Oscar Mathisen
Speedskating - Oscar Diary

The elusive record

A hundred years ago today, Oscar Mathisen was back in Davos, the arena of his dream fulfillment. But the conditions weren’t as ideal as last year. It was windy and snowy. Still, the ice was protected by the cold, and well tended by the rink crew. More records looked possible.

Concentrating on the starting line, Oscar considered his chances. Sigurd had (possibly) just skated 45,8, improving by 2 seconds since Budapest. The 500 had been Oscar’s best distance this year. If he too could improve by 2 seconds, what then? His strong heart beat fast. The race went under way. He came to the first curve, and flung himself into it in his usual audacious manner. But then an old spectre struck—and he found himself sliding on his belly into the snow heaps beside the rink. Oh no, not again!

Thankfully he avoided the iron poles this time. Swiftly he was on his legs again and finished in 48,0—probably a “world record” with fall.

That chance lost, but there were four more. The 5000m he skated with determination. Sigurd was his pairmate. 8.37,6, Eden’s famous figures, were in sight. His brother soon was half a lap behind. After the finish, the brothers skidded around the curve, got their coats on, waited exited for the times. What the... 9.17,6? And Sigurd 9.48,2—sixteen seconds behind Schilling?? Oscar looked at the ice, looked at the snowy sky, looked at the clockmen. Surely it must be a lot faster than that?

The explanation was found. They had skated one lap too many. And no official splittime had been taken. In fact no splittime had been taken at all. But you may deduct a probable last lap of 41-42 seconds from the given time and see that Eden’s record had a lucky escape.

The third distance of the day was a 1000 meter. Oscar had never skated the distance in his life. Sigurd was the inofficial lowland world record holder with 1.36,4 from Drammen 1904. He was the first to go (if Skøyteboka tells the truth), and skated a solid race after his strenuous 5000 m. He waited for the time. It must be good. 1.34,0—equal to the world record! He sighed. Equalling, that seemed to be his fate. Then Oscar skated. And was more astonished than anyone when the world record time of 1.31,8 was announced. World record in his debut on the distance—imagine that! Mighty pleased with himself he went to bed in the night ready for tomorrow’s record attempts.