Button dominated the sport until 1952, developing moves such as the double axel, the flying camel, and executing the worlds first triple jump. Most skaters give credit to their teachers and Button was no exception. If Gus Lussi had ordered him to jump through a window, Button later said, he would have done so, and he would have been sure to point his feet and hold his head high as Lussi had instructed. Lussi was not a former competitive skater but a ski jumper who applied the theories of that sport to the ice.
The epitome of quiet British reserve, Jeannette Altwegg from Liverpool, was crowned queen to Buttons king in the 1952 Olympics. Floating to an Olympic victory on her unmatched ability to draw geometrically perfect circles on the ice, the former tennis champion had moved up a place each year in the World Championship, after being fifth in 1947, to win it in 1951. In 1952, before the Olympics, she defended her European title but turned down the chance to skate for the few extra weeks after her Olympic success that were needed to defend her World title. Instead she took up a job as a house mother for refugee children in the Pestalozzi village in Switzerland. Her nominal salary was contrasted at the time with the various offers that had been made to her to skate professionally. Her selflessness later earned her the CBE.
The following year a brother and sister team, John and Jennifer Nicks from Brighton, captured the World pair title, though film of that event shows it hardly resembled todays dazzling and daring contests. Both partners later became teachers in North America, as did Cecilia Colledge and Megan Taylor.
The early 1950s were an exceptionally good period for British skating. Ice dancing was accepted into the World championship schedule in 1952 and only one non-British couple claimed the title until 1970. The first four were won by Jean Westwood and Lawrence Demmy, although at home they were consistently beaten by the less showy but technically more skilful Joan Dewhirst and John Slater. The latters son, Nicky, with his partner, Karen Barber, right on to win the British title after Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean turned professional.
Courtney Jones, who was to win five British and European Championships and four World titles, was originally a pair skater and started competing as an ice dancer almost casually. He was scheduled to take his gold ice dance test at the Queens rink with his instructor, Gladys Hogg. She fell ill and suggested he take as his partner for the test another pupil of hers, June Markham. They did so well that they entered a competition and did better than expected. Three weeks later they were runners-up for the British title and shortly afterwards gained the second place in the 1956 European and World Championships, events which they won in the two succeeding years.
Courtney Jones, seen designs all Torvill & Dean Outfits, seen here with June Markham.
Joan Dewhirst and John Slater, Bristish Champions in 1951/3.
2. World's Greatest Skaters (Page 7). Book on Skating Index Page..
Worlds Greatest Skaters
Chapter 2
Page 6
Yesterday and Today