Oscar Mathisen
Speedskating - Oscar Diary


A hundred years ago today, Oscar Mathisen was in a celebratory mood. He'd heard the news. Not on the radio, because radios didn't exist, and TV was undreamt of. At least by most people. He could have heard it on the phone, but his home had no phone, a luxury item yet in 1908. No, a minor official from his club had just dropped in and told him the news.

Originally, only the winner, Martin Sæterhaug, of last weekend's national championship had been selected for the long trip to Klagenfurt and Davos to defend the colours of the young nation at the European and World Championships in speedskating. But the races at Frogner had been close, and many had argued that more skaters ought to be sent, sentiments voiced in particular by the respected journalists of Idrætsbladet, the Norwegian sports magazine, who in their reports from the championship races recommended sending both of the Mathisen brothers as well. This proposal stranded at first when the federation proclaimed that they didn’t have the money to send three skaters on such a long trip and supporting them for two whole weeks on top of it all, as both championships were set up to be arranged on consecutive weekends.

But there were those who had money, and it was perhaps no surprise that his club, having just arranged a national championship with excellent attendance, might have something to spare. But apparently as the story goes, the money was gifts from concerned private persons.

Anyway, the news was out, train tickets were already being bought, and Oscar started preparing for his first journey to the grand abroad. A 19 year old boy from humble circumstances, you can imagine his nerves were jittery. The departure was scheduled for Saturday, so he had all of tomorrow to pack and prepare.

Rails fading into the horizon