The Sad Fates Of Three Russian Figure Skating Pioneers

Nikolay Aleksandrovich Panin-Kolomenkin rose to prominence in the early twentieth century, winning Russia's first Olympic gold medal in figure skating in the special figures competition at the 1908 Summer Olympic Games in London, England. He went on to better the sport in his country as a coach, judge and author in the years that followed and has been revered as the 'first great Russian figure skater' by many. However, the fates of three other Russian skating pioneers weren't quite so idyllic. Today, we'll take a brief look at their stories...


Hailing from Russian Finland, Karl (Carl) Antonovich Ollo settled in St. Petersburg, Russia, where he joined the St. Petersburg Society Of Ice Skating Amateurs in 1903. He was one of the founders of his teacher Nikolay Panin-Kolomenkin's school at Yusupov Gardens. Under Panin's watchful eye, he soon became regarded as something of a wiz at special figures.

Karl Ollo, Herra Rosenberg, Walter Jakobsson and Sakari Ilmanen in 1907

After participating in carnivals and competitions in Helsinki, Moscow and St. Petersburg, Karl competed at the 1909 European Figure Skating Championships in Budapest, where he finished fourth behind Hungary's Sándor Urbáry in a four-three split of the judging panel. That same winter, he won the Silver Challenge Shield in Vyborg. This contest, organized by N.D. Borajinoff, consisted solely of special figures and free skating.

Special figures devised by Karl Ollo

In 1910, Karl won his first of three Russian titles and in 1911, he won the school figures at the European Championships held at his home rink, competing in temperatures of over minus twenty degrees Celsius.

A less than stellar free skating performance dropped him to second overall, but his silver medal was only the third medal won at the European Championships by a Russian. Tragically, following his in loss in St. Petersburg, Karl was killed on the front lines during the first World War.


Born in 1880, Fedor Ivanovich Datlin also hailed from St. Petersburg, was coached by Nikolay Panin-Kolomenkin and taught at Panin-Kolomenkin's school with Karl Ollo. In the winter of 1907, he made quite an impression at an international competition at the Wiener Eislaufverein in Vienna, but did not win. His last place finish at the 1909 World Championships in Stockholm, Sweden was equally disappointing. However, he did win both the 1908 and 1908 Russian titles and the very first men's title of the Soviet Union in 1920. Devoting many years to passing on Panin's teachings to a new generation of Russian skaters, he died at the age of sixty one during the Siege Of Leningrad in December 1941, where many Russians starved to death under unthinkable conditions, literally dying in the street. He is buried in Seraphimovskoe Cemetery alongside over a hundred thousand other Siege Of Leningrad victims.


Matching side-by-side photograph and engraving of Alexander Panshin

Born September 15, 1863 in the St. Petersburg district of Sestroretsk, Alexander Nikitich Panshin was an accountant by trade who lived on the shores of the Sestroretskiy Lake. In January 1889, he entered the World Championships in speed skating in Amsterdam, won three of four distances and set a new world record. Two weeks later, American Joe Donoghue challenged Panshin to a rematch. Panshin won that too. The next month on the Petrovka River, he won a three mile race later recognized as the first Russian Championship in speed skating, defeating young Moscow physician Sergey Puresev on home turf. While competing in numerous speed skating races, he improved the design of Russian speed skates, which were then manufactured at the Sestroretsk Arms Factory.

In the late nineteenth century, he reinvented himself as a figure skater, winning his first of four Russian titles in 1897 at Yusupov Gardens. A talented specialist in special figures, Panshin committed suicide on November 4, 1904 in Sestroretsk at the age of forty one.

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