Dr. Gilbert Fuchs achieved a remarkable feat for, ten years after winning the first mens World Championship, the intervening years being devoted to his professional work with only occasional skating practice, he entered again for the competition when in 1906 it was held in his home town of Munich, and won it.
He was a big, heavily built man who skated with tremendous swing. His favourite turn was the outside forward rocker, which, I remember so well, was skated with the maximum of shoulder action, with the free leg held back right up to the turn where, with an easy rhythmic movement it was swung to the front. But it is mainly, I think, as the author of The Practice and Theory of Art Skating that he will remain in skating history.
Gustav Hugel of Vienna won the World Championship in 1897 and again in 1899 and 1900. I knew him well, and as a matter of fact I got him his first professional teaching job, at Engelberg in Switzerland in 1923 when, like so many Viennese, he found his fortune gone after the First World War. Gustav was the first great exponent of quick-moving, intricate dance steps, quite a number of which he showed me, and which I have explained in my books and handed on. Today, in a very advanced form, they may be seen in championships and shows and, although their speed and variety is something to wonder at, every now and then the original movements of Hugel may be picked out. He died in 1954 in Vienna.
Of all the famous names of the giants of the period, that of Ulrich Salchow of Sweden must, by virtue of his astounding series of victories, top the list. He won ten World Championships and nine European before the First World War, as well as the first Olympic Skating Competition for men which was held at Princes Skating Club, Knightsbridge, in 1908, when, at the same meeting, Madge Syers, of the Figure-Skating Club, London, won the ladies event, Herr Heinrich Burger and Fri. Hubler of Germany won the pairs and Nicholas Panin of Russia the special competition for pattern skating wherein the performer skates designs of his own invention.
Until the First World War, Salchow completely dominated mens figure-skating his active career actually extended to 1920 when, in the Olympic Competition at Antwerp, he was beaten by his countryman, the inimitable Gillis Grafstrom. When as a young man I first saw Salchow, I was impressed by his lithe strength and control. Later on he became mannered and pedantic, which one can well understand after such tremendous success. He was, moreover, a man of forceful personality and character, which was given full scope when, in the many years between the two wars, he continued to exert unchallenged influence on the sport as President of the International Skating Union; and whether one liked his rule or not, it must be admitted that he was the last of the great presidents.
The tremendous part played by Sweden in the development of figure-skating not only in Britain, but also throughout the world, cannot be over-estimated, for we owe so much to another of her sons Henning Grenander. It was in 1898 that the I.S.U. allotted the Championship of the World for men to London, mainly through the pioneer work and persistence of the late Edgar Syers who had just formed the Figure-Skating Club which handled the event. Three giants of the period, Hugel, Dr. Fuchs and Grenander, the last-named having come into prominence in Berlin in 1893 in the European Championship a competition annulled by vote of the I.S.U. (by all accounts there was a most appalling row) came and skated. Grenander won, purely by reason of the beauty and elegance of his free skating.
Henning Grenander
The Early Years upto 1914
Part 7
The Early Years upto 1914 (Part 8). The Early Years upto 1914 Index.