The 1947 result was due to the superb school skating of Hans who not only then, and until he turned professional after the 1948 Olympic, was the best man school-skater in the world, but I think even now still qualifies for that distinction. Hans was also a first-rate free skater, but when it came to competitions, so early after the war, when all young British athletes as well as those who had elected to stay here, were still suffering from nervous strain especially those who had remained in London as Hans had done as well as from the malnutrition inevitable amongst those who did not come into the category of workers, he was not able to reproduce his true form under the tense excitement of a European or World Championship. Those, however, who were lucky enough to have seen his exhibitions given at hockey matches and other such light-hearted occasions realise what a beautiful performer he was. This was the position when once more into the arena of the 1948 European, World and Winter Olympic Games leapt a new Richard Button, who, together with his trainer Gustav Lussi, had seen and noted all that there was to be learnt in Europe concerning the school figures. The result was the unconquerable Dick, winner of the European in 1948 (before the rule confining it to Europeans came in), five World and two Olympic titles. This was the man who captured the imagination of all by the athleticism and sheer strength of his skating as well as by the very exuberance of his personality. He set a new fashion in the free, one which has now become part of the scheme of things, for a free programme without double and even triple jumps, without combinations of jumps and spins, on the lines first skated by this great American, would certainly be regarded as absurdly easy in any major competition.
I must make one statement here, however, to the effect that Cecilia Colledge had accomplished the double Salchow and experimented with other double jumps before the war started. It must be remembered also that pre-war jumping was not as high as it is today not in the immediate years before the war and in consequence anything away from the ordinary did not catch the eye of the “experts”, those at whom Grafstrom and Schafer used to laugh, so what was the use of risking anything extra difficult in any important competition when it would most probably pass by unnoted?
It was only when Dick Button jumped his special jumps at barrier height that notice simply had to be taken of them.
Therefore, except for the fact that there were no resident title holders, the position in the immediate post war years was identical with that in the early twenties; i.e. a new style overlapping and overwhelming the old. Just as Grafstrom in 1920 had entranced the skating world of his time with the sheer beauty of his every movement, so now Button thrilled and stimulated it, with the strength and virility of his performance.
All young skaters were inspired by an ardent desire to emulate the fiery leaps of the new master, and to such an extent did this go, that in a few years by the 1952 Olympic not only were these jumps included in the programme of the candidates for championship honours, but we actually began to see them in both junior competitions and tests by the ladies as well as the men.
After Button had decided to join the professional ranks, not as a teacher, but as a show skater, with a wonderful contract, at a wonderful figure, a contract which does not interfere with his education for the legal profession, at Harvard law school, his mantle fell on his countryman Hayes Alan Jenkins, who won the four World titles, 1953, 1954, 1955, 1956 and the 56 Olympic crown with consummate ease, and who improves each year, so much so that now one can say we see in him a combination of the delicate artistry of Grafstrom combined with the athleticism of Dick Button. It is to be hoped that he will not succumb to the lure of big money, which of course is his for the asking not yet at any rate. He has a brother David, who is also a grand performer, and these two with their compatriot Ronald Robertson, whose father incidentally hails from Newcastle-upon-Tyne, present formidable rivals for their European competitors. And now what of the ladies? Who are the outstanding ones? and how do they compare with the giants of the past?
As I have said, the first post-war World and Olympic winner (with the 1947 and 1948 European, before the new rule) was the petite Canadian Barbara Ann Scott who won two World titles, 1947 and 1948, as well as the ladies Olympic Competition of 1948. She came over here looking like a Dresden china figurine, dainty and serene, untroubled by war nerves, and she gained her laurels under conditions unique in history.