Axels In The Argentine: The Lucian Büeler Story

The son of Hermann and Eleonora (Florin) Büeler, Lucian Büeler was born March 28, 1910 in
Zürich, Switzerland. He grew up during The Great War, attending schools in Aussig (Ústí nad Labem) and Graubünden, the canton in eastern Switzerland where his mother's family hailed from. It was likely in Graubünden - the popular winter sports destination that played host to the famous skating resorts in Davos and St. Moritz - that Lucian was first exposed to the art of figure skating.

Lucian first started seriously pursuing skating while attending the ETH Zürich university as a civil engineering student. He graduated from the university in 1934 and began working as an assistant in hydraulic engineering and an engineer for the road construction firm Gebr. Kräme. During the winters, he devoted what free time he had to practicing change-double threes and circular step sequences on the outdoor rinks of Graubünden. In Basel in 1935, he won his first of three consecutive Swiss men's titles. That same year, he placed tenth at the European Championships. In 1936, he represented Switzerland at the Winter Olympic Games and World Championships, finishing seventeenth and fourteenth. In his final appearance in an ISU Championship, the 1937 World Championships, he placed tenth. Following his short competitive career, Lucian headed the Zentralkurs für Eiskunstlauf, a central training program for Swiss skaters in Klosters. In 1939, he passed all of his skiing tests. Skiing wasn't Lucian's only talent aside from skating. He was a gifted violinist, spoke five languages and had an impressive collection of antique musical instruments.

In 1939, Lucian emigrated to South America to work for a Frankfurt-based construction company and help design a hydroelectric power station on the Rio Negro in Uruguay. It was in South America that he made his most important contribution to the figure skating world. Putting his engineering skills to the test, he directed construction of an artificial ice rink at the Club de Gimnasia y Esgrima in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The unusual project was funded by unclaimed lottery prizes and drew in patrons numbering in the thousands during World War II. The rink was so popular that by 1943, Lucian engineered a second rink in the Club's Mar del Plata clubhouse to deal with the overflow. He acted as the head professional at both rinks. One of two instructors he employed, a Swiss skater with Argentine ties named Renate Bikart, suffered the loss of many of her family members in Auschwitz.

While in South America, Lucian met his Austrian born wife Franziska Siegert. The couple returned to Switzerland after the War, settling in Lausanne and raising twin boys. Lucian got a job working for  L'Energie de l'Ouest-Suisse in Lausanne, which was involved in the construction of power plants and bridges. In February of 1950, he was elected as the engineer of the Solothurn local council. In this role, he hoped to establish more artificial ice rinks in the area. Sadly, that's not how things went. Lucian passed away after a brief illness on February 6, 1952 at the age of forty-one. After his death, his wife and sons moved to Germany. 

Though Lucian's name is all but forgotten today, his unique contribution to South American figure skating history is one for the history books.

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