Figure Skating's Most Exclusive Club

Gilbert Fuchs, Madge Syers and Anna Hübler and Heinrich Burger, Jean Westwood and Lawrence Demmy joined figure skating's most exclusive club by default, because they were the first World Champions in their respective disciplines.

Gösta Sandahl. Photo courtesy Sveriges Centralförening för Idrottens Främjande Archive.

Swedes Henning Grenander and Gösta Sandahl joined the club in 1896 and 1914. Helene Engelmann earned her admission in 1913 with her first partner Karl Mejstrik in 1913. Her second partner Alfred Berger joined the club in 1922. That same year, fellow Austrian Herma Szabo also became a member. Three years later, her pairs partner Ludwig Wrede joined in the fun.

Barbara Ann Scott

Hans Gerschwiler, Barbara Ann Scott and Micheline Lannoy and Pierre Laugniet all had to wait until 1947 to become members of the club. They likely would have joined sooner had the World Championships not been cancelled due to World War II. Ria Baran and Paul Falk also joined the club late due to circumstances beyond their control - the ISU hadn't allowed German skaters to compete in ISU Championships for several years after the War ended.

Ria Baran and Paul Falk

In 1959, Doreen Denny became only the third ice dancer to join the club... and the only one to join without her partner. Three years later, the only other ice dancers in the club became members. Czechoslovakian siblings Eva Romanová and Pavel Roman would have likely joined a year earlier had the World Championships not been cancelled due to the Sabena Crash that killed the entire American team.

The club got seven new members in the seventies and eighties - all decorated Soviet pairs teams. Irina Rodnina followed in Helene Engelmann's footsteps, gaining admission in 1969 with her first partner Alexei Ulanov and being joined by her second partner Aleksandr Zaitsev in 1973. Elena Valova and Oleg Vasiliev and Ekaterina Gordeeva and Sergei Grinkov became members in 1983 and 1985.

In the last three decades, only six new members have been admitted to the club - Oksana Baiul in 1993, Kimmie Meissner in 2006 and Evgenia Medvedeva in 2016 and Anna Shcherbakova, Anastasia Mishina and Aleksandr Galliamov in 2021. 

Wondering what all of these talented skaters have in common and how they became members of figure skating's most exclusive club? It's quite simple. Incredibly, they were all winners on their very first trip to the World Figure Skating Championships.

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":