#Unearthed: Why I Ever Bend Over Backwards

When you dig through skating history, you never know what you will unearth. In the spirit of cataloguing fascinating tales from skating history, #Unearthed is a once a month 'special occasion' on Skate Guard where fascinating writings by others that are of interest to skating history buffs are excavated, dusted off and shared for your reading pleasure. From forgotten fiction to long lost interviews to tales that have never been shared publicly, each #Unearthed is a fascinating journey through time.

Today's gem is an article from the 1946 edition of "The National Ice Skating Guide", penned by Werner Groebli - one half of the famous Swiss skating duo Frick and Frack. In this piece, he shares a fantastically tall tale about early history of the cantilever back bend that reminds us we probably shouldn't believe everything we read.

Photo courtesy "The National Ice Skating Guide"


I have been asked time and time again how I came to originate my 'back-bend' turn but here for the first time is the true story.

It happened many years ago while I was skating on Lake Retakes near Basel in my native Switzerland. I had been visiting my friend Frack who lived about three miles down and on the other side of the Lake. It had been a very pleasant evening and I stayed later than I had intended. It was nearly midnight when I laced on my skates and started for home.

The night was crisp and not unpleasant although the half moon threw eerie shadows from the banks onto the ice. I skated nearer the center of the Lake which was about two miles wide.

Then, when I was about halfway across I heard a sound which sent a cold chill running up my back. It was the whinnying of horses and the excited barking of tied-up dogs, in the distance. There could only be one reason for the uproar... Wolves! And they must be between me and home! Then as I hesitated, a dark shadow leaped from the darkness and streaked between me and the direction from which I had just come. I wheeled and raced back and not a minute too soon for the whole pack was after me now.

I skated as fast as I could, drawing deep breaths and putting every bit of power I could into each stroke. But I could hear the wolves getting closer and closer. I could hear the leaders panting now - and my skin began to creep. I knew death in gruesome form was drawing closer and closer. If I slowed for an instant I'd be ripped and slashed to shreds by the fiends from hell. Then in desperation I tried a sharp turn. By digging my heels deep in the ice and turning at an angle of forty-five degrees I made a complete turn. They skidded past, heads lowered, eyes blazing for perhaps fifty yards before they could stop themselves, turn and come after me again. This gave me a good lead again. This strategem saved me time after time. But as the wolves skidded me past me each time I made a sharp turn their fury seemed to increase. Their ferocity seemed whetted. And every turn I made I had to make wider for the wolves were increasing the length of their front. I knew only too well that I was but postponing the inevitable. I thought of stories my father had told me - that in less than six minutes a pack of wolves could strip a full grown moose and leave nothing but white polished bones.

And I was tiring. Oh for some providence to help me! Why couldn't the dogs break loose? If I could only stop and light a bonfire. But where would I find wood? And where could I get time? And I didn't smoke so I had no matches! But a flash of inspiration came to me.

Each time that I had dug my skates into the slippery ice for the sharp turns I noticed that a long train of sparks flew out from the runners of my skates. I was going at such a speed that the sudden increased weight at the turns created a friction which almost turned my blades red-hot. I was carrying an old fashioned pair of wooden scabbards made from soft pine. If I could only hold the guards close enough to the sparks to set them on fire! But how? The sparks were behind me! I tried turning sideways but in a moment the wolves gained on me for I had to slow up. Then I realized that there was only one solution. And only one. That was to lean backwards as I was making the turns. Then I could hold the wooden guards directly in the path of the sparks and they would catch on fire. Then I put on a tremendous burst of speed. My lungs ached with the effort. Then I dug my skates in for the turn and as I wheeled around I leaned over backwards just as I far as I could without falling. When parallel with the ice I held the guards in the path of the train of sparks which flew from my skates. In a moment they glowed and then burst into flames. Then I straightened up and skated straight into the wolf pack with the two flaming torches in my hands. The mad wolves broke away in crazed fear of the fire. And I raced towards home with the torches blazing in the wind.

Victory had been snatched from the very jaws of death. I gained the safety of the shore and scurried up the slope and unleashed the wolf hounds. Well, that's the story of the origination of the 'back-bend'.

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.

Forestry And Forward Outside Eights: The Egbert S. Cary Jr. Story

Photo courtesy Cornell University Archives

In the thirties and forties, singles skaters from the Philadelphia Skating Club and Humane Society were major players on the American skating scene. Dick Button represented the club when he won the 'grand slam' of novice, junior and senior U.S. titles in consecutive years. Siblings Jane and Arthur 'Buddy' Vaughn made history during World War II as the first skaters from the Club to win U.S. senior titles. Talented young skaters like Eileen Seigh, Marcia Zieget, Barbara Jones and William Grimditch Jr. all won U.S. novice and junior titles during the forties as well. However, it was the success of another talented young skater during the roaring twenties that 'got the ball rolling'.

The son of Elizabeth (Allen) and Egbert Snell Cary Sr., Egbert 'Bert' Snell Cary Jr. was born April 28, 1907 in Westtown, Pennsylvania. His parents were Quakers and his father taught at the Westtown School, a co-educational Quaker boarding school not far from Paoli when he was an infant. The Cary family moved to Moorestown, New Jersey in 1911 when Egbert Cary Sr. took a job as the superintendent of the Pocono Lakes Preserve, but spent their winters in Philadelphia.

Photo courtesy Penn Charter School Archive

Egbert Sr. became enchanted with figure skating after reading an article about the sport in a local newspaper and soon he, Egbert Jr. and his sister joined the Philadelphia Skating Club and Humane Society. While attending the William Penn Charter School, Egbert Jr. began taking lessons from a then relatively unknown young skating instructor named Gustave Lussi. In 1924, Mr. Lussi's first 'star pupil' claimed the junior men's title on home ice at the U.S. Championships in Philadelphia.

Egbert S. Cary Jr. (front row, second from left) on the 1930 Cornell soccer team. Photo courtesy Cornell University Archives.

Egbert went on to study forestry at Cornell University, where he was a member of the soccer team and a keen amateur ornithologist. He graduated in 1930 and married Sara Carr that fall. The couple had two children and both became members of the Atlantic City Skating Club in New Jersey. Though he followed in his father's footsteps and worked at the Pocono Lakes Preserve, Egbert remained very active in the skating community, serving on the USFSA's Standards and Test Committee and judging at the national level for several years. In 1938, he was the swing judge responsible for Joan Tozzer's upset victory at the U.S. Championships. He skated in local carnivals throughout the thirties and forties and his comedy drag act as the tall, lanky 'Fraulein Ileepa Lott' was a perennial favourite with audiences. He sadly passed away of a heart attack at the age of fifty six on August 25, 1963 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

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 1935 North American Figure Skating Championships

You might not have known it was The Great Depression. In the weeks leading up to February 21 and 22, 1935, people scrounged together their coins to go see Barbara Stanwyck star in the film "The Lady In Red". They amused themselves with the brand new Parker Brothers board game "Monopoly" and tapped their toes to Cole Porter's hit "I Get A Kick Out Of You". Perhaps most importantly, they queued up by the thousands in Montreal, Quebec when the biggest names in both Canadian and American figure skating squared off at the North American Figure Skating Championships.

A who's who of figure skating at the 1935 North American Championships. Left to right: (top row) Roger Turner, Polly Blodgett, Robin Lee, Veronica Clarke, Osborne Colson, Ardella Kloss, Joseph K. Savage; (second row) Roy Hunt, Donald B. Cruikshank, Estelle and Louise Weigel, Wingate Snaith, Louise Bertram; (third row) Nettie Prantel, William Bruns, Suzanne Davis, Frederick Goodridge; (fourth row) George E.B. Hill, Maribel Vinson, Mrs. William Bruns, Mrs. Margaret Davis, Frances Claudet, James Lester Madden, Grace Madden, Stewart Reburn; (bottom row) Prudence Holbrook, Melville Rogers, Guy Owen, Constance Wilson-Samuel and Bud Wilson. Photo courtesy "Skating Through The Years".

The 1935 North American Championships - a two-day affair held on a Thursday and Friday - was held nearly a month after that year's Canadian Championships and one week prior to the U.S. Championships, giving Canadian skaters the further advantage of being well-rested... on top of skating on home ice. School figures were contested at the Montreal Winter Club and free skating at the Montreal Forum. Charlie Morgan Rotch, Joel B. Liberman and Lillian Cramer acted as the three American judges. Canada's trio of judges were Allan E. Howard, Norman V.S. Gregory and Norman Mackie Scott. The referee was former Canadian Champion Douglas Henry Nelles. Let's take a look back at how things played out!


Bud Wilson skated his way to his fourth consecutive North American men's title in Montreal, easily besting Robin Lee, James Lester Madden, Roger Turner, Osborne Colson, Geddy Hill, Guy Owen and Wingate Snaith. Bud's four men's titles at North Americans were a record at the time... but he went on to win another two in 1937 and 1939. In the history of the event, no other man was able to win four... let alone six!


Bud Wilson's sister Constance also set a North American record no other woman was able to beat in 1935. She claimed her fourth consecutive North American women's title, ahead of Maribel Vinson,
Suzanne Davis, Veronica Clarke, Louise and Estelle Weigel and Frances Claudet.

Maribel skated uncharacteristically poorly in the women's event in Montreal, faltering on one of her figures and falling on a reverse jump in her free skate. Constance, on the other land, included a double jump in her winning free skate... a rarity in those days. Estelle Weigel and Frances Claudet both wore shorts for their figures, which caused quite a stir as compared to the red dress of Maribel, blue dress of Constance and brown dress and beret of Veronica.


Redeeming herself after her performance in the women's event, Maribel Vinson and partner Geddy Hill became the first American pair to win the North American title since Theresa Weld Blanchard and Nathaniel Niles exactly ten years prior. Constance and Bud Wilson, who had won the event the last three times, settled for silver.

Constance and Bud Wilson (left) and Maribel Vinson and Geddy Hill (right)

Louise Bertram and Stewart Reburn, Grace and James Lester Madden, Frances Claudet and Donald B. Cruikshank, Polly Blodgett and Roger Turner and Eva Schwerdt and William H. Bruns rounded out the unusually deep pairs field. The February 23, 1935 issue of "The New York Times" described Maribel and Geddy's performance thusly: "Skating almost as one, they swirled around the ice, each figure being executed with grace. A series of difficult jumps which brought rounds of applause from a crowd of 5,000 climaxed their performance."

The Minto Four (Margaret Davis, Prudence Holbrook, Melville Rogers and Guy Owen) were the clear winners in the fours event. The New York Four (Nettie Prantel, Ardelle Kloss, Joseph K. Savage and Roy Hunt) placed second and the Boston Four (Suzanne Davis, Grace Madden, Geddy Hill and Frederick Goodridge) placed third.

During the computation of the marks, there was an informal Waltzing contest. The judges selected their top four after an elimination round and the audience's applause for each couple determined the skate order in the finals. The winners were Louise Bertram and Stewart Reburn.

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.

Klizanja: A Collection Of Yugoslavian Figure Skating History

Group of friends skating at the Belgrade Cycling Club Ice Rink, January 1909. Photo courtesy Dejan Milutinovic.

Today on Skate Guard, we're going to dive into the figure skating history of Yugoslavia, a country which no longer exists. The politics of the war-torn region today may be extremely complicated to say the least. However, the history of the skating in the region is simply fascinating!

Before we hop in the time machine, I want to give full credit to my main sources for today's piece. Firstly, Croatian skating judge Dora Strabić's 2013 thesis "Povijest umjetničkog klizanja u Hrvatskoj" ("History Of Figure Skating In Croatia"). Ms. Strabić's research was impeccable and rich in primary sources from the archives of journalist and sports commentator Milka Babovic. Secondly, Dejan Milutinovic's history of ice skating in Belgrade from 1891 to 1991 was indispensable. Grab your Skate Guards and a steaming cup of Kavu. We'll be heading right from the time machine to the frigid winters of nineteenth century Zagreb!

Two men skating hand in hand at the Belgrade Cycling Club Ice Rink, 1902. Photo courtesy Dejan Milutinovic.

Prior to World War I, much of the region that later became known as Yugoslavia were territories of the Austro-Hungarian Empire with the exception of the independent Kingdom of Serbia. Thusly, it is widely believed that the early popularity of figure skating in Vienna and Budapest - owing largely to to the influence of Jackson Haines - had a trickle effect to other parts of the region. Written accounts from the nineteenth century assert skating was popular on the frozen Maksimir Lake in Zagreb and on the Sava River which flows through modern day Slovenia and Croatia along the northern border of Bosnia and Herzegovina to the Danube in Belgrade, Serbia.

Between 1870 and 1872, a wholesaler named Ladislav Beluša opened two ice rinks in Zagreb but these catered only to an exclusive circle of citizens. On November 15, 1874, Zagreb's first skating club was founded by an engineer named Milan Lenuci and Beluša, who served as the club's first President. It officially opened on Christmas Eve, 1874 in what is now Mažuranić Square. At the time, the city had only thirty thousand residents and plumbing and electrical lighting were pretty much non-existent. The rink was maintained by pouring water onto the designed surface and its continued existence was reliant completely on cold temperatures. That Christmas Eve, the rink was packed with skaters who skated by the light of hundreds of oil lamps to the strains of a military band. Three years later, an organized society was forced to promote skating in the region. A second rink was opened with "sensational electric lighting" and soon masked balls in the same vein of those held in Montreal, Halifax, Vienna and Paris became all the rage. Speaking of Halifax, it wasn't until Starr Skates arrived in the region that figure skating really took off. Prior to their arrival in the region in the late nineteenth century, many skaters only had access to speed skates.

Skaters at the Belgrade Cycling Club Ice Rink, 1907. Photo courtesy Dejan Milutinovic.

In 1890, the Belgrade Skating Society was founded. Serbian skating historian Dejan Milutinovic recalled, "In January 1891, two competitions were held on the so-called Venice pond by the Sava river i.e. in the figure and speed skating. It is very interesting that the female race was held for the first time. Daily newspapers wrote about these events in details. They said that 'it looks like that whole city of Belgrade is attending this competition. [The] ground is decorated with the flags and the orchestra is playing very nice pieces'. Unfortunately, we don’t have any photos of these events but do have names of all participants. Belgrade Skating Society was very active for five years. Later ice skating was popularized through several ice-skating clubs, some of them were under the patronage of Serbian King Alexander I Obrenovitch. It was very popular to have organized balls, speed skating races and other events during long winters days on several outdoor ice rinks throughout the city." Zagreb held its first figure skating competition in January 1895, which was won by a woman named Paula Privora. Her prizes were a pair of new skates and a copy of a German skating manual.

Skaters at the Belgrade Cycling Club Ice Rink, early twentieth century. Photo courtesy Dejan Milutinovic.

The first competition that was later recognized as a Yugoslav National Championships was held in 1921 and won by one P. Jarosz. In the first few years, only men competed but by 1927, women were permitted to enter. Gisela Reichmann, who represented Austria internationally and finished second at the 1923 World Championships, was the only competitor.

Sibling pair Mileta and Branka Nedic skating in the roaring twenties at the rink at Sumadija Tennis Court. Photo courtesy Dejan Milutinovic.

By the early thirties, the number of outdoor rinks in Yugoslavia had tripled. Under the direction of Hubert Souvan, the country's skating federation, the Savez Klizackih i Koturaljkaskih Jugoslavije, became a member of the International Skating Union. In February 1937, Paul Schwab and Emanuel Thuma became the first two skaters from Yugoslavia to compete at a major international competition when they entered the 1937 European Championships in Prague. They finished in the final two spots on every judge's scorecard. Two years later, Schwab returned to international competition at the 1939 European Championships in Zakopane, Poland to compete in the pairs event with partner Sylvia Palme. They placed seventh of the nine teams competing. Two weeks later at the World Championships in Budapest, they placed dead last. Palme survived the War and appeared at the 1951 World Championships in Milan, where she placed ninth in the pairs event with a new partner, Marco Lajovic. It wouldn't be until 1966 that two more Yugoslav skaters, Anci Dolenc and Mitja Sketa,  would reemerge to represent their country on the international stage.

Competitors at a figure skating competition in Belgrade held in 1942 during the Nazi occupation of Yugoslavia. Photo courtesy "Kolo" magazine, Dejan Milutinovic.

There were several factors that slowed the progress of skating in Yugoslavia in the years following World War II. The Slovenian Press asserted that weather was right up there on the list, as it wasn't until the mid-fifties that the country built its first artificial rinks in Belgrade and Jesenice. A lack of high-level instructors in the country also played a huge factor. It's pretty hard to entice anyone to come to a country for a job where you only get paid (a pittance) for thirty seven days of the year, right? Another factor was the Yugoslavian federation's relationship with the ISU. Historian Benjamin T. Wright noted, "In 1949 [a] new association from Yugoslavia returned to membership, the former pre-War Member having been dropped in 1947. The new Member, reflecting the socialist form of government in the country, was actually a committee for skating of the Union of Physical Culture, an entity of the state, which would be the legal form of organization of the majority of the Members from Eastern Europe for the foreseeable future."

Slowly but surely, the skaters of Yugoslavia soldiered on. After Ljubljana played host to the 1967 European Championships, the country organized its first homegrown international competition under the very unoriginal name of International Championship Zagreb Figure Skating. This event, founded by Vladimir Amšel, Bozidar Čubriković, Klara Dušanović, Zlatko Gros, Radovan Lipovšćak and Ante Škrtić, later became known as the Golden Spin Of Zagreb. In its infancy, what went on to become a popular international event had some pretty serious hiccups. Lipovšćak recalled, "In 1968 during the pairs competition, [it became] suddenly foggy. The judges could not see, and the partners were lost in the fog, shouting. The competition was interrupted and continued the next day." The next year, the snow was so heavy during the school figures that coaches, judges, team leaders and skaters all had to pitch in to clear the ice during the competition. By 1972, the organizers finally decided to construct a roof over the rink and keep Mother Nature from interfering once and for all.

Keychain from the 1974 European Championships in Zagreb

In the seventies and eighties, the popularity of figure skating in Yugoslavia took off with the construction of more and more artificial rinks, including Belgrade's Ice Hall Pionr in 1978. Zagreb played host to the 1974 and 1979 European Championships.

Sarajevo hosted the 1982 World Junior Championships and of course, the 1984 Winter Olympic Games. In 1981, Sanda Dubravčić became the very first skater from the country to win a medal in international figure skating competition when she placed second at the European Championships in Innsbruck behind Switzerland's Denise Biellmann.

In 1986 and 1989, Sarajevo's Zetra Rink again played host to the World Junior Championships. The venue was later damaged in the Siege Of Sarajevo. Anastasios Pantelopulos remarked, "It was damaged in the war and then rehabbed in the late nineties. The Sarajevo Open event in the spring happens there. Actually, there is a wonderful museum dedicated to the Sarajevo Olympics in the building - I visited it in November of 2010... If you ever get the opportunity to go Sarajevo is actually a pretty phenomenally unique city and Bosnia is ridiculously beautiful, it is very easy to see why they hosted the Winter Olympics."

In 1990, Željka Čižmešija made skating history as the final person in history to skate a compulsory figure at the World Championships. The rink was the Dartmouth Sportsplex... only a stone's throw away from the location of the Nova Scotian factory where John Forbes pumped out the very Starr Skates... the skates that gave birth to the rise in popularity in figure skating in Yugoslavia.

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.

A Turncoat Victory: The Duchesnay's Decision To Skate For France

"I was the last person they dealt with in Canada, which I guess I should not be proud of... It's not my best moment and obviously I failed." - David Dore, "The Globe And Mail", March 24, 1988

Even if you were at the 1978 Canadian Figure Skating Championships in Victoria, British Columbia, you probably wouldn't have noticed them. Of the eleven teams competing in the novice pairs event that year, Aylmer, Quebec's Isabelle and Paul Duchesnay finished in dead last.

Photo courtesy "Canadian Skater" magazine

Injury forced the young siblings to reassess their goals and by 1982, the Duchesnay's had reinvented themselves as ice dancers and claimed the junior silver medal at the 1982 Canadian Championships in Brandon, Manitoba behind Teri-Lyn Black and Mirko Savic of Toronto. They spent that summer at the international training camp in Oberstdorf, where they caught the eye of Czechoslovakian coach Martin Skotnický. In the autumn, they made their senior international debut in (of all places) France, finishing third at the Grand Prix St. Gervais behind their future rivals Marina Klimova and Sergei Ponomarenko and Italy's Isabella Micheli and Roberto Pelizzola. That same month, they finished second behind Klimova and Ponomarenko at the Nebelhorn Trophy in West Germany.

Three months later, the Duchesnay's were bypassed for a spot on the World Junior team. 1982 Canadian Champions in novice dance Christine Horton and Michael Farrington were sent instead, along with another novice team, Jo-Anne Borlase and Scott Chalmers, who hadn't medalled at the previous year's Nationals. Though no 'official' explanation was given, the fact that the Duchesnay's had stayed in Ottawa and turned down the CFSA's 'suggestion' to train with Bernard Ford at the National Ice Dance Centre near Toronto appeared somewhat coincidental.

Making their senior debut at the 1983 Canadian Championships in Montreal, the Duchesnay's finished fourth behind Tracy Wilson and Rob McCall, Kelly Johnson and John Thomas and Karyn and Rod Garossino in a field of seven. In her book "Figure Skating History: The Evolution Of Dance On The Ice", Lynn Copley-Graves aptly noted that "after placing third at St. Gervais and second in the Nebelhorn, fourth at home seemed low."

The French Canadian duo's international results during the 1983/1984 season weren't exactly stellar. In September at St. Ivel in Great Britain, they were fifth in a field of seven. Two months later at the Ennia Challenge Cup in Holland, they were seventh. At the 1984 Canadian Championships in Regina, they once again placed fourth behind the same three teams (in the same order) as the year before. In a March 22, 1984 interview from "The Ottawa Citizen" during the 1984 World Championships in Ottawa, coach Betty Callaway remarked, "They work very hard and have the potential to make the national team. They have good imagination, good presence on the ice and don't mess around on top of the ice. But they must experiment more and be more adventurous." That April, the Duchesnay's finished sixth out of the fourteen teams competing at the International Morzine Trophy in France to Johnson and Thomas' second. Their rivals from the Granite Club then left the amateur ranks, opening a door for the Duchesnay's to finally make the podium at the 1985 Canadian Championships.

In Moncton at the 1985 Canadian Championships, the Duchesnay's finally stood on the podium, but their bronze - in a five-four split with the Garossino's - kept them off the World team. Shortly thereafter, they won the Coupe Excellence at the Claude Robillard Centre, defeating ice dance teams from France and the United States. By that autumn, shit was starting to hit the proverbial fan.

Despite being initially scheduled to compete at the Grand Prix St. Gervais, Nebelhorn Trophy and Skate America, the Duchesnay's were no-show's at all three events. The CFSA chose to instead enter the Garossino's and Canada's number five team, Jo-Anne Borlase and Scott Chalmers, at Skate Canada. When the Garossino's placed fourth at St. Ivel with a free dance that didn't go over that well, the CFSA pulled them from Skate Canada and invited the Duchesnay's to compete in London, Ontario at the last minute. Upset they'd already been 'pulled' from Skate Canada once, they didn't accept the CFSA's offer and the Garossino's were put back on the Skate Canada team. Ultimately, both the Garossino's and Borlase and Chalmers finished off the podium at that event, and frustrated with what they perceived as a lack of support from the CFSA, the Duchesnay's made a risky decision. Lynn Copley-Graves explained, "When the CFSA passed over Isabelle and Paul Duchesnay for the Skate Canada team in 1985, they gave up hopes for a berth on the Canadian World Team. Their French Canadian father had met their French mother while stationed with NATO in Metz, France, in serving the Canadian armed forces. Paul, born in Metz, and Isabelle, born in Quebec, had the option through their dual citizenship to skate for France when they realized that the CFSA would not place them high enough for international competitions. The FFSG offered to pay their expenses if they won the 1985 French Dance Championship. If they lost, their competitive days would be over."

Photo courtesy "Canadian Skater" magazine

The Duchesnay's announced their decision to skate for France in an October 25, 1985 press release, saying, "We feel we have a better opportunity in France and a better chance of meeting our goals of competing in the 1988 Olympics." Then CFSA President Bruce Miller said, "It's a real loss to Canada's national team. We regret losing this talented couple." David Dore later said, "We really had no choice but to agree and let them leave." He called the situation "very simple" and said that their third-place finish at the 1985 Canadians caused them to miss the World team and the French federation had offered them training support [the CFSA] couldn't offer. Paul and Isabelle's mother Liliane said, "Isabelle made it very clear, if they didn't win [the 1985 Canadians] this meant they weren't good enough. This would be final. They were going to try it one more time." Their father Henri, pulling no punches, told a journalist from the Montreal newspaper "La Presse" that the powers-that-be at the CFSA that included David Dore played a key role in their decision to skate for France.

Isabelle and Paul Duchesnay at their first French Championships. Photos courtesy Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec. 

The Duchesnay's first trip to the French Championships wasn't all rainbows and puppies. In a March 15, 1986 article in "The Ottawa Citizen", reporter Martin Cleary recalled their chilly reception at that year in Lyon thusly: "Parachuting into Lyon three days before the French ice dance championships, the Duchesnay's knew they had to win or their careers were finished. The French officials, coaches and skaters gave them the collective cold shoulder. The Duchesnay's were exercising their dual citizenship option and the top French skaters felt cheated. The Duchesnay's weren't used to the wider rink and they erred by not training on it for several weeks. As a result, they placed second in the compulsory dances. Now, they had to win the original set pattern and the free dance, skated on the same day, to qualify for the worlds. If they didn't, they were ready to quit. They escaped, winning both, with the help of an enthusiastic and inspiring crowd of 5,000 in Lyon. The Duchesnay's, believing they were going to the Worlds, were relieved, while the second and third-place teams were restless. The silver and bronze medallists made their feelings well known, wearing T-shirts reading 'Merci, La France' over their outfits during the medal presentations. A couple of weeks before the European figure skating championships in Copenhagen, the Duchesnay's were told by the French federation they had to place in the top eight or the silver medallists from the French Nationals would go to the worlds." Talk about a warm welcome!

At the 1986 European Championships in Denmark, the Duchesnay's accepted the French federation's ultimatum and placed eighth of the eighteen couples competing: exactly what they needed to do to survive the chopping block. However, their free dance made such an impression on their peers that they were given a standing ovation at the athlete's banquet that followed the competition. Isabelle, in a telephone interview from their training base in Oberstdorf, told Cleary, "Someone from the French federation called me before the Europeans and said we'd finish eighth, I asked him how he knew and he told me 'my little finger told me.' I asked him what he meant and he told me don't ask. That shocked us. I asked him what we'll do at the Worlds and he said we'll probably finish 10th." That little French birdie ultimately wasn't correct in their 'prediction', but they weren't far off. At the 1986 World Championships in Geneva, the Duchesnay's placed twelfth to the Garossino's ninth. That autumn, they won their second French title and firmly established themselves as their new country's number one ice dance team. By the 1987 World Championships in Cincinnati, they were ninth to the Garossino's tenth. Borlase and Chalmers, the other team who was offered a spot at that controversial Skate Canada in 1985, were seventh.

Aside from Tracy Wilson and Rob McCall in 1988, the Duchesnay's were never beat by a Canadian ice dance team again. In 1991, they made history as the first ice dance team from France to win the World Championships and in 1992, they claimed France's first Olympic medal in ice dance. Their risky turncoat gamble in 1985 was one of the first high-profile examples of an ice dance team switching countries mid-career - to their benefit.

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.

A Minnesota Marvel: The Johnny Lettengarver Story

The son of Harry and Margaret (White) Lettengarver, John 'Johnny' 'Peewee' Alfred Lettengarver was born April 29, 1929 in St. Paul, Minnesota. As a young boy growing up during The Great Depression, he made his own fun by taking to the frozen ponds of St. Paul and Minneapolis and soon was recognized as something of a child prodigy.

Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine

Johnny's parents enrolled him in figure skating lessons at the St. Paul Figure Skating Club and by the age of eleven, he entered the world of competitive skating - coached by no less a great than World Champion Megan Taylor and mentored by USFSA judge Mary Louise Wright.

Photos courtesy "Skating" magazine

By the time young Johnny was fifteen, he won the bronze medal in the novice men's event at the U.S. Championships behind Dick Button and Jean-Pierre Brunet. In the two years that followed, he won the U.S. novice and junior men's titles as well as the U.S. junior and Midwestern senior pairs titles with partner Harriet Sutton of Minneapolis. The pride of Monroe High School, not only was he a skater going places but an honour roll student and senior vice-president of his class. Nicknamed 'Pee-Wee' by his peers for his compact stature, he also excelled at gymnastics, horseback riding, cross-country running and track and field.

A silver medal win in the senior men's event at the 1947 U.S. Championships in Berkeley, California earned Johnny a coveted spot on the American team headed to the 1948 Winter Olympic Games in St. Moritz, Switzerland. At the age of eighteen, he departed for Europe in December 1947 aboard the S.S. America, early enough to get in some much needed practice in advance of the 1948 European Championships in Prague which preceded the Olympics in Switzerland. Though he placed fifth in Prague, he made quite an impression on the Canadian and Hungarian judges, who both had him second in the free skate... ahead of Switzerland's Hans Gerschwiler. In St. Moritz, his free skating performance was second best to Dick Button but a fourth place finish in the figures kept him just off the podium. A similar scenario played out at the World Championships that followed in Davos, where young Johnny again had to settle for fourth place. After another trans-Atlantic voyage aboard the S.S. America, he claimed the bronze medal at the U.S. Championships behind Button and Jimmy Grogan. That August, he announced his decision to turn professional, thus ending an incredibly short but thoroughly impressive competitive career. At the time, he told Associated Press reporters, "It looks as though the draft is going to get me and I won't be able to do any skating in the Army. So I might as well cash in now and be a professional."

As he predicted, Johnny was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1950, after skating a stint as a featured skater with the Ice Capades. He joined the cast of John H. Harris' Ice Cycles spin-off tour in January of 1953 and later returned to Ice Capades, performing alongside Ája Zanová, Donna Atwood and Bobby Specht and Silvia and Michel Grandjean. He skated a solo act as well as a precision duet with childhood friend Don Pearson. The November 8, 1950 issue of the "Buffalo Courier-Express" described him as "poetry in motion" and the March 13, 1949 issue of the "Chicago Tribune" raved, "Mr. Lettengarver moves like a dancer and skates like a dream. He has instinctive elegance and style to spare, a rare sense of timing in space, and his turns in the air have a silky, balletic brilliance. There are plenty of other experts, but he is unmistakably a star."

Top: Don Bearson and Johnny Lettengarver in the Ice Capades. Bottom: Johnny Lettengarver in the Ice Capades.

Interviewed for "The Philadelphia Inquirer" on October 11, 1949, Johnny said, "There is long training to go through before the Olympics and there is plenty of high tension during the Games. That's easy compared to the championship competition I face in every Ice Capades performance. With Ice Capades, I have to be at my peak all the time because the entire cast is made up of champions. It's competition every night and keener than one will find in amateur contests... Every performance is a stern test of a skater's skill and the applause of the crowd is an honour that has given me my greatest thrills."

While touring with the Ice Capades, Johnny met his wife Virginia, a fellow skater. After retiring from the show in the late fifties, the couple settled in the state of Washington and raised two sons and a daughter. A love of water both frozen and not, Johnny became a keen boating enthusiast and a respected skating coach at Highland Ice Arena in Shoreline, Ballard Arena in Seattle and Jimmy Grogan's school in Squaw Valley. In his spare time, he enjoyed skiing and sports cars. He sadly passed away of cancer on January 14, 1997 at the age of sixty seven.

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 1989 European Figure Skating Championships

Photo courtesy Elaine Hooper, BIS Archive

Britons were still in shock after the Kegworth air disaster just weeks prior that had left forty seven dead at East Midlands airport. A new law allowed pubs in England to remain open for twelve hours each day, except on Sundays. The popularity of a new cookbook compiled Linda McCartney converted many to vegetarian cooking. Tom Hanks starred in the number one box office film "The 'Burbs"  and Phil Collins topped the music charts with his hit "Two Hearts".

The year was 1989 and from January 17 to 21, the best of the best in European figure skating could be found on a temporary ice surface in the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham, England, dazzling audiences with twist lifts, twizzles and toe-loop's.

Photo courtesy Elaine Hooper, BIS Archive

The 1989 European Championships were the first ISU Championships to be held in England since 1950 and the first European Championships held in England in fifty years. At the 1939 Europeans, a trio of British women (Cecilia Colledge, Megan Taylor and Daphne Walker) had swept the podium. A lot had changed in figure skating since the gloomy post-War days of rationing. By 1989, the Europeans were televised in twenty eight countries and one hundred and five entries from twenty nations participated.

Photos courtesy Elaine Hooper, BIS Archive

The event tied in with the City of Birmingham Centenary Festival and in addition to the great skating, visitors to the Venice of the North enjoyed a grand firework display, an organ recital at town hall, a centenary service at St. Philip's Cathedral and an art exhibition presented by the Royal Birmingham Society Of Artists. At the gala opening of the 1989 Europeans, there was a special number celebrating Great Britain's rich skating history, featuring Robin Cousins and children from Birmingham and four other clubs in the Midlands. At the closing exhibition, the skaters performed before Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal Anne. John Curry and Bobby Thompson acted as the British team's national coaches.

Photo courtesy Elaine Hooper, BIS Archive

As was so often the case in the seventies and eighties, there was confusion surrounding the Soviet team. Two different lists were sent by the USSR Skating Federation to the British organizers. One list had Viktor Petrenko and Ekaterina Gordeeva and Sergei Grinkov; another didn't. At the eleventh hour, the hosts discovered the trio of Olympic medallists were not competing. Petrenko was sick and Gordeeva had an ankle injury. Courtney Jones (who chaired the Organizing Committee) told reporters, "It's a little bit sad and naturally we are disappointed. We didn't realize until the Soviets arrived that [Ekaterina Gordeeva] and [Sergei Grinkov], and [Viktor Petrenko], weren't competing. But there are so many other good skaters and we are very nearly sold out."

Photo courtesy Elaine Hooper, BIS Archivew

ISU rule changes were significant talking points in Birmingham. Tighter doping controls had been introduced, with more random testing occurring during practices. A new rule forbidding revealing or exhibition style' costumes in response to the showy outfit Katarina Witt had worn when she won the previous season at the European Championships allowed judges to deduct up to 0.2 from their marks for outfits that weren't "modest and dignified in nature." As we'll see in today's blogs, the fashion infractions in Birmingham almost overshadowed the great skating.


With Gordeeva and Grinkov out due to injury and former Olympic Gold Medallists and reigning World Champions Elena Valova and Oleg Vasiliev retired, the heavy favourites in Birmingham were fellow Soviets Larisa Selezneva and Oleg Makarov. The 1984 Olympic Bronze Medallists and 1987 European Champions, who trained in St. Petersburg, had won medals at both the 1988 Europeans and Worlds and finished just off the podium at the Calgary Olympics.

This wasn't Selezneva and Makarov's first time at the rodeo and they skated strongly in the original program to take the lead entering the free skate. With side-by-side triple toe-loop's, they narrowly defeated East Germany's Mandy Wötzel and Axel Rauschenbach in a five-four split of the judging panel. The bronze went to Soviets Natalia Mishkutenok and Artur Dmitriev.

Axel Rauschenbach recalled, "After winning the silver medal at the European Championships in 1989 in Birmingham, we had a serious accident just before leaving for the World Championships in Paris 1989. Mandy had a serious head injury after a collision with my skate. This accident threw us back. We never again reached the form we had before the accident."

Great Britain's Cheryl Peake and Andrew Naylor hung on to fifth place despite a couple of errors.
If the crowd had their back, the British judge didn't. Mary Groombridge gave them their lowest marks - 4.8 and 4.9. She had the other British pair, Lisa and Neil Cushley, ahead of them. Speaking of judging, you'd think the pairs event in Birmingham was ice dance. The teams finished in the exact same order in the original and free programs. Perhaps more luckily, the escaped the Birmingham costume drama...


Twenty five year old Alexandr Fadeev was seeking his fourth European title in nine years. The 1985 World Champion had dominated the previous year's event in Leningrad from start to finish, but outside of his home country things at first appeared a little different. In an upset, Oregon born West German skater Richard Zander won the school figures over Fadeev. To give some context to that result, Fadeev had won the figures at the Calgary Olympics and Zander had been ninth.

Alexandr Fadeev rebounded with a stellar original program, winning that phase of the event over Poland's Grzegorz Filipowski, Czechoslovakia's Petr Barna and the Soviet Union's Dmitri Gromov. Richard Zander finished only tenth, dropping to sixth in the overall standings entering the free skate, but was forced to withdraw due to the same back injury that had almost forced him to retire the previous season. Fadeev's costume for the original program was wild. He wore gloves with what one reporter referred to as "long glittering Florence Griffith-Joyner style claws" and had a sequined parrot on the back of his outfit. Despite this, many judges didn't give him the now mandatory 0.2 costume deduction. Four of them gave him a 5.9.

In the free skate, Alexandr Fadeev brought the house down with an eight-triple performance and earned four perfect 6.0's for artistic impression on the way to his fourth European title. Grzegorz Filipowski, Petr Barna, Dmitri Gromov, Daniel Weiss and Viacheslav Zagorodniuk rounded out the top six. Famously, British judge Vanessa Riley implemented a mandatory 0.2 deduction to Alexandr Fadeev, who wore white pants that left little to the imagination, prominently showcasing Sasha Jr.  She told reporters, "There's no point in having rules if you don't use them. The rules say costumes must be modest and dignified. Fadeev's clearly wasn't. I therefore deducted 0.2 from the artistic impression mark, making it 5.6. I still had him first." At the Worlds in Paris, Fadeev wore a pair of jockey shorts over his jockstrap to avoid getting dinged for his dingle.

In Fadeev's 2009 interview with Allison Manley on The Manleywoman SkateCast, he recalled, "Back in time, the professionals, the ballet dancers, they wore the dance belt, which is basically [a] G-string, the male version... which is supposed to give the nice forms instead of just the Speedo under the white costumes, which if black it always shows. So my choreographer was the ballet expert, a costume designer, and he designed it. But I think it was the first time anyone was wearing that, so I think that’s why the judge did not understand that. I think it's a misunderstanding."


Left: Claudia Leistner. Right: Joanne Conway.

Katarina Witt, Kira Ivanova and Anna Kondrashova had all left the amateur ranks and East Germany's Simone Koch had withdrawn, leaving twenty four year old Claudia Leistner of West Germany as the favourite in Birmingham. She had won the bronze medals at the 1983 and 1985 European Championships and placed ahead of both Jill Trenary and Midori Ito at the 1988 Worlds in Budapest. She took a strong lead in the figures, which had been reduced in number from three to two. Joanne Conway, Natalia Gorbenko, Natalia Lebedeva and Željka Čižmešija rounded out the top five. Seventeenth in her debut at Europeans was a young Surya Bonaly. She shook things up with a get-up which Vanessa Riley described as "more of a court jester's outfit."

It was West meets East in the original program when Claudia Leistner defeated seventeen year old Simone Lang. Seventeen year old Joanne Conway's fourth place finish kept her in second overall entering the free skate, with Natalia Lebedeva in third. With a conservative but daring effort, Leistner took the gold over Lebedeva and her teammate Patricia Neske, who had been only eighth in figures. Joanne

Claudia Leistner claimed the gold with an athletic free skating performance that featured a triple loop, two triple Salchows, a triple toe-loop and a two-footed triple flip. Natalia Lebedeva and Patricia Neske took the silver and bronze, while Joanne Conway dropped all the way down to sixth and Surya Bonaly moved all the way up to eighth.

Claudia Leistner's victory was the first for a West German woman at Europeans since Gundi Busch in 1954. Her former coach Ondrej Nepela, dying in hospital, was able to watch her victory on television. After winning, she told reporters, "It's been a long wait. I hope I can do the same in Paris [at the World Championships]. I would have liked Katarina to have been here so I could have tried to beat her." She was on the payroll of Daimler's Untertürkheim plant, along with almost fifty other West German sporting stars. When she returned home to her country, she received a Mercedes 300 as a gift for winning.

Joanne Conway was quite sick in Birmingham and had actually thrown up half an hour before skating a clean original program, but as is so often the case in skating, many played her rough free skate off as nerves. The British press, hoping for a medal, weren't exactly kind to her. David Whaley, sports editor for the "Sandwell Evening Mail" wrote, "Jolly Joanne 'I can bottle it with the best' Conway has rarely shown she can handle pressure. Then, shock horror, one round to go and in the silver medal spot. Surprise, surprise - down she went and down the drain went the forlorn medal dream."


With Olympic Gold Medallists Natalia Bestemianova and Andrei Bukin having turned professional, Marina Klimova and Sergei Ponomarenko were the favourites at the European Championships for the first year. It was their sixth crack at the title and they had medalled every time except their first Europeans back in 1983, when they finished fourth. Notably absent were Isabelle and Paul Duchesnay. Isabelle had undergone knee surgery the October previous and had not recovered sufficiently to compete. From her training base in Oberstdorf, she told an Associated Press reporter, "We are bitterly disappointed at missing the Europeans. It would have been great to unveil our new routine, which has again been choreographed by Christopher Dean, in front of a British crowd."

As expected, Marina Klimova and Sergei Ponomarenko took a strong lead after the compulsories - the Yankee Polka and Rhumba. Maya Usova and Alexandr Zhulin finished second; Natalia Annenko and Genrikh Sretrenski third. There was an outcry when Usova's lime green bikini and body stocking for the Rhumba wasn't penalized by many judges. Joan Slater, the coach of British ice dancers Sharon Jones and Paul Askham told reporters, "The British association would not permit our skaters to wear something like that at these Championships. It's totally over the top. They should not show any bare midriff, but that was more like a Latin American ballroom outfit." Usova and Zhulin's coach Natalia Dubova responded, "We didn't realize the costume would create such a furor. The design at the World Championships will definitely be changed and will be fully in agreement with the new regulations."

Klimova and Ponomarenko's "Ain't She Sweet" topped Usova and Zhulin's "Black Bottom" in the Charleston OSP. There was criticism over the fact that Annenko and Sretenski skated in pastel outfits that didn't say Charleston whatsoever, but still ended up ahead of the popular fourth place Hungarian couple, Klára Engi and Attila Tóth and Jones and Askham, who performed more classic Charlestons.

Klimova and Ponomarenko finally won their first ISU Championship with an excellent free dance to Kurt Weill's "Mack The Knife", earning 6.0's from both the Soviet and Italian judges. The Soviet judge also gave a 6.0 to Usova and Zhulin, whose free dance to "The Planets" somewhat stole the show from their elder teammates. Annenko and Sretenski's lovely free dance made up for the criticisms over their OSP.

The third Soviet sweep of the dance podium at Europeans of the eighties did not go unnoticed, nor did the new level of athleticism that that was permeating the discipline. In "The Spectator", John Powers wrote, "Ice dancing, which had its feet firmly in the ground by design, has gone Bolshoi in the last six years. Even dancers are airborne now, and all need to be stronger, lither and fitter than ever before. No part of figure skating has changed more than ice dancing."

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.

Lady Evelyn Grey: A Regal Force From Rideau Hall

"To make the best of every talent; to be aware of the beauty of the world. To be active, cheerful, amused, and if possible, amusing; to make and keep great friends; to enjoy things; to grumble as little as possible; to keep an open mind, and, as a consequence, to be happy, even in the difficult, if exciting, world of today." - Lady Evelyn Grey Jones, handwritten letter to Lady Evelyn Public School, 1965

Lady Evelyn Alice Grey was born March 14, 1886 in St. George Hanover Square, London, England. Her father, Albert Henry George Grey, was a Liberal Member of Parliament for Northumberland County in the House Of Commons at the time. Her mother, Alice (Holford) Grey, was something of a socialite... to put it very mildly. Her father's parents were a secretary and servant to Queen Victoria and her mother's father was a wealthy art collector and Member of Parliament for Gloucestershire. To say that Evelyn grew up with a silver spoon in her mouth would be something of an understatement.

Lady Evelyn Grey and Ormonde B. Haycock. Photos courtesy Library And Archives Canada.

Evelyn grew up wanting for very little in London. She didn't see a lot of her father when she was a young girl, as he had accepted an invitation from Cecil John Rhodes to serve as an administrator with the British South Africa Company in Rhodesia. In 1904, when Evelyn was eighteen her father was appointed Governor-General of Canada by the government of Prime Minister Arthur Balfour. Upon his arrival in Ottawa, he succeeded his brother-in-law the Earl of Minto... the founding member of the Minto Skating Club.

The Earl Grey family. Photo courtesy Library And Archives Canada.

Evelyn hadn't been one of those elegant 'society ladies' who'd skimmed the ice at Prince's Skating Club at Knightsbridge. In fact, until she arrived in Ottawa, she hadn't really given skating much of a thought. While residing at Rideau Hall, she could hardly escape the ice.

Ice Castle at Rideau Hall. Photo courtesy Library And Archives Canada.

Continuing the long-standing tradition established by the Minto's, the fourth Earl Grey hosted wildly popular weekly moonlight skating and tobogganing parties at Rideau Hall during his stint as Governor-General. One such party was described by his daughter Lady Victoria Grenfell in a letter to Lady Wantage thusly: "Two huge bonfires burn and crackle close to the two rinks both of which are lit up by rows of Chinese lanterns on wires all round them... The party is opened by a procession of couples on skates each holding a torch and skating a long serpentine march to the music of the band. The tattoo of torches with all the lanterns and coloured Bengal lights really made it look like Fairyland. It was a glorious night with a splendid full moon." In 1906, the Earl Grey donated the Earl Grey Cup to the Montreal Winter Club for competitions in "combined figure skating of four to a center, combined figure skating in pairs and individual skating." He also attended numerous skating competitions, often presenting prizes to the winners.

The Minto Four in 1911 - Lady Evelyn Grey, Eleanor Kingsford, Ormonde B. Haycock and Phillip Chrysler. Photos courtesy Library And Archives Canada.

Though the Earl Grey was a patron of several skaters at the Minto Skating Club, none was nearer and dearer to his heart than his own daughter. The Earl was responsible for bringing Arthur Held, a German coach who had been teaching in America, to the Minto Skating Club... specifically to help Evelyn with her school figures. Evelyn won both the pairs and Waltz titles at the 1910 Canadian Championships - skating with partners Ormonde Butler Haycock and Dudley Oliver. The following year at the Canadian Championships in Montreal, Evelyn and Ormonde repeated as pairs champions... and Evelyn won the Canadian women's title. The Minto Skating Club won the overall title that year... and took home the Earl Grey Cup. The February 28, 1911 issue of the "Ottawa Citizen" noted, "Lady Evelyn's was a remarkable performance, when it is remembered that her career as a skater began only four or five years ago, and that she was handicapped by a lack of that early experience on the blades which falls to the lot of the ordinary Canadian. It therefore required natural aptitude, conscientious practice, and clever head work to enable her to rise to the top."

Top: Lady Evelyn Grey photographed with a who's who of North American skating in 1911, including Irving Brokaw, Ormonde B. Haycock and Eleanor Kingsford. Bottom: Clipping of a performance of Lady Evelyn Grey in Boston.

Interestingly, Evelyn's winning performances at the 1911 Canadian Championships weren't even her most noteworthy efforts on the ice that winter. At the Minto Skating Club's carnival a week prior, she'd joined her father, mother and sister on the ice in a fancy dress performance reminiscent of the Aberdeens' Historical Fancy Dress Ball of 1896, dressed in "an officer's costume of the eighteenth century."

Top: Lady Evelyn Grey and Lady Sybil Grey. Bottom: Lady Sybil Grey, Lady Evelyn Grey and Countess Alice Grey

Following her win in Montreal, Evelyn travelled with her mother and sister Sybil to Boston, where she gave figure skating exhibitions in conjunction with a winter sports festival. She was widely praised by the well-to-do Bostonians in attendance. The March 17, 1911 issue of the "Citizen" noted, "The Minto [four] was described as a crack organization. Lady Evelyn Grey also appeared in pairs [with Ormonde B. Haycock], and was warmly greeted for her share in the graceful and picturesque performance." The ideas exchanged on this trip helped further relations between skaters from Ottawa and Boston and so moved the Duke of Connaught to suggest an international fours competition between Canadian and American skaters... the Connaught Cup.

Lady Evelyn Grey and her father strolling in Regent's Park, London in 1916

Evelyn's short but highly impressive skating career was cut short by her marriage to British writer and barrister Sir Lawrence Evelyn Jones in 1912 and subsequent pregnancy with her first of five daughters. The couple made their home at Cramner Hall, a historic country house near Fakenham, Norfolk. She passed away on April 15, 1971 in the affluent London suburb of Marylebone at the age of eighty five, the distant memories of her short incarnation as a champion figure skater long 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.

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