THE outbreak of the First World War caused virtually a complete cessation of skating activities in Britain, France, Belgium, Germany, and in the Austrian Empire. In consequence of this upheaval, many prominent teachers, especially those from the neutral states of Europe, sought scope for their activities overseas, and amongst them was the great Bror Meyer of Stockholm, who took himself, his theories and his genius for teaching to the U.S.A., thereby laying the foundation of the edifice of the outstanding successes attained by American skaters since that date. Into the ground, rendered fertile by the perception of two outstanding personalities, Irving Brokaw and Nathaniel Niles who,
possessed of a wide knowledge of athletics and of the arts, to say nothing of a sound practical knowledge of skating as accepted in the U.S.A. at that period, Bror Meyer sowed the seed which in the passage of time has blossomed into the brilliance of modern American skating.
In the meantime, in 1920, the International Olympic Committee held skating competitions on the newly opened rink at Antwerp. There, a new star blazed on us all, one whose brilliance, in the tradition of Grenander, through Cumming and Meyer, was to shine for a long period, and who inspired the whole of figure-skating between the two wars, and whose influence will long endure. He was another Swede, the supreme Gillis Grafstrom. Here I must digress for a moment, to say that in order to know, understand and
Bror Meyer at the Palace Rink. St Moritz, 1920.
appreciate, for example, modern music, a basic knowledge of Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven, right up to that of Diaghilev, with the superb art of Nijinski, Karsarvina and Pavlova, will have a greater enjoyment of the productions of today. So it is with skating. It is obviously not necessary to be a performer, excellent or modest, in order to enjoy it, but to know something of its past must of necessity help in its appreciation. Grafstrom lowered the colours of his great countryman Ulrich Salchow in the Second Olympic Skating Competition, and, when the Olympic Winter Games were given full recognition for the first time in Chamonix in the Haute-Savoie where the French held them in 1924 and again in the Dutch Games held at St. Moritz in 1928, he won with consummate ease. He won three World Championships only in actual fact each time he entered and he never skated in the European. When, as a man already past the competitive age, he was beaten by young Karl Schafer of Vienna in the 1932 Winter Games at Lake Placid, I remember so well Karl
saying to me: Yes, I beat him, but he is still the worlds greatest skater. A fine and generous tribute by a wonderful sportsman and skater, who went on to win another Olympic Crown at Garmisch in 1936 and who had seven World and eight European, together with many Austrian victories to his credit. Grafstrom became a legend just as did Nijinski and there are many stories of this extraordinary man who was an architect by profession, a poet, painter and etcher as well as a superbly built athlete and the outstanding skater of his time. Competition, and the honours to be gained, meant little to him. He just loved skating. Entered for a championship, if he didn’t feel like it, or if the weather was bad, he would shrug his shoulders and say: No, I don’t think I skate, much to the joy of the others who then had a chance!.