French Connection: The Jacques Favart Story

Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine

The son of Germaine (Perdreau) and André Gabriel Marie Favart, Jacques Jean Fernand Favart was born on July 30, 1920 in Paris, France. His father was a salesman. He got his start in figure skating at a young age at the Molitor ice rink. By the time he was only thirteen, he was recognized as a skater of promise and from 1936 to 1939 won the silver medal four times at the French Championships behind Jean Henrion. 

Jacques' first big success as a figure skater came during the Occupation of Paris by the Nazis, at the 1942 French Championships. He defeated Guy Pigier, Paul Gaudin and Jean Vivés to finally win the national senior men's title and finished second in the pairs event with partner Claude Martin-Chauffier. Held at the four-year old Patinoire Victor-Hugo at rue Mesnil, the same building as the Saint-Didier swimming pool, the 1942 French Championships were the only major figure skating competition held in France during World War II

After the War, Jacques teamed up with his competitor Paul Gaudin's sister Denise to win the French pairs title four times. Coached by Jacqueline Vaudecrane, Denise and Jacques represented France at three World Championships and the first Olympics held after World War II in St. Moritz in 1948. Their best international finish was eighth at the 1947 European Championships in Davos. Their on-ice relationship blossomed to an off-ice one and the couple soon married. Denise and Jacques divorced in 1952. A second marriage to Madeleine Marie Anne Planchet lasted from 1956 to 1960. 

Denise Gaudin and Jacques Favart

Jacques turned to judging in the late forties and was appointed an ISU Championship (World) judge in 1952. He served as a judge at the 1953 European Championships, 1954 World Championships and 1955 European Championships before being elected as a member of the ISU's Figure Skating Committee in 1955. He became the Committee's chair in 1957, served as a member of the Organization Committee for the 1958 World Championships in Paris and in 1959 was elected as the ISU's Vice-President for figure skating. He also served as a referee at four European and three World Championships between 1956 and 1960. As a judge, he wasn't afraid to stand up for what he felt was right. At the 1953 European Championships in Dortmund, he was only one of two judges to place silver medallist Alain Giletti over winner Carlo Fassi. At the 1954 World Championships in Oslo, he placed winner Hayes Alan Jenkins' younger brother David (a talented jumper) first in free skating. 

When ISU leader Ernest Labin died in office in 1967, Jacques took over as the governing body's President - the first person from France to hold the position. During the second and third year of his Presidency, he was also the President of the Fédération Française des Sports de Glace. Off the ice, he served as the Administrative Director of La Fondation Mouvement pour les Villages d'Enfants, a charitable organization that provided assistance for orphaned and endangered children.

Skating endured monumental change during the thirteen years Jacques served as the ISU's President. Ice dancing became an Olympic sport. The North American Championships were scrapped and several new events including the World Junior Championships, Skate Canada and the NHK Trophy were introduced. When Vern Taylor landed his triple Axel at the 1978 World Championships, it was he and Sonia Bianchetti Garbato who made the call to ratify the jump as the first performed in international competition. He was the tie-breaking vote in support of  a year-long suspension of Soviet judges in 1978. He was a strong supporter of the introduction of the short program and 1980 revisions to the scoring system that attempted to address the imbalance between school figures and free skating. He pushed for a minimum age of sixteen for the Olympics and World Championships and was a big supporter of a move to eliminate school figures from international competition but retain them at lower levels for training. His stance was particularly popular in Europe at the time, but faced staunch opposition from many North American coaches and officials. Interviewed for "The Globe And Mail" in 1980, he said, "The compulsory figures must die. They are a waste of time and prevent skaters from being more creative."

Jacques Favart's address from the 1978 World Championships in Ottawa

For his services to figure skating, Jacques was honoured with the title Chevalier de l'Empire with the Légion d'honneur and inducted as an Officer of the Ordre national du Mérite. At the 1980 ISU Congress in Davos, he was re-elected for his seventh term as ISU President. Shortly afterwards, he suffered a heart attack after a major surgery. He passed away on September 27, 1980 at the age of sixty in Le Chesnay, France. The following June, the ISU decided to honour him with a special Jacques Favart Trophy, to be given to figure and speed skaters who made remarkable contributions to their sports. Its recipients have been a very select group of Champions, including Irina Rodnina, Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean, Kurt Browning, Katarina Witt, Scott Hamilton and Natalia Bestemianova and Andrei Bukin. Jacques was also honoured with a posthumous induction to the World Figure Skating Hall Of Fame in 1993. 

Though not a name that many skaters today may be familiar with, Jacques paved the way for the sport as we know it today by embracing and engineering sweeping changes. At the time of his death in 1980, John R. Shoemaker remarked, "He was intelligent, fair, honest, forceful, innovative, gifted with a marvelous sense of humor, and in every way a person eminently fitted to lead our sport." 

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":