Before leaving the great Continentals, there is one who must not be forgotten, for his name has become one of the most familiar in the whole of skating terminology, there being no rink, no show, no exhibition, no discussion on free skating wherein the Axel Paulsen jump is not mentioned. A Norwegian by birth he was equally great as a speed and as a figure-skater. In the late 1870s and one may say up to 1890 he was supreme in his own country. His name will endure because of the jump he invented which, although through American genius we now have performed double and even triple, is still quite rightly considered a highlight of any free programme. It is one and a half revolutions taken from the outside forward edge and finishing on the outside back on the opposite foot. Like all jumping on skates, that from forward edges is more difficult than from the backward positions. As this is not a technical book I will content myself with the bald statement, without giving reasons.
Apart from the fact that we owe everything in free skating and style to the genius of Jackson Haines, the dancing master from Chicago, there is one outstanding person in figure-skating in pre 1914 America, and that is Irving Brokaw who, possessed of this worlds goods in a large degree, and urged forward by tremendous keenness, was able to study and practice the art all over Europe, making a careful note of all he saw and absorbed. The result of his research he wrote in his book published by Spaldings Athletic Library just before the First World War. It is a most comprehensive work dealing with every conceivable movement in the skating of the period. I think it is fair to say that American skating owes an unpayable debt to the pioneer work of Irving Brokaw, who was not only their best exponent but a student and investigator far in advance of anyone across the Atlantic.
Foreign skaters, however, were not altogether supreme in this lull before the storm. The British had their successes and, what is equally satisfactory is that, wherever they appeared, they were most definitely a force to be reckoned with. The Syers retired from skating after 1907, which date marks the arrival on the scene of a small but extremely fine band of performers based to a certain extent on the traditions in school figures of the English style, on to which had been grafted up-to-date ideas by Bror Meyer and that great British teacher Bernard Adams, all strongly influenced by the ever-present prototype, Grenander.
Among the most famous of this band of pioneers must be ranked Mr. and Mrs. J. H. Johnson. Both were converts to the International Style, holders of the gold badge or 1st class test in that style, whilst Mrs. Johnson as Miss Phyllis Squire, after being runner-up to that fine English stylist H. M. Morris in the Championship and he made the Victorian fashion of skating look as beautiful as was humanly possible the next year, 1904, she beat him, and then married Jim Johnson who was a great authority, as well as a performer of considerable merit. Deserting the old style they took to the new with such fervour that together they won the Worlds Pairs in 1909 at Stockholm and again in 1912 when it was held in Manchester. Subsequently, in 1913, they presented the Johnson Challenge Cup for a British Pair Championship. This was first competed for in Edinburgh in 1914 when the donors won it. Mrs. Johnson became a double gold the first lady to perform this feat and then she won the Swedish Cup (the Championship of Great Britain) in 1921, at the period when it was still a competition for both men and ladies.
The Swedish Cup was presented to the N.S.A. by Colonel Balck, a Swedish diplomat, President of the I.S.U., in the name of the Stockholm Allmanna Skridskoklub in 1902, and, in 1905 the competition for which it was given was constituted the Championship of Great Britain. In 1903 and 1904 it was won by Madge Syers and on the latter occasion Edgar Syers, the winners husband, was second. One cannot see that happening nowadays! Among the distinguished British skaters of their time, was an immensely powerful athlete, lithe as a panther, a Scot named John Kieller Greig, from Dundee, who won the British in 1907, 1910 and 1911, and who was as good a skater at that time as anyone in the world, including the permanent holder Ulrich Salchow.
The Early Years upto 1914
Part 10
The Early Years upto 1914 (Part 11). The Early Years upto 1914 Index.