Between The Wars
Part 2
At Antwerp, on successive days, he found his right-foot skate broken. As there were no more of that particular make to be had, he went into the town and returned with a curly toed, extraordinary, old-fashioned affair which he re-ground and adjusted as best he could, fixed on his boot and, using this odd contraption, he won, just the same. He has left us the Grafstrom Spiral, the flying sit spin, the change foot sit spin (up and down and up again), and he was the first to show us the modern authentic conception of the Axel Paulsen jump, all movements on which the advanced complexities of modern free skating are based.
And here, as we are finding out what skating is all about, let me give a brief outline of the developments of a modern free programme.
A modern free-skating exhibition of the high-ranking performer is so difficult technically and so exacting athletically that its evolution over the past sixty years since the Grenander days deserves examination. Programmes in the nineties consisted wholly of runs, spirals, spread-eagles with what would be considered nowadays as very primitive dance steps, simple jumps and spins, together with (in most but not all) a special figure consisting of some sort of design or star which was a combination of turns, loops, and changes, all supposed to be skated in the centre of the rink on one foot.
The spirals were very simple when compared with the arabesques or the much favoured Grafstrom in use today. The only jumps known were: a somewhat crude affair that went by the name of Axel Paulsen (whether the great Axel Paulsen himself actually performed the perfect one and a half revolutions as done today is a question neither I nor anyone living can answer), the loop and the half loop, the one footed three jump, and of course the ordinary three jump; these, with a single toe spot and, later on, an inside back loop jump which came to be known as the Salchow. When we think of the double and triple authentic Axels performed with such sureness and at such tremendous speed today, and of the whole complicated structure of the modern programme, with its music and its creative as well as interpretative conception, in place of the simple march or waltz of the past, we realise the enormous advance which has been made & are able to see by photographs in how short a time all this has been accomplished.
Here is a directive of forty years ago only, for the performance of the Axel Paulsen and, as you read it, try to visualise the smooth, high delayed Axe! of today a superb example of co-ordination and timing. This is the instruction in the old book:
Screw well round and obtain a purchase on the ice by digging well into the ice on the forward part of the skate and jump quickly, making one and a half revolutions of the body. Here there is no reluctant jumping, no delayed movement; in fact all one can imagine is a rough, uncouth plunge. Perhaps that is why such polished performers as Grenander and Cumming never used it.
Between the Wars (Part 3). Between the Wars Index.
The sit spin (Jackson Haines) and the other rather primitive ones, had to await the genius of Grafstrom for polish and for the combining of jumps and spins of enormous variety. As on the early skates the toe-rake was lacking or else placed very much higher than on the modern models toe-spins such as are seen today were unknown. He, followed by Sonja Henie (of whom more later), broke away from rules and all the stodgy, restrictive ideas that had hitherto governed the sport and hindered progress.
Gillis Grafstrom of Sweden 1920
World Champion 1922, 1924 & 1929