It would indeed be very unfair, not to say ungallant, to decry her successes. But it must be borne in mind that all her European rivals had, as children, experienced the combination of the bombing, bad food, and of course on the Continent, the Occupation. Never had Barbara Anns sweet little face been drawn with fear or her nerves subjected to constant anxiety. And there is no denying that the Europeans had suffered from this and that it showed in their performances. But the little Canadian took her victories with a pleasing charm and dignity and she deserved her good fortune, for she was, without doubt, the best of those years, and was the last to be trained and trained perfectly she was, by Sheldon Galbraith in what might be termed the mid-war style.
There was a young girl a Czech, called Aja Vrazanova in that Olympic competition, who came to London and learnt what skating really meant under Arnold Gerschwiler, and won the Worlds in 1949 and 1950. She was a tall and beautiful creature and Arnold, using this height and beauty to great advantage, turned her into a most commanding figure on the ice. Both she and Barbara Ann turned professional. Aja was one of the first of a list of skaters from behind the Iron Curtain who prefer this side of it.
Then came Jeannette Altwegg our British Champion of 1947, 1948, 1949 and 1950, who won the European in 1951 and 1952, the Worlds in 1951 and the Olympic in 1952 (incidentally her Olympic victory was the only individual gold medal won by Britain in those games). In my opinion, Jeannette shares with Cecilia Colledge, Hans Gerschwiler and Graham Sharp the palm for school figure-skating in modern times. There followed the dazzling French Champion Jacqueline du Bief, winner of the Worlds in 1952 in Paris, possessor of an Outstanding personality and power of presentation, many of whose movements were brilliantly original. Then came the Bostonian Tenley Albright, World Champion 1953, but who was beaten in Oslo in 1954 by the German Gundi Busch, then to come back again and win in 1955 and gain the Olympic title in 1956. A fortnight later she lost the World Championship to her young compatriot Carol Heiss, who is a pupil of Pierre Brunet. To my mind Tenley, who studies with Willy Frick and Maribel Vinson although a really class school figure-skater, has not yet, and I emphasise yet, attained the perfection of Cecilia, Jeannette, Hans or Graham in the school, but I think it fair comment to declare that she is the most attractive lady free skater of all time. Her performances combine tremendous difficulty with superb rhythm, timing and musical interpretations, all performed in the most glorious style imaginable.
Her exhibitions are a joy to the artist, the athlete and the technician. And now let us consider the progress, if any, made in that delightful form of figure-skating, namely the pairs. As I have already written, the famous partnership Baier Herber turned to the money side of skating and have done extremely well in their own ice revue a traveling tent show.
Their amateur performances in their four World, five European and their 1936 Olympic victories, have left a lasting impression, strengthening the hold already secured by shadow skating and finally giving the conge to the old, sometimes feeble and ill-balanced pair skating of the past.
Cecilia Colledge Weekly Illustrated Cover Feb 20 1937
1946 Onwards
Part 5
1946 Onwards Index. 1946 Onwards (Part 6).
Jacqueline du Bief, Worlds in 1952