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TIME Magazine, February 2, 1948, p. 50 (cover story):|
SPORT: Ice Queen
...there were some in St. Moritz who thought the 1948 Olympic games would be the last... There was a deeper and grimmer game afoot: for some "iron curtain" countries, like Rumania and Yugoslavia, competition had become almost a matter of life and death; some athletes were nervous about going back home if they didn't perform up to snuff. Soviet Russia had sent no competitors, only a vigilate squad of ten observers.
If this were indeed to be the last Olympics, the world would lose something as old as the 8th Century B.C.... and as ever-new and refreshing as the ambitions of the 19-year-old Canadian girl who was the cynosure of St. Moritz this week.
Ottawa to Oslo. Canada's Barbara Ann Scott was the girl everybody's eyes were on. Like a wind-whipped prarie fire, her fame has swept eastward from Ottawa to London and Oslo; a few sparks were even observed in Hollywood...
Barbara Ann, with a peaches-&-cream complexion, saucer-like blue eyes and rosebud mouth, is certainly pretty enough. Her light brown hair (golden now that she bleaches it) falls page-boy style on her shoulders. She weighs a trim, girlish 107 lbs., neither as full-bosomed as a Hollywood starlet nor as wide-hipped as most skaters. She looks, in fact, like a doll which is to be looked at but not touched. But Barbara Ann Scott is no fragile mammet. She is the women's figure skating champion of the world...
...one European judge [said]: "Scott shows up the others when she merely skates on one foot in a straight line." The last skater to do that was Norway's brassy Sonja Henie, who in 1936 danced off the Olympic ice into a $1,000,000 Hollywood contract.
Threes & Eights. When Barbara Ann skates, she seems to float on ice. She turns effortlessly and unexpectedly-- only clever performers can manage that-- and never has to push to get up momentum for an eight or a loop-change-loop. She always seem to be enjoying herself, and as a result people always enjoy watching her. She has equilibrium, charm and style. A U.S. skating judge, who likes to define the quality of a skater in one word ("push" is his word for Sonja), puzzled over Barbara Ann a while, then described her quality as "femininity."
She is also neat and precise, and neat and precise things please her. ("I know exactly where I put my nail file," she says, "and I like to find it exactly where I left it.") This is why she prefers, as few skaters do, the required school figures to free skating. The school figures, 41 types in all, are the tedious, exacting, incredibly difficult fundamentals of figure skating (like a vocabulary test that must be passed before being allowed to make a speech). They count 60% in championship competition.
Barbara Ann takes a perfectionist's delight in tracing threes (bunnies' ears, she calls them) and double-three-change-double-threes on the ice. Even ice-- when it's smooth-- delights her. "I suppose most people think of ice as cold and artificial. But to me it's warm. It isn't artificial, really-- it's alive."...
Smiles & Spins. Like Sonja Henie, Barbara Ann does not jump higher or skate more daringly than her rivals. She just does it better. In Prague two weeks ago, with her European championship at stake, whatever she tried-- from difficult double Salchows to simple open Choctaws-- was carefully and beautifully done. She ended her free skating with a spin, her arms at her sides, whirling faster, then slower, then faster again, then stopping suddenly. (She is the world's best spinner.)...
When the final results went up, she had beaten... practically everybody she has to beat for the Olympic crown except Boston's golden-haired Gretchen Merrill, U.S. champion, who did not compete at Prague.
Barbara Ann is generally liked by the other girl skaters, but their liking carries a tinge of reserve. After all, she is the champion, and as such the object of envy... Whenever anyone tries to compare her, the first two words that come out of his mouth are "Sonja Henie."
Fire v. Femininity. Right now (with Barbara Ann 19, Sonja crowding 35), Sonja would be no match for Barbara Ann. If both champions were 19, the contest would be a thriller of fire v. femininity-- and the betting about even money. Sonja's school figures were near perfection. Her skate seemed to cut deeper into the ice than Barbara Ann's, due probably to her weight: Sonja was a butterball in her Olympic days*. Unlike Barbara Ann, who averages eight hours a day practicing, Sonja never practiced more than three. "I'd go simply nuts," she once said. Barbara Ann's school figures, skated with less effort and more tidiness, are as perfect as anybody's ever were.
In the free skating, Sonja's showmanship was incomparable. She held crowds, kings and skating judges spellbound... Sonja possessed a talent for covering up the few technical mistakes she made.
For example, it required a slow-motion camera to discover that Sonja sometimes did not cleanly complete her Axel Paulsens (a revolution-and-a-half, taking off from one foot and landing on the other): she disguised the last part of the turn so expertly that the people never saw the difference. Sonja put on a tremendous show...
Both Sonja and Barbara Ann subscribe to the theory that it is wiser to try a single jump and be sure of making it than to try a double jump and miss. As a result, their "free" programs-- which are, in effect, ballet solos on ice-- are less daring than some skaters'. But there the likeness ends. Barbara Ann usually manages to say the right thing (or at least the polite thing). When something irked Sonja, and many things did, she was more apt to blurt: "It stinks."...
When she is home, Barbara Ann still gets up at 7, makes her own bed, helps wash the breakfast dishes, spends the day skating and is usually in bed by 8:30. She no longer has much time for boys, dances, and movies (her favorites: anything with Ingrid Bergman or Walter Pidgeon in it) or flying, which she learned to do because her [late] father, although no pilot, liked flying.
The Ambassadress. Barbara Ann's conversation, like the chatter of most girls her age, is full of expressions like "super" and "fiendish" and "divine"-- and she giggles. For all that, she knows how to handle herself, and without prompting. Prime Minister Mackenzie King calls her Canada's "ambassadress." On the big circuit in Europe, she has learned to take one sip of champagne ("so people won't think I'm stuffy") and leave the rest, hoping no one will be offended. "Give me a good old American milk shake any time," she says...
If Barbara Ann wins the Olympic title, will she turn pro? It is a good bet that she will. Hollywood is making eyes at her, so is at least one ice show, and 101 manufacturers of soaps and skin lotions would soon be waving $1000 bills at her. Says Barbara Ann: "I wish people would stop saying I am going to turn professional all the time. There is no world competition in professional skating-- and I like competition."...
*In Madison Square Garden last week, as the hula-dancing queen of her own Hollywood Ice Revue, La Henie had fined down to 107.
Barbara Ann Scott Photo Gallery