Europe did not trust the “American terms” of figure skating from the start

Europe did not trust the "American terms" of figure skating from the start
Paul van der Steen

“A parody of what a skateboarding competition should actually be like”, that’s how it’s called telegraph In February 1932, the long-track races at the Olympic Games in Lake Placid. The newspaper was not alone in its criticism. Almost all of Europe was furious with the racing setup. Ice skating was a fight between two participants against the clock. Chasing down a whole group of athletes on the ice and then letting them decide the winner, according to the ancient continent, caused typical American situations.

Long-track speed skating against the clock was the norm at the first two Winter Olympics, Chamonix, France in 1924, St. Moritz, Switzerland in 1928, and all games thereafter. It wasn’t until 1988, during the Olympics in Calgary, Canada, when sets of barbells entered the ice for the first time. Short track speed skating was a show sport there, as well as long track speed skating.

European disgust persists, even though it has become an official Olympic component since 1992. In the Netherlands, a prominent figure skating country, the popularity of short track speed skating has long since vanished, despite gold, silver and bronze for Monique Vilzebauer in Calgary in 1988. It has changed That’s really thanks to the achievements of new characters like Sjinkie Knegt and Suzanne Schulting in recent years.

At the end of the 19th century there were already short-track competitions

Short track speed skating probably began in Great Britain, where competitions were already taking place at the end of the 19th century. In the following period, most of the work was done in the United States and Canada. This had it all to do with not having runways with orbits of up to 400 metres. You can also run speed competitions on the ice where hockey is played. Moreover, it offered much more than those European races against the clock.

The short track requires more than just riding a distance as fast as you can. Tactics played a role. Agreements with opponents can be made just like this. Furthermore, by cutting the curvature the right way, you can hinder your fellow participants. As long as the rules are respected.

Even the Europeans suffered all of those side effects on the longer course of the 1932 Lake Placid Games. The Americans and Canadians won all but two of the men’s medals for the Norwegians. Europeans and Japanese felt represented in a farce, as they complained about the leadership behavior of their New World opponents. And that all matches were decided only in the last round, they found significance.

The events of the Games put a lot of pressure on the International Skating Union (ISU). Starting with groups was once, but not again, for many. In fact, the ISU has banned this approach for a very long time.

France got the scoop in 1981

It was only in the 1960s that things began to move again under the pressure of the Anglo-Saxon countries in particular. In 1967, the ISU recognized short track speed skating as an ingredient. The first official world championship had to wait even longer. The French club Meudon-la-Forêt got the scoop in 1981. In the years before that, competitions at the highest international level had already been held, but they were dubbed the “ISU Championships”.

During the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics, short track speed skating was a demonstration sport. Under the heading “Scene on slippery ice”, devotion Before those games an explanatory article for the review sport. The journalist’s questions and comments expressed doubts about the new part. What does a sport with a few hundred practitioners at most in each country mean? Short-track skates were not for sale in the Netherlands. And the crash helmets and knee pads worn by the short trackers, weren’t they just “show items from America”?

Every week, Paul van der Steen looks at the news through historical glasses. You can read previous episodes of the Déjà Vu section here.

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