#Unearthed: The Pleasures Of Skating

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 'buried treasure' is a piece called "The Pleasures Of Skating" which appeared in the December 1889 edition of "Puck's Library". The author, novelist Charles Morris, released it under his pseudonym Paul Pastnor. I think you'll find that this particularly delightful piece really captures the essence of pleasure skating during the Victorian era.


Lives there a man with soul so dead, who never to himself hath said: "I'll go a-skating?" Probably not. At some period of our lives we have all us done more or less ground and lofty tumbling on Nature's polished winter floor. It may have been so long ago that we have almost forgotten how we used to bind on the dear old-fashioned steel blades, with the ends curled up in front like a banker's signature; or perhaps, we are just out of our halcyon days, and have no more complicated process to recall than the deft snap with which we attached our "Ice Kings" to our shoes, and sped away on the instant.

But, whether tied with twine, strapped, screwed or clamped, it was all the same when our skates were once on our feet. Oh, the bird-like delight of skimming over that broad, glistening expanse of ice! How the blood leaped in our veins, and the glorious exhilaration tingled to the very tips of fingers and toes!

And then it was such fun to watch the beginner - the tyro in the art. With what infinite caution he raised himself from the friendly bank; and, then, with what wild consternation he found himself mysteriously slipping away, with no power under heaven to stop that insidious motion which seemed to possess him as the magnet possesses the steel. Bending fearfully forward, with arms abroad, and eyes riveted upon the gleaming ice, so he slid, until his feet parted and flew from beneath him, the force of gravity seized him by the back, down he came, wild-eyed and sprawling, while his head smote the frozen expanse with a far-resounding thud. Up again in an instant, upon foot and knee, he surveyed his laughing companions with a sickly smile, and gladly accepted the proferred assistance which got him upon his treacherous skates again, and sent him bowing and balancing away, beating the air like an animated windmill.

But the fun was soon over; for in less than an hour the tyro had mastered the first principles of the art, and was darting hither and thither like a squid, with quick, uneven strokes, ending in a triumphant glide that rejoiced his soul to the very core. Those were the days when we had our little loves, as sweet and innocent as spring flowers. Who can ever forget the thrill of ecstasy with which he strapped his sweetheart's skates to the trim little foot resting on his knees? And then the unspeakable pride and pleasure of clasping those two red-mittened hands in one's own, and "sculling" backward, while one initiated the fair beginner in the mysteries of the forward stroke.

Do you remember, reader, those long hand-in-hand expeditions along the wooded river shore? How she laughed when the shell-ice tripped her, and she swayed into your arms for a sweet instant, knitted hood and flying hair brushing your cheek! Such roses as bloomed in those happy days will never bloom again - the glow of health and the flush of young romance. Do you not sometimes find yourself wondering whether there will be skating in paradise - and red-cheeked, red-hooded, laughing girls?

It was a magnificent thing, too, that skating by firelight! The great bonfire on the shore, leaping and crackling; the reflection of the blaze on the glare ice; the shadowy figures gliding in and out like spectres; the ring of the "shinny" stick, and the wild shouts of the players; the dim white fields and hills, melting away into night; the hoot of the troubled owl; the far-off, silvery sound of sleigh bells — what boy or girl of the olden time can not call up such a picture as this in memory?

Far into the night we played our weird games, and glided away on our winged flights into the gloom. Then some impatient horn would blow from a distant farmhouse; the fun would stop; little groups would melt away, chattering, into the darkness; and by-and-by only a few reckless enthusiasts would remain, silently swinging up and down the ice in the pale glimmer of the dying blaze.

Alas! but the choicest pleasures of skating are so evanescent - confined to the brief holiday of youth! Men and women, it is true, find a sober delight in sweeping around the rink, or launching out on the blue-black lake for a two and a half hours' spin. But what becomes of the red mittens, and the knit hoods, and the young mirth, and the "shinny" sticks, and the bonfire, after thirty? Grim old Father Time takes the raisins out of the pudding, then. We have had our romance; more's the pity if we did not make the most of it! But Father Time can not take away memory- that lingering taste of the good things of life.

Ye who have skated, away back in the first and second decades of your existence, hail! Let us sit down together, in this Midwinter twilight, and barter a smile for a tear.

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": https://skateguard1.blogspot.com/p/buy-book.html.

Uisutamine, Uisutamine, Uisutamine: Three Estonian Figure Skating Pioneers

Say it thrice like Beetlejuice if you must... "Uisutamine" is the Estonian word for ice skating. Today, we'll meet three fascinating Estonian figure skating pioneers, each with an off-ice story as compelling as their role in the early development of the sport in their country. Track down a bottle or three of Luscher & Matiesen wine and ponder over what life must have been life for this trio of talented athletes!


Photo courtesy Estonian Sports And Olympic Museum

Born May 30, 1894 in the historic town of Paide in Järva County, Estonia, Eduard Kõppo was a versatile athlete who excelled at weightlifting, skiing, wrestling, bandy, swimming, rowing, volleyball... and yes, figure skating.

Photo courtesy Estonian Sports And Olympic Museum

After finishing second at the first recorded Estonian Figure Skating Championships in 1917, he returned to Tallinn the following year to claim the men's title. Though he never proved his skating mettle at the Olympics, he led the weightlifting contingent at the 1936 Summer Olympics in Nazi Berlin. A tireless promoter of sports, Kõppo also fought in the Vabadussõda (Estonian War Of Independence) and in North Africa during World War II. Spending his latter years in the administration of Estonia's postal service, he passed away in Tallinn on November 6, 1966 at the age of seventy two.


Dr. Ellen Frey and Aleksander Reeder. Photo courtesy Estonian Sports and Olympic Museum.

Born January 5, 1892 in Moscow, Russia, Ellen Frey was perhaps the one of the first women in history to combine an ambitious medical career with a decade long stint as a champion figure skater. In the twenties, Frey studied at both the Moscow Faculty Of Medicine and the University Of Tartu, graduating cum laude in 1925 as a doctor from the latter. After her graduation, she practiced in a medical clinic at the University Of Tartu before working as a surgeon in a Tartu hospital and as a specialist in children's medicine in Põltsamaa.

During this exact same period, Frey won no less than no less than eight medals at the Estonian Championships including gold medals in singles skating in 1926 and 1927 and pairs skating with Aleksander Reeder in 1922, 1926 and 1927.  In 1939, she moved to Germany, where she worked as a doctor during World War II. She retired in 1970 and passed away ten years later in Bonn. Her partner Aleksander Reeder, who passed away in 1977, was imprisoned from 1941 to 1959.


Born December 19, 1889 in the town of Otepää in the Valga region in southern Estonia, Eduard Hiiop was one of the most well-rounded athletes out there. While living in Tartu in 1908, he started training in gymnastics, cycling, athletics and figure skating. Prior to World War I, he won a silver medal in the long jump at an international sporting competition in Russia and following the war, won Estonian titles in the 4 X 100 relay, decathalon, long jump, 100 meters, hurdles, tennis and bandy. Perhaps most impressive were his figure skating accomplishments.

Photo courtesy Estonian Sports and Olympic Museum

Competing concurrently in singles and pairs, Hiiop won an unprecedented twenty three medals at the Estonian Championships. After acting as Estonia's flag bearer at the 1928 Winter Olympics in St. Moritz, Hiiop returned to the Olympic stage in Garmisch-Partenkirchen in 1936, placing an unfortunate last place with partner Helene Michelson in the pairs figure skating competition. At forty six years old, he was one of the oldest figure skaters at those Games. He later shifted his focus to coaching, working in Helsinki and Tallinn. In August 1941 - three months after the Nazis occupied Estonia - he was arrested and later declared missing. He is presumed to have been killed the same month.

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": https://skateguard1.blogspot.com/p/buy-book.html.

Quenched In Queen City: The Netherland Plaza Ice Shows

As bombs reigned over Europe during World War II, residents of Cincinnati, Ohio flocked by the thousands to the Netherland Plaza Hotel to escape the summer heat and take in the novelty of one of the country's hottest trends: the hotel ice show. The eight hundred room hotel on Fifth and Race Streets, completed in 1931 to the tune of thirty million dollars was - as far as venues for hotel ice shows went - as good as it got.

The hotel was part of a half-block area building which included the Carew Tower and many stores. It was in the Restaurant Continentale (aka Continental Ballroom) that the Netherland Plaza Hotel's ice shows reigned supreme. You could be served your supper by head waiter Albin Bratfisch for $1.75 or a cocktail by sommelier Toni Lamare for $0.40 and be entertained by dizzying spins and electrifying jumps on tank ice, accompanied by live musicians. It was a spectacle that many in Cincinnati had never been exposed to. In his book "States of Desire Revisited: Travels in Gay America", Edmund White recalled his experience at the Netherland Plaza Hotel's ice shows thusly: "During World War II my mother and I would inch into town on rationed gas on a weekday afternoon and I'd lunch on a tidy little chicken pot pie and a single scoop of chocolate ice cream in a frosted silver goblet as we watched an ice show at the Netherland. Everything about the skating seemed fascinatingly 'indecent'; the darkness of the room by day, the gently misting slab of ice, the band members lit from below by their hooded lamps, the fixed impersonal grins of the skaters, their thick makeup, the slash of blades and the sudden shower of ice dust through the gelled spotlights..."

1943 menu from the Netherland Plaza Hotel

The format for the shows was quite consistent throughout the forties. There would usually be two or three strong solo acts (one usually being a comedy or novelty act), an adagio pair, a crooning emcee, live band, ensemble numbers and a six woman line act known as The Six Lovely De-Icers. The November 7, 1942 edition of "Billboard" magazine featured a review of one such production: "Donn Arden turned in a corking production job on the fourth edition of the Frederick Bros. Ice Revue Of '42, which bowed in here Friday (16). Toting the same principals as the preceding show, with the exception of Edi Scholdan, skating juggler who replaced Red Bennett, and with only change in the Six Lovely De-Icers line, unit moves swiftly and smoothly, is excellently gowned and in general stacks up stronger than any of its predecessors. Billy and Betty Wade, most popular and talented team ever to show on ice here, now in their 14th week, register their usual success in three numbers. Mary Jane Lawson, 16-year-old figure skater, now in her 10th week, continues to please with her refreshing style and outstanding routines. Edi Scholdan, in addition to good skate work, gives the unit extra entertainment value with his pleasing juggle work. Ronnie Mansfield, WLW tenor, still upholds the show's good continuity with his emcee warbling. The Six De-Icers never worked better, and Burt Farber's orchestra continues to turn in a good job on the dance and show chores. The Restaurant Continentale, which opened its season with icers last June 28, will continue with them until late in December, according to present plans."

By the following year, the hotel adopted an all-year ice policy and "Billboard", on November 27, 1943, described the show thusly: "This swanky chamber; the town's leading dine, dance and show bistro, continues to pull a walloping business with its steel-blade frolics, a steady feature here since June, 1942. The quality of the room's ice revues has fluctuated little, but the new layout which opened Tuesday (16) shapes up as the soundest offered here since the steady ice diet made its blow. Starred is Adele Inge, easily the most talented ice principal ever to show here. She uncorks a set of ice-skate surprises that had the first-show clientele applauding almost continuously. Her wizardry on the ice is punctuated with a vast assortment of daring spins, whirls and leaps across that made for thrills, and she wraps it all up in a package that spells confidence, showmanship and polish. A highlight is her forward somersault without the use of her hands, but she anti-climaxes things by springing with it too early in her first season. Miss Inge is destined for a long stay. Also new in the current offering are Genevieve Norris and Gerry Verden, a nice-appearing youthful pair, who fared okay with their adagio nifties and standard skate bits. Need a little more work together to stack up with some of the teams seen here in the past. Producer Donn Arden has turned in his usual bang-up job with this latest offering. Taking the circus as the locale, Arden has succeeded in capturing the big top spirit with a fine assortment of routines, excellent wardrobe and appropriate circus 'business' and music. His best has the Six Lovely De-Icers in a high-school horse routine. Not only is it novel, but the costuming and trappings are outstanding. The Six Lovely De-Icers, incidentally, have never shown to better advantage than in this show. Only holdover from the opening layout is lovely Dotty Rodgers, who has become a prime favourite here. The four Magazine Cover Girls have added a bit of skating ability to their good looks to make for a sounder asset. Norman Ruvell, who enters his fourth month here as singing emcee, gives the revue excellent pacing with his circus-spieler chatter and his quality barltoning of the show's music, both pops and semi-classics. Some of those highly touted singing juves have nothing on this lad, either in looks or ability. Discharged from the army eight months ago and now in 4-F, Ruvell is swoon material and definitely movie timber."  

In the subsequent two years, featured stars of the Netherland Plaza Hotel's ice shows included Viennese born New Yorker Trudy Schneider and former U.S. Eastern Champion Joan Hyldoft, who held the title of Miss Cincinnati. It wasn't uncommon at the time for hotel show skaters to move around from city to city doing stints in different hotel skating productions, so the casts often varied slightly even if the format remained markedly consistent.

Joan Hyldoft

I have to share just one more of these "Billboard" reviews with you, mostly because I just love the "extra, extra! read all about it!" tone of the unnamed reporter who covered these shows. This one comes from the October 22, 1946 edition: "With W. Carl Snyder out as icer impresario here, Truly McGee is given the opportunity to cook up this latest tanker strictly on her own. The finished product, sluggled 'Tally-Ho', stacks up as one of the gayest and most entertaining offerings to play here since the room adopted its icer policy six years ago. What's more, it's done with one of the lowest budgets ever allotted the show. New icer boasts of no particular star but Miss McGee takes a capable assortment of tank talent, plus an outstanding line (6) all look good by her deft production weaving. The show takes as its theme hunting in its various forms, with enough tongue-in-the-cheek, leeway to allow for some cute tricks and effects. Lighting is good, the wardrobing is brilliant and original and the show's pacing doesn't allow for a single drag. Norena and Morris, mixed pair, who looked just like another ice team in the previous show, uncork an assortment of new wrinkles, lifts and spins that make them appear as outstanding in their field. They copped the show's skating honours. Bain Lightfoot and Jinx Clark, new members, show off well individually and as a team, and add much with their appearance and youthfulness. Lightfoot, however, should do something for that unruly hair. In skating ability and looks, the Six De-Icers top any of their predecessors. The girls are Glorida McGowan, Jane Montanary, Martha Collins, Mary Lou, Betty Mueller and Lillian Byers. Marian Spellman again steals much of the show with her topnotch song-spinning. She's worthy of a crack at a good air shot. Show's new male warbler, Paul Westbrook, turns in a good effort, but he was a bit nervous and too dramatic at his first look-in. Burt Farber does his usual fine job of directing his band on the show stint. His ditching of the three fiddles in favour of three brass adds immeasurably to the ork's solidness on the show tunes."

Jinx Clark with Rudy Richards

If one of the names from that last review doesn't sound familiar, it should. Remember Jinx Clark? She was the tough talking, shotgun toting owner of the haunted pub in the 2014 Skate Guard blog "The Ghost, The Skater And The Shotgun".

Not to be confused by the tour of the same name, a new "Holiday On Ice" show opened at the Netherland Plaza Hotel on February 24, 1947. It featured Vince and Gloria Haydock, Lew Nelson and Marilyn Ross and feature star Jack Roach, who also signed on to coach skaters at the then-new Cincinnati Arena which was under construction on "the Old Chester park site." The format changed slightly in 1947 and by 1948, the hotel's management had slashed the budget for its ice shows significantly. June Arnold, Bruce Sheffer and Bissell and Farley appeared in 1948, but with the lowered budget, the line performers had by then been eliminated altogether. Ice shows at the Netherland Plaza Hotel were on their way out.

In May 1956, the Netherland Plaza Hotel was sold to the Hilton Hotel chain. It continued to operate sans ice shows for many years and thanks to its designation of National Historic Register and National Landmark status in 1985, the hotel won't be going anywhere anytime soon. You might not be able to get a goblet of ice cream and a chicken pot pie for $1.75 in the hotel restaurant these days but the next time you're in Cincinnati, turn off the WKRP and listen quietly. You just may hear the etching of blades into tank ice, the clatter of silverware and the echo of Lutzes and laughter... How times have certainly changed.

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": https://skateguard1.blogspot.com/p/buy-book.html.

The 1963 World Figure Skating Championships

The Stadio del Ghiacco

After a failed bid from Innsbruck, the host city for the 1964 Winter Olympic Games, the 1963 World Figure Skating Championships were awarded by the International Skating Union to Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy.

The event was held in the open-air Stadio del Ghiacco, the venue of the 1956 Winter Olympic Games, from February 28 to March 3, 1963. As Cortina d'Ampezzo's altitude was approximately twelve hundred meters above sea level (being in the Dolomite Mountains) many skaters arrived early to acclimatize themselves to the thinner air. The men's and women's school figures commenced before nine in the morning each day. The weather was sunny and mild and skaters and judges alike wore sunglasses to lessen the sun's glare.

Marika Kilius and Sjoukje Dijkstra sharing a laugh during a practice session

In contrast, many of the free skating and ice dancing events were held late in the evenings, when temperatures dipped between minus fifteen and twenty degrees Celsius. Not only did the skaters, judges and spectators freeze their buns off, but the ice became hard and brittle in the bone-chilling cold. There were many complaints that skaters who drew earlier starting orders had a considerable advantage over those who performed later. The weather was so frigid, Lorna Dyer recalled, that several pairs skaters couldn't feel their arms when they were doing lifts.

Perhaps grab yourself a hot drink to think warm... and join me on a look back at the stories and skaters that made this event so memorable!


The first title decided in Cortina d'Ampezzo was the pairs event. As the reigning World Champions Maria and Otto Jelinek of Canada had turned professional, the event was wide open. Debbi Wilkes and Guy Revell, who had finished fourth the year before in Prague, were among the medal favourites. They were forced to withdraw prior to the event after a mishap in a photography shoot on an outdoor rink near their hotel. Guy lost his balance on the slushy ice and dropped Debbi from mid-air. She suffered a skull fracture and later recalled in her book "Ice Time", "My memory is still shaky about what happened next, but I am told the ISU representatives insisted that we compete despite the injury. Paralysis in half my face put an end to that idea. Then they insisted that we at least skate in the tour. The Canadian government intervened and quickly got me on connecting flights back to a hospital in Toronto. Doctors there decided there was no concussion because I wasn't getting dizzy. It took them a few days to realize that skaters don't get dizzy. The constant rotation and spinning develops a finely tuned inner balance."

Left: Marika Kilius and Hans-Jürgen Bäumler posing for photographers in Cortina d'Ampezzo. Right: Marika Kilius with Hans-Jürgen Bäumler, who is showing off his weightlifting skills. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine.

Though a dual program system had been tried by the International Skating Union at the European Championships in Budapest, pairs skated only one program in Cortina d'Ampezzo. The audience for the pairs competition was very much pro-German. Swedish skating historian Gunnar Bang estimated that "80% of the audience consisted just of [Marika] Kilius and [Hans-Jürgen] Bäumler's countrymen."

Marika Kilius and Hans-Jürgen Bäumler posing with the owner of the Bavarian boot making firm Zwerger. Photo courtesy "World Ice Skating Guide".

Marika Kilius and Hans-Jürgen Bäumler skated third of the twelve couples, an hour before Ludmila Belousova and Oleg Protopopov. They didn't have any major mistakes but they clearly fought through their program and didn't skate with the same ease as they had in Budapest. Writing in "Skating" magazine, historian Dennis Bird recalled, "Their dramatic cartwheel lifts and triple Axel lift aroused some controversy, for on strict interpretation of the ISU regulations they appear to be of a doubtful legality. The judges did not, however, let this deter them from giving the Germans the best marks, and I for one have no quarrel with the result."

Another American writing for "Skating" magazine, Mary Meredith, remarked, "The crowd was the most enthusiastic I've ever known, and many of them knew their skating... Much cheering - booing of judges - but all cheerful. It was bitter cold that night and while, waiting for the results (quite a wait, and none left), everyone was too cold for comfort. One end of the arena began singing a twist song and soon the whole seething mass of muffled and bundled people did the twist. It was a humorous sight and gay. Soon other sections took it up and nearly the whole downstairs, where the standees were, twisted and twisted. They love the twist over here and were so thrilled when some skaters put in the free dance or in an exhibition. I've never known such a lively appreciative crowd."

After the marks were tallied and everyone was done twisting again like they did last summer, Kilius and Bäumler were unanimously first. Heinz Maegerlein recalled, "There was much applause for Marika Kilius and Hans-Jürgen Bäumler when the victory was established. Some of the spectators knew how hard the road had been for them... so the applause was the recognition of many great achievements the couple had accomplished in the last few years. Perhaps it was quite good that they were not quite as perfect as they had done in Budapest in Cortina d'Ampezzo, because when things do not go well, the effort that comes before the completion is visible again."

Gertrude Desjardins and Maurice Lafrance. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine.

Belousova and Protopopov were second on all but the Canadian and Italian judges scorecards. Those two judges preferred Canadians Gertrude Desjardins and Maurice Lafrance, who disappointingly lost out on the bronze medal to Soviets Tatyana Zhuk and Alexander Gavrilov by half an ordinal placing. Canada's only other entry after Wilkes and Revell's withdrawal, Linda Ann Ward and Neil Carpenter, placed eleventh.


Sjoukje Dijkstra performing school figures in Cortina d'Ampezzo. Photo courtesy Dutch National Archives.

Twenty one year old defending World Champion Sjoukje Dijkstra amassed an almost Trixi Schuba-like lead in the figures. Nearly sixty points ahead of Austria's Regine Heitzer and over one hundred ahead of France's Nicole Hassler, Dijkstra certainly had some leeway in the free skate. Rather than phone the performance in, she added the double Lutz to her program for the first time and skated marvellously, even if her program was somewhat front-loaded. Regine Heitzer delivered what was perhaps the finest free skate of her career, but received low marks. Nicole Hassler performed two double Axels in her free skate to finish second in that phase of the event and Miwa Fukuhara of Japan, only ninth in figures, included a triple Salchow in her program. Sixteen year old Petra Burka and eighteen year old Wendy Griner of Canada, both skated less than their best and were unable to make up ground. Equally disappointingly, Great Britain's Diana Clifton-Peach struggled in the free skate after delivering some of the finest figures of her career and fifteen year old Christine Haigler of the United States fell on the closing note of her excellent performance to Spanish music. Gunnar Bang complained that so many of the women skated to Vivaldi music that one "wondered how often the gramophone was changed."

Left: Sjoukje Dijkstra being interviewed by Dick Button for ABC's Wide World Of Sports. Right: Women's medallists. Photos courtesy Dutch National Archives.

When the marks were tallied, Dijkstra had 2318.8 points and was unanimously first overall, though the Soviet judge tied her with Heitzer and the Canadian and French judges had her behind Hassler in the free skate. Heinz Maegerlein remarked, "Sjoukje skated well... and was justly justified in receiving the highest praise." Wendy Griner, who placed fourth behind Dijkstra, Heitzer and Hassler later recalled, "It was not an equal playing ground. Sjoukje skated when the sun was out, and I was second to last in the program, and had to skate when it was dark and bloody cold. Being on the ice at midnight changed the whole texture of the ice - it became brittle and shattered. It just wasn't fair." Petra Burka finished fifth, and Canada's third entry, Shirra Kenworthy, placed twentieth. In fourteenth was Switzerland's Fränzi Schmidt - the World Champion in roller skating.

Wendy Griner and Donald McPherson


It was anticipated that Czechoslovakian brother/sister team of Eva Romanová and Pavel Roman would have no trouble defending their World title in Cortina d'Ampezzo, as both the second and third place teams from the 1962 World Championships in Prague were not returning. When Linda Shearman and Michael Phillips - only fourth the year prior at Worlds - upset the siblings at the European Championships in Budapest, it became clear that Eva and Pavel would have a fight on their hands.

After eighteen teams from ten countries weaved their way through the compulsory dances, six judges had Shearman and Phillips first. Eva and Pavel received first place ordinals from the Austrian and Czech judges, while Paulette Doan and Kenneth Ormsby were first on the scorecard of Canadian judge Sandy McKechnie. Adding insult to injury, the French judge had Eva and Pavel fourth.

Two of the most interesting stories from the free dance related to teams who placed well outside of the top five. Hungarians Györgyi Korda and Pál Vásárhelyi pushed the envelope by skating to national folk music, which was in those days considered rather 'outside the box'. The judges didn't know quite what to do with them. The French judge had them third, while the Italian judge had them sixteenth. Americans Yvonne (Littlefield) and Peter Betts, who had eloped just prior to heading to Italy, had their stop their program about two minutes in after the heel screws came out of his boot. After Peter secured his boot to his blade with ye olde trusty screwdriver, the referee allowed the team a reskate . The exact same thing happened about a half a minute in. The judges marked only the small part of the program they were able to complete and doled out marks ranging from 3.0 to 3.8. They dropped all the way from ninth to seventeenth overall. Betts later said, "Two judges told us they would have placed us third in the free dance if we had continued."

Eva Romanová and Pavel Roman with their trophy. 

The top three teams all skated well despite less than ideal ice conditions and freezing temperatures. The judging panel was a four/four split between the Czechoslovakians and the Britons, with the Canadian judge again voting for Doan and Ormsby. When the marks were tabulated, Eva and Roman came out on top by one ordinal placing, with Shearman and Phillips taking the silver and Doan and Ormsby the bronze. The other two Canadian couples, Donna Lee Mitchell and John Mitchell and Carole Forrest and Kevin Lethbridge, placed fifth and tenth. In her book "Figure Skating History: The Evolution Of Dance On Ice", Lynn Copley-Graves recalled, "The Canadian judge was blamed for Linda and Michael's loss. They might legitimately have won for technical efficiency and immaculate style, but Eva and Pavel sparkled to prove that their home-town win in 1962 was not a fluke."


Left: Scotty Allen of the United States. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine. Right: Malcolm Cannon of Great Britain.

In the two years preceding the men's event in Cortina d'Ampezzo, the entire U.S. figure skating team had been killed in the Sabena Crash and Canada's Donald Jackson had managed to upset Karol Divín in Czechoslovakia to win the 1962 World title, landing the first triple Lutz in international competition in the process. Since his win, Jackson had turned professional, leaving the World title up for grabs. The favourites were Divín, European Champion Alain Calmat of France, West Germany's Manfred Schnelldorfer and seventeen year old Donald McPherson of Canada, whose father had to cash in an insurance policy to finance the trip. Schnelldorfer left for the event eight days prior, driving from West Germany to Italy with his father in the family 'Strolchi', which was weighed down with luggage. American Tommy Litz, who had finished second to McPherson at the North American Championships in Vancouver, made the trip to Italy but did not compete. After North Americans, he'd twisted his ankle on a double flip while skating at an outdoor rink in Pennsylvania.

Donald McPherson practicing in Cortina d'Ampezzo

Tensions were high as the men took the ice to perform their school figures. Schnelldorfer won the first figure, Divín the second, Schnelldorfer the third, Divín the fourth. The next morning, fourteen year old Scotty Allen of Smoke Rise, New Jersey - the bronze medallist at the North American Championships - came out of nowhere to win the back loop change loop. Allen's win pushed Schnelldorfer back into the overall lead. Calmat won the final figure, the paragraph double three. When the marks of the school figures were tallied, five judges had Schnelldorfer first, the Czechoslovakian and French judges voted for Divín and the American judge stood alone in voting for Calmat. Schnelldorfer stood first, followed by Divín, Calmat and McPherson. In a show of good sportsmanship, Divín applauded Schnelldorfer.

Donald McPherson

Temperatures dipped as low as minus twenty Celsius during the men's free skate. The second group started after eleven o'clock; the third shortly before midnight. Tommy Litz recalled, "These poor guys were out there in twenty below weather and I thought, 'I'm glad I'm not out there.' It was horrifying." As a consequence of the freezing temperatures and the cold, brittle ice, few skaters performed up to their usual standard. Emmerich Danzer, the bronze medallist at the European Championships in Austria, landed a triple Salchow in one of the earlier groups and Scotty Allen managed a more or less clean performance, but the top four skaters after the figures were all far from their best. Divín skated cautiously. Calmat fell on a triple loop attempt, as did McPherson. However, the Canadian did manage to land two double Axels and a triple Salchow and earn marks from 5.7 to 5.9 for artistic impression.

Donald McPherson

Manfred Schnelldorfer's mother recalled the event thusly: "Divín looked like a phenomenon from a generation of earlier years... Calmat fell once, the first part of his program was unclean, but he caught up again only to get a much lower score than in Budapest... Sepp Schönmetzler had fallen, was completely exhausted, could not keep his mouth from the effort and cold, and cursed at the entrance over the devastating ice. He was as dissatisfied with himself as I had never seen him. A group of Italians was very loud as Manfred set out to start. The music was much too soft and Manfred was too late for the first jump. The pace was too fast, he could not adjust it and I saw the disaster coming... He fell so badly backwards that he lost a lot of time to get up again. In those seconds he wondered whether to give up. He did not want it anymore and had to leave some difficulties out. He jumped only simple jumps, no more doubles and dragged to the end. It was cruel. McPherson, a good head smaller, entered the arena. He fell as he attempted to jump the triple Rittberger, but he got everything else and he owed it, as he later confessed, to the midnight training that Dick Button had done with him in Cortina. He was used to the splinter-hard ice. In the cloakroom, nobody could figure out who would take the first, second and third places. My husband and I were being pursued by many curious eyes. I laughed, I consoled Manfred that he would be better off without the additional burden of a World Championship. He had just failed, he was not used to it, he was otherwise reliable, and the tremendous sense of duty had, of course, raised too many hopes, even among our own people. I was annoyed that my husband could not understand that these young athletes are flesh and blood and not machines. Then came the announcement: 'World Champion 1963, Donald McPherson, Canada. Second Alain Calmat, France. Third Manfred Schnelldorfer, Germany.'... There were a few contemptuous looks, there were some articles in magazines which were vaguely imaginative, which brought Manfred's third place in connection with a 'love' in his beloved sport. But could not he ever fall in love? About 20 hours after his unfortunate performance he skated in the same ice... His double Axel was big, everything else elegant... not a single fault - only 20 hours too late."

Incidently, the marks took more than half an hour to compute. McPherson, a student of Dennis Silverthorne, was first on all but the American judge's scorecard in the free skate, but overall, he had only two first place ordinals but five second places. His point total combined with his majority of second places narrowly gave him the win over Calmat and Schnelldorfer, who had three firsts and Divín, who had one. McPherson became the youngest man in history to win the World title, while his Canadian teammates Donald Knight and Bill Neale finished eighth and fifteenth. He later remarked, "To be a champion, you have to have the desire to prove that you can be the best, even if it means giving up everything else. It's a marvellous feeling when you finally achieve your goal, but the work along the way means so much more."

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": https://skateguard1.blogspot.com/p/buy-book.html.

The Circolo Pattinatori Valentino Torino

Reproduction of Carlo Stratta's 1887 painting "Skaters in Valentino Park"

Mamma mia! Pour yourself a nice, refreshing glass of Pinot Grigio because we're going way back to the nineteenth century today to take a look at the first skating club in Italy - the Circolo Pattinatori Valentino Torino in Turin, Italy.

According to skating lore, it's been suggested that it was actually Canadian visitors that first got the Italians interested in figure skating. We do know that the sport became fashionable in the city of Turin in the 1860's and by 1872, interest was sufficient that the idea of forming a skating club in the Parco de Valentino was conceived. The Parco de Valentino was originally part of a parcel of land owned by the House Of Savoy-Carignano.

Michela Damasco's 2010 article "Torino balla sul ghiaccio" noted that it was "a certain Mr. Weber, a Swiss skating master who, when confronted with a frozen pond in the park, had the brilliant idea of creating a real skating school. [He was] a charismatic person with extensive experience acquired in his wanderings between Austria and Sweden. He acquired in a short time [the support of] the aristocracy of Turin who observed with amazement his twirls." In 1873, the city designated a large lawn in the Parco de Valentino for skating and the following year the Circolo Pattinatori Valentino Torino was formed by thirty skaters. Among the founders were Count Marchetti of Murialdo and the Club's first President, Count Ernesto di Sambuy, who also served as Mayor of Turin from 1883 to 1886. In no time flat, spectators were flocking to the rink in droves to see what all the fuss was about. On January 12, 1874, the "Journal Piemontese" noted, "The ice skaters in the Parco Valentino continue to draw in a huge number of spectators and [many] skaters; Yesterday you could say that half Turin [came]. Beautiful is the chosen [art] and full of interest is the [following of] the developments [of these] daring young men and ladies who give themselves to this difficult and attractive exercise." Skaters became enthralled with the practice of school figures and barrel jumping, as in North America at the time, was a happening thing. Count Marchetti of Murialdo even, according to writer Ada Guglielmino, would spread milk and water on the ice to give it a "romantic whiteness".

Figure skating captured the imagination of Turin's upper crust in particular and membership in the Circolo Pattinatori Valentino Torino skyrocketed from thirty to eight hundred. The Duke Of Genoa, Thomas Of Savoy was appointed the club's honorary president and Crown Prince Umberto II of the House Of Savoy-Carignano, the Duchess of Aosta Elena d'Orleans and Princess Mary Adelaide Bona Savoy-Genoa all became members. In 1878, a wooden chalet was constructed for members beside the rink where skaters were served refreshments and an orchestra accompanied skaters. On January 23, 1887, a 'festival of ice' was held and by the late nineteenth century, the club's membership was so great that it was forced to refuse the entry of new members as the ice was simply getting too overcrowded.

Centennial medal of the Circolo Pattinatori Valentino Torino

In 1900, an artificial pond was constructed to replace the original rink. The club's organizers teamed up with the local gymnastics society of using the area exclusively for teaching skating in the winter and gymnastics in the warmer months to both members and pupils in public schools. In 1908, the rink even played host to the first recorded hockey game in Italy.

In 1915, a historic first competition for both singles and pairs figure skaters and speed skaters was organized by the club. Many great Italian figure skating champions came from the club's membership from the twenties through the sixties including Count Alberto Bonacossa, Dina Mancio and Gaspare Voli, Sergio Bellé and Sergio Brosio. In 1933, the artificial pond was drained and replaced with another rink, which was demolished in 1958 to make way for halls needed for the Torino Esposizioni. Although not in their original home, the Circolo Pattinatori Valentino Torino has remained active in the twenty first century.

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": https://skateguard1.blogspot.com/p/buy-book.html.

The 1951 World Figure Skating Championships

Prior to 2018, Italy had only played host to the International Skating Union's most prestigious annual competition three times. The first time was back on February 23 to 25, 1951, when the World Figure Skating Championships were held at the the Palazzo del Ghiaccio in Milan, a small, unheated indoor rink where light streamed in through high windows. 

Luggage label from the Hotel Duomo in Milan

The luxurious six-month old Hotel Duomo played host to the competitors and officials. British guests, who were living on post-War rations of only one egg a week and a tiny portion of meat, reveled in the lunches available at the rink's restaurant. There were competitors from twelve countries, among them Japanese and German skaters appearing for the first time in international competition since World War II. Many American skaters, who were used to being judged under their country's 10.0 system, were marked out of 6.0 for the first time. A lot may have changed in the last sixty seven years, but today we'll take a look back at the skaters and stories of this fascinating competition!


Ria Baran and Paul Falk

European Champions Ria Baran and Paul Falk arrived in Milan quite concerned about their chances as Ria had injured her spine while skating in Basel, Switzerland shortly after the European Championships in Zürich. Doctors warned her not to compete at the World Championships but she chose to disregard their orders.

Karol and Peter Kennedy. Photo courtesy H.J. Lutcher Stark Center Archives.

In a four-three split of the judging panel and by only three tenths of a point, the Germans fended off a formidable challenge from Seattle's Karol and Peter Kennedy, known affectionately to American fans as 'The Kennedy Kids'. British siblings Jennifer and John Nicks easily defeated the team that had beaten them at the European Championships - Switzerland's Elyane Steinemann and André Calame - for the bronze. Canadian Champions Jane Kirby and Donald Tobin weren't even sent by the CFSA to participate.

Following the event, T.D. Richardson remarked, "The Kennedy's skated to perfection. They were miles better than last year and although they were beaten by what is probably the greatest pair of all time, I think it was their fine sportsmanship in defeat that raised them to a higher pinnacle than when they won last year."


Though not recognized as an 'official' World Championships, the International Ice Dance Competition held in conjunction with the 1951 Milan competition was very much the real deal. Twelve teams from six nations (Austria, Belgium, Great Britain, Holland, Switzerland and the United States) participated and the unpopular ISU rule barring judges from judging skaters from their own countries didn't apply because the event was considered unofficial. Thusly, all but the lone Dutch team, Catharina and Jacobus Odink, benefited from representation on the panel of judges. In her February 2015 Skate Guard interview, Jean Westwood recalled, "In 1950, most nations at this time held their Nationals AFTER Worlds and selected their next year's World Team. In England, all their dance couples had retired, split up or turned professional. It was decided to hold a trial and select a team to enter the International Dance Competition, the forerunner of the World Dance Championship in Milan during the World Figure Skating Championships. In October, I was involved in a serious car accident while attending Liverpool University and was hospitalized for a month then had to undergo physiotherapy. The new partnership of Lawrence Demmy and myself was formed and we decided to enter the trials. It was not judged but two couples were selected - ourselves and John Slater (my previous partner!) and Joan Dewhirst. So off we went to Milan where Lawrence and I won the first competition we entered - which just happened to be the equivalent of a World Championship. It was some way to start a career!"

Incredibly, Jean Westwood walked with a cane the entire time she was in Milan. With one first place ordinal apiece, Britons Joan Dewhirst and John Slater and Americans Lois Waring and Michael McGean finished second and third. British judge Len Seagrave was the only judge to place the top seven teams exactly how they ended up finishing.


Sonya Klopfer, Jeannette Altwegg and Jacqueline du Bief celebrating after winning medals in Milan

France's Jacqueline du Bief arrived in Milan in high spirits after defeating Great Britain's Jeannette Altwegg at the European Championships but found herself incredibly psyched out by the strength of the entire American team, unable to perform even the simplest jump in her first practice. With twenty three entries, the women's school figures took over six hours. Twenty one year old Altwegg took a commanding fifty seven point lead with first place marks from every judge. Canada's Suzanne Morrow followed closely behind, followed by du Bief. A report in "Skating" magazine noted, "Five girls had to skate the final bracket-change-bracket in almost darkness, for the referee explained to Misses [Margaret] Graham, [Tenley] Albright and [Sonya] Klopfer that the fuses had blown!"

Left: Barbara Wyatt, Right: Sonya Klopfer. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine.

French sensation Jacqueline du Bief dazzled in the free skate, earning first place ordinals from every judge and wowing the crowd with her double Lutz, spins and artistry. However, it wasn't enough for her to take the title from Altwegg, who received ordinals as low as eighth and ninth in the free skate from the Austrian and American judges. American Sonya Klopfer moved up to take the bronze with a strong free skate. Morrow dropped to fourth, ahead of Great Britain's Barbara Wyatt and America's Tenley Albright. Canada's second entry, Elizabeth Hiscock, placed thirteenth, nine spots ahead of Japan's Etsuko Inada. Inada had been the darling of the 1936 Winter Olympics and was considered by some as a medal hopeful for the 1940 Winter Olympics in Japan, which were cancelled by World War II. Her comeback, at age twenty seven, was nothing short of inspiring.

In her book "Thin Ice", Jacqueline du Bief recalled, "I had worked very hard that year and had greatly hoped to win and when I awoke the day following the competition and realized that everything had to be started all over again and that my chances in the Olympic Games the following year were greatly damaged, I felt a very serious temptation, which pursued me for several weeks, to throw it all up. Luckily, Madame Vaudecrane was there. She reinflated me and made me understand how great would be her personal disappointment if I were to stop now, after so many years of hard work and such great effort."


Twenty one year old Dick Button of Englewood, New Jersey might have been the defending Olympic and World Champion entering the 1951 World Championships in Milan, but his third World title win was anything but a walk in the park. In his book "Dick Button On Skates", he recalled, "For me, 1951 was a year I had to keep on my toes. My third year at Harvard found me more immersed in college activities than ever before. Christmas vacation forced me out of a minor role in a Hasty Pudding show that was touring the East Coast and into a stiff ten-day practice session at Lake Placid. But exams and term papers displaced January’s skating session and I had only three days of intensified practice before the National Championships at Seattle started the year’s competition. With Milan and the World Championship only three weeks off, I had to measure up to beating not only European challengers but also the Americans who had done so well at Seattle. It was important for me to do well at Milan in 1951, for if I lost, I would be in a poor position to retain my Olympic championship the following year."

Poster from the 1951 World Championships

By the time Dick Button arrived in Northern Italy via Zürich, he was exhausted. When he checked in at the Duomo Hotel, near Milan's Teatro alla Scala, his temperature was 102 and his "knees felt no stronger than damp spaghetti." Tenley Albright's father gave him a series of penicillin shots and ordered him to bed. Eventually, he started training even though the fever hadn't subsided. He recalled, "the days passed quickly and when the competition began I was once again officially listed as the American champion defend- ing a world crown. The school figures made a long and tedious grind through the first day of competition. I can only repeat the trite axiom that practice pays. Through the years, much as I disliked school figures, I had never slighted practice on the involved etchings which carry 60 per cent of the scoring. Even though I had called on the reserve of knowledge I had acquired through those years, I was wilted when the day was done. But what a relief I felt when I heard my figures were the best in the tournament. I had a margin of 72.1 points over Hellmut Seibt, European champion, and officials told me they believed that to be a record advantage for recent skating. I could only feel a tremendous confidence for free skating; but yet not enough to keep me from heading straight home to bed. Dr. Albright had advised me to eschew practicing my free skating program, and to conserve energy for the one performance I had to do before the judges. I was nervous when I took center ice for the start of the free skating, more nervous perhaps than I have been before or since. I didn’t know when I might run down. My knees shook a little at the start. I told myself angrily that this was just a hang-over from the fever; a competitor after his fourth world title couldn’t be nervous! But everything moved into place as the music started and the program went well. Triple-double-loops, double-Axel-double-loops, and jump-spin combinations followed each other in a secure if not confident program." Among his very few errors was a fall on the second jump in a double loop/double loop/double loop combination.

Dick Button easily won the men's title with first place ordinals from all but Swiss judge Eugene Kirchhofer, who placed him third in that segment behind his teammates Hayes Alan Jenkins and Jimmy Grogan. Nineteen year old Grogan's athletic performance earned him second place ordinals across the board in the free skate, more than enough to overtake Hellmut Seibt for the silver. Jenkins, Dudley Richards and Don Laws placed fourth, fifth and seventh while Italian Champion Carlo Fassi placed an impressive fifth. 1951 Canadian Bronze Medallist William Lewis - Canada's sole entry in the men's event - placed a disappointing ninth in a field of eleven. Hayes Alan Jenkins' performance, which included a double Axel, was hailed as one of the best in the event. Eminent British judge and historian T.D. Richardson raved, "Young Hayes Jenkins skated the fullest free program I have ever seen. There were movements from as far back as [Henning] Grenander woven into the double what-have-yous in a most fascinating matter."

In her book "Thin Ice", Jacqueline du Bief recalled how the audience reacted to the marks of one unnamed contestant in the men's event in Milan thusly: "Everyone shouted, whistled, gesticulated, called his neighbour to witness and in a few seconds a veritable avalanche of cries of 'Banditto!' from hundreds of angry thoughts was hurled at the judges - to the great joy of all the competitors." One has to wonder which skater's performance so moved to the Italian crowd to such a protest.


Following the competition, the Federazione Italiana Sport del Ghiaccio put on a lavish ball at the newly constructed Duomo Hotel to honour the skaters who participated in the first World Championships ever held on Italian soil. The American team won a trophy that was donated by Italian President Luigi Einaudi for the team who accumulated the most points. Trophies were given out and every skater received some sort of reward. Dick Button recalled, "The gift to the two competitors who came in last was a beautiful woolen blanket and a bottle of liquor. The comments of those receiving them were only questioning glances that asked whether their skating needed a shot from the bottle, or their performances had been inert enough to require the warmth of a blanket."

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": https://skateguard1.blogspot.com/p/buy-book.html.

Four Unlikely Ice Queens Of The Sixties

They called them the Swinging Sixties. In the era of peace, love, incense and peppermints, five talented women - Carol Heiss, Sjoukje Dijkstra, Petra Burka, Peggy Fleming and Gaby Seyfert - reigned atop the Olympic and World podiums. In a sea of stories, the tales of many talented young women who competed during the period have been sadly overlooked. Today on the blog, we'll revisit the stories of four talented skaters from four different countries who deserve a place in our memories.


Junko Ueno, Carol Heiss and Miwa Fukuhara at the 1960 Winter Olympics

"Beauty is universal, thus the products which serve beauty should also be universal." - Arinobu Fukuhara

Born December 13, 1944 in the metropolitan ward of Ōta in Tokyo, Japan, Miwa Fukuhara trained under Japanese skating legend and 1936 Olympian Etsuko Inada in her youth. The granddaughter of Arinobu Fukuhara, who founded the Apothecary Shiseidō - yes, that Shiseido - in the late nineteenth century, Miwa medalled thrice at the Japanese Championships in the late fifties before finally winning her country's national title in 1960 at the age of fifteen. 

Miwa placed a disappointing twenty first at the 1960 Winter Olympic Games in Squaw Valley but while attending Waseda University and studying western history, she stepped up her game considerably in a short amount of time. She won the Japanese title five consecutive times from 1962 to 1966 and at the 1964 Winter Olympics in Innbsruck, placed an incredible fifth. Her result was the best finish ever by a Japanese skater at the Olympics at the time. Miwa was actually in fourth place after the figures at those Games but a disappointing ninth place effort in free skating was what dropped her a spot in the standings. Still, she placed ahead of Peggy Fleming, Christy (Haigler) Krall, Wendy Griner, Hana Mašková, Gaby Seyfert and many other skaters who would make major impacts on the sport in the years that followed. One particularly interesting footnote regarding Miwa's career is that she excelled moreso in figures than free skating: certainly a debunking of the stereotype of Japanese skaters struggling in that discipline of skating during her era.

After winning the Winter Universiade in 1964 in Špindlerův Mlýn, Czechoslovakia and again in Sestriere, Italy in 1966 and amassing five top ten finishes at the World Championships, Miwa turned professional. She won the World Professional Championships in Great Britain and toured with Holiday On Ice. In the late seventies and early eighties starred in the Viva! Ice World shows alongside Nobuo Sato and Minoru Sano at the Prince Hotel in Tokyo. She has coached a number of top Japanese skaters including Junko Yaginuma and Nozomi Watanabe and has acted as head coach at the Meiji Jingu Skating Rink in Shinjuku. Although her family may be in the business of selling beauty that's only skin deep, Miwa's work in creating beauty has left an impression on the sport that will never fade.


Born August 2, 1950 in Moscow, Elena Lvovna Schneglova was only fourteen years old when she placed third at the Soviet Championships behind none other than Tamara Moskvina in 1965. A product of the demanding Soviet sports program, she trained at the Young Pioneers Stadium in Moscow under the watchful eye of Tatiana Tomalcheva. After Tamara Moskvina shifted her focus entirely to pairs skating, Elena emerged as one of the top female Soviet skaters of the late sixties. She won her country's national title in both 1966 and 1968, the Prize Of Moscow News in both 1968 and 1969 and was a competitor at four European Championships, five World Championships and the 1968 Winter Olympics in Grenoble, France. In participating at those Games, Elena and Galina Grzhibovskaya were the first two Soviet or Russian women in history to ever compete in women's figure skating at the Olympic Games. After a twelfth place finish at the 1970 World Championships, she faded into obscurity but her confident style and high flying double Axel certainly demanded the attention of audiences at a time when Soviet women's skaters were making their first impressions on the Olympic stage. At a time when talented young women in the Soviet Union were ushered into pairs skating, she was a unlikely star in singles.


Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine

Born March 9, 1943 in Long Beach, California, Rhode Lee Michelson started skating when she was eight years old. After taking lessons from World Champion Jean Westwood, she began working with Jean's ice dance partner Bill Kipp. Rhode Lee was a skater ahead of her time, tackling difficult double Axels and even triple jumps in practice at a time when many of her competitors were quite content skating programs with a much easier degree of difficulty. She also had a reputation as a bit of a 'bad girl'. She mowed down skaters in practice sessions, stayed out late, talked back to her coach and wasn't the least bit shy around the boys: certainly not the typical 'ice princess' of her era. In her wonderful 2010 book "Indelible Tracings", Patricia Shelley Bushman noted, "Club officials rationalized that she would be getting into more trouble if she weren't skating and grudgingly accepted her as a lovable rascal."

Despite not having the typical 'dainty' physique or skating style of many of her contemporaries, there was a certain something about Rhode Lee's style that was majestic in its own way. Though she struggled with school figures, she was a fearless free skater and commanded the attention of audiences and judges alike. After winning the 1958 U.S. novice ladies title, she moved her way up the ranks and placed third and second in the junior women's events at the U.S. Championships in 1959 and 1960. At the 1961 U.S. Championships in Colorado Springs, she climbed all the way from last place to third with a gutsy free skate that featured two double Axel's near the end of her program. After an injury forced her to withdraw from the 1961 North American Championships in Philadelphia, she boarded Sabena Flight 548 enroute to her first World Championships. Along with the rest of the 1961 U.S. Figure Skating Team, her coach Bill Kipp and countless others, she perished on that ill-fated flight. We will never know what trajectory Rhode Lee's career might have taken had she not have boarded that plane, but she lives on in skating's collective memory as one of the most intriguing and exciting young skaters of her era.


Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine

"He won the lottery and died the next day." - Alanis Morissette

Born on Valentine's Day in 1942 in Chatham, Ontario, Sandra Gail Tewksebury joined the Chatham Figure Skating Club when it was formed in 1949 and took from coach Leona Beryl Goodman. A precociously talented young skater, she passed the Canadian and American silver dance tests and the Canadian, British and American gold tests in school figures when she was only a pre-teen. In early 1957, she won the senior women's title at the Niagara Invitational Figure Skating Competition in Detroit and finished third in the junior women's event at the Canadian Championships in Winnipeg. It was clear to anyone who was paying attention that the prodigious youngster from Chatham was going places.

Making the hop, skip and jump into the senior ranks in 1959, she won the Western Ontario Sectional Championships and the bronze medal at the Canadian Figure Skating Championships in Noranda, Quebec behind Carole Jane Pachl and Karen Dixon. At the subsequent North American Championships in Toronto, she placed in the top five in her international debut and was the top Canadian woman at that event. At the World Championships in Colorado Springs, she placed an impressive tenth, again the top finisher among the three Canadian women entered. Not bad for a sixteen year old who hailed from a skating club that had never produced a medallist at the Canadian Championships until she came on the scene.

All seemed lost for Sandra when at the 1960 Canadian Championships in Regina, she finished off the podium in a disappointing fifth place. The "Montreal Gazette" reported that at those Nationals, "Miss Tewkesbury, skating for the last several months with a bandaged foot to support weak ligaments, messed up a high-factor figure in the first part of the program and never recovered." She was not named to the 1960 World team but CFSA officials had faith in the injured young skater and gave her a winning lottery ticket of sorts: a coveted spot on the 1960 Winter Olympic team.

At the Squaw Valley Olympics, seventeen year old Sandra started the school figures in twelfth, worked her way up to eighth and dropped to tenth place after the free skating. Considering her result at the Canadian Championships, being the top Canadian woman in that event, placing in the top ten in one of her first international competitions and defeating sixteen other skaters - including future World Medallists Wendy Griner and Nicole Hassler - was nothing to sneeze at.

Sandra retired at seventeen, married a former newspaper ad man named Gary Ritchie and took a job teaching skating at the Guelph Figure Skating Club. Driving alone on a highway just outside of Guelph on June 5, 1962, her car collided with a vehicle driven by forty seven year old James Nichol of Rockwood. Both were taken to a Guelph hospital: Nichol with minor injuries and Sandra with critical injuries after being pinned in her car. Nichol survived; Sandra and her unborn child were pronounced dead five hours after being admitted. She was only twenty years old at the time of her untimely death. Inducted into Chatham Sports Hall of Fame 1986 and the Skate Canada Western Ontario Section Hall Of Fame in 2015, Sandra's death is a tragedy often forgotten in correlation with the timing of the Sabena Crash that claimed the lives of Rhode Lee Michelson and the entire U.S. Figure Skating team only a year before. In talking about her story, we can keep the memory of a brilliant young star gone far too soon alive.

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": https://skateguard1.blogspot.com/p/buy-book.html.

Featured Post

Pre-Order Your Copy of "Jackson Haines: The Skating King"

  "Jackson Haines: The Skating King" won't be available for purchase until November 1, but the good news is that you can place...