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Great skaters: Cecilia Colledge

Updated on December 23, 2014

Cecilia Colledge: The greatest inventor in the pre-classic ladies figure skating

Before Classic Ladies Figure Skating was ever formed, it was Sonja Henie that had led the sport with charismatic style and star power like no other.

But it was Cecilia Colledge, not Sonja Henie that influenced the sport with style as well as technical innovations, and demonstrated new visions definitive of the time.

So her legendary rivalry with Sonja Henie seemingly speaks the volume of it.

In fact, some think Colledge actually beat Henie in the controversial 1936 winter Olympics, where Cecilia Colledge finished a very close second to Henie, according to Sandra Stevenson who recounted in 2008 in her article of The Independent.

"The closeness [of the competition] infuriated Henie, who, when the result for that section was posted on a wall in the competitors' lounge, swiped the piece of paper and tore it into little pieces. The draw for the free skating [then] came under suspicion after Henie landed the plum position of skating last, while Colledge had to perform second of the 26 competitors. The early start was seen as a disadvantage, with the audience not yet whipped into a clapping frenzy and the judges known to become freer with their higher marks as the event proceeded. Years later, a fairer, staggered draw was adopted to counteract this situation".

Sonja Henie

Cecilia Colledge: Great inventor


Cecilia Colledge, who rivaled the great Sonja Henie

Cecilia Colledge was a British figure skater born in 1920 and died in 2008.

Colledge was the 1936 Olympic silver medalist, second to Sonja Henie who took the gold, but some believe Colledge actually beat Henie.

Colledge was also the 1937 World champion and European champion through 1937–1939, and a six time British national champion.

In the 1936 European Championships, Colledge for the first time landed a double salchow. Colledge invented the one-foot axel, known as the Colledge, and also demonstrated a transition move from a layback spin to what later would be known as one hand-Biellman.

Colledge was the first female skater who landed a double jump, and more importantly was the inventor of both camel spin and layback spin.

Colledge, unlike Sonja Henie whose gigantic personal charisma outshone others, was a skater who pursued technical innovation in pre-classic era.

Barbara Ann Scott in 1948


Barbara Ann Scott: Canada's Sweetheart

Barbara Ann Scott was a Canadian figure skater, born in 1928 and died in 2012.

Scott was one of the most prominent figures in the era of Pre-classic Figure Skating, perhaps the most celebrated figure skater except Sonja Henie, for that era.

Scott was the Pre-classic princess whose stylistic presence was a reminiscent of what would become to be the ideal in the Classic Figure Skating.

Scott was the 1948 Olympic champion, a two time World champion and a four time Canadian national champion. Known as "Canada's Sweetheart", she was the first North American to have won three major titles, the World Figure Skating, the European Skating Championships, and the Canadian Figure Skating Championship, in one year and the only Canadian to have won the European Championships.

Barbara Ann Scott

Ice Princess of Pre-classic Ladies Figure skating

In the historic perspective, one of the most definitive distinctions in Pre-classic Figure Skating from the Classic was free skating

In Pre-classic time, free skating hadn't yet been established as an independent vehicle through which skaters could dream to achieve something beyond the original ideal embedded in compulsory discipline from which "figure" the name of the sport had been derived.

Pre-classic free skating was, therefore, merely an extended version of compulsories. Say, it was a sequence of compulsory pieces together with some variations in move such as spins, hops, glides and, of course, jumps.

In other words, there wasn't any format or ideal for free skating conspicuously conceived or expressed.

It was not until Tenley Albright's time that finally skaters began to demonstrate free skating as an integrated performance with musical interpretation,

And that's not a small revolution per se, which marked the beginning of Classic Figure Skating, fueled by technical innovations.

Unlike Classic Figure Skating, Pre-classic Figure Skating was predominantly characterized by compulsories. Although there was a giant star like Sonja Henie, Pre-classic Figure Skating was a toddler compared to Modern Figure Skating or even Classic Figure Skating, technically prehistoric, especially in free skating.

Who do you think more contributed to the sport in general?

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What is the most distinctive in Brabara Ann Scott's career?

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Tenley Albright in 1953


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