As the countdown begins to the ISU World Figure Skating Championships ® 2020 in Montreal, Quebec, we look back at previous world championships staged in Canada. Part 2 of the ten-part series reflects on the 1960 world championships in Vancouver.
Canada played host to the ISU World Figure Skating Championships for the first time in 1932, when Montreal welcomed the world’s best skaters.
In 1960, it was Vancouver’s turn.
The beautiful Canadian Pacific coast hosted the event from March 1-5, 1960 and, like Montreal 28 years earlier, the world championships came on the heels of an Olympic Winter Games, which were staged in Squaw Valley, California. Many athletes competed at the Olympics before travelling north to Vancouver.
These worlds also marked the first time a country could qualify a maximum three skaters in each discipline, a rule that still applies today.
In the men’s competition, French skaters took two of the three spots on the podium, with Alain Giletti winning gold and Alain Calmat earning bronze. Canada’s Donald Jackson, coming off a bronze medal at the Olympic Winter Games, claimed his second straight worlds silver in Vancouver. Jackson, one of Canada’s greatest figure skaters in history and a member of the Skate Canada Hall of Fame, would go on to win gold at the 1962 world championships, where he became the first skater in history to land the triple Lutz in international competition.
Carol Heiss of the United States, the 1960 Olympic champion, captured her fifth consecutive world title in Vancouver, finishing ahead of Sjoukje Dijkstra of the Netherlands and fellow American Barbara Roles. Both Heiss and Canada’s Jackson were coached by Pierre Brunet in New York City, and Jackson lived with the Heiss family when training.
The legendary Canadian pairs tandem of Barbara Wagner and Robert Paul, fresh off becoming the first North American pair team to win a gold medal at the Olympic Winter Games, secured their fourth consecutive world crown in Vancouver. The Canadian brother/sister tandem of Maria Jelinek and Otto Jelinek won silver while Marika Kilius and Hans-Jürgen Bäumler of West Germany took bronze. Debbi Wilkes and Guy Revell of Canada, who would go on to win two Canadian titles and the 1964 Olympic silver medal, were 11th in Vancouver.
Doreen Denny and Courtney Jones of the United Kingdom captured ice dance gold for the second straight year, with Canada’s Virginia Thompson and William McLachlan taking silver. Christiane Guhel and Jean Paul Guhel of France edged out Americans Margie Ackles and Charles Phillips for the bronze medal.
As the 1960 world championships came to a close, no one could have foreseen the tragedy that would befell the entire skating world just one year later. On February 15, 1961, Sabena Flight 548 crashed on approach to Zaventem Airport in Brussels, Belgium, killing all 72 people on board, and one person on the ground. The entire U.S. figure skating team was on board the flight, as well as coaches, officials and family members, on their way to the 1961 world championships in Prague, Czechoslovakia. Among the victims were several who competed in Vancouver, including Laurence Owen (ladies), Bradley Lorde and Gregory Kelley (men), Ila Ray Hadley and Ray Hadley, Jr. (pair) and Maribel Owen and Dudley Richards (pair). Ice dancers Larry Pierce and Roger Campbell, who competed with different partners in Vancouver, were also killed.
The ISU World Figure Skating Championships would return to Canada in 1972, when Calgary played host for the first time.
All-event tickets for the ISU World Figure Skating Championships ® 2020 are on sale now and can be purchased online at montreal2020.com, by phone at 1-855-310-2525 or in person at the Centre Bell Box Office.