The Best Of 2017: 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 2018! To cap off what has certainly been in an interesting year in the world to say the very least, 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 some of these yet, make the time... they're honestly just fascinating tales!


Dennis Coi was an extremely unique Canadian skater who claimed the World junior title in the late seventies. Tragically, he passed away at age twenty six in September of 1987, making him one of the very first figure skaters to succumb to HIV/AIDS. Learn more about his story in this July 2017 blog.


From errant toupees to the infamous Dorothy Hamill wedge, figure skating hair-storyis a lot more fascinating a topic than you might think. Even if you enjoyed getting back to skating hair's roots the first time, you might want to go back for a touch up. You can find this January 2017 blog here.


Walter Jakobsson met Ludovika Eilers in the spring of 1908 in Berlin. Three years later, the couple tied the knot and in 1920, they claimed the gold medal at the Summer Olympic Games in Antwerp, Germany. To this day, they are the only skaters from Finland to win Olympic gold. Learn more about their story in this January 2017 blog.


Though she won twenty medals at the Canadian Championships and a North American title, Canada's Veronica Clarke - a.k.a. Biddy Bonnycastle - has received little attention historically. After connecting with her daughter Hilary Bruun and son Angus Bonnycastle, I had the opportunity to share her fascinating story on Skate Guard in August 2017.


Mexico isn't just a paradise of cervesas in the sunshine... it is a country with a surprisingly unique figure skating history. In April 2017, I delved into this very topic!


The figure skating world has said goodbye to a host of legendary skaters in 2017, but one of the most heartbreaking was the loss of two time Olympic Gold Medallist and four time World Champion Ludmila (Belousova) Protopopov. In September 2017, I explored the fascinating story of Ludmila's defection from the Soviet Union and shared a long lost interview she and Oleg did with sports correspondent Gererd Zelensky.


Without a doubt, my favourite edition of Skate Guard's monthly #Unearthed series in 2017 was The Crystal Ball. It consisted of a poem from 1968 and an article from 1972, both penned by skaters who were envisioning the future of the sport. The piece was released just days before Hallowe'en, when many skating fans were caught up in the drama of Skate Canada International. If you missed this one, you definitely want to make the time to check it out.


Gladys Hogg, a feisty fencing instructor and ice dance coach from London, England, was easily one of my personal favourite skating personalities to research. You can learn more about her story in this August 2017 blog.


There's as much misinformation out there about spins as there is glorified obsession with jumps. In May 2017, I broke down many of aspects of the history and evolution of spinning on Skate Guard.


In June 2017, I released my most ambitious writing project to date - a full length biography of British figure skater, dancer and actress Belita Jepson-Turner. A unique and underappreciated talent, Belita is one skater whose story was absolutely worth revisiting. If you haven't given it a read yet, now's the time!

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 1937 U.S. Figure Skating Championships

Robin Lee and Maribel Vinson. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine.

Held on February 12 and 13, 1937, the 1937 U.S. Figure Skating Championships were a competition full of firsts and lasts. The event marked the first time in history that the U.S. Championships were held away from the Eastern seaboard and the first time that the Open Marking System was used at a national level in the United States. It was also the first time that skaters from the St. Moritz Ice Skating Club in California competed at Nationals. The event also marked the last official duty of longtime USFSA President Charlie Morgan Rotch before the torch was passed on to his successor Joseph K. Savage as well as the final time Maribel Vinson, perennial champion in both women's and pairs skating, would compete at the U.S. Championships.

The Championships were hosted under the auspices of the Chicago Figure Skating Club in the brand new Chicago Arena on East Erie Street and McClurg Court, which opened its doors less than a month before the competition in a building previously occupied by the Chicago Riding Club. In 1946, Roy W. McDaniel reminisced, "An interesting sidelight is the fact that the 1937 National Championships, the first Nationals to be held west of the Alleghenies, were held in the arena within a month after its opening. Mr. [Harry] Radix had attended the 1936 Fall Meeting of the USFSA Executive Committee and had come away with the sanction for the Championships to be held in a rink not then in existence!" At the time, Radix was the Chicago Figure Skating Club's President. In the March 1937 issue of "Skating" magazine, Margaretta Spence Drake remarked, "For a city with as little knowledge and experience of the technique of figure skating as has Chicago, the reaction and interest of both public were most gratifying... The press, for its part, both in quantity and quality of notice given to the competition, showed a sympathetic interest and intelligent appreciation of the sport." To gain a picture about what all the fuss was about, I've sifted through the coverage of that sympathetic press to bring you the stories of the best and the rest from this historic competition.


Dorothy Snell. Photo courtesy the Minnesota Historical Society. Used with permission.

In 1937, no novice pairs or ice dance competitions existed, nor did a junior ice dance event. In fact, Silver Dances - which were later used in national level junior ice dance competitions in the States - were skated by the seniors. In the novice men's competition, Robert Scott of the Oakland Figure Skating Club (one of only four California entries) gave one of the most raved about performances of the event period to claim gold ahead of Michael Driscoll of Boston and Dwight Parkinson of Dartmouth. Philadelphia's Arthur Vaughn, Jr. finished fourth and turned thirteen the next day.

Thirteen year old Marcia Zieget of the Philadelphia Skating Club and Humane Society took the novice women's title ahead of a pair of young women from St. Paul, Dorothy Snell and Shirley Bowman. In the junior women's event, Joan Tozzer of Boston defeated Frances Johnson and Jane Vaughn to take top honours. Ollie Haupt Jr. of St. Louis won the junior men's title ahead of Californian Eugene Turner and Minneapolis' Gene Riechel. Victorious in the junior pairs event were Ardelia Kloss and Roland Janson, representing the Skating Club Of New York. There was a kerfuffle surrounding who came second and third. Initially, it was announced that Detroit's Helen Barrett and Ted Harper had finished only mere decimal points behind Kloss and Janson, but after a judge's meeting, they were actually dropped to third behind Mr. and Mrs. Eduardo Hellmund of Chicago. Yes, Mr. and Mrs. Don't forget, back in those days what category you were in had nothing to do with your age and everything to do with your ability.


Joan Tozzer and Bernard Fox (left) and Maribel Vinson and Geddy Hill (right)

Bostonian duos swept the senior pairs podium. Maribel Vinson and Geddy Hill took the gold ahead of Grace and Jimmie Madden and Joan Tozzer and Bernard Fox. A fourth Boston pair, Polly Blodgett and Roger Turner, failed to place. There were some rumblings about the entry of Nellie Prantel and Harold Hartshorne of the Skating Club Of New York in the senior ice dance competition. Hartshorne was the Chairperson of the USFSA Dance Committee at the same time, thus held a little more clout than some of his competitors. Nevertheless, Prantel and Hartshorne lead the way in an all New Yorker podium ahead of Marjorie Parker and Joseph K. Savage and Ardelle Kloss and Roland Janson, the junior pairs champions. They were the unanimous choice of the judges.


Maribel Vinson. Courtesy of the Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection. Used with permission.

As mentioned earlier, this event marked the final U.S. Championships for Maribel Vinson, who had eight times before claimed the U.S. senior women's title. Even more than usual, she was really in a class by herself. Her only perceived threat came from her Boston training mate Polly Blodgett, but the Chicago crowd rooted for one of its own. Despite putting the pedal to the medal and spending extra time practicing her figures, Nancy Meyer, the daughter of local doctor Karl Meyer, was of no match for her more experienced rivals. Maribel took a hefty lead in the figures, with Blodgett second and Katherine Durbrow of New York third. Dressed fittingly in gold for her free skating performance, Maribel was miles ahead of her competitors, securing her ninth and final senior women's title with a score of 998.6 to Blodgett's 934.3 and Durbrow's 911.5.


Robin Lee (left) and Erle Reiter (right, photo courtesy Minnesota Historical Society)

Seventeen year old Robin Lee of the St. Paul Figure Skating Club had a slow start to his season, but won the Midwestern title in Kansas City prior to coming to Chicago. Twenty year old Erle Reiter of The Skating Club Of New York was a late entry and his only real threat. Lee took a slight lead over Reiter in the figures but trounced him in the free skate to retain his title. The only other competitor, fifty three year old William Nagle of the Manhattan Figure Skating Club took the bronze medal.

Covering the event in the February 14, 1937 issue of "The Chicago Tribune", Charles Bartlett wrote that Lee tried the Salchow jump "twice and not only succeeded but doubled the turn on both occasions, a rare feat even among his elders. Reiter followed him on the expansive arena surface, and came through with what the figure skating bible records as a Lutz one and a half. This is a complex manoeuvre which calls for the combined talents of a trapezist, tight rope dancer, and six day bike rider, but it did not rank with Master Lee's Salchow effort. The judges' huddle verified this by giving Lee a total of 977.09 points for the two days of school and free skating, against Reiter's 964.92. No official tabulation was recorded for Old Mr. Nagle."

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 Wondrous Tales Of McDonald, Wolfskill And Whitton

Back in September of 2015, the fabulous Allison Manley and I decided to try something a little different and join forces for a special six-part podcast series called Axels In The Attic. One of the incredible stories we explored was the career of Norman A. Falkner, a Saskatchewan skater who achieved more success with one leg than he ever did with two. Today, we will meet three incredible men who skated... with not one but two artificial legs!


Mamaroneck resident James McDonald was something of a phenomenon in Westchester County, New York during the Victorian era. After having both legs amputated below the knees, he learned to 'fancy' skate on crude rubber prosthetic legs fashioned by the A.A. Marks Company. In a December 20, 1887 letter penned to Marks published in the 1894 book "A treatise on Marks' patent artificial limbs with rubber hands and feet", James wrote, "Over twelve years ago I met with the misfortune of having both my legs crushed by the railroad cars, which necessitated amputation below the knees. I was then a mere lad, and did not fully realize the gravity of my misfortune. By the advice of my surgeons and my many advisers, I placed myself under your care for restoration. Your reputation as the one most competent in the land had so impressed me that, from the first, I felt that I was soon to realize the most that skill and ingenuity could possibly do for me. In this I have not been disappointed, for your labours have restored me to my feet, and I am, for all practical purposes, myself again. I well remember how proud I was when your genius placed me in a position in which I could indulge in youthful sports, how I availed myself of every advantage, playing ball, boating, fishing, and hunting in summer, and skating in winter. I even went so far as to swing my partner, on several occasions, in rural dances. I became quite an expert on the skates, and relished the applause my antics on the ice would excite. I have always felt that your artificial legs were wonders, and ought to be known throughout the land... I shall be only too happy to commend your rubber feet, and will do all I can to encourage their sale, believing, as I do, that they are incomparable."


Born in 1882 in Reading, Pennsylvania, Allen Wolfskill was a machinist by trade until he suffered an untimely accident at the Reading Railroad... yes, the same one in the game Monopoly. The March 20, 1904 issue of "The Reading Eagle" reported, "He lost his limbs on the Reading Road near the Poplar Neck bridge 3 years ago last November. He fell under the caboose. He picked himself up and tied up the wounds the best he could with his handkerchief. Then he called for a farmer who was working in a field near by. This man brought him to St. Joseph's Hospital in a spring wagon. Both legs had to be amputated - the left 11 inches below the knee and the right 7 inches below. He displayed great fortitude at the hospital and wanted the physicians to amputate the legs without administering ether. This was impossible, however. After the operation he sat up in bed and in 5 days was wheeling about in an invalid chair. He left the hospital after being there but 4 weeks. The day he secured his artificial limbs he walked from the factory to Philadelphia Terminal and from the Franklin St. depot to his home." Following his accident, Allen briefly operated a cigar store and pool room before taking up a job with the Philadelphia firm who made his artificial limbs. He gave demonstrations on both a bicycle and on roller skates at the 1904 St. Louis Exposition and worked as a travelling salesman for the firm before opening his own thriving business manufacturing artificial limbs. By all accounts a very adept 'fancy' figure skater, he regularly drew crowds of astonished admirers in the early twentieth century at Sweeny's Dam and other popular Reading skating ponds. He married twice, had two children and passed away in 1965.


Photo courtesy "Ice Skate" magazine

Hailing from London, England, Harry Whitton lost a leg at the age of eight due to what was termed in the fifties as infantile paralysis or polio. He learned to skate with one artificial leg just before World War II broke out. In 1948, an ulcer necessitated the amputation of his other leg at the knee. Within a year, he was on the ice at Queen's Ice Club with two prosthetic limbs fashioned out of straps and metal, practicing dances with his instructor Ivy Gale. In his book "This Skating Age", sportswriter Howard Bass raved, "Quite the most remarkable, almost incredible case of surmounting physical handicaps to skate is that of a Londoner, Harry Whitton, who has actually passed a preliminary ice dance test without any feet! Yes, this is literally true. After having below-knee amputations in each leg, Harry miraculously perservered with two artificial limbs and, for this, will forever retain my unceasing admiration." Harry skated well into his fifties and also skied every winter at resorts in Switzerland in Norway. Asked by Bass if he was ever daunted, Whitton replied wryly, "Frightened? Why should I be? I have less to worry about than [others]. If I fall, I have no ankles to break."

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":

Egley's Christmas Card

However you celebrate the holiday season, chances are you've either sent or received a Christmas card at least once in your life. What you may not know is that the story of the very first Christmas cards and skating are intrinsically linked.

The first known Christmas card was created in 1843, the very same year Charles Dickens published "A Christmas Carol". Its creator, Henry Cole, printed one thousand copies under his pseudonym Felix Summerly. Sold in the Juvenilia shop The Home Treasury Office for a shilling each, the novel cards were lithographically printed and hand coloured. Unfortunately, Cole - or Summerly's - cards were criticized by stoic members of the Temperance Movement, who found it all a little too jolly and festive for their liking. To add insult to injury, for many years Cole wasn't given credit for his historical 'first'.

Henry Cole's Christmas card

For much of the twentieth century, sixteen year old British engraver's apprentice William Maw Egley Jr. was incorrectly attributed as the 'father of the Christmas card' because the date on the an etched Christmas card he devised, which read "Merry Christmas And A Happy New Year To You", appeared to be 1842. Upon closer inspection by historians, it was agreed that the date was actually 1848. Though Egley's card didn't enjoy commercial success as he never bothered to colourize it, it did have one fascinating element to it... a depiction of top-hatted skaters wearing Dutch style skates with curly toes. One skater, who'd perhaps indulged in a little too much holiday cheer, appeared to have taken a tumble.

William Maw Egley's Christmas card. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Used for educational purposes per license agreement.

Egley's Christmas card came out during the first twenty years of The Skating Club's existence in London, just three years before Henry Eugene Vandervell saw the first 'reverse Q' figure performed on a pond at Blackheath. Interestingly, Egley's card only came to light in 1931, when a Miss F.L. Cannan presented a collection of skating prints and drawings to The British Museum.

The timing of his Christmas card - during an early boom of skating popularity in London - no doubt only helped spread the message that skating was one of the most joyful holiday activities one could partake in.

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 Bellwether From Bezirk: The Demeter Diamantidi Story

"Although jumps on the ice are not part of figure skating, they result from practical need: in increasing coldness, there appear wide gaps on extensive ice-areas that can be surmounted by jumps." - Demeter Diamantidi

In nineteenth century Austria, Johann Strauss II composed more than five hundred pieces of stunning music and popularized the waltz. Quietly in the backdrop of Strauss' sweeping "Blue Danube" was another trailblazer who the history books have largely forgotten. That man was Demeter Diamantidi.
He was born on March 20, 1839 in Hietzing - the heartland of Strauss' "Vienna Woods" - and at the age of twenty one, he enrolled to study at the prestigious Akademie der bildenden Künste. Young Demeter's interests were varied - he excelled at everything from painting to chess - but his education in the arts almost seemed unnecessary in light of his later accomplishments.

An avid skater, Demeter was part of a group of men who founded the Wiener Eislaufverein on February 7, 1867. Later that year, he was one of three thousand in attendance when Jackson Haines made his Viennese debut following his performances in England and Russia. Demeter and his wife Elisabeth were absolutely enchanted by Haines' performances. He was fortunate enough to be one of many Austrian skaters whom Haines schooled in the art. Although he was no Haines, Franz Biberhofer (a contemporary of Diamantidi) described Demeter as an "excellent sportsman" in his own right. Haines' teachings inspired a lifelong passion for the ice, which he passed on to his son Alexander.

Special figure of Demeter Diamantidi's design

Although the ice was his first love, Demeter's biggest claims to fame came in other winter pursuits. Like Lottie Dod, he was an aficionado of mountain climbing. A member of the Austrian Alpine Club, he climbed his first mountain - the Sass de Mura in the Italian Dolomites - in early 1881. Later that year, led by Michel and Johann Innerkofler, he climbed all three peaks of the Tre Cime di Lavaredo in the Alps... on the same day: August 31, 1881. In the 1895 Journal of the German and Austrian Alpine Association, more experienced Michel Innerkofler described the ascents with Demeter as "eminently difficult." Never electing to climb without a guide, Demeter later climbed the Schneeberg in Lower Austria, the Rax-Schneeberg Group in the Northern Limestone Alps and the Agglsspitze in South Tyrol. The first to ascend the north face of Latemar Mountain in the Dolomites, it was later renamed Diamantiditurm in his honour. To top it all off, Demeter popularized skiing in the city of Vienna in the 1870's.

Demeter Diamantidi skating with the Countess of Mensdorff-Pouilly

Demeter's alpine pursuits didn't deter him from making his most important contributions to the skating world. The same year he climbed his first mountain, he teamed up with Dr. Karl Korper von Marienwert and Max Wirth to write and illustrate the German language skating book "Spuren auf dem Eise: die Entwicklung des Eislaufes auf der Bahn des Wiener Eislauf-Vereines".

Not only did the book praise Jackson Haines highly, but it also offered a sense of organization to the skaters of the Wiener Eislaufverein at the time. The authors were strong believers in skaters mastering a system - ie. the basics - before indulging in skating as an art. Their 'system' inspired, according to World Champion Gilbert Fuchs, 'the Wiener Programm'. I don't know about you, but all this talk of Wiener is making me want a hot dog real bad. The 1882 Great International Skating Tournament? Not only did Diamantidi have a hand in the planning, he had a hand in the rules. He even put his skills as an artist to use to create a beautiful painting of the ice rink of Großmarkthalle in Frankfurt.

Active politically from 1884, Demeter represented the Liberals in the Vienna City Council for five years... and wasn't without controversy. In December 1888, he was fined one thousand Gulden for ignoring a summons to appear in court for a civil court to face charges for libel that were levelled by soon-to-be Viennese Mayor Dr. Johann Nepomuk Prix. The charges were the result of what Austrian newspapers at the time referred to as an "embarassing scene" on the tramway. Amusingly, both Demeter and Dr. Prix were representatives of the Viennese district named Bezirk at the time. Demeter ultimately paid his fine and kept on skating the outside edges he so admired and climbing every mountain.

Like father, like son, Alexander Diamantidi was no slouch. He ran a highly successful Viennese sawmill, pulp and paper mill, won bicycle races with the Wiener Bicycle Club and created his own ice dance pattern, Die Alexander-Rebe, which was described in the second edition of "Spuren auf dem Eise" in 1892. Not to be upstaged by his son, Demeter continued to skate and climb mountains in the Western Alps until he passed away in Vienna at the age of fifty three in 1893, less than two years after his beloved wife who passed away on Christmas Day, 1891.

I think skating historian Nigel Brown said it best when he commented that Demeter's book "was a great contribution to the science of skating, for in it was drafted the international style, evolved by the Vienna school, and it set the skating world a standard. At that stage it was not technically perfect, but the model was set and it was the right one. Its continued inspiring influence and notable contributions made between 1881 and the outbreak of the Second World War represents a very large part of the evolution of the modern skating story. It was Vienna that inspired, and in a way this Vienna school is the most enduring monument of Jackson Haines." Nigel Brown's keen observations aside, it is kind of inconceivable to me that the incredible contributions to skating and society of this man have gone largely forgotten. And so will the stories of those who finished seventh and eighth at the Grand Prix of Whatever Country Floats Your Boat in one hundred years time... and that's precisely why keeping skating's history alive is important.

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":

Get Buck In Here: The Angelika and Erich Buck Story

Born May 9, 1950 and January 5, 1949, Angelika and Erich Buck were the children of a business equipment manufacturer. They grew up in Weingarten (Württemberg) in West Germany's Ravensburg district and starting skating in 1958. While attending high school, the young skaters showed great promise. They made their international debut as an ice dance team representing ERV Ravensburg in April 1964, finishing third at Grand Prix de Villars behind Gabriele Rauch and Rudi Matysik and France's Brigitte Martin and Francis Gamichon and went on to finish fourth of six teams competing at the West German Championships that year. Moving up to second at the West German Championships in 1966, they debuted at the European Championships in thirteenth and finished fifth of nine couples at an international ice dance competition in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. Slowly moving up the ranks, in 1967 they moved into the top ten at the World Championships in Vienna, Austria.

By 1968, both Angelika and Erich had graduated from high school and it was clear that in order for them to move up the ladder, they needed to expand their horizons. Although the West German training base of Oberstdorf and the Olympic Ice Stadium in Munich were their home training bases for much of their careers, they made the trip to Richmond, England to start working with coach Betty Callaway - a move that paid off in dividends. In 1968, they won their first West German title and moved up to sixth at the European Championships and eighth at the World Championships. The following season, they defended their national title and moved up to fourth and fifth at Europeans and Worlds. It was clear to many in the international skating community that this sibling team were, under Betty Callaway's tutelage, quick learners that were going places. They weren't just quick learners on the ice either: both pursued university educations, Erich in business administration at the University of Munich and Angelika sports education at the University of Munich and medicine in Heidelberg.

After winning their third West German title in 1970, Angelika and Erich faced criticism from Tamara Moskvina at the 1970 European Championships at the Yublieney Sports Stadium in St. Petersburg for their stiffness, but finished a strong second to Soviets Lyudmila Pakhomova and Alexander Gorshkov. At the 1970 World Championships in Yugoslavia, they finished third in all three compulsory dances (the Westminster Waltz, Rocker Foxtrot and Silver Samba) and neither their lively latin medley OSP or energetic free dance was enough to challenge the Soviet or American teams. They did, however, win West Germany's first medal at the World Championships in ice dance - a bronze - that year.

The following season, after claiming their fourth consecutive West German title, Angelika and Erich headed to Switzerland for the European Championships. In her book "Figure Skating History: The Evolution Of Dance On Ice", Lynn Copley-Graves noted that at that event, "Gossip and publicity brought about prejudging in the case of the Bucks. The judges marked them higher than both British teams who, many believed, had programs of equal technical merit but richer in style. The Bucks, however, were well-matched and smooth in their free dance to 'Music of the Mountains' and Kaempfert's 'Swiss Polka.'" However, as would happen at several events in the next couple of years, Angelika and Erich's strengths versus those of Pakhomova and Gorshkov's divided Communist and Western bloc judges. In Switzerland that year, both teams ended with same total of place ordinals and only a 0.4 difference in points, with the Soviets having the edge.

Video courtesy Frazer Ormondroyd

At the 1971 World Championships in Lyon, France, after first two compulsories, Angelika and Erich were tied with Judy Schwomeyer and Jim Sladky with 99.9 judging points. Giving you an idea of how close the top three teams were at that competition, on February 24, 1971, the Associated Press noted, "The first places for the Russians came from the Czechoslovak, Polish, Russian and Hungarian judges on the nine-judge panel. Miss Schwomeyer and Sladky were rated first by the American, British and Canadian judges, and split the first place of the French judge with the Germans The Bucks, of course, got the first place vote of the West German judge." Third after OSP with 252.0 and 23 points, in the free dance, the French judge shifted their support to Pakhomova and Gorshkov and Angelika and Erich got six second place votes. Even though the Americans got more first place votes, the majority of seconds was enough to give Angelika and Erich the silver.

Photo courtesy Canada's Sports Hall Of Fame. Used with permission.

1972 was a breakthrough year for the West German siblings. After winning their fifth consecutive West German title, Angelika and Erich travelled to Gothenburg, Sweden for the European Championships. Taking a three point lead in compulsories and increasing it through the entire event, they did the unthinkable in beating the unbeatable Lyudmila Pakhomova and Alexander Gorshkov. It would prove to be the one and only time in the height of their career that the Soviet team would ever be defeated in international competition and the crazy thing about it all was that it wasn't even particularly close at that particular event. Lynn Copley-Graves noted, "Angelika and Erich Buck had never skated so well. Betty Callaway had guaranteed their content, style and musical interpretation." Despite winning the second of three compulsory dances (the Rhumba) at the 1972 World Championships at the Stampede Corral in Calgary, Angelika and Erich were unable to sustain their momentum with the judges with their samba OSP. Their free dance which helped them win in Gothenburg was actually quite controversial by that era's standards and though exciting, it was heavily criticized for moves that either pushed the rules or were downright illegal and 'too much arm waving'. Although they hung on to the silver, Copley-Graves noted, "The Bucks performed moves aimed to excite the crowd - lifts, a fast-moving broken leg spin, and a death spiral that would count against the Duchesnays a decade and a half later." Many thought Schwomeyer and Sladky should have won silver based on these illegalities.

Angelika and Erich's last competitive season came in 1973 and they certainly went out with a bang, debuting their waltz OSP to critical acclaim at the West German Championships. This pattern waltz - The Ravensburger - was designed by them and coach Betty Callaway and would in the later seventies be adopted as a compulsory dance by the ISU. Despite losing their European title in Cologne to Pakhomova and Gorshkov, they travelled to the World Championships in Bratislava with confidence. After average compulsories that left them in second, Lynn Copley-Graves noted, "The Bucks redeemed themselves with the highlight of the entire 1973 Dance Championship, their waltz OSP. Those who had not attended the West German Nationals or Europeans were in for a treat. The Ravensburger Waltz they and Betty Callaway had devised attracted attention on the first viewing. This flowing, expressive, graceful composition in Viennese waltz character was one of those dances that said 'WALTZ' even without the music. Right down to the pattern and the underarm turns, their deep edges, and the recognizable dance positions, this dance epitomized what the judges should have been looking for in the OSP concept. Four did, including the U.S. judge. The other five, like good robots following the European placements, put Pakhomova/Gorshkov first in the OSP for skating a lively, interesting dance devoid of waltz characteristics." A fall from Angelika in the free dance dashed any remote chance of them staging an unlikely come-from-behind win.

German skating historian Matthias Hampe summarized Angelika and Erich's contributions to the evolution of ice dance thusly: "The Bucks integrated fluidly executed pair elements into ice dancing. With this step, they broke with restrictions and gave ice dancing a new, relaxed character! The free dance of the Bucks [had] amazing special effect elements (transitions) like a side-by-side sit spin with broken leg. The trade mark and invention of the Bucks was the so-called 'Korkenzieher' (corkscrew) or like Erich said, 'Ravensburger Durchrutscher' - a hand hold travelling sit spin with broken leg of the lady with three turns. Another one was a kind of death spiral with her left foot on his boot laying her body parallel to the ice. It was a forerunner of hydroblading [and was] really great! They were the door opener for Torvill and Dean years later."

Retiring from competition with four European and World medals apiece to their credit, Angelika and Erich were honoured with the Silver Laurel Leaf Award and signed a contract in late 1973 to tour for a few months with a West German ice theater troupe, making their debut in Wiesbaden on January 8, 1974. After finishing her post-secondary education, Angelika married Günter Hanke in 1974, had two daughters, taught yoga and pilates and earned a degree in neurolinguistic programming. Erich studied economics in Munich, married five time Swiss Champion Charlotte Walter in 1977 and had a son and daughter. Since the seventies, Erich has run the German insurance company Versicherungsbüro Buck.

Although I'm admittedly pretty enamoured with the skating of the late Lyudmila Pakhomova, there's actually a pretty fair argument to be made that the Buck's were a more balanced team in terms of the abilities of both partners. It's a shame that this team is consistently overlooked in the historical skating conversation. There's really no good reason why. They beat Pakhomova and Gorshkov, won four World medals,  invented a compulsory dance and actually struck quite a balance between the more flamboyant style of the Soviets and the more rigid style of the Brits and to this day, they are still the only ice dance team from Germany to ever win a European title. It's time they got their due.

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":

Montagu Monier-Williams, The Doctor Who Treated Figure Skating

"It will often be noticed that good figure skaters are also easy and graceful dancers." - Montagu Monier-Williams

Born September 19, 1860 in the town of Cheltenham, England, Montagu Sneade Faithfull Monier-Williams was the fifth son of Julia Grantham, the daughter of Reverend F.J. Faithfull, a rector in Hatfield, Herts and Sir Monier Monier-Williams, K.C.I.E., a Boden Professor of Sanskrit at Oxford University. It was at Oxford where Montagu got his first taste of the joys figure skating while skating with his father. In 1892, he recalled, "I do remember learning to skate at Oxford as a small boy, and admiring my father's movements on the ice. On Christchurch meadow, or on Worcester College pond, surrounded by a ring of enthusiastic spectators several deep, he performed... with a grace and finish rarely seen at the present day. Dressed in a swallow-tail coat, the then regulation uniform of 'The Skating Club', of which he was a distinguished member, he executed difficult movements, with his hands always quietly folded behind his back, and with a perfectly upright figure, stimulating me and my brothers by his example, and helping by many a useful word of advice our early steps on the ice, which thus came more naturally and perhaps with greater ease to us than to other boys less fortunately situated."

Lewis Carroll photograph of Montagu's father, Monier Monier-Williams

Throughout his education at Winchester, Christ Church, Oxford and St. George's Hospital, Montagu became entranced in the technical side of figure skating in the English Style and in particular, the writings of Henry Eugene Vandervell. In the period between 1871 and 1881, while studying at Oxford, he and his friend Winter Randell Pidgeon joined the Oxford Skating Society and began experimenting with many of the steps Vandervell outlined in his book. Specifically, they took Vandervell's counter and reversed it in the other direction. Pidgeon called this reversal the three quarter turn, which was later renamed the reverse rocking turn. When Vandervell's rocking turn was later called the counter-rocking turn, the name rocking turn was used for the three quarter turn... which was finally called the rocker.

In 1880, Montagu qualified at the Conjoint Board, got married and settled in Onslow Gardens, a posh area in South London, where he opened a medical practice. Although his work was demanding, he continued to devote countless hours to the study of figure skating technique. He developed friendships with both Vandervell and Edgar Syers and joined the Wimbledon Skating Club. He also served as an Honorary Secretary of the Oxford Skating Skating Society and later, as Vice-President of the National Skating Association, passing all of the Association's first-class tests.

Preaching the importance of reading as much written material about figure skating and joining a skating club to anyone who would listen, it was no surprise when he published his first book on the subject in 1883. Written with his brother Stanley Faithfull Monier-Williams, "Combined Figure Skating; being a collection of all the known combined figures, systematically arranged, named in according with the revised code of 'The Skating Club' London and illustrated by 130 scaled diagrams, showing the exact method of skating each figure; together with a progressive series of alternating 'calls'" was absolutely as heavy a read as the title would suggest, but it built greatly upon the teachings of Vandervell and was widely read in its day by British figure skaters.

In 1892, Montagu teamed up with Arthur Dryden and his old friend Mr. Pidgeon to pen his second book, "Figure-Skating Simple And Combined". These books not only offer fascinating insights into the the technique of English Style figures, but they are rife with information about British skating history during that era, including insider accounts of The Skating Club, The Edinburgh Skating Club, The Glasgow Skating Club and The Wimbledon Skating Club and descriptions of of early competitions held in the English Style of combined figures and how they were judged. In "Figure-Skating Simple And Combined", Montagu expounded upon the philosophy behind English Style figures: "To be a good combined figure-skater, a man must loyally and unselfishly obey his leader, and forget any opinions he may have of his own as to how a particular figure should be skated. He should not think of his own powers, and how he can show himself to be a stronger skater than those who are skating with him, but rather do his best to adapt his skating as accurately as he can to that of his fellows, who may possibly be his inferiors, co-operating with them unceasingly." This philosophy, in a different context, would certainly apply in the context of synchronized skating and even ensemble work today.

In her wonderful 1992 book "Figure Skating History: The Evolution Of Dance On The Ice", Lynn Copley-Graves made a fascinating and apt connection between combined figures described by Montagu in his second book and the early origins of pairs skating and ice dancing (ie. dance steps): "In 1892 Monier-Williams, Pidgeon and Arthur Dryden published their second textbook, 'Figure-Skating Simple And Combined', again including brackets, rockers, counters, mohawks and choctaws. Thus the repertoire of turns was complete, and Monier-Williams et al. (1892) described their use as dance steps. For example, they described a side-by-side, hand-in-hand mohawk scud, an early dance step. For every Mercury scud, the most popular of the united progressive scuds, they recommended great speed. In doing it, the forward skater steered as the partners skated threes around each other, alternating the feet on which the threes were turned, i.e. a waltz if set to music! Other scuds such as the Q scuds (with a three and change of edge) and forward and back rocker scuds offered diversity. Monier-Williams et al., described these movements in which 'the skaters start face to face and dance over the ice by semi-circling round each other, first in one direction and then in another, with a freedom of movement and dash in execution.' They believed 'united figures' (ie. hand-in-hand figures) to be of an earlier origin than combined figures where the participants are in touch 'in a figurative sense only'. If united figures did evolve earlier, they did not become popular until the end of the 1800's, when united progressive figures almost eliminated the practice of individual figures."

In 1898, Montagu published a third volume on skating for the Isthmian Library and wrote a definition of figure skating for the Encyclopaedia Of Sport. It was also during this period that he designed the Monier-Williams Skate. Although he remained active as both an administrator and skater, the stories of his later years off the ice are perhaps even more interesting than his extensive contributions to the development of English Style skating.

According to the July 25, 1931 issue of the British Medical Journal, "He took an active interest in carrying out in London the methods of Émile Coué [de la Châtaigneraie], whom he visited at Nancy, where the new therapeutic treatment by auto-suggestion had superseded the hypnotic suggestion practised by [Ambroise-Auguste] Liébeault and H. Bernheim in the last quarter of the last century. He induced Coué to come to England to demonstrate his methods gratuitously, was physician to the Chelsea Clinic of Psychical Education, and had an auto-suggestion clinic free to the poor in King's Road, Chelsea." Perhaps he used his skill in auto-suggestion to make his colleagues buy his pseudonym. An accomplished croquet player, he competed in a number of matches under the name - wait for it - A.S. Kator.

Sadly, in 1925 his wife passed away after a long illness. He remarried to Cicely H. Baden-Powell, the widow of Henry Warington Baden-Powell in 1927 in Kensington and retired that same year to the artistic commune in Collioure in the Pyrénées-Orientales in the South Of France, which at one time or another was haven to some of the worlds greatest artists; people like Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso. Instead of skating grapevines, he took an interest in his later years in growing grapevines. Montagu passed away on July 4, 1931, leaving behind his second wife and many admirers both in the medical and skating communities. At the time of his death, his colleague Dr. E.L.B. Wilkes (who knew him for sixty years) remembered him as "a modest and upright gentleman [who] leaves many friends." Like or loathe the stiff English Style, the development of combined figure skating plays an enormous role in the history and development of the sport and Montagu Monier-Williams was one of its biggest champions.

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 1932 World Figure Skating Championships

From the magical masquerades at the Victoria Skating Rink to Louis Rubenstein, the city of Montreal has long played an important role in Canada's rich figure skating history. There really couldn't have been a better place to host the first World Championships on Canadian soil. The decision to host the 1932 World Championships in Montreal was made at the June 1931 ISU meeting. Although a great 'get' for the Amateur Skating Association Of Canada, the allocation was actually in one way quite bittersweet. Rubenstein had helped found what was then Canada's governing body for skating and served as its President until 1930 and had passed away in January of 1931, missing hearing the incredible news by mere months.

Fritzi Burger practicing with coach Pepi Weiß-Pfändler

Many European skaters who had competed at the Lake Placid Olympics simply remained in America following the conclusion of those Games, gave exhibitions then hopped a train to Montreal to compete at the World Championships, which was held from February 17 to 20, 1932. The same seven judges from Austria, Canada, Finland, France, Great Britain, Norway and the United States were used for all three disciplines and two different venues were utilized. The Montreal Winter Club on Drummond Street played host to the school figures, while free skating events were held at the Forum". On February 14, 1932, "The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle Sunday" reported, "Canadian admirers of figure skating are confident that the entrants from Ottawa, Toronto, Montreal and other Canadian skating centers will be placed well in the various events in which they will meet world famous exponents of the graceful art to which (and not to dancing, as it is generally believed) the words, 'the poetry of motion' were first applied." Ultimately, more than twelve thousand spectators flocked to the Forum to take in the free skating competitions that year and the competitors did not disappoint.

A who's who of figure skating at the 1932 World Championships. Photo courtesy Archives de Montréal.


Fresh off their second Olympic gold medal, France's Andrée and Pierre Brunet won their fourth and final World pairs title with first place ordinals from five of the seven judges. In typical nationalistic fashion, Emília Rotter and László Szollás finished second with the first place vote of the Hungarian judge and Beatrix Loughran and Sherwin Badger were third with the first place vote of the American judge. Canada was unsurprisingly the best represented country in the event, boasting four teams. Frances Claudet and Chauncey Bangs, Constance and Bud Wilson, Maude Smith and Jack Eastwood and Isobel and Melville Rogers all rounded out the lower tier of the results. America's second entry, Theresa Weld Blanchard and Nathaniel Niles, finished a disappointing eighth with last place ordinals from three judges. Even American judge Joel Liberman had them eighth. It was the duo's final appearance in a major international competition.


Karl Schäfer with his parents in 1932. Photo courtesy Bildarchiv Austria.

Gillis Grafström, fresh off his defeat in Lake Placid, opted not to compete in Montreal. The man who'd beaten him, Austria's Karl Schäfer, became the second winner from Lake Placid to follow up his Olympic gold medal with a victory in Montreal. The class of the field, the elegant skater from Vienna dominated the men's event from start to finish, earning first place votes from all seven judges in both figures and free skating. Likewise, the judges were in total agreement that Bud Wilson of Canada was a clear number two. He earned second place votes in both figures and free skating from every judge and became the first man from Canada to win a medal at the World Championships that year.

Ernst Baier's bronze medal from the 1932 World Championships

The battle for bronze was a different affair entirely. Finland's Marcus Nikkanen was third in the school figures, followed by Roger Turner of the United States and Ernst Baier of Germany. When a second American, Jimmie Madden, turned in a brilliant free skate, Nikkanen and Turner lost valuable ground and Baier was able to swoop in and snatch the final spot on the podium.

The men's event in Montreal marked the first appearance of Japanese skaters at the World Championships. Kazuyoshi Oimatsu and Ryoichi Obitani finished seventh and eighth. Obitani recalled his anxiety about competing in Montreal in "Skating" magazine thusly: "I was disheartened at the Olympic Games and thought I never would be able to stand the World's Championships, but remembered that I was far from Japan and if I did not enter it would leave a bad record in my young days. These feelings made me suffer more than the training and I wanted to go away in the woods and forget. I could not sleep and felt as if I was carrying the burden of the world. Every time I came back from practicing I lay on my bed and wondered if I should appear or default, and I could not sleep a wink. After suffering for a week, I gathered courage and told our manager the night before we left for Montreal that I would enter."

Young Robin Lee with his father. Photo courtesy the Minnesota Historical Society. Used with permission.

A third American entry, thirteen year old Robin Lee of Minneapolis, placed ninth. Though extremely young female competitors were becoming the norm in international figure skating competitions at the time, Robin Lee was one of the first men since Sweden's Gösta Sandahl (pre-World War I European and World Champion) to enter the international ranks as a pre-teen.


Constance Wilson. Photo courtesy City of Toronto Archives.

In the women's event, Sonja Henie won the school figures with first place ordinals from eight judges. British judge Herbert J. Clarke dared to place the Norwegian skating queen in third behind Maribel Vinson and Constance Wilson... and we can be quite certain that didn't go over well with Papa Henie and friends. Clarke changed his tune in the free skate, which Sonja won unanimously on the road to her sixth World title. Austria's Fritzi Burger was second with three second place ordinals. Only two points behind in third was Constance Wilson, with one second place nod from Canadian judge Norman Mackie Scott. Maribel Vinson, with two seconds from the American and British judges, was fourth. The final second place ordinal - from one of the two Scandinavian judges on the panel - went to Sweden's Vivi-Anne Hultén, who placed fifth. Merry murderess Yvonne de Ligne was sixth, Megan Taylor seventh, Cecilia Colledge eighth and Mollie Phillips ninth. Canada's other two entries, Elizabeth Fisher and Mary Littlejohn, both had disappointing showings, placing outside of the top ten.

Autographed photo given by Sonja Henie to Norwegian diplomat Helmer Halvorsen Bryn at The 1932 World Championships. Photo courtesy Edward Sisson, Catherine Winslow Priest.

Prior to the competition, Sonja Henie had been invited to skate in two Canadian club carnivals before she left Europe, but claimed her father declined, unsure of how tired she'd be after the Games. The trans-Atlantic wires allegedly became crossed and the Canadian clubs advertised that she would be headlining their carnivals... to the outrage of the Henie's. When Papa Henie told both clubs no after they had already advertised she would appear, Canadian newspapers began printing stories claiming that Papa had demanded huge appearance fees and that Sonja was "pretending to be an amateur." As an example, Toronto Skating Club President Donald B. Cruikshank told reporter Bob Stedler, "We flatly refused to become a party to what we believed was a straight holdup on the part of one claiming to be an amateur in sport. It would have been unfair to the other European skaters on our program to have acceeded to the proposition put to us by Miss Henie's father. If Miss Henie had wanted to turn professional, we would have been quite willing to deal with her or Mr. Henie. Both the Toronto and Ottawa clubs are aware of her worth as a box office attraction." In her book "Wings On My Feet", Sonja recalled, "If anyone wants to know what it is like to feel dreadfully sick without a physical cause, I recommend such a situation. I left Canada determined never to go back, but of course that was impulse, and in recent years I've not only gone back but had many happy weeks in all parts of the Dominion."

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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