#Unearthed: Ice Skating In Canada


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. 

This month's 'buried treasure', entitled "Ice Skating in Canada", comes to you from the October 1885-March 1886 issue of "Outing" magazine. The author is James Macdonald Oxley, a Halifax born lawyer and adventure writer who studied at both Dalhousie and Harvard Universities.

"ICE SKATING IN CANADA" (JAMES MACDONALD OXLEY)

It is a glorious winter afternoon, and, having left the smoke and din and dust of the city far behind, we are standing together at the foot of the first of the Dartmouth lakes. Straight before us, and spreading far out on either hand, lies a glistening expanse, whose polished surface flashes back the cheerful sunshine. Three unbroken miles in length, and more than one in width, this icy plain awaits us in its virgin purity. It were strange then did not our fingers tremble with impatience and our "Acmes" snap with feverish haste. They are on at last and now for the supremest luxury of motion. The crisp cool air is charged with electricity; every answering nerve tingles delightfully, and the blood leaps responsively through the throbbing pulses. Once out upon the ringing ice, and we seem to have passed from the realm of solid flesh and blood to that of "tricksy, dainty Ariel."

We have broken loose from the bonds of gravitation, and, as with favouring wind we speed away to the farther shore, every stroke of our steel-shod feet counting good for a quartette of yards, the toiling and moiling of the work-a-day world seem to have found at the margin of the lake a magic barrier beyond which they may not follow us, and with spirits light and free we glide off into a new sphere where care and labour are unknown. Mile after mile flashes past, yet our muscles weary not; nor does the breath grow short. But what is this? Is our flight already ended; and must we turn back so soon? The fir-clad shores, which were a little while ago so far apart, have drawn together, until they seem to meet not far ahead, and put a bar to farther progress. A cunning turn, a short, quick dash over the dangerous spot, where the current runs swiftly, and the ice bends ominously, and, behold! We are out again upon a second lake, still larger than the first, and dotted here and there with tiny, evergreen islets that look like emeralds in a silver setting. For three miles more our way lies before us smooth and clear, and then at last, as, having reached the limit of our enterprise, we throw ourselves upon a fallen tree to rest our now tired limbs and catch our diminished breath, I ask, which, of wheelman, horseman, yachtsman, sculler, or skater, enjoys the finest exercise?

Lord and Lady Lansdowne skating at Rideau Hall, circa 1884. Photo courtesy Library and Archives Canada. Credit: Topley Studio / Library and Archives Canada / PA-033916.

No country in the world presents better facilities for indulgence in the luxury of skating than Canada. Holland may with propriety boast of her smooth canals, Norway of her romantic fjords, Scotland
of her poetic lochs; but, for variety of lake, river, canal, pond, and frozen sea, from the majestic St. Lawrence to the humblest stream that affords delight to the village red-checked lads and lasses, Canada is unsurpassed. It is no wonder then that the Canadians are a nation of skaters, and that
the skating-rinks should be as indispensable an adjunct to every city, town, and village as the church and the concert-hall.

With a season extending over four, and often five, months, the managers of rinks can count upon receiving profitable returns upon their capital; and so these institutions multiply. Owing to the great quantity of snow which every winter brings, the season for out-door skating in Canada, is very
short, consisting usually of the middle weeks in December, when Jack Frost, by thoughtfully anticipating the snow, allows of a fortnight’s skating in the open air before the mantle of winter hides his handiwork from sight and use. As a natural consequence, Canadians are not remarkable for long-distance skating; and two winters ago the swiftest flyers of our land had to lower their banner before Mr. Axel Paulsen, the renowned Norwegian skater, who made a triumphant tour through Canada
and the United States.

On the other hand the long season enjoyed by the rinks enables all who will take the trouble, and do not shrink from a novitiate of bumps and bruises, to become exceedingly expert at fancy-skating; and
it is hardly debatable that the rinks of Toronto, Montreal, Halifax, and St. John can send forth skaters, who, for grace, precision, and intricacy of movement, would find no superiors in the world. When Mr. Paulsen attempted to teach the Canadians fancy-skating he was somewhat chagrined to find himself soon reduced to the position of a learner. As an ice-acrobat he did indeed perform one or two feats that were novel; but they had only to be seen to be immediately copied; while some of the Canadians were able to open his eyes to possibilities of  "didoes" which he thought it not best to hurriedly attempt. His visit was of permanent value, however, because it awakened a deeper interest in long-distance skating; and one may safely venture the prophecy that, should Mr. Paulsen come this way again, he will find the defeat of his opponents at long distances not quite such a holiday task as on the occasion of his last visit.

Axel Paulsen

What is known in England as "figure-skating," and there very ardently indulged in by well-to-do members of the various clubs, who can afford to acquire the art in Norway or Scotland, is but little practiced in Canada. It is not suitable for rinks, as it requires so much room, and can only be done to advantage in large, open spaces, which the "figurists" may have all to themselves. Figure-skating is undoubtedly very effective and striking when executed by a band of well-disciplined skaters who thoroughly understand one another. But it is so elaborate, and takes so much time both in preparation and performance, that it is not suited to the latitude of a colony where the majority of those who skate
have no surplus of leisure, and want to make the most of the time at their disposal for recreation.

There is one phase of figure-skating however which does flourish throughout Canada, to wit, dancing; and it would delight the heart of Terpsichore herself to watch a well-skilled quartette of couples gliding through the mazes of the lancers or quadrille, or sweeping round in airy circles to the music of the waltz. The evolutions of course differ somewhat from the steps taken on the floor, but the identity of the dance is far from being lost, and the pleasure of the dancer is greatly enhanced through the surpassing ease of motion. This dancing on the ice may be seen in its perfection at Halifax, the capital of Nova Scotia, which, being a garrison city, enjoys the unique privilege of military bands; and the officers, as a rule, becoming enthusiastic skaters, the ladies who grace the fashionable rink by their presence have a grand time of it gliding entrancingly about to the bewitching strains of delightful
music, and bringing all their artillery of thrilling eyes, tempting cheeks, and enslaving lips to bear upon the gallant sons of Mars, who often times find the slippery floor more fatal than the tented field.

The finest rinks in Canada are those in Montreal, Halifax and Saint John. The rink at Halifax is really the Crystal Palace of the exhibition grounds, and for size, appearance, and convenience is surpassed by none. One of the most cheerful sights imaginable is this vast building on a band-night when the snow-white arena is almost hidden beneath a throng of happy skaters, youths and maidens, circling round hand-in-hand, the maiden glowing with pride at her admirer's dexterity, the youth enraptured by his charmer's roseate winsomeness. Here doth Cupid bid defiance to the chilling blasts of winter, and although the poets and painters have conspired to confine him to a garb appropriate only for the dog-days. the sly wielder of the fatal bow must in winter enwrap himself with furry garments, and
like a tiny Santa Claus, perch his chubby form unseen among the rafters, and from that coign of vantage let fly his shafts thick and fast into the merry company beneath.

Fancy Dress Skating Carnival party at Montreal, circa 1882. Photo courtesy Library and Archives Canada. Credit: Library and Archives Canada, Acc. No. R9266-218 Peter Winkworth Collection of Canadiana.

One of the chief attractions of skating, for the ambitious disciple, is that there is practically no limit to its possibilities in the way of invention and combination. It would be extremely difiicult to prepare for
any skating tournament a hard-and~fast program which would meet every requirement. Hence in competitions of this kind the custom is to lay down some twenty or thirty of the best-known feats,
which every competitor is supposed to do, and then leave each contestant to add thereto such marvels of skill as he may have picked up or invented. At the same time, of course, there may be almost as
many degrees of skill represented in the execution of the set program as there are competitors, and the judges must take this fully into consideration when making their award, and not allow their judgment to be dazzled by some particularly striking "extra."

Skating tournaments, however, are not as frequent as they ought to be. While every other recognized sport has its regularly recurring trials of proficiency, skating has hitherto been inexplicably neglected. Surely nothing could be more interesting or attractive than a gathering of accomplished skaters of both sexes vying with one another in the ease and grace with which they can illustrate the intricacies of the "grape-vine," the difficulty of the "giant swing," or the rapidity of the "locomotive." Trials of
speed are common enough at all rinks, and are undoubtedly more popular and exciting than trials of skill, but the more refined and less demoralizing competition should not be entirely neglected.

The speed attained by those who race in rinks, it need hardly be explained, affords no criterion whatever whereby to judge of what fast skaters are competent to accomplish. The incessant turns, the
sharp corners, the confined area, all tend to materially reduce the rate of progression; and only out on some broad lake or long-extending reach of river can the skater do his best. I have no records at
hand as I write, but my own experience justifies me in venturing the assertion that a champion skater in perfect form, and properly equipped with long-bladed racing-skates, would prove no mean antagonist for Maud S. herself over a measured mile, while at longer distances he would have
the field to himself.

Like all other amusements, skating in Canada waxes and wanes in popular estimation according to the mysterious laws of human impulse. One winter skating will be voted "not the thing," and the rinks
will be deserted. The next, they will be crowded, and even the heads of families will be fishing out their rusty "acmes" from the lumber-closet, and renewing their youth in the icy arena. As a means
of exercise during the long weary months of winter, when the deep snow renders walking a toil devoid of pleasure, and the muscles are aching for employment, the skating-rink is an unspeakable boon, especially to him whose lot it is to endure much "dry drudgery at the desk's dead wood." An hour's brisk spinning round will clear the befogged brain, brace up the lax frame, and give a keenness' to the appetite that nothing else could do.

Skating group at Rideau Hall, circa 1886. Photo courtesy Library and Archives Canada. Credit: Topley Studio / Library and Archives Canada / PA-027079.

Then the rink has its social as well as its sanitary advantages. During the winter months it affords both sexes a pleasant and convenient rendezvous, where, unhampered by the conventionalities of the ballroom, and aided by the cheerful inspiration of the exercise, they can enjoy one another's society with a frequency otherwise unattainable. On band-days, indeed, the rink becomes converted into a spacious salle d'assemélée, where the numbered program of musical selections enables Corydon to
make engagements in advance with Phyllis, and thus insure the prosperous prosecution of his suit.

A carnival on ice - and every rink has one or more during the season - affords a rarely interesting and brilliant spectacle. For these occasions the building dons its gala dress, the gaunt rafters are hung with
banners, the walls are hidden beneath variegated bunting, and festooned with spruce embroidery, lights gleam brightl from every nook and comer, and the ice is prepared with special care. Then, as
the motley crowd glides swiftly by, one may behold representatives of every clime and nation mingling together in perfect amity. It is true the tawny Spaniard, the dark-eyed Italian, the impassive Turk, the appalling Zulu, the soft and silent Hindoo, and others whose home lies beneath the southern skies, betray a familiarity with the ice which seems to cast some doubt upon their genuineness.

But when his Satanic Majesty himself, with barbed tail and cloven hoof, confesses to an intimacy with the mazy evolutions of the "Philadelphia grape-vine," the incongruity attaching to the visitors from cooler climes appears less striking, and they may go on their way unchallenged. Sometimes masks are de rigeur at these carnivals, and then the inevitable clown and harlequin have unlimited license, till even Quakers and friars, infected by their bad example, vie with them in mad pranks, and the fun soon waxes furious. Masked or unmasked, the carnival skaters have a joyous time, and the hours steal away with cruel haste.

Such are some of the phases of ice-skating in Canada. If this article has seemed to be devoted principally to in-door skating, it is because that can be pursued through so much greater a portion of the winter than the out-door kind. Skating, in its perfection, is of course only to be had in the open air, and my most delightful recollections are associated with the Dartmouth lakes, of happy memory. Connected with the same lakes, however, there is a recollection too thrilling to be delightful, and which, in view of what might have been, brings a shudder even now when I rehearse it.

It happened in my college days. I had been skating all the afternoon, and, as the dusk drew on apace, found myself away down at the head of the second lake, full six miles from the point where I had got
upon the ice; so, girding up my loins, I set my face towards home, and struck out lustily. After going about one hundred yards I thought I heard the sound of my name come faintly to me over the ice.
Wheeling sharply about I saw nothing except a dark form some distance away, which through the gathering gloom, resembled a log or tree-branch, and I was just about to start off again when once more my name was called, this time so clearly as to leave no chance for doubt, the sound evident-
ly coming from the seeming log. Hastening over to it with all speed, I was startled to find the professor of classics at my college - who did not allow the loss of an arm t debar him from the pleasure of skating - lying on the ice, with his left leg broken sharp and clear a few inches above the
ankle, the result of a sudden and heavy fall. Here indeed was a trying situation for a mere lad to cope with. We were alone, in a wilderness of ice, and six miles away from the nearest house. The shadows of night were fast closing around us. Those six miles had to be gotten over in some way, and there was not a moment to be lost. Hurrying to the shore I cut down a small spruce-tree. Upon this the helpless sufferer was laid as gently as possible, and bound to it with straps. Then upon this rude ambulance I slowly dragged him down the lake, while he, with splendid self-control, instead of murmuring at his terrible agony, charmed away my weariness by his unconquerable heroism. It was a toilsome task, but help came when we reached the first lake, and, once the shore was gained, a long express-wagon filled with mattresses made the homeward journey comparatively painless. "All is well that ends well." The broken leg soon mended, and the following winter found the professor skating as briskly as ever. Yet I cannot help wondering sometimes with a shudder how it would have fared with the interpreter of Greece and Rome had not that first faint call reached my ears. A bitter-cold night, a wide expanse of polished ice, a solitary man lying prone upon it with one arm missing at the shoulder and one leg broken at the ankle. It were little less than a miracle if ice-skating in Canada had not been clouded by one more catastrophe that winter night.

Skate Guard is a blog dedicated to preserving the rich, colourful and fascinating history of figure skating and archives hundreds of compelling features and interviews in a searchable format for readers worldwide. Though there never has been nor will there be a charge for access to these resources, you taking the time to 'like' on the blog's Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/SkateGuard would be so very much appreciated. Already 'liking'? Consider sharing this feature for others via social media. It would make all the difference in the blog reaching a wider audience. Have a question or comment regarding anything you have read here or have a suggestion for a topic related to figure skating history you would like to see covered? I'd love to hear from you! Learn the many ways you can reach out at http://skateguard1.blogspot.ca/p/contact.html.

10 Books Every Skating Lover Should Have In Their Collection


If anyone evers says that you have too many books, there is only one appropriate response. You politely ask that person to leave so that you can read another one in peace. 

Over the years, many figure skating books have been written. 99%  have been worthy of positive GOE's, personal best scores and Olympic gold medals. An unfortunate 1% shouldn't have made it out of a qualifying round at the Bull's-Eye Barbecue Sauce Summer Skating Invitational and Corn Boil in Wichita, Kansas. If only writing a book were as easy as Dame Sally Markham led us to believe...


The truth is that some of the best skating books out there haven't been bestsellers - they have actually been rather obscure! Today I'd like to share ten skating books that I truly believe every skating lover should have in their collection. I haven't included biographies, but instead only books that are of general interest to anyone with a passion for the sport's history. 


10. THE ICE SKATING BOOK 

This engaging book was written by Robert Sheffield and Richard Woodward and published in 1980, shortly after Sheffield's death. It divides ice skating into five categories - Elements, History, Sport, Spectacle and Pleasures and ends with William Wordsworth's famous poem about skating from "The Prelude". Though mostly in black and white, the book is resplendent with stunning photographs and works of art and peppered with interesting quotes gleamed from diaries and fictional works that touch on skating. Much of the information included can be found elsewhere, but the chapter on Ice Shows is a great overview, touching upon the grand shows at the Admiralspalast in Germany and Charlotte's successful career in America, the popularity of hotel shows during The Great War, British ice pantomimes, Sonja Henie's popularity as a professional and those great touring ice revues everyone knew and loved - the Ice Follies, Ice Capades and Holiday on Ice. John Curry also got his own chapter in the Spectacle section. I wouldn't purchase this one expecting any great revelations, but I think it does a very good job at touching on the 'key points' of skating history and not glossing over ones that weren't Americentric.

Where to find a copy: Available on Thriftbooks and Biblio.


9. REFLECTIONS ON THE CFSA: A HISTORY OF THE CANADIAN FIGURE SKATING ASSOCIATION 1887-1990

Written by Teresa Moore, edited by Sheila Robertson and published by the Canadian Figure Skating Association Hall of Fame in 1993, this wonderfully crafted book does a marvellous job at tracing back the history of Skate Canada (then the CFSA) to the very beginning through the careful study of minutes and records, as well as extensive interviews with many of the people who helped shape the sport in Canada behind the scenes. It focuses very much on the governance of the sport, not the skaters who helped shape it. There are some interesting appendices, including a full listing of skating clubs in Canada (as of 1990) and the year they joined the CFSA and the origins of many cups and trophies that were presented to winners of competitions over the years. This book wouldn't have happened without the persistence of CFSA President Barbara Ryan, who played an important role in the establishment of the Hall of Fame and wanted to establish a Canadian Figure Skating Museum that was accessible to the public, much like the World Figure Skating Museum in Colorado Springs. At least two additional volumes were planned to follow this book, but they never materialized.

Where to find a copy: Available on AbeBooksThriftbooks and Biblio.


8. ICE-SKATING: A HISTORY

For the first half of the twentieth century, Switzerland was skating's mecca. Davos and St. Moritz played host to many championships and a who's who of figure skating trained there. Who better to chronicle the sport's history than a British ex-pat who represented Switzerland in the World Championships as an ice dancer? Nigel Brown's 1959 formidable 22 chapter book divides the sport's history into four parts: Early Times, The Pioneer Stage, The Heroic Era and Modern Times. The book's format gives an excellent timeline of skating's development over the years, drawing from a good balance of early written accounts of the sport penned in different countries. Bearing in mind any one of the chapters could have really been the subject of its own book, Brown does an outstanding job at giving readers a sense of how skating evolved from a pastime to a legitimate sport. The book serves as a fantastic starting point for anyone wanting to take a deep dive into the sport's history.

Where to find a copy: Available on Biblio.


7. MINTO: SKATING THROUGH TIME, 1904-2004

Ever since the Minto Skating Club played host to the first Canadian Figure Skating Championships (then termed 'the first annual figure skating competition for the Minto Challenge Cups and other prizes') in 1905, the Ottawa club has borne witness to skating history for decades. There's a lot to love about Janet B. Uren's 2004 history of the club. She treats each decade with equal attention. She offers fascinating tidbits about some of the sport's early champions - as well as penning an excellent biography of Lord and Lady Minto themselves. The book is brimming with well-appointed photos and interesting little tidbits that never would have surfaced had she not interviewed the right people.

Where to find a copy: Available on Amazon and Biblio.



6. INDELIBLE TRACINGS AND IMAGES

The fateful crash of Sabena Flight 548 in 1961 was not only a horrific tragedy - it really reshaped the sport's history. Patricia Shelley Bushman's "Indelible Tracings: The Story of the 1961 U.S. World Figure Skating Team" and its companion coffee table picture book "Indelible Images", were published in 2010. Another book about the tragedy was published just over a year prior and as a result many people didn't read these two, which is so unfortunate because they really are superior in every way. Dozens upon dozens of members of the skating community were interviewed at length, offering rare insight. Rare photographs from almost all of the families of those were perished are shared. The generation of U.S. figure skating that was lost in the crash are remembered not just as skaters, coaches or judges - but as people. These books not only tell the stories of the victims of the tragedy, but they paint a rich and detailed picture of U.S. figure skating in the 1950's and early 60's. 

Where to find a copy: "Indelible Tracings" is available on AbeBooksThriftbooks and Biblio. "Indelible Images" is not currently available on major used book outlets. Check your local library as it may be available for inter-library loan.


5. SKATING AROUND THE WORLD 1892-1992: THE ONE HUNDREDTH ANNIVERSARY OF THE INTERNATIONAL SKATING UNION

The late Benjamin T. Wright was not only a well-respected international judge and referee (along with his beloved wife Mary Louise) but also served for many years as the ISU's Historian. Truth be told, both this 1992 book and his 1996 book "Skating in America (1921-1996): The 75th Anniversary History of the United States Figure Skating Association" deserve to be on this list. Through extensive research in the Archives of the ISU, Wright shares the good, bad and ugly of skating's international governing body's development. All of the great winners you know and love are in there, but so too are the politics, judging scandals and rule changes that shaped the sport - gleaned from the minutes of Congresses and Council Meetings. If you're always horny for skating gossip, you won't find it here - but you will absolutely find many clues that will lead you to it. If you want facts and figures about the sport's history you can trust, you will absolutely find them in this book. It's a fascinating read from cover to cover and an important resource everyone should have in their collection.

Where to find a copy: The book is available through the International Skating Union's shop.


4. FIGURE SKATING AND THE ARTS: EIGHT CENTURIES OF SPORT AND INSPIRATION

No one else could have pulled a book like this off but Frances Dafoe. It is a huge shame that more people don't have this 2011 coffee table book in their collections. Dafoe's book is divided into five chapters: Skating in the Arts, Blades on Ice, Diversions on the Ice, The Sport of Skating and Entertainment on the Ice. The book uses stunning visuals to share fascinating elements of the sport's history. Paintings, sculpture and photography are all very well-represented, but so too are the art of costumes, skates, coins, stamps, dolls and much, much more. The real highlights are the works of Russian-born surrealist artist Sergey Tyukhanov and many items from the private collections of Dafoe, the Bezic family and Dick Button. I think it would impossible to be disappointed by this book. It is one I enjoy revisiting often.

Where to find a copy: The book is available through Schiffer Publishing.


3. FIGURE SKATING HISTORY: THE EVOLUTION OF DANCE ON ICE

To say Lynn Copley-Graves' 1992 encyclopedia is the bible of ice dance history is something of an understatement. A book that so comprehensively covers the discipline has not been written before or since. The first 21 pages of the book cover the Foundations of ice dancing. It's no coincidence that the book starts a season by season format in the early twenties, when "Skating" was first published, as the book draws heavily from the magazine's back catalogue to chronicle the sport's development year by year and share results from past competitions. This book is not only a well-researched record book though. Copley-Graves does a marvellous job at explaining trends and changes in dance technique and judging. The real shame is that companion volumes weren't written for singles, pairs and synchro skating. 

Where to find a copy: Available on AbeBooks and Biblio.


2. OUR SKATING HERITAGE: A CENTENARY HISTORY OF THE NATIONAL SKATING ASSOCIATION 1879-1979

Writer and historian Dennis L. Bird's 1979 history of the National Skating Association (now British Ice Skating) is not at all what you would expect from a one hundred and four page book, but it is everything you would expect if you were at all familiar with Bird's writing. Bird was a prolific writer and expert on the sport's history, often penning articles for skating periodicals under the pen name John Noel. When tasked with writing this book for the NSA's Centenary, he absolutely outdid himself. The book is divided into five chapters: Skating's Early Days, The Formative Years, The Edwardian Era, Between Two Wars and The Modern Age. Each chapter is jam-packed with interesting tidbits about the people who helped shape the sport's history. You learn about a father and son who both played an important part in the sport's Governance, the NSA's feuds with Madge Syers' husband Edgar, the clash of the English and Continental Styles and the impacts of both World Wars on British skating. There's a lot to love about this book but what I love most is that Bird's research is so reliable - and that's something that is so often not the case with skating books.

Where to find a copy: Available on Biblio.


1. ICE SKATING

Olympic figure skater, judge and prolific author T.D. Richardson penned nearly a dozen books on figure skating, most being half instructional/half anecdotal. This particular book, first published in 1956, focuses entirely on the sport's history... and is it ever a delightful book. Richardson divides the history into seven chapters: Origins, The Years to 1914, Between The Wars, After The Second World War, Tests, Judging and The Professional Ice Show. There is also a Postscript that briefly speculates on how revolutions in boot design might shape the sport's future. Spoiler alert: he was right. Bearing in mind that Richardson personally knew most of the sport's great champions of the first half of the twentieth century, he was in a very unique position as a writer of the sport's history - and he didn't disappoint. The book is chock full of interesting anecdotes about the sport's early champions and does a good job of recounting the history of championships and ice rinks of yesteryear. The book is very much written from a European perspective, but one interesting aspect that you really don't see in other books about the sport's history is the inclusion of information on Australia's early skating history.

Where to find a copy: Available on AbeBooks. Please note that the author wrote several books with similar titles. The book you are looking for is a 1956 book called "Ice Skating", not his earlier book "Ice Rink Skating".

I hope you enjoy reading these wonderful books about the sport's history as much I did! I also hope you will consider ordering a copy of my own little book, "The Almanac Of Canadian Figure Skating". The book is available worldwide on Amazon in hard cover, paperback and Kindle E-Book editions. If you are down in the States, you can also pick up a copy through Barnes & Noble


A quick note to those of you ordering via Amazon. Paperbacks are printed here in Canada; hard covers in the States. There is a 2-3 week printing delay for hard covers. If you are ordering hard cover books as Christmas gifts, I would highly recommend buying them in November for this reason. Paperbacks ship really quickly and Kindle E-Books, of course, show up in your library instantly. The E-Book is of course free if you have Kindle Unlimited. Get your copy today - they make great Christmas gifts for skaters, fans, coaches, test partners and judges!

If you have already received your copy of the book, it would be a huge, huge help if you could leave a short review on Amazon or Barnes & Noble so that more people are able to find it.

I'd also like to give a shout out to the latest Amazon Best Seller in Canada... Nathan Chen's new autobiography "One Jump At A Time: My Story". Being #1 was fun while it lasted, but I would have been very naive to think I could beat The Quad King! Pick up your copy of Nathan's book on Amazon today!

Skate Guard is a blog dedicated to preserving the rich, colourful and fascinating history of figure skating and archives hundreds of compelling features and interviews in a searchable format for readers worldwide. You can like Skate Guard on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/SkateGuard. Already 'liking'? Consider sharing this feature for others via social media. It would make all the difference in the blog reaching a wider audience. Have a question or comment regarding anything you have read here? Have a suggestion for a topic you would like to see covered? I'd love to hear from you! Learn the many ways you can reach out at http://skateguard1.blogspot.ca/p/contact.html.

The 1977 European Figure Skating Championships


Jimmy Carter had just been sworn in as America's thirty-ninth President. The Emmy Award winning dramatic series "Roots" began its run on ABC. Scandinavians were mourning the loss of the twenty-two passengers on the doomed Linjeflyg Flight 618. Fonz jackets and checkbook clutches were the latest fashion fads. Boney M topped the music charts with their smash hit "Daddy Cool". 


The year was 1977 and on January 25, Europe's best figure skaters gathered at the Helsingin Jäähalli in Helsinki, Finland for the first day of that year's European Figure Skating Championships. The event marked the very first time in history the European Championships were held in Finland. The Scandinavian country had played host to the World Championships for men in 1914 and pairs in 1934. 

Among those responsible for bringing the event to Helsinki were the Suomen Taitoluisteluliitto's President Marjaata Väänänen and philanthropist and official Jane Erkko, who later coined the term 'Kiss and Cry' when she was on the organizing committee for the 1983 World Championships. Let's take a look back at how things played out!

THE PAIRS COMPETITION



Irina Rodnina and Aleksandr Zaitsev were the only two defending European Champions to return to defend their title in Helsinki. Six of the top ten teams had moved on at the end of the Olympic season the year prior, including Olympic Medallists Manuela Groß and Uwe Kagelmann and Romy Kermer
and Rolf Österreich.

Marina Cherkasova and Sergei Shakrai. Video courtesy Frazer Ormondroyd.

Soviet pairs were one-two-three in the short program, with all nine judges placing Rodnina and Zaitsev first. A packed house watched the free skate final, where Rodnina claimed her ninth title and Zaitsev his fifth. Irina Vorobieva and Alexandr Vlasov, the previous year's bronze medallists, moved up to take the silver and twelve year old Marina Cherkasova and her eighteen year old partner Sergei Shakrai gained the greatest applause of the day and the bronze.

Sabine Baeß and Tassilo Thierbach

It was the second Soviet sweep of the medal podium in pairs at Europeans - the first being in Garmisch-Partenkirchen in 1969. The fourth and fifth places went to two East German pairs who would go on to achieve great things in the sport - Manuela Mager and Uwe Bewersdorf and Sabine Baeß and Tassilo Thierbach.

THE ICE DANCE COMPETITION

The defending Olympic, World and European Champions Lyudmila Pakhomova and Aleksandr Gorshkov had retired as had three time World and European Medallists Hilary Green and Glyn Watts. Irina Moiseeva and Andrei Minenkov, who had won the World Championships in 1975 and the silver medal at the 1976 Olympics, appeared to be the heirs apparent to the European dance crown and there was little surprise when they amassed a comfortable lead in the compulsories and OSP.

Irina Moiseeva and Andrei Minenkov. Video courtesy Frazer Ormondroyd

Eight thousand, five hundred spectators showed up for the free dance and the Helsingin Jäähalli was actually over capacity! Though 'Min and Mo' earned two perfect 6.0's and walked away with the title, their one-theme "West Side Story" free dance had the judges and audience divided. Some people absolutely loved it, while others found it overdramatic. A minority of judges had Betty Callaway's Hungarian students Krisztina Regőczy and András Sallay ahead in the final phase of the competition, but they took the silver. The bronze went to Natalia Linichuk and Gennadi Karponosov. These three couples would trade titles over the coming years.

Janet Thompson and Warren Maxwell

Twenty year old Janet Thompson and twenty-four year old Warren Maxwell lived in South Acton with Janet's parents Betty and Eddie. They placed a strong fourth - a credit to their coach Miss Hogg. Their British teammates, Kay Barsdell and Kenneth Foster of Cricklewood, were sixth of the fourteen couples.

THE WOMEN'S COMPETITION

World Champions and Olympic Medallists Dianne de Leeuw and Christine Errath had moved on from the amateur ranks, as had Isabel de Navarre, the winner of the figures at the 1976 Olympics in Innsbruck. Anett Pötzsch, who had medalled at the 1975 and 1976 Europeans, trained alongside Errath with Jutta Müller in Karl-Marx-Stadt. She took a healthy lead in the figures and won the short program as well, giving her a two and a half point lead over West Germany's Dagmar Lurz entering the free skate.


In one of her finest performances, Anett Pötzsch landed three triples to easily win her first European title. The silver went to Dagmar Lurz; the bronze to Italy's Susanna Driano.

Anett Pötzsch. Video courtesy Frazer Ormondroyd.

Fourteen year old Denise Biellmann stole the show in the free skate, earning the loudest applause and exactly the same points total in the free skate as Pötzsch. Unfortunately, as was all too often in the case, her poor showing in the figures kept her down in sixth overall in her first bid for the title.


Fourteen year old Debbie Cottrill of Solihull almost didn't compete. Shortly after the British Championships, the National Skating Association announced that they wouldn't pay for her coach Armand Perren's travel expenses. Debbie's father Clem threatened to pull her out unless her coach attended. The Midland Soccer Writers' Association heard of the unfortunate situation and with the aid of the Midland industralists, raised four hundred and fifty pounds to pay Perren's fare. It wasn't the first instance of the National Skating Association being funny about covering travel costs. If you haven't read Courtney Jones' book yet, there's an interesting little anecdote in there about that!

THE MEN'S COMPETITION


Robin Cousins

1976 Olympic, World and European Champion John Curry had turned professional and as one might expect, the British press closed in on Robin Cousins liked a zombie after brains. In a 'next big thing' article in "The Daily Mirror", the nineteen year old from Bristol told reporter Graham Baker, "The East Germans and Russians look as though they've come out of factory... Like John, I always prefer individualism to that manufactured look."

Robin Cousins placed seventh in the figures, six places higher than he'd been in 1976. It was the first time he'd cracked the top ten in the compulsories at an ISU Championship. He placed an impressive sixth on the counter, a remarkable finish considering the fact he'd broken his toe two weeks before the British Championships in Richmond the month prior. The winner of the figures was 1976 Olympic Silver Medallist Vladimir Kovalev. Former European Champion Jan Hoffmann placed second and Finland's Pekka Leskinen was third.

Jan Hoffmann. Video courtesy Frazer Ormondroyd.

With a clean triple toe-loop/double loop combination and double Lutz, Robin Cousins moved up to fourth overall with the second-best short program. Though third in the short program, Vladimir Kovalev maintained a narrow lead entering the free skate.

Jan Hoffmann

Twenty one year old Jan Hoffmann regained his title from 1974 with a five-triple free skate, while Kovalev dropped to second with two successful triples and a fall on a triple toe-loop.

Vladimir Kovalev. Video courtesy Frazer Ormondroyd

Robin Cousins earned the highest marks for presentation. He was third overall but earned a supplementary silver medal for his placements in the free skating events in addition to his bronze. Like Hilary Green and Glyn Watts in the dance, he was coached by the redoubtable Miss Gladys Hogg. She didn't fly, so Robin went alone. Joan Slater sat with him in the kiss and cry. It was in Helsinki that he began his relationship with the Fassi's. They advised him at that year's Worlds in Tokyo.

Robin Cousins. Video courtesy Frazer Ormondroyd.

Pekka Leskinen's fifth place finish was quite a big deal at the time. A Finnish man hadn't placed in the top five at Europeans since Marcus Nikkanen in 1935. 

Soviet judge Evgenia Bogdanova, who had been suspended in 1975, placed a trio of Soviets - Kovalev, Yuri Ovchinnikov and Konstantin Kokora - first through third. They placed second, fourth and sixth overall. Bogdanova's blatant national bias earned her a second suspension and was a key contributing factor to the one-year ban of Soviet judges that followed.


Yuri Ovchinnikov

In a write-up for "Skating" magazine, Jean Kavalski made a point of noting how much of a standout Yuri Ovchinnikov was in Helsinki artistically. She wrote, "Great artistic strides have been taken in the men's competition, especially in the skating of Yuri Ovchinnikov. Yuri placed fourth in all aspects at Helsinki and changed his style considerably this year. He said Toller Cranston's innovativeness made him think that he should develop his own style more freely and more naturally. He does not skate like Toller and makes it clear that it was not so much Toller's own style of skating that caused him to change, but rather Toller's courage to follow his own creative desires in skating. Thus, Yuri has created a unique style which dazzled the audiences in Helsinki. In the past, Ovchinnikov's jumps were the highlight of his program, the excellence and artistry of the overall performance is now his goal." 

Though John Curry and Toller Cranston had moved on to the professional ranks, the importance of artistry in skating still reverberated on the Continent a year later in artists like Irina Moiseeva and Andrei Minenkov, Robin Cousins and Yuri Ovchinnikov. 

Skate Guard is a blog dedicated to preserving the rich, colourful and fascinating history of figure skating and archives hundreds of compelling features and interviews in a searchable format for readers worldwide. 'Like' the blog's Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/SkateGuard. Already 'liking'? Consider sharing this feature for others via social media. It would make all the difference in the blog reaching a wider audience. Have a question or comment regarding anything you have read here? Have a suggestion for a topic related to figure skating history you would like to see covered? I'd love to hear from you! Learn the many ways you can reach out at http://skateguard1.blogspot.ca/p/contact.html.

How The Almanac of Canadian Figure Skating Was Made


Over the last decade of writing Skate Guard, there have been times that I thought to myself, "How many more stories about figure skating history could there possibly be out there?" Every single time, without fail, an idea - or ideas (plural) - have simply presented themselves. The truth is, there will always be more about this fabulous sport's history for us to learn. 

The premise for "The Almanac of Canadian Figure Skating" came about after I consulted a wonderful reference book by late sports journalist and baseball commentator Bob Ferguson. Bob published his first edition of "Who's Who in Canadian Sport" in 1977 and in the years that followed, three updated editions were released. 


Bob Ferguson's books contained short biographical stubs of hundreds of great Canadian athletes - hockey, rugby and soccer players, gymnasts, swimmers and curlers among them. Obscure sports like roller skiing were even included. And yes, look it up - it is a thing! Less than twenty-five figure skaters were included in the first edition. By the time the final edition was published in 2005, figure skating had considerably more representation. I thought to myself why shouldn't there be a book like this about figure skating?

Putting together the biographies was a massive undertaking. First I had to make a list of all of the skaters, coaches, judges and builders I wanted to include. Then I had to try to find birth (and sadly, in many cases, death) dates and places for each. I combed through dozens of sources to find the information I needed to do a little blurb on each person. I consulted everything from newspaper archives to books, magazines, Sports Hall of Fames from coast to coast, government records of Governor General's awards, war records, videos and even genealogical records. Along the way, some people had to be eliminated because of missing information. Many new names were also added. 

A clipping of the master file used as a starting point for the biographies included in the book

I tried my best to include not only the Canadian skating stars everyone knows and loves, but many others whose stories have gone untold. There are firsts from people of colour and people of Asian heritage. The contributions of LGBTQ+ skaters are celebrated. Skaters who excelled in disciplines that have been underrepresented in past coverage of the sport's history like fours and precision (synchro) skaters, Atlantic Canadians and Francophone skaters all made the cut.

A clipping about Harold Hartley, one of Canada's first coaches of colour, whose story is featured in the book

Initially, that first section of the book - the Who's Who of Canadian Figure Skating - was going to be it. Then I decided to tackle what turned out to be an even more daunting process... reconstructing the results of the Canadian Championships going back to the very beginning. If you Google "Canadian Figure Skating Championships", Wikipedia will of course pop up. The results on there are quite incomplete. The earliest you'll really find more than the top three in any discipline is 1996 and several of the years after that are missing novice results. Prior to 1996, the top three are listed, but there are errors - particularly in the very early years. A table of junior medallists starts in 2006, exactly a century after the first prize for young skaters was awarded at the Canadian Championships. 

Tracking down these missing results was no easy feat. I had to sift from over a century of newspaper archives and books to find many of them. The archives of "Skating" magazine were invaluable, but complete results stopped being published around the time "The Canadian Skater" came out. Because no digital archive of the magazine exists, I had to borrow bound editions of the latter magazine from a library to fill in certain missing events. There were still many missing years I had to find elsewhere. To get the results from the 1981 Canadian Championships here in Halifax, for instance, I had to go old school and use a microfiche reader at a library.

Microfiche file of results from the 1981 Canadian Championships

Other interesting facts and figures were added to the manuscript and I did a lot of editing and cross-referencing to ensure that the information included was as complete and factual as possible. Then began the real fun... prepping my self-published book for publication. Researching and writing I can do, but trying to figure out things like margins, page bleeds and spine dimensions was like reading a stereo catalogue in a foreign language. I had about as much luck at first as I did the first time I tried to put together a rolling stand from IKEA. The finished result is nothing flashy, but the information contained inside is truly fascinating stuff. 

Next came my crash course into the wonderful world of book marketing. I could write another blog on that itself, but instead I'll just encourage to pick up a copy of this little book that could. If you love Canadian figure skating, I can absolutely promise you that you will learn things about the sport you didn't know before.


The book is available worldwide on Amazon in hard cover, paperback and Kindle E-Book editions. If you are down in the States, you can also pick up a copy through Barnes & Noble

A quick note to those of you ordering via Amazon. Paperbacks are printed here in Canada; hard covers in the States. There is a 2-3 week printing delay for hard covers. If you are ordering hard cover books as Christmas gifts, I would highly recommend buying them in November for this reason. Paperbacks ship really quickly and Kindle E-Books, of course, show up in your library instantly. The E-Book is of course free if you have Kindle Unlimited. Get your copy today - they make great Christmas gifts for skaters, fans, coaches, test partners and judges!

If you have already received your copy of the book, it would be a huge, huge help if you could leave a short review on Amazon or Barnes & Noble so that more people are able to find it.

Skate Guard is a blog dedicated to preserving the rich, colourful and fascinating history of figure skating and archives hundreds of compelling features and interviews in a searchable format for readers worldwide. 'Like' the blog's Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/SkateGuard. Already 'liking'? Consider sharing this feature for others via social media. It would make all the difference in the blog reaching a wider audience. Have a question or comment regarding anything you have read here? Have a suggestion for a topic related to figure skating history you would like to see covered? I'd love to hear from you! Learn the many ways you can reach out at http://skateguard1.blogspot.ca/p/contact.html.

The Legacy Of Shirō Kawakubo

Shirō Kawakubo on Lake Yamanaka, near Mount Fuji. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine.

From 1912 to 1926, Emperor Taishō ruled over the Empire of Japan. During his reign, democracy, modernization and the arts flourished... and thanks the pioneering efforts of a man we know very little about, figure skating gained popularity amongst the Japanese people.

Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine

Shirō Kawakubo hailed from Ikebukuro, in what is today an entertainment and commercial district in Toshima, Tokyo. He took up skating around the start of Emperor Taishō's reign, when he was a high school student, on outdoor ice at the Kanaya Hotel in Nikkō. In a letter penned to Theresa Weld Blanchard in 1933 that appeared in "Skating" magazine, he wrote, "At that time the reckless plain skating is only prevailing and there is no figure skating at all. I have got by chance in 1914 a skating book, 'Handbook of Figure Skating' by the late Mr. Browne, by which I have learnt for the first time 'what is the figure skating,' 'how to learn it.' I was the only Japanese as a figure skating pursuer at that time and have taught it to our younger plain skaters. Since then I have bought quite a lot of skating books, regardless of language (I have now over fifty books) and have studied from simple curve to loop-change-loop, from simple steps to Jackson Haines spins, etc., by myself. Twenty years have elapsed, three indoor rink have established in Japan (one in Tokyo, the other two in Osaka) and the ideal ones (25 by 60 meters) are now under construction in Tokyo. Really skating boom has come in Japan!"

Photo courtesy National Diet Library, Tokyo

Shirō Kawakubo published what were perhaps the first Japanese language books on figure skating in 1912 and 1915. In the decades that followed, he translated over half a dozen figure skating books by George Henry Browne, Herbert Ramon Yglesias, Nikolay Panin-Kolomenkin and Gustave Lussi into Japanese and penned several more of his own books, covering everything from figure skating history to instructional diagrams of school and special figures, jumps and spins, pairs skating, ice dancing and "model programs of well-known skaters". As qualified instructors really didn't exist in Japan during the Taishō period, the first generation of elite figure skaters in Japan would no doubt have been heavily reliant on these texts.

Photo courtesy National Diet Library, Tokyo

In addition to publishing figure skating books, Shirō Kawakubo wore a few other hats. He was a judge at the first Japanese Championships and served as the Secretary of the Japanese Skating Association from 1926 to 1932. He also served a one-year term as the Association's President in 1935, after his contemporary Masamitsu Katano stepped down. For seven years, he taught Prince Kuni Asaakira and his wife Princess Tomoko how to skate. 

Photo courtesy National Diet Library, Tokyo

Shirō Kawakubo's passion for figure skating was evident not only his books, but his correspondence to "Skating" magazine in the late twenties and early thirties. He worked tirelessly behind the scenes to promote skating in Japan during the early Shōwa period, when Japan sent its first skaters to the Winter Olympic Games and World Championships. 

Very little is known about Shirō Kawakubo's later life, but the fact that he continued to publish new figure skating books in the fifties confirms that he survived World War II. The seeds planted by this pioneering skater paved the way for great Japanese skaters of today like Yuzuru Hanyu, Kaori Sakamoto, Shoma Uno and Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara. His views on figure skating can well be summed up by a William Shakespeare quote he chose to use at the beginning of one of his books: "Grace is grace, despite of all controversy." 

Skate Guard is a blog dedicated to preserving the rich, colourful and fascinating history of figure skating and archives hundreds of compelling features and interviews in a searchable format for readers worldwide. Though there never has been nor will there be a charge for access to these resources, you taking the time to 'like' the blog's Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/SkateGuard would be so very much appreciated. Already 'liking'? Consider sharing this feature for others via social media. It would make all the difference in the blog reaching a wider audience. Have a question or comment regarding anything you have read here? Have a suggestion for a topic related to figure skating history you would like to see covered? I'd love to hear from you! Learn the many ways you can reach out at http://skateguard1.blogspot.ca/p/contact.html.

Win A Copy Of The Almanac Of Canadian Figure Skating!


Win a free copy of the Kindle E-Book edition of "The Almanac of Canadian Figure Skating"

Entering is easy. All you have to do is leave a comment on the posts announcing this contest on Skate Guard's Facebook or Twitter pages, telling me who your favourite Canadian skater (or team) of all time is. You will earn one entry into the random draw automatically with your comment. In order to be eligible, you must be following Skate Guard on Facebook and/or Twitter. One entry per person.

Contest closes on Wednesday, November 9 at midnight and the winner will be announced on Skate Guard's Facebook and Twitter pages on Thursday, November 10 at 10 AM (Atlantic Standard Time).

Enter now and share with your friends on social media for your chance to win a copy of this one of a kind reference book about Canada's most exciting winter sport!

John Zalvidar Machado, A Forgotten Canadian Champion With An Unforgettable Story

Photo courtesy City Of Toronto Archives

Born February 17, 1897 in Plainsfield, New Jersey, John (Juan) Zaldivar Machado was the son of Cuban born banker José Machado and his Nova Scotian born wife Eleanor Esmond Whitman. In 1902, Señor Machado moved the family to the Ottawa area when he was appointed President of the American Bank Note Company.

Left: John's father Jose A. Machado. Right: Minto Skating Club trophy for Best Boy Skater, 1914.

John grew up in a large log house on Lac Bernard with his parents, older brother José, younger sisters Angela, Cecilia, Theodora and three servants named Hattie, Jessie and Eva. John spent his youth attending Presbyterian church services, studying at Lisgar Collegiate and skating with his sister Theodora at the prestigious Minto Skating Club. When The Great War broke out in 1914, he was the Club's 'Best Boy Skater'.


During The Great War, John enrolled in studies at Harvard University in Massachusetts but in 1917, he interrupted his education and travelled to France with the United States Army Ambulance Service. He earned the Croix de Guerre for his military service. A clipping from the April 10, 1919 issue of "The Ottawa Journal" noted, "Sgt. Machado offered his services in the C.E.F. in September 1916 but was turned down, and in the spring of 1917 he went to France as a volunteer, without pay, in the American Ambulance Service with the French army. In September 1917, the U.S. took over this service and since that time it has been a portion of the American Expeditionary Forces, though still serving in the French army. Sgt. Machado was second in command of his ambulance section, which was attached to the 41st division of the French army. This is one of the most famous divisions of the 'shock troops' and was known as 'La Division Granit', taking part in many of the great attacks both before and after July 18, last. Sgt. Machado saw active service with the division at many points on the front from the North Sea to Lorraine and finally accompanied the unit into Germany and was for a time stationed at Cologne. Later he returned to France with his section and when they had gathered to say good-bye to those with him they had worked so long, the French officers gathered to express their thanks and appreciation and bid them adieu. The French Government at their departure presented the American Ambulance Section with the Field Service Medal in commemoration of their service."

Upon returning from France, John immersed himself in his studies, graduating from Harvard in 1920. He returned to Ottawa to work as a salesman and spent considerable time practicing at the Minto Skating Club, focusing particularly on improving his school figures. In 1921, he made his debut at the Canadian Championships, earning top three finishes in both the men's event and pairs, skating in the latter event with Alden Goldwin. The following two years, he was a medallist in the men's event at the Canadian Championships. The February 18, 1922 issue of "The Ottawa Citizen" described his performance at the 1922 Canadians thusly: "John Machado, Ottawa, came on with a dash in an 'S' before music started. He raced down beautifully, jumped and changed to back inside circle. He tried successfully the spins that had brought [Melville] Rogers to the ice and did some very pretty spirals and seemed to combine a grapevine and Virginia creeper all in one, showing wonderful balance. He covered the whole rink with his patterns and did some wonderful spins on one foot, without touching the other to the ground or losing his balance, jumping and changing edge during the jump frequently. He finished with a long, beautifully executed jump and straight run out to the center of the ice, reversing on the way."

John and Bet (Blair) Machado. Photo courtesy City Of Toronto Archives.

In 1924, John returned to the Canadian Championships with a renewed vigour, claiming both the men's title and pairs titles, making history as the first skater of Latin American ancestry to win a national title. His pairs partner, Elizabeth 'Bet' Blair of Saint John, New Brunswick, became his wife that September. Unable to successfully defend his men's or pairs title in 1925, John and his wife Bet moved to Montreal and joined the Winter Club, where they took first prize in a Waltzing contest. In Quebec, they raised two children - a son (also named John) and a daughter (Nora).

Competitors and judges at the 1927 Canadian Championships. Back: Miss Morrissey, Dorothy Benson, Margot Barclay, John Machado, Elizabeth (Blair) Machado, Cecil MacDougall, Mr. Sharp, Norman Mackie Scott, Evelyn Darling, Constance Wilson, Jack Eastwood, Maude Smith, Bud Wilson. Front: Kathleen Lopdell, Paul Belcourt, Frances Claudet, Jack Hose, Henry Cartwright, Isobel Blyth, Melville Rogers, Marion McDougall, Chauncey Bangs. Photo courtesy "Skating Through The Years".

In 1927, John and Bet made their return to the Canadian Championships, finishing third in the pairs event behind Marion McDougall and Chauncey Bangs and Constance and Montgomery Wilson. It would be the Machado's final appearance in the pairs event at the Canadian Championships. The Machado's relocated to Toronto, where John became involved in the management of the Toronto office of the Canadian Bank Note Company (the successor of the American Bank Note Company) around the time his father Juan retired as the company's President after over thirty years of service.

John Machado, Biddy Clarke, Margaret Henry and Stewart Reburn. Photo courtesy Hilary Bruun.

Increased responsibilities couldn't keep the successful engraver from carving out time to etch fancy figures on the ice. He was a regular in skating carnivals of the period and in 1929 starting competing in fours skating. He was part of the winning Toronto Four at that year's Canadian Championships. With Veronica Clarke, Margaret Henry and Stewart Reburn, John defeated fours from the Minto Skating Club, Granite Club and Montreal Winter Club and won the Earl Grey Trophy. Three years later at the Granite Club, John, Veronica Clarke, Louise Bertram and Stewart Reburn again won the Canadian fours title, making John a four-time Canadian Champion. In 1933 and 1934, that four-time Canadian Champion succeeded J. Cecil McDougall, serving as President of the Figure Skating Department of the Amateur Skating Association of Canada. Around the same period, he was serving as a director of the Toronto Golf Club.


In January of 1936, John became a naturalized Canadian citizen. Interestingly, he was actually an American citizen at the time of all four of his Canadian title wins. His eleventh hour citizenship allowed him the opportunity to travel to Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, where he was to act as Canada's judge at the Winter Olympic Games. It didn't all go as planned. After spending six hours outside in a snowstorm evaluating the men's school figures while suffering from pneumonia, John ended up deathly sick and had to pull out. He was replaced mid-competition by a German judge. National bias and politics were very much a thing in judging back in those days and without a Canadian judge on any of the panels, no medals were won by the Dominion's top skaters.

Sadly, John passed away after a brief illness only six years later, on April 19, 1942 in a hospital in Toronto. He was only forty-five years of age. After his death, his widow Bet donated the John Z. Machado Memorial Trophy to the Toronto Skating Club, which was awarded to the best senior ice dance team in the club's competition for many years.

Skate Guard is a blog dedicated to preserving the rich, colourful and fascinating history of figure skating and archives hundreds of compelling features and interviews in a searchable format for readers worldwide. You taking the time to 'like' on the blog's Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/SkateGuard would be so very much appreciated. Already 'liking'? Consider sharing this feature for others via social media. It would make all the difference in the blog reaching a wider audience. Have a question or comment regarding anything you have read here or have a suggestion for a topic related to figure skating history you would like to see covered? I'd love to hear from you! Learn the many ways you can reach out at http://skateguard1.blogspot.ca/p/contact.html.