The Best Of 2016: A Skate Guard New Year's Spectacular

Over the last twelve months, Skate Guard blog has shared over one hundred and fifty fascinating stories from figure skating's rich and colourful history. It's been an absolute pleasure hearing from so many of you throughout the year. Learning about your own connections to and perceptions of these important stories has to be the best part of 'doing what I do' and I cannot wait to continue to share even more of these gems with you in the coming year! To cap off what has certainly been in an interesting year in the world, I wanted to share a perfect 10.0 of my favourite pieces from the past year that you may have missed. If you haven't read any of these yet, make the time... they're honestly just fascinating tales!


In 1952, Jacqueline du Bief of France claimed the Olympic bronze medal and World title. An artistic skater far beyond her time, she introduced elements of the avant garde to the amateur figure skating world at a time when many were more than content to stick with the status quo. Learn more about her story in this July 2016 blog.


Skating's history has a long and troubling history of expecting "men to skate to like men". This June 2016 blog explores skating's quiet war on effeminacy from a historical perspective.


With the assistance of the wonderful folks at Halifax Public Libraries, I took an in-depth, behind the scenes look at the only World Championships ever held in Atlantic Canada in this November 2016 blog.


Harrison Thomson and Rudy Richards. Carl Van Vechten photograph. Used with permission of the Van Vechten Trust. 

Canadian Junior Champion Harrison Thomson was born in the United States, got his start in professional skating in England and skated alongside three thirties doyennes of figure skating: Sonja Henie, Belita Jepson-Turner and Vivi-Anne Hultén. His storied career, which was nothing short of enthralling, was revealed in this April 2016 blog.


In June 2016, Skate Guard took an in-depth look at the evolution of figure skating fashion from 1860 to 1960. The research for this particular piece was a mammoth effort to say the very least and if you enjoy fashion history, this one's for you! It's divided into parts one, two and three.


Prior to the twentieth century, classism played a very significant role in figure skating history's development. This February 2016 blog explores how 'the other half' skated.


In the early twentieth century, legendary skating star Charlotte Oelschlägel took Berlin, Germany by storm with her lavish ice ballets at the Admiralspalast. This July 2016 blog sheds new light on these pioneering professional ice shows.


Contrary to popular belief, women have been doing backflips on the ice long before Surya Bonaly defiantly performed one at the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan. In this July 2016 blog, we explored the story of just one of these fearless femmes.


How on earth could there be enough material about the relationship between skating and food to make an entire blog? And if you could, why would that even be remotely interesting? If you're asking yourself those questions, you clearly haven't read this May 2016 blog yet.


When we think of women's figure skating in the early twentieth century, the image we often conjure up in our minds is someone wearing a fancy hat and a long dress that barely shows off an ankle... certainly not a circus daredevil who brought figure skating to the Vaudeville world. Isabella Butler's story, shared in this March 2016 blog, has to be one of figure skating history's best kept secrets.

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

#Unearthed: The 1979 Arnold Gerschwiler Interview

When you dig through skating history, you never know what you will unearth. In the spirit of cataloguing fascinating tales from skating history, #Unearthed is a once a month 'special occasion' on Skate Guard where fascinating writings by others that are of interest to skating history buffs are excavated, dusted off and shared for your reading pleasure. From forgotten fiction to long lost interviews to tales that have never been shared publicly, each #Unearthed is a fascinating journey through time. Today's gem comes to you from the December/January 1980/1981 edition of the "Canadian Skater" magazine. It's an interview that former British sportswriter John Hennessey conducted with the late, great Arnold Gerschwiler. A controversial and revered coach, Gerschwiler's dozens of champion pupils included Sjoukje Dijkstra, John Curry, Ája Vrzáňová, Daphne Walker, Valda Osborn, Michael Booker, Helmut Seibt and his own nephew Hans Gerschwiler. To this day, he is widely remembered as one of the foremost experts on school figure technique in skating history. At the time Hennessey's in-depth conversation with Gerschwiler, he was sixty six and still actively coaching.  Shared with you with the permission of the good folks at Skate Canada, I think you're going to be fascinated with this inside glimpse into the perspective of one of the most decorated coaches in history.

CS: To start the ball rolling, how do you think Canadian skaters are doing right now in compulsory figures?

AG: I don't think Canadian skaters are so bad at figures. The truth is that the standard of figures has gone down everywhere since they were cut to three and the short program introduced. They are now worth only 30 percent of the marks, so there is a tendency to neglect them and concentrate on the free. Perhaps Trixi Schuba was the last person to receive the marks and skated the figures to the value of 4.9 or 5.0. Nowadays you rarely see anything over 4.3. Professionals throughout the world are giving too little attention to figures, which is wrong. What a shocking example we had in Kovalev; that Kovalev could win the figures in a world championship with the body positions he produced and no running edge. He violated every rule in the book.

CS: Isn't that a case of bad judging?

AG: Is it bad judging or is the case that the other skaters didn't skate any better? Whatever the tracings are like, from the ankle up he was awful, and I can't see how that would not be reflected in tracings, because body position is a strong influence on the tracings.

CS: I assume then that you were opposed to the new format?

AG: Certainly. Mastery of the figures is the foundation on which all good skating depends. I read the other day that Carlo Fassi said that Robin Cousins had a bad day in figures. That doesn't exist for me in the figures. Either you can do it or you can't. And you don't have to have any special talent. You have to learn the right movements and if you do the right movements you get the right results. If you start learning when you are young and learn the right way you do not need to spend hour after hour on them later on when you have to master new jumps and spins.

CS: Is it not possible to have a bad day if the figures drawn are not among your favourites, on the wrong foot, the wrong edge or whatever?

AG: You are not allowed a weakness. If you have one you must work on it and master it long before you arrive at the top. A champion has to be good at everything. The same with tennis. We've just had a marvellous example at Wimbledon. If you have a weakness it deserves to be exploited.

CS: The readers of this magazine will be particularly interested in your overall view of Brian Pockar.

AG: Brian spent four summers with me and improved in the figures considerably. He skated really well here at Richmond in the Rotary competition last autumn in all three sections and I am surprised as anyone that he did not do better in the Olympics and world championships. Given a top mark of 4.4 for a figure these days, I would Brian's standard at 4.3, just a whisker below the very top flight. But even on present standards he has the potential to bring his figures up to 4.9, even 5.0.

CS: That would put him head and shoulders above every other skater in the amateur ranks today?

AG: Yes, and that's where he ought to be.

CS: I wonder if nerves played a part in Brian's disappointment? Even assuming complete mastery, what about the tension of the moment, the thought that your hopes, even your career as an amateur and later professional, your future livelihood may depend on these coming minutes?

AG: Tension doesn't come into it, because at that stage a champion who has been skating for eight or ten years should be above that. There's no way I'll take that excuse from anyone.

CS: But you will agree, wouldn't you, that even if properly trained you might be nervous and that would lead to inferior school figures?

AG: No, not if you're properly trained. Everyone is nervous. I read that Borg was nervous before he went out on centre court against McEnroe but it didn't stop him from playing wonderful tennis.

CS: At what age do you like to get a skater?

AG: I like to get a skater really early, but not submit her to heavily concentrated training so that everybody says: "Isn't she marvellous, isn't she terrific, isn't she wonderful?" That creates an exaggerated idea of what she will be, in, say eight years time. I like them to enjoy their youth and have varied pastimes - also schooling - but skating training should have first priority.

CS: What stage should they have reached before you take them for teaching?

AG: I like them to have reached the bronze test. I took Sjoukje Dijkstra, for instance, at about eight or nine. That's about the right age. Or I like to take them at about 16, at a much higher level of performance, from another teacher who perhaps has gone as far as she can. I look particularly then for someone with the potential to go to the top and the willingness to work.

CS: Is Brian Pockar an example of a skater who came to you at an advanced stage?

AG: Not really. Brian came to me for extra help with the agreement of his trainer at home. I was in no way a replacement for her. I have never poached a skater from another teacher. It's just that a teacher sometimes welcomes the second opinion that another teacher can give and the added expertise that he can provide. That's how Brian came to train with me. And he was not only an advanced skater, but also an intelligent one with a receptive mind.

CS: Would you say he's still got it in him to be world champion?

AG: Yes, certainly, provided he's still willing to work and be prepared to make the sacrifices involved in dedication to skating and to keeping fit.

CS: What if a skater doesn't seem to have the right kind of dedication?

AG: Once upon a time I would have accepted them in the hope of disciplining them, but I wouldn't do that now. If they do not show the right attitude from the word go I've no time for them. I'm too old for it. I've done my fair share of disciplining!

CS: You've made it clear that you regret the decline in figure skating. What about the free? Do you think there is too much emphasis on gymnastics and athleticism?

AG: No, I think it's finding the right balance between artistry and athletics.

CS: Would you attribute that to people like Curry and Cranston?

AG: No. We've had skaters like that in the past, Belita Jepson-Turner, for example, and Jackie Dunn, and Hayes Jenkins and especially pair skating, the Protopopovs are a fine example. Naturally we've moved on to more intricate jumps, but I see nothing wrong in that - progress is progress in any sport - provided the rest of the program does not suffer. So far as I can see there is an equivalent effort in improving spins, steps, etc. Watching the Olympics and world championships at home on television I was impressed by the high standards.

CS: Did anyone particularly impress you?

AG: I liked Hoffmann very much at Lake Placid and I am glad I was not asked to make the decision.

CS: As a compatriot of Cousins, would you allow me to pass quickly on to another subject? Another fundamental change in the last decade or two has been the use of indoor rinks for the main championships. What kind of effect do you think that has had?

AG: It has helped the free skaters, of course, but figure skaters have suffered. In the old days you had to get into the figure, you had to feel the circle. You had to contend with slower ice and possible wind changes, so you had to push off harder and use your body weight, which means you had to work harder. Nowadays they hardly have to push at all and the body doesn't draw the figure enough. There's no flow in it.

CS: We seem to be on the verge of the first quadruple jump. Would you regard that as a healthy development?

AG: Certainly, as long as nothing else suffers in order to accommodate it. There must be right preparation and the right build-up and it must fit correctly into the program. I would never force a skater to try a jump merely for effect before he is ready for it and sure of it. One newspaper the other day, referring to tennis, talked about the surgeon and the butcher. Similarly, I say that a skater should use the skate like a surgeon doing a heart operation and not like a butcher hacking at a piece of beef!

CS: In skating parlance who would you identify as the surgeons and who the butchers?

AG: The surgeons would include Curry, Cousins, Cranston and Hoffmann. Many people would disagree with me about Hoffmann but that's because he is less artistic and has not the same feeling for music, but he uses his skates very well. I would also include Rodnina and all the top dancers. I wouldn't want to be unkind and identify the butchers. Must you press me? Then I would have to include Cramer and of course, Kovalev, who for me just doesn't exist as a skater.

CS: Many teachers, in skating as well as other sports, complain about interference by parents. How do you handle that one?

AG: It is perfectly natural that parents should want their children to do as well as they can, get as far as they can. But they musn't come between the coach and skater at vital times. I always explain to parents that they will have the chance to sit down with me and criticize after a competition but until then, the responsibility is mine alone. Nor do I want them to interfere during training and lessons, because that's when the pupil and I really have to concentrate.

CS: Do you look for a special physique among skaters?

AG: Physical attributes mean nothing if you haven't the basic talent and are not ready to dedicate yourself. There's no doubt though that a good physique and a pretty face help to create a favourable overall impression. A good personality on the ice is important too. All these things come together in the final analysis. Skating is the one sporting area where everything counts: talent, looks, physique, musical interpretation. In tennis you can pull all kinds of faces and your face look like a traffic accident, but it doesn't matter as long as you score the points! In skating you have got to be able to present yourself and project yourself.

CS: Are you in favour of the short program?

AG: I don't like it. I don't see why a skater should benefit because he does a particular jump better than another one and has the luck of the draw. All the various aspects of free skating will be revealed in the long program, either by the inclusion of certain elements or their omission. And on top of that it has devalued the figures. Television is the real villain. They want the best free skater to be the champion and as the skating authorities want the revenue they have to bow down.

CS: Another topic of never-ending interest in this sport is the judging. Do you share the general cynicism.

AG: No, I don't. I think the judges are trying to do a good job and I do not believe in the idea of conspiracies among them. But I wish they didn't feel the need to keep in line all the time. They should feel free to mark as they see, but of course they might face suspension. The blame lies with the ISU for not encouraging independence of thought among the judges. It would be much better to make an honest mistake occasionally than feel the need to tow the line. And they should not be allowed to compare notes before the first marks are made public. The judges should be encouraged to have the guts to mark what they see. One judge was barred for giving Kovalev low marks in the figures and I couldn't have agreed with her more.

CS: Some people maintain that there is a distinct East versus West favour about judging. Would you go along with that?

AG: No.

CS: Are in favour of the present system of reaching a result, from a majority of five?

AG: Yes.

CS: The Canadians are understandably excited about little Tracey Wainman. Have you seen her skate?

AG: I saw her skate at Queen's during the Jubilee Gala. She's a very talented little girl with lots of personality. Now let's see what they can do with her. There's no reason why she should not go right to the top under a teacher like Ellen Burka. But there are problems to face as she goes through adolescence, both in physical terms and in her perhaps wanting to pursue other interests. Beyond that, the main worry would be a temptation to push her too far too fast. They need to have the patience to build the girl up properly and let the results come in their own good time. By all means pick up the glory on the way but don't try to force it in a year or two. There is always a temptation in a case like this to look for quick rewards too soon. She won't reach her full potential until she's about 16 or 17.

CS: Would it be wrong to expose her too much to the public at her present age?

AG: Not if they do it in the right way. They should let her have all the success she can, provided it's understood that it's a means to an end. Ellen Burka will have to decide how much the child can take without it going to her head and she will have to resist any pressure by the Canadian association to overstretch the child. A glaring example of how things can go wrong is provided by Denise Biellmann, who was pushed too much by the Swiss association against the wishes of Otto Hugin, her teacher. The association interfered too much and has destroyed her chance of becoming world champion. If she had been left to Otto I think she might have already won the title. She still can, of course, but they should have left the one man in charge. They can shoot him afterwards, not before! Let that be a lesson for the Canadians!

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

Holiday Skating Memories

Christmas card from Wm A. Bongers Grocery and Market, circa 1950. Photo courtesy History Colorado Collection.

The holidays are a time when we come together with family and friends, celebrate and create memories. Today on the blog, we will look back at how skating has shaped the holiday memories of both everyday people and some of skating's greatest champions. From the heartwarming to the hilarious, there's a little bit of everything here to bring you holiday cheer. Happy holidays from my family to yours!


Originally published in "The Gadsden Times" on December 24, 1990, Marjorie Chaviers of Boaz, Alabama shared the heartwarming story of how she got her first pair of 'white shoe ice skates' when she was eleven years old: "I have had many happy and memorable Christmases over the years, but one that stands out most vividly was the Christmas of 1941 when I was 11 years old... We lived near an ice-skating rink where all the children and grownups too, skated. I had a very dilapidated pair of clamp-on skates and I think spent more time trying to keep them clamped on my shoes than I did skating. We were very poor, but of course, we didn't know we were poor at the time... Next door to us a Mrs. Pingry ran a boarding house. I washed dishes each evening for her for 25 cents. I believe she saved the whole day's dishes! Christmas Eve she asked me to stay and hand out the presents the boarders had given each other. I immediately spied this large box with my name on it, but pretended I didn't see it. After the last gift was given, they all urged me to open mine. I was shaking so hard I could barely undo the wrapping paper and ribbon and I know my mouth fell open when I saw the most pretty white shoe ice skates I'd ever seen in my life. They had all chipped in to buy them for me. I can assure you I spent nearly all my Christmas vacation on the ice rink. I'll never forget it."

The Rockefeller Center Christmas tree rises behind Silke Gelberg in 1961. Photo courtesy Harry Ransom Center.


In the November 22, 1958 issue of the "St. Petersburg Times", John W. Martin recalled Christmases spent skating on the farm of his grandparents in Pennsylvania: "My sister Pat and I made a snow man early in the morning. We used pieces of coal for his eyes and nose and put a pipe in his mouth. Then we had a snow battle and built snow forts. We went to a pine forest nearby, to cut our own Christmas tree. The snow was soft and we would sink down to our knees into it. Christmas night Daddy took us ice skating. I spent of my time sitting down. While we were there it began to snow. What a beautiful sight that was. We skated in the falling snow until it became too [deep]. Then we walked home through it. Before we knew it, our Christmas vacation was over. But I had seen a white Christmas I will never forget."


In her 1950 book "Skate With Me", Olympic Gold Medallist recalled the story of her first pair of skates: "When I was little I had a trapeze, a Charlie McCarthy doll with which I practiced ventriloquism, a pekingese, a scotty, a white Angora cat, a canary, two rabbits, mud turtles, and a white rat. I had these all at the same time. I doubt whether any girl in Ottawa was better supplied with samples on which to build a career, or at least a hobby. I might have taken up dog breeding, making doll clothes, trapeze work. But what I asked Santa Claus for, when I was so young I had to ask Mother to write my letters, was a horse and a pair of skates with boots... The skates arrived the Christmas I was six. And I couldn't use them. I was born with mean mastoids: horrors connected with the ears. By the time I was two and a half years old my ears had been opened eight times and I was scared of people in surgical white coats - grateful for their help but frightened. My unfortunate ears kept me in bed that Christmas season, but I wore my skates anyway. First I'd kick my right leg out from the covers and admire the skate and boot. Then the left leg. How beautiful I thought those skates, gleaming and further polished by Mum's sheets and blankets, and how I longed to get out on ice! As soon as I was well I started skating and won the part of Raggedy Ann in that year's carnival at Ottawa’s Minto Skating Club, our home club."


Ája Zanova. Photo courtesy "Skating World" magazine.

In the December 22, 1985 issue of "The Spokesman-Review", Royce Gorseth recalled a hilarious holiday encounter with two time World Champion Ája Vrzáňová: "On Christmas Eve 1955, I was 17, working my third night as a busboy at the Ridpath Hotel. As always, the Ice Capades was in town for the holidays and staying at the hotel was Ája Zanova, star of the show, who called room service and ordered cream of chicken soup. Ája Zanova! The most gorgeous woman I had ever seen in my life! Working Christmas Eve might not be so bad after all. I begged to deliver the cream of chicken soup. I was chosen. I wanted to do it right. The usual placemat on a carried tray just wasn't good enough for this occasion. On one of those folding tables with rollers, I placed a mini-oven with a Bunsen burner underneath. I ladled the soup into the nicest bowl we had in the dining room and put it in the oven along with one of the hotel's famous rolls (instead of the usual crackers). I covered the table with a white linen cloth, and poured water into an ice-filled, ruby-red goblet, which I placed beside a silver spoon on a red linen napkin. A table fit for a princess. I smiled. Up the elevator and down the hall without a hitch, and taking a deep breath I gave two gentle knocks on the door answered by Miss Zanova herself - obviously surprised to see such a setting for a bowl of soup. Even with her just-washed hair covered turban-like in a white towel, the object of my affection looked regal in a long, white, silk dressing gown with white fur around the sleeves and down the front. With great flourish, I rolled the soup into the room, took a chair from the desk, placed it in front of the table, took the bowl out of the warmer, pulled the chair back and seated my guest. My ecstasy was short-lived. At the same moment she picked up the spoon, the table collapsed, spilling cream of chicken soup, water and ice all over the white dressing gown. Gracefully, she leaped up. I was frozen with humiliation and fear. I didn't know what to do. Finally she said, "It's all right," retreating to the bathroom. I fell on my hands and knees frantically scrambling to swiftly retrieve bowl, spoon, glass and ice and wipe up the soup that spilled on the floor. "C-c-c-an I bring you some more soup, Miss Zanova?" I squeaked out. "It's all right," replied the rich, gracious voice from the bathroom... "Merry Christmas." "Same to you, Miss Zanova," I half-sobbed, dragging the mess and my ego out the door as fast as I could."

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

I'm All Ears: Chester Greenwood's Icy Invention

He owned a bicycle shop, was an accomplished machinist and a father of four. He patented a tea kettle and a machine used to produce wooden spools for wire and thread. He invented an umbrella holder, a mechanical mouse trap, a doughnut hook, a spark plug, a wide-bottom kettle and a folding bed. By the time of his death of July 5, 1937, he had over one hundred patents in his name... and the most famous of them all was invented while he was skating.

The son of Zina Hyde Greenwood and Emily Merrill Fellows, Chester Greenwood was born December 4, 1858 in Farmington, Maine. As a boy, he was always industrious. He walked door to door selling eggs from his family's laying hens and even made his own candies and sold them to friends. By the time he was a teenager, he had invented an ear protector which we know today as the earmuff.

The December 26, 1977 issue of "The Evening Independent" shared the story that has been made famous in Greenwood's hometown for years: "It happened back in the winter of 1873 when Chester was just a tall, lanky lad of 15. For Christmas he got a pair of skates - his first pair, and fancy ones at that. They had double blades and straps to keep them on his leather boots. The story in Farmington is that young Chester raced down to the pond to skate. His head was covered by a cap, his hands were warm in his mittens, and his toes were snug in thick wool socks. But alas, his ears - those delicate things - were bare. After just one whirl on the pond his ears began to freeze. They turned a chalky white. And then a brilliant red. Poor Chester could not take it and lit off for home... The next day he tried again - determined to use his new skates. He wrapped his ears in a good wool scarf and set off for the pond. But soon the wool began to itch. And itch. And Chester scratched. And scratched. Again young Chester could not take it and took off for home. But he was determined. He found some wire in the barn and twisted it into hoops. He found some patches of fur and got his grandmother to sew them on. And - voila - Chester Greenwood had earmuffs and could skate to his heart's content." This tale has become oral tradition in Farmington, embellished upon and altered endlessly to make good copy by 'serious journalists' over the years. His family attests the whole frostbite bit was a myth added for dramatic effect and that his ears were just "big and cold". The skating part, however? No folklore there at all.

After some tweaking of the invention, Greenwood applied for a patent. On March 13, 1877, the United States Patent Office awarded him patent number 188,292 for his "Improvement In Ear-Mufflers". In no time, a factory in his hometown produced tens of thousands of pairs of Greenwood Champion Ear Protectors. By 1886, a newspaper from as far away as Springfield, Illinois was raving that the invention was "in lively demand". His best customers? Postal workers. Through the factory, which operated twenty four hours a day in its heyday, Greenwood provided jobs for many local women. It was fitting, as Greenwood and his wife Isabel were staunch supporters of the women's suffrage movement.

By the time of his death, hundreds of thousands of Greenwood's ear-warming invention were being produced and were, of course, incredibly popular with skaters. Farmington became known as the earmuff capital of the world. Amusingly, in a December 20, 2002 interview in the "Bangor Daily News" descendant Sully Greenwood lamented, "We were never allowed to call them earmuffs. They're ear protectors, not muffs. Even the box says ear protectors. Now they call them muffs, muffs, muffs. Probably can't spell 'ear protectors.'"

In 1977 - one hundred years after Greenwood patented the ear muff - the Maine Legislature proclaimed that "December 21st of each year shall be designated as Chester Greenwood Day and the Governor shall annually issue a proclamation inviting and urging the people of the State of Maine to observe this day in suitable places with appropriate ceremony and activity. Chester Greenwood Day shall commemorate and honour Chester Greenwood, whose inventive genius and native ability, which contributed much to the enjoyment of Maine's winter season, marked him as one of Maine's outstanding citizens." The citizens of Farmington have celebrated Chester Greenwood Day over the years with parades, ice cream sculpting contests, look-alike contests, polar bear dips, speeches and skating parties sporting - you guessed it - earmuffs.

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

The 1965 North American Figure Skating Championships

Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine

From February 19 to 21, 1965, the top skaters from Canada and the United States convened in Rochester, New York for the 1965 North American Figure Skating Championships. Sponsored by the Genesee Figure Skating Club and the Rochester Jaycees, the biennal battle royale between two North American nations was recorded for a later, edited television broadcast, with commentary by none other than two time Olympic Gold Medallist Dick Button himself. School figures were contested at the Rochester Institute of Technology's Ritter-Clark Rink, with the compulsory short program for pairs, compulsory dances, free dance and finals in men's, women's and pairs skating held at the War Memorial Auditorium.

Lorna Dyer, Vivian Joseph and Kristin Fortune check in at their Rochester hotel

Capacity crowds of almost eight thousand turned up in chilly, below zero temperatures. Among those who came to watch the competition unfold were 1956 Olympic Gold Medallist Kurt Oppelt, 1960 Olympic Gold Medallist Bob Paul, 1956 Olympic Silver Medallists Frances Dafoe and Norris Bowden and 1960 Olympic Bronze Medallists Nancy and Ron Ludington. Two years previously at the 1963 North American Championships in Vancouver, Canadian skaters had swept all four disciplines. As American figure skaters struggled to reestablish themselves following the Sabena Crash only four years earlier, this event marked an important turning point in that resurgence. Let's take a look at how things played out in Rochester that year!

Left to right: John Carrell, Lorna Dyer, Petra Burka, Gary Visconti, Vivian Joseph and Ronald Joseph


Vivian and Ronald Joseph with their mother

Sibling pairs ruled the roost in Rochester in 1965. Compulsory short program winners, Vivian and Ronald Joseph of Highland Park, Illinois expanded their early lead with a difficult free skate and became the first American pair since Karol and Peter Kennedy in 1951 to claim the North American pairs title. Sixteen year old Cynthia Kauffman and her eighteen year old big brother Ronald claimed the silver. Two more sibling pairs, Susan and Paul Huehnergard and Alexis and Chris Shields - both from the Upper Canada Figure Skating Club - followed in third and fourth.

Alexis and Chris Shields. Photo courtesy Toronto Public Library, from Toronto Star Photographic Archive. Reproduced for educational purposes under license permission.

The only pairs who reversed their placements between the compulsory short program and free skate were the bottom two teams. Americans Joanne Heckart and Gary Clark edged Vancouver's Faye Strutt and Jim Watters for fifth place. Looking towards the upcoming World Championships, a pumped up Ronald Joseph, speaking on behalf of the entire U.S. team, told an Associated Press reporter, "We're going to Colorado Springs hoping to win some titles."


Lorna Dyer and John Carrell

In the compulsory dances, nineteen year old Lorna Dyer and eighteen year old John Carrell of Seattle took the lead with first place ordinals from all five judges. Twenty two year old Carole Forrest and twenty three old Kevin Lethbridge, the reigning Canadian Champions, stood a solid second. At the U.S. Championships in Lake Placid, Dyer and Carrell had controversially placed second behind a new teenage Californian pair, Kristin Fortune and Dennis Sveum, who had zero international experience. Both Dyer and Carrell and Fortune and Sveum shared a coach: World Champion Jean Westwood. In Rochester, Sveum slipped in the Fourteenstep and fell in the American Waltz. Had it not been for strong performances in the Kilian and Argentine Tango, they wouldn't have even been third in the compulsories. In her book "Figure Skating History: The Evolution Of Dance On Ice", Lynn Copley-Graves explained that in the free dance Dyer and Carrell "cemented their lead over the U.S. Champions with speed; security; difficult twizzles, including John's solo twizzle; and an intricate bracket sequence." Fortune and Sveum moved up to second, ahead of Forrest and Lethbridge. In the April 1965 issue of "Skating World", British author Muriel Kay remarked, "The Canadians were all very disappointing in the free, and it was surely the weakest Canadian team for several years. Choreographically and musically the programmes were poor, with too much second rate show style skating - and once again we were treated (!) to a variety of shoot-the-duck type movements, and much that makes a sad misnomer of the term 'artistic impression.' There seems to be a current fad for ending the programmes with the skaters virtually leaning against each other, as though the three and a half minutes had proved too exhausting for them for them to finish standing on their own two feet! Judging from some of the 'busy' efforts, this might have been the case!" Muriel, Muriel, Muriel... Ouch!  Buffalo's Susan and Stanley Urban finished fourth, ahead of Canadian Silver Medallists Lynn Matthews and Byron Topping of the Cricket Club and 1964 Canadian Junior Champions Gail Snyder and Wayne Palmer of the Granite Club.


Scotty Allen, Donald Knight and Gary Visconti

Throughout the course of the men's school figures, the top three skaters changed positions more than one of Donald Trump's campaign speeches. After the six figures were completed and the patches were vacated, Gary Visconti, a nineteen year old freshman at the Macomb Community College in Detroit, squeaked out a tiny lead ahead of seventeen year old Sheldon Galbraith student Donald Knight of Dundas and sixteen year old Scott Ethan Allen of Smoke Rise, New Jersey.

Visconti and Knight each had two first place votes, two seconds and a third from the judging panel. However, Visconti had 711.6 points to Knight's 701.3. Allen wasn't far behind, with one first place vote, one second and three thirds and 696.1 points. Occupying fourth through sixth places were twenty seven year old Dr. Charles Snelling (the oldest competitor in the event), Tim Wood and Jay Humphry.

Gary Visconti

Upping the ante with a more difficult free skate than he'd presented at the 1965 U.S. Championships in Lake Placid, Visconti put a hand down on a triple toe-loop attempt but earned 1273.6 points, just enough to edge his competitors for the gold medal. I spoke with Visconti in September 2016 about his memories of the event. "It's like it was ten years ago, but it's like it was two hundred years ago," he laughed. "I drew second to last or last to skate and it was a big arena. I did my warm-up and put my guards on and it wasn't security - not like it is now. So the boys ahead of me were skating and I didn't want to listen to their applause or whatever so I walked into the lobby, under the bleachers. They had a hot dog stand there. Oh my God, I was starving! So I went up, stood in line with my skates on, all ready to compete but I had three boys ahead of me. There were seven judges, fourteen marks and in those days, the programs were five minutes so it went on and on, about eight minutes a person. So I'm standing in line and I finally got up there and I said, 'I'd like a hot dog. I'm really hungry' and then they said 'Now ladies and gentleman, from the Detroit Skating Club, Gary Visconti!' I went 'oh damn! I've gotta compete!' So this AP (Associated Press) guy was behind me and he said 'Gary, they're calling your name' and I said 'I know!' He said, 'If you win, I'll buy you a hot dog.' So I walked up to the ice, which was very close, took my guards off and went out there. The whole time I was skating I was thinking 'God, I really want to get that hot dog!' It was the first time I put my triple toe-loop in and I put my hand down and I thought 'Oh God, I blew it' and then I said, 'It's okay, I've got a whole four minutes and fifty seconds to go. It's fine.'"

Knight and Allen flip-flopped their result from the figures with the Canadian Champion losing the coin toss. Snelling, the oldest competitor in the event, finished fourth but earned a prolonged ovation from the crowd for his polished performance. Detroit's Wood placed fifth with 1171.8 points and twenty four ordinals, ahead of sixteen year Humphry of Vancouver, who earned 1122.4 points and thirty ordinals. The sweep of the pairs, ice dance and men's titles in Rochester was incredibly significant in these marked the first international titles any American skaters had won since the Sabena Crash in 1961.


Petra Burka

Valerie Jones and Peggy Fleming

Two time U.S. Medallist Christine Haigler (Krall) of Colorado Springs withdrew prior to the women's event due to a tailbone injury. The reigning Olympic and World Bronze Medallist and two time Canadian Champion, eighteen year old Petra Burka of Toronto, Ontario, was considered a heavy favourite in the women's competition in Rochester. You can imagine the look on everyone's faces when they posted the scores for the school figures... and she was third! The winner, with nine ordinal placements and 691.9 points was two time U.S. Champion Peggy Fleming, a sixteen year old from Pasadena, California. Second place went to Burka's Canadian teammate, sixteen year old Valerie Jones, who earned twelve ordinals and 691.8 points to edge Burka with thirteen ordinals and 688.6 points. The competition couldn't have been closer, really. Two of the five judges placed Fleming first, while one apiece gave first place ordinals to Jones, Burka and seventeen year old Carol Noir of East Orange, New Jersey. After figures, East Orange, New Jersey's Tina Noyes sat fourth, followed by Noir, Toronto's Roberta Laurent and Gloria Ann Tatton and Myrna Bodeck of Oak Park, Michigan.

Gloria Ann Tatten and Gary Visconti

Despite her loss in the initial stage of the competition and the fact that figures counted for sixty percent of the overall result, many still considered Burka a heavy favourite to take the title. She not only met but exceeded their expectations, delivering one of the finest performances of her career: a clean program featuring three double Axels and two double Lutzes. Gone was the triple Salchow that had wowed audiences at the 1963 Canadian Championships at Toronto's Varsity Arena.

"We needed something to startle them. They all took notice when she landed it. Then we removed it from the program," explained her mother and coach Mrs. Ellen Burka in an interview with Pam Rimstead in "Weekend" magazine. In contrast, Fleming struggled, making three errors in her free skate including a fall on a double loop jump. Devastated with her performance, she was in tears afterwards when she told reporter Paul Pinckney, "I wanted to get up and do it over. But I just couldn't fit it into my program... If only I could have done it over... I just didn't skate well enough." Petra's performance was enough to drop a Fleming and Jones down to second and third. Laurent moved up to fourth and Tatton remained in seventh. Despite putting a wrench in the American winning streak in Rochester, Burka's free skate was simply that outstanding no one could argue with the result. In an interview in the "Democrat and Chronicle", she said, "I only hope I skate as well in the World Championships as I did in the North American. It is true that I did not call upon anything as spectacular as a triple jump. I did not plan it in my program. If I had, who knows? Maybe I would not have done as well. The girls I skated against, Peggy and the rest, were all wonderful. You never can be sure in such competition as this. I am very happy that I finished first, of course, but one slip... and who knows?"

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

A Little Look At Lifts

Rosemary Stewart and Bob Dench

Although we have certainly explored a wide range of topics in figure skating history to this point, it seems like pairs skating often gets the short end of the stick. I wanted to rectify that today by taking a little look into the early history of lifts in pairs skating.

In his 1959 book "Ice-Skating: A History", figure skating historian Nigel Brown noted that "pair-skating which had been originally recognized by the International Skating Union in 1908 when the first World Championships in that event was staged in St. Petersburg, continued to be practiced for the next fifteen years along the classic lines of its inception. Three schools of influence combined in designing the classic expression of pair-skating at the beginning of the century. The English school which very early furnished world champions in this branch emphasized a pleasing choreographic structure of programme executed with a certain technical precision. The Viennese school which introduced spirals and spins into pair programmes concentrated on dance steps, speedily and gracefully executed. The German school whose representatives captured the first world pair title gave full expression to the movement of limbs producing a theatrical effect." The introductions of 'field figures' (each partner performing the same school figures far apart) and shadow skating by T.D. and Mildred Richardson, were both first met with opposition but became important components of early pairs skating programs.

Lilly Scholz and Otto Kaiser

Early forays in adding lifts to programs by The Brunet's and Lily Scholz and Otto Kaiser (a weightlifter) were met with the same controversy shadow skating once received. Brown noted that "lifts were received with mixed feelings and regarded with distaste by many. Some looked upon lifts as acrobatics which did not belong to pure skating. There certainly was a crudity about them when first introduced, but no medium could be more adapted for expressing aerial grace than skating."
Photo courtesy "National Ice Skating Guide"

1936 Olympian Rosemarie Stewart and her husband Robert Dench, who emigrated from Great Britain to California in 1940 and became stars of the Ice Capades, penned a 1943 book called "Pair Skating And Dancing On Ice". It is one of the earliest books that offers any sort of concise glimpse into which elements pairs teams were including in their programs during this era. Stewart and Dench offer a clear distinction between lifts and carries: "For a lift, the man raises his partner from the ice, turning her with a continuous movement in the air, and places her back on the ice; for a carry, he picks up his partner from the ice and holds her in the air as long as he wishes before setting her down. The former is a continuous movement; the latter is sustained... Carries are not allowed in competition, as they are considered 'strong-man stuff.' You should therefore reserve them for exhibitions, and only use lifts in your competitive program."

Rosemary Stewart and Bob Dench

Lifts described by Stewart and Dench are the Flying Three Jump Lift, The Deer Lift and their own variation The Dench Deer Lift, The Loop Lift, The Half-Turn Split Lift and The Stewart Split Lift. I want to focus particularly on the latter, as it offers some insight into the origin of the twist lift. Whereas the description of The Half-Turn Split Lift describes skaters skating face to face and the woman picking the toe of her free leg into the ice behind and jumping up into an assisted split position as the man lifts her, The Stewart Split Lift is describes thusly: "The full-turn split lift was originated by Miss Stewart before the last Olympic Games when she was skating with Mr. Ernest Yates of England. It starts like the split lift, just described, but then both skaters make a complete revolution instead of a half-turn. The lady finishes on her backward-inside edge; the man on his forward inside. Both then take up a horizontal spiral position... The lady must prepare for her jump exactly as she would for a solo split jump. As she jumps, the man makes the lift and at the same time starts the turn." Aside from spectacular carries that Stewart and Dench would have included in their professional programs, many of the lifts they described would be more along the lines of what we see in ice dancing these days, and the ISU didn't help in terms of really firmly clarifying its stance on lifts during that era.

Resolutions of the 1937 ISU Congress in St. Moritz pertaining to what pairs could and couldn't perform in competition were surprisingly vague: "Pair skating is the free skating of two persons, who must skate figures giving a homogeneous (uniform) impression of both. Both partners need not always perform the same movements. They may separate from time to time, but they must give an impression of unison and harmonious competition. No figures are permissible in which one of the skaters, by the effort of the other, is lifted above the surface of the ice for a considerable time [such as in a carry]; jumps are raising and lowering one partner by means of a swing, are not allowed. [This obviously means trick movements]."

Although The Brunet's made strides with the introduction of the first one-handed lift in amateur competition during their time at the top, it wouldn't be until the fifties that Frances Dafoe and Norris Bowden would introduce the first true lasso and twist lifts into the skating vocabulary. Dafoe and Bowden are also credited as originators of both throw jumps and the Leap Of Faith, whereas Maxi Herber and Ernst Baier are noted for introducing side-by-side jumps to the repertoire of elements pairs performed. Without getting into a timeline of who invented what lift - when, where and why - I do want to stress that what has made the development of the elements in pairs skating so particularly unique is that innovation has remained continuous. In singles skating, you have six set jumps that most skaters include in their programs. In pairs skating, innovation in lifts is constant as rules perpetually change. Lifts have come a long way, baby... and they will continue to for years to come.

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

The Little Bear Skating Test

If the name Grindelwald sounds familiar to you, there's good reason. Back in "The Mecca Of Skating: Switzerland's Skating Craze", we learned of the Grindelwald Winter Resort and Skating Club from none other than Olympic Medallists Madge and Edgar Syers. Today, we'll return to Switzerland at the turn of the century for a look at an unique custom of this Swiss skating club, The Little Bear Skating Test.

On Tuesday mornings at the club skaters would form a giant horseshoe and in the center, skaters courageous enough to face a panel of three judges (armed with paper and pen) would perform school figures in the English Style in a formal test surrounded by their peers. No pressure, right? In 1903, Daniel Pomeroy Rhodes penned a "A Pleasure-book of Grindelwald". He explained that when each skater had "negotiated to the best of his ability all four edges and some simple 3's and 8's, this first skater is ordered out of the arena and is succeeded by a second... who is put through the same ordeal. Yet these trials are elective, and the object of them is this. After all candidates of the day have been on the ice, the judges inform each one among them who has fulfilled the traditional requirements of the test that he may go to one of the village shops and buy for the sum of three francs a brooch, with a tiny silver bear dangling from it, which may be worn for all time to come, and people will say 'He has his Little Bear,' and treat him with considerable respect."

The Little Bear Skating Test was the Grindelwald Skating Club's highest honour and was strictly reserved for English Style skaters. Continental Style skaters who made their way to the Grindelwald were given a chilly reception and wouldn't have even been welcome to take the test, let alone meet the criteria of the judges. Although Tuesday's for whatever reason were usually the day the test was held, if any skater was daring enough to wish to take the test, accommodations would be made regardless of the day of the week. Few passed.

Why a Little Bear? The hotel that visiting British skaters often stayed at in Grindelwald, according to Theodore Cornish in an address read before The Alpine Club on May 6, 1890, was called (you guessed it!) The Bear. These British guests organized their own amusements committees and ultimately, the Grindelwald Skating Club was formed not long after the Bear opened in 1888. The use of pins, badges and other adornment as a symbol of one's skating accomplishments could be a blog post in itself certainly. Long before the International Skating Union was even considered, top skaters in Great Britain and North America were certainly well decorated. I must say though... this test in particular bears a certain charm. Go ahead, groan. You know you want to. 

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

Patinage Poetry: The Language Of The Ice (Part Cinq)

How doth I love skating? Let me count the ways... Just prior to the Sochi Olympics, I put together the blog's first collection of poetry about skating called "Patinage Poetry: The Language Of The Ice". The topic of skating poetry has recurred often on the blog, in "Georg Heym: The Skating Prophet" and "Canada's Valentine" and the second, third and fourth editions of "Patinage Poetry". Guess what? I just can't get enough! The fifth part of this collection is jam packed full of wonderful gems from Williams Haynes and Joseph LeRoy Harrison's 1919 collection "Winter Sports Verse". Put on your beret and get ready to snap afterwards for another fabulous collection of historical skating poetry.


Above the frozen floods
Gay feet keep time,
Steel-shod, their measures beat
Insistent rhyme.
No cares oppress the hearts,
Glad youth makes light;
The winter skies and happy eyes
Alike are bright.

Shores where the summer waves
Have whispered low,
Echo the skaters' song,
As to and fro
Glide flitting forms,
And watch-fires glow
Leaps into frosty air
And crimsons snow.

Fly, skaters, with wing'd feet!
The night wears on;
Be your stroke ne'er so fleet,
Night soon is gone.
With morning's dawn, the fires
In ashes lie,
And mountains keep their ward
Silently by.


When the wan white moon in the skies feels chilly,
And wraps her round with a rifting cloud;
When the poplar stands like a monster lily,
That swings and sways in a silvern shroud;
When you don't get up with the lark at dawning,
But snooze and slumber till twelve instead,
And vow by the fire in the evening yawning,
'Tis really too chilly to go to bed;
Sing Tan-tarra-ti,
A-skating we hie,
Where good ice bends 'neath a frosty sky.

There are tiny waists you may put your arm round
(Don't attempt it on land that 's all!),
And white warm hands you may clasp till charm-bound,
(Just in case they should chance to fall);
There are tresses trailing and bright eyes glowing,
Lips that laugh when you lend a hand,
And dainty ankles they can't help showing
(Quite by accident understand!),
Sing Tan-tarra-ti,
A-skating we hie,
The jolliest sport in the world, say I!

As a yacht that bends with the wind's wild wooing,
And dips white wings in the waves that swirl,
We bound and bend with a glad hallooing,
We curve and circle and wheel and whirl:
As a ship that sweeps with her wet sail swinging
When storms are spent past the harbor bar,
We glide erect then, with good steel ringing,
We skim like swallow or shoot like star.
Sing Tan-tarra-ti,
A-skating we hie,
Like curlew winging we wheel or fly.

You may chant of cricket and tell of tennis,
Or yarn of yachts, till you both get warm;
You may talk of travel, and Borne and Venice,
And brag of boating or croquet's charm;
But summer has gone, and, with all your prating,
The grapes are sour, for they hang too high:
So hurrah for winter, hurrah for skating,
The jolliest sport in the world, say I!
Sing Tan-tarra-ti,
A-skating we hie,
With the good steel ringing like wind we fly.


Along the ice I see her fly
With moonlight tresses blown awry
And floating from her twinkling feet
Are wafted sounds as silvery sweet
As April winds when May is nigh.

Is it a Naiad coy and shy?
Or can it be the Lorelei
Who lures me with her rare deceit?
Is it the hour for magic meet;
Resist the spell, 'twere vain to try.

Her beauty thrills the earth and sky
From glowing cheek and flashing eye;
And so she wanders fair and fleet
The spangled branches bend to greet
And wave a kiss as she goes by.


Myriads of icy diamonds flash
In the air so bright and pure,
Quivering and dancing in cold Luna's beams,
Floating and rushing In miniature streams,
In the air so bright and pure.

The glittering ice is a silvery sheet;
Arched by the star-sprinkled sky;
And over the crystalline surface we glide
With a proud, manly figure close by our side,
Arched by the star-sprinkled sky.

The river winds past dense-wooded hills,
On which the moonbeams glimmer;
And, waved aloft by the evening breeze,
Are the boughs of the grey and leafless trees,
" On which the moonbeams glimmer.

Skating o'er adamantine ice,
While fingers so warm clasp our hands,
We heed not tho chill, dark waves beneath,
Nor shiver with vague horrors of death,
While fingers so warm clasp our hands.


Beneath her skates the curved steel bars
Seemed like two naked scimitars
That gleam about the sandals in
The sword dance of the Bedouin.
And all around her flying feet
The ice mist flew uncreasingly,
As free she was and full of fleet
As sea-gulls skimming o'er the sea.
It was the sea in different guise.
Like Mercury she wore her wings,
And deep within her fearless eyes,
There lived the soul of flying things.


What if the air has a nipping tooth!
Our hearts beat high with the blood of youth,
And a crystal sheet, unmarred, awaits
The silver ring of our flashing skates.
The peaks are white; the sky is blue;
All that the landscape lacks is YOU!

The ice is clear; the winds are still;
So if you'll come, as I pray you will,
The frosted pines of the mountainside
Shall watch us swing and dart and glide
Over the lake with the moon above,
Your small hand warm in my big brown glove!

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

The 1982 British Figure Skating And Ice Dancing Championships

The Iron Lady ruled the roost, the newspapers were dominated by headlines about The Falklands War, "Come On Eileen" by Dexy's Midnight Runners topped the music charts and Prince William was born. The year was 1982, the place was Jolly Ol' England and the winter sport everyone was clambering to watch was figure skating. The British Ice Dance Championships and British Figure Skating Championships, held within weeks of each other in November and December of that year in Nottingham and Solihull respectively, were full of interesting stories worth revisiting. Hop in the time machine and take a look back at these exciting events with me, won't you?


Great Britain's best singles and pairs skaters gathered in Solihull, England from December 1-2, 1982 for the first British Championships in fifteen years not held at the Richmond Ice Rink.

After winning three senior pairs titles with Robert Daw, Susan Garland claimed her fourth British title in 1981 in Richmond with new partner Ian Jenkins. She made it five in a row in 1982, breezing through challenging lifts and throws to defeat Lisa and Neil Cushley and Maxine Hague and Andrew Naylor. Siblings Carol and Carl Nelson, who had been the runners-up in 1982, were forced to withdraw when Carl injured his hip during practices for the event.

Mark Pepperday easily defended his senior men's title in Solihull with one of the best performances of his career, landing four triples - two Salchows and two toe-loops - in his winning free skate. Paul Robinson finished second and Neil Cushley, who was doing double duty competing with his sister in the pairs event, settled for third. Rounding out the field of five were Stephen Morris and Jonathon Levers.

No less than fifteen entries vied for the women's crown in Solihull in 1982. It would have been seventeen, but Fiona McKenzie withdrew and Toronto based Diana Rankin, the previous year's bronze medallist, was unable to compete due to a foot injury. Speaking of injuries... despite a bad knee Karen Wood, a student of Keith Kelley, utterly dominated the women's competition from start to finish, landing a triple Salchow and triple toe-loop in her winning free skate. "It was all systems go!" she proclaimed. Despite finishing second in the free skate with two triple toe-loops of her own, Susan-Ann Jackson had to settle for bronze, owing to a fourth place finish in the school figures. A strong second place finish in the figures was just the head start that Alison Southwood needed to hang on for silver.


In the heart of Torvill and Dean country, in the midst of Torvill and Dean mania, eight of Great Britain's best ice dance teams - including Torvill and Dean - gathered at the Nottingham Ice Rink for the 1982 British Ice Dance Championships, held on November 19, 1982. It was a marathon of a competition, with each couple performing no less than five times... in one evening! Jayne and Chris were the only leading couple that year who had not competed internationally prior to the event and their debut of their new OSP to music from Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Song And Dance" and "Barnum" free dance inspired by the London Palladium musical were eagerly anticipated. To keep an element of suspense, the defending World Champions hadn't even shown "Barnum" during practices at the event, letting the music run through when it came on. Their strategy paid off. They received two perfect 6.0's in the OSP; and 5.9's across the board in both sets of marks with the exception of one 6.0 for artistic impression in the free dance.

Karen Barber and Nicky Slater, who had finished second at St. Ivel that September, were outstanding in their "Great Balls Of Fire" OSP and dramatic samba, rhumba, Paso Doble and "Malaguena" free dance, but despite drawing last to skate in the free dance they again remained in Torvill and Dean's shadow.  Wendy Sessions and Stephen Williams took the bronze ahead of Karen Roughton and Mark Rood, Sharon Jones and Paul Askham and three other teams.

Despite the excitement of Torvill and Dean's impressive victory in front of a home audience, the real drama in Nottingham was off the ice. The competition was sponsored by Sovereign Furs and in response, anti-fur protesters had camped out at the rink to stage a rowdy opposition. Judges and spectators alike stowed their fancy coats away in dressing rooms to avoid the protester's wrath.

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

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