June 15, 2024

Hans Muller was, and still is, one of the greatest ice skaters the world has ever known. The 1947 result was due to the excellent school skating of Hans, who was not only then, and until he turned professional after the 1948 Olympics, the best school skater in the world, but I think even now he still qualifies for that distinction. Hans was also a top free skater, but when it came to competition, so early after the war, when all the young British athletes, as well as those who had chosen to stay here, still suffered from nervous tension, especially those who Had remained. in London as Hans had, apart from the inevitable malnutrition among those who did not fall into the working class, he was unable to reproduce his true form under the tense excitement of a European or World Championship.

However, those who were lucky enough to have seen his displays at hockey games and other joyous occasions realize how beautiful he was. This was the position when once again stepped into the arena of the 1948 European, World and Winter Olympics a new Richard Button, who, together with his coach Gustav Lussi, had seen and noted down all there was to be learned in Europe. about the school figures. The result was the unbeatable Dick, winner of the European Championship in 1948 (before the rule limiting him to Europeans came in), five world titles and two Olympics. This was the man who captured everyone’s imagination by the athleticism and sheer strength of his skating, as well as the sheer exuberance of his personality. He set a new fashion in the free, which has now become part of the scheme of things, for a free skate without double and even triple jumps, without combinations of jumps and spins, on the lines skated for the first time by this great American , would certainly be regarded as absurdly easy in any major competition.

However, I must make a statement here that Cecilia Colledge had achieved the double Salchow and experimented with other double jumps before the war began. It should also be remembered that before the war the jumps were not as high as they are today, nor in the years immediately before the war, and therefore anything out of the ordinary did not attract the attention of the “experts”, those Grafstrom and Schafer used to laugh at, so what was the point of risking something more difficult in a major competition when it would most likely go unnoticed?

It was only when Dick Button jumped his special jumps at the height of the barrier that they simply had to be paid attention to.

Thus, except for the fact that there were no resident title holders, the position in the immediate postwar years was identical to that in the early 1920s; that is, a new style superimposed and overwhelming the old. Just as Grafstrom in 1920 had entered the skating world of his day with the sheer beauty of his every move, so now Button thrilled and aroused him with the strength and virility of his performance.

All the young skaters were inspired by a burning desire to emulate the fiery jumps of the new master, and to such an extent that within a few years of the 1952 Olympics not only these jumps were included in the program of the candidates for honors of championship, but we are actually starting to see them both in junior competitions and in both men’s and women’s events.

After Button decided to join the professional ranks, not as a teacher, but as a show skater, on a wonderful contract, in a wonderful figure, a contract that did not interfere with his education for the legal profession, at law school in Harvard, his mantle fell to his countryman Hayes Alan Jenkins, who won all four world titles, 1953, 1954, 1955, 1956, and the 56th Olympic crown with consummate ease, and who improves every year, so much so that we can now say we see in it a combination of the delicate artistry of Grafstrom combined with the athleticism of Dick Button. Hopefully he won’t succumb to the lure of large sums of money, which of course is his for the asking, anyway. He has a brother, David, who is also a great artist, and these two, along with his compatriot Ronald Robertson, whose father, by the way, hails from Newcastle-upon-Tyne, present formidable rivals to their European competitors. And now what about the ladies? Who are the highlights? And how do they compare to the giants of the past?

As I said, the first post-war world and Olympic winner (with the 1947 and 1948 European, before the new rule) was the petite Canadian Barbara Ann Scott who won two world titles, 1947 and 1948, as well as the women’s Olympic . Contest of 1948. She arrived here looking like a Dresden porcelain figurine, delicate and serene, without the nerves of war, and won the laurels in conditions unique in history.

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