The Best Of 2022: A Skate Guard New Year's Spectacular

 

So much figure skating history has been made in 2022. Nathan Chen became the first man of Asian American heritage to win an Olympic gold medal in Beijing, landing five quadruple jumps in his winning free skate. At the World Championships in Montpelier, Americans Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier became the first American pair in decades to win the World title and Leona Hendrickx won Belgium's first medal in women's figure skating at the World Championships. At Skate America in Norwood, Massachusetts this autumn, Ilia Malinin made history as the first skater to land a quadruple Axel jump in competition on his way to becoming the youngest man ever to win the event. In France, thirty-nine year old Deanna Stellato-Dudek made history as the oldest skater to win an ISU Grand Prix event, with her partner Maxime Deschamps. For the first time, British Ice Skating hosted an ISU Grand Prix event. The MK John Wilson Trophy was not only a huge success from an organizational standpoint but an outstanding competition full of world-class skating. Earlier this month, Skate Canada made an incredibly positive step towards inclusivity in the sport, re-defining its rules for pairs skating and ice dancing to allow any two skaters, regardless of gender, to compete together. 

Nathan Chen's winning free skate at the 2022 Winter Olympic Games

Despite the very much ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, figure skating has continued to thrive as a world-class sport and 2023 promises to be even more exciting, if the skating we have seen so far this season is any indication.

What a fun year it has been from a content creator perspective too! I've worked on some really neat things, including the Wearable Skating History project for Pinterest, a host of really interesting articles for "Skating" magazine and U.S. Figure Skating's digital platforms and the compilation of a ton of really obscure figure skating results that weren't readily available previously. Publishing my first book "The Almanac of Canadian Figure Skating" was such a fun learning experience and I can't wait to take the lessons I learned from the process and put them to good use when I publish my next one. 

As is the case every year here on Skate Guard, I like to close out the year by doing a little countdown of 10.0 of the most compelling stories that you may have missed over the course of the past year. A Happy New Year to you and here's to more fascinating figure skating history in 2023! 


10. THE RINK ON THE RUE PERGOLÉSE

Bringing obscure footnotes to life is one of my favourite aspects of writing about figure skating history. In March, we took a trip back in time to Paris during La Belle Époque and a deep dive into the story of France's plan to build the world's largest artificial ice rink.


9. THE 1907 MINTO SKATING CLUB FIRE

In 1905, the Minto Skating Club's Rideau rink played host to the event now recognized as the first Canadian Figure Skating Championships. Just two years later, the rink was destroyed in a massive inferno, necessitating the cancellation of the Championships. We explored the story back in January.


8. A GRAND DAME OF FRENCH FIGURE SKATING: THE JACQUELINE VAUDECRANE STORY

In the early days, coaching was very much an old boy's club. In October, the blog highlighted the story of legendary barrier-breaking French coach Jacqueline Vaudecrane


7. THE POWER AND POISON OF THE PEN

Speaking up about injustice is an act of courage. In April, we explored how two pairs skaters in two very different eras used letter-writing to enact change in the skating world.


6. SIXES ACROSS THE BOARD

It's no mistake that this August blog on perfect 6.0's is number six on the list. For decades, a score of perfect six was the benchmark of perfection in the sport and what better way to celebrate those performances that earned a judge's ultimate reward than to catalogue them.


5. FIGURE SKATING AND THE QUEEN

The death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on September 8, 2022 was inarguably the most significant historical event of the year. Shortly after her death, we highlighted The Queen's many, many connections to the skating world.


4. THE ART OF SPECIAL FIGURES

In 1908, London played host to the only Olympic competition for Special Figures. In August, the forgotten art of special figures was traced in fine detail.


3. A HISTORY-MAKER FROM HYŌGO: THE RYUICHI OBITANI STORY

In February during the Winter Olympic Games in Beijing, it was my great pleasure to share the story of Ryuichi Obitani, one of Japan's great figure skating pioneers.


2. ONE OF A KIND: THE OSBORNE COLSON STORY

Osborne Colson was not only a Canadian Champion, he was one of Canada's most revered coaches of all time. It was my honour to write about him on the blog back in June and spoiler alert: there are some amazing stories in this one!


1. A HISTORY OF DOPING IN FIGURE SKATING

Many of the blogs you read on Skate Guard are written well in advance of the time they are published. That wasn't the case in February, when the doping scandal at the Winter Olympics made international headlines. "A History of Doping in Figure Skating" went viral on Twitter in February, shining a light on an element of the sport's history that needs to be taken incredibly seriously.

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": https://skateguard1.blogspot.com/p/buy-book.html.

A Fond Look Back At Overlooked Canadian Figure Skating TV Moments

Photo courtesy Toronto Public Library, from Toronto Star Photographic Archive. Reproduced for educational purposes under license permission.

In the second half of the twentieth century, a week scarcely passed without figure skating making its way to Canadian television sets at least once. From amateur and professional competitions to movies, talk show interviews and made for television specials, there seemed to be something for everyone. Today on the blog, we'll look back at a handful of Canadian television skating moments you may have forgotten!

PLANET ICE

Barbara Wagner and Robert Paul. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine.

On February 26, 1961, CBC made history with the very first full-length skating special in Canadian history, "Planet Ice". Filmed at the East York arena in Toronto, the show was an 'ice fantasy' set on "the undiscovered Planet Ice, where everything is made of ice and everyone skates from birth." The fictional planet's Prince and Princess were played by Barbara Wagner and Bob Paul, the reigning Olympic Gold Medallists and World Champions. Gordon Crossland, a silver medallist in ice dance at the 1955 Canadian Championships with Geraldine Fenton, who went on to skate with Ice Follies, played an astronaut who landed on the planet by accident. Actor Paul Klingman, comedian Jack Duffy and dancer Paul Elsom laced up and took to the ice as a group of scientists on the planet's ice factory who were trying to invent 'a perfect ice man'. The production was choreographed by Sheldon Galbraith.


In his biography "A Nobody's Dream... Came True", he wrote, "Don Hudson, the Director of 'The Wayne and Schuster Show', approached me about doing a figure skating special. Canadian Champions, Barbara Wagner and Bob Paul had just won Worlds and it would be a good showcase for them. Don also contacted my old skating friend from Kitchener, Marilyn Schlicter, [whose] stage name was Sheppard. She was developing her name as a night club singer. She is the first girl Miss Beryl [Goodman Williamson] had put me with to try out as a pair team, back as an amateur skater. Marilyn and I were cast as the story line leads, in a flimsy script called 'Planet Ice'. It was the first ice show story ever told on ice and I give Don full marks for the attempt. He certainly led the way for the many that followed. He loaded it with a lot of the top Canadian television stars, from the CBC's stable. It was mainly comedians of the day which gave it an absurd mix. Thus, it had mixed reviews. Don released a kinescope copy... and gave me a projector so I could take it home. I'm very critical of my work and think it was the worst thing I ever did. All the acting classes had produced, in my opinion, a wooden slob at best, and my skating was embarrassing. I felt the rest of the cast were wonderful."

DREAMWEAVER

Toller Cranston in "Dreamweaver". Photo courtesy Toronto Public Library, from Toronto Star Photographic Archive. Reproduced for educational purposes under license permission.

"Strawberry Ice", "The True Gift Of Christmas" and "The Magic Planet" may have been Toller Cranston's best remembered CBC specials, but before these gems came another lesser recalled one, "Dreamweaver". Produced by J. Edward Shaw and Charles Weir and directed by Shaw, "Dreamweaver" was a hodge podge of a skating fantasy, with music ranging from disco to Tchaikovsky. 


Joined by singers Dan Hill and Salome Bey, composer André Gagnon and North American pairs champions JoJo Starbuck and Ken Shelley, Cranston was his imaginative self in this 'dream sequence' variety show which aired in Canada, the U.S. and Europe in 1979. "Dreamweaver" won the Golden Rose of Montreux Award for Best Variety Program and the Grand Prix de Montreux 1980 at the Montreux Television Festival in Switzerland as well as six ANIK awards.

RITA MACNEIL AND ANNE MURRAY'S CHRISTMAS SPECIALS

Rita MacNeil and Anne Murray. Photos courtesy Library And Archives Canada and Toronto Public Library, from Toronto Star Photographic Archive. Reproduced for educational purposes under license permission.

Two of Nova Scotian's most famous songbirds, Rita MacNeil and Anne Murray, were hugely famous in the eighties and nineties for their annual televised Christmas specials. In between renditions of Christmas carols by the leading ladies and their musical guests, there were often performances by top skaters to add an even more wintery flavour to the hour-long broadcasts.


Cape Bretoner Rita MacNeil, who had brought down the house in Halifax with her song "We'll Reach The Sky Tonight" at the 1992 Skate The Dream tribute to Rob McCall and fundraiser for AIDS research, had Jamie Salé and David Pelletier and Barbara Underhill and Paul Martini in her specials. The "Anne Murray's Family Christmas" specials featured the likes of Elvis Stojko and Brian Orser.

THE BURSARY FUND GALA


Cathy Lee Irwin skating in the Bursary Fund Gala in 1971. Photo courtesy Toronto Public Library, from Toronto Star Photographic Archive. Reproduced for educational purposes under license permission.

From the early eighties to mid nineties, the annual Bursary Fund Dinner and Gala in Toronto was an important fundraiser for amateur figure skating in Canada. Much like the annual Evening Of Champions show at Harvard University, the shows were low-budget and casts were often an electic mix of up-and-coming amateurs and seasoned professionals, all united for the great cause of raising money to provide bursaries to skaters.


Considering there were very limited show opportunities for skaters who ranked outside of the top three in Canada at the time aside from Parade Of Champions at Canadians and club carnivals, it was a rare treat for Canadian skating fans to see their favourites as well as a host of 'new names' under spotlights. Donald Jackson made several special guest appearances, landing a double Axel over twenty years after he won his World title in Prague in 1962 in one show.

THE GOLDEN AGE OF CANADIAN SKATING


Released on March 14, 1984 on what is now Global Television, "The Golden Age Of Canadian Skating" was produced by Milad Bessada and hosted by newscaster Jan Tennant. It was researched and written by David Young, who released his book "The Golden Age Of Canadian Figure Skating" that year. Through interviews with eleven of Canada's figure skating legends, including the likes of Barbara Ann Scott and Donald Jackson, this special remains to this day one of the more important historical documentaries on Canadian figure skating ever produced. 

NIGHT MOVES

Katarina Witt and Brian Orser. Photo courtesy Toronto Public Library, from Toronto Star Photographic Archive. Reproduced for educational purposes under license permission.

First broadcast on CBC on November 10, 1991, "Night Moves" was the 'middle child' of Brian Orser's TV specials, sandwiched between "Skating Free" and "Blame It On The Blues". It also came after "Carmen On Ice", the Emmy award winning special which Orser also appeared in. Produced by Morgan Earl, directed by Ron Meraska and choreographed by Sandra Bezic, this special drew from Chris de Burgh's hit "The Lady In Red" to tell the story of a man (Orser) on a quest to find an elusive woman (Katarina Witt). The special also featured Toller Cranston, Barbara Underhill and Paul Martini, Jozef Sabovčík and Michelle McDonald and Martin Smith. The Nylons, Cynthia Dale and Taborah Johnson all performed, and the music of Prince, Colin James and Lou Reed were also featured. Much of the filming was done in Toronto 'on the backshift' from seven at night to seven in the morning. Some of the more memorable moments from this special were Orser rollerblading on Yonge Street and ice skating on a rooftop and Witt and Orser's closing duet to Chris de Burgh's famous song. 


In her review of the show, Henrietta Walmark remarked, "The costuming is downtown black leather and denim, tarty club wear and Queen Street West hair. Neon lights, security camera entrances, giant video screens and dissaffected extras contribute to the downtown nightlife atmosphere. Great editing and the outstanding staging and choreography of Sandra Bezic, who also co-produced Night Moves, shift the action effortlessly from street to studio and back again. While roller blading on the street, Orser encounters The Nylons singing on a street corner. He breaks into dance and it's only when you notice he's wearing ice skates that you realize the action had moved from the street to a studio. The transitions are seamless. Bezic incorporates bits and pieces of the street - a TTC stop, a stairway, a newspaper box - with backdrops that match locations in their colour and tone... The saxophone interludes and the eclectic mix of urban music, moody lighting and gritty setting provide a sophisticated backdrop for a sport that has evolved into an art form." The special earned Gemini nominations for Best Variety Program and Best Performance In A Variety Program Or Series (Witt and Orser) as well as the Golden Rose of Montreux Award in Switzerland in 1992.

SKATE AND ICE TIME


In February of 1995, CBC piloted a figure skating magazine style show called "Skate". It aired over a five-week period on Monday nights before "This Hour Has 22 Minutes", filling a prime-time slot that once belonged to "Kids In The Hall". The show was hosted by Tracy Wilson and featured appearances by Kurt Browning, Sandra Bezic, Toller Cranston and others. The show was produced by Insight Productions, in association with IMG and the CBC. John Brunton, the show's executive producer, called it "part Entertainment Tonight, part Fashion Television and part Global Sportsline." Ultimately, the show fizzled after the 1995 World Championships. 

Photo courtesy "The Insider's Guide"

A year after her book of the same name came out, Olympic Silver Medallist Debbi Wilkes - the queen of Canadian figure skating commentary - gained an audience with "Ice Time", the country's premiere magazine style television program about figure skating. It was a triumphant return of sorts, after she was dropped from CTV's crew after twenty years of being one of the sport's best commentators.


"Ice Time" first aired in January 1996 on the Women's Television Network. It was a co-production between WTN, CTV and Debbi. Prior to the show's debut, she told "Toronto Star" reporter Ken McKee, "CTV was looking to partner some of the new specialty channels in new program
opportunities and WTN was really interested in some quality sports ventures... I hope it'll be like my book - an honest look at some of the best and the worst aspects of skating... Maybe a combination of Coach's Corner and Entertainment Tonight. I'm a big fan of Don Cherry."

The show's first episode featured highlights from the Champions Series and a look back at Oksana Baiul's winning free skate from the 1994 Winter Olympic Games. The early Saturday afternoon timing of the show before the cornucopia of skating offerings on television in the afternoons and evenings was for many the start to their 'skating weekend'. Many "Ice Time" episodes veered away from the present and featured rare video footage from skating competitions in the seventies, eighties and early nineties.


Keeping in mind that this was ten years before YouTube came along, these performances were something many new fans to the sport had never had the opportunity to see. Likewise, Debbi's accompanying website "The Insider's Guide", was one of the first Canadian figure skating websites... back in the days of dial-up. It featured 'Rink Side' articles, interviews, news, skating lessons, report cards on top skaters, reader mail, caption contests and a 'Tracing Back' section which shared tidbits of skating history. She even shared Irene Stojko's spaghetti sauce recipe!

Photo courtesy "The Insider's Guide"

Although the unique content coupled with Debbi's expertise and wonderful sense of humour carried the show for several years and even sparked a "Retro Ice Time" revival, by the time the professional skating craze ended, the show was sadly no more.

Debbi and I spoke about the legacy of "Ice Time". She said, "Oh boy...This is a fun story! It was right around the time there was a huge change in the broadcast landscape... There was CTV, TSN, CBC then there was this young upstart, which was owned by CBC at the time, called Rogers. CTV also owned the W Network. They had a half dozen different channels that they were supporting, so obviously they were looking for content. One of the best producers of figure skating I've ever worked with, Scott Moore, who recently retired from a huge job at Rogers, loved skating... very, very pro-skating. We'd kicked around ideas about skating shows before but there wasn't really a place for it... Suddenly they decide to do this major expansion and I said to Scott, 'Well, what about a skating show? We've got all the video tape imaginable and we can do it in sort of cellular segments and review old performances, guests... It was a little, tiny skating variety show.' That's really how it came about. PJ [Kwong] worked on it with me and she and I would decide on the theme for each week and we'd write it. It was a great collaboration and it was really fun to do. It lasted a couple of seasons, then it moved over to Bell Sympatico and lasted there for a number of seasons as well. I'd had such a long broadcast career and had been to many of those events [we looked back at]. It kind of allowed me to look at the history of the sport and see some of the trends and watch the judging, the development and progress of the technical side of the sport. It also gave me a chance to put things in perspective. I just found it so juicy! It was thrilling to watch how the sport marched ahead through those many, many decades and to able to use the incredible library that CTV had. The librarian at CTV was a real skating fan and where most material would have been erased, he kept the skating stuff. It was just one of those fortunate coincidences that they had the material, there was a place to put it and someone was willing to support it. It was great - a lot of fun."


If you enjoyed this look back through Canadian figure skating history, have I got the book for you! In "The Almanac of Canadian Figure Skating", you will find hundreds of biographies in a Who's Who of Canadian Figure Skating, interesting facts about the governance of the sport and skating clubs, complete results of the Canadian Championships dating back to the very beginning and much more. 


Order your copy of the paperback or Kindle E-Book edition in order to have it under the tree in time for Christmas! Hard cover copies are also available, but the lead time in shipping would mean you would most likely receive the book after the big day.

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": https://skateguard1.blogspot.com/p/buy-book.html.

Pearl Of Osaka: The Tsuyako Yamashita Story

Photo courtesy "Asahi Shimbun"

"Continuity is strength." - Tsuyako Yamashita, "Sponichi"

Born March 19, 1928 in Osaka, Japan, Tsuyako Ikuta started skating at the age of six on an outdoor ice rink on the Nakanoshima sandbank in Osaka. Though largely self-taught, she received some basic instruction from a doctor named Kozo Nagai, who had spent some time studying skating while abroad in Europe. She claimed her first of two consecutive Japanese junior women's titles in 1938 at the age of nine. In her first bid for the Japanese senior title, she placed third. At the time, short skirts and colourful costumes were forbidden. She wore a modest white dress with no embellishments.

Tsuyako Ikuta (center) and a group of young skaters in Osaka in 1936. Photo courtesy "Asahi Shimbun".

Due to Tsuyako's youth and impressive talent, there were obvious comparisons between her and Etsuko Inada, who represented Japan at the 1936 Winter Olympic Games in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany. Etsuko was viewed as the present; Tsuyako the future. That bright future was put on hold when World War II broke out and the Japanese Championships and 1940 Winter Olympic Games were cancelled.

During World War II, Tsuyako and Etsuko Inada were sent on a tour through Japan and China to give a series of figure skating exhibitions for the Imperial Japanese Army at the request of Prime Minister Tōjō Hideki. In a November 2017 interview with the "Asahi Shimbun" affiliate "Nikkan Sports", she recalled, "I traveled around China for about two months by rail and truck. The performances [were] performed on frozen ponds and lakes. In a lake in Beijing, there were a lot of soldiers on the ice. Suddenly, a sound was heard and the ice of about one meter thickness broke. It was a very hard journey, but I was happy to be able to show the performance of figure skating. Jumps in that era were of one and a half revolutions. The treatment was good. There were lots of sweets, Yōkans, etc. that were not in Japan." It wasn't all sunshine, rainbows and Salchows though. In one harrowing incident, she and Etsuko Inada hid underneath a large tree, hugged each other and closed their eyes while gunshots pierced the air of a Beijing suburb.

Upon Tsuyako's return to Japan, she found that the War situation had gotten considerably worse. Air raid sirens blared every second day and blackout curtains became the norm. She recalled, "The practice ice at that time was a rink on the roof of Asahi Kaikan in Nakanoshima, Osaka. I [wanted] to practice. I made a black curtain so that no light could leak out."

Photo courtesy "Asahi Shimbun"

When the War ended, figure skating was the last thing in the mind of Osaka residents. Their city had been bombed to oblivion for nearly seven months straight in 1945 and more than ten thousand civilians had perished on one cold February day alone. With transportation cut off between the area of Osaka she lived and Nakanoshima, Tsuyako's 'life line' to the ice rink was severed. Determined to go skate, she climbed a steep mountain path to locate the Rokko pond - an old favourite skating spot prior to the War. She threw a stone on the surface of the ice to make sure it was frozen and spent a blissful hour carving out figures, jumping and spinning in solitude.

Clipping from Masami Koboyashi's review of the 1954 Japanese Championships. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine.

When the Japanese Championships resumed in 1946, she finished second twice to Yoshiko Tsukioka, perennial runner-up to Etsuko Inada prior to the War. Warmer weather necessitated the cancellation of the event the following year. She returned to the sport under her married name Yamashita and won the 1954 and 1955 Japanese women's titles. She was then a mother of two. Though the ISU's post-War ban of skaters from Axis countries had by that point been lifted, Japan didn't send a team to the World Championships the years she won the Japanese title. 

Photo courtesy "Sankei Shimbun"

After quietly retiring from competition at the age of twenty-six, Tsuyako began a decades-long career as a skating coach in Osaka. She worked tirelessly with Etsuko Inada to help establish the Japanese equivalent of the Professional Skaters Association. Among her many students over the years were Yuka Sato's parents Kumiko Okawa and Nobuo Sato, Midori Ito, Rika Kihira and her own daughter Kazumi, who won four Japanese titles and competed at the 1968 and 1972 Winter Olympic Games. She retired from coaching in 2015, after suffering a fall so serious on the steps of the rink that she had to learn to walk again after spending several days in the ICU. She sadly passed away of heart failure on February 12, 2021 at the age of ninety-two.

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": https://skateguard1.blogspot.com/p/buy-book.html.

5 Surprising Facts About Canadian Skaters

Canadian skaters have won Olympic medals in every discipline and from 1982 to 2003, there was at least one Canadian skater on the podium at every single World Championships. The accomplishments of each and every one of the country's golden stars are highlighted in the brand new book "The Almanac of Canadian Figure Skating", available now on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Here are some surprising facts about Canadian skaters from the book that you might have missed!

LOUIS RUBENSTEIN WAS A TALENTED CYCLIST

Left: Louis Rubenstein. Photo courtesy Musée d'histoire sociale de Montréal - Musée McCord. Right: A penny-farthing bicycle.

Credited as the "Father of Figure Skating in Canada", Louis Rubenstein is best remembered for winning a gold medal in St. Petersburg, Russia in 1890 and serving as the President of the Figure Skating Department of the Amateur Skating Association of Canada for many years. Louis Rubenstein wasn't only a brilliant skater, he was also a talented cyclist as well. He competed in the Montreal Amateur Athletic Association's races on a penny-farthing bicycle, placing in the top ten. He was a founding member and President of the Canadian Wheelman's Association.

CANADIAN SKATERS ONCE DOMINATED AT THE BRITISH CHAMPIONSHIPS

Constance Wilson

As a Commonwealth country, Canada has long had very close ties with Great Britain. In the early twentieth century, it wasn't uncommon for Canadian skaters with the means to do so to make the trip 'across the pond' to practice in Britain's well-appointed indoor rinks. Some even passed the National Skating Association's tests, which was considered quite a feather in one's cap back in those days. Imagine the stir caused in Northern England in 1928, when a group of Canadians who had taken a ship over to compete at the World Championships in London decided to extend their overseas trip by a week and vie for British titles. Montgomery Wilson took the silver in the men's event; Maude Smith and Jack Eastwood the bronze in pairs. Constance Wilson and Cecil Smith placed 1-2 in the women's event, defeating the reigning Champion Kathleen Shaw, who was from the host city of Manchester. Canadians were never so greatly represented at the British Championships again, though skaters from other Commonwealth countries such as Australia and South Africa certainly made appearances. In his book "Our Skating Heritage", British skating historian Dennis L. Bird wrote, "Truly the Canadians were doughty invaders of the British skating world; indigenous competitors were glad that they never came back another year." 

CANADIAN PAIRS ARE ON QUITE A STREAK

Barbara Underhill and Paul Martini. Photo courtesy Library and Archives Canada.

Over the years, Canadian pairs have won Olympic medals in every colour and a total of twelve World titles, the most recent being Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford's second consecutive win in 2016. What might surprise you is the fact that for over forty years, there has been at least one Canadian pair in the top ten every single year at the World Championships. The last time Canada didn't have a pair in the top ten at Worlds was in 1980 and ironically, Canada's pair that year went on to win a World title just four years later. You may have heard of them... Barbara Underhill and Paul Martini. 

JOANNIE ROCHETTE HAS A RINK NAMED AFTER HER

Photo courtesy Ville de Berthierville

Berthierville, Quebec is home to a rink named after the fifth Canadian to win an Olympic medal in women's figure skating. Last month, a wax statue of Joannie Rochette was unveiled at the Aréna Joannie Rochette. In an interview with "L'Action D'Autray", Joannie said, "I am proud that the statue is here. If history can remind young skaters that it's possible to train in Berthierville and make it to the Olympics... so much the better if it inspires them to continue in this beautiful sport that I loved so much and that I always like." Joannie has received much praise for her important work on the front-lines in long-term care facilities during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 

BARBARA ANN SCOTT WAS A LICENSED PILOT

Barbara Ann Scott at the RAF Northolt airport in England after winning the 1947 World Championships. Photo courtesy Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec.

In 1947, Barbara Ann Scott was perhaps the first woman to travel by air enroute to winning a World title in singles skating. The following year, Barbara Ann and coach Sheldon Galbraith flew from the Dorval Airport in Montreal to Prestwick, Scotland, on the first leg of their trip to the Continent for the European Championships in Prague, Winter Olympic Games in St. Moritz and World Championships in Davos. Barbara Ann slept the whole way on the red-eye; Mr. Galbraith "felt quite ill during the entire journey and had only managed a few winks." One of their fellow passengers was Deputy Leader of Great Britain's Conservative Party Anthony Eden, who went on to serve as Prime Minister from 1955 to 1957. In Davos, when Barbara Ann was doing her loop change loop figure, "an airplane practically skimmed the rink, its motors roaring and its shadow hiding my tracing from me... I could thank my old habit of concentration for help in pulling me through." Barbara Ann was no stranger to planes... she joined the Ottawa Flying Club, completed a short solo flight (albeit a bumpy one) and earned her private license. In her autobiography "Skate With Me", she recalled, "I've never had any cause to be frightened in a plane. One time we took off from Boston to St. Andrews... on a fairly nice day. Before we'd gone far we got into the middle of a terrible storm. We were all fastened down with our safety belts around our middles but the dishes flew around and the fruit salad was on the floor and people were getting sick right and left. The pilot tried to get through the storm but that was impossible; it seemed that the wings were practically ready to fall off, they were shaking so. When he couldn't get round the storm either he turned and went back to Boston. I quite enjoyed that. Air travel can be just a bit dull but with a wild storm going on it becomes exciting."


There's always more to know about the people who have shaped the sport. In "The Almanac of Canadian Figure Skating", you will find hundreds of biographies in a Who's Who of Canadian Figure Skating, interesting facts about the governance of the sport and skating clubs, complete results of the Canadian Championships dating back to the very beginning and much more. Order your copy today!

Skate Guard is a blog dedicated to preserving the rich, colourful and fascinating history of figure skating. Over ten years, the blog has featured over a thousand free articles covering all aspects of the sport's history, as well as four compelling in-depth features. To read the latest articles, follow the blog on FacebookTwitterPinterest and YouTube. If you enjoy Skate Guard, please show your support for this archive by ordering a copy of figure skating reference books "The Almanac of Canadian Figure Skating", "Technical Merit: A History of Figure Skating Jumps" and "A Bibliography of Figure Skating": https://skateguard1.blogspot.com/p/buy-book.html.

The 1965 British Figure Skating And Ice Dancing Championships


Harold Wilson was Great Britain's Prime Minister. The top news stories were the discoveries of several bodies on Saddleworth Moor and the United Nations vote to allow Great Britain to use force against Rhodesia, where martial law had been declared, if necessary. Beatlemania was in full swing as the popular music group gave their final tour of England. The McCoys had a huge hit with "Hang On Sloopy".


The year was 1965 and on November 5 and 6, a who's who of British figure skating gathered at Wembley to compete in the British Figure Skating Championships. The event was held less than a week after the Richmond Trophy, an international competition held at the Richmond Ice-Drome where women and ice dancers had competed. T.D. Richardson, Alex D.C. Gordon and Geoffrey Yates served as the referees in Wembley and Mollie Phillips, Daphne (Ward) Wallis, Pauline Borrajo and Pamela Davis were among the judges.

Linda Connolly and Colin Taylforth

It was the first year that pairs skated a compulsory short program at the British Championships. The winners of the first phase of the event were Streatham's Valerie Taylor and Raymond Wilson and the free skate was won by Verona Tosh and Kenneth Babington of Altrincham. However, when the marks were tallied, in a three-two split of the judging panel the gold went to the most consistent of the three teams entered and coincidentally the youngest, Linda Connolly and Colin Taylforth of Liverpool. Linda was thirteen; Colin twelve. Their free skating program featured overhead Axel and Lutz lifts.

Left: Malcolm Cannon. Photo courtesy "Skating World" magazine. Right: The cup presented to the winner of the women's event. Photo courtesy "Winter Sports" magazine.

In the men's event, twenty one year old Malcolm Cannon, who trained with Arnold Gerschwiler at Richmond, took a massive fifty-point lead over Haig Oundjian in the figures, winning all but the right forward inside rocker. Oundjian, still not fully recovered from a broken ankle, was forced to withdraw before the free skating. Altrincham's Michael Williams landed a double Axel and triple Salchow and won the free skate by over fifteen points, with Streatham's Harold Williams second and Cannon third. Cannon's lead in the figures was still enough to give him the title by over ten points.


There were fourteen entries in the women's event - the largest number of competitors since the first British Championships after World War II, when Cecilia Colledge won her final national title. Diana Clifton-Peach, competing under her married name (Stevens), narrowly won the figures over two-time and defending Champion Sally-Anne Stapleford. Third was Patricia Dodd, who had been Great Britain's top finisher at the Richmond Trophy. Stapleford won the free skate, with Lorna Brown second and Stevens fifth. Her free skate included a two-footed double Axel, double Salchow and double toe-loop. She planned a double Lutz but didn't attempt it. She had damaged the edges of one of her skates in the afternoon practice after skating over a nail, so it was a wonder she was able to skate so well. When the marks were tallied, Stapleford was first overall over Stevens, Sylvia Oundjian, Dodd, Linda Davis and Brown. It was the third year in a row Stapleford came from behind to take the gold. Most remarkable was the story of the skater who finished tenth. Vanessa Simons had to withdraw from the Richmond Trophy after the figures after slamming her leg in a car door, requiring three stitches. The fact she managed to skate through the pain at Wembley was a feat in itself. She'd only had her stitches out the day before the competition.

Top: Women's medallists, the top two pairs and men's medallists. Photos courtesy "Winter Sports" magazine. Bottom: Medallists in the Reginald J. Wilkie Memorial Trophies dance event. Photo courtesy "Skating World" magazine.

At Wembley, there was also an open contest for the Reginald J. Wilkie Memorial Trophies, which consisted of compulsory dances only. Seven teams competed. The top three teams were Janet Sawbridge and Jon Lane, Gabriele and Rudi Matysik (Betty Callaway's students who represented West Germany) and Heather Murray and David Gregory. It was new pairing Sawbridge and Lane's third victory in two months. They were fresh off wins at the Queen's Cup open contest and the Tomlinson Trophy, an ice dance competition held in conjunction with the Richmond Trophy.

Photo courtesy "Winter Sports" magazine

The British Ice Dancing Championships were held later that month at Nottingham, with Douglas Walker playing live organ music for each of the compulsories. The dances skated were the Rocker Foxtrot, Starlight Waltz, Quickstep and Tango.

Diane Towler and Bernard Ford. Photo courtesy "Skating World" magazine.

Teenagers Diane Towler and Bernard Ford took the lead after the first phase of the competition, though their training mates Yvonne Suddick and Roger Kennerson won the Quickstep. Suddick and Kennerson entertained the crowd with their free dance to the newly released song "Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows" and "Besame Mucho", but were unable to best Towler and Ford, who received marks ranging from 5.7 to 5.9 for their dynamic program. Janet Sawbridge and Jon Lane finished third for yet another medal sweep for Miss Gladys Hogg's pupils at Queen's.

Photo courtesy "Skating World" magazine


That season's British Junior Figure Skating Championships were held at Solihull Ice Rink on March 10 and 11, 1966, with an impressive crowd of two thousand, five hundred attending the free skating finals.

Left: Judith Elliott and Donald Wells. Right: Vivienne Dean and Michael Webster. Photos courtesy "Skating World" magazine.

In junior pairs, thirteen year old Judith Elliott and fifteen year old Donald Wells beat Victoria Cecil and David Barker of Queen's by less than a point. Elliott and Wells trained at Altrincham under Peter Burrows and their program included side-by-side double loops, Salchows and Axels. Iris Lloyd-Webb's pupils Vivienne Dean and Michael Webster won the junior dance over John Slater's top couple, Susan Getty and Roy Bradshaw. The compulsories were the Fourteenstep, Blues and Starlight Waltz.

Sixteen year old Adrian Florence was skating in his hometown, but travelled to train in Altrincham with John Goding. His lead in the figures was enough to give him the gold in the junior men's event over a young Birmingham lad named John Curry. A short report in the April/May 1966 issue of "Winter Sports" magazine noted that "Curry fell... but his style impressed." A more elaborate report by David Clements in the April 1966 issue of "Skating World" noted, "In the free skating, John Curry was the first to take the ice. I enjoyed his programme very much - he combined difficult jumps (double Lutz, double Salchow, double loop-Axel) but unfortunately slipped on the double Axel, which in practice I saw him land without any difficulty."

Fifteen junior women competed, with the field pared to ten after the figures. The winner was Norma Bowmar of Nottingham, an eighteen year old with quite a story. Hours before she was to compete in the Martineau Bowl contest in November, she was rushed to the hospital with a serious case of appendicitis. The fact she won in Solihull by almost thirty points was indeed remarkable. She'd been off the ice for two months and despite rushed preparations with coach Monty Readhead, had not really regained her full power in jumping.

It's impossible not to look back at all of these incredible names from a golden era of British skating without making a mental note of how many of them went on to make an even greater impact in the sport as coaches, choreographers and judges. The 1965 British Figure Skating and Ice Dancing Championships may have been over fifty years ago, but the legacy of the skaters who competed in them is still felt 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": https://skateguard1.blogspot.com/p/buy-book.html.

From Selchow To The Triple 'Axle': Vintage Skating Games And Toys


As if footing the bill for their children's ice time, lessons and costumes wasn't expensive enough, parents have long had to contend with the expense of the annual visit from Santa Claus. And guess what? Their precious little angels weren't only expecting a new pair of skates under the tree. They wanted the latest skating games and toys as well!

Ker-Plunk!, the 'Adorable Skating Bear', sold by UnicornSport, circa 1988. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine". 

In 1900, the Bay Shore, New York game manufacturers H.B. Chaffee & E.G. Selchow produced what was perhaps the first skating themed board game, entitled The Skating Race Game. The company (best known for coming up with Scrabble, Parcheesi and a knock-off of Clue called Whodunit) was founded in 1867 and no... there was no relation to Ulrich Salchow, although it's a pretty neat little coincidence. The Skating Race Game was a typical 'goose game' where players rolled the die, moved around the board and were sent forward or back if they landed on certain obstacles.


Paper dolls of skaters predated Chaffee and Selchow's board game by several years. In the art supplement of the January 5, 1896 edition of "The Boston Sunday Globe", a colourized paper doll entitled Little Miss Silver Skates was a charming precursor to countless other paper dolls that would appear in the decades that followed.

The Barbara Ann Scott and Sonja Henie dolls

Though skating paper dolls had a certain charm, they failed to have the same popularity as the 'real deal'. Barbara Ann Scott and Sonja Henie composition dolls were hot commodities in the forties and fifties, and countless skating Barbie dolls have appeared on department store shelve. Surprisingly, skating-themed jigsaw puzzles, such Lee Olney's "The Skaters", enjoyed almost the same commercial success that dolls did.

The Skating Bears

In the sixties, a Japanese toy company called T.P.S. (Tokyo Plaything Shokai) came up with a wind-up trio of skating bears. A Hungarian toy company called Lemezárugyár Budapest 'borrowed' the idea and mass producing them. This toy was marked internationally the Champ On Ice Bear Skater Trio and was hugely popular in Europe. The concept for a wind-up skating toy wasn't a new one - similar toys with roller skates had been around for decades.


Chicago based D. Gottlieb and Co.'s Ice-Revue pinball machine came out in 1965, just in time for those pre-Christmas trips to the arcade.

Mr. Christmas Skating Pond

Two years prior, John Joslyn of New York's Luehland Company was granted a patent for a 'magnetic skating pond' game, where the player had to move a bug through a maze of traps to the freedom of a skating pond. Joslyn's skating pond paled in comparison to the much more elaborate Mr. Christmas skating ponds which Sears offered in its Wish Book in the nineties. The latter ponds, which came in themes ranging from Victorian to Rock N' Roll, each had an animated and lighted display and played thirty to fifty songs.

Photos courtesy "Skating" magazine

A trio of charmingly obscure games made 'by skaters, for skaters' appeared in the late sixties, early seventies, and mid nineties, respectively. The first, "Patch", was manufactured in Boston and was billed as a "colourful, exciting, educational, fun-filled an extremely portable game" for ages eight through eigty. "Figure Eight", which like "Patch" was sold via mail order, appeared not long after. The third, a card game called "Silly Skating", was produced by Foy's Toys in Las Vegas.



The popularity of these games and toys paled in comparison to the Barbie Skating Rink, which was released by Mattel in 1990 in conjunction with the fiftieth anniversary of the Ice Capades. It was definitely a step up from Playskool's Smurfette skating puzzle, which skating-loving children who grew up in that era would have likely already had kicking around in their toy box underneath a few Mr. Potato Head's, a Teddy Ruxpin doll and a My Little Pony.

To this very day, you needn't look further than ye olde App Store to find a whole host of dreadful skating-themed electronic games. Long before the whole world had the internet in their pockets, Epyx developed "Winter Games" on floppy disc for Commodore 64 in 1985. It was a follow-up to the highly popular "Summer Games", released the year earlier. By 1989, two hundred and fifty thousand copies of "Winter Games" had been sold and it had been released for Amiga, Atari and Nintendo. In the game, players used a combination of keystrokes to perform a series of elements including a triple Lutz, camel spin and triple 'Axle'. 

The best part about "Winter Games" and it's triple 'Axle' was that you could make history every time you played. The character in the game you were controlling was female and no woman had performed a triple Axel in the Olympic Games at that point. Midori Ito had that honour at the 1992 Games in Albertville. 


In the age of online shopping, vintage skating dolls, puzzles and games have become surprisingly collectible, so if you're looking for a truly unique gift for that figure skater in your life who has everything, looking back in time may just be your answer.

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": https://skateguard1.blogspot.com/p/buy-book.html.