#Unearthed: The Irina Rodnina And Alexei Ulanov Edition

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 an article "Wizards - But Not In The Classical Style!" by Novosti sportswriter Andrei Batashov. It appeared in a 1970 issue of "Soviet Sport" magazine and detailed the rise to prominence of Soviet pairs skaters Irina Rodnina and Alexei Ulanov, who would two years later win Olympic gold in Sapporo, Japan.


In 1969 Irina Rodnina, 18, and Alexei Ulanov, 21, both students at the Central Physical Culture Institute and pupils of the celebrated coach Stanislav Zhuk won the European and world figure skating crowns. They took the European title on their second try, a feat the experts found hard to explain. And shortly afterward, in their world debut at Colorado Springs, they picked up the gold again. Besides a bewitching spectacle of motion, their performances offered an insight into the magic kingdom of youth, where speeds fall into different categories, emotions are ten times as intense and every movement sparkles and crackles with fun and ebullience.

I first saw the two several years ago at the Army Sports Palace in Moscow and was staggered by their complex synchronized leaps. I asked Zhuk then what he had to say about their prospects. "It's premature to enter them for big events," he told me. "Creation is a thing that can't be rushed. Composition has to come of its own accord. "It's senseless to try to speed up the process. You can pull up the stem as much as you like, but it won't make the flower blossom any sooner."

However, Zhuk was able to make this flower blossom with a loveliness that was not in the classical catalogue. The two have a beauty all their own, the product of great effort and inspiration transformed into movement.

It took Irina and Alexei a bit over three years to give tangible body to Zhuk's concept. As he says: "I want both life and sports to have pep and novelty, in short, to be live wires. It's new movements of incredible difficulty that make figure skating come alive."

Today their duet is called beautiful and modern. No wonder; they display a cascading series of movements that no others dare. Not long ago they were said to be under par, classically speaking, with no real understanding of the musical accompaniment. But they and their coach have clearly disproved this.

"I never wanted them to do a 'fashionable' program no matter what." Says Zhuk. "I've always wanted their composition to be sports-inspired, to bubble over with vim and vigor. Against this background the lyrical note should be all the more evocative. "I once happened to notice," he recalls, “that they make unusual, I would even say comical, steps. So I decided to base the composition precisely on that. When she thinks she is not being observed, Irina does wonders. And that's the atmosphere I try to create."

Irina Rodnina and friend Tatyana Zelentsova, a European Champion at hurdling

Talking with Irina recently, I asked her what she liked most about figure skating. "Speed," she said. "The chance to do what you can't do anywhere else, even in ballet. But I also admire ice hockey, boxing and, of course, the ballet."

"What does Zhuk frown at most?"

"There are some things I like that I do without thinking. That's when he says: 'You're a grownup now!'"

"Any changes for next year's program?"

"You can't revamp it completely in one year. We'll simply add a couple of novelties. After all, they've got to be thought up -  which doesn’t happen every day - and assimilated."

"Do you think grace should be the big element in figure skating?"

"Sports are competition, and grace is the result. It doesn't matter what, figure skating or anything else. In sports one simply can't decide to be graceful at any cost."

"Your program is fast. Doesn't this get in the way of the lyrical note?"

"That can be expressed in various ways including leaps, which I think are much more fascinating than the usual ballet pas full of ‘inspired lyricism."

"Planning to use jazz?"

"We're often advised to try Spanish or Mexican rhythms or jazz. But I like the vivacious free-flowing Russian music most. Take our finale. I think my heart is going to jump out, but when this music comes up, it's like a new charge of strength. The music must suit you. Sometimes you see a little nine-year-old skating to Tchaikovsky's 'Piano Concerto No. 1' What for? There are things for kids, aren't there? The audience would like it better, and the little girl would find it easier to skate to music for her age."

"Ever wanted to copy anyone?"

"What for? There are many people I like and respect, but I've never thought of copying them, at any rate deliberately. Tragic emotions are not my nature. It's possible they won't be even when I turn thirty. So why force myself, why try to express what I don't know any thing about? One authority said to me: 'Look at the way you skate!'  After all, figure skating is classical and I don't want to be classical.

Viewers call the duet wizards. But wizards are not this young and fun-loving. Nor are they accordion players, like Alexei, or boxing fans, like Irina. After their victory at the European tournament, the pair was presented with copies of the 1972 Olympic gold and silver medals.

Said Alexei at the time: “If that's a forecast, we have no objection. But we're not going to risk any guesses ourselves."

"They leave that to me," Zhuk grins. "What can you do? You've got to risk together. In figure skating, you can't clutch the idea that a bird in the hand is better than set yourself a goal and try to get there."

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.

Figure Skating Hodge Podge, Volume 6

As autumn crept in the last five years, I introduced you to a Maritime classic: hodge podge.  If you've never had a proper bowl of hodge podge, you don't know what you're missing. It's a traditional Nova Scotian fall dish that uses nothing but the freshest harvest vegetables. It just warms your soul and I'm craving it already by just mentioning it.

Here in Atlantic Canada, we use the expression 'hodge podge' to describe anything that's got a little bit of everything. Figure skating constantly evolves and changes that much that it's not always easy to keep track of all of the developments, stories and (sometimes) dramas that develop along the way. I've had several topics that I'd been wanting to write about for quite a while that all seemed to have two common denominators. For one, they are all tales that many people may not know or if they did, might not remember. Secondly, they don't all really have enough material to constitute a full blog of their own. Fasten your seatbelts and prepare for a tour of compelling stories with a skating connection... and a delicious 6.0 finish!


Today, few us venture far without some sort of electronic device at arm's reach. It's hard to imagine a time when technology didn't play some role in figure skating but for many years, judges held up their scores on cards and the results of competitions were calculated painstakingly by hand, with only a table of factors and an adding machine to assist the accountants in their math. "We were still doing it by hand in 1952," recalled ISU historian Benjamin T. Wright. At the 1962 U.S. Championships in Boston, a computer was used to calculate ordinals, print schedules and create seating charts for social events. A computerized scoring system with 'instant' print-outs wasn't used at the U.S. Championships until 1968. It was an IBM System/360, Model 30 and the competitors at that year's Nationals in Philadelphia were affected greatly by its use. In "Skating" magazine, Tim Wood remarked, "It's swell to have your marks posted so quickly. With your first compulsory figure's scoring in hand, you can skate better on the second figure because you know you must skate well to stay in contention against the champ... [but] it's easy to see how a skater who places below the first five spots might become discouraged... So discouraged that he might skate poorly in the third figure and afterward."

IBM System/360, Model 30. Photo courtesy Computer History Museum.

The CFSA didn't pay for "the immediate programming of computers for determination of results" at the Canadian Championships until 1972. Though computers had previously been introduced to the CFSA by Hugh Glynn to keep test records, the use of a computer to calculate competition results was considered a groundbreaking move in Canada at the time. However, the ISU beat the CFSA and USFSA to the punch by years! The first instance a computer was used to calculate the results at the World Championships was in 1964 in Dortmund, West Germany. An IBM systems engineer from Stuttgart named Ulrich Barth developed the software used. Prior to that, a computer had been used for the same purpose at both the 1960 and 1964 Winter Olympic Games.


PJ Kwong often jokes about the time she placed second in a competition... when she was the only entry. The concept of 'skating to a standard' in competition - having to receive a certain mark in order to win - was no stranger to skaters who found themselves in the unenviable position of not having skaters to compete against in days gone by. In fact, it was one of the oldest rules on the books of the ISU! Skating historian Benjamin T. Wright noted that skaters were required to earn "marks of at least 'good' (4.0) from a majority of judges in order to win a Championship... The level of marks awarded, especially in the figures... in Cologne [at the 1973 European Championships] were so low that the title of European Ladies' Champion was almost not awarded!" The rule, which had been established in 1907, was removed at the 1973 ISU Congress in Copenhagen. It had only been applied in international competition twice - when Lili Kronberger took the World title in Budapest in 1909 and when Ludovika and Walter Jakobsson won pairs in Vienna in 1911.


Romy Kermer and Rolf Österreich performing a death spiral in 1974. Photo courtesy German Federal Archive.

The two-handed back outside death spiral was a popular 'trick' among professional pairs skaters in the twenties and thirties such as Sadie Cambridge and Albert Enders and Katie Schmidt and Howard Nicholson. Curiously, Schmidt and Nicholson termed their two-handed version the 'lay-back spiral' and a simple dip the 'death dip'.

First popularized in the amateur ranks by Swiss pair Pierrette and Paul Du Bois, the death spiral got a makeover when Suzanne Morrow-Francis and Wally Distelmeyer started performing it with a lower, arched back position in the forties. They have been credited as the first team to perform this version in amateur competition.

In the sixties, Ludmila and Oleg Protopopov performed three new variations of the death spiral on the back inside, forward inside and forward outside edges. They gave the death spirals the names the Cosmic, Life and Love Spirals and actually claimed to have invented the back inside death spiral accidentally. Quoted in a September 9, 2011 in the "Lake Placid News", Ludmila explained, "We were practicing the death spiral one day, and by mistake I slipped from the outside to the inside edge. That was the move we decided to call the cosmic spiral." Other skaters from the Protopopov's era copied their efforts. Americans Cynthia and Ron Kauffman performed a death spiral with a change of hands in 1964 and by the seventies, all four of the death spiral positions became standard tools of the trade. Interestingly, Tamara Moskvina and Igor Moskvin claimed a different origin story for the forward inside death spiral, which the Protopopov's called the Life Spiral: "The death spiral forward inside was invented after having seen a film in the 1970's with the death spiral backward inside, shown in the reverse order."


Illustration of the Westminster Waltz pattern, circa 1950. Courtesy Erik van der Weyden's book "Dancing On Ice".

In 1938 in England, the National Skating Association unveiled its new First Class (Gold) Dance Test. The first to pass was Walter Gregory, with Reginald Wilkie serving as one of his judges. Interestingly, one of the dances Gregory tested - and passed - was the Rhumba, which was one of his own creations, the Rhumba. The first time Gold Dances were tested in America was during a judges school conducted by Roger Turner in Lake Placid in 1942. In her book "Figure Skating History: The Evolution Of Dance On Ice", Lynn Copley-Graves recalled, "In the first actual tests, eight candidates skated the Blues and one the Viennese Waltz, first with a partner, then alone, and again with a partner. Each candidate also skated some patterns with a judge. Six passed the Blues. Those who passed the Blues attempted another dance. Three chose the Kilian, two the Quickstep, and one the Viennese. Two passed the Kilian... The cooperation and patience of these skaters, used as guinea pigs in this early development of Gold Dance standards, helped define the technique that later made the U.S. skaters competitive in world meets." It wasn't until April 9, 1950 in Toronto that the first Canadian Gold Dance Test was passed. In the months that followed, students of Markus Nikkanen and Hans Gerschwiler at the Schumacher summer school lined up for their turns. That same year, the ISU Dance Committee met in London and proposed a Gold International Dance Test, consisting of the Argentine Tango, Paso Doble, Quickstep and the Viennese and Westminster Waltzes. Four years later at the 1954 World Championships in Oslo, Jean Westwood and Lawrence Demmy and Virginia Hoyns and Don Jacoby became the first couples to take and pass the ISU's Gold Dance Test.


Peri Levitsky

On November 29, 1956, a sixty four year old widow sent a telegram from Budapest addressed to the S.C.E. Palace in Birmingham, England. It was signed 'Mutti' and asked for a reply. The telegraph was undeliverable, as there was no such address. A paragraph about the telegraph appeared in a Birmingham newspaper, calling for assistance in determining who the recipient was and the county welfare officer for the Red Cross even joined in the search for its recipient. A skater at the Birmingham Ice Rink recognized details in the telegram and surmised that 'S.C.E.' had been a typo for 'ICE'. He surmised the intended recipient of the telegram was none other than Peri Levitsky, a former Hungarian Champion in figure skating who had been teaching at the rink. Peri rushed to the post office at 9:30 at night... and was shocked to find the telegram was from her mother, who she believed had been killed during wartime bombing or the uprising in Hungary. Peri's mother had managed to trace her to Birmingham through friends at the 1955 European Championships in Budapest. 


Sop up what's left with some nice hearty bread and be sure to double or triple up so that you have leftovers... this is always better the second day! This recipe is for four to six people:

Ingredients (fresh from a farmer's market or garden):

10-12 new potatoes – scrubbed/not peeled, and halved – quarter any large potatoes, and don't cut the small ones – you want the potato pieces to be about the same size
2-3 cups chopped new carrots – scrubbed/not peeled, cut into bite sized pieces (you can peel them if you like)
1 cup chopped yellow beans – 1 inch long pieces
1 cup chopped green beans – 1 inch long pieces
1 cup shelled pod peas – you want just the peas, not the pods
1.5 cups cream
1/4 – 1/2 cup butter
salt and pepper to taste

1. Fill a large, heavy pot about halfway with water, and salt lightly (about 1/2 teaspoon of salt). Bring to a boil.
2. Add the potatoes to the boiling water. Cook for about seven minutes.
3. Add the carrots to the pot, and continue cooking for about seven minutes.
4. Next add the yellow and green beans to the pot, and continue cooking for about five minutes.
5. Finally, add the peas, and continue cooking for about three minutes.
6. Drain off most of the water – leave about an inch of water (no more) in the bottom of the pot with the vegetables. Return the pot to the stove, and reduce burner heat to low. Add the cream and butter, and some salt and pepper (I start with a 1/4 teaspoon of each).
7. Gently stir to combine, allowing the the blend and butter to heat through. As you’re stirring, the potatoes might break up a bit. As the the blend and butter heat through, the broth may begin to thicken. This is normal. Don’t allow the mixture to boil.
8. Once the mixture has heated through, it is ready to serve. Season with a little salt and pepper to taste. Serve with bread.

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.

Seventeenth Century Schaats: The Artistry Of Cornelis Dusart

"La Hollandoise sur les patins", Dusart painting engraved by Jacobus Gole. Photo courtesy The British Museum.

Born in Haarlem in 1660, Cornelis Dusart was a prolific and imaginative Dutch painter and printmaker who studied under the great Dutch Golden Age painter Adriaen van Ostade. During his lifetime, skating was a way of life in Holland, a national pastime if you will. In his book "Ice-Skating: A History", Swiss figure skating historian Nigel Brown remarked that during this period, "In winter the frozen canals not only served as the best means of communication between one village and another, but were scenes of popular race-meetings, and the settings of colourful merry-making. The canals, like streets, were often transformed into town squares reminiscent of the gay and lighthearted piazzas of Southern Italy. Good thick ice in winter time in Holland heralded festival time. Tents were elected along the shores, and ships, small canal barges with long skate-runners attached to their hulls, and sails flying, were used to transport the gentry to their rendezvous." Brown was able to discern much of this information through one of the most valuable primary sources out there when it comes to early skating history: art.

Cornelis Dusart specialized in capturing the spirit and character of seventeenth century Dutch peasant life in his work. He fashioned several highly detailed winter scenes which contributed greatly to what we know about skating in Holland during this period. An excellent example of the festivities that Brown described is Dusart's "Ijsvermaak nabij een dorp met kerk", which depicts a group of skaters merry-making on the ice, with a church in the background.

"December" by Cornelis Dusart

In a series of twelve prints for each month of the year, Dusart devoted "December" to a man and a woman skating on the ice, propelling themselves along with a pitched staff, which the skater would use almost like a walking stick to achieve balance, strike off with to achieve speed and to help make sudden stops. In seventeenth century Holland, few skaters would 'tour' any distance without one of these bad boys in their hands. The ice was simply too crowded and the wide, flat skates were too primitive to allow them the control they needed to manoeuvr obstacles like holes in the ice, rocks and dense thickets of reeds.

Work by Cornelis Dusart, engraved by Jacobus Gole

Dusart frequently collaborated with engraver Jacobus Gole and in the year's following his death in 1704, Gole reimagined several works in Dusart's style. Had it not been for their creative work, much history of Dutch skating in the seventeenth century would have been lost and we owe them both, along with the many other great Dutch artists who used skating as a medium in this period, a great deal of gratitude.

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.

Anchors Aweigh: True Tales Of Skaters On The High Seas

"Skaters' Island" by Louis Lozowick. Photo courtesy Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Karl Schäfer, Maribel Vinson Owen, Sonja Henie, Belita Jepson-Turner, Theresa Weld Blanchard, Andrée and Pierre Brunet, Megan Taylor, Cecilia Colledge... The one thing all of these fabulous names of yesteryear had in common was certainly their talent on the ice.  Another commonality they all shared was the fact they made trans-Atlantic voyages via steamship. Long before figure skaters began travelling abroad on commercial flights in the fifties, long sea voyages and connections with trains meant days and sometimes weeks of missed training time. Skaters often arrived at competitions exhausted and suffering from queasiness and sea legs. Today on the blog we'll explore several tales of the adventures of figure skaters on the high seas!


Clayton Joseph Cornell and Grace Emmerson

Clayton Joseph Cornell, a professional figure skater from Buffalo, New York found work on the Tivoli Circuit in Australia in the late thirties and had designs of being a skating rink proprietor. He met actress Grace Emmerson in the summer of 1937 and after only a few weeks, they tied the knot on September 11 of that year. They lived together for a few months, but when she went to go visit her mother in Melbourne, he boarded a ship and sailed to Montreal without so much of a goodbye. He sent her a couple of letters from aboard the ship full of hasty explanations and apologies and begged her for a divorce. In one, he wrote, "I have not been any good to you, so why wait any longer if you can get yourself free from me? Please get yourself free. If you don't, I will. I am being a man about this and I hope you don't hate me about this for having to write like this... I am sorry, your husband of yesterday - Clayton Cornell." To top it off, he followed up his letters to the wife he abandoned with two to her parents, begging for money. Under Australian law, Grace had to wait three years to charge desertion. In 1942, she went before a judge and was granted a divorce... and went straight to the papers to tell her story.


Hazel Franklin. Photo courtesy Bibliothèque nationale du Québec.

In the summer of 1939, the media had a field day when two of professional skating's hottest stars walked off separate gangways of the Queen Mary at Southampton. Though twenty six year old Sonja Henie was by far the bigger star, fourteen year old Hazel Franklin of Bournemouth was at the time one of the youngest professional skaters in the world, lauded by one American critic as the "Pocket Miracle Of The Ice".

Sonja Henie aboard The Queen Mary. Photo courtesy National Archives Of Poland.

The July 7, 1939 issue of "Tweed Daily" reported, "Sonja is Hazel's heroine. But they did not meet in the boat or at Southampton. Hazel was in the ship's tourist section. But she known that Sonja was on board. She was met at Waterloo - on the second section of the boat train - by stocky, American-born Mr. Howard Nicholson, ice professional at Earl's Court, who has trained both Sonja and herself. Her first words to him were, 'Sonja was in the boat' and her eyes gleamed. 'I think she's marvellous.'...  Sonja was smiling and vivacious and talking of more film triumphs to come at Claridge's Hotel. Asked about her young rival, she said: 'I didn't even know she was in the same boat... We have never met before, but I should certainly like to see Hazel. Sure, if I'd known she was on board I should have gone along and said 'Hullo.'"


Lovett and Joy MacKinnon, a Canadian sister act

(Edna Alexis) Lovett MacKinnon, a twenty one year old Canadian figure skater and Presbyterian minister's daughter, met her Prince Charming on a ship sailing from South Africa to Australia. After touring Australia and New Zealand for several months alongside Megan and Phil Taylor in the "Switzerland" ice revue, her groom-to-be paid five hundred pounds to have her released from her contract so that they could marry. She returned to South Africa to get married in the autumn of 1939. Although she didn't know it when they met on the high seas, her husband wasn't just anyone... he was Arthur Percy de Villiers, a real life Baron who worked as a lawyer in New Zealand.


Dick Button with his parents on the R.M.S. Queen Elizabeth

After winning three back-to-back gold medals at the 1948 European Championships in Prague, the 1948 Winter Olympics in St. Moritz and the 1948 World Championships, Dick Button made his rounds throughout Europe, giving exhibitions in Vienna, Budapest, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Prague, Paris and London. After his final exhibition, he boarded the R.M.S. Queen Elizabeth in England with his parents to return to North America, where he was to defend his U.S. title. In his book "Dick Button On Skates", Uncle Dick recalled, "Nothing in the future could occupy my thoughts after the 'Queen' had steamed out into the dark midnight. The only energy I could muster was used to record, in the accounts I kept of all the travels, that 'We sailed this morning. I slept.' However, excitement reached out for me even on the high seas via the ship-to-shore telephone. I received a call from Mayor M. Leslie Denning of Engelwood, and learned that I was to welcomed home in the traditional 'local boy makes good' fashion. That wasn't all. When the 'Queen' had been cleared at Quarantine, in lower New York Harbor, a veritable swarm of photographers, newsmen and officials crowded the area reserved for interviews... Four months abroad had all passed so rapidly and the final excitement of such a gala return relegated to oblivion the fact that six years of preparation were already consigned to the past." It wasn't the first time Button had travelled on the "Queen Elizabeth". The year prior, he and Barbara Ann Scott returned to North America aboard the same ship. Their fellow passengers included the Honourable David Bowes-Lyon, brother of the Queen Mother, the U.S. Ambassador to Poland, Count René Aldebert Pineton de Chambrun and Maurice Chevalier. That time, it was Barbara Ann's turn to be summoned to the ship-to-shore telephone. She was chatting with Maurice Chevalier when she was called to speak with Jack Karr, a reporter for the "Toronto Daily Star" who couldn't wait until she got off the boat in New York to do an interview.

Postcard of the R.M.S. Montcalm, the ship which Cecil Smith and Melville Rogers travelled on as Canada's first figure skaters to compete in the Winter Olympic Games in 1924


Photo courtesy Digital Maryland

At the start of World War II, British impresario Claude Langdon received a cable from Arthur M. Wirtz, who wanted to import a touring ice pantomine similar to "Marina". Wirtz asked Langdon to create the company and 'export' the first ice show from Great Britain to America. A large cast was assembled at Earl's Court and Denis Mitchell, the general manager of Empress Hall, offered to escort the large cast of skaters to America. The trouble was in securing a safe Transatlantic passage. In his book "Earl's Court", Langdon recalled, "Owing to the war scare all liner space was booked by Americans in Europe rushing to return to the United States, so we had to pack the girls aboard a cargo-boat, the historic American Freighter. Instead of the three or four days of the crack Transatlantic liners, the freighter took 27 days to cross, and Mitchell was on tenterhooks that they would not arrive in time to open the show on contract date. Wirtz was delighted with 'European Ice Revue', and the show was safely launched on a magnificent U.S. tour... and then came the war. Denis Mitchell managed to get back, but most of the top-flight acts in the show were under contract booking and could not leave. Several of them, anyway, were not British nationals, and had no urgent need to return to the European theatre of war. This disruption broke up the ice revue so far as I was concerned, and we lost a sizable part of half a million dollars. That hurt. But I am comforted by the knowledge that my stars of the European Ice Revue fathered that sort of entertainment in America, where it had never been seen before. Today nearly every top-grade ice act in the United States owes its origin or inspiration to the Earl's Court stars I sent over."


Megan Taylor on the S.S. Anchises

On February 27, 1941, the S.S. Anchises, a passenger liner from the Blue Funnel Line, was bombed by a German aircraft in the Aran Islands. One hundred and thirty four passengers abandoned the ship on lifeboats, while thirty three crew members stayed on board to try to sail the ship to Liverpool. Attacked again the next day, the ship sank with a combined loss between the two attacks of fifteen lives. Less than two years prior, two time and then reigning World Champion Megan Taylor and her father and trainer Phil sailed aboard the Anchises to Melbourne, Australia via South Africa. At the time, Megan was considered one of the leading contenders for the gold medal at the 1940 Winter Olympic Games. Her father had been engaged to star in an ice revue in Australia and New Zealand, and she originally intended to train for the Games down under. When the War cancelled those Games, she joined the "Switzerland" revue. On the 'long boat to Australia', Megan missed weeks of valuable training time and resorted to skipping rope and walking laps around the ship to stay in shape.


In the mid to late thirties, Vienna's Maria Schweinburg was considered an up-and-coming skater with a bright future. She defeated Daphne Walker and Belita Jepson-Turner to win the junior international competition for women at the 1935 European Championships in St. Moritz and won numerous cups, prizes and honours at competitions held in Vienna and Prague. On November 30, 1938, she left Vienna and headed to London, where she remained for over a year. On December 15, 1939, she departed from Liverpool aboard the R.M.S. Samaria bound for America, where she'd secured a job teaching skating at the Knox School. The January 19, 1940 issue of "The Otsego Farmer" recalled, "Suddenly the ship shuddered from the effect of a great blow. The emergency bell rang and all passengers were ordered on deck and to take life belts. Everyone feared that the ship had been torpedoed and many made for the life boats. Ten minutes later, however, the word went around that there had been a collision with the Aquetania, carrying the first Canadian contingent of soldiers to England. With all her life boats damaged and the bridge half torn away, the Samaria had no choice but to return to Liverpool. There Miss Schweinburg waited another week until she could secure passage on the Georgie and this time made a safe passage to America. Although no untoward events occurred this time, the experience of navigating the Atlantic under war conditions is one that Miss Schweinburg will always remember. The complete blackout at night is terrifying in its effect, she says, and the constant zig-zagging of the boat as it changes its course every four minutes is not so pleasant. Rough water was encountered the last day of the voyage, but the ship docked safely at Halifax, and then came down the coast to New York after a short delay because of rumours of the sighting of German U-boats on that lane of travel."

Maria Schweinburg wasn't the only figure skater to survive a U-boat attack. On September 1, 1939, the S.S. Athenia left Glasgow, Scotland, bound for Montreal with over one thousand passengers aboard... though it was clear that war could erupt any day. A day into its voyage, it was torpedoed by a German u-boat off of Ireland. One hundred and seventeen people, mostly passengers, died in the sinking.

Clipping from "The New York Times"

One of the survivors was Ramona Allen, a young skater from Oakland, California. She went on to win the 1940 U.S. junior women's title and medals in both senior singles and dance at the U.S. Championships during the War.

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.

Introducing... Fräulein Elsa Rendschmidt

Photo courtesy Sveriges Centralförening för Idrottens Främjande Archive

At times, life may have been anything but a cabaret for Germany's Elsa Rendschmidt, but somehow she made it through, making history more than once along the way. Elsa was born January 11, 1886, grew up in Berlin, Germany and learned to skate at the Berliner Schlittschuhclub alongside her talented brother Max. A contemporary and rival of Madge Syers in the early days of women competing at the World Figure Skating Championships, it's safe to say that in what was very much an 'old boys club', Elsa was a respected pioneer of women's figure skating in her own country. She trained alongside Werner Rittberger, the inventor of the loop jump. In a 2010 interview with HNA, her grandson Ulrich Sander recalled her as "a scary self confident woman" and it would have been that sense of determination that resulted in her breaking many gender barriers along the way and even winning prizes from the Russian Czar and Swedish royal family.

Elsa Rendschmidt posing with a skeleton racer in Schierke in 1911

At the first World Championships for women in Davos, Switzerland, Elsa finished fourth behind Syers and Jenny Herz of Austria, a Viennese student of Leopold Frey who represented Cottage Eislauf-Verein, and well-to-do Hungarian Lili Kronberger. Her participation marked the first appearance of a woman from Germany in a major international skating competition. She repeated that fourth place result in Vienna the following year at a competition (according to Madge Syers) "long remembered by those who took part in it owing to the suffering entailed on them by the intense cold which, accentuated by a bitter wind, was almost unbearable. Several times the benumbed skaters were forced to retire and restore the circulation to their hands and feet, and many of the competitors and judges were subsequently hors de combat as the result of this trying experience." Despite missing the podium on her first two tries, the unflappable Elsa soldiered on.

Scores from the 1908 Summer Olympics in London

Elsa's persistence was rewarded the following January when at age twenty two, she claimed the silver medal at the World Championships in Troppau behind Lili Kronberger. Her good fortune continued when on October 29, 1908 in London, she became the first German woman to win a medal at the Summer Olympic Games... in any sport. Commentary from "The Fourth Olympiad, the Official Report Of The Olympic Games 1908" by Theodore Andrea Cook noted that Elsa performed all six of her school figures quite well, with the exception of the third, the change loop, where she "missed several of the loops". She backed up her second place finish in the school figures with a second place free skate to win the silver. Cook expressed that "Fräulein Rendschmidt's skating was distinguished by a most engaging gaiety. She seemed quite at home on the ice, and danced through her programme in the happiest possible manner."

Elsa didn't challenge Lili Kronberger for the World title in 1909. Instead, she opted to participate in a separate senior women's competition at the same event, in which she finished second to Vienna's Jenny Herz. We can only speculate as to why Elsa made this decision, but it may have had something to do with the fact was Kronberger was competing at her home rink. However, that same winter Elsa won the Championships Of Berlin and the Nordic Games, defeating Zsófia Méray-Horváth and Elna Montgomery in the latter. The following February when the World Championships for women were held in her home city, she again won the silver behind Kronberger and in 1911, she made history in her final competition by becoming Germany's first women's champion in Olmütz.

Retiring from competition, Elsa headed to Switzerland and became a skating instructor in both St. Moritz and Davos. It was there she met her husband Siegfield 'Fritz' Sander, who ran his family's business in Hannover. In 1913, Elsa and Fritz married and three years later, they had their only child, son Günter, during the Great War. They divorced in 1929. Elsa joined the Nazi Party in 1932 and found work as a librarian. When the Olympics were held in Garmisch-Partenkirchen in 1936, she was seated at a table with Adolf Hitler himself.

Elsa Rendschmidt skating with Felix Lochner in St. Moritz in 1912

Records graciously provided by Horst Seferens at the Stiftung Brandenburgische Gedenkstätten in Oranienburg, Germany indicate that Elsa's Jewish ex-husband Fritz was first detained in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp in Oranienburg on April 12, 1941 for being a 'race-mixer'. He never saw Elsa or his son again, dying in the concentration camp's infirmary on August 6, 1941 from an embolism caused by decompensated heart failure as a result of pneumonia. His death is recorded both in the memorial book of the German Federal Archive and "The Book Of The Dead" of the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp 1936-1945. He was prisoner number "37384".

After the War, Elsa moved to the small German village of Volpriehausen (now incorporated in the city of Uslar) and only spoke about her skating career, even to family, when pushed. She lived out her days in that small resort village before moving into a nursing home in Celle, Niedersachsen, Germany in 1969 and passing away October 9 of that year.

Left: Elsa Rendschmidt. Right: Elsa and Max Rendschmidt. Photo courtesy Sveriges Centralförening för Idrottens Främjande Archive.

Despite her pioneering accomplishments, despite her noted "scary self confidence", despite the fact that she "danced through her programme in the happiest possible manner", Elsa, the first great German queen of the ice, distanced herself from skating entirely.

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 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.

Champions: A Love Story

"Skating is filled with stories that are very intense - the romances, the hatreds. I don't think that story's ever been told. Skating is a loose fraternity. They share something, the early morning practice, the rigorous training. It's like war veterans without the pall of death." - John Sacret Young, "The Eugene Register-Guard", January 13, 1979

Joy LeDuc and Jimmy McNichol

'Figure skater and hockey player team up and take on the world.' It was the plot of the highly popular 1992 film "The Cutting Edge", which spawned three forgettable sequels. It was also the basis of the hugely popular CBC reality series Battle Of The Blades and the short-lived professional career of Natalia Mishkutenok and Craig Shepherd. It was also the theme of a forgotten television movie from the late seventies: "Champions, A Love Story".

The film's writer-producer, John Sacret Young, didn't come from a figure skating background. Like the male lead in his film, he was initially a hockey player that "wouldn't be caught dead on figure skates." He drew his inspiration for the 'boy meets girl' skating flick after an encounter with the father of a figure skater who worked three jobs to keep his daughter in skating. Sadly, he also drew inspiration in his writing from the 1961 Sabena Crash and another plane crash that killed a young skater on his way to a regional competition. The film first aired on CBS in prime time on January 13, 1979.

The young stars of the film were Brantford born Joy LeDuc and Jimmy McNichol, the brother of Empty Nest star Kristy McNichol. The supporting cast included Tony Lo Bianco, Anne Schedden, Jennifer Warren, Shirley Knight and Richard Jaeckel. While LeDuc was a seasoned pro at sixteen - she toured with the Ice Follies in a family skating act - McNichol was an inexperienced skater who took to the ice every day for seven months to prepare for the role. In the January 13, 1979 interview with Jerry Buck, Young said McNichol was "a gifted natural athlete, but still an adolescent klutz."

The made for television film has been largely overlooked as it came out on the heels of the hugely popular "Ice Castles" film that was released only a year before. Although the story ended on a happy note, the fact that McNichol's character was killed off in a plane crash ultimately drew more attention to the Sabena Crash amongst general audiences who may have forgotten the tragedy. Nothing wrong with a little edutainment, especially if it relates to skating history.

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 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

SAISA Versus SASA: The Sixties South African Scandals

In 1960, four figure skaters from South Africa arrived in Squaw Valley, California, making history as the first athletes from their country to ever participate in the Winter Olympic Games. Sixteen year old Marion 'Penny' Sage and twelve year old Patricia Eastwood placed twenty third and twenty fifth in the women's event, each besting skaters from Australia. However, it was Marcelle 'Cookie' Matthews who captured the attention of the American press. At only eleven years of age, she was celebrated by reporters as the "youngest, smallest and cutest" athlete at the Games. Marcelle and twenty year old partner Gwyn Jones unfortunately placed dead last in the pairs competition, skating to strains of Verdi's "La Traviata". The South African team's results at the 1960 Winter Olympic Games may not have been extraordinary, but what the media didn't realize at the time was that the back story behind the South African team's participation in Squaw Valley was like something out of a soap opera.

Coach Penny Sage with her students in 1978. Photo courtesy Irvine Green, ISSA Skating News.

Before we get into all of that, a little context! The South African Ice Skating Association (SAISA) joined the ISU in 1938 and remained a member in good standing until 1953, rejoining after a brief lapse in 1955. Though South Africa was expelled by the International Olympic Committee in 1970 because of its policies and laws pertaining to apartheid and the inability of people of colour to obtain equal opportunities in sport, SAISA was never suspended from the ISU, though the topic was brought up at virtually every ISU Congress during the decades it was suspended by the IOC with the same result every time - the majority of members standing by an amendment to the ISU Constitution in 1965 with regard to "non-interference in sport on political grounds". But this was 1960 - long before that hullabaloo - and the scandals taking place internally in South African figure skating at the time were another matter entirely.

Marcelle Matthews and Gwyn Jones

NSA historian Dennis Bird, under his pen name John Noel, wrote an article that appeared in "Skating World" magazine regarding the trials and tribulations of young Marcelle Matthews in her quest to represent South Africa at the 1960 Winter Olympic Games. It painted a negative view of SAISA, and in response the organization's President - one Mr. Gargett - wrote to "Skating World" defending SAISA's behaviour. He stated, "The Association can, without fear of retribution, say its behaviour throughout has been perfectly correct." Had it though? In a large tea chest of Dennis Bird's papers, BIS Historian Elaine Hooper discovered a typewritten letter penned on October 24, 1960. It was written by Armand Perren, who was coaching at the Olympia rink in Johannesburg at the time.


"At the last National Championship, held in Sept. [1959], competitors had to state whether they wanted to be considered for selection for a team to be sent to the Olympic Games.

The reigning Men's Figure and Pairs Champion for the previous two years, Lennie Mills, duly filled in such a form.

On the day of the Championship, after again retaining both titles, the boy split the partnership with Miss Marcelle Matthews, both being pupils of mine. The parents of Marcelle and the President of the Association were notified of the decision the following day, by myself in front of witnesses, of the dissolution of the pair.

Mr. Gargett, President of the Assoc., was very disturbed about the dissolution, and he informed me that the entire idea of an Olympic team had to be sold to the Olympics Council on these two little skaters, who might make an impression at the Games. He then asked me what could be done, and whether I had any suggestions to make.

Brian and Glenda O'Shea, winners of the junior pairs and Waltz events at the 1958 Natal Championships at the Durban Icedrome

At this request, I proposed to Mr. Gargett that an attempt be made to pair (if we could get the parents to consent) the little girl from the second pair, who were a brother and sister pair from Durban, Glenda O'Shea, who in my opinion was a far superior skater to Marcelle Matthews, with Lennie Mills.

After some difficulty I persuaded the parents to pair the two children, and Mr. Gargett then asked me when the new pair could be seen. Three senior judges were duly sent down a week later to view the pair. I was informed by the Chairman of the Judges Panel (one of the three judges present - Mr. C. West) to carry on with the training, and that I would be informed of the Council's decision.

To our surprise, five weeks later, we read in the daily paper that a team had been selected, nominating Lennie Mills with his old partner Marcelle Matthews for the Olympics. How this could occur some six weeks after the pair ceased to exist surprised all of us here in S.A.

Lennie's parents, on the day of the publication of the team, phoned Mr. Gargett for an explanation as to how the Assoc. could do such a thing, and was informed by Mr. Gargett that it was a Council decision, and that if the boy did not skate wth Marcelle, he would be dropped from the team. The boy was also nominated originally as the Men's representative.

Mrs. Mills reported this to myself and the owner of the rink Mr. D. Sacks, who asked for an interview with Mr. Gargett. At this interview, Mr. Gargett, in front of three witnesses informed Mr. Sacks and myself that pressure had been brought on the Association by Mr. I.G. Emmery, Secretary of the S.A.. Olympics Council for the selection of the team.

Mr. D. Sacks in turn met Mr. Emmery at a Race Meeting and on enquiring how the selection had been made, was informed by Mr. I. Emmery that four names had been forwarded by the Association to the Olympics Council, who were not very well informed about skating affairs, and subsequently the names were accepted.

Note: - At this stage it appeared to us that the Olympics Council had not been informed of the dissolution of the pair, for fear that the Olympics Council may drop the idea of the team which Mr. Colin Ford, an NSA Gold Medallist, and myself, considered unfit at the time, to go to an Olympic event.

Mr. D. Sacks again requested Mr. Gargett to interview him, which Mr. Gargett duly did and arrived with Mr. C. West (Vice-President) and when taxed with his previous statements concerning Mr. Emmery, flatly denied having made any such statements at any time, or to anyone. As these statements had been made before witnesses, and a grave injustice had been done to the boy, Mr. Sacks with his Directors decided to bar the Executive Of The Association, namely, Mr. S. Gargett (President), Mr. C. West (Vice-President), Mrs. B. Ryan (Secretary), until they rectify this injustice.

Neither Mr. Sacks, his Directors, or myself, at any time made any attempt to put pressure on Mr. Gargett to nominate any candidate to the Olympic Team, but he went so far as to offer to pay all expenses for a second pair, or for the boy (which could have been done, as nominations for the Olympics had at the time not yet been closed), to overcome the difficulty of the selection of Marcelle, which Mr. Gargett claimed was a moral obligation, since she had skated with Lennie in two consecutive Championships.

This proposal was ignored and the boy was eliminated.

Mr. Gargett then brought pressure to bear on Mrs. Mills with certain threats concerning the boy's amateur status, and that he may never be able to compete in any event internationally. To this Mrs. Mills replied that if that was the price of the Olympics, she would prefer the happiness of the child rather than be dictated to as to whom he must skate with or not.

My prediction of the fitness of the team was shown in the results of the Olympics, the standard of which I most certainly am aware.

Lennie and Glenda kept on with serious training, and improved so tremendously that I decided to enter them for the British Junior Championships.

We approached the Secretary of the Assoc., Mrs. B. Ryan, for an amateur clearance for the two children to enable them to enter, which was all that was required by the NSA. We were informed by the Sect. that she could not comply with this request as the President was on holiday and the Vice-President was on his way to the Olympics.

As time for nomination for the British Junior was running short we made application to the Durban Branch of the SAISA, of which Glenda O'Shea was a member, being a Durban child, for an amateur clearance stating all details of expenses and stating that Mr. Sacks had offered to pay the air-fare of the children to London. This clearance was sent to the rink here, together with a letter of thanks to Mr. Sacks, by the Durban Branch of the Assoc.

On the strength of this the NSA accepted the children as members of the NSA and entered them for the Junior Championship, but requested us to obtain a further clearance from the Johannesburg branch, who were in closer contact with the children where they were training under me.

The parents experienced great difficulty in obtaining this clearance from Mr. Gargett, and finally appealed to their Solicitor, one Mr. Sanderson (who incidentally is the President of the S.A. Rugby-Football Union) to obtain this clearance. Mr. Gargett then received two letters, one by hand, requesting the clearance, and giving full details of all expenses, and stating that the fares were being paid by Mr. Sacks. Thereupon, Mr. Gargett, after refusing to give a copy of a clearance, either to the Solicitor or to the parents, sent such a clearance to the NSA. The NSA by this time [had] also been informed in writing, the full details of expenses and the manner in which the fares were being paid, by myself.

In due course the children and I left for London, where a week before the Championship (9th April) a letter arrived at the offices of the NSA requesting information, in the form of an enquiry:

Q. Who authorized the children to appear, or to have films taken for a newsreel?

The questions were answered to the NS, who were fully of same already, so were satisfied.

The question of the newsreel was answered that, no-one may request or authorize the taking of a newsreel film, and that there is no rule in either the NSA or the SAISA Constitution, forbidding or requiring a permit for such films.

On the evening of the Championships I was informed by the NSA that a cable had been received from the SAISA, requesting the withdrawal of the children from the Championships, as their amateur status had been withdrawn by the SAISA due to a breach of SAISA rules.

At such short notice the NSA, not knowing the rules of the SAISA, were not in a position, nor did they have the time, to query this request, and so had no alternative but to withdraw the children.

On the return to S.A. by the children, Mr. Sanderson, their Solicitor, who has power of attorney for the children, wrote to the Assoc. requesting the grounds of the suspension, and which rules had been broken. He also requested immediate reinstatement. To these requests he received no reply whatosever.

A few weeks later Mr. Gargett communicated with the parents and asked them to attend an enquiry. To which the parents replied that they would be willing to attended such an enquiry, if they were permitted legal representation, which request was flatly refused by Mr. Gargett, who claimed that they had no right to such representation whatsoever. (There is no rule in the Constititution of this Assoc., concerning such representation at all.)

The children's Attorney then advised them not to attend any enquiry, but to refer the Assoc. direct to him should the Assoc. try to communicate with them.

In the meantime Glenda O'Shea, while still under suspension, was permitted to compete in a Championship held in Durban, under the control of the SAISA, with official judges from Johannesburg.

Shortly after this a newsletter was published by the Assoc. to all members, stating that the suspension of Lennie Mills and Glenda O'Shea from 19/7/1960 was due to their not attending an enquiry, and that they would remain so until such time as they attend such an enquiry. (Since they had been suspended on 9/4/60, what happened to the time between that date and the new date (19/7/60)?

To date, neither the Durban Branch, the Children's Attorney, their parents, or myself, have, after seven months, been informed of which rules the children are accused of breaking, or what the suspension was in aid of.

The only two skaters from the Olympics who were barred from the rink was the pair (Marcelle Matthews and Gwyn Jones). The reason for this was during December the rink organized a carnival in aid of the Rand Daily Mail Children's Xmas Fund (a charitable organization of this newspaper) and amateurs were asked to give exhibitions, the Olympic team included, of which two members agreed and were given the necessary permission by the Assoc., while the Pair (Matthews and Jones) refused saying that they had been forbidden by the Assoc., and the Olympics Council to skate for the rink. To which Mr. Sacks and his Directors replied that if they could not skate for a needy Charity, when their own trip to America was being paid out of public funds, they should do their training elsewhere.

For the last 13 months the Johannesburg skaters have been unable to take tests, although there have been many ready, from prelim to Gold (inclusive). They have missed two Transvaal Championships and one National Championship, which was to be held in Durban this year. The reason being that the Johannesburg branch cannot operate in any of the two rinks in S.A. as facilities to conduct any events had not been made available in Durban either. The Vice-Chairman, Mr. C. West, had also been barred from the Durban rink. The Assoc. is therefore unable to function in any form of ice skating events."

This was all as a result of the Annual General Meeting held in June this year, on a Wednesday, after repeated requests by the Durban members to hold this meeting on a Sunday to enable them to attend and vote had been refused by Mr. Gargett. He and Mr. West without the knowledge of any of the other members had collected some 40 or 50 roller skaters from another town 36 odd miles away, to ensure their re-election. Some members of long standing experienced great difficulty in entering the hall where the meeting was being held, and members of the Speed section who had taken part in the last National Championships of the Assoc., were refused admission altogether. (Durban is over 400 miles from Johannesburg, hence the request to hold the meeting on a Sunday.)

On my return from America at the beginning of this month, where I had been invited to appear on the television programme "This is your life", which was in honour of an old pupil of mine Hans Mauch (known to you as Frack, of Frick and Frack), and where I was reacquainted with Dr. J. Koch, President of the ISU, who I had not seen for many years, I found that the active skaters, parents and all competitive skaters had resigned from this Assoc., leaving them virtually with only a few roller skaters to govern.

The only members to my knowledge who have not resigned are the remaining seven Council members, four members of the Judges Panel, and two skaters (Matthews and Jones) and the roller skaters from Pretoria. Three Council members resigned on hearing the proposal of suspending the children, some time before the British Junior Championships.

On the night of the 23/10/60, a meeting of all active ice skaters took place at the Olympia Ice Rink, and a new Association, with a foundation membership of 150 was formed, at the time of writing this letter the membership was steadily growing. I am informed that no time during the past ten years, did the membership of the Assoc. exceed 100. The name of the new Assoc. is the National Ice Skating Association of South Africa.

Although the Committee who are still hanging on are still affiliated to the ISU, the new Assoc., with the Durban branch, have made application to the ISU, who are conducting an enquiry into the affairs of the SAISA, at the moment, for affiliation.

Now that you have a complete picture of the conditions over here, and can form an opinion, I would be very much obliged to you if you would publish this letter. You may reword it in any way you please, and can sign my name to to it, as I can furnish witnesses proof to substantiate my statements at any time.

Hoping that you are well,

I remain,

Armand Perren

P.S. - The children's Solicitor has in his possession, sworn statements by members of the Assoc. that the Secretary of the Assoc. had declared, as early as December 1959, that the Assoc. would always find a means to stop Lennie from competing in any event internationally. A copy of this letter has been sent to Dr. J. Koch of the ISU."

In 1961, as a result of the ISU's investigation, SAISA was 'dropped' as South Africa's governing body for figure skating and replaced briefly by the breakaway SASA - the South African Skating Association. SAISA was reinstated in 1967, with C.G. West as President.

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.

From Jumps To Jell-O: The Mia Macklin Story

Bassano and Vandyk Studios photograph. Courtesy National Portrait Gallery.

The daughter of Noel and Leslie (Cordery) Macklin, Mia Leslie Macklin was born October 28, 1920 in the town of Chertsey in Surrey, England. Her father was a well-known automobile and boat manufacturer; her mother a Monte Carlo socialite. Mia, her brother Lance and sister Nada were raised with silver spoons in their mouths. They grew up at Fairmile, their family's sprawling estate in Cobham, with the girls attending the prestigious Heathfield School in Berkshire. As a girl, Mia learned to skate at the private Park Lane rink at Grosvenor House.

Something of a child prodigy by the standard of the time, by the age of twelve Mia had already appeared in three short "Sunday Express" series films called "Stars Of Destiny". Like Cecilia Colledge and Megan Taylor, the pair of twelve year olds who had captured the attention of the press at the 1932 Winter Olympic Games in Lake Placid, Mia Macklin was for a brief period in the early thirties something of a skating sensation in the eyes of British reporters.

Though she finished off the podium at the British Championships that served as a selection event for the 1936 Winter Olympics in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Mia was one of five British skaters who competed in the women's event at that year's European Championships in Berlin. Though the talented fourteen year old found herself in the top ten after the school figures, a disappointing free skate dropped her down to eleventh. She fared much better as one of seven British women at the 1936 World Championships in Paris, where her strong figures helped her place eighth overall... ahead of Etsuko Inada, Yvonne de Ligne, Jacqueline Vaudecrane and several other very talented skaters. The February 24, 1936 issue of "The Scotsman" noted that she was "very graceful, but nearly fell in the middle of one of her Axel Paulsens." The following month, she returned to the British Championships, but finished off the podium, well behind Cecilia Colledge, Mollie Phillips and Belita Jepson-Turner. She did however manage to defeat several more talented skaters of that era at those Championships, including Pamela Prior, Daphne Walker, Gladys Jagger and Pamela Stephany. That event marked the end to a very short figure skating career.

Mia's life after her stint as a child skating prodigy was thoroughly fascinating. As a teenager, she was presented to the Court Of St. James and married off to Peter Rowland Hodge of the Royal Artillery, the son of Sir Rowland Frederick William Hodge, the famous and controversial Northumberald shipping magnate. She won the European water-skiing championship in France and during World War II, drove a blitz buggy, served as an A.R.P. warden in England and as a dispatch worker for the U.S. Air Force. Her father's company provided the Royal Navy with motor, gun and torpedo boats.

Mia Macklin posed with her blitz buggy and a bevy of American mechanics 

Mia divorced Peter in 1945 and moved to America with aspirations of achieving the same fame in pictures that other skaters like Sonja Henie, Belita and Věra Hrubá were enjoying at the time. Though she did manage to briefly snag a contract with Twentieth Century-Fox, the extent of her 'acting career' was an appearance as a harem girl in the 1946 film "Anna and the King of Siam".

John Vietor, Jr. and Mia Macklin

Mia  gave up quickly on her silver screen aspirations in February 1946, when she married Eleanor Woodward Vietor's son at the St. Regis Hotel in New York City. John 'Jack' Adolf Vietor Jr.  was a bomber pilot and World War II P.O.W. who was the heir to his mother's seven million dollar Jell-O fortune. The wedding was a swanky, high society affair; Mia was given away by 'Prince' Vladimir Sergeyevich Rashevskiy, a renowned Russian race car driver who lived in Paris. Hedda Hopper made a point of noting that she had only been divorced for six months.

A day before her birthday in 1951, Mia became a naturalized U.S. citizen. She settled with her husband in a mansion on the water in La Jolla, California. John Vietor rubbed shoulders with JFK and drank with Errol Flynn and Theodore Geisel, better known as Dr. Suess. Mia appeared on the cover of Neil Morgan's 1951 book "My San Diego" and a series of portraits she posed for appeared in Great Britain's National Portrait Gallery. In December 1952, she was pictured in "National Geographic" on water skis (a la Belita) in a feature on La Jolla. The couple had a son and daughter named Mielle and Noel but divorced in 1953. John Vietor remarried to Lita di Grazia, the sister of a tequila importer, and died of a heart attack aboard a cruise ship at the Xingang Port in Tianjin, China in November 1982. Mia moved to Beverly Hills with her share of the Jell-O pie. She died September 25, 2002 at the age of eighty-one in West Hollywood... her brief stint as a child skating star all but forgotten.

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...