The Brothers Kermond: Pioneers In Ice Acrobatics

Australian brothers Eric 'Tibby' and Norman Kermond hailed from Sydney, Australia. They came from an old circus family and developed a comedic acrobatic act that took The Tivoli Circuit by storm. They first translated their performance to the ice in Sydney in the forties with zero practice, bringing down the house with their trademark 'drunk act'. Eric later laughed, "Those people thought I was floundering around like that on purpose. I wasn't. I couldn't stand up on the blinkin' skates."

Eric and Norman left the Tivoli Circuit after they didn't receive a pay rise that had been promised to them. They headed for England, where a man approached them after a show and again suggested they perform their acrobatic act on skates. They lied and said, "Oh yeah, we've done it many, many times" and then headed to the Richmond Ice Rink, where they worked to 'properly' translate their act to the ice. After appearing in Tom Arnold's ice pantomime "Babes In The Woods", they returned to Australia to perform in the show "Ice Parade" at the Princess Theatre in Melbourne, billed as "The World's Greatest Vaudeville-On-Ice Show". They later travelled with a troupe to sunny Spain, where their act was a smash hit. However, after one show Eric decided to give bullfighting a try. He ended up getting tossed around by the bull and sustaining some pretty serious injuries but later joked, "I'm still around. The bull ain't." When they weren't moonlighting as bullfighters, Eric and Norman enjoyed water skiing, bowling and flying planes.

Eric and Norman actually first performed their acrobatic act in America in Skating Vanities, a roller skating tour. They signed with Shipstad and Johnson's Ice Follies in 1955. Touring as ice acrobats for over ten years alongside the likes of Donald Jackson, Richard Dwyer, Mr. Frick (Werner Groebli) and Ina Bauer, they became bona fide ice stars and were actually pioneers of adding the backflip to professional performances. On May 2, 1956, the "Spokane Chronicle" noted, "Norm holds a record for backwards somersaults on ice skates, 16."

Photo courtesy Ingrid Hunnewell

However, Eric and Norman's 'drunk act' sometimes got them in trouble. On January 18, 1965, "The Miami News" reported, "At the 'Ice Follies' opening, two off-duty Shore Patrol cops almost ruined the Kermond Bros. act, who start out from the audience and pretend to annoy patrons. Since the brothers were dressed as Navy men, the patrol cops thought it was their duty to intercede - but ushers stopped them in time."

Long after their performing days ended, the unlikely skating stars remained involved in the sport. Eric and Norman managed the Burlingame Ice Rink in California together and Norman's daughter Sharon actually followed in his footsteps, touring with Ice Follies and coaching in California. Sadly, Norman passed away on January 5, 2016 at the age of ninety five. Though their names may not be as remembered as some, this pioneering team of ice acrobats from down under have a unique place in skating's rich and colourful history.  

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

Choctaws, Costumes And Charisma: The Courtney Jones Story

"Courtney himself was awe-inspiring too: urbane, sophisticated, a million miles from anything in our experience... As we talked, we began to relax. Courtney began to show a different side to his personality - nothing he liked more than fish and chips and apple pie, he used to say. 'Common as muck,' he'd say, putting on a northern accent." - Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean, "Facing The Music"

June Markham and Courtney Jones

Born April 30, 1933 in Poole, England, Courtney John Lyndhurst Jones was an only child. He came from Bournemouth to begin training at the Queen's Ice Club after winning the Southern Regional pairs title in 1954 with Heather Birtwistle. He had first competed at the British Ice Dance Championships in 1951 with partner Faith 'Paddy' Sylvester. Though he passed his silver free skating test, competed with five different partners in ice dance and with two as a pairs skater on and off since 1947, it was his instruction from Miss Gladys Hogg that propelled him to such fast success with June Markham, the daughter of a professional magician who had previously danced with Lawrence Demmy's cousin Michael Marks.

At six foot one and a half with brown hair and blue eyes, Courtney was a "tall, dark and handsome" young man with a passion for figure skating. He only ended up skating with June Markham by sheer happenstance, when Miss Hogg (who was to partner Courtney for his Gold Dance Test) fell ill and suggested he team up with June, a strong singles and pairs skater. Needless to say, in no time it was apparent the partnership had potential. In only their first season together, June and Courtney won the silver medals at both the European and World Championships.

June Markham and Courtney Jones

On December 1, 1956 in Nottingham (after only fifteen months together) the duo won the British Ice Dance Championships in a field of six ahead of Barbara Thompson and Gerard Rigby and Catherine Morris and Michael Robinson despite a mishap in their free dance. Courtney took a six month leave from the Royal Air Force in hopes of claiming gold at the European and World Championships... and his decision paid off. At the 1957 European Championships in Vienna, June and Courtney would breeze through the Rocker Foxtrot, Viennese Waltz, Kilian and Argentine Tango and claim their first European title in a British podium sweep. They had only been skating together for about eighteen months at the time. In her book "Figure Skating History: The Evolution Of Dance On The Ice", Lynn Copley-Graves recounted their performances at the 1957 World Championships at the Broadmoor in Colorado thusly: "Markham/Jones, showed for the first place votes how the Argentine Tango and free dance ought to be. All five judges placed them first in the free dance... for their footwork and exquisite carriage." After winning their first World title, Courtney and June wowed Skating Club Of New York members and the public alike with an exhibition at Rockefeller Center.

In November 1957 in Nottingham, June and Courtney won their second British dance title ahead of and decided to start using their status as the world's top ice dancers to evoke change. Writing an editorial for that same month's "Skating" magazine, the dance duo suggested that the free dance be longer than three minutes and wrote: "We particularly noticed the continental trend towards a freer expression of dance steps, allied to a very strong feeling for the character of the dance... Are ice dancers getting too concerned with the correct execution of the dance steps and thereby losing the 'feel' of the dance itself?"

Their vocal suggestions didn't hurt the team in the least. They won their second European title in Bratislava in a convincing fashion and headed to the Palais de Glace in Paris, France for the 1958 World Championships. Lynn Copley-Graves noted, "The defending champions introduced a new element to the free dance: exceptionally fast timing (more than 200 beats per minute in the first movement) and footwork to match, similar to the best free skaters, and they made it look good!" T.D. Richardson tells us that they 'They are in a class apart and have mastered the art of presentation without that awful 'coyness' or showy nonsense seen alas! too often. What a wonderful programme is theirs, demanding real skating ability.' Although fast South American rhythms were common among the British and some of the other Europeans, only June and Courtney did not make this new style look awkward. They deserved the 6.0's they received." The March 4, 1957 edition of the "Ottawa Citizen" praised them effusively as well: "Jones and Miss Markham virtually wrapped up the dancing title Friday night in the compulsory dances and then clinched the crown with an exhibition of their own creation. Jones, 23, a member of the Royal Air Force recruiting division, skated with erect poise with his 18-year old blonde partner in perfect unison with him. There was little doubt after they glided through their first dance that they'd go back with the championship."

June Markham and Courtney Jones atop the podium at the World Championships

Following the 1958 World Championships, June announced her retirement from competition and her plans to teach at Queen's Ice Rink. That year, June and Courtney were the third ice dance team to ever receive the prestigious Vandervell Trophy, a feat Jones would later repeat with his subsequent partner. Courtney was dejected by the team's split, later admitting, "I was very disheartened because it was a very sudden stop. I was working in a factory. I had three jobs actually. And I gave up." He had no reason too, though. Miss Hogg found him a new partner in no time flat.

Doreen Denny and Courtney Jones

That November, Courtney Jones arrived at the British Ice Dance Championships with eighteen year old partner Doreen Denny, a former singles skater, and defended his title in a decision of five judges to two ahead of teams who had significantly more experience together. Lynn Copley-Graves noted, "Because of Courtney's job as a dress designer after leaving the RAF, training time was precious to the new champions. They practiced late at night after the regular Queen's Ice Club session [Courtney worked from 6 AM to 6 PM] and got so used to cut up ice that good ice made dancing seem easy. Courtney had been with the firm less than a year, but he would be allowed to leave for Worlds because his skating involvement would make money for the firm. Doreen already was testing his skating fashions for durability while skating and for shrinkage." Courtney had actually been designing matching costumes for years and was absolutely one of the pioneers in ushering in new trends in ice dance fashion.

Doreen Denny and Courtney Jones. Photo courtesy "Skating World" magazine.

At the 1959 European Championships in Davos, any doubts as to the efficacy of this new partnership were dismissed when Denny and Jones soundly claimed the top spot on the podium in a field of fifteen. Jones continued to push the envelope at the 1959 World Championships, ruffling feathers in the compulsory dances by starting on the weak beat in the Fourteenstep. Lynn Copley-Graves noted, "The British skaters always thought the American preoccupation with strong and weak beats was a little far-fetched and it wasn't against the rules. They skated a great dance, followed it up with a solid European Waltz and Paso Doble and an excellent Argentine Tango." Skating in pale blue matching costumes, they won their first World title ahead of strong American and Canadian teams skating on home turf, infusing elements of ballroom dance and trademark fast footwork into what was at the time a very staid discipline. After winning in Colorado Springs, Doreen and Courtney won the Vandervell Trophy, and Doreen took and passed her NSA Gold Ice Dance test, which she'd never taken despite now being European and World Champion. British Pathé even made a ten minute film about the team called "Courtney Jones and Doreen Denny" that aired in British cinemas.

Doreen Denny and Courtney Jones

After repeating as British Dance Champions, Doreen and Courtney headed to Garmisch-Partenkirchen, West Germany for the 1960 European Championships, where they claimed yet another title, this time in the pouring rain. At the World Championships in Vancouver, British Columbia, the couple again caused a commotion in the compulsory dances when Courtney forgot his skates during one round. Despite this, they won all four compulsories and the free dance. In "Skating" magazine, Edith Ray commented on the brilliance of their free dance: "Their program was better constructed than last year, and showed masterful composition, with moves flowing into one another in kaleidoscopic variety. They covered the surface with these interesting moves and dance steps, into which they wove their highlights. Skating in matching gray outfits, they gave a superb performance, with a seemingly flawless rhythm, although, just as everyone else does, they wasted time and motion on a few 'cutenesses.'" Doreen and Courtney almost retired after the 1960 World Championships. Doreen wanted to turn professional and Courtney's commitments in dress design were dictating that it was almost time to call it quits... but they decided to hang on for one more year.

At the 1960 European Championships in West Berlin, the team claimed their final gold medal ahead of France's Christiane and Jean-Paul Guhel of France. Their goal and reason for continuing was one final farewell competitive performance at the 1961 World Championships in Prague, Czechoslovakia. Because of the cancellation of the event due to the Sabena Crash, that didn't happen. In her book "Indelible Tracings", Patricia Shelley Bushman explained that at the time of the disaster that killed the entire U.S. figure skating team, "Doreen Denny was in England but her partner Courtney Jones was in Zurich on business, and she didn't know how to reach him, nor did her association know what to tell them." Ultimately, Doreen and Courtney retired from skating with a farewell performance at the Queen's Ice Rink on April 16, 1961, which was broadcast on BBC. Having graduated from the Bournemouth College Of Art, Courtney began judging and finally had more time to devote to his dress design work. Doreen married Gianfranco Canepa in June of 1961 and left for Villars, Switzerland to teach skating.

Reminiscing on his competitive career in the documentary "ISU: 100 Years Of Skating 1892-1992", Courtney remarked, "There was a concept of a free dance in those days. Everyone used organ music, without exception. All over the world, the music was always recorded by Douglas Walker at Nottingham Ice Stadium and it was the accepted thing that they had three pieces of music. They had a fast one, a slow one and a fast one to finish. And that was it. There was just no breaking that mould. When I first started skating with June Markham, that was also our mould. But, being a bit Bolshik, we did break that mould. When I first started with June Markham, she was a highly established solo skater. She never had anything in her mind except she was a winner. It didn't matter what it was - a European Championship, a World Championship, she was going to win. There was no second best for her and I think I learned an enormous amount from her. When our partnership broke up and she turned professional, I basically gave up. I was not going on and it was Miss Hogg who persuaded me to go on with this new partner, Doreen, where the position was reversed. I was the World Champion and she was a very capable free skater but actually had never danced in a dance championship in her life. She was the most fantastic partner. She was always happy. She would never be down."

If you think that winning four World titles was all that Courtney Jones did for ice dancing, think again. In 1963 at Queen's Ice Rink, he created the Starlight Waltz and Silver Samba with Peri Horne. In 1975 he judged at his first World Championships. In 1980, he was head ice dance referee at the Olympics in Lake Placid and was awarded the title of OBE (Order Of The British Empire) for his contributions to skating in England. He also designed the British Olympic team's uniforms in 1976 and 1984.

Photo courtesy "Canadian Skater" magazine

The story of Courtney and long time companion Bobby Thompson's role in the development of Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean's iconic "Bolero" program and costumes (over dinner) is famous in skating circles. In a January 22, 2014 BBC interview, Bobby shared his version of how it all went down: "Courtney was doing the cooking and I was in the kitchen and we heard 42nd Street go on, We both looked at each other and said - absolutely no way. Olympic year, it's too much like Mack and Mabel, Barnum - been there, done that. We need something completely different. Christopher's face dropped to the floor - he wasn't a very happy little warrior. And I remember Jayne's words; 'Chris, it's no good; they haven't led us wrong yet.' A quick dash to the car, a pile of cassettes, and when Bolero came on, there was instant agreement." Courtney and Bobby designed the "Bolero" costumes by hanging silk chiffon from a string in his basement with a bucket of purple dye underneath. The silk was pulled out a little more every few hours, leaving the bottom darker than the top. The wooden spoon they'd used for their casserole at dinner doubled as a dye-stirrer. Interestingly, Courtney was actually one of the judges in Sarajevo who gave Torvill and Dean those perfect 6.0's and continued to do costume design for their tours.

In 1985, Courtney began a ten year stint as President of the National Skating Association and then, in 1990, the National Ice Skating Association. Under his presidency, Great Britain hosted the European Championships in 1989 and cheered Torvill and Dean made their 1994 comeback. In the final year of Courtney's term as the President of the National Ice Skating Association, the 1995 World Championships were hosted in Birmingham. It was the first time Britain had hosted the World Championships since 1950. BIS historian Elaine Hooper recalled, "Courtney actually organized the whole event. I worked in his office at those championships."

Courtney served on the ISU Council and Ice Dancing Technical Committee for many years, well into the late 2000's. In 1991, he was awarded the prestigious Georg Häsler Medal for his contributions to international skating. Famously in 2000, he was the referee of the ice dance panel, when Margarita Drobiazko and Povilas Vanagas of Lithuania protested the final result. He was later blasted by American judge Jon Jackson, who claimed that he dropped the petition into the garbage. In recent years, Courtney has staunchly defended the importance of the compulsory dances and taken on an active role in Gibraltar's bid for ISU membership. Inducted into the World Figure Skating Hall Of Fame in 1986, Courtney'has without a doubt left the wonderful world of figure skating better than he found it.

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 1978 Canadian Figure Skating Championships

Pierre Trudeau was Canada's Prime Minister and "Stayin' Alive" by The Bee Gees topped the music charts. Young people from coast to coast were going gaga over the latest fads - mood rings, Chia pets, lava lamps and Silly Putty... and in early February of 1978, many of Canada's best figure skaters gathered in Victoria, British Columbia to fight tooth and nail for medals at that year's Canadian Figure Skating Championships. 

The 1978 Canadian Championships were particularly unique owing to the fact that none of the defending senior champions were returning to defend their titles. It was the first time since 1949 it had happened... and also the first time Victoria had played host to the Canadian Championships. 

Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine

Many thought Ron Shaver, Lynn Nightingale, Cheri and Dennis Pinner and Susan Carscallen and Eric Gillies would stick it out for another season as the World Championships were in Ottawa but ultimately Shaver, Nightingale and Carscallen turned professional. 

Eric Gillies had teamed up with Vancouver's Lisa Trahan and started training at the Minto Skating Club under former international judge Pierrette Devine in a bid to defend his title but Trahan suffered a hairline fracture in her kneecap and an ear infection in September and the duo wasn't able to prepare for Nationals in time. The Pinner's had retired in frustration after they were passed up for a spot on the World team despite being the reigning Canadian pairs champions. Let's take a look back at how things played out in Victoria!


"These championships have produced a new, younger group of skaters showing much promise for the future," mused Vancouver coach Dr. Hellmut May. He was right! In the novice men's event, Ronnie Unrau of the North Shore Winter Club edged Shaun McGill and Robert Tebby to claim victory in his home province. Tall, athletic seventeen year old Paul Martini was eleventh. Mary Jo Fedy and Tim Mills were the novice pairs champions and Isabelle and Paul Duchesnay finished eleventh and last. Donna Martini and John Coyne took top honours in novice dance. Although Lorri Baier, the younger sister of senior pairs skater Sherri Baier, stood atop the novice women's podium, a fiesty ten year old Ellen Burka student who didn't even finish on the podium named Tracey Wainman won the free skate. The Canadian Figure Skating Association, so impressed by Baier and Wainman's potential, named both to that year's team for the World Junior Championships in France instead of the junior women's medallists.

Sixteen year old Dennis Coi, another North Shore Winter Club skater who was ninth in the junior men's event in 1977, moved up from second after the school figures and short program to defeat seventeen year old World Junior Champion Daniel Beland in the junior men's event. "The Globe And Mail" noted that Coi "skated with an artistry reminiscent of Toller Cranston." Beland was no slouch in the presentation department either. The Quebec skater had big jumps, a layback spin and a great sense of panache. Grade eleven student Brian Orser claimed the bronze. In his 1988 book "Orser: A Skater's Life", he recalled, "I was second in the figures, [missed] on my double Axel in the short, and finished third in the long to finish third over all. So I actually dropped positions after figures, one of the only times that ever happened." Kevin Parker of Campbellville was fourth. Coi and Orser were named to the Junior World team, as Beland was then past the age limit to return to defend his title.

Left: Lorri Baier and Lloyd Eisler. Right: Brian Orser.

In the junior dance event, Joanne French of the Silver Blades Figure Skating Club and John Thomas of the Woodbridge Skating Club vaulted to victory ahead of Lilian Heming and Murray Carey and Martine Vigouret and Alan Atkins. A young Gina Aucoin and Hans-Peter Ponikau of Nova Scotia finished fifth. Paul Martini of Woodbridge and his tiny, fourteen year old partner Barbara Underhill of Oshawa received first place ordinals from all seven judges on their way to claiming gold in the junior pairs event despite only skating together for six months. They landed two throw double Axels in their winning free skate to beat fourteen year old Preston Figure Skating Club members Lloyd Eisler and Lorri Baier, who had won the 1977 novice title, and thirteen year old Katherina Matousek and seventeen year old Brad Starchuk, both British Columbia natives.

Pattie Black and coach Kerry Leitch

Although she had only placed sixth the year before, seventeen year old Pattie Black of Cambridge, Ontario was consistent enough in both figures and free skating to pull off a win in the junior women's event. The highlight of her free skate was a single Axel/double loop/double loop combination. Richmond, British Columbia's Sandra Leighton moved all the way up from seventh to claim silver. North Vancouver's Yvonne Anderson was third and Valerie Jones of Windsor, Ontario ended the competition in fourth.


Photo courtesy Meredith Owen Stanford

With two spots on the line for the World Championships in Ottawa and Ron Shaver out of the mix, the field opened up even more when former Canadian medallist Kenneth Polk speared his foot with his blade and injured his ankle at the Divisional Championships in Peterborough and was forced to withdraw prior to the event. Of the eight senior men competing for the 1978 title, the favourites were the three men who had placed second through fourth at the 1977 Nationals: Calgary's Brian Pockar, Toronto's Vern Taylor and Coquitlam's Jim Szabo. Although eighteen year old Pockar was perhaps most heavily toted as the skater to beat, Taylor had fared well at Divisionals in his area of weakness - the school figures - and it was thought he may have fewer rungs up the ladder to climb in the free skating in Victoria.

Jim Szabo. Left photo courtesy "Canadian Skater" magazine.

Szabo actually defeated Pockar at the Western Divisionals that year. In the January 28, 1978 edition of "The Globe And Mail", journalist Norma McCabe noted, "Szabo's forte is raw power. Big, by figure skating standards, he has overcome knee-cartilage problems that hindered his jumping. What he lacks is catchy choreography. Too often, his free-skating programs seem to be just one continuous circle around the ice." Other outside contenders were 1977 Junior Champion Gary Beacom and Kevin Hicks of Windsor, who trained at the Toronto Cricket Club with Osborne Colson and Ellen Burka.

Brian Pockar and Vern Taylor. Photos courtesy Eileen Mortimer.

In the school figures, twenty year old Szabo narrowly took the lead with ten ordinals and 37.12 points to Pockar's eleven ordinals and 36.76 points. Beacom stood in third, followed by Ken Moir of North Vancouver, Hicks, Beland (skating double duty in both the junior and senior men's events), Taylor and Gordon Forbes.

Gary Beacom

With his massive jumps and the cool confidence of a Sheldon Galbraith student, Taylor actually won both the short program and free skate "in dazzling fashion" receiving top marks from every judge but his seventh place finish in the figures unfortunately had him so far out of the running that he had to settle for silver behind Pockar, who finished second in all three phases of the competition. His lead after the figures quickly decimated, Szabo had to settle for the bronze with Hicks fourth and Beacom fifth. It was the closest Szabo would ever come to making it on the World Team.


With 1976 winners Barbara Berezowski and David Porter and 1977 winners Susan Carscallen and Eric Gillies out of the picture, Lorna Wighton and John Dowding followed the natural succession of ice dance 'back in the day' - they waited their turn and won. To be fair though, the duo from Toronto and Oakville had already made great strides that season. At Skate Canada in October 1977, they had won the bronze medal ahead of the Czechoslovakian team of Liliana Řeháková and Stanislav Drastich, a team who had placed two spots ahead of them the previous year at the World Championships in Tokyo.

Lorna Wighton and John Dowding. Left photo courtesy Eileen Mortimer.

In Victoria, Wighton and Dowding took a huge lead in the compulsories although they were disappointed with their third dance, the Kilian. Dowding told reporters, "We felt a little shaky. We're not used to skating this early in the morning. Most dance competition is at night." However, they were so impressive in their Paso Doble OSP (choreographed by Marijane Stong) that Frank Loeser, writing in "Skating" Magazine in April 1978, noted that they expressed "an aura of cocktails and diamonds" as they "bubbled through a spikey, festive paso".

Left: Patricia Fletcher and Michael De La Penotiere. Photo courtesy Eileen Mortimer. Right: Debbie and Randy Burke.

The new partnership of Patricia Fletcher and Michael De La Penotiere of Toronto, who had only been skating together since the summer, finished second. A pair of exuberant teenagers from Nova Scotia you may have heard of named Marie McNeil and Rob McCall took the bronze medal. Just missing the podium were Debbie and Randy Burke, students of Ron Ludington. The top two teams were named by the CFSA to the World Team.


Lea Ann Jackson and Paul Mills. Photo courtesy Eileen Mortimer.

At the 1977 Canadian Championships in Calgary there had actually only been two senior pairs teams. The 1977 winners, the Pinner's (hey, that rhymed!) had, as I mentioned before, retired after a junior team was sent to the World Championships instead of them. The silver medallists, Janet and Mark Hominuke, had also decided to move on. Guess who stepped up to take the title? Why, the very team that had peeved members of the Hamilton Skating Club so badly that they threatened to contact their Members Of Parliament in protest of the CFSA's decision to send them to the World Championships... Sherri Baier and Robin Cowan.

Sherri Baier and Robin Cowan. Photo courtesy Eileen Mortimer.

In all fairness, Baier and Cowan were the 1976 Junior World Champions and had finished tenth at the World Championships in Tokyo they were sent to. Despite being injured, they had earned two spots for Canadian pairs at the World Championships in Ottawa. They skated convincingly in Victoria to take the gold in a field of newbies to the senior ranks. Second and also named to the World Team were their Preston Figure Skating Club training mates, Lee-Ann Jackson and Paul Mills, who had only been together for two months. Third went to North Vancouver's Susan Gowan and Eric Thomsen and Sharon Hallett and Craig Pearce finished fourth.


Kim Alletson

The delightful Lynn Nightingale left Canada's women's skating in an excellent position with her eighth place finish at the 1977 World Championships in Tokyo. There were two spots for the World Championships in Ottawa up for grabs and with 1976 Bronze Medallist Susan MacDonald having announced her retirement after suffering a knee injury, eighteen year old Heather Kemkaran was a heavy pre-competition favourite. She had placed a respectable thirteenth at the World Championships the year before, easily won her Divisionals and had been busy fine tuning her figures with Carlo Fassi down in the States and working on artistry and style with Mrs. Ellen Burka in Toronto.

Her biggest threat would have been Kim Alletson, a student of Marilyn Thompson at the Minto Skating Club. However, Alletson was skating with inflamed tendons and torn cartilage in her right knee. Doctors had advised her to give it a rest but she kept skating anyway because she couldn't get a bye through Divisionals to Nationals. She finished second to Kemkaran at that event.

Prior to the Victoria competition, Alletson was receiving cortisone shots and rumours were swirling that she had withdrawn when she had not. She told an "Ottawa Citizen" reporter, "It makes no sense. What's a few seconds when I've worked 12 years to get here. As long as there is a chance for recovery, I'm still in. And if I can cut an outside edge, I'll skate." In the end, guts did not bring glory. Nineteen year old Alletson was forced to withdraw when her right knee collapsed on the take-off of a triple Salchow in practice. She yelled that her knee had given out, fell and had to be helped off the ice. After being treated in hospital, she released with a heavily bandaged knee and disappointedly withdrew, leaving ten other women to contest the crown. After returning to the ice the subsequent summer and going to train in Lake Placid with Barbara Roles, she found her knee injury to be too severe and ultimately retired from the sport.

Heather Kemkaran and Cathie Macfarlane

In the school figures, Kemkaran received first place ordinals from all seven judges and had more than a three point edge on her closest rival, Peggy MacLean of Calgary. In the short program, Kemkaran dominated. However, Ottawa's Janet Morrissey skated clean and earned marks ranging from 4.6 to 5.2. The judges ultimately placed her in third behind MacLean, who faltered on two jumps but was quite strong artistically.

With a performance to Rimsky-Korsakov's "Scheherazade", Heather Kemkaran held on for the gold medal but it was Cathie MacFarlane of The Glencoe Club, who had been fifth in figures, who stole the show in the free skate and moved all the way up to second place overall. MacLean claimed the bronze and Kemkaran and MacFarlane were named to the 1978 World Team.

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":

A Talent From Tokyo: The Fumio Igarashi Story

He was nailed triple Lutzes and flips in competition at a time when many got by with Salchows and toe-loops. He was the first man from Japan to claim gold at the NHK Trophy, Skate Canada International and the Nebelhorn Trophy. At one point or another during his career, he defeated Olympic medallists Scott Hamilton, Brian OrserToller Cranston and Charlie Tickner. Yet decades later, the name Fumio Igarashi has been all but forgotten outside of his native Japan.

Born November 6, 1958 in Tokyo, Japan, Fumio was the son of an import-export executive. He first took to the ice in 1966 at the age of eight in a bustling rink in Japan's capital . Skating, suggested his family doctor, would help 'alleviate' a weight problem. He soon began taking lessons from Utaka Higuchi.

By 1974, Fumio had passed his gold test and competed in his first National Championships in Kyoto, where he placed an impressive fourth. He found success internationally in his early years as a senior competitor, competing thrice at Moscow Skate and winning the silver medal at the Coupe des Alpes in St. Gervais, France and the gold at the Nebelhorn Trophy in Oberstdorf, West Germany. However, year after year at the Japanese Championships he found himself just narrowly missing a spot on the World team. "Four years in a row is a really long time... I wanted to move up," he told Libby Slater in an interview in the Fall 1979 issue of the "Canadian Skater" magazine. The icing on the cake came in 1977. After a superb free skate at that year's Japanese Championships in Tokyo, the judges yet again had him in third behind Minoru Sano and Mitsuru Matsumura. It was the third year in a row and the sting of losing the opportunity to represent his country in his home city at the World Championships that year was bitter.

In the end, there was a silver lining. At the 1977 World Championships, U.S. Assistant World Team Leader George Yonokura introduced Fumio to legendary American coach Frank Carroll. In no time flat, he put his schooling at the Keio University in Minato on hiatus and headed to Los Angeles, California to train alongside World Champion Linda Fratianne. In 1979, Carroll explained, "He needed a little bit of refinement. He's a very artistic skater anyway, and I don't think he'd ever had a teacher who's danced or done a lot of show business things before - movement, visual things. I think what he needed was that refinement; taking elements and making them not just artistic, but right. He also needed better choreography. The program he had when he came to me was hokey and unsophisticated." Under Carroll's expert tutelage, Fumio trained six hours a day in the mornings, five days a week. He didn't do off-ice training, instead spending his afternoons shopping, taking flying lessons, roller skating and like Toller Cranston (one of his idols) painting.

The move paid off in dividends. He won his first Japanese title in Kyoto in 1978, landing triple Lutzes in both programs. His win finally assured him a spot on the World team. At the 1978 World Championships in Ottawa he placed an impressive seventh, receiving scores in the free skate that were higher than Vladimir Kovalev, the reigning Olympic Silver Medallist. The following year, he won back-to-back gold medals at the Rotary Watches International and Skate Canada ahead of Americans David Santee and Charlie Tickner, both times coming from behind after the school figures with free skating performances jam packed with difficult triple jumps.

Without a doubt, figures were consistently Fumio's downfall. Frank Carroll intimated that the issue came down to focus: "He can do figures quite well but we have a little problem with consistency: when the time comes he doesn't perform them as well. He really has to work on a self-hypnotic kind of concentration - narrowing his mind down to concentrate on just what he's supposed to do, cutting out all distractions. He does that for free skating. He goes off into a trance and he goes out there and skates very well."

Fumio's fifteen minutes of fame seemed to be up quickly when, at the 1979 Japanese Championships in Tokyo, he lost his Japanese title in a close battle with Matsumura. "It was strange, but at the time I felt like I'd really won. Maybe it's because I had confidence in my skating," said a frustrated Fumio that year. After a disappointing performance in the school figures at the 1979 World Championships, he rallied back with an exceptional free skate to move up to sixth, a placement higher than his effort the year before. His effort was so well received by the usually reserved Viennese crowd that they audibly booed his low scores. Upon his return to North America, he headed to Canada to skate alongside Brian Pockar, Janet Morrissey, Lorna Wighton and John Dowding in the Minto Follies. His cowboy exhibition program was one of the biggest hits of the show.

After finishing second ahead of David Santee and Scott Hamilton at the 1979 NHK Trophy at the Mekomandi Ice Arena in Sapporo, Fumio reclaimed his National title in 1980. In doing so, he earned a coveted spot on the 1980 Japanese Olympic team. Unfortunately, in Lake Placid, he placed an unlucky thirteenth in the school figures, all but eliminating any chance of competing with the top tier of skaters. The exact same thing happened at the World Championships in Dortmund, West Germany. Again, unlucky thirteenth in the figures, he finished out of the top five at both events.

Fumio seriously contemplated quitting but driven by a passion for competition, he began working with Italian coach Carlo Fassi. In the autumn of 1980, he finished third behind Brian Pockar and Scott Hamilton at St. Ivel in England (beating Hamilton in the free skate) and first at the NHK Trophy in Sapporo ahead of Robert Wagenhoffer and Allen Schramm. After defending his Japanese title in Tokyo, he headed to the 1981 World Championships in Hartford, Connecticut, where he finished second in the short program, but dropped to fourth overall after taking two tumbles in the free skate.

Despite winning a second NHK title in the autumn of 1981 and his fourth and final Japanese title in early 1982, Fumio's swan song from the amateur ranks was unfortunately a disappointing one. After placing ahead of Brian Orser, Jozef Sabovčík and Alexandr Fadeev in the school figures at the World Championships in Copenhagen, he turned in two disappointing performances in the short program and free skate to end the event in a dismal ninth place.

Photo courtesy Radiko Co.

Fumio promptly turned professional, making his debut in the Labatt's ProSkate series in Canada, defeating his idol Toller Cranston in events held in both Edmonton and Vancouver that spring. "I was kind of lucky. I didn't expect to be first, with so many good show skaters against me," he modestly admitted in an interview with Carole Stafford in "Canadian Skater" magazine. Fumio's professional career would be short lived. He returned to Japan, finished his four-year business and accounting program at the Keio University and worked for an advertising agency. He moonlighted as a skating commentator for NHK, covering several Winter Olympic Games and World Championships for the same television station who sponsored the popular international competition he won twice back-to-back during his competitive career. In 1998, he penned a 'behind the scenes' book about the sport. He retired from commentary work around the time that the IJS system was gaining steam and was appointed as the NHK Trophy's competition chair for a time. He now runs an owl cafe in Tokyo, proving that the ambition to try new things never leaves you, whether you're skating or not.

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 1972 U.S. Figure Skating Championships

Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine

Don McLean's "American Pie" topped the music charts, Richard Nixon was America's President and young people from Burbank to Brooklyn were busy playing with their brand new Etch-A-Sketches and "Operation" board games. The year was 1972, and from January 13 to 16, a who's who of figure skating gathered in Long Beach, California for the 1972 U.S. Figure Skating Championships. With spots on the Sapporo Olympic team on the line, the stakes couldn't have been higher. The event, sponsored by the Los Angeles Figure Skating Club, marked the first time since 1963 that the city had played host to America's Nationals. The event was held at the eleven thousand, two hundred seat Long Beach Arena, with tickets going for between a dollar and fifty cents and five dollars. Although the rules surrounding amateurism were still extremely stringent, at the USFSA's fall executive committee meeting in October 1971 in Chicago, a sum of twenty one thousand dollars was approved as a donation to the USFSA Memorial Fund, with one hundred and fifty dollars dispersed to each skater competing in Long Beach to defray "living, training and travel expenses". During the Opening Ceremonies of the event, the San Diego Figure Skating Club Drill Team gave three performances, marking one of the first times a precision team would appear at the U.S. Championships.

Al Beard introducing an accountant to 'Hal'. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine.

One of the unsung heroes of the competition was 'Hal' the Honeywell time-saving computer, the brainchild of Al Beard of the Minnesota based Minneapolis-Honeywell Company. Interestingly, the USFSA's rules at the time didn't officially permit the use of computers to tabulate results, so all of the printouts from 'Hal' had to be labelled "unofficial" although they proved to be absolutely correct and were printed long before the results were tabulated by hand. Let's take a look back at all of the excitement from this interesting event from years past!


Robin Joy Wagner of the Skating Club Of New York - the future coach of Olympic Gold Medallist Sarah Hughes - narrowly won the school figures in the novice women's event. However, the top three skaters were extremely close. With a fine free skate, Kim McIsaaac of the South Bay Figure Skating Club swapped places with Wagner in the final standings. The silver medal went to Roberta Loughland of the Arctic Blades Figure Skating Club. In a three-two split of the judging panel, Loughland's training mate David Kirby took top honours in the novice men's event. Kingsford Swan, a talented young skater of colour from the Commonwealth Figure Skating Club, was hampered by a poor showing in the figures and placed only seventh overall. 

Santa Monica's Michelle McCladdie and Richard Ewell III unanimously won the junior pairs event, making history as the first skaters of colour to win a pairs title at the U.S. Championships. Ewell included a solo double Axel in their program. Giving few clues as to their future success in the sport, 1980 Olympians Sheryl Franks and Michael Botticelli placed dead last. 

Michelle Ford and Glenn Parriott. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine.

In another three-two judging panel split, Michelle Ford and Glenn Parriott of Phoenix took top honours in the junior (Silver) dance event. Second after figures to John Carlow Jr., 1971 U.S. novice men's champion Terry Kubicka dazzled the crowd with an athletic performance that ended with a double Axel and blur spin. He earned a standing ovation, the U.S. junior men's title, and first place marks from four of the five judges. A fall in the free skate from 1970 U.S. novice champion Laurie Brandel  allowed Wendy Burge to expand upon her slim lead in the figures and win the junior women's title. Her free skate was set to selections by Giacomo Puccini and Alexander Glazunov.


JoJo Starbuck and Ken Shelley

As expected, two time and defending champions JoJo Starbuck and Ken Shelley easily won the compulsory pairs program, landing side-by-side double Salchows in their effort set to "Swan Lake". Although they drew first to skate in the free skate, they skated lights out, earned a standing ovation and first place marks from all seven judges. 

Siblings Melissa and Mark Militano, who placed second, included a throw double Axel and side-by-side double Axels and a split double twist in their free program and earned a standing ovation of their own. Though their program was lyrical and jam-packed with technical content, they perhaps lacked the speed and unison of the champions. Skating to "Scheherazade", the Militano's stood out not only with their tricks but with their costumes. Instead of donning the stretch bodysuits that were in vogue at the time, Melissa wore an orchid dress and Mark a blue silk jersey pleasant top and pants. Following the event, Mark told Associated Press reporters, "I gain self-satisfaction through [skating] the same way a painter does by painting or a dancer by dancing... I don't skate for any damn judges. I skate for myself. We had nothing to lose. If you're second, you might as well be last."

Barbara Brown and Doug Berndt took the bronze medal. The three teams had finished in the exact same order at the 1971 U.S. Championships in Buffalo, and it was the first time since 1950 that the same three teams stood on the pairs podium at the U.S. Championships in the same order for two consecutive years.


After the Viennese Waltz, Kilian, Quickstep and Samba OSP, four time and defending champions Judy Schwomeyer and Jim Sladky held an almost insurmountable lead. Though Jim made two small slips in the free dance, they still won that phase of the competition, making history as the first ice dance team to win five consecutive U.S. titles.

Ann and Skip Millier

Philadelphia's Ann and Skip Millier took the silver, ahead of Mary Karen Campbell and Johnny Johns. Johns was a busy skater in Long Beach, skating 'double duty' in senior pairs with Laura Johnson. 

Jane Pankey and Richard Horne. Photos courtesy Rochester Institute Of Technology Archives, "Skate" magazine.

The team who finished fifth, Jane Pankey and Richard Horne of the Skating Club of Wilmington, were two-time World Roller Dance Champions.


John 'Misha' Petkevich completing a school figure in Long Beach. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine.

Surprisingly, the senior men's school figures drew a large audience which loudly applauded after each contender solemnly traced each of their six figures. At the conclusion of the initial phase, defending champion John 'Misha' Petkevich of Great Falls, Montana held a slight lead over Ken Shelley. Returning to his much-loved "Espana Cani" program, Petkevich somewhat struggled in the free skate, two-footing a triple loop and falling on a triple Salchow. Shelley, in contrast, skated brilliantly, landing three double Axels and wowing the crowd with his acrobatic Russian split jumps. Although Petkevich received 5.9's from more than one judge despite his errors, Shelley took the gold medal with first place ordinals from four of the seven judges.

Gordon McKellen Jr.

Gordon McKellen Jr. of Lake Placid placed third, ahead of San Diego's John Baldwin, who received one first place ordinal. Junior pairs champion Richard Ewell III placed seventh, one spot ahead of a young David Santee. Following the event, Petkevich told Associated Press reporters, "I made a couple of crucial mistakes in technique that pretty well tells the story. I'm by no means finished. I still have the Olympics and the World Championships [but] this is the precise reason I never wanted to quit school to devote full time to skating. There are too many other experiences in life." Shelley, who became the first man since Eugene Turner in 1941 to win U.S. titles in two disciplines in the same year said, "I just can't believe it!"


Fittingly dressed in gold, Tulsa's Julie Lynn Holmes took the lead over three time and defending champion Janet Lynn in the school figures. Although she drew an unlucky first in the starting order for the free skate, Lynn skated almost flawlessly, electrifying the crowd with her otherworldly style and seamlessly integrated technical content.

Like Lynn, Holmes landed the double Axel in her program, but appeared somewhat cautious in comparison. Lynn won the title with unanimous first place votes, ahead of Holmes and 1971 Bronze Medallist Suna Murray of the Skating Club of New York. Fifteen year old Dorothy Hamill, sick as a dog with the flu, finished fourth and narrowly missed a spot on the U.S. Olympic team.

Janet Lynn and John 'Misha' Petkevich

In her book "A Skating Life: My Story", Dorothy Hamill recalled, "One judge had me in thirteenth place, because she didn't like my footwork. That was a new one for me. I didn't know my footwork was so hopeless. I was hurt by the judge's comment, but I was in a subjective sport and that came with the territory. I was happy I had skated as well as I had, so the defeat wasn't devastating when it happened. It was a couple weeks later, when I got my strength back, that it hit me. Another judge had said to my mother, 'I wish I had known Dorothy had been so sick,' implying he would have placed me third if he had known I could not possibly be skating my best." Following the event, Janet Lynn told a reporter from "The Milwaukee Journal', "I don't skate for points. I skate for the love of skating." 

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":