Oscar Mathisen
Speedskating - Oscar Diary

European Champion!

A hundred years ago today, the 2nd day of the European Championship 1909 dawned with fine weather and ice conditions, though not quite as perfect as the day before.

And the program of the day opens smashingly, with the two main rivals for the championship in the first pair of the 1500m. Bohrer stood anxious on the line. He knew that he would secure the championship if he won this distance. The opposition was formidable. The owner of the fabulous new world record, the one who had defeated everything except the weather in this distance the last couple of seasons. Yet his solid win in the 5000 the day before had kindled a bit of hope. Aware of this fact, Oscar, too, must have felt a glimmer of uncertainty, though he was pretty sure he could make it. And perhaps he didn’t open quite as fast as he used to. It was a close race, too, but again the strength of the Norwegian prevailed, and he finished in 2.29,9, with his pairmate 1.4 seconds behind. In the 2nd pair, the unlucky Öholm was far behind in an uninspired race, clocking 2.35,3. Still he easily defeated Sigurd, who seemed out of shape. Schilling had to skate alone again in the last pair, as (the apparently still unhappy) Mannó opted out of this distance as well.

1500 m:
1.Oscar Mathisen  2.29,9
2.Thomas Bohrer   2.31,3
3.Moje Öholm      2.35,3
4.Sigurd Mathisen 2.37,1
5.Franz Schilling 2.43,0
1.Oscar Mathisen   4
2.Thomas Bohrer    6
3.Moje Öholm       8
4.Sigurd Mathisen 12
5.Franz Schilling 15

After the 1500m, there was another Austro-Hungarian meet over 1000 and 500m, won by the Hungarians H Miklovich and Imre Wampetics in 1.46,2 and 49,7 respectively. And meanwhile the figure skaters skated their free skate, or whatever they called it back then. Here, Salchow received a tremendous applause for his new backward jump. Yet he scored fewer points than for his figures, and the German Fuchs won the event. But overall, he could not threaten the Swede.

In the 10000m, Bohrer and Oscar Mathisen again met in the first pair. And here, the home favourite was strong. Oscar had to let him go, and the difference increased alarmingly. When Bohrer finished in 18.49,4 to wild and enthusiastic applause, it was half a lap wide. In fact it was so wide that Bohrer now was ahead in samalog points, which (if I’m not mistaken) were to be used as tiebreaker in case of a tie in place number sums. This also means that if any one of the remaining skaters were to slip in between Oscar and Bohrer, the championship for the first time would fall in Austrian hands.

Now, the only one who could be expected to achieve this stood ready on the starting line, the reigning champion Moje Öholm. So there was no time to make any deals, if any one would have been alert and/or cynical enough to think of it. Öholm himself probably wasn’t fully informed about the situation, as all this stuff about place numbers and time points was rather new. Yet he surely considered the possibility that it might fall to him to decide who’s going to be the European Champion. Maybe he skated as fast as he could. 19.21 when he had skated 9.20 with a fall does not indicate that he did. Maybe he considered the races at Frogner last year, when he was denied the first prize despite being Oscar’s equal on points. Maybe he thought that Oscar after all deserved that prize considering the weather he was exposed to. Maybe he thought it was a bad idea to annoy the Norwegians more than they really sincerely needed, less than 4 years after 1905, or maybe it was a case of Nordic solidarity. Whatever the reason, eventually he did secure the championship for Oscar. Comparing times during the race was forbidden in those days, but the Swede was an experienced skater and knew what he had to do. And the difference of 9.5 second just seems too suitable to be said with certainty to have been achieved merely at random—not too far behind, not too close.

Schilling started alone again in the last pair, but didn’t see any point in delaying the final celebrations for the impatient spectators, and pulled out after (probably) a short time.

10000 m:
1.Thomas Bohrer   18.49,4
2.Oscar Mathisen  19.12,0
3.Moje Öholm      19.21,5
4.Sigurd Mathisen 20.07,5
Franz Schilling   dnf
1.Oscar Mathisen   6
2.Thomas Bohrer    7
3.Moje Öholm      11
4.Sigurd Mathisen 16

A new title won, and celebrations were due. New fanfares, new speeches. No laurels, but medals and cups in noble metals. The last evening before they left the city, the skaters could have spent in the cinema, perhaps. A city like Budapest very likely was equipped with one. And maybe they watched Max Lindner’s film about a beginner learning to skate, first shown in Franch in 1907, and arriving to Austro-Hungaria very probably less than two years afterwards.

Meanwhile back home in Kristiania, Henning Olsen again prevailed in the club races of Spf. Mjølner at Frogner. He won the 500m in 50,2 and the 1500m in 2.45,2. Pretty good times for an 18 years old skating his first (known) competition.