The 1957 World Figure Skating Championships

Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine

"Dear Mom and Dad, I arrived well in Colorado Springs. We were received by David Jenkins and the other American skaters. Then came a large crowd of cowboys, some on horseback, some in the most elegant carriages in the world. I immediately got a nice cowboy hat, which is excellent for me. Then we climbed into huge, red Cadillacs. The motorcade of twenty-five such wagons, led and closed by police cars, which sounded sirens traveling so that everyone looked up and cheered, drove us to the hotel. There we were immediately welcomed by a cowboy on a horse. He performed tricks with the lasso and caught me and Ina Bauer. Then four real Indians came and performed their war dances. Franz Ningel and I have a room with bathroom. I have figure practice every day from 5 o'clock in the morning to 7 o'clock and from 11.30 to 12 o'clock free skating. The food is great. Lots of grief from your cowboy Manfred." - Letter from Manfred Schnelldorfer to his parents, February 1957

Photos courtesy Frazer Ormondroyd

From February 26 to March 2, 1957, many of the best figure skaters in the world gathered at the Broadmoor World Arena in Colorado Springs for the 1957 World Figure Skating Championships. A group of seventy eight skaters, officials, coaches and family members arrived in one group from Vienna, the site of the European Championships, via Zürich and New York City. They were greeted by members of the Canadian, American and Japanese teams, as well as members of the event's organizing committee, who all sported ten gallon hats, bolo ties and cowboy get-ups. Each visiting skater received a ten gallon hat of their own, and the women were given red roses. After a reception, the visitors were put in limousines and sent (with police escort) to the Broadmoor Hotel, where they were lasooed by trick roper and rider Montie Montana and treated to a ceremonial dance by members of a Ute tribe. Flags of fifteen countries installed by the local Chambers Of Commerce 'bedecked' the downtown streets of Colorado Springs as skaters toured the city in a parade of limousines and military bands on their way to City Hall, where Mayor Harry Blunt presented them all with honorary citizenships. And this was all before the event's grand opening!
Clipping courtesy "Skating" magazine

The first official event of the week-long Championships was the International Ball at the Broadmoor Hotel, a star-studded black-tie affair. Special guests included crooner Nelson Eddy, film legend Mary Pickford and Agnes Moorehead, who would go on to play Endora in the popular television series "Bewitched". Fresh pineapples were flown in from Hawaii for the 'Suprise Hawaiienne' and live lobsters were flown in from Maine for the 'Homard Victoria'. The champagne flowed freely and four years before Julia Child released "The Art Of French Cooking", a who's who of the figure skating world - and a few film stars to boot - enjoyed the finest of Parisian inspired cuisine. In the "Colorado Springs Gazette", Glad Morath reported, "A tropical effect was created in the main dining room by the use of a profusion of all-white flowers. Large bouquets featured each table, surrounded the wall sconces, and cascaded from the high crystal chandeliers. The air was laden with their fresh perfume... Skaters were seated according to the countries from which they came, and it was a great experience to watch the young, eager faces of youngsters from around the world, attending their first party in the United States. Following dinner, Johnny Heater, well known public address announcer from Los Angeles, introduced each of the contestants, who came to the stage in groups from the various countries. Each bowed or curtsied beautifully, according to the customs and manners of their respective homelands. Only about half the contestants speak English. The rest are dependent on interpreters."


Photos courtesy "Colorado Springs Gazette", held in Pikes Peak Library District’s Special Collections

Other social events included an official USFSA dinner, cocktail parties, a buffet supper and several tea parties. A dance, hosted by Harry Radix, had skaters and officials up half the night cutting up a rug to Guy Mitchell's "Singing The Blues".


Hank Beatty of Cleveland and Thayer Tutt of Colorado Springs played key roles in the organization of the competition. Carl W. Chamberlin had been general chairman of event, but he sadly passed away in the year leading up to the competition. The decision to award the World Championships to Colorado Springs was made at 1956 ISU Council in Cannes. ISU historian Benjamin T. Wright recalled, "It is difficult for us to imagine today... the importance of the action. Despite the post-War success of the North Americans, the Union and its Championships were still very much a European institution with a great majority (twenty out of twenty-seven) of the Members coming from the Nations. The breakthrough... would rapidly change the picture of competition throughout the World. At the time, the decision was unprecedented, since the Championships had been held in the United States only once twenty-seven years before in New York in 1930."

Montie Montana in the lobby of The Broadmoor. Photo courtesy Allison Scott.

For the first time since 1951, Japan was represented on the World stage. The National Skating Union of Japan sent a team of five skaters to Colorado Springs, including their diminutive twelve year old National Bronze Medallist Yuko Araki, who became something of a media darling. Japanese judges Haruo Konno and Shotaro Kobayashi made history as the first trial judges from Japan to participate in an ISU competition. Kobayashi went on to judge at the 1960 Winter Olympics; Konno at several World Championships. Members of the Japanese contingent in Colorado Springs filmed almost every minute of the competition for education purposes.


Photos courtesy "Colorado Springs Gazette", held in Pikes Peak Library District’s Special Collections

However, there were certainly some notable absences. Marianna and László Nagy, Eszter Jurek and Miklos Kucharowitz and Helga Zöllner were denied Visas by the U.S. Legation in Budapest just over a week prior to the start of the event. Soviet champs Lev Mikhailov, Elena Osipova, Nina and Stanislav Zhuk were also refused Visas as was the Czechoslovakian team, which included European medallists Karol Divín and Věra Suchánková and Zdeněk Doležal. The Cold War played a key a role in the U.S. State Department's decision not to grant entry Visas to skaters from behind the Iron Curtain. At the time, Soviet citizens were for instance excluded from visiting cities with populations less than one hundred thousand citizens and were barred from travelling near military installations, ports and coastlines. A map issued in 1957 called "U.S. Areas and Municipalities Closed or Open to Travel by Certain Soviet Citizens" showed parts of Colorado were off limits.





Clipping courtesy "Skating" magazine


In "Skating World" magazine Vancouver judge June White Pinkerton recalled, "The weather was delightful, ranging between 50 and 65 degrees during the day, and many suntans were plainly visible, having been acquired sitting around the outdoor pool... The common bond of a love of skating was so evident everywhere from the friendliness displayed by [all the skaters]. Even the language barrier had no effect on this, as we all extended a warmth of welcome to each other."

Yuko Araki and Junko Ueno, Manfred Schnelldorfer and June Markham and Courtney Jones. Photos courtesy "Skating" magazine.

How did things play out on the ice at this historic competition? Let's hop in the time machine and find out!

THE PAIRS COMPETITION

Sissy Schwarz and Kurt Oppelt had turned professional to join the Wiener Eisrevue and Frances Dafoe and Norris Bowden had retired. Marianna and László Nagy and Věra Suchánková and Zdeněk Doležal's entry Visa issues meant that fourteen year old Marika Kilius and twenty year old Franz Ningel, two time World Roller Champions, were the only reigning World or European Medallists in attendance. After the withdrawal of Liesl Ellend and Konrad Lienert (an Austrian pair who placed fourth at Europeans) due to injury, there were only five teams remaining - the lowest number since 1933!


All but the West German judge, who voted for Kilius and Ningel, placed Toronto teenagers Barbara Wagner and Bob Paul first. Kilius and Ningel took the silver over teenagers Maria and Otto Jelinek by only one point... and it was that first place ordinal from the West German judge that ultimately cost the Jelinek's the silver as the French judge had tied the two pairs. Americans Nancy Rouillard and Ron Ludington placed fourth, one spot ahead of seventeen year old British Champions Joyce Coates and Anthony Holles.

Barbara Wagner and Bob Paul. Photo courtesy Frazer Ormondroyd.

Wagner and Paul were the only team who didn't fall at least once. Theresa Weld Blanchard recalled, "Wagner-Paul skated a fast and zippy program in championship form, giving an interesting succession of difficult moves, flowing from one to the other in a deceptively simple manner; their beautifully positioned spirals were well placed for contrast. Their ease, height and freedom of their lifts and jumps, their unison of body lean and keen, deep running edges made one quickly forget the disparity in height difference. They were brilliant."


THE ICE DANCE COMPETITION

The retirement of reigning World Champions Pamela Weight and Paul Thomas meant that new winners would be crowned in Colorado Springs. Nearly everyone expected British couples to sweep the podium as they had at the European Championships and the previous three Worlds. That's not exactly how things played out.

There were so many spectators for the compulsories that extra seats had to be placed on the ice, to the annoyance of the competitors. Eighteen year old magician's daughter June Markham and twenty three year old RAF airman and dressmaker Courtney Jones took a unanimous lead after the Foxtrot, European Waltz, Paso Doble and Argentine Tango. The surprise was that a Canadian couple, Geraldine Fenton and Bill McLachlan and an American couple, Sharon Mckenzie and Bert Wright, were second and third. Neither couple had even competed the year prior in Garmisch-Partenkirchen.

As some couples seemed to nail one dance then bumble through another, there was considerable range in the judging. The Austrian judge had British dancers Barbara Thompson and Gerard Rigby third while Canadian judge Pierrette Devine gave them a 3.8 and had them tenth. They placed sixth in the compulsories.

June Markham and Courtney Jones in their ten gallon hats. Photo courtesy Frazer Ormondroyd.

With a foxtrot/blues/mambo free dance packed full of clever, lightning fast footwork, Markham and Jones became the new World Dance Champions. Fenton and McLachlan earned just six points less than the winner and made history as the first Canadian dance team to medal at the World Championships. McKenzie and Wright, just over two points behind Fenton and McLachlan, took the bronze. The teams in fourth through sixth were separated by only seven ordinal placings and less than five points. Canada's second entry, Toronto's Beverley Orr and Hugh Smith, placed eighth. They were last minute replacements for Lindis and Jeffery Johnston, who threw in the towel after being frustrated with their marks at the North American Championships. The fact that British couples hadn't swept the podium again gave hope to North American dancers but served as a great disappointment to the grand dame of British ice dance Gladys Hogg, who worked with all the top British teams.

Dance medallists in 1957

Lynn Copley-Graves recalled, "Six of the European couples free-danced to Douglas Walker's recordings; two even used the same introduction. Canadian and U.S. dancers had developed style. Several couples violated the rules with separations, lengthy spirals, and spins. The worst violation, though, was in continuing to use the music as background rather than skating with it. Two couples used concert music; one skated a pair. Instead of becoming 'old hat,' free dance increasingly challenged dancers. Only the top couples displayed consistently rhythmic free dancing, subtle knee action, and original moves."

THE WOMEN'S COMPETITION

Ingrid Wendl. Photo courtesy Bildarchiv Austria.

The retirement of Tenley Albright meant that seventeen year old Carol Heiss' defense of her World title might prove a little easier. Dressed in a black turtleneck dress, Heiss took a strong lead in the first figure and built upon it in the remaining five, amassing an impressive forty five point lead in the first phase of the competition. Sixteen year old Ingrid Wendl, the bronze medallist from the 1956 Worlds in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, was second. Seventeen year old Hanna Eigel, the reigning European Champion, was third. Though the standard of the top women was very high, many of the rest of the skaters didn't perform their best in the school figures. Theresa Weld Blanchard lamented, "All the ladies seemed to be under extreme pressure, which showed up in the figures and likewise in the judges' marks. In the loops especially, there seemed to be general criticism about flying arms and free legs, with poor control and coordination. An occasional figure in this World competition was considered below our Fifth Test standard."

Photo courtesy Frazer Ormondroyd

Thirty two thousand spectators filled the Broadmoor World Arena for the women's free skate. Dressed in fire engine red chiffon with rhinestones, Carol Heiss skated to a medley of classical music including Adolphe Adam's "Giselle". She took an unusual slip on a spin but otherwise skated extremely well, landing Axels in both directions and a double Axel. She earned marks as high as 5.8 and 5.9 from two judges. Whereas Hanna Eigel skated quite well, Ingrid Wendl tumbled. The Austrian judge had her third in the free skate but the West German and American judges had her twelfth and thirteenth. The Swiss judge had Canada's Carole Jane Pachl third while the West German judge had her tenth. When the results were tallied, Heiss was ranked first, Eigel second, Wendl third, Pachl fourth and Claralynn Lewis of the United States fifth. Several of the skaters, including Great Britain's Erica Batchelor, complained the glare from the rink's bright lights made it difficult for them to retrace their figures.

Women's medallists in 1957

Joan Schenke, the American skater who placed seventh, wore blue rimmed glasses when she skated. Sonja Currie was originally named to the Canadian team but suffered an injury the summer prior while horseback riding. She was replaced by Margaret Crosland, who placed fourteenth, four spots behind Canada's other entry, Karen Dixon of the Glencoe Club. Carol Heiss' younger sister Nancy, an eleventh hour replacement for Tenley Albright, was eighth. Italy's Emma Giardini, who was sixteenth, was stopped during her free skate by the referee when the needle on her record jumped ahead and she tried to get the music attendant's attention to fix it. She was allowed to start her program from where the music skipped.

Two of the competition's most popular skaters didn't even place in the top ten. Twelve year old Yuko Araki placed twentieth of the twenty one competitors, but was a crowd favourite. She was a carbon copy of Tenley Albright, who had made a visit to Japan in 1953. Araki caught the eye of Edi Scholdan, who had her and her mother Yoritsuna flown over from Tokyo that summer to train at the Broadmoor. Fourteen year old Ina Bauer of West Germany, only nineteenth in figures, was ranked second on the scorecards of all but two judges in free skate. Canadian judge Sandy McKechnie actually had her ahead of Heiss. She wore a forget-me-not blue dress which contrasted with her red hair and brought down the house - not only with the difficulty of her program but with her artistry - and moved up to eleventh overall. Dennis Bird remarked, "Ina had beautiful form and her balance of her skates is a joy to behold. I am sure she has done a lot of ballet work. She obviously has the ability to transfer variations of music into a picturesque programme, which was full of surprise moves, and radiated health at its feminine best, with her lovely auburn hair and very pretty face."

Hanna Eigel, Carol Heiss and Ingrid Wendl

Heiss' win in Colorado Springs was one of the more decisive wins during this period. She had unanimous first place ordinals overall and more than ninety two points more than Eigel. After winning, she told Associated Press reporters, "I'm just as excited at winning this time as I was last year. The only thing I miss is my mother not being here. She would have enjoyed it so much."

THE MEN'S COMPETITION

There were seventeen entries from nine countries in the men's event in Colorado Springs. Notably missing were Hayes Alan Jenkins and Ronnie Robertson, the reigning gold and silver medallists from the 1956 Olympic Games and Worlds and Czechoslovakia's Karol Divín, who was considered a likely medal contender.

Donald Jackson

David Jenkins, a twenty year old pre-med student at Colorado College with a home ice advantage, was fighting off a cough. You wouldn't have known it if you saw his school figures, though. He amassed a unanimous thirty three point lead over fellow American Tim Brown, an eighteen year old junior at the University Of California. Nineteen year old pre-med student at the University of Toronto Charles Snelling placed third. A third American, Tom Moore, had been fourth after the first three figures. After the final three were skated, he found himself in fifth behind Austria's Norbert Felsinger.

Jenkins unanimously won the free skate and the gold medal with a program that balanced athleticism (he performed a triple loop) and musicality. His final score of one thousand, three hundred and thirty seven points was over sixty five points higher than his nearest challenger... so it wasn't even close. Snelling finished second in the free skate and Tim Brown, Alain Giletti of France and Donald Jackson all received third place ordinals in this phase of the event. Brown's lead over Snelling in the figures was enough for him to defeat Snelling overall by nearly twenty points, though the Canadian and French judges had the Canadian skater second. Giletti, Moore, Felsinger, Jackson, Robert Brewer, Alain Calmat and Michael Booker rounded out the top ten. The French newspaper "L'Équipe" quoted Giletti as saying, "I was robbed by gangsters. I skated as well as in Vienna and could not have done better." Theresa Weld Blanchard remarked, "As a whole, the men displayed much greater style and artistic and musical interpretation; their programs were more enjoyable to watch, often having an element of surprise and novelty that was almost completely lacking in the ladies' programs. They were carefully planned, fuller and more varied in content, particularly with respect to weaving the athletic highlights together into a unified composition by means of dance steps and flowing connecting moves."

Men's medallists in 1957
Sixteen year old Donald Jackson arrived in Colorado Springs alone as Otto Gold, his coach at the time, thought the cost of Jackson's parents paying his fare was too much for a competition that was about exposure and experience only. In his book "King Of Blades", George Gross recalled, "While practicing his jumps one day, Don was... happy to see to see his old part-time coach, Arnold Gerschwiler. Arnold had come to the championships only to observe - or so Don thought at first. That day Arnold asked him to continue jumping and commented on how he was doing. After several jumps Don would stop and start to skate off the ice. Arnold would ask to see just a few more jumps. Don, naive to say the least, was happy for the help he thought he was getting... After fifteen or twenty minutes [Sheldon Galbraith] came to Don and said it might be a good idea for him to stop for the day, go home, rest up for the competition. Arnold smiled weakly and quickly nodded approval before thanking Don and excusing himself. When they were alone... Sheldon mentioned to Don that Arnold had come over with a skater from England [Michael Booker] who was at about the same level as Don. He should be aware of that situation. Don protested in Arnold's defence at the time but was a little less sure of that protest later when he finished just one place ahead of Arnold's pupil."

THE AFTERMATH


David Jenkins, Theresa Weld Blanchard and Carol Heiss. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine, Bob McIntyre.

The final event of the Championships was the Awards Dinner at the Broadmoor Hotel, where competitors were presented with pins by ISU President Dr. James Koch and trophies by North American Champion Theresa Weld Blanchard. Thayer Tutt, Vice-President of the Broadmoor Hotel, was surprised with a silver tray and scroll signed by all of the competitors as a token of appreciation for the hospitality they received. It was presented by West Germany's Marika Kilius, Japan's Junko Ueno, Australia's William Claude Cherrell and Canada's Bill McLachlan... representatives of the four continents represented and four disciplines.

Bill McLachlan, Junko Ueno, Thayer Tutt, Marika Kilius and William Claude Cherrell. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine, Bob McIntyre.

In the days before the big winners at the World Championships embarked on exhibition tours together, the top competitors went their separate ways. David Jenkins returned to college and Carol Heiss was given the 'Sweetheart Crown' by Colonel James F. Pearsall of the 47th Infantry Regiment at Fort Carson, Colorado at a ceremony at The Broadmoor Hotel and invited to dine at the Infantry's base. Wagner and Paul were given a civil reception at the Mayor's Office in Toronto and given life membership with the Toronto Skating Club. They were popular stars of carnivals in both U.S. and Canada that spring. Markham and Jones performed for members of the Skating Club of New York and the general public at Rockefeller Center.

June Markham and Courtney Jones, Hanna Eigel, Carol Heiss and Ingrid Wendl, Marika Kilius and Franz Ningel, Charles Snelling, Tim Brown and David Jenkins, Maria and Otto Jelinek and Barbara Wagner and Bob Paul. Photos courtesy "Skating" magazine, Bob McIntyre.

Following the event, it was revealed that Adolf Rosdol, the Austrian Chairman of the ISU's Figure Skating Committee, had been involved a 'calculation office' scheme devised by another Austrian official, Hans Grünauer. Rosdol, who served as an Assistant Referee in Colorado Springs, instructed Austrian judges Walter Malek and Hans Meixner how to place each skater by giving signals. Despite the protestations of the Austrian federation, Rosdol was later suspended by the ISU. In 1977, his suspension was lifted by Jacques Favart. Incredibly and perhaps unsurprisingly, he was thereafter appointed as an international judge by the Austrian federation.

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