The 1929 European Figure Skating Championships

Competitors and judges at the 1929 European Championships

On January 18 and 19, 1929, a who's who of figure skating in Europe gathered in Davos, Switzerland to compete in the 1929 European Figure Skating Championships. 


The event was held as part of a Winter Sports Week in Davos that included hockey games and speed skating races. Though Scandinavians dominated the speed skating races, not a single figure skater from any of the Scandinavian countries participated in this event.

Lilly Scholz and Otto Kaiser. Photo courtesy Bildarchiv Austria.

Though the International Skating Union wouldn't officially institute women's and pairs competitions at the European Championships until the following year, 'unofficial' championships for both classes were included in the Davos event. In the women's event, Melitta Brunner and Ilse Hornung of the Wiener Eislaufverein claimed the top two spots, followed by Berlin's Else Flebbe, Grete Kubitschek of the Engelmann Club in Austria and Lilly Kuhn from Switzerland. Brunner's victory over Hornung was decisive - 198.9 to 187.6 points - but just over one point separated Flebbe and Kubitschek. Lilly Scholz and Otto Kaiser defeated fellow Austrians Melitta Brunner and Ludwig Wrede and Gisela Hochhaltinger and Otto Preißecker and Ilse Kilshauer and Ernst Gaste of Berlin to take the pairs title.

Dr. Georges Gautschi

A blanket of snow made for treacherous ice conditions in the men's school figures... and a panel that included two German judges didn't do a thing to help any of the five German participants. Both German judges, along with the Swiss and Belgian judges placed Austria's Karl Schäfer first, while the Austrian judge - former World Champion Fritz Kachler - cast his vote for Dr. Georges Gautschi of Switzerland. This was one of the few instances during the roaring twenties of judges working 'against' their own skaters.

Karl Schäfer in 1929. Photo courtesy National Archives of Poland.

With a performance that was described by the Austrian press as "eclectic", sixteen-year-old Schäfer was the unanimous winner of the free skate and overall title. Gautschi was defeated by both Ludwig Wrede of Austria and Herbert Haertel of Germany in the free skate, but his strong showing in figures was more than enough to earn him the silver medal. Wrede took the bronze. Interestingly, the only skater who wasn't from Germany, Austria or Switzerland in the ten-skater field - Czechoslovakia's Rudolf Praznowski - received ordinals in the free skate ranging from third to last place. Schäfer's gold in Davos was his first major international win and Gautschi's silver was the first ISU Championship medal won by a Swiss skater in history. The January 21, 1929 issue of the "Wiener Sporttagblatt" remarked, "Since Grafström had not started, Schäfer's victory was never in question... In the compulsory figures on Friday morning, the snow had been strongly [dehabilitating] and thus possibly resulted in his reduced skills, but on Saturday they came to the fore. Schäfer was the best man in the field."

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 "Jackson Haines: The Skating King" and pre-ordering "Sequins, Scandals & Salchows: Figure Skating in the 1980s", which will be released this fall where books are sold: https://skateguard1.blogspot.com/p/buy-book.html.

Ice Originals By Lizette

Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine

The year before the American skating community mourned the loss of a generation of talented skaters, coaches and judges in the Sabena Crash, Morris Adler, the founder of M. Adler Garment Co. in St. Louis, Missouri, passed away. Morris Adler's family company, which manufactured women's coats and dresses, had been an institution in St. Louis for fifty years. After his death, Morris' son Joseph took over the reins. However, it was Joseph's wife Henriette Lizabeth 'Lizette' Adler, who stole the show.


Lizette's daughters Barbara, Maralin and Terri were all avid figure skaters. Like many skating mothers, Lizette scoured the few local sports shops in hopes of finding skating wear that suited the individual tastes of her children and came up empty-handed. That's when she decided to design their dresses herself. The Adler children's first blouses and skirts were a huge hit. Soon other mothers were asking Lizette to come up with creations for their own children. Lizette soon realized there was a niche market for skating wear just itching to be filled. Her creativity and the access to her husband's dressmaking business soon gave birth to Ice Originals By Lizette, one of the most successful mail-order skating fashion companies of the sixties.

Advertisement noting the sale of Ice Originals By Lizette at the Alpine Ice Chalet in Pittsburgh. Photo courtesy Wendy Dager, Virtual Purse Museum.

Ice Originals By Lizette's annual catalogues and ads in "Skating" magazine garnered the bulk of their business, though 'stock' wool, polyester, lamé and corduroy 'skadresses', jumpers and skirts were also sold at Bloomingdale's, sports shops and rinks. The company's 'motto' was "All girls were made for Ice Originals By Lizette." At the height of her success in 1966, Lizette admitted, "Sometimes it scares me, but I'm wonderfully happy to be successful and to know that we're producing something original that so many people want and need." 

Two of the factors that made Ice Originals By Lizette so successful were the fact that its skating wear was manufactured in a wide range of sizes and the cost was extremely affordable. 'Mix and match' switchable skirts ranged from eight to eleven dollars, while competition dresses in vibrant 'technicolor' yellow, orange and hot pink generally retailed for less than thirty five dollars. One of the company's most popular dresses, an itchy long-sleeved wool number, was called the Sun Valley. 

Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine

Ice Originals By Lizette continued to be quite popular in the first part of the seventies, but in 1982, Lizette decided to go in another direction. She co-founded Sage Skin Care with her daughter Barbara, which continues to sell non-comedogenic skincare products using natural ingredients to this very day. Sadly, Lizette Adler passed away on June 23, 1997, at the age of seventy-six after dedicating much of her life to making skaters look good and feel better about themselves.

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 "Jackson Haines: The Skating King" and pre-ordering "Sequins, Scandals & Salchows: Figure Skating in the 1980s", which will be released this fall where books are sold: https://skateguard1.blogspot.com/p/buy-book.html.

30 Of The Most Searched Questions About Figure Skating Answered


I thought it might be fun to mix things up a little and have a gander at 30 of the most searched questions about figure skating! Have a pressing question of your own about figure skating history? Follow along on social media and leave your questions in the comments.


Who invented figure skating?

Skating's roots trace back to centuries ago when ancient people strapped animal bones to their feet in the winter as a means of transportation for getting across the ice. With the invention of metal skates, skating became a popular recreational activity around the world over the years. There wasn't any one person who just woke up and said "I'm inventing figure skating today!" It was an evolution over time. That said, many agree that Jackson Haines was the first figure skater to really draw attention to the sport as the art form it is today. He has been hailed as The Father of Figure Skating.



Jackson Haines. Photo courtesy Jimmy Leiderman.

Is figure skating hard?

Absolutely and unlike a lot of other sports, it's not like riding a bicycle. If you don't use it, you lose it... quickly.

What is a Salchow jump named after?

The Salchow jump is named after its Swedish inventor, Ulrich Salchow. He won the gold medal in the first men's event at the Olympics in 1908. He was also the winner of ten World titles and later served as the President of the International Skating Union. Ironically, Salchow was far more famous in his time for his skill in figures than free skating.

LEARN MORE: Read about Ulrich Salchow in the feature "Figure Skating in the Edwardian Era".

How much does figure skating cost?

Figure skating is one of the most expensive sports out there. In addition to custom skates, coaches fees and ice time, elite skaters pay thousands of dollars for costumes, off-ice training, physiotherapy, travel, competition entry, membership fees etc. For many years, there were two types of figure skaters - amateurs and professionals. That line started to blur in the 1990s when the ISU Grand Prix, ISU Championships and pro-am competitions gave amateur skaters a chance to win prize money to defray costs not covered by their federations. The reality is that the sport isn't cheap. Many parents of young skaters, even at a lower level, have taken out second mortgages on their homes and gone through tremendous financial hardship to allow their children to continue in the sport they loved. I don't say that to scare people off. I do think it's important that people have realistic expectations going in though. There is far less money in the professional side of the sport than there once was, so people should temper their expectations coming in. Very few people go to the Olympics and very few make back a fraction of the money they put into the sport.

What is a Lutz jump named after?

The Lutz jump is named after its Austrian inventor, Alois Lutz. He had the misfortune of really being in his prime as a skater around the time of the first World War when major figure skating competitions were cancelled. He passed away at a young age. The fact he received credit as the inventor of the Lutz was probably because he skated at the Engelmann Rink in Vienna, which was a major hub for European figure skating at the time. Had he have skated out of a rink where there hadn't been as many eyes on him, someone else likely would have got the credit for inventing the jump.

LEARN MORE: Read about Alois Lutz and the history of the Lutz jump in "Technical Merit: A History of Figure Skating Jumps".

Is figure skating on TV today?

Not as much as it once was! A huge part of the reason that figure skating was so explosively popular in the 1980s and 1990s boiled down to the fact that it was on television all the time at a time when television was very popular. People didn't have a million choices like they do now and skating became must-see TV. Figure skating hasn't firmly established a presence on popular streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime. 2024 was the first year in decades that the Canadian Championships were not televised in some form. TV may not be as popular as it once was, but millions still watch it - and they aren't finding skating on their screens far enough.

LEARN MORE: Learn about the broadcast history of figure skating in Kelli Lawrence's book "Skating On Air".

Lyudmila Pakhomova and Aleksandr Gorshkov. Photo courtesy "Ice & Roller Skate" magazine.

When was ice dancing added to the Olympics?

There are two correct answers to this question - 1968 and 1976. Ice dancing was first introduced as a demonstration sport at the Grenoble Games in 1968, but the first official competition wasn't until the Innsbruck Games in 1976. The winners that year were the Soviet duo of Lyudmila Pakhomova and Aleksandr Gorshkov.

Do figure skaters get dizzy when they spin?

You can, but you get used to it. If you're into the science as to why, check out this great article from Scientific American.

Who was the first figure skater to do a backflip?

One of the first skaters purported to do a backflip on skates was a noted turn-of-the-century skater and dentist from Ottawa named Dr. Alexander Martin. Backflips started to become popular when ice revues exploded in popularity around the time of World War II. An American show act called The Hub Trio (Len and Kenneth Mullen and Eddie Raiche) included backflips in their performances. Kenneth was the first of the trio to do the backflip on the ice and he broke both his kneecaps the first time he tried it. Other skaters doing backflips around that time included Adele Inge, Skippy Baxter, Sally Richardson and The Kermond Brothers. 

LEARN MORE: Read Skate Guard blogs about The Hub Trio, Adele Inge and The Kermond Brothers.


1942 cartoon featuring Adele Inge

When was men's figure skating added to the Olympics?
When was women's figure skating added to the Olympics?
When was pairs figure skating added to the Olympics?


The answer to all three of these questions is 1908, the first time that figure skating competitions were held in conjunction with the Summer Olympics. The events were held at Prince's Skating Club in London, England - a facility that had ties to the suffragette movement in England.

Do figure skating judges get paid?

Figure skating judges are volunteers. When I was a judge and was travelling to test days and competitions, they would cover your mileage (gas). Sitting for hours on end can get very cold, very fast, and skating clubs always took amazing care of all of the judges, referees and accountants. You never went home hungry and there was always lots of hot coffee, tea, hot chocolate and homemade soup to keep you going.


Madge and Edgar Syers

What were the early rules of figure skating competitions?

In the 19th century, the rules of 'fancy skating' competitions varied from city to city, country to country and it wasn't uncommon for a lot of funny business to go on. School figures had a lot more value than free skating and skaters didn't just show up with their music on a thumb drive, because they weren't invented yet. At the turn of the century, the development of the International Skating Union helped bring some semblance of order to the judging of international figure skating competitions. The ISU published a list of approved judges and decided that all competitions had to have a referee and at least five judges. The skating association that hosted an ISU Championship had the right to have at least one judge. Six school figures were drawn for every competition, and if special figures were included in the competitions, skaters had to submit diagrams and descriptions to the judges ahead of time. In free skating, men's programs were five minutes long and women's and pairs four. Skaters were signalled to start their programs by the dropping of a flag and the minutes were called by the referee during a skater's free skating program. At the end, 'time' was called and if the music hadn't ended, it was stopped. Madge Syers suggested skaters always have "one or two items to spare" in case their program ran short, for skaters weren't permitted to stop skating until instructed by the referee. In an article penned for the "Badminton Magazine Of Sports And Pastime", Madge's husband Edgar described what a typical free skating program at the turn of the century looked like thusly: "The judges are ranged at intervals round the rink, the first competitor has called to the band for his favourite tune, generally a waltz, and his name and club having been announced, he bursts into the skating area... The entry is usually made at speed on a large and bold outside or inside spiral, the [astrachan] cap is removed in salute and held high above the head, the body erect, with a free and graceful carriage. When the spiral has been brought to a centre the cap is replaced, and the competitor proceeds to demonstrate his programme of free figures. The point chiefly aimed at is continuity; the skater should never be at fault, and one figure should merge into another almost imperceptibly. The figures should be as attractive as possible, and on no account should the skater introduce any of those contained in the compulsory list, but should aim at producing novel combinations and tours de force."

LEARN MORE: Learn about how figure skating competitions were judged in the early days in the feature "The Lost Years: Skating and The Great War".

What are the types of figure skating?

There's room for everybody in figure skating! If you'd rather go it alone, you can compete in singles, solo dance and interpretive and artistic events. Rather skate with a partner? You can do pairs, ice dance, or both! Prefer being part of a team? Take up synchro skating or theatre on ice. The possibilities are endless in the sport. Do what feels right for you or even better - learn what discipline is the right fit for you by trying more than one.


Surya Bonaly

Why was Surya Bonaly disqualified from the Olympics?

Oh boy... here we go. Surya Bonaly was not disqualified from the Olympics. In 1998, she decided to include a backflip in her performance, even though it was an illegal element, much like Adam Siao Him Fa did at the 2024 European and World Championships. She was not the first skater, nor the first woman, to do a backflip. She was the first to do one on one foot in a competition. The fact that she landed it on one foot was irrelevant, because it was still a banned element. The backflip was banned by the ISU in the 1970s after Terry Kubicka performed one in the Olympics. The reasoning behind the ban was not only safety-based, as one might guess. The ISU also considered the backflip to be an acrobatic stunt with no "aesthetic value." Surya Bonaly was a tremendous athlete and a trailblazer in the sport. That said, the impression given about her career by Buzzfeed/Vice-style articles and the "Losers" documentary you might have seen on Netflix is very much revisionist history in the same vein as "I, Tonya". There's nuance to most questions about the sport's history and that's something that gets completely lost in TikTok videos and articles written by outsiders to the sport.

LEARN MORE: Listen to Surya Bonaly's story in her own words on CBC's Players Own Voice podcast.

What are some of the most controversial moments in figure skating history?

It depends on who you ask and there are a lot of right answers to this question. In terms of events that really burst through the bubble and into the public consciousness, there's no denying that 1994 was a big year for skating controversy. You had the whole Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan scandal, Surya Bonaly refusing to wear the medal and stand on the podium at Worlds and some much-debated results in the ice dance event at the Olympics. The judging scandals surrounding the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City were pretty controversial too and to this day, people have some pretty strong opinions about the pairs event. The women's event at the 2014 Sochi Olympics also generated quite a bit of controversy as did, most recently, the doping scandal at the 2022 Olympics in Beijing. Dozens more stories could easily be added to this list! 

LEARN MORE: Read about the judging scandal at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Joy Goodwin's book "The Second Mark: Courage, Corruption and The Battle for Olympic Gold".

When did figures stop being a part of figure skating?

There's a whole book devoted to this subject - "The End of The Compulsories" by James R. Hines. If you can get your hands on a copy, I suggest you do. It's also a topic I talk about a lot in my upcoming book "Sequins, Scandals & Salchows: Figure Skating in the 1980s". The answer is the 1989/1990 season... sort of. Well into the 1990s, figures were still a part of novice and junior competitions and even today, there are some wonderful efforts to keep this dying art alive. Ask your coach if they did figures and if they can teach you some - there's a lot you can learn from them!



Skippy Baxter

Who was the first person to land a triple jump?

Triple jumps may well be traced back to the 1930s. Canadian-born skater Skippy Baxter claimed to have performed the first triple Salchow in a competition in Los Angeles, California in 1939. His achievement was the subject of a Ripley's “Believe it or Not” cartoon. The first skater to land a triple jump (a loop) in an international competition was Dick Button, at the 1952 Winter Olympics and World Championships.

Who was the first skater to land a quad Axel?

Ilia Malinin.

How often are the World Figure Skating Championships?

Every year. The 2024 World Figure Skating Championships were held in March in Montreal. The 2025 World Championships will be held from March 24-30 in Boston, Massachusetts.

Why do figure skaters jump?

When I wrote my book "Technical Merit: A History of Figure Skating Jumps", this was actually a question that a sports history scholar asked when they reviewed the book. Being so entrenched in the sport, I found it a really unusual one. Do we ask why baseball players hit a ball or why hockey players shoot a puck in a net? Figure skaters jump because, for better or worse, jumping is a key aspect of the sport.

Can figure skating be self-taught?

I would never want to discourage someone from skating but you need to work with a qualified coach if you want to become a proficient skater. That's not optional. In the early days of the sport, there were many self-taught skaters who made it quite far in the sport... but that was before jumps and spins were really a thing like they are today. If you want to be the best skater you can be, find a coach whose teaching style matches your learning style that you can build a rapport with. Even if you can only afford a lesson here and there, coaches will help correct bad habits and teach important things like posture, edges, skating skills and correct body positions. Please don't try to teach yourself because you won't be the best skater you can be.



Victorian era skating fashions, circa 1874

How have figure skating costumes changed over time?

Tremendously and there's no short answer that can sum up all of the changes. If you look back to the Victorian and Edwardian eras, most women wore corsets, long gowns and hats, which would have been completely prohibitive in terms of movement. For decades, major figure skating competitions were held outdoors, so warmth was a huge factor in skating costume design because it had to be. Wool was popular. After the second World War, people didn't have a ton of money and you can see that when you look at many skating dresses in the late 1940s and 1950s. Over the years, stretchy materials have become the norm. As the sport became popular on television, the costumes became more theatrical. 

LEARN MORE: Read parts 1, 2 and 3 of "A Century of Figure Skating Fashion".

Are figure skating blades sharp?

They're knives, so yes.

Historical results showing Carl and Gustav Euler, winners of the Paarlaufen, zwei herren title (Two men pair skating)

Who was the Euler jump named after?

A pair of Austrian brothers named Carl and Gustav Euler, who won the same-sex pairs competitions held in conjunction with the 1900 European Championships in Berlin and 1901 European Championships in Vienna. Depending on who you ask, one of the brothers invented the half-loop jump or Per Thorén from Sweden invented it. The ISU decided to start calling the half-loop an Euler in June of 2018. We've never heard about the Euler brothers from the ISU because they don't have a historian anymore.

Can figure skaters be tall?

Of course they can! Robin Cousins, the 1980 Olympic Gold Medallist in men's figure skating, is over six feet tall. World Champion Eric Radford is six foot two. If anyone ever tells you you're too tall for skating or makes any sort of unwelcome comment about your body at all, tell them to go pound sand.


Robin Cousins

Who was the first figure skater to do the Iron Lotus?

That was a movie and no, that's not a thing. 

Who are some of the most famous figure skating coaches?

It depends on the era and which country you are talking about but I think some of the most famous coaches are the ones who have coached the most famous skaters. If you look back over the years, there have been hundreds of incredible coaches who have left their mark on the sport... many with very colourful stories of their own - think about names like Ellen Burka, Sheldon Galbraith, Frank Carroll, Brian Orser, Jutta Müller, John Nicks, Tamara Moskvina, Betty Callaway, Gladys Hogg, Carlo and Christa Fassi, The Gerschwiler Brothers, Maribel Vinson Owen, Mabel Fairbanks, Ron Ludington... the list is just tremendous.

Learn more: Read about trailblazing figure skating coach Mabel Fairbanks and learn who coached many of figure skating's greats!

Who is the most famous figure skater of all time?

This is a really hard question because it really depends on your age and where you're from. If you're in the UK, the answer's going to be Torvill and Dean. In North America - for all of the wrong reasons - it will probably be Tonya Harding. With the younger crowd, there's really not an interest in the sport's history so you'll probably get an answer of a skater who is still competing or only recently retired. If you're of a certain age, maybe that answer is Barbara Ann Scott or Sonja Henie. In Japan, the answer's probably Yuzuru Hanyu. To me "famous" says that skater has crossed over from being a star in the figure skating world to being well-known among the general public.

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 "Jackson Haines: The Skating King" and pre-ordering "Sequins, Scandals & Salchows: Figure Skating in the 1980s", which will be released this fall where books are sold: https://skateguard1.blogspot.com/p/buy-book.html.

The 1969 World Figure Skating Championships


Sly and The Family Stone's "Everyday People" topped the music charts, newspapers and radio stations couldn't stop talking about the FLQ bombing of the Montreal Stock Exchange and the Boeing 747 made its maiden flight. Yet, for figure skating fans the only news that mattered came out of the Broadmoor World Arena in Colorado Springs.

Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine

From February 25 to March 2, 1969, the venue played host to the World Figure Skating Championships for the fourth time. Hank Beatty, a former USFSA President who'd played an instrumental role in the three previous Colorado Springs Worlds, returned as the event's General Chairman for the fourth time. Though the event drew considerable praise for its efficient management, the organizers had little power over the usual grumblings about the location. At nearly one mile above sea level, skaters with little experience skating at high altitudes struggled with conditioning. 

Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine

Behind the scenes, many members of the American skating community mourned the death of Charlotte Wilkinson McDaniel, who passed away suddenly while attending the event with her husband Delaplaine 'Delly' McDaniel, a fellow USFSA judge. Mrs. McDaniel was a long-time member of the Philadelphia Skating Club and Humane Society. Representatives of the International Professional Skating Union and ISU sat down for a historic first meeting during the event.

Commemorative badge from The 1969 World Figure Skating Championships

Media coverage of the Championships was extensive. Dick Button and Chris Schenkel commentated ninety minutes of coverage which aired on ABC's "Wide World Of Sports". Button wasn't the only skating luminary in attendance. The Jenkins brothers, Hans Gerschwiler, Jean Westwood and Lawrence Demmy, Tenley Albright, Bob Paul and the wife of the late Gillis Grafström all took in the event. Former Olympians Christine Haigler and Tina Noyes served as in-arena announcers for the women's and ice dance events. Olympic Gold Medallist Manfred Schnelldorfer, who was coaching the West German team, was seen rinkside in a fifteen-gallon black cowboy hat and sheriff's badge. In "Skating" magazine, an unattributed writer quipped, "He looked... like a fugitive from 'Wagon Train'." The same writer also remarked, "The Russians may have a Santa Claus complex. They would reach into their pockets and pull out photos, pins, handpainted wooden bowls, dolls and vodka (the last reserved for the Broadmoor staffers). Most speak English; all are gregarious. Tamara Moskvina's English is beautiful, and she often served as interpreter for other team members when the going got rough." Let's take a look back at how all the excitement played out during that fateful week just before the dawning of "The Age Of Aquarius"!

THE ICE DANCE COMPETITION

For the first time at the World Championships, the number of compulsory dances was reduced from four to three to make way for the ISU's newest addition to international ice dance competition - the OSP. To no one's surprise the three-time and defending World Champions Diane Towler and Bernard Ford were unanimously first in all three compulsories - the Viennese Waltz, Paso Doble and Tango - with marks ranging from 5.3 to 5.7.

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

The OSP, which didn't have a 'prescribed rhythm', introduced a mishmash of styles and music choices. As with anything new, there was much criticism and pushback, with many critics calling for "better rules" and the need for a second mark for presentation or artistic impression. Some drew parallels between the OSP and compulsory pairs program, stating that ice dancing was becoming too much like pairs. Americans Judy Schwomeyer and James Sladky performed the Peanut Polka, Britons Susan Getty and Roy Bradshaw the Paso Doble and West Germans Angelika and Erich Buck the March. Soviets Lyudmila Pakhomova and Aleksandr Gorshkov drew praise for their waltz to "Beryozka", as did Britons Janet Sawbridge and Jon Lane, who performed a Sailor's Hornpipe in the reverse direction. Towler and Ford again took top honour but not without some controversy. One of the rules gave teams the option to change position up to six times per circuit. There was some debate as to whether or not they exceeded this. They also received deductions from two judges because Diane trailed Bernard on her knee, which was another 'no-no' as far as the Dance Committee was concerned.

Lyudmila Pakhomova and Aleksandr Gorshkov

In the free dance, Towler and Ford brought the house down with a lively, syncopated free dance that climaxed with music from "Zorba The Greek". Though their marks were mostly 5.8's and 5.9's, Canadian judge Barbara Lane gave them a 5.3 and 5.4, placing them third in the free dance behind Pakhomova and Gorshkov and the Bucks, who finished fifth overall. Reviewing the event in "Skating World" magazine, coach Alex McGowan referred to Lane's marks as "laughable". When the marks were tallied, Towler and Ford were still unanimously first overall, even on Ryan's scorecard. Pakhomova and Gorshkov finished a strong second, making history as the first Soviet ice dancers to stand on the World podium. Canadians Donna Taylor and Bruce Lennie placed eleventh, while Schwomeyer and Sladky took the bronze... furthering the already incessant talk about the legitimacy of the judging at the North American Championships. Though there was no movement among the top eight teams, Americans Debbie Gerken and Raymond Tiedemann made a notable jump from unlucky thirteenth to ninth with a charming free dance. Both Bernard Ford and Jaochim Iglowstein wore boot covers that matched their partners, a novel costuming concept at the time.

Ice dance medallists. Photo courtesy Judy Sladky.

Judy Schwomeyer was believed that she and Jim Sladky's controversial loss at the North American Championships played a part in them not winning the silver in Colorado Springs, and ultimately never winning the World title: "At the Worlds, it was a really big deal about who was going to be third, because Towler and Ford were quitting after that... It was all opened up because the British were starting to move around and I actually heard a judge at the competition - not one of our judges - say, 'Oh, well they couldn't even win North Americans'. I think that started the whole thing running. The British had been there forever and it was, "Who is going to be next?' The Russians of course wanted [the silver] and that's the way it went. "

THE WOMEN'S COMPETITION

Three-time World Champion and Olympic Gold Medallist Peggy Fleming's decision to turn professional meant that a new women's champion would be crowned in 1969. Several women were considered to be in the medal conversation, but when they arrived in Colorado Springs they started dropping like flies.

Linda Carbonetto, Jay Humphry and Karen Magnussen practicing in Squaw Valley in the spring of 1969. Photo courtesy Jay Humphry.

Karen Magnussen in her wheelchair. Photo courtesy World Wide Photos.

1968 Canadian Champion Karen Magnussen went to Squaw Valley to train after finishing second at the North American Championships in Oakland. In her book "Karen: The Karen Magnussen Story", she recalled, "I'd been feeling some pain in my legs for quite a while. It actually started in early October, but I thought I was just out of condition from the summer and that if I really worked, my muscles would get stronger and there would be no problem... One morning at Squaw Valley the pain came back and started working into the backs of my legs. It got so bad I had to get off the ice right away. I went to a doctor and his diagnosis was 'pulled Achilles tendons.' So it was back on the ice, then over to Colorado Springs for the final practices. On the Sunday evening we were practicing when I felt a pain like a sledgehammer was hitting me in both legs. Both my feet were beginning to swell. However, Tenley Albright was there and said, 'I'm sure you'll be fine in the competition tomorrow. You're skating so well!' But the pain was so bad I had to be taken to a hospital... to see a bone specialist. He gave me a sequence of tests, some of which I just couldn't do at all, like rolling up my toes, and took some X-rays. It was midnight by that time, with the championships starting the next day., when the specialist came back with the verdict: 'No way you can skate, my dear. You have stress fractures in both legs.'... That was it. I had to listen to the doctor, finally. I was to stay in a wheelchair. Tenley Albright came up again the next day and said, 'My God, if you can skate like that with two broken legs, what are you going to do next year?'" For much of the event, Karen parked her wheelchair next to Dick Button, taking notes on her competitors for Vancouver newspapers.

Gaby Seyfert

Olympic Bronze Medallist Hana Mašková arrived in Colorado Springs nursing a back injury. Before the event, she told Associated Press reporters, "I took a bad fall during my free skating practice last night. The pain is so bad I can hardly move. It is an old injury that was reactivated. I am going to see the doctor. I hope to skate but I am not sure that I will be able to do so." She skated the first four school figures, finishing behind Austrian figure specialist Trixi Schuba and twenty-year-old East German student Gaby Seyfert, the Silver Medallist at the 1968 Winter Olympic Games in Grenoble. Her ultimate withdrawal after the LFO-RFI paragraph double three was to the advantage of Hungary's Zsuzsa Almássy, who'd already outpointed her but was behind on ordinals. Sitting behind Schuba, Seyfert and Almássy after the figures were a pair of Americans, seventeen-year-old Julie Lynn Holmes - a Colorado College freshman from South Pasadena - and fifteen-year-old Janet Lynn of Rockford, Illinois, the prodigal student of Slavka Kohout.

Gaby Seyfert takes a tumble. 

In the free skate, Trixi Schuba skated a strong but conservative program, landing double Lutzes, flips and toe-loops. Her marks ranged from 5.3 to 5.6. Eighteen-year-old Zsuzsa Almássy's program featured crowd-pleasing illusion spins and Arabians, but was criticized by Dick Button for its lack of fluidity and choreography. The Italian judge didn't agree, giving her a 5.8 for artistic impression. Gaby Seyfert delivered a more gutsy program but took a tumble on one of her double Axel attempts. Despite her error, all but one of the judges gave her 5.9's for technical merit. She told Associated Press reporters, "I can't explain what caused me to fall [on the double Axel]. This is a jump I can do in my sleep." 

Wearing a 'shocking pick' chiffon dress, Julie Lynn Holmes brought down the house with a flawless performance that featured two double Axels, a double inside Axel and a double flip. Despite the fact she skated cleanly and landed two double Axels to Gaby Seyfert's one, every single judge gave her lower technical marks. Janet Lynn landed two double Axels of her own, but popped a double Lutz and omitted a double Salchow/double Salchow sequence. Three judges rewarded her beautiful artistry with 5.8's.

Canada's Linda Carbonetto, only ninth after figures, delivered an inspired and athletic performance that featured a double Lutz, walley into double Axel, delayed Axel, Axels in both directions and unique combination spins.

When the marks were tallied, Seyfert took the gold, Schuba the silver and Almássy the bronze. Though Holmes and Carbonetto finished second and third in the free skate, they placed only fourth and sixth overall. The fact that their marks were lower than Seyfert's drew a loud chorus of boos and catcalls from the knowledgeable American skating crowd. For the first time since 1963, a North American woman wasn't on the podium at the World Championships. Canadian journalist Jim Proudfoot declared, "It damages skating when judges are staring off into space instead of watching the athletes, suggesting they've made their mind up in advance. And the marks they post often reaffirm that suspicion."

THE PAIRS COMPETITION

Irina Rodnina and Alexei Ulanov 

Though reigning Olympic and World Silver Medallists Tatyana Zhuk and Alexander Gorelik were out of the picture as Tatyana was expecting a baby, the trio of Soviet pairs teams that showed up in without peers. At the European Championships in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Irina Rodnina and Alexei Ulanov, Ludmila and Oleg Protopopov and Tamara Moskvina and Alexei Mishin made history by sweeping the podium for the Soviet Union for the first time. Rodnina and Ulanov's victory over the legendary Protopopovs gave critics cause to spout that their style was outdated and their programs lacked the technical difficulty of their rivals. Upon his arrival in Colorado Springs - where he'd won his first World title back in 1965 - Oleg fired back to an Associated Press reporter, "We have lost some small skirmishes but we shall not lose the war... Comparing our style of skating with the more aggressive style featuring jumps and spins is like comparing the Bolshoi ballet with vaudeville or popular music with Bach and Beethoven. Bach and Beethoven will live forever. Similarly, there can be no death to our style of pairs skating. It is classic. Others may win but the victory belongs to us."

Ludmila and Oleg Protopopov

Despite Oleg's unwavering confidence and the fact both teams skated quite well, the thirtysomething Protopopovs lost the compulsory short program to nineteen-year-old Rodnina and twenty-one-year-old Ulanov. Oleg wasn't discouraged, he was infuriated. He told an Associated Press reporter, "This isn't pairs skating; it is two people skating single."

Heidemarie Steiner and Heinz-Ulrich Walther practicing for the 1969 World Championships. Photo courtesy German Federal Archive.

In the free skate, the teams in fourth and fifth (Americans Cynthia and Ron Kauffman and East Germans Heidemarie Steiner and Heinz-Ulrich Walther) took unfortunate tumbles, as did the Protopopov's, who faltered on Axels, double loops and even in their footwork.

 Irina Rodnina and Alexei Ulanov celebrating their victory

Rodnina and Ulanov skated brilliantly, landing side-by-side double Salchows, Axels in both directions and displaying an array of difficult lifts. Their marks were all 5.8's and 5.9's. Moskvina and Mishin drew applause with a rousing, athletic program set to folk music which featured a variation on the forward inside death spiral they called 'the flower'. They received mostly 5.7's and 5.8's, but three judges gave them 5.6's for artistic impression.

Tamara Moskvina and Alexei Mishin

However, the 'stars of the show' were teenagers JoJo Starbuck and Ken Shelley. They brought down the house with a delightful and daring performance, earning the only standing ovation of the evening. Their marks, mostly 5.6's and 5.7's, were loudly booed. The French judge who gave them a 5.4 and 5.5 got the most abuse from the crowd.

When the marks were tallied, Rodnina and Ulanov, Moskvina and Mishin and the Protopopovs were first through third, repeating their history-making Soviet podium sweep from Europeans at Worlds.  Starbuck and Shelley were only able to move up from seventh to sixth overall, which didn't exactly go over well with the crowd.

Following the event, Oleg Protopopov told Associated Press reporters, "I was strong and skated as well as ever, but Ludmilla - she is still weak from two attacks of the grippe. She was very ill before our own national championships but the public and authorities asked us to compete. It was the same in the Europeans."

THE MEN'S COMPETITION

Notably on the missing list in Colorado Springs were Austrians Wolfgang Schwarz and Emmerich Danzer, the reigning Olympic and World Champions and Olympic Bronze Medallist Scotty Allen. Schwarz and Danzer had both turned professional, and Allen was devoting more time to his studies at Harvard. The favourite was twenty-year-old Tim Wood, a pre-law student at John Carroll University in Cleveland. Wood, the youngest of Dr. and Mrs. Kenneth Wood's four sons, had joined the Detroit Skating Club at the age of two and lost the gold medal at the 1968 Winter Olympic Games in Grenoble to Schwarz by the narrowest of margins. After the first four figures, he amassed a sixty-nine point lead over eighteen-year-old Ondrej Nepela of Czechoslovakia. On his fifth figure - the LBO-RBI paragraph loop - he earned the highest mark of any of the men in figures, a 5.5. After the final figure, the RBO-LBI paragraph bracket was completed, Wood had a unanimous one hundred and twenty-six point lead over Nepela and France's Patrick Péra.

Ondrej Nepela, Tim Wood and Patrick Péra in Colorado Springs. Right photo courtesy "Skating" magazine.

In hindsight, it's fair to say that the men's free skate in Colorado Springs in 1969 was one of the best-skated competitions of the sixties. The standing ovations were successive, and even the skater who placed eighth in the free skate - Canada's David McGillvray - landed three triple jumps and had the audience on its feet. Tim Wood's performance featured a triple Salchow and toe-loop and earned him perfect marks of 6.0 for artistic impression from the American, West German and East German judges.

Tim Wood's American teammates, John 'Misha' Petkevich and Gary Visconti, also skated fabulous programs chock full of difficult technical content. Canada's Jay Humphry, who'd jockeyed positions with Visconti in the figures, delivered one of the finest performances of his career, landing a triple toe-loop and two double Axels. It's worth noting that although Péra and Nepela placed fifth and sixth in the free skate, they landed triple jumps as well. When the marks were tallied, Wood was unanimously first and Nepela and Péra held on for silver and bronze on the strength of their scores in figures. Visconti was fourth, just ahead of Petkevich and Humphry, who placed second and third in the free skate.

It's interesting to note that although Humphry received a standing ovation and was in the top three in the free skate with marks as high as 5.9, he dropped a spot in the standings based on his point total, though his ordinals were lower than both Visconti and Petkevich. This was a testament to both the depth of the field and the 'confusing' nature of the computerized judging system in place at the time. After being declared the winner, Tim Wood told reporter Loudon Kelly, "This was the best performance of my life." He became the first American man since David Jenkins in 1959 to stand atop the podium at the World Championships.

Gaby Seyfert and Tim Wood

On the closing day of the competition, many of the stars of the event participated in an afternoon exhibition. One of the many highlights was a 'sextet' performance by Moskvina and Mishin and West German pairs Gudrun Hauss and Walter Häfner and Brunhilde Baßler and Eberhard Rausch.

That evening, skaters and judges alike celebrated at a lavish awards banquet at the Broadmoor Hotel before embarking on the first-ever post-Worlds Tom Collins tour, which visited North American cities instead of European ones.

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

E.B. Cook, A Colourful American Fancy Skating Pioneer

Photo courtesy Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library, Princeton University

"Years ago when the Central Park Lake (New York City) had frozen over and opened to skaters for the first time, Plimpton met on skates Eugene Beauharnais Cook (of Hoboken, NJ) who was the founder, the creator of American 'Fancy Skating.'...Plimpton was an inventor.... He had worked too hard and on the advice of his physician took to outdoor exercise. He could not hold up on his one-bladed skates and envied E.B. Cook who flew about like a bird. They became friends on the ice and Cook laughingly suggested that he ought to invent a skate on which he could hold up at once. It chanced to be a long winter and before its close Plimpton followed Cook's advice and used four small blades similar to miniature old-fashioned country sleighs. The principle was exactly the same as the one used for roller-skates: the four blades always remained flat on the ice whilst diverging and converging." - Excerpt from letter from George E. Vail to Edgar Syers, 1898

The son of Martha (Walker) and General William Cook, Eugene Beauharnais 'E.B.' Cook was born May 19, 1830, in Manhattan, New York. To say that his family was well-to-do was something of an understatement. His father, a West Point graduate, was a decorated military man and personal friend of U.S. President Martin Van Buren. His mother was an accomplished editor who translated a biography of legendary Polish composer Frédéric Chopin. With no less than six servants at their beck and call in the family home in Bordentown, New Jersey, Cook, his older sister Celia and younger sister Edith lived a life of uncommon privilege.

Educated in his youth by private tutors, Cook was shipped off to Princeton College when he was only sixteen. Smart as a whip, he was soon ranked first in his class in civil engineering. Studious almost to a fault, he spent his vacations from school with his nose buried in one book or another. It all caught up to him quickly. According to a biographical sketch penned by W.R. Henry that appeared in "American Chess Magazine" in February 1898, "Hard study and over-application induced tension of the brain, and so much deranged his nervous system that while in the second term of the Junior Class, he became completely prostrated, and was compelled to leave college, without hope of ever being able to resume his studies. He was for a long time dangerously ill, and remained for several years an invalid."


While convalescing, Cook developed something of an obsession for the development and solution of chess problems and by the time he was in his early twenties, the first of many of these problems was published in "The Albion". When his health improved, Cook took to the great outdoors in pursuit of fresh air and better health. In the summers, he pursued mountaineering with the same vigour that he'd shown to chess. In a letter penned to F.M. Teed, he claimed, "In summer I climbed mountains. I have ascended more than 230 mountains and lofty eminences." He became so entranced by his new hobby that he took up annually took up summer residence at Ravine House in Randolph just to be close to the White Mountains and became quite involved in trail-making.


In the winters, Cook left Hoboken and took up residence wherever skating conditions were the best. In an interview that appeared in the March 20, 1903 issue of "The Sun", he claimed, "It was on a King's pond that I learned to skate. Joseph Bonaparte had a place down at Bordentown and there was a pond on it. I learned to skate on that pond. That's why I was able to put so many frills on  my figure work, I suppose." If the name Joseph Bonaparte rings a bell, congratulations... you're a loyal Skate Guard reader! Back in 2015, we explored the story of the notoriously haunted skating pond on Bonaparte's Point Breeze estate in one of the blog's Hallowe'en-themed features.

Cook soon became a regular on the ponds of New York City's Central Park and 59th Street in Manhattan and by the late 1850's was widely regarded as one of the finest 'fancy' skaters of the region. By 1863, he was the New York Skating Club's resident meteorologist, the chairman of the club's Artistic Committee and a frequent judge at the Championships Of America. In 1868, he developed a 'programme of movements' for the American Skating Congress... one of the earliest attempts to level the playing field by streamlining the figures performed in 'fancy' skating competitions. Years later, he played yet another important role in figure skating's early history as a founding member of the National Amateur Skating Association of the United States, working alongside George Dawson Phillips.

Cook's talent as a skater was considerable for the era in which he skated. Fred M. Foster, who published the indispensable "Bibliography Of Skating" in March of 1898 called Cook "the authority of skating in America." Various newspaper accounts praise his grapevines, rocking turns and Philadelphia twists. His specialities were a spread eagle from a backward entrance, a one-foot eight with loops added top, bottom and centre and flat-foot spins. He introduced the term 'pivot circling' in what he called the 'Intoto' position on alternating feet, a figure later built upon by Jackson Haines. He told F.M. Teed, "Skating seemed to offer the most enticing exercise. The problems of balance were very attractive, and I amused myself by creating the possibilities of single movements and of difficult combinations. My repertoire of movements was acknowledged to be considerably more extensive than that of any other skater. An unusual flexibility of limbs enabled me to accomplish many feats which remained my own." A modest skater too...

Eminent skating historian Dennis L. Bird recalled how James L. Plimpton, a pioneer in roller skate design, met Cook on the ice at Central Park in New York City. In a 1933 issue of "Skating" magazine he recalled, "He had worked too hard and on the advice of his physician took to outdoor exercise. He could not hold up on the one-bladed skates and envied E.B. Cook who flew about like a bird. They became friends on the ice and Cook laughingly suggested that he ought to invent a skate on which he could hold up at once. It chanced to be a long winter and before its close Plimpton followed Cook's advice and used four small blades similar to miniature old fashioned country sleighs. The principle was exactly the same as the one used for roller-skates: the four blades always remained flat on the ice whilst diverging and converging."

Marvin R. Clark, a skating critic who penned "The Skater's Textbook" with Frank Swift (William H. Bishop), recalled in the late nineteenth century that Cook "gathered together from all sources, all fundamental movements and their developments and combinations, placing them in proper order according to difficulty of execution and proper order of progress for the learner. Mr. Cook gave his system, the result of many years of study and hard work to the world, and it still remains the programme of all skating contests and congresses, as well as the most valuable library of instruction to learner and professional alike, although condensed into one page, letter size." This 'system' of Cook's creation was adopted by the American Skating Congress.


Though Cook remained quite involved in the skating world as a builder in the late nineteenth century, he became almost obsessively devoted to his love of chess. He took up residence on Hudson Street in Hoboken, New Jersey with Mary Kaley, an Irish widow who acted as his housekeeper and companion and curated one of the largest libraries of chess and skating books in the world. To afford his book collection, he supplemented an inheritance from his father by frequently publishing chess problems in literary magazines and penning the books "American Chess-Nuts: Collection Of Problems By Composers Of The Western World" and "The Poetry Of Motion In Skating". In his spare time, he played the violin and collected art.


The great Irving Brokaw, who was one of a small group of men who helped popularize the Continental Style of skating in America, praised him highly. Cook himself was highly critical of the English Style of skating and T. Maxwell Witham in particular, who wrote that few innovations had been made to figure skating since 1880 except for the introduction of rocker and counter grapevines. "He did not know [O.G] Brady, Jenkins and [James B.] Story," bemoaned Cook. "The very different things that one can do at the same time with one's feet is remarkable, and the combinations are very numerous... Our trans-Atlantic brethren seem to put too little value on the two-foot movements."

Photo courtesy Bibliothèque nationale de France

According to Brokaw, Cook last skated on March 17, 1898, but the March 20, 1903 issue of "The Sun" noted that he skated that year at a reunion of 'old-timers' at the St. Nicholas Rink in New York City. An unnamed peer quoted in that article stated, "He is the grandfather of figure skating, and apparently he has got on the same red necktie he used always to wear away back in the 60s. He was gray then, and he is gray now, and barring the fact that he is a little shaky on his pins when he gets on the ice, he does not appear to me to look a day older than he did when I first saw him. Figure skating in New York dates from him. He used to show us all how to do it."

In 1896, George Dawson Phillips remarked, "The man who has probably done more to foster figure skating in this country than any other is Eugene B. Cook, who has been a delegate to all the various conventions where action has been taken upon the formation of programmes, and whose ideas are largely followed to-day by all figure skater. Mr. Cook has been, to my knowledge, a first-class figure skater for thirty-five years, and he is considered practically the father of figure skating in this country." Jackson Haines likely would have had something to say about that proclamation.


Cook was found dead in the bed of his Hudson Street home in Hoboken at the age of eighty-five, on March 13, 1915. His obituary in "The New York Times" mused, "Recently when his house was on fire, Mr. Cook stood at the door of his library and refused to allow the firemen to enter, fearing they would damage his collection of books". Following his death, the contents of that library were donated to Princeton University. Cook Path in the White Mountains was named after him. Chess enthusiasts still revere him as something of a genius over a century later...but most skating fans haven't the foggiest clue who this colourful skating pioneer was.

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 "Jackson Haines: The Skating King" and pre-ordering "Sequins, Scandals & Salchows: Figure Skating in the 1980s", which will be released this fall where books are sold: https://skateguard1.blogspot.com/p/buy-book.html.