The 1924 World Figure Skating Championships

February 1924 cover of "Motor" magazine

American newspapers covered The Teapot Dome scandal, while in Europe readers were mesmerized by tales of archaeologist Howard Carter's work in the tomb of Egyptian Pharaoh Tutankhamun. George Gershwin's composition "Rhapsody In Blue" had just been debuted in New York City and flappers from Chicago to Cannes embraced the latest dance craze, The Charleston.

On February 16 and 17, 1924, many of the top women's skaters in the world gathered in Oslo, Norway for part one of the 1924 World Figure Skating Championships. The men's and pairs events were held at the Manchester Ice Palace in England on February 26 and 27, 1924. The Winter Sports Week in Chamonix, later recognized as the 1924 Winter Olympic Games, had wrapped up two weeks prior, allowing women's competitors ample opportunity to make the sea voyage from France to Norway. However, only three of the eight women who competed in Chamonix opted to compete - Herma Szabo and Beatrix Loughran, the winner and runner-up, and eleven year old Sonja Henie, who was making her World debut. Why was there such a low number of entries? One reason may have been the fact that an international senior women's championship was included alongside the World men's and pairs events in Manchester. Another possibility might have been the fact that at least one potential competitor was warned off competing. In a letter sent to Theresa Weld Blanchard from a Swedish skating official in November of 1923, she was cautioned, "If you go to France it will be convenient to stop as well at Christiania as at the Manchester meeting. You and Miss Loughran certainly have a chance, though I think the little Vienna lady will hold her own."

Herma Szabo

The women's competition in Oslo was held in conjunction with the European Championships in speed skating, where decorated champion Clas Thunberg of Finland was shockingly beaten in three of the four races. The event marked the first time the 'ISU Championship For Ladies' was referred to as a World Championship. Shortly after the event, the ISU retroactively deemed all previous 'ISU Championships For Ladies' dating back to 1906 to be World Championships. All but the German judge, who patriotically voted for Ellen Brockhöft, had two time and defending World Champion Herma Szabo first in the school figures.

As predicted by Viktor Lundquist, the former President of the Svenska Skridskoförbundet who had written Theresa Weld Blanchard, Herma Szabo was impossible to defeat in the free skating. The judges placed her unanimously first, giving her a convincing win once again. Sonja Henie and Ellen Brockhöft each had two second place ordinals in free skating to Beatrix Loughran's one. However, Henie's sixth place showing in the figures held her back in fifth in her first World Championships. Brockhöft and Loughran took the silver and bronze. Loughran made history as the first U.S. woman to compete at the World Championships and also became first North American woman to medal. A report from the Viennese paper "Neues Montagblatt" alternately praised Brockhöft's school figures and Szabo's free skating. There was a lot of hype in the Austrian press about a potentially close contest between Szabo and Gisela Reichmann, but the latter Viennese skater's nerves kept her off the podium entirely.

The two British skaters who competed in Chamonix, as well as Canada's Cecil Smith, skipped the Oslo event in favour of competing in the women's championship in Manchester. Smith, who had painfully competed in France with chilblains on both feet, finished second to Ethel Muckelt, the hometown favourite. Kathleen Shaw, the bronze medallist, also hailed from Manchester.

Gillis Grafström

Defending and three time World Champion Fritz Kachler did not compete in Manchester, nor did World Champion Gösta Sandahl, who was third the year prior, or Georges Gautschi, the Olympic Bronze Medallist. In the school figures, Gillis Grafström defeated Willy Böckl in a three-two split of the judging panel, with both British judges voting for Böckl and the Austrian, Norwegian and Hungarian judges for Grafström.

Willy Böckl

In the free skating, three judges had Gillis Grafström first, the Austrian judge tied Willy Böckl with Ludwig Wrede and the Norwegian judge tied Grafström and Böckl. Overall, Grafström was unanimously first. Only one ordinal placing separated Ernst Oppacher, Jack Ferguson Page and Wrede. Oppacher and Page only had one third place ordinal apiece. Wrede had two and Otto Preißecker, who was sixth, had one. Oppacher took the bronze, narrowly ahead of Page and Wrede. Martin Stixrud, Norway's sole representative, placed last.

Defending champions and Olympic Silver Medallists Ludovika and Walter Jakobsson did not compete in Manchester, nor did 1923 World Silver medallists Alexia and Yngvar Bryn and 1924 Olympic Bronze Medallists Andrée Joly and Pierre Brunet. Like Gillis Grafström in the men's event, Helene Engelmann and Alfred Berger had skipped the 1923 World Championships but won gold in Chamonix. They easily defeated Ethel Muckelt and Jack Ferguson Page and Sweden's Elna Henrikson and Kaj af Ekström to win their second World title together. Engelmann had won the World title with her former partner Karl Mejstrik prior to The Great War. The "Wiener Sporttagblatt" called Engelmann and Berger's win "a civil victory... not just earning a major title, but also proving that they earned it rightfully so." The Manchester Worlds ended with an informal Waltz and Tenstep contest. Future Australian Champion Cyril MacGillicuddy and H.W. Allen, vice-master of Ormond College at Melbourne University, helped judge.

The weekend after the World Championships concluded, the Club des Sports d'Hiver de Paris hosted a black-tie fifteen franc skating gala featuring Gillis Grafström, Helene Engelmann and Alfred Berger, Beatrix Loughran, Ethel Muckelt and Jack Ferguson Page as well as France's Francis Pigueron and Andrée Joly and Pierre Brunet.

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