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The 1975 European Figure Skating Championships

Photo courtesy Deutsches Sport and Olympia Museum

Princess Alexandra and Barbara Castle, the longest serving female Member of Parliament in England, had just launched International Women's Year. The Social Democratic Party had emerged victorious in Denmark's general election. A series of two PFLP terrorist attacks at the Orly Airport in Paris injured twenty three people. A postage stamp cost ten cents and the Average White Band's hit "Pick Up The Pieces" blared on Oldsmobile Cutlass 8-track players.

The year was 1975, and from January 28 to February 2, the Brøndby-Hallen just outside of Copenhagen played host to the first European Championships to be held on Danish soil. The multi-sport Brøndby-Hallen was constructed just two years prior, with seating for over four thousand spectators. 

Photo courtesy Dansk Skøjte Union, Jette Ryttergaard. Used with permission.

This historic 'get' for the Dansk Skøjte Union was largely thanks to the tireless efforts of Finn Olsen, who served as the organization's President for nearly twenty years. Let's take a look at how things played out at the event!


Lyudmila Pakhomova and Aleksandr Gorshkov (left) and Hilary Green and Glyn Watts (right). Photos courtesy "Skating" magazine.

Sixteen ice dance teams competed in Copenhagen and to no one's surprise, Soviet couple Lyudmila Pakhomova and Aleksandr Gorshkov took a resounding lead in the compulsory dances and Blues OSP, earning several 5.9's in the process. They debuted a new free dance set to a jazzy version of Tchaikovsky's "Swan Lake" and earned three perfect marks of 6.0 in that phase of the competition on the way to the top of the podium.

Aleksandr Gorshkov, Lyudmila Pakhomova, Aleksandr Zaitsev and Irina Rodnina

In winning their fifth European title, Pakhomova and Gorshkov set a new record in ice dance at the European Championships. Great Britain's Hilary Green and Glyn Watts did well to take the silver. Glyn was suffering from chest congestion and was quite under the weather throughout the event. Though Irina Moiseeva and Andrei Minenkov garnered a lot of attention with their speedy, dynamic free dance and placed second in that phase of the competition, they were unable to move up and finished fourth behind their teammates Natalia Linichuk and Gennadi Karponosov. The other two British teams, Janet Thompson and Warren Maxwell and Kay Barsdell and Kenneth Foster, placed a disappointing seventh and ninth.


Irina Rodnina and Aleksandr Zaitsev in Copenhagen

An unlucky number of thirteen couples were entered in pairs competition. As was so often the case in the seventies, Irina Rodnina and Aleksandr Zaitsev were in a class of their own. In the short program, they received three perfect marks of 6.0 for artistic impression. In the free skate, Rodnina had a rare miss on a side-by-side double Axel to double Salchow series, but the couple skated brilliantly otherwise. In winning her seventh title, Irina (like Pakhomova and Gorshkov in the dance) set a new record for European titles. However, since she won her first four titles with former partner Alexei Ulanov, Marika Kilius and Hans-Jürgen Bäumler's record of six set back in the sixties still stood (for the time being).

Video courtesy Frazer Ormondroyd

Silver medallists Romy Kermer and Rolf Österreich of East Germany made some history of their own when they became the first pair to land a throw triple loop in an ISU Championship. They earned eight 5.9's for their free skate, but still sat well behind Rodnina and Zaitsev. A fall on a throw double Axel kept their teammates, Manuela Groß and Uwe Kagelmann in third. Both teams trained at the SC Dynamo Berlin with coach Heinz-Friedrich Lindner. Karin and Christian Künzle's fifth place finish was notable in two respects. They were the first Swiss pair to make the top five at Europeans in ten years, and they were the first twins to crack the top five at Europeans as well.


Christine Errath (middle), Dianne de Leeuw (left) and Anett Pötzsch (right) on the podium

East Germany's Christine Errath, the reigning European and World Champion, was heavily favoured to win the school figures, but she had an admittedly terrible day and placed only fourth. Switzerland's Karin Iten was the winner because six judges placed her in the top two, though West Germany's Isabel de Navarre, who placed third, had the most first place ordinals. Dianne de Leeuw, a Californian representing Holland, was second. 

Both Christine Errath and Dianne de Leeuw turned out exceptional performances in the short program, with Errath winning that phase but de Leeuw taking the overall lead because of Errath's showing in the figures. In the free skate, Errath made history as the first woman to land a triple toe-loop in combination in an ISU Championship. de Leeuw landed no less than four double Axels, one of them in combination. In a five-four split of the judging panel, Errath came out on top, with her fourteen year old East German teammate Anett Pötzsch taking the bronze with a gutsy program that included an unplanned triple Salchow near the end, after she fell on her first attempt. The previous year's bronze medallist Liana Drahová of Czechoslovakia finished fourth ahead of Isabel de Navarre and Susanna Drianno, another Californian who moved to Milan to represent Italy internationally. Karen Iten had a disastrous showing in the free skate, placing nineteenth, and dropped all the way to tenth overall. 


Vladimir Kovalev (center), John Curry (left) and Yuri Ovchinnikov (right) on the podium. Photo courtesy "Ice & Roller Skate" magazine.

Notably missing from the men's field of twenty one was defending European Champion Jan Hoffmann. The nineteen year old student of Jutta Müller from Chemnitz was forced to take the season off while recovering from a knee cartilage operation. In his absence, twenty-five year old Sergei Volkov of the Soviet Union earned first place marks from seven judges and two ties to take a strong lead in the school figures. Second and third were Vladimir Kovalev and John Curry. 

Vladimir Kovalev. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine.

In the short program, Sergei Volkov made an extremely costly error on his jump combination - two-footing his triple Salchow and omitting the required double loop altogether. Kovalev and Curry both skated very well, landing their triple combinations. Though Curry's triple loop/double loop combination was more difficult than Kovalev's triple Salchow/double loop, he received lower marks. Quoted in the book "Black Ice: Life and Death of John Curry", Curry recalled, "Before [the free skate] took place, I had a visit from the International Skating Union officials. I was warned that the costume I had worn for the compulsories - an electric-blue leotard and pants with a white vapour trail encircling the body - had upset the judges, and that I should not wear such a controversial outfit again as it had caused me to lose marks. I was amazed - it seemed that the supposedly conservative judges much preferred the sequins, circus spangles and gaudy beads that were the current vogue amongst the male skaters."

Sergei Volkov's troubles continued in the free skate, with problematic landings on two different triple jumps and a fall on a double Axel. Vladimir Kovalev had one of the best skates of his career, landing three different triple jumps and earning a slew of 5.9's and a perfect mark of 6.0 for technical merit from the West German judge. In winning the gold medal, Kovalev made history as the first Soviet skater to win an ISU Championship in singles skating. Nikolay Panin-Kolomenkin, of course, had won the gold medal in the 1908 Olympic Games in special figures, but never won a European or World title.

John Curry's work with Carlo and Christa Fassi paid off with a strong performance that featured a clean triple Salchow and triple toe-loop. He received a perfect mark of 6.0 for artistic impression from the French judge and earned the silver medal, skating in a plain black outfit to appease the judges. Soviet skater Yuri Ovchinnikov captured the bronze, with an athletic and imaginative performance of his own that featured two clean triple jumps. John Curry recalled, "It was a sweet moment for me. In some ways it meant more to me than any other result in my career, because I had done what everyone had told me was impossible - I had managed to claw my way back from obscurity and was once again in the front rank of international contenders."

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 the figure skating reference books "The Almanac of Canadian Figure Skating", "Technical Merit: A History of Figure Skating Jumps" and "A Bibliography of Figure Skating":