Summing up the whole period, I think the principle changes in technique, as far as school skating is concerned, were first of all the introduction of the light turn by Grafstrom as opposed to the solid, ripped-out, heavy ones the followers of Salchow favoured. The substitution of the small, round circle; the joining up of the circles and, towards the end, the introduction of the un-pulled changes of edge, with the disappearance of the 5 change.
I think also it will be universally granted that the formula of the 16 positions, as drawn out and explained in Modern Figure Skating in 1929, caused the skating world to become position minded in the school; and this tended to produce more accuracy in the drawings on the ice, as well as to enable the growing skating public to understand what they were doing, and as a consequence to open the doors of advanced figure-skating to far greater numbers. There is also no doubt that Grafstrom and Sonja Henie showed the world the true meaning of style, and that school figure-skating can be a thing of beauty compared to some of the appalling contortions with which we were all too familiar. In the realm of free skating, which embraces pairs, we saw the influence of music and of the ballet, which began to be felt to the full and which brought in the artistic element to an equal partnership with the athletic: the dream of Arthur Cumming had come true. There was tremendous development in speed skating in this 1919-39 period, when the really finer points of the sport were thought out and developed by men such as Mathison, who by this time had turned professional. Such great athletes as Clas Thunberg of Finland, whom some regarded as as great an athlete as Nurmi, J. Ballangrud and Michael Staksrud of Norway filled the minds of all those interested in speed skating. And here I must explain that on the big stadiums in Oslo such as Bislett or Jordal-Amfi, crowds of 30,000 or more will congregate under the brilliant lighting, in the bitterest night cold to witness speed skating. It is a national sport, not quite equal to ski-ing, which latter is, for the Norwegians, something of a mystique almost a religion.
It was in 1936 that women’s speed skating first received official recognition, the first ladies world championship being won by Miss Kit Klein of the U.S.A., almost before the Europeans were aware of what was happening. Frk. Laila Schou-Nilson of Norway won the event in 1937 and 1938 at Davos and Oslo respectively. This lady is a remarkable athlete for she was also a ski-ing champion, and Olympic representative. In 1939 Frk. V. Lesche of Finland won at Tammerfors, and then there were no more championships until 1947.
One of the most important innovations of recent times, started during these between war years, was that of indoor rink speed skating, and one that rapidly spread throughout Britain, the U.S.A. and Canada and began to attract large crowds of spectators.
Sonja Henie (1912-1969) performs a dance number.
Between The Wars
Part 11
Between the Wars (Part 12). Between the Wars Index.