Moment in History: Barbara Ann Scott

Admittedly, I didn’t know very much about Barbara Ann Scott until I read the sad report of her death just yesterday. I did know that she did run into some issue when she was given a car but what did she do that made her stand out in the history of figure skating?

Well, Barbara was the only Canadian woman to have won *Olympic gold* in ladies figure skating (St. Moritz, Switzerland, 1948). Not only that, but she was also epic enough to have won the North American Championship, the European Championship (that was before they banned people from other continents from competing, apparently her victories played a part in that decision), Canadian Championship and World title. In fact, she took three out of four of those titles in 1948. Here are a few clips of her on youtube. I find it really charming that they used outdoor rinks for the figure skating events at the Olympics back in the day.

 


(On a random note, I find it funny when they say, “Dick Button electrified the crowd with his phenomenal jumps,” which turn out to be double loops – that lack flow at the end marked by a very awkward looking landing position by the way – but I suppose figure skating has changed a lot in the last 70+ years.)

 

Before Tessa & Scott and Joannie Rochette, she was Canada’s sweetheart and often described as friendly person. I think that really shines through in this clip of this old game show here, “What’s My Line.” Barbara Ann was also in other films and TV shows of the time.

She was so well-liked that she was given a car when she won the 1947 World championships. However, this caused her amateur status to be revoked so she had to return the car in order to compete the next year. And boy did she come back with a vengeance. Here is the table of her figure skating results in various competitions on wikipedia:

Barbara was also so well-loved, that the Reliable Toy Company made a doll of her starting in 1948. The doll sold well up until the mid-1950s and had a different costume every year (each trimmed with marabou down). Each doll came with a hangtag shaped like a skate, a letter from the skater herself, a pair of shoes and white skates.

Of course, there’s more to her epicness than that. Here are some of her other accolades:

  • Lou Marsh Trophy for Canada’s Top Athlete of the Year (1945, 1947, 1948)
  • Inducted into the Canadian Olympic Hall of Fame (1948)
  • Inducted into the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame (1955)
  • Inducted into the Ottawa Sports Hall of Fame (1966)
  • Inducted into the Skate Canada Hall of Fame (1991)
  • Officer of the Order of Canada (1991)
  • Inducted into the International Women’s Sports Hall of Fame (1997)
  • Named to Canada’s Walk of Fame (1998)
  • Member of the Order of Ontario (2008)
  • Olympic Torch Bearer (2010)

She was an epic athlete and woman and I admire her for her accomplishments. May her kindness and spirit live on in the figure skating community.

You will be missed, Barbara.

~The Rinkside Cafe

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A Momment in History: The Original Queen

I’m currently reading Noel Streatfeild’s Skating Shoes book. You might be more familiar with Streatfeild’s other book, Ballet Shoes which was made into a movie with Emma Watson and Emilia Fox (Georgiana Darcy from the 1995 BBC Pride and Prejudice miniseries). It’s not the most compelling film but it’s rather sweet just like the book.

Anyways, back to business: Skating Shoes. The book was published in 1951 when there was no short program, only a freeskate worth 40% of the mark and compulsory figures worth 60%. (!) The skating queen that everyone worshiped back then was not Yuna Kim or Michelle Kwan but Sonia Henie.

Sonia’s skating career was quite impressive: 6 time European champion, 10 time world champion and 3 time Olympic champion. She also became famous in Hollywood too! I decided what all the fuss about Sonia Henie was all about and youtubed her.

Sonia’s skating may seem completely juvenile now (little girls would be able to do what she did and even better too!) but this was the era when single jumps and half axels were the content for both men and women. In fact according the wikipedia, these are the dates of invention of each jump:

Toe-loop: 1920s
Salchow: 1909
Loop: 1880s? Possibly earlier?
Flip: sometime before 1913, which was known as the Mapes back then
Lutz: 1913
Axel: 1882

In the 1920s, ladies doing jumps was considered to be “unladylike” so these single jumps, which seem so easy nowadays, were actually quite revolutionary back in the 1930s, which was the height of Sonia’s career. (But the posture (or the lack of)! And the extension (or the lack thereof – and I thought Meryl Davis had poor extension… although Sonia’s foot is more turned out than Yuna Kim’s…)! <– Inner figure skating snob talking.)

I don’t find it surprising that Sonia was queen back then. Like many other Queens *cough*Katarina Witt*cough*, she had quite the temper:

Towards the end of her career, she began to be strongly challenged by younger skaters including Cecilia Colledge, Megan Taylor, and Hedy Stenuf. However, she held off these competitors and went on to win her third Olympic title at the 1936 Winter Olympics, albeit in very controversial circumstances with Cecilia Colledge finishing a very close second. Indeed, after the school figures section at the 1936 Olympic competition, Colledge and Henie were virtually neck and neck with Colledge trailing by just a few points. As Sandra Stevenson recounted in her article in The Independent of the 21st April 2008, “the closeness [of the competition] infuriated Henie, who, when the result for that section was posted on a wall in the competitors’ lounge, swiped the piece of paper and tore it into little pieces.

Poor posture, extension and bad temper aside, Sonia seemed to have a darling smile and an infectious sort of happiness. I wouldn’t know because she was before my time but there seems to be a sort of genuine happiness to her skating. Her skill was quite considerable in her early days so I guess you could think of her as the Yuna of the 20s and 30s.

All in all, reading Skating Shoes has made me appreciate how far figure skating has come since Sonia Henie and her predecessors. I can’t imagine obsessing over a figure eight I made over the ice and how that could be exciting to anyone. Or just imagine if women didn’t do jumps in their free skate because of the judges’ censure of being unladylike. Just look how far we’ve come:

Enjoy~!

~The Rinkside Cafe

Sparkle Quality: Midori Ito

Whenever I need some cheering up, I turn to Midori Ito. Midori was a lady who was way beyond her time and it’s truly too bad that she got buried in the compulsory figures (which don’t exist anymore) or else she would’ve won more medals. Midori may not have had the extension and she had a pretty horrible wrap in her jumps but she jumped just as high, if not higher than the men of her time. To put this in perspective, the major competitors of the men’s competition during her era of skating include Victor Petrenko, Scott Hamilton, Brian Orser and Boitano and Kurt Browning. Midori was the first lady to land a triple axel in competition, including the Olympics.

Even during her youth, it was very clear that Midori was very, very talented. Midori was 11 years old here and finished 8th in this competition but she only did so because she was 20th after the first compulsory.

Fast forward 3 years… (Look at that double loop-triple loop combination!)

Midori is just full of surprises. Double tano-armed double flip and that double axel with her arms on her sides! Perhaps Midori’s best quality is just how infectious her happiness is. Her smile and her expressions of joy just bring a smile to your face.

Remember this moment of figure skating history, this is the first time a lady landed a triple axel at the World championships. She barely hung on but she did a perfect 3A at the NHK trophy earlier on in the season. Take that Patrick Chan!

And the infamous accident… (I think the rink just wasn’t big enough to contain her amazingness.)

There was also that other unfortunate incident with the French hot mess called Surya Bonaly who did an illegal backflip in practice to psych Midori out. Sadly it worked and as a result, I will begrudge Bonaly for the rest of my life. I love how another legendary fierce bitch extraordinaire (Katarina Witt) calls Surya out for that.

I think I’ll end this post on a high note. Her 1990 Worlds LP was just pure fabulousness. Just look at how high she jumps! The camera had to tilt upwards to get her!

Enjoy~!

~The Rinkside Cafe

A Tribute to Perfect Spirals

Aunt Joyce posted a blog entry on Yuna news recently, which has started a sort of debate on the importance of pointing your toes and turning out your foot in the comments section. There have been many comments on dismissing the importance of pointing your toes (and turning out your feet) IN BALLET which makes me want to smack someone. The Yunabots have been coming out of the woodwork after a wonderful hiatus (although sadly, it was the result of Yuna’s break from competition) and their comments prove to be cringe-worthy.

To make a point, I’ve decided to post a tribute to spirals. I don’t care if your edges are steady, you can get as many L4s for them but if they’re fugly, they’re fugly. You need to point your toes and turn out your feet for lovely spirals like these:

See the extension? See the gorgeous line?

Alissa may be inconsistent but she has good lines.

Caroline Zhang had ugly mule kicks and jump problems but there are many people who will watch her just for the sake of her gorgeous spins and spirals.

Joannie’s not as flexible as the ladies above but she also manages to point her toes and turn out her foot!

Look! Even the legendary Katia and Sergei are pointing their toes!

And Meryl Davis, who usually has pretty horrible extension…

So, my final point is: POINTING YOUR TOES IS VERY IMPORTANT.

As for ballet. Can you imagine what this would look like if Natalia Osipova didn’t point her toes? She’d lose her job.

The video didn’t have figure skating spirals but it was pretty close to perfection. ❤