One Night Only: Professional And Pro-Am Competitions That Didn't Stick Around

In the period that followed 'the whack heard around the world', there was a marked influx of new professional and pro-am 'made for TV' competitions. CBS led the way in this trend, desperate to fill a weekend vacancy after losing the rights to broadcast NFL games to FOX. Many of these events, like Ice Wars, the World Team Championships, Rock and Roll Championships, Canadian and US Professional Championships, Gold Championships, Ladies Professional Championships and Legends Of Figure Skating Competition stuck around for several years. Others proved to be a one-shot deal. Today we'll take a look at 6.0 professional and pro-am figure skating competitions of the nineties that were held only once! 

Denise Biellmann performing at the Nikon Skating Championships


The event that would have originally 'christened' the brand new Kiel Center (now Scottrade Center) in St. Louis, Missouri on October 12, 1994 was postponed specifically because Oksana Baiul injured herself during practice on September 28 of that year and required arthroscopic surgery. Her one point five million dollar contract with Jefferson-Pilot Sports specified that she participate in this event, and so organizers rescheduled the event for October 24, 1994. 

An exhibition basketball game between the Chicago Bulls and Washington Bullets replaced the CBS made-for-TV vehicle. It wasn't the first professional event that year to have been changed because of Baiul's contract. The October 15, 1994 issue of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch noted that the promoters of the Outdoor Figure Skating Championships were scrambling to figure out how to recast the Sun Valley event into non-sanctioned competition for the men and a sanctioned competition for the women who want to retain their eligibility. " 

Ticket holders ultimately got their chance to see the 1994 Olympic Gold Medalist perform at Jefferson-Pilot Sports' Nikon Skating Championships, which featured competitions both in men's and women's singles. Denise Biellmann won the women's event, ahead of Baiul, Caryn Kadavy, Josée Chouinard, Karen Preston, Liz Manley and Lily Lee. Brian Boitano bested Viktor Petrenko, Mark Mitchell and Petr Barna to win the men's event. A crowd of seven thousand, four hundred and fifteen people watched the St. Louis event live at the Kiel Center.


Held October 19, 1994 at the twenty thousand seat Gund Gateway Arena (now the Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse) in Cleveland, Ohio, the Vicks 44 North American Open boasted competitions in men's, women's and pairs skating, all later televised on CBS. Skaters performed a technical and artistic program (the latter under theatrical lighting) and received one set of marks out of 6.0 for each performance. The total purse of prize money totalled three hundred and sixty-six thousand dollars. After Kurt Browning withdrew due to injury and Surya Bonaly pulled out and opted to retain her eligible status after 'urging' from the FFSG, 1982 World Champion Elaine Zayak made her return to the professional ranks at this event as Bonaly's replacement, finishing a disappointing last. A skate-sharpening problem led to an even more disastrous occurrence... a scary fall on a lift in the technical program from 1993 World Champions Isabelle Brasseur and Lloyd Eisler.

Ekaterina Gordeeva and Sergei Grinkov performing at the Vicks 44 North American Open

Ekaterina Gordeeva and Sergei Grinkov won the pairs event; Denise Biellmann the women's. A trio of Olympic Gold Medallists - Viktor Petrenko, Brian Boitano and Robin Cousins - took the top three spots in the men's competition. It was Petrenko's first win in a professional competition held in North America. He told Associated Press reporters, "I really wasn't thinking about winning or losing. I wanted the people to enjoy my program."


Susie Wynne and Russ Witherby at the American Skating Invitational

Held November 27, 1994 at the Municipal Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee, the American Skating Invitational was another 'made-for-TV' professional competitions run by Michael Burg that aired on CBS in the autumn of 1994. It was advertised locally as the Music City Figure Skating Championships and drew in four thousand spectators ... no small crowd for a city not exactly known for its figure skating events in those days. The event featured competitions for both women and ice dancers, with forty thousand dollars up for grabs to the winners, in addition to each skater's appearance fees. Two of the competitors, Katarina Witt and Rosalynn Sumners, flew six hours on a private jet straight from that year's preview show of Stars On Ice in Lake Placid to compete. The two medallists from the 1984 Winter Olympic Games in Sarajevo placed third and sixth in the women's event. 1981 World Champion Denise Biellmann took the title despite a rare fall on her trademark Biellmann spin in the technical program, with 1994 World Champion Yuka Sato finishing second. 1994 Olympic Gold Medalist Oksana Baiul struggled through both her performances and finished fourth. Caryn Kadavy, the 1987 World Bronze Medalist, got in the Christmas spirit a little early by skating to "O Come All Ye Faithful". She finished fifth. Rounding out the field in seventh was Canadian Champion Josée Chouinard.

Photo courtesy Debbie May, Nashville Public Library

In the ice dance event, Susie Wynne and Russ Witherby - the lone Americans - went up against a trio of Russian Olympic Medallists ... Marina Klimova and Sergei Ponomarenko, Maya Usova and Alexander Zhulin and Natalia Bestemianova and Andrei Bukin. They finished third, behind Klimova and Ponomarenko and Usova and Zhulin, but ahead of Bestemianova and Bukin.

At the time, Scott Hamilton told "Tennessean" sportswriter Tom Wood, "You can try to come up with all sorts of scenarios as to what's going to happen to the sport, to professional and amateur skating, but it's yet to be seen. There's been a lot of demand for programming from all the networks and we'll see how much the public will support. Right now, it's an amazing time for the sport. People who say it's going to hurt the amateur structure, it's going to do this or do that, I think they're speaking too soon. I think you've got to wait and see. Anytime you have an absolute half-way through something, I think you can be wrong. Part of the problem is there is not a total structure in professional competitions now and different events have different rules. " 


Held March 28, 1995 at the West Palm Beach Auditorium in Florida, Skates X 2 featured five teams of two skaters. Two of the teams - 'USA 1' and 'USA 2' - were American, with the remainder hailing from Canada, Ukraine and Europe. The event was marketed as The International Team Figure Skating Championship and named Skates X 2 for television.

Bizarrely, the CBS broadcast cut only the first round performance of Liz Manley, one half of the Canadian team. Her agent later called the good folks at CBS and gave them an earful. After the men's and women's scores were added together for a total score, the top two teams to advance to a final round of head-to-head competition were conveniently 'USA1' and 'USA2'. Without a doubt, the most memorable performance of the event was Paul Wylie 's second program to "Carmina Burana", where a power issue in the arena left the 1992 Olympic Gold Medalist performing in the dark. He received a standing ovation and 6.0's across the board for his effort, and later recalled it as one of his favorite performances of all time.

The final round resulted in a tie, but when the high and low marks were added back in to break the tie, team 'USA1' (Nancy Kerrigan and Brian Boitano) took the win by one tenth of a point. 


Nicole Bobek performing at the Metropolitan Open

Also marketed as The Best Of The Best, The Metropolitan Open was an ISU sanctioned pro-am competition held on September 22, 1995 at the Brendon Byrne Arena in the Meadowlands town of East Rutherford, New Jersey. Tickets ranged from twenty seven to forty dollars and three men, three women and three pairs competed for prices of forty five, forty and thirty thousand dollars in each categories. With the last minute withdrawal of Katarina Witt due to a neck injury, the women's event wasn't technically a pro-am as all three of the women who participated - Lu Chen, Nicole Bobek and Michelle Kwan - were all ISU eligible skaters. All three of the men who competed - Scott Hamilton, Todd Eldredgeand Paul Wylie - were American. In fact, American skaters swept all three disciplines, with Nicole Bobek, Scott Hamilton and Jenni Meno and Todd Sand taking home titles in their respective disciplines. The loss of Russians Elena Bechke and Denis Petrov in the pairs event would be overshadowed less than two months later by the loss of another great Russian pairs skater ... Sergei Grinkov. Gordeeva and Grinkov had originally been slated to compete and were replaced by World Champions Radka Kovaříková and René Novotný.

Photo courtesy Rhoda Portugal, Rutherford Public Library

This event marked Jenni Meno and Todd Sand's first competition as a married couple. Quoted in the September 22, 1995 issue of "The Record", Meno said, "[Being a couple] gives us a special look when we're out there. It's worked well for us; it may not work for everyone." 


Katarina Witt performing at the Starlight Challenge

Held October 30, 1995 at the Wollman Rink in New York's Central Park, The Starlight Challenge was a unique pro-am competition skated outdoors under the stars. This particular event, which was televised on FOX, had its own unique host of problems. The competitors, all from a generation unaccustomed to competing outdoors, were less than appreciative of skating in seven degree weather. Heavy gusts of wind hampered skater's triple jump attempts in practice but the fifty thousand dollar prize for the winner of each discipline was enough to make them soldier through. 

The biggest complaint was the judging. ISU judges were brought in to judge the first "major" competition held outdoors since the 1967 World Championships, and the professionals didn't take kindly to having to adjust their programs to ISU rules on short notice. Rosalynn Sumners received a deduction for using vocal music in her short program; Katarina Witt received marks as low as 4.0 and 4.3 for missing required elements in hers. Isabelle Brasseur and Lloyd Eisler intentionally performed illegal lifts in their artistic program, believing they had no chance of winning anyway. ISU eligible skaters - Nicole Bobek, Oksana Grishuk and Evgeni Platov and Jenni Meno and Todd Sand - took top honors in every discipline but the men's event, won by four time World Champion Kurt Browning. It was Browning's first competitive win after leaving the amateur ranks following the 1994 Winter Olympic Games in Lillehammer.

Skate Guard is a blog dedicated to preserving the rich, colourful and fascinating history of figure skating. Over ten years, the blog has featured over a thousand free articles covering all aspects of the sport's history, as well as four compelling in-depth features. To read the latest articles, follow the blog on FacebookTwitterPinterest and YouTube. If you enjoy Skate Guard, please show your support for this archive by ordering a copy of figure skating reference books "The Almanac of Canadian Figure Skating", "Technical Merit: A History of Figure Skating Jumps" and "A Bibliography of Figure Skating":

#Unearthed: Rinks And Rinking

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' is an article called "Rinks And Rinking", which first appeared in "The Badminton Magazine in March of 1912. It was penned by Olympic and World Medallist Edgar Syers. This article is an interesting and at times anecdotal timeline of the early history of glaciariums and indoor rinks in England in the Victorian and Edwardian eras.


"In the early days of ice rinking the question 'How long will the rage last?' was often asked, and the reply usually forthcoming from all, except its most ardent votaries, was, 'Oh! When the novelty wears off people will soon get tired of it.'

It must be admitted, even by opponents of rink skating, if such exist, that the rink craze, as it was used to be called, has already had a long and vigorous life, and far from showing signs of senescence, has of late years added largely to the number of its votaries.

In 1842 the first artificial rink was opened in Baker Street, London, under the exhibition rooms of Madame Tussaud (that most venerable of London’s shows) by a Mr. Kirke ; it was arranged in the similitude of a lake secluded amidst Alpine scenery. The ice substitute was a composition of crystallised alum mixed with hogs’ grease, salts of soda, and sulphur, the skating area being seventy feet long and fifty feet broad.

The advertisement of this Glaciarum depicts skaters disporting themselves in flamboyant attitudes. The characteristic engraving by George Cruikshank from the Comic Almanack of 1843-4 here given appears to indicate that the artist had seen the 'Alpine Scenery' referred to in the advertisement, and that it suggested the conceit which he has drawn.

This Glaciarum was a dismal failure and had a very brief existence; the abominable compound which masqueraded as ice was apt to soften in warm weather, and, as might be expected from the components, a fall on it meant the ruination of the skater’s clothes.

A somewhat similar venture was made some years ago at the Westminster Aquarium, and a floor was laid of a material, or a combination of materials, which certainly did look like ice; but the investigator who was hardy enough to venture on it immediately become aware that the resemblance there ended. Progression on this substance, stickey in some spots and slippery in others, could only be effected by violent and sustained efforts, and if the skates of the experimenter were sharp they immediately become wedged in the mysterious compound and promptly brought their wearer down. A German professional, afterwards well known as a teacher at the National Skating Palace, Niagara Ice Rink, and Prince’s Skating Club, was engaged by the management of the Aquarium venture to demonstrate its advantages and to teach prospective pupils, and he, by using broad-bladed and blunt skates, was able to slide about with some freedom, even, indeed, to skate a few simple figures. On the casual visitor, however, the impression produced by a first attempt was similar to that which most of us know as a feature of that form of nightmare in which one with impotent legs desperately but ineffectually struggles to escape from some impalpable terror.

This rink also had an almost ephemeral existence, and the writer on returning for his skates on the day following his adventure there found that certain creditors, being unpaid for materials supplied for the 'ice' had put in the bailiffs, and that his new pair of  'Mount Charles' were in their possession never to be recovered.

We believe that the first ice rink, as distinct from substitutes for the real thing, was that opened by the late Professor Gamgee at the Old Clock House, Westminster, in 1872-3. This was quite a small venture, being of a demonstrative character in view of the institution of others on a larger scale.

The next venture, also by Professor Gamgee, was in the floating baths on the Thames at Charing Cross; the area was too small to accommodate more than a few skaters, and this rink only lasted a few months.

In 1876 the Rusholme Ice Rink was opened in Manchester; it was small, inconvenient, cold and damp, and closed after a brief existence of about twelve months.

In 1879 the first of the modern rinks was opened at Southport, and on its ice many of the past generation of skaters foregathered and evolved much of the art of simple and combined skating in the English style. It was there that such well-known performers as the sisters Cheetham, M. Monier Williams, W. R. Pidgeon, and the veteran collaborateurs in the literature of skating, Messrs. VanderveU and Witham, with many other enthusiasts, were to be seen, admired and envied. Want of adequate support caused the Southport Glaciarum to be closed in 1889, after a life of ten years. It was, unlike any of its successors, open all the year round; but local interest was lacking, and London skaters found the distance too great for other than infrequent visits. Its passing was deplored chiefly by the enthusiasts of the old school and by a few ardent curlers.

The chief drawbacks to the earlier rinks were the cold atmosphere and the damp mist which often hung over the frozen surface, the modern appliances for warming and ventilation were then only in the experimental stage, indeed, the architects of such buildings considered that the revenue would be drawn almost entirely from those who were on the ice, hence but small provision was made for the accommodation or comfort of the spectators. The fashionable gatherings which later thronged Niagara and Prince’s were then undreamed of; Society, with a big S, had not then taken up skating, which was, in this country, confined to the few enthusiasts who had penetrated the mysteries of combined figures.

In the early rinks two conditions now considered indispensable were absent; there was no music and no professional instruction. Music is undoubtedly an attribute desirable to the international style which now dominates rink skating, and to valsing, both of which are comparatively recent innovations. There is a good deal to be said for and against professional instruction ; the pros and com need not be discussed here. To elderly and nervous people assistance may be necessary, but the spectacle of strong girls and young men being held up week after week is depressing, and there is something particularly undignified in the position of a big strong man supported by an instructress.

Certain it is that the international champions and the great exponents of the art have never been indebted to professional assistance ; it is unthinkable that the athletic Fuchs, the versatile and vertiginous Hügel, the vigorous Salchow, or the flexible Grenander could have ever been held up by anybody.

The first rink to systematically introduce paid instruction was Niagara, opened in York Street, Westminster, about sixteen years ago. As there were no English professional skaters, professors of the art were imported from the Pôle Nord, Paris, and from elsewhere on the continent.

It cannot be said that these were efficient teachers ; in form each was a law unto himself; their skating was entirely meretricious, being in reality of the most elementary character. Occasionally these professors would give shows, and then their breasts would be profusely gay with medals which one may suppose were the offerings of enthusiastic admirers rather than the hard-won emblems of victory, for the wearers were quite unknown among international skaters ; indeed, professional champions, other than those who assumed such titles, did not, and do not, exist, for the International Skating Union has, fortunately, never recognised professional skating, and there is no other body concerned in the control of the sport.

In the early days of Niagara people skated either in the English style or according to the taste and fancy of the individual. True international style was not seen in England until after the opening of the National Skating Palace, formerly Hengler’s Circus, where in 1898 was held the World’s Championship, at which Herren Fuchs, Grenander and Hügel, the three great champions of that time, demonstrated to the British public what international skating really was. The innovation was entirely successful, and to-day one rarely sees any other style practised on a rink.

The next venture took the form of a Club which was opened at Knightsbridge, under the style of the Prince’s Skating Club, in 1895, and here the ice, uniformly admirable, has always been under the supervision of Mr. Nightingale, to whose energy in the cause of caloric extraction the Southport Glaciarum was indebted for its ten years lease of life. On the polished surface provided by this doyen of ice producers nearly all the most celebrated skaters of the world have left a transient impress. What countless beautiful arabesques and intaglii have been cut therein, 'like snow-flakes on the river a moment seen and then lost forever!' Perhaps the auras of those who evolved them may haunt the spot, and these exiguous phantoms may be visualised long hence, when rinks are no more, by Macaulay’s hypothetical New Zealander (if receptive) should he, becoming tired of the prospect from London Bridge, stroll westward. Niagara ceased to be in 1904, the last great event held there being the World’s Championship and Pair-Skating held in 1902. The first of these events introduced to us the greatest skater of all time, Ulrich Salchow, the Swede, who subsequently established a record by winning the World’s Championship ten times and the Championship of Europe eight times ; the occasion was also remarkable as being the first time that a lady appeared in any international, or other, skating competition.

The entry of Mrs. Syers for the World’s Championship was an event so unprecedented that the International Committee which arranged the details of the event were somewhat embarrassed. Many were against the acceptance of the entry, not believing that a woman was capable of competing on level terms with men; but the International Skating Union, having never contemplated the possibility of such an innovation, were bound by their rule which admitted the eligibility of any amateur. In the result the step was justified by Mrs. Syers easily defeating two out of her three opponents, and finishing second to the redoubtable Salchow.

The International Pair-Skating, then first seen in England, was won by the writer and Mrs. Syers, their opponents being pairs representing the Berlin Skating Club and the Stockholm Skating Club, The National Skating Palace, to which we have previously referred, opened in the winter of 1895-6, and with a brief interregnum continued for five seasons. It was a depressing place, being underground, and nearly always dependent on artificial illumination ; the building was too heavy for a rink, and there was often a thick fog on the ice surface, the skaters then feeling as if they were at the bottom of a well.

Outside London there are now several rinks. Glasgow has one, more suited for curling than for skating, as the ice surface is bisected by a row of pillars; Manchester and Edinburgh possess fine rinks recently opened, and at the former the World’s Championship in Figure Skating will be held while this article is in the press. 

In America, Australia, New Zealand, etc., and nearer home, in Berlin, Brussels, Munich, Nice, and Paris, rinking is as favoured as with us. The climate of Austria, Denmark, Norway, and Sweden provides so many facilities for out-of-door skating that artificially-produced ice would be a superfluity and a rink a work of supererogation.

In conclusion, we may predict with some confidence that the great increase in the number of skaters, consequent on the opening up of Switzerland as a winter-sport resort, and the popularity of the international style of skating and valsing on ice, will lead to the opening of more rinks in the near future, and, should we again experience that almost forgotten phenomenon, an old-fashioned winter, a new generation of skaters will arise to support them. The opinion often expressed to the writer by Mr. Nightingale of Prince’s Rink, as the result of a lifelong experience of ice rinks and ice production, is that given a population of 100,000, cheap ground, cheap buildings with easy access, and a good water supply, rinks can be made a financial success and skating a national sport.

We skate in good company. Goethe, who admitted an inordinate love of the art, Wordsworth, Kingsley, Klopstock, Addison, and many other great men have commended it; even Dr. Johnson versified in its praise, though we may suppose that he did not adventure its practice.

In conclusion, the suggestion of du Maurier, as appended to one of his many charming skating pictures in Punch, will doubtless appeal to all votaries of rinking, it was that -

'Heaven is paved with everlasting rinks !
Where cherubs sweep for ever and a day.
Smooth, tepid ice that never melts away.
While graceful, gay, good-natured lovers blend.
To endless tune, in circles without end.'"

Skate Guard is a blog dedicated to preserving the rich, colourful and fascinating history of figure skating. Over ten years, the blog has featured over a thousand free articles covering all aspects of the sport's history, as well as four compelling in-depth features. To read the latest articles, follow the blog on FacebookTwitterPinterest and YouTube. If you enjoy Skate Guard, please show your support for this archive by ordering a copy of figure skating reference books "The Almanac of Canadian Figure Skating", "Technical Merit: A History of Figure Skating Jumps" and "A Bibliography of Figure Skating":

Beyond One Jump: The Nate Walley Story

Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine

Born January 4, 1907 in St. Paul, Minnesota, Nathan 'Nate' Evans Walley was the son of William and Mabel (Munger) Walley. He grew up in Minneapolis, where his father was Superintendent of Field Engineering for the Mahr Manufacturing Company, an oil burner business. He was the oldest of eight children. As a young man, blonde haired, grey eyed, fix foot six Nate worked as a jobber in a machinist shop. He learned to skate outdoors on frozen ponds and 'prided himself' on never taking a skating lesson in his life.

The Mahr Manufacturing Company. Photo courtesy Minnesota Historical Society.

In the early thirties, Nate started teaching in Minneapolis. After a short while, he moved to California and became one of first professional instructors at the Skate and Ski Club of San Francisco. While there, he skated his famous 'goofus' comedy number with Douglas Duffy in the first amateur ice carnival on the Pacific Coast in 1933. 

Nate Walley, Dunbar Poole and Howard Nicholson at the 1934 World and British Open Professional Championships at the Hammersmith Ice-Drome. Photo courtesy "Skating World" magazine.

Nate moved to England in 1934, where he won the British Open Professional title twice consecutively, defeating the likes of Howard Nicholson, Jacques Gerschwiler and Edi Scholdan. Back in those days, the competition consisted of both school figures and free skating - not something we think of today when it comes to professional events. It was his spectacular free skating that helped him prevail on both occasions. While in England, he taught at Streatham Ice Rink for a time, passed the National Skating Association's Gold test and appeared in the revue "A Night In Cafe Montmartre" with Phil Taylor and a young Freddie Tomlins, who was his pupil for a short period.

The following two years, Nate taught at the Melbourne Glaciarium during the summers and Granite Club in Toronto in the winters. While in Australia, he gave several exhibitions and even worked with the Victorian Ice Hockey Association's teams. An account of one of his performances from the May 11, 1936 issue of "The Age" stated, "Mr. Nate Walley... gave an exhibition of spins and jumps with an ease and grace and phenomenal speed of a type never seen before at the rink. His work was also connected up by dance steps and his jumps included the Lutz and the difficult flying Axel-[Paulsen], but it was his spins that held the audience spell-bound. He entered a spin at a normal speed but then worked into a pace until he seemed like a top unloosed from a string." Nate's exhibitions and teachings helped generate pre-War interest in figure skating in Australia. It was also he who brought siblings Gwen Chambers and Ron Chambers to Canada to coach in Montreal and Toronto.

Samuel Jarvis and Nate Walley. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine.

Not long after returning to America to teach in Lake Placid prior to World War II, he married Edythe Dustman, a Powers model from West Virginia who once worked as a designer for a marionette show. Edythe decided to take up skating after she did a modelling photo shoot on the ice. The two met as teacher and student.

Photos courtesy "Skating" magazine (top) and "Skating World" magazine (bottom)

The married couple became skating partners, starring in shows on the Ice Terrace at the Hotel New Yorker. Nate also appeared in the "Ice Frolics" at the International Casino in New York alongside Guy Owen, Evelyn Chandler and Bruce Mapes and in carnivals doing a comedy drag act called 'Mr. and Mrs. Go To Town' with Samuel Jarvis during this period. He supplemented his performing career by teaching in Cleveland, working with U.S. Champion Eugene Turner. Edythe later became a coach herself, teaching alongside her husband at the Broadmoor Ice Palace in Colorado Springs.

Edythe and Nate Walley

After starring in "Varieties On Ice" at the Boulevard Tavern in New York City, Nate and Edythe joined the cast of the Ice Capades, dazzling audiences throughout North America well after the War ended. Nate took young Chuckie Stein under his wing and developed several popular comedy acts that played upon their extreme height difference. During this period, Nate also served as President of the newly-formed American Skaters Guild, which evolved into today's Professional Skaters Association.

Nate and Edythe's daughter Deborah was born in August of 1947 in Bridgeport, Connecticut. They divorced in 1953 and Nate remarried to Carol Lynam in 1962. His daughter Deborah went on to become a Hollywood starlet who appeared in "Gidget Goes Hawaiian" with James Darren, "Spinout" with Elvis Presley and several beach party films in the sixties.

Deborah Walley

In the sixties, Nate was employed as the figure skating director for both Holiday On Ice and Ice Capades and teaching at the St. Paul and Land O' Lakes Figure Skating Clubs in Minnesota's Twin Cities. 

Photo courtesy "World Ice Skating Guide"

In his book "Blazing Ice: The Real Story Of Show Business", R. Scott Carlton recalled, "To say Nate's reputation preceded him would be a meaningless understatement... He demanded the highest standards from his students, although I never heard anyone accuse him of being difficult or arrogant. Nevertheless, in his golden years he developed one peculiarity which probably drove the Holiday On Ice bosses crazy: he refused to work with any skaters he didn't like, a privilege accorded very few coaches. So which skaters did Nate like? He offered his services to those skaters who were willing to work hard and do so with a strong, positive attitude. He disliked skaters who were lazy or exhibited negativism toward their art. You couldn't ask for anything more fair or democratic than that."

Photo courtesy "The National Ice Skating Guide"

Though he's probably best remembered for his namesake jump (the Walley), Nate also made another very important contribution to figure skating during his lifetime. He collaborated with the USFSA on a comprehensive table of jumps and spins, categorizing everything from the well-known Axel and Salchow to the often underappreciated toeless Lutz and one-and-a-half flip. This table, adapted and republished around the world in dozens of languages, helped expand the possibilities of free skating to countless skaters and coaches. Nate passed away on October 15, 1975 in Minneapolis at the age of sixty-eight, his contributions to the figure skating world rarely given the due they are deserved.

Want to learn more about Nate Walley and the history of his namesake jump? There's a whole chapter devoted to it in the new book "Technical Merit: A History of Figure Skating Jumps". Get your copy today!

Skate Guard is a blog dedicated to preserving the rich, colourful and fascinating history of figure skating. Over ten years, the blog has featured over a thousand free articles covering all aspects of the sport's history, as well as four compelling in-depth features. To read the latest articles, follow the blog on FacebookTwitterPinterest and YouTube. If you enjoy Skate Guard, please show your support for this archive by ordering a copy of figure skating reference books "The Almanac of Canadian Figure Skating", "Technical Merit: A History of Figure Skating Jumps" and "A Bibliography of Figure Skating":

The 1930 Canadian Figure Skating Championships

It was a long, bleak winter in the Prairies. The effects of the Stock Market crash the previous October were starting to be felt. Unemployment and hunger were on rise and as the expense of relief for indigent immigrants skyrocketed, the Winnipeg City Council tried unsuccessfully to get the federal government to help shoulder the costs. That February, Manitobans gathered around their radios to listen to The Governor-General's Throne Speech from Ottawa. Lord Willingdon spoke of the problems of Canadian National railway system, the Royal Commission on Radio Broadcasting, Great War veterans and changes to the Elections and Bankruptcy acts. The snow outside, coupled with the doom and gloom on the radio and in newspapers, dampened the spirits of the people of Winnipeg. They needed a lift... and that lift came in the form of figure skating.

Collage of expected competitors in the women's event in Winnipeg

The 1930 Canadian Figure Skating Championships, then also referred to as the Dominion Fancy Skating Championship, were held February 21 and 22 in Winnipeg, Manitoba. It was the first time the Canadian Championships were held west of Ontario. Two venues were used. The school figures were contested at the giant Amphitheatre between Whitehall Avenue and Colony Street, with all other events held at the Winnipeg Winter Club's indoor natural ice rink on Smith Street, which measured one hundred and seventy by seventy five feet. 

The Winter Club had recently expanded its facilities, adding a brick and concrete building to the property that housed a swimming pool with diving springboard, ten badminton courts, two squash courts, a dining room, kitchen and showers. The Club was a private, members-only affair and the fact that the premises were opened to the general public, with a limited number of tickets sold for the Canadian Championships, was a pretty big deal at the time. Seats were arranged on the ice for spectators, with the option to instead watch the competition from either the upper or lower cloakrooms available as well.

Local newspapers covered the competition on the Society pages, because figure skating wasn't yet largely regarded as a 'serious sport'. Accounts of the event focused more on the dresses skaters wore, and who attended the social events held in conjunction with the competition, than the skating itself. These social events included a tea hour hosted by the daughter-in-law of Sir Clifford Sifton, a prominent Canadian politician who medalled at the Canadian Championships in fours skating in the roaring twenties, an awards banquet hosted by the Winnipeg Winter Club's President Jack Crichton Green-Armytage and a formal dance. How did the best in the west fare against the Eastern skaters? Let's take a look back!


Though now recognized as junior events, they were actually referred to as 'novice class' competitions at the time. There were no age requirements, the only stipulation being that they were open "for those who have not been placed first or second in a national or international championship competition." Instead of a gold, silver and bronze medal, the winner received a silver medal and the runner-up a bronze. The third place finisher presumably just received a hearty handshake and a "good show!"

There were only two competitors in the men's event. The winner, Lewis Elkin of Winnipeg, handily defeated Hubert Sprott on the strength of his school figures. Five women vied for the women's title. Mary Littlejohn of Toronto came out on top, ahead of Ruth Forrest of the Granite Club, Audrey Garland of Winnipeg, Aidrie Main of Montreal and Eileen Noble of Calgary. All five women wore velvet dresses, elegantly trimmed with satin, chinchilla, swansdowne and ermine. Fur was not only worn for fashion. It was also worn for warmth. Although the Club's rink was heated by electric fans connected with an oil furnace, it was notoriously drafty, and the weather outside was positively frigid.


The fours event, a favourite of skaters and audiences alike, was won by the Toronto four, which consisted of Mary Littlejohn, Elizabeth Fisher, George Edwin 'Ted' Beament and Hubert Sprott. The Winnipeg four - Margaret Winks, Maude Porteous, C.W.J. Vincent and Donald Henderson Bain - came second. Toronto siblings Constance and Montgomery 'Bud' Wilson defended their Canadian pairs title, defeating Margaret Winks and Lewis Elkin by a wide margin. Constance won the Waltzing event with  A.D. Duncan. Bud won the Fourteenstep with Betty Holden, defeating Mary Littlejohn and Donald Henderson Bain. All three of these partnerships consisted of a Torontonian and a Winnipegger, as the whole idea of these informal dance events was for the visiting skaters to have a go at dancing with the host Club's members. The women's event was supposed to have been a showdown between. Bud Wilson had no trouble defeating Lewis Elkin, who 'skated up' in the senior men's event after winning in the junior event the previous day, and defending his men's title. The women's event was to have been a showdown between three-time Champion Constance Wilson Samuel and two-time Champion Cecil Smith. The two Torontonians had been friendly rivals for years. At the World Championships earlier that month in New York City, Constance (the defending Canadian Champion and a new bride) had finished fourth. Cecil had a placed a strong second behind Sonja Henie. A rematch on home soil was not in the cards. Cecil opted not to make the long train trek to Winnipeg. With her strong Axel jump, fast spins and powerful style, Constance easily defeated Elizabeth Fisher and Dorothy Benson of Montreal, winning the Devonshire Cup for the fourth time. 

Enjoy reading about the 1930 Canadian Championships? Have I got the book for you! "The Almanac of Canadian Figure Skating" features short biographical stubs of hundreds of Canadian figure skaters, coaches, judges and builders, as well as complete results from the Canadian Championships going back to before the very beginning. Get your copy today!

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":

The Rise And Fall Of The Canadian Skater

It is sometimes difficult to step back and remember a time when information wasn't right at our fingertips. Whether we want to know what music a skater just performed to, the results of an international competition or who a skater's coach is, we've got peers on Facebook and Twitter, heaps of great websites and blogs to read and a bevy of talented sports journalists that can help answer our questions. In the days before social media, much of this information was gleaned from magazines... and in Canada, no true skating fan would have been without a subscription to the "Canadian Skater".

In 1967, the CFSA formed its first Public Relations Committee, having realized the importance of communicating information both to the media and internally to its clubs and members. The first person to join the committee was a British Columbian woman named Anetta Pagliaro. Anetta had started the B.C. section's publication "Thin Ice" less than a decade earlier and grown it from a one-page newsletter to a small magazine. She also produced the first skater biographical sheets issued to the media and developed a system to run press rooms at competitions. As the Public Relations Committee chair, Anetta's first recommendation was for the CFSA to print a quarterly magazine, which would be mailed to all clubs free of charge as part of a pilot program. The idea had been tossed around previously, but no one had the gumption to take it on. There had also been skepticism as to whether or not some clubs would have much use for a magazine, and some opposition regarding the cost of printing and distributing it.

Prior to 1967, the USFSA's magazine "Skating" had included Canadian test records and results free of charge. Theresa Weld Blanchard, the editor, had more than once encouraged the CFSA to take more advantage of the opportunity. A letter to the CFSA's board from the managers of "Skating" in 1968 that stated Canadian test results would only be published at fifty dollars a page going forward was perhaps the impetus needed for the "Canadian Skater" to proceed. Seventy-five thousand copies of its first eight page tabloid style issue were printed in December of 1968. Though the first issue was well received, George Blundun - the CFSA's Past President at the time - expressed concern about the cost, which exceeded two thousand dollars. A motion was put forward to discontinue the magazine, which was defeated.

In its first few years, the "Canadian Skater" featured everything from skater interviews to history, competition results and educational information for coaches. The highlight of the very first issue was an amusing article by Dick Button about what it is like to be a skating commentator called "Don't get mad at me, folks". There was a preview of the 1972 World Championships in Calgary and the first North American interview with the ISU's new President Jacques Favart. In 1973, an issue containing full coverage of the World Championships was published just three days after Karen Magnussen struck gold. A translation service was hired so that Francophone readers in Quebec and New Brunswick would be able to enjoy a French version of the magazine. Though there were criticisms that some of the articles in the magazine were gossipy in tone and further motions to discontinue the magazine because of cost, it survived the seventies relatively unscathed.

Anetta Pagliaro left the magazine in 1973, declining an offer to move to Ottawa when the CFSA centralized in the Canadian capital. Mary Gallant was chosen as the magazine's new editor, and her first order of business was to revamp the format of the magazine, adding more features. In 1974, the "Canadian Skater" was named the "Sport Magazine Of The Year" by the Sports Federation of Canada. Lynda Stearns took over from Mary Gallant in 1976, making the magazine "a glossy". Teresa Moore, the CFSA's long-time Public Relations maven, took over in the late seventies.

By the early eighties, criticisms about the amount of money being syphoned into the magazine's production had increased significantly. There were many naysayers who argued that the bulk of potential readers were recreational skaters and clubs who didn't relate or have interest in coverage of elite level skating. Advertising income suffered as the number of subscribers dropped at the same time the frequency of the magazine's printing was increased to six issues per year. The CFSA tried offering a special membership fee of thirty dollars, which included subscription to the magazine, and updating the magazine with several 'modern' looks to entice readers. All of these strategies failed, and in 1984, the CFSA's board voted to discontinue the magazine. CFSA President Barbara Ryan later recalled, "The 'Canadian Skater' was expensive. It cost us thousands of dollars, but it was money well spent. Its very quality and elegant, beautiful presentation made people assume that the Association that produced it was also of that same quality. Sometimes we were, sometimes we weren't, but it always gave that image."

In the years that followed, the CFSA partnered with National All Sport Promotions and the St. Clair Group to produce annual magazines called "Canadian Figure Skating Magazine" and "Today's Skater". Both magazines had more of a marketing tone than the "The Canadian Skater", and largely sat around the offices of skating club under piles of records and cassettes. Later, a paper newsletter called "Keeping In Touch" was produced. For whatever reason, none of these successors had the same appeal as the "Canadian Skater".

If you found this blog on the "Canadian Skater" interesting and want to learn more about skating magazines, I know you will love the new book "A Bibliography of Figure Skating". Not only does it have a comprehensive catalogue of current and past skating periodicals, but there are pages upon pages of listings of non-fiction skating books, tips on how to track down hard-to-find skating literature and much more. You can order your copy today in Kindle E-Book, paperback and hard cover editions on Amazon.

Skate Guard is a blog dedicated to preserving the rich, colourful and fascinating history of figure skating. Over ten years, the blog has featured over a thousand free articles covering all aspects of the sport's history, as well as four compelling in-depth features. To read the latest articles, follow the blog on FacebookTwitterPinterest and YouTube. If you enjoy Skate Guard, please show your support for this archive by ordering a copy of figure skating reference books "The Almanac of Canadian Figure Skating", "Technical Merit: A History of Figure Skating Jumps" and "A Bibliography of Figure Skating":

The Pegasus And The Owls

Without question, artistic depictions of skating have played a valuable role in the early documentation of the sport. Today, we will take a look at two fascinating examples from all the way back in the seventeenth century!


Published in 1627 by Cornelis Willemsz Blaeu-Laken, the book "Amsterdamsche Pegasus" served as a rare collection of rural Dutch pastoral songs of the period. Interspersed with music and lyrics in the book were ten engravings by Jan van de Velde the younger, a Dutch Golden Age painter, etcher and engraver who came from a multi-generational family of renowned artists. van de Velde was well-known for his depictions of landscapes and his art greatly influenced many renowned Dutch artists that would follow, including the legendary Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn.

Two of the ten plates that he contributed to the "Amsterdamsche Pegasus" depicted ice skating scenes. The first depicts a skater traversing on a frozen river that flowed through a town scene towards an open expanse dotted with other skaters. The second, perhaps a continuation of the first, shows a crowded river packed with well-dressed skaters forging out onto the ice, poles in hand to help steady their balance on ice and propel them along on their curly-toed iron blades.


A contemporary of van de Velde The Younger, Adriaen Pietersz van de Venne, was an extremely talented allegorical painter whose extensive body of work is peppered with several stunning skating scenes. My favourite, "Schaatsende uilen" ("Skating Owls"), has been the subject of dry scholarly debate for many years.

An interesting scholarly analysis of the piece appeared in Brigham Young University's Journal of Undergraduate Research in 2015. Authors Sarah James Dyer and Martha Peacock argued that the work depicted a "moralizing message condemning the vice of adultery and warning the male audience about the dangers of cunning women." Whatever your interpretation of these two feathered friends might be, I'm certain that John James Audobon, skating history's resident ornithologist, would have approved.

Skate Guard is a blog dedicated to preserving the rich, colourful and fascinating history of figure skating. Over ten years, the blog has featured over a thousand free articles covering all aspects of the sport's history, as well as four compelling in-depth features. To read the latest articles, follow the blog on FacebookTwitterPinterest and YouTube. If you enjoy Skate Guard, please show your support for this archive by ordering a copy of figure skating reference books "The Almanac of Canadian Figure Skating", "Technical Merit: A History of Figure Skating Jumps" and "A Bibliography of Figure Skating":

Japanese Technical Firsts Under The IJS System

Yuzuru Hanyu. Photo courtesy Andy Miah, shared via Creative Commons license, Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0).

When the IJS System was introduced, it was a 'wiping of the slate' in a way. Never before had jumps been evaluated individually by a technical panel to determine their cleanliness. Today we'll take a little look at some more recent history - the first Japanese skaters to land each triple or quadruple jump in senior ISU Championships held under the IJS System. 

Sōta Yamamoto and Shoma Uno. Photo courtesy Chika Ezechi, shared via Creative Commons license, Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0).


Solo and combination jumps receiving a 0 or positive GOE were considered when compiling this data. In cases where multiple skaters successfully landed the same jump in the same competition, the starting order was used to determine which skater achieved the jump first.


Olympic Games

World Championships

Four Continents Championships

Triple toe-loop (men's)

Daisuke Takahashi (2006, free skate)

Nobunari Oda (2006, short program)

Daisuke Takahashi (2005, short program)

Triple toe-loop (women's)

Kanako Murakami (2014, short program)

Miki Ando (2005, qualifying round)

Yukari Nakano (2005, short program)

Triple Salchow (men's)

Daisuke Takahashi (2006, free skate)

Daisuke Takahashi (2005, free skate)

Kazumi Kishimoto (2005, free skate)

Triple Salchow (women's)

Shizuka Arakawa (2006, free skate)

Miki Ando (2005, qualifying round)

Yukari Nakano (2005, free skate)

Triple loop (men's)

Daisuke Takahashi (2006, free skate)

Nobunari Oda (2006, qualifying round)

Kazumi Kishimoto (2005, free skate)

Triple loop (women's)

Akiko Suzuki (2010, short program)

Miki Ando (2005, qualifying round)

Yoshie Onda (2005, free skate)

Triple flip (men's)

Daisuke Takahashi (2006, free skate)

Daisuke Takahashi (2005, qualifying round)

Kensuke Nakaniwa (2005, free skate)

Triple flip (women's)

Miki Ando (2006, short program)

Fumie Suguri (2005, qualifying round)

Yoshie Onda (2005, short program)

Triple Lutz (men's)

Daisuke Takahashi (2006, short program)

Daisuke Takahashi (2005, qualifying round)

Kensuke Nakaniwa (2005, free skate)

Triple Lutz (women's)

Shizuka Arakawa (2006, short program)

Miki Ando (2005, qualifying round)

Yoshie Onda (2005, short program)

Triple Axel (men's)

Daisuke Takahashi (2010, short program)

Daisuke Takahashi (2005, short program)

Nobunari Oda (2006, short program)

Triple Axel (women's)

Mao Asada (2010, short program)

Mao Asada (2009, free skate)

Mao Asada (2008, free skate)

Quadruple toe-loop (men's)

Yuzuru Hanyu (2014, team event short program)

Daisuke Takahashi (2008, free skate)

Daisuke Takahashi (2005, short program)

Quadruple toe-loop (women's)




Quadruple Salchow (men's)

Yuzuru Hanyu (2018, short program)

Yuzuru Hanyu (2014, free skate)

Daisuke Murakami (2015, short program)

Quadruple Salchow (women's)




Quadruple loop (men's)

Yuma Kagiyama (2022, team event free skate)

Yuzuru Hanyu (2017, short program)

Yuzuru Hanyu (2017, short program)

Quadruple loop (women's)




Quadruple flip (men's)

Shoma Uno (2018, short program)

Shoma Uno (2017, short program)

Shoma Uno (2017, free skate)

Quadruple flip (women's)




Quadruple Lutz (men's)




Quadruple Lutz (women's)




If you found this information interesting, have I got the book for you! "Technical Merit: A History of Figure Skating Jumps" includes a table that is identical to this one, but highlighting international firsts, of which Japanese skaters play an important role. 

You will also find chapters on the waltz jump, toe-loop, Salchow, loop, flip, Lutz, Axel, backflip and pairs throws, side-by-side jumps and twists and plenty of other interesting data and material. The foreword is written by 1962 World Champion Donald Jackson, the first skater to land a triple Lutz jump in competition. You can get your copy in Kindle E-Book, paperback or hard cover editions on Amazon.

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":