, the Armistice signed near Compiègne, France heralded an end to the fighting of The Great War on the Western Front. 

Many members of the Canadian figure skating community selflessly dedicated their lives to their country during both World Wars. Canadian and North American Champions, judges, coaches, club presidents, pleasure skaters and close relatives of some of our country's brightest skating stars served in the military and performed important war work. 

In recognition of their service, Skate Guard presents a special Veterans' Week page highlighting these brave men and women's wartime contributions.

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.

Triple/Triple Trivia Time


After Canada's Vern Taylor made history at the 1978 World Championships by landing the first triple Axel in an ISU Championship, the jump became the benchmark of technical achievement that chroniclers of the sport focused on ad nauseum. The triple Axel continued to be a media hyperfocus well into the late nineties. If a [male] skater didn't have the jump in their repertoire, warned commentators, they couldn't possibly be a contender internationally. While focus on the Axel - and later the quad - grew in its scope, the early history of another technical achievement didn't receive nearly the same amount of hoopla. That marvel was the triple/triple combination.

Gzregorz Filipowski. Photo courtesy "Dziennik Łódzk" Archives.

One of the first men to master the triple/triple combination was America's Robert Wagenhoffer. He included a triple toe-loop/triple toe-loop in his free skate at the 1978 Pacific Coast Championships in Burbank, California. At the 1980 World Championships in Dortmund, West Germany, thirteen year old Gzregorz Filipowski landed an incredible nine triple jumps, including the first triple toe-loop/triple toe-loop combination in an ISU Championship. Only eighteenth in figures, Filipowski managed to move up several places as a result of his free skating in his first trip to the Worlds. Many - including Olympic Gold Medallist Manfred Schnelldorfer - felt that his marks (in the 5.2 range, even for technical merit) were way too low.

Gzregorz Filipowski. Video courtesy Frazer Ormondroyd.

In the following two seasons, other men quickly added the risky triple/triple to their repertoire. Heiko Fischer and Mark Cockerell both mastered the toe-loop/toe-loop and by 1984, Alexandr Fadeev had upped the ante considerably, landing two new triple/triples - the Salchow/toe-loop and Lutz/toe-loop - at the European and World Championships. By the fall of 1985, junior skater Michael Shmerkin was including the Salchow/toe-loop in his free skate as well.

Alexandr Fadeev

A small club of fearless Canadians, including Kurt Browning and Neil Paterson, began attempting the triple Salchow/triple loop in the mid-eighties. Browning landed the first triple Salchow/triple loop in competition at the 1990 Nations Cup in Gelsenkirchen, West Germany. By 1991, Browning had mastered a slew of impressive triple/triple combinations, including the Axel/toe-loop and flip/toe-loop. He made history at that year's World Championships in Munich as the first skater to manage to stay upright on three triple/triple combinations in one program. Three years earlier at the Winter Olympic Games in Calgary, Brian Boitano made history as the first Olympic Gold Medallist to include a triple/triple combination in his winning free skate.

Midori Ito

The first woman to successfully land a triple/triple combination in competition was Japan's Sachie Yuki. She landed the toe-loop/toe-loop at the NHK Trophy in 1980. The first woman to land the toe-loop/toe-loop at an ISU Championship was eleven year old Midori Ito, at the 1981 World Junior Championships in London, Ontario. Though she won the free skate at that event, her twentieth place finish in the figures kept her down in eighth overall - a trend that continued in her career for some years to come. The first woman who became a World Champion that had a triple/triple combination in her bag of tricks was Debi Thomas, though she didn't attempt it when she won her World title in Geneva in 1986. She landed a beauty at the 1988 U.S. Championships in Denver though.

Surya Bonaly

Triple/triple's were the in thing in the nineties. France's Surya Bonaly rattled them off without batting an eyelash. Midori Ito landed the triple Axel/triple toe-loop in a practice at the Albertville Olympics in 1992. At a World Junior team selection event in Woodridge, Illinois in the autumn of 1997, Timothy Goebel landed a triple toe-loop/triple toe-loop/triple loop combination. Irina Slutskaya became the first woman to add a loop to a Lutz in 2000. 

A woman didn't land a triple/triple in the short program until the autumn of 1996 - because the ISU didn't allow 'the ladies' to attempt such a risky element. Krisztina Czakó of Hungary was the first woman to land it in competition.

The extremely difficult triple loop/triple loop combination was first landed in an ISU Championship by Éric Millot at the ISU Champions Series Final in 1995. The following year at the U.S. Postal Service Figure Skating Challenge in Philadelphia, Tara Lipinski became the first woman to complete the challenging combination of edge jumps in competition. Tonya Harding had practiced the daring combination, but never attempted it in competition.

Alexandr Abt

Though Kurt Browning landed the most difficult of triple/triple combinations - the triple Axel/triple loop - in practice a half a dozen times at Skate Canada International in Thunder Bay in 1988, it wasn't until ten years later, in the autumn of 1998, that Alexandr Abt made history as the first skater to land the combination in competition. The second skater - and the first to land the jump at the Canadian Championships - was Jayson Dénommée in 2001.

In the figure skating world of today, a senior skater without a triple/triple combination in their repertoire is hard to come by. Without question, when done well, they are one of the most thrilling elements of any skater's program... and they are here to stay.

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.