Wednesday, 10 October 2012


My obituary of the great Canadian figure skater Barbara Ann Scott is in today's Independent, you can link to it here. I may have underplayed the importance of the dual golds for Scott and Dick Button in 1948. Scott proved that the Europeans couldn't dominate the compulsories, which they had considered their territory, and Button showed that a more athletic style of free skate could be so impressive as to win that part of the event too. How difficult this was to accomplish is illustrated by the 1947 World Championships, where Button finished second. The legendary Swedish skater Ulrich Salchow was so upset with the judging that he gave Button his 1901 International Cup (a prize Dick eventually passed on to John Misha Petkevitch).

When I worked for ABC Sports I did a lot of shows with Dick, and his understanding of the strange politics and the, shall we say, conservative aesthetics, of the skating world was a huge help in understanding the changes in the sport which came about, inevitably, as it became more popular--a kind of bowling alley ballet--and the focus of the Winter Olympics in the countries not dominated by skiing (or, like Canada, ice hockey).

Scott's career as an entertainer never took off the way Sonja Henie's did--she didn't project into movies, and I get the impression she didn't want to: honestly she couldn't really play the All-Canadian girl. She was a queen in her world, not just skating, but in her life that followed. In 1956, she and Button did an ice ballet Happy New Year special--I wonder if copies of that telecast exist, because I'd love to see it.

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