The 1967 European Figure Skating Championships

Press pin from the 1967 European Championships

Filming of Charlie Chaplin's final motion picture wrapped up, "I'm A Believer" by The Monkees topped the music charts and Apollo 1 was destroyed by fire during a launch rehearsal test at Cape Kennedy Air Force Station Launch Complex 34.

These were just some of the events in the weeks leading up to the 1967 European Figure Skating Championships, held January 31 to February 5 of that year at the eight thousand seat Tivoli Hall in historic Ljubljana, nestled between the Adriatic Sea and The Alps. The eight thousand seat venue had played host to the World Ice Hockey Championship just one year prior.

Photos courtesy BIS Archive, Elaine Hooper

Over one hundred and ten skaters from seventeen nations competed in Ljubljana and the event marked the first time in history a major ISU Championship was held in what was then Yugoslavia. However, there was fly in the ointment. Yugoslav transmissions of the event weren't carried over Eurovision and for the first time in years, skating aficionados not in attendance were forced to rely solely on print coverage of the event. In an attempt to explain why the ball had been dropped on international television coverage, commentator Alan Weeks wrote in "Winter Sports" magazine, "Quite simply, the answer was advertising. You may have noticed in last year's Championships that advertising slogans were painted on the ice side of the barriers. As these advertisements were not confined to products manufactured in the country concerned, it was very obvious that they had been aimed specifically at television audiences. As advertising of this kind is contrary to the rules of most European television organizations - some have a total ban on television advertising and others have strict limitations in this respect - the European Broadcasting Union (Eurovision, of which BBC and ITV are members) were reluctantly compelled to forego transmissions from Ljubljana. Some viewers have mentioned the advertising one sees at motor racing tracks. These are quite specifically permanent adverts and, as such, part of the general scene expected at a motor racing event... The adverts at Bratislava last year were painted on the barriers two weeks before the Championships took place and they involved most European countries. In other words, the people in the building would be hardly likely to purchase some of the items advertised. The European Broadcasting Union hopes viewers will understand television's need to put a stop to the commercial exploitation of its programmes by advertising agencies and some sports promoters and that big sporting events will not be deprived of international audiences in the future." The matter was a hot topic in Yugoslavia, but one that was ultimately resolved through communication and negotiation.

The music room. Photo courtesy BIS Archive, Elaine Hooper.

Now that the stage has been set, let's take a look back at the stories and skaters that made this competition so interesting!


Ludmila and Oleg Protopopov

Dressed in powder blue, reigning Olympic and World Champions Ludmila (Belousova) and Oleg Protopopov navigated through their split Lutz lift, trademark one-handed death spiral and side-by-side jumps on the way to unanimously winning the compulsory short program. They received two 5.9's - one for technical merit from the Norwegian judge, another for artistic impression from the Soviet judge. Trailing the Protopopov's were West Germany's Margot Glockshuber and Wolfgang Danne and East Germany's Heidemarie Steiner and Heinz-Ulrich Walther. Controversially, British judge Pamela Peat placed East Germany's top team only twelfth. No other judge had them lower than fourth.

The pairs podium. Photo courtesy BIS Archive, Elaine Hooper.

In the free skate, the Protopopov's skated to strains of Tchaikovsky and appeared poised to skate another clean program until Oleg fell on a side-by-side double flip attempt. Despite their error, the Norwegian judge still gave them a 5.9. Eight of the nine judges placed them in first place in the free skate, with the exception being the West German judge, who placed them third behind the two top West German pairs, Margot Glockshuber and Wolfgang Danne and Gudrun Hauss and Walter Häfner. When the overall marks were tallied, the Protopopov's defeated Glockshuber and Danne eight judges to one. The bronze medal went to Heidemarie Steiner and Heinz-Ulrich Walther. The event was viewed as a rather anti-climactic one, as the Protopopov's closest rivals, Tatyana Zhuk and Alexander Gorelik, were not in attendance due to a severe head injury that Zhuk had suffered in a serious fall on a footwork sequence during a training session earlier in the season.


Top: Wolfgang Schwarz, Austrian coach Herta Wächtler and Emmerich Danzer in Ljubljana. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine. Bottom: The men's podium. Photo courtesy BIS Archive, Elaine Hooper.

If Emmerich Danzer's career was characterized by narrow wins, what he accomplished on the ice in Ljubljana certainly silenced those who thought he'd benefited from bloc judging or reputation in the past. After amassing an incredible sixty eight point lead by winning all six school figures, he skated one of the finest free skating performances of his career, which included a double Axel and triple Salchow. His marks, which included sixteen 5.9's, were a credit to the training he'd done in Lake Placid the summer prior with Gustave Lussi. He deservedly won the title with first place ordinals from every judge in both figures and free skating and an almost ninety three point lead over his closest competitor.

Emmerich Danzer. Photo courtesy "Winter Sports" magazine.

Some felt that Wolfgang Schwarz, who won the silver, was propped up by the judges. Though he landed a (then rare) triple toe-loop in his free skate, he botched his double Axel. In comparison, Ondrej Nepela who won the bronze landed a triple Salchow and two double Axels. France's Patrick Péra and the Soviet Union's Sergei Chetverukhin rounded out the top five. Michael Williams, the only British entry, placed an unlucky thirteenth despite landing a triple Salchow in his free skate. The figures had not been his friend.


Women's medallists in Ljubljana. Right photo courtesy BIS Archive, Elaine Hooper.

With twenty four entries, the women's event in Ljubljana was the largest. As two time and defending European Champion Regine Heitzer had turned professional, the title was also up for grabs. Great Britain's Sally Anne Stapleford won the first school figure, but eighteen year old Gaby Seyfert rallied to earn first place marks from eight of the nine judges in the competition's first phase.

Gaby Seyfert and Emmerich Danzer

Rumours circled that Gaby Seyfert wasn't in top form as she had recently undergone a stomach operation, but she went out and skated a strong but cautious free skating program that included a double Axel, Lutz and Salchow. Her only major error was a faltered split jump. If Seyfert was good, seventeen year old Czechoslovakian Hana Mašková was great. Skating a flawless performance, she managed to narrowly win the free skate but was unable to overcome Seyfert's strong lead in the compulsories and had to settle for silver. The bronze went to Hungary's Zsuzsa Almássy, who performed so poorly in the free skate that three judges placed her tenth. Sally Anne Stapleford placed fourth overall, just ahead of Austria's Trixi Schuba, who placed third in the free skate.


Diane Towler and Bernard Ford

To the surprise of literally no one, Britons Diane Towler and Bernard Ford won the ice dance title in Ljubljana by a mile, earning first place ordinals from every judge in all four compulsories (the Foxtrot, European Waltz, Quickstep and Blues) and the free dance. They actually debuted a brand program, which drew a hearty applause from the capacity crowd and earned 6.0's from the French and Dutch judges - the only two perfect marks awarded in any discipline at the Championships.

Left: Janet Sawbridge and Jon Lane. Photo courtesy "Winter Sports" magazine. Right: The ice dance podium. Photo courtesy BIS Archive, Elaine Hooper.

The surprise of the competition was the silver medal win of Yvonne Suddick and Malcolm Cannon. Though Suddick had medalled at the European Championships the past three years with Roger Kennerson, her partnership with Malcolm (a British Champion in singles) was only months old. On the strength of their free dance, French ice dancers Brigitte Martin and Francis Gamichon managed to defeat Janet Sawbridge and Jon Lane for the bronze by only one ordinal placing, preventing a British sweep of Gladys Hogg's pupils in the process. They became the first French dance team since Christiane and Jean-Paul Guhel, who won in 1962, to stand on the European podium.

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