The 1952 World Figure Skating Championships

Elizabeth II was just beginning her reign as Queen after the death of her father King George VI. Turkey and Greece had just joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. There was a nation-wide protest in what is now Bangladesh, after police opened fire on a procession of students. Millions of film-goers lined up to see Cecil B. Demille's picture "The Greatest Show On Earth" and Kay Starr's "Wheel Of Fortune" blared on record players.

The year was 1952 and from February 27 to March 1, the world's best figure skaters gathered in Paris, France for the World Figure Skating Championships. The post-Olympic Worlds were held at the historic eighteen thousand seat Palais des Sports, known to locals as the Vel d'Hiv because it had been built as a velodrome (cycle racing track). The rink had a morbid history. During World War II, when the Nazis occupied Paris, it had been used to hold Jewish prisoners before they were shipped off to the concentration camp at Drancy and the extermination camp at Auschwitz.

Photo courtesy Elaine Hooper, BIS Archive

Most of the skaters and officials who had been at the Olympics in Oslo flew directly to Paris on commercial flights. Others who hadn't been at the Games trained in Switzerland prior to the event and arrived by train. Notably absent was Jeannette Altwegg. She'd made her mind up to retire long before winning a gold medal in Oslo and was already back in Liverpool sipping tea with her mother by the time the competition got underway in France. Let's take a look back at how things played out on the ice in Paris that year.


Joan Dewhirst and John Slater. Photo courtesy "Skating World" magazine.

When the ISU first held an international ice dancing competition in conjunction with the World Championships in England in 1950, an American couple had emerged as the surprise victors. Lois Waring and Michael McGean arrived in Paris as medal contenders but during a pre-event practice, Lois took a nasty fall in practice, hitting her head and spraining her left arm. They were forced to pull out. Their withdrawal paved the way for an interesting showdown between British Champions Joan Dewhirst and Joan Slater and the winners of the international dance event at the 1951 Worlds in Milan, Jean Westwood and Lawrence Demmy. Though Westwood and Demmy were perhaps the favourites, Demmy had stitches in one of his feet.

The draw for the starting order for the compulsory dances divided the ten couples into two groups - one to five and six to ten. Couples one and six started the first dance; couples two and seven the second and so on. As was the fashion at the time, the teams were all on the ice performing the dances at the same time. The formula the ISU used to select the compulsories was to pick an 'easy' dance, a waltz, a fast dance and a slow dance - in this case the Rocker Foxtrot, Westminster Waltz, Quickstep and Argentine Tango. Canada had a judge, Norman V.S. Gregory, even though a Canadian dance team wasn't entered.

Jean Westwood and Lawrence Demmy. Photo courtesy "Skating World" magazine.

All seven judges had Westwood and Demmy first over Dewhirst and Slater in the compulsories, though only four points separated the two British teams. Third went to the American husband/wife team of Carmel and Ed Bodel, who had won the 1951 North American Championships in Calgary.

Jean Westwood and Lawrence Demmy became the first official World Champions in ice dance with a precise and flowing performance befitting of gold. All but the Swiss judge, who preferred Dewhirst and Slater, had them first, though less than two points separated the teams in the free dance. Washington, D.C's Carol Ann Peters and Danny Ryan moved up from fourth to take the bronze over the Bodel's with a jazzy free dance. In fifth were Lydia Boon and Adrian Van Dam of Holland. They were one of two Dutch teams competing in Paris - an unexpected surprise as Holland didn't exactly have a strong dancing tradition. To this day, their finish is the highest ever by a Dutch dance team in a major ISU Championship. Jean Westwood recalled that after winning, she remembered "standing center ice with the Union Jack flying and the anthem playing. It made up for not going to Olympics."

In her report in "Skating" magazine, Theresa Weld Blanchard recalled, "The crowd loved the fact that both British teams bowed to each other after bowing to the crowd, both at the beginning and end the end. Over here, each competitor or couple goes to the center of the rink and bows to the spectators on each side before beginning and again at the finish - girls curtsey. The national flag of each contestant is raised at the end of the rink with a spotlight on it and a fan blowing it out; that is lowered after about two minutes of the program to be ready for the next contestant's flag... The top two couples from Great Britain, who placed first and second, danced with a flowing, undulatory stroke which enabled them to incorporate interpretive characteristics to a great degree. Their compulsory performance, from a standpoint of technique, indicated that they strive to conform with the standards for accuracy and placement which are prescribed under the current dance rules. The unison of the champions was a noticeable feature of their dancing. Their relaxed, free flowing edges and carriage gave them a distinctive and pleasing style... The enthusiastic and prolonged response of the capacity audience which witnessed the dance finals is indicative of the widespread appeal of ice dancing in the world sport events."


Ria Baran and Paul Falk

To the surprise of very few, the West German husband and wife team of Ria (Baran) and Paul Falk received unanimous first place marks from the judges in the pairs, receiving marks ranging from 5.3 to 5.8. They were the defending Olympic, World and European titleholders and were an outstanding couple. Theresa Weld Blanchard remarked, "Some judges think they do not have enough contents but they skate so beautifully and have such marvellous lifts that it is a joy to watch. Ria had on a stunning dress - plain black velvet with lovely lines and a lot of white heavy embroidery and rhinestones on the shoulders and sleeves. Paul is strong, yet graceful, and acts so courteously throughout the pair that it dresses it up a lot." The Falk's started skating in Dortmund at the ages of thirteen and fourteen, and teamed up less than a year later because they both hated doing figures. During the War, the couple trained at the Berlin Sportpalast. Ria worked as a secretary there; Paul was an engineer at the Berlin autobahn. They were unable to compete in post-War international skating events due to a several year ISU ban on German athletes. Ria was skating against doctor's orders after falling on a lift and injuring her back. They were completely self-taught and Ria sewed all of their costumes herself.

Jennifer and John Nicks. Photo courtesy BIS Archive.

American siblings Karol and Peter Kennedy took the silver with five second place ordinals. However, they skated a less than perfect performance, which was reflected in the marks which went as low as 5.0 for manner of performance. Peter stumbled two minutes into the program and they missed one of their lifts. Canadians Frances Dafoe and Norris Bowden had four second place ordinals but the bronze went to British siblings Jennifer and John Nicks because six of the nine judges placed them third or better. The American and Dutch judges had Dafoe and Bowden fifth and sixth. Jacqueline Mason and Mervyn Bower, who placed ninth out of the ten teams, made history as the first Australian pair to compete at Worlds.

Karol and Peter Kennedy. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine.

The big story surrounding the pairs event in Paris involved Peter Kennedy, his father and a member of the French press. The February 28, 1952 issue of "The Seattle Daily Times" reported, "Dr. Michael Kennedy of Seattle and his son were involved in a fist fight with a French news cameraman tonight at the World Figure Skating Championship and were separated by police. The incident came as Peter and his sister, Karol, had left the ice after finishing their pair-skating routine. As they left the ice, Karol stepped to the side of the rink and sat down to catch her breath. Dr. Kennedy said he asked the photographer not to take her picture because she was crying, but the picture was made anyway. In the melee that followed, the doctor's glasses were broken and the cameraman received a bloody nose. The police stepped in. The Kennedys hurried from the Sports Palace by a rear door and were taken to their hotel. Peter and Karol didn't wait to change to their street clothes." In the months that followed, the ISU had its Congress and the USFSA its Annual General Meeting. It came out that in addition to the incident in Paris, Karol and Peter had also skated an exhibition without a proper sanction in Garmisch-Partenkirchen following the World Championships. The incident in question was a performance for American G.I.'s during a Bavarian skating competition, arranged by the U.S. military. Their father believed the German sponsors had applied for a sanction from the ISU, but they hadn't. Newspapers reported the exhibition as being the reason for their suspension, but the USFSA and ISU also acknowledged the incident in Paris. The story put out at the time was they'd chosen to turn professional.


Twenty two year old Harvard student Dick Button, the two-time Olympic Gold Medallist and reigning World Champion, was the overwhelming favourite in Paris. In his book "Dick Button On Skates", he recalled, "When I flew from Oslo to Paris for the World Championships, I went as a different person. I had taken the Olympic competition much too seriously. To put myself back in proper perspective, to remember how to laugh at myself, was the first job on hand. Aldus Chapin, a roommate from Harvard, had flown over to see the championships, and together we enjoyed all the attractions that Paris had to offer. My training went out the window. I skated only two hours a day, and while Dad was visibly annoyed at the late hours I was keeping only seven days before a World Championship, Mother kept replenishing my ever dwindling supply of funds with a wink of her eye and a gentle warning that the competitions were soon. I needed that relaxation, and when I won the world title, it was with a better performance than would have resulted with consistent training."

On his way to winning his final World title, Dick Button unanimously won the school figures. He was followed by Austria's Hellmut Seibt and Americans Dudley Richards and Jimmy Grogan. Theresa Weld Blanchard remarked, "It seemed that the men did not skate as well as at Oslo, except Dudley Richards, who is the only one 'hot' for this event. It proves that it is practically impossible to keep at a peak. They all trained hard in Oslo and the let down afterwards, doing practically no skating until Paris, where there is very little ice and all had to use it. Jimmy Grogan had an especially bad day and did a poor rocker and loop... The Iron Curtain entries did not show up and neither did the judges so they took off the German judge as the German entry, Freimut Stein, had withdrawn, and used only seven judges."

Dick Button and Jacqueline du Bief

Thirteen thousand spectators showed up to watch the men's free skate, which Dick Button unanimously won. He received seven 5.9's, six 5.8's and one 5.7. Hayes Alan Jenkins and Jimmy Grogan were two-three in the free and overall but over points behind Dick Button, with Hellmut Seibt and Dudley Richards dropping down to fourth and fifth. Canada's only entry, Peter Firstbrook, placed seventh overall - a disappointment considering he'd finished a strong fourth in Oslo at the Olympics.


With Jeannette Altwegg out of the picture, the women's event in Paris was a highly anticipated battle between France's Jacqueline du Bief and three talented Americans - Long Island, New York's Sonya Klopfer, Newton Center, Massachusetts' Tenley Albright and Detroit, Michigan's Ginny Baxter. In Oslo, Albright had won the silver and du Bief the bronze. Klopfer had beaten du Bief in the figures but placed fourth overall. Baxter had finished fifth, but won the free skate.

Tenley Albright. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine.

In the school figures, twenty year old Jacqueline du Bief had first place marks from five of the nine judges and led by over ten points. Three judges, including the American Alex J. Krupy, voted for eighteen year old Tenley Albright. The Swiss judge had Sonya Klopfer first. Neither du Bief and Albright was perfect - Albright was off axis on the double three-change-double three and Jacqueline's turns weren't all clean. What won it for her was the final figure, the bracket-change-bracket.

Prior to the free skate, the announcement was made that Tenley Albright was forced to withdraw due to a bronchial infection. Albright's withdrawal, coupled with the fact that Jacqueline du Bief had won the figures and that she was stronger in free skating, put a great deal of pressure and expectations on the French star. In her book "Thin Ice", she recalled, "How long that afternoon seemed, waiting for the final test and trying to relax! And how long, too, the performances of the competitors who preceded me before the judges! I had awaited this evening for years; I had imagined it a thousand times - brilliant, luminous and magnificent. It had always seemed to me that 'that day' the world would look different; that my skating, my life, and I, myself, would suddenly become changed in some way. Had I imagined too much - had I expected too much, or was it simply that I was too tired? I don't know, but when the microphone announced that I had won, when a few bars of the Marseillaise fell on a Palais des Sports suddenly become tense and silent, a strange emptiness came over me and I felt disappointed. No - the world was not rocking. No - nothing seemed changed, and in the centre of this shouting and excited crowd, I was still only the young girl of yesterday, only a skater whose legs were heavy with fatigue and whose trembling hands hardly seemed able to hold up the enormous crystal cup that was presented to me. Nothing was different from yesterday. I had not changed my skin!"

Theresa Weld Blanchard called the event thusly: "The rink was well packed with a most enthusiastic crowd, and they cheered just as hard for the last girl as the first - not to mention expressing themselves violently when they did not think a judge had given sufficiently high marks. The girls made a very colourful picture warming up and I have seldom seen a collection of such nice looking young girls - many of them really extremely lovely... Of the middle eight - those on top in figures - Marlene Smith led off and looked lovely in a pale blue dress with sequins, simply cut with lovely lines; it was most becoming with her long blonde hair. She did extremely well. Sonya Klopfer came next; she wore her green chiffon, which must be her lucky dress for she skated as well as I have ever seen her... Sue Morrow wore a white chiffon dress, most striking, with beads on the sleeves and waist. She started very well but caught her toe, it seemed, and fell hard on her chest; she recovered well and got going again only to have another fall at the end, so her total performance was not up to her high standard. Valda Osborn wore a dark purply-red velvet with matching sequins on the skurt and little cap; she skated a nice program. Barbara Wyatt wore plain black and did very well... Jacqueline du Bief skates surely, lightly and gracefully, and is lovely to watch. She has some over-theatrical moves, but being French they seem appropriate. She has an artistic style bordering on the ballet... Ginny Baxter skated right after Jacqueline and did extremely well, with every jump and spin efficiently executed.. She wore her red dress which is so effective with its white underskirt and pants... The French spectators loved every minute of it and cheered and clapped each girl."

Left: Jacqueline du Bief. Right: Dick Button and Jacqueline du Bief. Photos courtesy "Skating" magazine.

Jacqueline du Bief's win came with first place marks from seven of the nine judges, including the American judge. The Italian judge voted for Ginny Baxter and the French judge tied Baxter and du Bief. Because she was only fifth in figures, Baxter had to settle for the bronze. The silver went to Sonya Dunfield, who had placed third in figures. Canada's three entries - Suzanne Morrow, Marlene Smith and Vevi Smith - placed fourth, seventh and tenth. Great Britain's top woman, Barbara Wyatt of Brighton, placed fifth, but received ordinals ranging from fourth to sixteenth in the free skate.


As it happened, Barbara Wyatt's wide-ranging marks in the free skate were nothing compared to the controversy surrounding Jacqueline du Bief's win in her home country. At the Olympics in Oslo, she'd skated brilliantly. In Paris, she had a fall on the double Lutz. Despite this, the German judge (Peter Gross) gave her a perfect mark of 6.0 for manner of performance. Dick Button recalled, "Out of a possible perfect score of six, he gave a six. Despite the fact that this skater had fallen down, he had given her a perfect score. Had he given it to her in contents, the judge could have justified himself by approving her music, the layout of her program and so forth. But to give a perfect mark for a 'performance' in which the skater fell down was just incredible; had the judge merely wished to place her first, he could have done so with almost any other mark by judging the others consistently with the standard he placed on her performance... The crowd was emotional, the judge was a German voting in Paris at a time when political tempers were flaring, and there was no adequate check on his action at that time. Whether or not there was any direct connection between these factors and that mark can be surmised by the reader as well as the writer, but it is interesting to note that the resulting criticism, although directed against that particular judge, also reflected the general dissatisfaction with the system of marking that permitted such an incident."

The closing banquet was scheduled for eleven thirty at night on the closing day of the competition, but it didn't even start until one in the morning. The Champagne Veuve Clicquot and Moët et Chandon had already been flowing for hours, which made the speeches particularly entertaining. The women were all given bottles of French perfume and everyone received a glass vase on a stand marked with 'Paris' and the date. At one point, the lights were dimmed and waiters brought in the pièce de résistance: a block of ice carved into the shape of a skate with lights inside, served with ice cream on the footplate of a real skate. It was a fabulous finale to a fabulous week 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 figure skating reference books "The Almanac of Canadian Figure Skating", "Technical Merit: A History of Figure Skating Jumps" and "A Bibliography of Figure Skating":

Trailblazers: The First Skaters From Each Country To Compete At The World Championships

The Great Globe at Swanage on the Isle of Purbeck in Dorset, England. Photo courtesy Library of Congress.

Over the years, the skating world has duly given great recognition to the men and women who made history at the World Figure Skating Championships. Ulrich Salchow, Sonja Henie and Irina Rodnina won an incredible ten World titles. In 1962, Donald Jackson became the first skater to land a triple Lutz at the Worlds in Prague. In 1978, Vern Taylor was the first man to land a triple Axel at the Worlds in Ottawa; eleven years later in Paris Midori Ito became the first woman to do so. Under IJS, history has been made by groundbreaking skaters like Yuzuru Hanyu, who became the first skater to earn over three hundred points and Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, the first ice dance team to receive a perfect 10.0 for program components. These milestones - and so, so many others - are part of the very fabric of our sport's rich history, but today I want to explore a part of skating history that has been sadly overlooked... the first skaters in each discipline to represent their country at the World Championships.

A couple of notes about this list:

- Skaters who withdrew either before or during the the World Championships are not included, but skaters who were eliminated mid-way due to a qualifying round, short program cut-off, etc. are.
- There are a lot (!) of firsts that are open to debate or have caveats, which are marked with a *, **, etc.
- The ice dance team who is slated to make history in Montpelier as the first from their country is included presumptively. Wondering who they are? Check out the listing for New Zealand! 


Horatio Tertuliano Torromé (1902)*

*Horatio Tertuliano Torromé actually represented Great Britain at the 1902 World Championships, but he represented Argentina in the 1908 Summer Olympic Games. Horatio was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to an Argentine mother and Brazilian father but emigrated to England during the Victorian era. If 'you count him', he was also the first South American skater to compete at the Worlds. Technically, the first skater to represent Argentina at Worlds was Denis Margalik in 2016, who was born in Buenos Aires to Ukrainian parents but lived and trained in Canada.


Aramayis Grigorian (1996)
Julia Lebedeva (2000)
Maria Krasiltseva and Alexander Chestnikh (1997)
Kaho Koinuma and Tigran Arakekian (1995)


Dunbar Poole (1911)*
Patricia Molony (1947)
Jacqueline Mason and Mervyn Bower (1952)
Liane Telling and Michael Fisher (1984)

*Dunbar Poole was born in Northern Ireland and emigrated to Australia during the Edwardian era. Though he had no Swedish roots whatsoever, he accept an invitation to represent the Stockholms Allmanna Skridskoklubb, which he held a membership with, at the World Championships in 1911. The first man to actually represent Australia was Melbourne's Reg Park in 1950.


Gustav Hügel (1896)
Jenny Herz (1906)
Helene Engelmann and Karl Mejstrik, Christa von Szabo and Leo Horwitz (1913)*
Ilse Reitmayer and Hans Kutschera, Paulin Haffner and Herbert Huber (1952)**

*Mizzi and Otto Bohatsch and Christa von Szabó and Gustav Euler represented Austria in the international pairs event held in conjunction with the 1903 World Championships.
**Helga Binder and Edwin Fuhrich, Pauline Haffner and Herbert Huber, Trude Letner and Rudolf Gregorin, Ilse Reitmayer and Willy Behringer represented Austria at the international ice dancing competition held at the 1951 World Championships.


Igor Lioutikov (1994)
Yulia Vorobieva (1994)
Natalia Krestianinova and Alexei Torchinski (1994)
Olga Pershankova and Nikolai Morozov (1994)


Alexander Murashko (1993)
Inna Ovsiannikova (1993)
Elena Grigoreva and Sergei Sheiko (1993)
Tatiana Navka and Samvel Gezalian (1993)


Robert van Zeebroeck. Photo courtesy Bibliothèque nationale de France.

Robert van Zeebroeck (1926)
Yvonne de Ligne (1929)
Suzanne Diskeuve and Edmond Verbustel, Micheline Lannoy and Pierre Baugniet (1947)
Karen and Douglas Mankovich (1981)*

*Suzanne Gheldolf and Jacques Renard represented Belgium at the international ice dancing competition held at the 1951 World Championships.


Damjan Ostojič (2009)
Nina Bates (2004)
Ana Galitch and Andrei Griazev (2000)


Kevin Alves (2009)
Stacey Perfetti (2009)


Boyko Aleksiev (1986)
Petya Gavazova (1985)
Rumiana Spassova and Stanimir Todorov (2005)
Hristina Boyanova and Iavor Ivanov (1983)


Montgomery 'Bud' Wilson. Photo courtesy City of Toronto Archives.

Montgomery 'Bud' Wilson (1928)
Constance Wilson (1928)
Maude Smith and Jack Eastwood (1928)
Lindis and Jeffery Johnston (1955)


Wang Zhili (1980)
Liu Zhiying (1980)
Luan Bo and Yao Bin (1980)
Liu Luyang and Zhao Xiaolei (1985)


David Liu (1988)
Pauline Lee (1986)
Amanda and Darryl Sunyoto-Yang (2009)
Yucca Liu and Jim Sun (1988)


Tomislav Čižmešija (1992)
Željka Čižmešija (1992)
Amy Ireland and Michael Bahoric (2008)
Kamilla Szolnoki and Dejan Illes (2001)


Josef Slíva. Photo courtesy Czech National Museum.

Josef Slíva (1925)
Eva Nyklová, Zdenka Porgesova (1939)
Else and Oscar Hoppe (1925)
Eva Romanová and Pavel Roman (1962)


Jaroslav Suchý (1993)
Kateřina Beránková, Lenka Kulovaná (1994)
Radka Kovaříková and René Novotný (1994)
Radmila Chroboková and Milan Brzý (1993)


Emilea Zingas (2021)


Per Cock-Clausen (1938)
Esther Bornstein (1934)
Kaetlyn Good and Nikolaj Sørensen (2010)


Roman Martonenko (1993)
Olga Vassiljeva (1992)
Jekaterina Nekrassova and Valdis Mintals (1995)
Anna Mosenkova and Dmitri Kurakin (1994)


Anna-Lisa Allardt. Photo courtesy Sveriges Centralförening för Idrottens Främjande Archive.

Björnsson Schauman (1914)
Anna Lisa Allardt (1913)
Ludovika and Walter Jakobsson (1910)
Saila Saarinen and Kim Jacobson (1982)


Jean Henrion (1927)
Gaby Clericetti, Jeanine Garanger, Jacqueline Vaudecrane (1936)
Anita del Monte and Louis Magnus (1912)
Fanny Besson and Jean-Paul Guhel, Claude Weinstein and Claude Lambert (1955)


Bessaron Tsintsadze (1993)
Elene Gedevanishvili (2006)
Evgenia Filonenko and Alexander Chestnikh (2000)
Tatiana Siniaver and Tornike Tukvadze (2003)


Gilbert Fuchs (1896)
Elsa Rendschmidt (1906)
Anna Hübler and Heinrich Burger (1908)**
Jennifer Goolsbee and Hendryk Schamberger, Saskia Stahler and Sven Authorsen (1991)

*These skaters listed represented all represented a unified Germany. The first East German skaters to compete at Worlds were Bodo Bockenauer, Gaby Seyfert and Irene Müller and Hans-Georg Dallmer in 1962. The first East German pairs team at Worlds was Annerose Baier and Eberhard Rüger in 1965. The first West German skaters to compete at Worlds were Freimut Stein, Gundi Busch, Helga Dudzinski, Inge Jell, Erika Kraft, Ria Baran and Paul Falk, Inge Minor and Hermann Braun, Marlies Schrör and Hans Schwarz and 1951. The first West German dance team to compete at Worlds were
Sigrid Knake and Günther Koch in 1955.
**Hedwig (Müller) Weingartner and Martin Gordan represented Germany in the international pairs competition held in conjunction with the 1902 World Championships.


Madge Syers

H. Charles Holt (1898)
Madge Syers (1902)*
Phyllis and James Henry Johnson (1908)**
Joan Dewhirst and John Slater, Jean Westwood and Lawrence Demmy (1952)***

*Madge Syers was the first British woman to compete at the World Championships, in the men's event in 1902. At the international women's competition held in conjunction with the 1905 World Championships, Great Britain was represented by Muriel Harrison, Mrs. Kellie and Bella McKinnan. At the 1906 International Championship For Ladies, later deemed by the ISU as the first official World Championships for women, the British representatives were Madge Syers and Dorothy Greenhough Smith.
**Madge and Edgar Syers represented Great Britain in the international pairs competition held in conjunction with the 1902 World Championships.
***Gladys Duddell and French Brewster won an informal waltzing competition held in conjunction with the 1902 World Championships. Julie and William Barrett, Joan Chessman and George Bellchamber and Sybil Cooke and Robert S. Hudson represented Great Britain at the international ice dancing competition held at the 1950 World Championships.


Harris Halta (1993)
Lefki Terzaki (1994)
Elaine Asanakis and Mark Naylor (1992)
Christa-Elizabeth Goulakos and Eric Neumann-Aubichon (2007)


Wouter Touledo (1963)
Alida Elisabeth Stoppelman (1951)
Daria Danilova and Michel Tsiba (2021)
Lydia Boon and Aadrian van Dam, Catharina and Jacobus Odink (1952)*

*Catharina and Jacobus Odink represented Holland at the international ice dancing competition held at the 1951 World Championships


Cheukfai Lai (1985)
Shuk-Ching Ngai (1985)
Shuk-Ching Ngai and Kwokyung Mak (1985)


Lili Kronberger. Photo courtesy Sveriges Centralförening för Idrottens Främjande Archive.

Andor Szende (1910)
Lili Kronberger (1906)*
Olga Orgonista and Sándor Szalay, Emília Rotter and László Szollás (1929)
Györgyi Korda and Pál Vásárhelyi (1962)

*Lili Kronberger also represented Sweden in the international women's event held in conjunction with the 1905 World Championships.


Ami Parekh (2007)


Clara Peters (2009)


Michael Shmerkin (1993)
Daria Zuravicky (2001)
Julia Shapiro and Vadim Akolzin (2004)
Tamara Ruby and Konstantin Kaplin (1993)


Carlo Fassi (1949)
Fiorella Negro (1954)
Anna (Cattaneo) Dubini and Ercole Cattaneo (1937)
Bona Giammona and Giancarlo Sioli (1955)


Left: Kazuyoshi Oimatsu. Right: Etsuko Inada. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine.

Ryuichi Obitani, Kazuyoshi Oimatsu (1932)
Etsuko Inada (1936)
Mieko Otwa and Yutaka Doke (1962)
Eiko Kaneko and Mikio Takeuchi (1962)


Sergei Umirov (1993)
Jalina Kakadyl (1993)
Marina Khalturina and Andrei Kriukov (1994)
Elizaveta Stekolnikova and Dmitri Kazarlyga (1993)


Konstantin Kostin (1992)
Alma Lepina (1992)
Elena Berezhnaya and Oleg Shliakhov (1993)
Aliki Stergiadu and Juris Razgulaevs (1992)


Vaidotas Juraitis (1994)
Edita Katkauskaite (1992)
Goda Butkutė and Nikita Ermolaev (2016)
Margarita Drobiazko and Povilas Vanagas (1992)


Paul Cechmanek (1975)
Anna Bernauer (2004)


Julian Zhi Jie Yee (2017)


Joaquin Guerrero (1988)
Diana Marcos (1988)
Laura and Luke Munana (2005)


Kim Lucine (2011)
Mérovée Ephrem (2007)


Christopher Blong (1992)
Gay Le Comte (1976)
Charlotte Lafond-Fournier and Richard Kang In Kam* (2022)

*Janna Greene and Alan Wild were the first New Zealand ice dance team entered to compete at the World Championships in 1977, but had to withdraw due to illness.


Kim Myo-sil (1979)
Ri Ji-hyang and Thae Won-hyok (2012)


Margot Moe. Photo courtesy Sveriges Centralförening för Idrottens Främjande Archive.

Oscar Holthe, Johan Peter Lefstad (1897)
Margot Moe (1922)
Mimi Grømer and Karl Erikson, Alexia Schøien and Yngvar Bryn (1909)


Michael Dimalanta (2009)
Lauren Ko (2010)


Alfred Hirv (1939)
Elżbieta Kościk (1963)
Zofia Bilorówna and Tadeusz Kowalski (1934)
Teresa Weyna and Piotr Bojańczyk (1971)


Andrew Huertas (2009)
Victoria Muniz (2008)


Max Bindea (1939)
Marta Chisu (1996)


Nicolai Poduskov, Georg Sanders (1896)
Xenia Caesar (1914)
A.L. Fischer and Lidia Popova (1908)
Oksana Grishuk and Evgeni Platov, Angelika Krylova and Vladimir Fedorov, Maya Usova and Alexander Zhulin (1993)

*These skaters listed represented all represented Russia. The first skaters from the Soviet Union to compete at Worlds were Lev Mikhailov, Igor Persiantsev and Valentin Zakharov, Ludmila Belousova and Oleg Protopopov and Nina and Stanislav Zhuk in 1958. The first women's singles skater from the Soviet Union to compete at Worlds was Tatiana Nemtsova in 1962. The first ice dance team from the Soviet Union to compete at Worlds was Lyudmila Pakhomova and Viktor Ryzhkin.


Marina Seeh (2010)

*These skaters represented Serbia at the World Championships. Trifun Zivanovic and Ksenija Jastsenjski were the first skaters to represent the former Serbia and Montenegro in 2004.


Rastislav Vnučko (1994)
Zaneta Stefanikova (1994)
Olga Beständigová and Jozef Beständig (1998)
Viera Poracova and Pavel Porac (1994)


Jan Čejvan (1993)
Mojca Kopač (1992)


Dino Quattrocecere (1992)
Margaret Betts (1968)
Glenda and Brian O'Shea (1968)
Fiona Kirk and Clinton King (1992)


Han Soo-Bong (1977)
Chang Myung-Su (1972)
Choi Jung-hoo and Lee Yong-min (1992)
Park Kyung-sook and Han Seung-jong (1986)


Darío Villalba Flores (1956)
Gloria Mas (1979)
Laura Barquero and Aritz Maestu (2018)
Sara Hurtado and Adrià Díaz (2011)


Ulrich Salchow. Photo courtesy Sveriges Centralförening för Idrottens Främjande Archive.

Thidolf Borgh, Hugo Carlson, Ulrich Salchow (1897)
Magda Mauroy, Svea Norén (1913)*
Valborg Lindahl and Nils Rosenius, Gertrud Ström and Richard Johansson (1909)**
Ulla Örnmarker and Thomas Svedberg (1982)

*Elna Montgomery, Helga Liljegren and Anna Hamilton represented Sweden in the international women's event held in conjunction with the 1905 World Championships.
**Emmy Sjöberg and Christian Soldan represented Sweden in the international pairs competition held in conjunction with the 1902 World Championships.


Georges Gautschi (1925)
Angela Anderes (1937)
Pierette and Paul Du Bois (1938)
Albertina and Nigel Brown (1952)*

*Albertina and Nigel Brown represented Switzerland at the international ice dancing competition held at the 1951 World Championships


Charuda Upatham (1989)
Alisa Allapach and Peter Kongkasen (2006)


Emrah Polatoglu (1994)
Tuğba Karademir (2003)
Jenette Maitz and Alper Uçar (2010)


Dmitri Dmitrenko (1993)
Oksana Baiul (1993)
Svetlana Pristav and Viacheslav Tkachenko (1993)
Irina Romanova and Igor Yaroshenko (1993)


Beatrix Loughran. Photo courtesy Library of Congress.

Beatrix Loughran (1924)
Nathaniel Niles, Roger Turner (1928)
Beatrix Loughran and Sherwin Badger, Theresa Weld Blanchard and Nathaniel Niles (1928)
Carmel and Ed Bodel, Carol Ann Peters and Danny Ryan (1952)*

*Carmel and Ed Bodel, Irene Maguire and Walter Muehlbronner and Lois Waring and Michael McGean represented the U.S. at the international ice dancing competition held at the 1950 World Championships.


Roman Skorniakov (1997)
Tatiana Malinina (1993)
Nigora Karabaeva and Evgeny Sviridov (1994)
Aliki Stergiadu and Juris Razgulajevs (1993)


Zoran Matas (1970)
Katjusa Derenda (1967)
Sylva Palme and Paul Schwab (1939)

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":

Figure Skating's Most Exclusive Club

Gilbert Fuchs, Madge Syers and Anna Hübler and Heinrich Burger, Jean Westwood and Lawrence Demmy joined figure skating's most exclusive club by default, because they were the first World Champions in their respective disciplines.

Gösta Sandahl. Photo courtesy Sveriges Centralförening för Idrottens Främjande Archive.

Swedes Henning Grenander and Gösta Sandahl joined the club in 1896 and 1914. Helene Engelmann earned her admission in 1913 with her first partner Karl Mejstrik in 1913. Her second partner Alfred Berger joined the club in 1922. That same year, fellow Austrian Herma Szabo also became a member. Three years later, her pairs partner Ludwig Wrede joined in the fun.

Barbara Ann Scott

Hans Gerschwiler, Barbara Ann Scott and Micheline Lannoy and Pierre Laugniet all had to wait until 1947 to become members of the club. They likely would have joined sooner had the World Championships not been cancelled due to World War II. Ria Baran and Paul Falk also joined the club late due to circumstances beyond their control - the ISU hadn't allowed German skaters to compete in ISU Championships for several years after the War ended.

Ria Baran and Paul Falk

In 1959, Doreen Denny became only the third ice dancer to join the club... and the only one to join without her partner. Three years later, the only other ice dancers in the club became members. Czechoslovakian siblings Eva Romanová and Pavel Roman would have likely joined a year earlier had the World Championships not been cancelled due to the Sabena Crash that killed the entire American team.

The club got seven new members in the seventies and eighties - all decorated Soviet pairs teams. Irina Rodnina followed in Helene Engelmann's footsteps, gaining admission in 1969 with her first partner Alexei Ulanov and being joined by her second partner Aleksandr Zaitsev in 1973. Elena Valova and Oleg Vasiliev and Ekaterina Gordeeva and Sergei Grinkov became members in 1983 and 1985.

In the last three decades, only six new members have been admitted to the club - Oksana Baiul in 1993, Kimmie Meissner in 2006 and Evgenia Medvedeva in 2016 and Anna Shcherbakova, Anastasia Mishina and Aleksandr Galliamov in 2021. 

Wondering what all of these talented skaters have in common and how they became members of figure skating's most exclusive club? It's quite simple. Incredibly, they were all winners on their very first trip to the World Figure Skating Championships.

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 1979 European Figure Skating Championships

The United Nations had just kicked off The International Year Of The Child with a massive benefit concert for UNICEF. Sadly, less than two weeks later, eight students were wounded at a school shooting in San Diego. British Prime Minister James Callaghan's term was nearing its end and Margaret Thatcher was eyeing his position. Kids of all ages were in love with the brand new Garfield comic strip and nightclub-goers were crazy like a fool for Boney M's "Daddy Cool".

The year was 1979 and from January 30 to February 4, one hundred and three skaters from twenty European nations gathered in Zagreb, Yugoslavia to compete in the European Figure Skating Championships. The event played a huge role in boosting interest in figure skating in the communist-run country, for the city's third artificial ice rink was built specifically for the occasion. 

The eight thousand seat arena was the second rink to be housed inside the Dom Sportova complex on Trešnjevka. Zagreb had played host to the European Championships only five years earlier. In 1974, skaters and officials were put up in a hotel that was frequented by 'ladies of the night'. Miss Gladys Hogg, on a rare trip to the Continent with students Karena Richardson and Robin Cousins, was mortified. Jan Hoffmann had won his first European title and Natalia Linichuk and Gennadi Karponosov their first European medals that year. In 1979, they were all once again medal favourites.

The one-year ban ISU ban on Soviet judges had ended. Iron Curtain officials returned to the fray and their old tricks. Writing in "Le Monde", French journalist Pierre Georges remarked, "Everyone will tell you that the Soviet judges have just made their reappearance in Zagreb, after a year of collective suspension for, how to say... 'excess of national zeal'. Everyone will also tell you that this body of judges is, like the world, cut in two: East and West. Five judges on one side, four on the other. It does not take more to provoke a cold, even glacial war. Hence the many differences of judging, sometimes glaring in Zagreb." Speaking of judging, let's take a look back at how the events played out!


Pairs medallists in Zagreb. Photo courtesy Joseph Butchko Collection, an acquisition of the Skate Guard Archive.

The pairs event in Zagreb was, in contrast to the other disciplines, rather uneventful. Irina Rodnina and Aleksandr Zaitsev had won the last ten European titles (a record) but the pair was absent as Irina was due to give birth to their son in a matter of weeks. Also absent were the East German pair Manuela Mager and Uwe Bewersdorf. 

Fourteen year old Marina Cherkasova and twenty-one year old Sergei Shakrai, who had defeated Mager and Bewersdorf at the 1978 Europeans in Strasbourg, skated two strong programs to defeat their Soviet teammates Irina Vorobieva and Igor Livosky and East Germans Sabine Baeß and Tassilo Thierbach.

Kerstin Stolfig and Veit Kempe in Zagreb. Photo courtesy Joseph Butchko Collection, an acquisition of the Skate Guard Archive.

The third Soviet pair, Marina Pestova and Stanislav Leonovich, placed fourth, just ahead of East Germans Kerstin Stolfig and Veit Kempe. It was the third time in the seventies that Soviet and East German pairs had claimed the top five places at the European Championships, speaking greatly to the strength of the pairs programs of the two countries.


In contrast to the pairs event, which had only ten entries, there were a record-twenty nine skaters in the women's event in Zagreb. Defending European and World Champion Anett Pötzsch led the way after the figures, followed by Dagmar Lurz, Kristiina Wegelius, Susanna Driano, Susan Broman, Karena Richardson, Debbie Cottrill and Denise Biellmann

Anett Pötzsch's win in the short program, coupled with Biellmann's poor showing in figures, pretty much sealed the deal before the free skate even began. Pötzsch played indoor football backstage just half an hour before her turn to take the ice. Though she lost the free skate to Biellmann, she skated very well, landing her first planned triple Salchow but downgrading a second to a double. As expected, she took the gold. Lurz, only fifth in the free, placed second over Biellmann. Wegelius finished fourth, just ahead of East Germany's Carola Weißenberg. Yugoslavia's entry, Sanda Dubravčić, placed a very impressive seventh - nearly ten spots higher than she had finished the year prior in Strasbourg. Most surprising was Broman of Finland, who dropped all way down to an unlucky thirteenth after poor performances in the short and free. Kira Ivanova of the Soviet Union placed a creditable tenth in her European debut.

Katarina Witt at the 1979 European Championships. Video courtesy Frazer Ormondroyd.

Another skater making their European debut was Katarina Witt. At thirteen, she was the youngest competitor. She performed her free skate in a dress borrowed from Pötzsch. She was eighteenth after figures, but placed an impressive seventh in the free, attempting four triple jumps, and moving up to fourteenth overall. Many of the other women were trying only one; several didn't attempt any. The Yugoslavian audience really took a liking to Biellmann and after she lost, there were the usual cries of 'pre-judging'. Many in the audience didn't understand how the figures played into the final results.


Natalia Linichuk and Gennadi Karponosov

The dance event in Zagreb was a tremendously exciting match-up between two very accomplished Soviet couples. Irina Moiseeva and Andrei Minenkov were the defending European titleholders; Natalia Linichuk and Gennadi Karponosov the World Champions. At the Soviet Championships in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine, Linichuk and Karponosov had been victorious and when they led after the first two compulsories, many thought they had it in the bag. In her book "Figure Skating History: The Evolution Of Dance On Ice", Lynn Copley-Graves recalled how things played out thusly: "Barber/Slater almost didn't make it to Zagreb for their first Europeans. They drove nine hours in a snowstorm to Heathrow only to miss the plane and drive back in the same conditions. With NSA funding, they would have flown to London to catch the plane to Yugoslavia. But the NSA did not pay travel expenses to competitions. Finally on ice, they collided with Regőczy/Sallay in the first practice. Karen's blade came off in another practice. Torvill/Dean luckily drew second-last to start, but they skated into a rut in the Viennese Waltz. They quickly learned to move their pattern down ice to avoid ruts. Moiseeva/Minenkov skated the Yankee Polka with 'his chin out and her doe-eyed, beseeching look - which was totally at odds with the spontaneous peasant gaiety called for in this dance' (Alexandra Stevenson). Linichuk/Karponosov led after the Blues and maintained first in the waltz OSP, attracting attention with Natalia's double threes around Gennadi. Regőczy/Sallay skated the OSP to 'Die Fledermaus." The media focused on Robin Cousins as Natalia and Gennadi dethroned the graceful Mo and Min, who skated a very fine, if old-fashioned, waltz to one piece of music in their free dance and received their lowest marks for a free since 1974. Then the press brutalized Mo and Min and asked them if they would change their style. A reporter complimented Betty Callaway on her English for being a 'Hungarian.' Krisztina and András got their highest marks to date: two 5.9's from the East German judge, Dr. Wolfgang Kunz, and one 5.9 from the Swiss judge, Roland Wehinger."

Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean had just started training with Betty Callaway in Budapest alongside Krisztina Regőczy and András Sallay prior to this event. In Nottingham, most of their practice time had been late at night. Daytime practices and access to novel new technology like video equipment helped them greatly. In their second Europeans, they moved up three places to sixth.


Robin Cousins. Photo courtesy Joseph Butchko Collection, an acquisition of the Skate Guard Archive.

Three years after John Curry made history as Great Britain's first Olympic Gold Medallist in men's figure skating, the British press had jumped on the story of Robin Cousins, the twenty-one year old from Bristol poised to follow in Curry's footsteps. The English papers offered daily updates of Cousins' progress in Zagreb, all but ignoring the efforts of the other British skaters in many of their reports. In the school figures, twenty-five year old Vladimir Kovalev (who had finished second to Curry at the 1976 Games) led the defending European Champion Jan Hoffmann and his Soviet teammate Igor Bobrin. Cousins was a disappointing sixth, receiving his lowest mark - a 2.9 - from British judge Sally Anne Stapleford. 

Robin Cousins won the short program with a spectacular display, earning a 6.0 from the West German judge, but Hoffmann and Kovalev were so close in points that they were in a virtual tie heading into the free skate.

Vladimir Kovalev. Photo courtesy Joseph Butchko Collection, an acquisition of the Skate Guard Archive.

Robin Cousins skated brilliantly in the final phase of the competition, earning two more perfect 6.0's. After his performance, he told John Curry (who was covering the event for BBC) that he "felt great until the last thirty seconds" when he slightly touched down his foot on the exit of a final double Axel. When Jean-Christophe Simond of France (the last skater) took the ice, Kovalev had a narrow lead over Hoffmann. A Dutch television broadcast went off the air telling viewers that Kovalev had won. However, Simond's marks flipped the ordinals in Hoffmann's favour and he serendipitously won his fourth European title in the same city where he won his first. In her "BBC Book Of Skating", Sandra Stevenson recalled, "Simond had a brilliant night. His high marks for the free skating changed the overall positions of the French and British judges. The French official put Simond second overall, which took one of Kovalev's votes of second or better away. This was the key factor. (The English official put Simond third overall which gave Kovalev fourth overall, but this was not to affect the final outcome.) Both the Russian and East German now had six votes of second or better. To decide between the two, following the recognized procedure, the sum of these six votes was calculated. Hoffmann's four firsts and two seconds was obviously better than Kovalev's two firsts and four seconds, so the East German was given the title. Pandemonium reigned in the press room when journalists sought to explain this amazing situation briefly."

Robin Cousins at the 1979 European Championships. Video courtesy Frazer Ormondroyd.

In the book "Robin Cousins: Skating For Gold", Cousins recalled, "Right from the very beginning, it appeared the Yugoslavians had become British citizens. To me they did not seem like Yugoslavs at all, having apparently adopted me as their own. It was all very flattering and I was thrilled; not only did I have people back home in Britain rooting for me, but also these locals right here."

Debbie Cottrill and Robin Cousins in Zagreb. Photo courtesy "Robin Cousins: Skating For Gold", Howard Bass.

As was the case with Denise Biellmann in the women's event, there was a lot of raucous in the stands about the fact that Cousins hadn't won gold. Even Olympic Silver Medallist and World Champion Alain Calmat chimed in, telling reporters, "Cousins is the one and only champion of today. I am outraged with the judges." After the results were announced, Cousins told a British reporter, "I have to be satisfied with what I got, but if they want a showdown they will have it in Vienna."

Ordinals and points from the men's event. Courtesy "Robin Cousins: Skating For Gold", Howard Bass. 

Making his debut at the European Championships was a teenager from Bratislava with a bright future. Jozef Sabovčík received a 2.2 for one of his figures. The best skaters were averaging two full points higher. He drew first to skate in the short program and pulled a groin muscle attempting the required combination jump. Consequently, his free skate was full of mistakes and he placed a disappointing seventeenth in a field of twenty. In his book "Jumpin' Joe", he recalled, "When I was invited to the post-banquet party, any disappointment I may have felt from the results of the competition disappeared. This was what was known as the 'illegal' party, which took place after all the formalities and where a skater could let their hair down. To be only fifteen years old and invited to such a gathering was a great honour and I hung on to everybody's words all night long. Unfortunately, this party is where I picked up a bad habit... I went home from Europeans thinking smoking was cool, began doing it regularly and never gave it up."

The parties weren't the only post-competition excitement in Zagreb. In the gala, Anett Pötzsch dazzled with a back Charlotte into the splits in her "Radetzky March". Linichuk and Karponosov's trademark exhibition to Joe Dassin's "Et Si Tu N'existais Pas" was a crowd favourite and a delightfully seventies performance by Jan Hoffmann to Henry Mancini's "Mystery Movie Theme" was quite entertaining.

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":

Fanny Cannan, A Victorian Women's Figure Skating Pioneer

Engraving of Fanny Cannan skating on the grounds of The Royal Toxophilite Society at Regent's Park from "The Graphic", January 31, 1891

"For the sexes to skate in company is no new thing, and one can see it portrayed in more than one old Dutch picture. In England, as we see, it is being gradually developed into a fine art through the medium of figure-skating, such difficult turns as the rocking turn being introduced. In Holland the development has long since taken place in the direction of hand-in-hand skating, for which a very natural inclination appears to exist wherever skating is indulged in." - Fanny Cannan, "The Gentlewoman", January 20, 1894

The daughter of Eliza (Adams) and Herbert Harris Cannan, Fanny Laura Cannan was born on July 21, 1858 in Guildford, Surrey, England. She was the youngest of five children, four of them girls. Her father was an accountant with the firm Kemp, Ford, Canaan, and Co. - the official liquidators for bankruptcies carried out through the London Bankers' Clearing House and Agra and Masterman's Bank. He served as an official assignee of the Court of Bankruptcy with "great zeal and ability". The family's home, Knight's Hill House in Lower Norwood, employed five servants.

As a young woman of a certain class growing up during Queen Victoria's reign, Fanny was afforded things her family's downstairs staff never would have dreamed of - a formal education and the opportunity to participate in sport. Her first exposure to skating was on rollers, but during the long winters she took up ice skating outdoors at Regent's Park. The fact that she was accepted as a member of The Skating Club and an honorary member of the Wimbledon Skating Club, which were then very much 'gentleman's clubs' speaks to both her hard work and natural talent.

In 1894, thirty-five year old Fanny began penning articles on figure skating, dog shows and racing for "The Gentlewoman". At the time, it was practically unheard of for upper-class women in England to write about sport, so she penned her articles under the nom de plum Diana. One article noted, "In America there are... lady sporting writers - journalists who take up sport as a study, though in the study only. We have plenty of sporting women in England who probably know a great deal more on... matters than many people who gain a living through a reputation for possessing knowledge."

A brochure on the history of The Skating Club credited Fanny with making "another step in advance with the development of systematic hand-in-hand skating by the discovery that all the known turns could be executed in four distinct ways (ie. apart from distinctions due to variations of direction or edge) by two partners simultaneously, while skating side by side." At the time, there was a class of four elaborate combined hand-in-hand figures that important skaters of the time like Henry Eugene Vandervell and Montagu Sneade Monier-Williams referred to as Scuds. Fanny was credited with inventing "a fifth Order of Scuds, if this term may be allowed. In these, the skaters move forwards together and backwards together, and yet each faces the other." Her discovery would be an important development in English Style combined figures which would later influence Continental Style pairs skating.

In 1897, Fanny skated in a fundraiser at Prince's Skating Club in Knightsbridge, held for the building fund of the London Homeopathic Hospital. Among those who took part were Henning Grenander, the Countess of Minto and Winston Churchill's mother. Numerous newspaper articles of the time counted her among the 'best lady skaters in England'. 

Though Lilly Cheetham, another Victorian era skater of note, had penned a chapter for Douglas Adams' book "Skating" in 1892, it was Fanny that had the distinction of being the first woman to author an English language book on figure skating. "Combined Hand-In-Hand Figure Skating", written with Norcliffe G. Thompson, the honorary secretary and treasurer of The Skating Club and Viscount Doneraile, was first printed in 1896 by Longmans, Green & Co. It is historically regarded as one of the first English books dedicated solely to combined or pairs skating.

Illustration of a skating scene by Charles H. Whymper, donated to The British Museum by Fanny Cannan. Photo courtesy The British Museum. Used with permissions under a Creative Commons Attribution International license.

Fanny and her older sister Emily never married or had children. They lived together at Cornwall Gardens, Kensington for decades, employing a ladies maid, cook, housemaid and parlourmaid. Fanny's enthusiasm for figure skating was a lifelong affair, evidenced by the fact she donated a considerable collection of skating memorabilia - books, china and prints - to the British Museum in 1931 when her sister passed away. Fanny passed away less than a year after the start of World War II on July 31, 1940 at the age of eighty-two, leaving a sizable fortune that would amount to over five million pounds today to Commander Reginald Foster Pitt Maton, O.B.E. and Major-General Sir Archibald Buchanan Ritchie, K.B.E. Her important contributions to figure skating history have been all but forgotten 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":

Exploring The Collections: Books

Every Skate Guard blog that is put together draws from a variety of different sources - everything from museum and library holdings and genealogical research to newspaper archives and dusty old printed materials I've amassed over the last ten years or so. 

I thought it would be fun to give you a bit of a 'behind the scenes' look at the Skate Guard Collections, which include books, magazines, VHS tapes, show and competition programs, photographs and many other items. These Collections date back to the nineteenth century and chronicle figure skating's rich history from the days of quaint waltzes in top hats and tails to quadruple toe-loop's. Whether you're doing your own research about a famous 'fancy' skater in your family tree or a long-lost ice rink in your community or just have a general skating history question you can't find the answer to online, I'm always happy to draw on these resources and try to help if I can.

Books are one of the and most indispensable and largest aspects of the Collections. About thirty percent of the books in the Collections are in digital format, the other seventy being in hard or soft cover format.

The books in the Skate Guard Collections bear witness to the evolution of figure skating from the nineteenth century to modern day, each author bringing their own perspective to the table. Biographies and autobiographies give us an in-depth perspective of the journeys of the world's top skaters. There are biographies or autobiographies of dozens of Olympic Medallists including Sonja Henie, Barbara Ann Scott, Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean, John Curry, Donald Jackson, Toller Cranston, Janet Lynn, Kurt Browning, Karen Magnussen, Peggy Fleming and Robin Cousins. Each of these books give us a bigger picture of the person behind the skater as well as their rise to the top and life after skating. No doubt you have many of these on your own bookshelves - they are to be treasured!

The first known English language figure skating book, Captain Robert Jones' "A Treatise On Skating: Founded On Certain Principles Deduced From Many Years Experience: By Which That Noble Exercise Is Now Reduced To An Art" was published in 1772. It serves as a starting point for the books that focus more on the instructional/educational side of things. A handful of Victorian era books from both England and the Continent chronicle the evolution of school and special figures and free skating. In the twentieth century, books like Captain T.D. Richardson's popularly combined instructional advice with history.

As you can imagine, the majority of the books in the Collections focus on the sport's history in some way, shape or form. A few 'must-haves' that I refer to often in my research are both of ISU Historian Benjamin T. Wright's books, T.D. Richardson's "Ice Skating", Nigel Brown's "Ice-Skating: A History", Lynn Copley-Graves' "Figure Skating History: The Evolution Of Dance On The Ice", Dennis Bird's "Our Skating Heritage" and Frances Dafoe's "Figure Skating and the Arts: Eight Centuries of Sport and Inspiration". 

As many excellent books about skating history are out of print, two things I always suggest to anyone looking for copies are to look on and talk to your friendly neighbourhood librarian about doing an inter-library loan.

If you'd like me to look up anything in the books I have for you, I'm always happy to do so. For a list of the books currently in the Skate Guard Collections, click here. If you have skating books collecting dust in your attic or basement that you'd like to donate, I'd love to hear from you.

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 1944 Canadian Figure Skating Championships

Ross Smith, Barbara Ann Scott, Sheila Smith, Suzanne Thouin and Roger Wickson with their trophies at the 1944 Canadian Championships in Toronto. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine.

Nearly five hundred Allied bombers had just raided Berlin. The British hospital ship St. David was bombed, killing nearly half of the passengers onboard. Thousands of Canadians served in the military, including skaters from coast to coast. Those on the home front faced meat, tea, coffee, butter, oil and gas rations and 'did their bit' by collecting cooking fat, planting victory gardens, buying war savings stamps and working in factories, hospitals and canteens. Glen Gray and the Casa Loma Orchestra's hit "My Heart Tells Me (Should I Believe My Heart?)" blared on gramophones, taking people back to a simpler, more romantic time.

When we think about the ways skaters on the home front would have 'done their bit' during World War II, things like ice shows benefiting war charities and selling Victory Bonds most likely come to mind, and with good reason. Canadian skating clubs raised thousands of dollars for the Red Cross through ticket sales at carnivals and competitions and donations from members. Many skaters also rolled up their sleeves at Blood Donors Clinics.

An advertisement from one of the Toronto Skating Club's advertisements illustrating the kind of War work skaters on the Canadian home front were engaged in

On January 28 and 29, 1944, the Minto Skating Club in Ottawa played host to the Canadian Figure Skating Championships. Senior competitions had been cancelled altogether the previous year due to wartime conditions and the number of rinks taken over for military use.

The 1944 event was largely abbreviated, with senior men's, pairs, fours and dance events not included due to the number of skaters serving overseas on active duty with the Canadian Army, Royal Canadian Navy, Royal Canadian Air Force and Red Cross.

Left: Sandy McKechnie and Jack Vigeon, two former champion skaters missing in Ottawa, were posted at the Royal Canadian Navy's officer's training center in Halifax. Photo courtesy Lisa Vigeon. Right: Wartime advertisement for Pringle and Booth Limited featuring a figure skater.

Though a large audience attended the free skating events, the general tone of the event was subdued in relation to previous Canadian Championships. Naomi Slater Heydon and Mavis Berry Daane, reviewing the event in "Skating" magazine, recalled, "All frills in connection with the competition were eliminated. There were no top hats or tails on the ice, as is customary the final night; instead everything from a fur cap, to a cloth peak cap, to an officer's hat was worn by the judges." Melville Rogers served as the competition's Referee.

An interesting development in Ottawa was the rise of the record player. Though an orchestra was still available to the skaters, many opted to use records for their free skating performances instead. Naomi Slater Heydon and Mavis Berry Daane remarked, "Many of the competitors, who were anxious to have their music played and timed just as they were accustomed to skate to it, skated to their own records instead of to the orchestra. Some selections are difficult to play, and it is hard for the orchestra to make smooth transitions with only one rehearsal with the skater, so we understand why the skaters chose records. On the other hand, we feel they lack some of the lift which skating to an orchestra gives." Now that we've set the stage, let's reflect on the stories and skaters that shaped this event!


Three pairs sought the Dysart Cups for junior pairs skating in Ottawa in 1944. Sheila and Ross Smith, unrelated skaters with the same last name from Winnipeg, gave a nervous but creative performance to finish first of three of the five judges' scorecards. The second and third place teams, Marilyn Ruth Take and Will White, Jr. and Mary McPherson and John Greig of Toronto, were both ranked first by one judge. Sheila wore a startling orange velvet dress, a colour that would not have been seen often in competition in those days of conservative costumes. The Smith's were both accomplished singles skaters and included difficult solo moves like Axels and camel spins in their program. Sheila was a sixteen year old student at Rupert's Land School, while Ross was a twenty two year old employee of the Great West Life Insurance Company. He had been turned down by the military for medical reasons. They were coached by Rupert Whitehead and trained at an indoor rink at a boy's college, as the Winnipeg Winter Club had been commandeered by the military.

Only two young men had a crack at winning the Howard Trophy for junior men's skating. In 1943, Toronto's Norris Bowden had lost the event to Ottawa's Nigel Stephens. He returned in 1944 to compete against Roger Wickson, a talented young skater from the Connaught Skating Club in British Columbia who trained in Ottawa under Otto Gold. After the figures, Wickson had amassed an incredible sixty point lead. This, coupled with his excellent free skating, assured Wickson the win. Even though all but one judge had him in first, the audience took exception with his low marks. Wickson was a sixteen year old in his third year of high school who planned to study engineering in high school.

The first and second place finishers in the junior women's event in 1943, Nadine Phillips and Marilyn Ruth Take of Toronto, had both moved up to the senior ranks. In the figures, all six of the junior women were reasonably close. The leader was Suzanne Thouin, a young woman from Montreal who had spent the previous three winters skating at the Minto Skating Club after the Montreal Winter Club was taken over by the military. Niagara Falls' Gloria Lillico won the free skate and a first place ordinal from one judge, but remained in fifth overall due to her marks in figures. 

Suzanne Thouin

Suzanne Thouin took the gold, ahead of Doreen Dutton and Anne Westcott. Dutton hailed from Drumheller, Alberta. There was no skating club in her town so she was forced to drive ninety miles north to Calgary to practice. Thouin spoke three languages and was a budding actress and ballet dancer. She was seventeen and had only been skating for five years.


Barbara Ann Scott on a Victory Loan Drive in 1944 with Mayor J.E. Stanley Lewis and Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King. Photo courtesy Ross Dunn.

Fifteen year old Barbara Ann Scott of Ottawa had won the Canadian junior women's title in 1940 when she was just eleven years old. She finished second to Winnipeg's Mary Rose Thacker in the senior women's event in both 1941 and 1942, largely due to Thacker's strength in the school figures. Thacker had since turned professional, and the title in 1944 was Scott's for the taking. As the only skater in Canada who had passed her Eighth Test in both Canada and the U.S. at the time, she was a heavy favourite to win in her home town.

In Ottawa, the senior women skated twelve figures in all - rockers, counters, brackets, loops and threes on both feet. Marilyn Ruth Take managed to beat Barbara Ann Scott on one figure, the difficult loop-change-loop, but Scott managed to amass a ridiculous lead of one hundred and fifty seven points after the first round of the competition was completed. To put that number into context, at the same year's U.S. Championships in Minneapolis, the widest point spread between the five women competing in figures was ten points. Even if Scott wiped out on every jump in her free skating performance, she still would have won by a wide margin.

Barbara Ann Scott. Photo courtesy Bibliothèque de Québec.

Instead, Barbara Ann Scott won her first Canadian title with a marvellous performance. In "Skating" magazine, Naomi Slater Heydon and Mavis Berry Daane wrote, "In the free skating she was placed first by every judge... The performance of her free skating seemed as faultless as human performance can be. She received marks of 9.3, 9.4, 9.5, 9.5 and 9.5. Her grace, sure-footedness, her difficult contents and her showmanship had the audience leaning out of their seats in order not to miss a single move. Her double jumps and spin combinations were breathtaking. When she was through, she was acclaimed with roaring applause. Canada has a new and great Senior Lady Champion." In a three-two split of the judging panel, Marilyn Ruth Take outranked Nadine Phillips by one ordinal placing to finish second. Virginia 'Billee' Wilson, the first cousin of Canadian Champion Eleanor O'Meara, took a tumble early in her free skate and never recovered, placing fourth.

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