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."

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