Oscar Mathisen
Speedskating - Oscar Diary


A hundred years ago today, Oscar Mathisen and his two Norwegian teammates took a break from skating to look around the town a little bit. Klagenfurt was a pretty little town, approximately 18000 inhabitants, and old—known from the 12th century. They visited sights: the Lindwurm well, the statue of Maria Theresia, the impressive Rathaus building, the cathedral, the House of the Golden Goose. The old part of the town had many interesting and beautiful buildings. (Just like any town I guess.)

In the evening the three Norwegians and some other skaters left their Gasthof to dine in a downtown restaurant. Martin Sæterhaug had a set of teeth that could make a fair number of nile crocodiles and carnivorous dinosaurs blush with envy. As he had finished destroying his food with these instruments and the Norwegians were sitting and chatting a little after their meal, one of the foreign skaters happened to pass a remark on the size and quality of Sæterhaug’s teeth. The Trønder asked permission to borrow a knife, and when he was given one, he started nonchalantly biting out piece after piece of the edge, until the blade looked more like a saw than the blade of a knife.

As could be expected, this demonstration caused some bit of a stir among those present in the restaurant. And when he was done and gave the knife back to the pleased and/or bewildered owner, he was approached by the head waiter of the restaurant, brandishing a large and dangerous looking kitchen knife. The head waiter asked him if he could please be as kind as to repeat his trick. Sure, the national champion obliged willingly; how could he deny such a polite request?

Oscar says in his memoirs that he had been told by Norwegians visiting the restaurant in later years that the knife was hanging there still as a witness to the fabulous teeth power of the Norwegian skater.

Of all the skating stories I read in my youth I must say this is the one that impressed me the most of all (childish soul that I was), and I developed a desire to go to Klagenfurt myself one day to see if the knife was still hanging there. Unfortunately I have never had the occasion to fulfill it so far.

Doubtless, the knife, and the restaurant, are long gone now.