The 1975 Skate Canada International Competition

They wore leisure suits, mood rings and platform shoes. They crowded around television sets to watch the antics of Archie and Edith Bunker on "All In The Family". They swayed to David Bowie's "Fame" and bitched and moaned over the "Return To Sender, Embargo Mail" labels on their letters during Canada's postal strike. 

The year was 1975 and from October 23 to 25, over twenty-two thousand spectators came out of the woodwork to watch forty-five skaters from thirteen countries compete at the newly-constructed Northlands Coliseum in Edmonton, Alberta to compete at the third ever Skate Canada International competition. It was Olympic Silver Medallist Debbi Wilkes' first job as a commentator for CTV.

The competition was significant for three reasons. Firstly, it was one of the only autumn internationals during that period. Secondly, it was the kick-off to an Olympic season and a great opportunity for skaters to 'test-run' their new programs in front of international judges before heading to Innsbruck. Thirdly - and perhaps most importantly - it was the first major international event held since the ISU voted to reduce figures to thirty percent in value and up the free skating to fifty. How did the skaters fare? Let's take a look back!


Photos courtesy Edmonton Public Library

Men from Finland, France, Poland, the Soviet Union, Great Britain, Japan, Austria, Czechoslovakia, the United States and Canada competed in Edmonton but the two skaters the audience was most interested in were Toller Cranston and Ron Shaver.

Toller Cranston

Toller Cranston had won the event in 1973; Shaver was victorious in 1974. When the two Canadians last competed against each other at the World Championships in Colorado Springs, Cranston finished fourth to Shaver's eighth.

Video courtesy Frazer Ormondroyd

When Ron Shaver arrived in Edmonton, he was still recuperating from a serious groin injury that had nearly sidelined him the previous season. He finished only fourth in figures, behind Igor Bobrin, Toller Cranston and Hungary's László Vajda. A stumble on the second half of the double toe-loop/triple toe-loop combination and a fall at the end of his step sequence in the short program made it impossible for Shaver to move up. Toller Cranston, on the other hand, brought down the house with one of his finest performances ever. Skating to Strauss' jubilant "Graduation Ball", he dazzled the audiences and judges alike with his finesse, flair and superb technical skill.

Left: Toller Cranston. Right: Terry Kubicka. Photos courtesy Edmonton Public Library.

The men's free skate in Edmonton was a nightmare for both the accountants and referee and assistant referee Sonia Bianchetti and Audrey Williams. Nineteen Terry Kubicka, the young American who had won the free skate at the 1975 World Championships and emerged as his country's 'number one' after Gordon McKellen's retirement, brought down the house with an electric routine jam-packed with triple jumps... and a not yet officially illegal but) certainly frowned upon backflip. The judges scored him just behind Ron Shaver, who landed five triples, in the free skate.

Terry Kubicka

When the marks were tallied, Terry Kubicka managed to make up enough ground to finish third overall despite being only sixth entering the free skate after stepping out of a triple Lutz in the short and messing up one of his figures. Toller Cranston, though only third in the free skate with a disappointing performance that featured only one clean triple, still managed to take the gold on the strength of his figures and short program.


Edmonton born Lynn Nightingale had won both the Canadian and Skate Canada titles in 1973 and 1974 but opted to perform an exhibition instead of competing at the 1975 event. She was slated to compete at the Richmond Trophy in England that November. In her absence, the heavy favourite was Kath Malmberg, a two-time U.S. Medallist from Rockville, Illinois who had placed a strong fifth at the 1975 Worlds in Munich on the strength of her figures. To no one's surprise, she led the pack after the compulsories in Alberta. Japan's Emi Watanabe, only fourth in figures, won the short to move up to third overall entering the free skate behind Malmberg and Italy's Susanna Driano, who trained in Colorado Springs with Carlo and Christa Fassi. Watanabe trained in Toronto but went to school down in the United States.

Susanna Driano impressed many with her stamina and high energy in the free skate. Her zippy and athletic performance included a triple Salchow, three double Axels and three double Lutzes. Her only error was on a fourth double Axel attempt, which she aborted mid-air and two-footed. In comparison, Kath Malmberg's program was far less technically demanding. She 'only' did one double Axel and two double Lutzes and attempted no triples. When the judges ranked her only third in the free skate, the gold became Driano's. It was a remarkable comeback as she'd placed only tenth in the event the year prior in Kitchener.

Photo courtesy Edmonton Public Library

Canadians Susan MacDonald, Camille Rebus and Kim Alletson placed fourth, sixth and seventh. MacDonald was suffering from an abscessed tooth. West Germany's Gerti Schanderl, third after the figures, dropped down to fifth overall with a disastrous free skate. A crowd favourite, Schanderl skated with an ambition one reporter from the "Manchester Guardian" described as "resembling a Panzer tank in full attack."


Photo courtesy Edmonton Public Library

Dance was poised to be included at the Olympics for the first time and the discipline was going through something of a metamorphosis. At the most recent ISU Congress, the Ice Dance Technical Committee had banned vocal music and rules had been passed penalizing excessive side-by-side and shadow skating, separations, posing and ballet inspired programs. Couples were also not allowed to perform more than seven introductory steps in the compulsory dances. In "Skating" magazine, Frank Loeser stated, "Ice dancing is currently in an unusual state of happy distraction. Each dance team seems to be pursuing a distinct sort of dance with an individual style. The only problem created is one for the judges. Apart from an awareness of technical competency, one can only use personal preference for sorting out an order. The compulsory dances thankfully provide a simpler frame for judging technical ability."

Lyudmila Pakhomova and Aleksandr Gorshkov

Thirteen couples competed in Edmonton - the largest field to date in the burgeoning fall invitational. 1974 winners Irina Moiseeva and Andrei Minenkov didn't return to defend their title but their Soviet teammates Lyudmila Pakhomova and Aleksandr Gorshkov were on hand to give exhibitions. Hungarians Krisztina Regőczy and András Sallay, ranked sixth in the World, were forced to withdraw when Sallay injured his back picking up luggage at the airport terminal. On hand were the fourth and fifth place teams in the World - Natalia Linichuk and Gennadi Karponosov of the Soviet Union and Matilde Ciccia and Lamberto Cesarani of Italy.

Precise compulsories and a strong Rhumba OSP earned Linichuk and Karponosov a hefty lead entering the free dance.  To the surprise of many, Canadians Barbara Berezowski and David Porter managed to best the Italians to take the silver on the strength of their show-stopping, four tempo free dance to "In The Mood", "Jordan's Tango", "Softly As I Leave You" and "Mambo No. 5".

The Muscovites, to the surprise of no one, took the gold with their free dance to "The Last Snow Of Spring". Americans Judi Genovesi and Kent Weigle, Poles Teresa Weyna and Piotr Bojańczyk and Canadians Susan Carscallen and Eric Gillies finished fourth through sixth. Canada's third couple, Lorna Wighton and John Dowding, were eighth. In her book "Figure Skating History: The Evolution Of Dance On Ice", Lynn Copley-Graves noted, "The winners' strength lay in their maturity - the play of man against and toward woman - plus intricate choreography." After the Sunday night exhibitions, Barbara Berezowski flew on a red-eye flight to Toronto to compete in the Miss Canada Pageant. She was the reigning Miss Toronto. David Porter joked, "If she wins, she'll have to call me Mr. Universe".

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