Described as a dynamo on ice, Petra Burka was initially coached by her mother, former Dutch champion, Ellen Burka. In 1962, when Petra was15 years old, she was the Junior Ladies Champion. That same year she placed fourth at World’s in Prague where fellow team members Donald Jackson and Otto and Maria Jelinek made their marks in history. From 1964 – 1966 Petra was the reigning Senior Ladies Champion. She earned a bronze medal at the 1964 Olympic Games in Innsbruck where her performance was described as dazzling. In 1965 she won the triple Champion crown: Canadian, North American and World’s. In Colorado she became the first woman to complete a triple Salchow in World competition. For the second year in a row she was chosen as Canada’s Female Athlete of the Year. She placed third at World’s in Davos in 1966 and, for the second time, was awarded the prestigious Lou E. Marsh Trophy for Athlete of the Year. Petra was inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame in 1966, the Canadian Olympic Association Hall of Fame in 1972 and the Ontario Sport Legends Hall of Fame in 1995.
Referred to by some as a modern pioneer of artistic skating and by the European press as “skater of the century”, Toller Cranston’s influence on men’s figure skating is incalculable. “A skater with a painter’s eye”, his original artistry and dramatic showmanship on ice broke new ground in figure skating and thrilled audiences. From 1971 to 1976 Toller was six time Canadian champion. He placed second in the 1971 ultimate North American Championships held in Peterborough. In 1973 and 1975 he won the newly created competition, Skate Canada. At 1974 World’s in Munich he earned a bronze medal. That same year he was chosen as the Sports Federation Athlete of the Year. At the 1975 and 1976 World’s in Colorado Springs and Gothenburg, respectively, he placed fourth. In Innsbruck, at the Olympic Games in 1976, and twenty six years old, Toller placed third. Since retiring from amateur skating, he was inducted into the Canadian Olympic Hall of Fame in 1976 and Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame in 1977. He was also made an Officer of the Order of Canada that year. In 1995 he received a Special Olympic Order from the Canadian Olympic Association.
A truly dominant force in Canadian and World figure skating since 1980, nicknamed “Mr. Triple Axel”, Brian Orser is the only man in Canadian singles skating to have won all three major Canadian titles: Novice, 1977, Junior, 1979 and, from 1981 – 1988, Senior. He also captured the Skate Canada International titles in 1983, 1984 and 1987. In addition to winning two Olympic silver medals, 1984 in Sarajevo and 1988 in Calgary, four silver (1984, 1985, 1986 and 1988) and one bronze (1983) in World’s, Brian was the third Canadian to capture the men’s gold medal at World’s. He followed in the footsteps of Donald Jackson and Donald MacPherson. Brian was known for his triple Axels and extraordinarily fluid footwork. His talent, discipline, perseverance and perfectionism drove him in his quest for excellence.
When he won the 1987 World’s in Cincinnati, his coach Doug Leigh said, “None of this happened by accident. We worked to get this far”. To celebrate his victories, his hometown of Orillia honored him with “Brian Orser Day”, where Brian presented 14 replicas of his gold medal to 14 significant friends and relatives who helped him achieve Champion of the World. Brian received the Order of Canada in 1986 and in 1988 was promoted within the Order. Among his other honors, he was selected to be the flag bearer for the Canadian Olympic team at the 1988 Games in Calgary. He was inducted into the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame in 1988 and the Canadian Olympic Hall of Fame in 1995.
Barbara Underhill and Paul Martini
1984 World Pair Champions, 1983 World’s bronze medallists, 1979 to 1983 five time Canadian Pair Champions, 1978 Junior Canadian Pair Champions, and winners of numerous international competitions, Barbara Underhill and Paul Martini have created magic on ice since they began skating together in 1977. Partners since they were 13 and 15 years old respectively, their love of skating and quality of relating with one another, emotionally and choreographically have made them amongst the best pairs skaters that have ever lived.
Dramatic death spirals, backward upside-down lifts, spectacular throws and innovations have highlighted their amateur performances. After a disappointing Olympics in Sarajevo, Barbara and Paul seriously contemplated retiring from skating before World’s. However, advised by their friend Brian Orser to put on her old skate boots, Barbara and Paul were propelled onto the ice, onto the podium and into history. Their flawless program is considered one of the great Canadian sporting moments and gave Canada a national thrill. Barbara and Paul were inducted into the Canadian Olympic Association Hall of Fame in 1985 and Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame in 1988.
After winning the junior silver medal at Canadians in 1966, Doug Leigh hung up his skates “momentarily” and then returned to the ice as a coach. Currently Level 4 certified, his coaching success is driven with the motto, “It CAN be done”. His positive outlook, no-nonsense goal setting approach and analytical ability are legendary. A great motivator, Doug demands 100 per cent effort from his skaters every minute on the ice. For 17 years Doug coached Brian Orser during which time he was Canadian Champion from 1981 – 1988; 1984 and 1988 Olympic silver medalist, and 1987 World Champion. He presently coaches Elvis Stojko, three time Canadian and World Champion and 1994 Olympic silver medalist. Doug has also coached 26 other Canadian Champions, including Jennifer Robinson and 14 International Champions, including Britain’s Steven Cousins. Founder, owner and head coach of the Mariposa School of Skating, a CFSA designated national training centre which emphasizes a team approach in coaching and a co-op education program, Doug’s legacy includes establishing Barrie as one of the major skating centres in the country and the world. Doug has been a 7 time recipient of the Longines Coaching Award, the Government of Ontario World Achievement Award, the Ontario Coach of the Year and the Rotary Club Paul Harris Fellowship Award.
Lawrence Demmy and Jean Westwood of Great Britain were the first World Champions and the first European Champions in Ice Dancing. Defending their International and World Champion titles from 1950 – 1955, Jean retired from competition, and in Lake Placid she coached the junior and senior pairs to US dance titles in 1956. She coached the Canadian duo Geraldine Fenton and Bill McLachlan to silver medal success at the 1957 and 1958 World Championships, bronze in 1959, first place in North Americans 1957 and 1958 and Canadians 1957 to 1959. Her coaching expertise was in demand in many of the major skating centers of North America where she taught all disciplines of figure skating for more than 20 years. Her pupils included Otto and Maria Jelinek, John and Donna Lee Mitchell, John and Betty Ann McKilligan, Don Phillips and Joni Graham and Victor Kraatz. For 14 years she was the Head Coach of National Dance Seminars. In addition, she contributed to publications on dance, was a NCCP Course Conductor, Level 1 and 2, and a Clinic Conductor of CANSKATE and CANFIGURESKATE programs. In 1977, Jean and Lawrence were the first ice dancers to be inducted into the the World Figure Skating Hall of Fame.
Johnny Esaw was active in bringing figure skating coverage from the social pages of newspapers to prime time Canadian television audiences. Thanks to his guidance and enthusiasm since 1962, figure skating became one of CTV’s hottest properties. “It is the most natural thing in the world for TV because you don’t have to stage it, you don’t have to prepare it, you just let the skaters do their thing!” Through 28 years of announcing and producing Skate Canada and the Canadian Championships he became known as Mr. Figure Skating. He was instrumental in acquiring tv rights for the 1964 Winter Olympics in Innsbruck and led CTV’s successful bid to be Host Broadcaster for the 1988 Winter Olympics. Upon his retirement from CTV in 1990, he created the Johnny Esaw Skating Bursary which awards $10,000 each year to promising junior skaters. The same year, he was appointed as the first Trustee to the Canadian Figure Skating Hall of Fame and Museum Trust by former CFSA President Barbara Ryan. Johnny has been the recipient of many awards in his more than 40 years of sports broadcasting. In 1991, Johnny was selected as the Sportsman of the Year by the Jewish Community Centre of Toronto, inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame and in 1992, in his home town, the North Battleford Sports Museum and Hall of Fame.
Throughout the sixties, John McKay was particularly interested in making it possible for every child in Canada to participate in recreational skating programs. He was chairman of several CFSA committees in the 1970s and oversaw the introduction of the Divisional championships competition and Skate Canada. He proudly served as CFSA President from 1971 – 1972, establishing a number of firsts that promoted a sound business environment. These included a Board of Management, the concept of Committee Streams and a total registration of the Association’s members. At $1 per member, this garnered $100,000 in revenue for the Association which permitted expansion and financial assistance to competitive skaters and Officials’ training. John was a long time National and International level Judge and Referee. He was appointed team leader to many international competitions including the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary. His distinguished contributions to figure skating were recognized with the International Achievement Award from the Province of Ontario, the Billie Mitchell Award in 1989 and 1990 and a Special Recognition Award for over fifty years of service from the CFSA Western Ontario Section.
The 1952 Canadian Silver Dance medallist from Toronto went on to become a long serving and effective volunteer and official, leaving her mark on the sport of figure skating from the club to the world level. A judge for more than 40 years, she evaluated thousands of young Canadian skaters at tests and competitions. First elected to the CFSA Board of Directors in 1977, Joyce served as the Chairman of the Officials Development Committee for many years, and contributed to the revision of ice dancing technical manuals for judges and coaches.
Named an International Skating Union referee in Ice Dancing in 1978, her assignments included officiating at many Canadian, International and World events. Her latest contribution was serving as the ISU Technical Delegate for the highly successful 1996 World’s in Edmonton. She was appointed to the ISU Dance Committee from 1984-1992.
She has served on the ISU Council since 1992. A volunteer on many CFSA committees, Joyce was a team leader at numerous competitions, including the 1984 Olympics in Sarajevo. Figure skating chairman of the 1988 Olympic Winter Games in Calgary, she received the Alberta Achievement Award for her outstanding contribution.
In the 1948 Canadian Championships Joan Maclagan placed second in Senior Dance. Since then she has judged thousands of skating tests, officiated at over 60 competitions, set and marked hundreds of annual written exams for judges and accountants and willingly conducted training seminars for judges and referees across the 4 Western provinces. She was the first gold medal judge appointed in Alberta. She was known for her love and devotion of figure skating and sense of fair play and said that she tried to judge every level of skating because otherwise one would get a warped sense of values. Joan judged her first Canadian championship in 1957 and judged or refereed almost every year thereafter until 1976.
Her personal highlight was judging at the Sapporo Oympics in 1972. From 1970 to 1977 she was a CFSA Director where her responsibilities included technical, development, and public relations. She was the author of “Manual for Competition Referees” and “Manual for Test Referees”. In 1959, Joan was the originator of the newsletter, ICE CHIPS, the first amateur figure skating publication in Canada. She was a member of the Calgary World’s 1972 Organizing Committee, responsible for music, public address and ISU Liaison. Joan was inducted into the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame in 1985, represented women athletes of Alberta and received an Olympic medal in 1988, and in 1990, from the Glencoe Club, she received the Sports Builder achievement award.