Oscar Mathisen
Speedskating - Oscar Diary

Chasing records on Lillemjøsa

In the week before the European Championship at Hamar, Norsk Idrætsblad publishes the following letter signed by “Another skater” and titled “Oscar Mathiesen’s amateur status”:
Hr redaktør!
En skøiteløper har i Deres ærede blad rettet et aapent spørsmaal til rette vekommende om, hvorfor ialverden Oscar Mathiesen netop nu har mistet sit amatørskap. Da jeg endnu intet svar har set, tillater jeg mig gjennem Deres blad paany at gjenta dette spørsmaal, der har større interesse og vækker større opmærksomhet ute blant den store almenhet, end man muligens aner. Mand og mand imellem drøftes spørsmaalet, og der gjættes paa de besynderligste aarsaker. Historien om pantsættelsen av præmier som den egentlige aarsak, tror ingen længer på. Der skumles om både det ene og andet. For sakens skyld, for vor skøitesport og dens renomé baade ute og hjemme trænges en forklaring. Jeg og alle interesserte med mig mener, at det gavner alle parter bedst, om kortene lægges paa bordet. Norsk skøiteforbund skylder baade sig selv, publikum og den idræt, det skal vareta, at gi grei besked.
Ingen kan være tjent med, hvad der nu om dagene hviskes i krokene og allermindst vor skøiteidræts ledere og skøitesportens støtter.

A skater has posed an open question in your honourable publication, to whoever it may concern, on whatever the reason could have been for the removal of Oscar Mathiesen’s amateur status. As I still have seen no answer, I am taking the opportunity to repeat this question again through your publication, because it arouses more interest and attention in the general public than might be commonly known. From man to man the question is discussed, and the most singular guesses are being made. As for the story of the pawning of the medals, no-one believes this is the real reason anymore. Rumours of sinister conspiracies abound. For the sake of the matter at hand, for our skating sport and its reputation both at home and abroad, an explanation is needed. I think, and I believe all others with interest in this matter think with me that it will be best for all parties if the cards are laid on the table now. Norsk Skøiteforbund owe both themselves, the public and the sport they are responsible for a straightforward approach in this matter.
Nobody can have anything to gain from the whispering in the corners that goes on today, least of all the ones who govern and support our skating sport themselves.

The editors respond in the same issue:
Vi tror at kunne uttale, at Oscar Mathiesens tap av amatørskapet intet har med historien om de pantsatte præmier at gjøre. Dertil er denne historie baade for gammel og «svævende». Vi tror ogsaa, at han meget snart vil faa sit amatørskap tilbake, hvad vi opriktig vil haape, da hverken vor skøitesport eller vort land vil være tjent med at maatte undvære en saa dygtig og sympatisk kapacitet paa skøitesportens omraade. Men spørsmaalet herom maa avgjøres snart, ti vi tror at saadan som forlydender, rygter og gjætninger nu verserer indebærer de en fare for misstemning i vide kredse.

We believe it can be stated that the loss of Oscar Mathiesen’s amateur status is not at all related to the story of the pawned prizes. That story is simply too old and too vague. We also believe that he will get his amateur status back very soon, as we hope for very much, as neither our skating sport nor our country will benefit from the loss of this accomplished and sympathetic master in the field of skating. But the question much be decided soon, as we believe the sayings, rumours and guesses circulating these days may lead to bad feelings all around.

Of other items of interest worldwide I think this Chinese refusal is worth mentioning:
I have read your work and am delighted about it. Yes, I swear by the ashes of my ancestors that I have never in my life read anything of such sublime quality. Therefore I fear that His Majesty our highest Emperor and master will be so thrilled that he will prohibit us strictly from printing anything not on par with this glorious work. And since another poem of such beauty hardly will be written the next 1000 years, we are returning your divine manuscript with inexpressible regret as we do not dare to accept it, and beg you a thousand times for indulgence and forgiveness.

Sarah BernhardtAlso, Sarah Bernhardt’s 10 commandments for staying forever young could be worthy of a mention: 1. Thou shalst have one primary matter of interest that fills your time. 2. Thou shalst have other secondary matters of interest in order to avoid single-mindedness. 3. Thou shalst judge what is important in thy life, and concentrate on that. 4. Thou shalst judge what is unimportant to thy life and avoid it. 5. Thou shalst have an immediate but not too avid interest in everything that happens around thyself. 6. Thou shalst eat whatever thou wishest and whenever thou wishest, but not as much as thou wishest. 7. Thou shalst drink lots of water and fruit juices. 8. Thou shalst sleep as soon as thou feelst tired. 9. Thou shalst rest several times during the day; these little pauses will lengthen thy life. 10. Thou shalst seek thy vocation in life and consider work a pleasure instead of a punishment.

Other news: The president of Nicaragua, Juan José Estrada, declares martial law when an explosion in Managua destroys large amounts of weapons and ammunition. In the USA, the House of Representatives approves a mercantile treaty between the USA and Canada. As a reaction, William Stiles Bennet, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, having unsuccessfully opposed the treaty, introduces a resolution proposing the annexation of Canada by the United States. It fails in the committee, getting only his own vote, but gets Canadians and Britons on their toes. “Manasse datter”, also known as Miss Kant, is expelled from Hønefoss for selling young-socialist pamphlets. In Ytre Sandsvær, a 13 year old boy fells a bear. Being the son of a wealthy farmer he suffers no shortage, but receives a 50kr reward from an anonymous doctor’s wife. In Moss the locals enjoy the German fleet visit, viewing the impressive modern battleships and eating their luncheons under the shadows of the 12 inch guns.

In Texas an arrest warrant is issued for the Mexican rebel leader Francisco Madero, as he had been judged to be in violation of U.S. neutrality laws. This leaves him no choice. On Tuesday he crosses Rio Grande and enter Chihuahua state, where the rebels welcome him and place themselves under his command. The revolution has entered a new phase.

Down in the Antarctic Amundsen and his team were making good speed. On Monday they drove 37km in bright and windless weather, and at 11AM the next day they arrived at 80°S. Here they built a large depot, 4 meters high, and started for home the same day. Travelling in their own tracks they now increased the speed even more and at the end had completed 70km altogether. On Wednesday they broke all their previous speed records, driving a 100km in an attempt to catch up with Fram before it departed for the season. They were at Framheim around half past 8PM, but it turned out that Fram had sailed around midday that day. The rest of the week was spent in preparations for the next depot drive, unpacking provisions, modifying boots and other equipment on the basis of the experience from the last drive.

Scott on the other hand marched only just under 15km that Monday in spite of having sent home his weakest ponies the day before. But he didn’t have at all the same sunny weather as Amundsen, having a veritable blizzard to put up with most of the day. And the storm left deep drifts of loose snow in its wake. With the ponies sinking down to their hocks, they made hardly 12km the next day. The most unfortunate of the ponies was Tryggve Gran’s Weary Willy, who kept falling behind with a heavy sledge. Once he fell over and the dogs were upon him in an instant. Gran fought them back with his ski poles, helped by Meares, and the animal escaped with a few bruises, having fought back valiantly himself, too. On Wednesday the distance was roughly the same. Weary Willy did better with a lighter sledge, but Bowers’ pony was obstinate, and they had to take frequent pauses. On Thursday they marched 11km, and Weary Willy was doing so badly now that they decided to turn, although three of the five ponies still were in good shape. But the temperature had fallen to -29°C with a brisk southwesterly, and most of the party got some frostbite during the day. On Friday they built their depot at 79°28½'S, containing provisions for 7 weeks and a bit of spare equipment. The present Saturday they made good speed after a day’s rest and made camp 37 kms further north.

At Hamar they had weather problems, too, but a different kind. On Thursday they reported 2 degrees above freezing and a southerly wind, fearing a watery track if this were to continue. But by Saturday it had changed altogether. It was freezing, the sun was out and the flags were hanging dead down from their masts in the almost total calm. The track was laid on Lillemjøsa by the railway bridge just as in 1894, and the basin below had been excavated in the summer as a preparation for the championship, financed in part from the municipal council and in part by the income from the municipal wine shop. The circumference of the track was 405 meters and the width 6 meters, the narrowest allowable according to the rules. This along with some bumps that had cropped up along the back straight in the mild weather made it difficult for some skaters to enter the curves in a proper fashion. At 11:45 the King arrived on an extra train, for the first time at Hamar to watch skating, and extra trains were set up to bring spectators from Kristiania, Østerdalen and Gudbrandsdalen as well, making it possible to go to Hamar and back the same day. The hotels in town were filling up too, however.

When the championship started at 1 o’clock, a sizeable crowd had gathered, about 1500 according to Hamar Stiftstidende (500 according to Norsk Idrætsblad). Missing from the starting lists in addition to Oscar Mathisen were the Finns, who could not afford to travel, and the national champion Henning Olsen, who didn’t get leave from his job. But most of the best skaters were present, and with Strunnikov starting, the expectations were high, considering the fine weather conditions. The most sanguine were talking of world records in all the distances.

As usual the draw had paired the favourite with his most feared opponent in both distances, but Bohrer did not want to skate with Strunnikov in the 10000m, and delivered a protest. The organisers decided to base the draw on the 500m in both the 10000 and the 1500m, while the 5000 was to be based on the 10000.

Already in the first pair of the 500m, Strunnikov and Sæterhaug were ready for their showdown, the Trønder drawing first inner. The flag fell and both skaters started briskly, skating side by side up the first straight. Through the curve they went and down the back straight. Still the pair looked undecided, but in the last inner curve the Russian seemed to gain an advantage. Then it happened. A slight slip caused him so draw out of his own lane and into Sæterhaug’s, and strangely they both entered the final straight in the same lane, Strunnikov only slightly ahead. With a dramatic leap that drew a gasp from the audience and nearly cost him his balance, he managed to cross over to his own lane again, and they both sprinted for their lives towards the finish line, the Russian crossing it first. The times were 46,1 og 46,2, far from any world record.

In the 2nd pair, the Olympian and home favourite Monsen held the lead over Andersson until the last meters where the Swede drew ahead with a vigorous sprint. Surprisingly, both managed to equal their personal bests. Magnus Johansen in the 3rd pair also got into trouble in the last curve and fell, giving the 2nd home skater Sigurd Jensen an easy win. And in the 4th pair, Gunerius Schou was the third to equal his pb when he beat Olaf Hansen by 2 seconds.

In the 5th pair, Bohrer had an excellent start if not downright lucky. He held the record man Sigurd Mathisen through the first outer curve and came out on the back straight only slightly behind him. Down the straight he pressed ahead, but when they arrived at the curve, he still wasn’t enough in front to be able to change his lane. Thus he continued in the outer and skated there with Mathisen just behind until the finish. After the race, Sigurd delivered a protest because he felt he had been hindered—any pass was impossible in those narrow lanes. But later he dropped the protest, and Bohrer’s time, enough for 3rd place so far despite two outer curves, was accepted.

Next pair was Ejnar Sørensen and Karinius Larsen-Stai, the breath of history who had skated in 1894 along with Eden, Halvorsen and the others, also having held the national 10000m record along with Sinnerud until Sigurd Mathisen beat it in 1902. For once perhaps the Dane wasn’t the one who got the biggest applause, but at least he beat his pairmate easily notwithstanding the fact that Stai was faster than in 1894 by half a second. The 7th pair featured the two distance specialists Lundgreen and Johannessen, with the former winning, and in the last Reidar Gundersen had no match as the Dutchman Taconis too fell in the last curve.


1.Nikolaj Strunnikov      46,1
2.Martin Sæterhaug        46,2
3.Thomas Bohrer           47,1
4.Otto Andersson          47,2 eq.pb
Sigurd Mathisen           47,2
6.Otto Monsen             47,3 eq.pb
7.Gunerius Schou          48,5 eq.pb
8.Reidar Gundersen        48,7
9.Trygve Lundgreen        48,8
10.Ejnar Sørensen         48,9
11.Stener Johannessen     50,0
12.Olaf Hansen            50,5
13.Karinius Larsen-Stai   51,3
14.Sigurd Jensen          51,8
15.Magnus Johansen        55,2f
16.Wynout Hendrik Taconis 64,0f

According to Hamar Stiftstidende, Lundgreen-Sørensen skates the first pair and Strunnikov-Sæterhaug the 3rd in the 10000m. But Norsk Idrætsblad has a different draw, which I choose as a basis for the narration here, not because of any indication that it’s more reliable, rather because it includes the complete set of pairs.

Just like the 500m, the 10000m features Strunnikov in the first pair, again with Sæterhaug at his side. The Russian starts at a pace approaching a 1500m tempo, and leaves the Trønder behind right away. He feels the quality of the ice through his boots and knows there is a chance for the old record of Østlund. On the stands, the spectators gather around the few equipped with clocks, following the race in frantic awe. History is at hand. Every now and then the Russian lets his arms go in a mock sprint, as if he’s being told he’s behind, trying to catch up, and the thrilled audience each time responds noisily. Having pulled out all he could from his tiring body it’s not until the last 2-3 laps that it’s clear: he won’t make it. In the end even Eden’s track record survived, but at least the the 18 minute limit was broken with the phenomenal time 17.59,8, the best Scandinavian mile on Norwegian ice since 1895, and the 4th fastest in the world. As if to underline the result, Sæterhaug was beaten by almost exactly a minute, registering the nice, round time of 19.00,0.

This gave Bohrer something to chew on, and it looked like he might have to postpone his annouced henpicking appointment. Anyway he started optimistically paired with Sigurd Mathisen, and maybe he followd Strunnikov’s pace reasonably for a while. Sigurd didn’t try to follow for long. In the second half of the race the Austrian lost seconds by the braces, and finished in 18.22,4, a lowland pb and an excellent time by the standards of the day, but it hardly left him with a deep sense of satisfaction. Sigurd was the second of two possible Norwegians to be lapped today, and things didn’t improve in the third, where Andersson skated a fine race in 18.43,6, lapping the home favourite and Olympian Monsen just before the end. Lundgreen in the next pair had his hands full with the Dane Sørensen, but managed eventually to pull away and beat him with a 100 meters, clocking a decent time, 18.57,5. Then came Johannessen, who finally had climbed out of his seasonal form dip and delivered a surprisingly powerful and energetic race. The seasoned distance skater Olaf Hansen was close to being lapped at the end as the 4th Norwegian that day. During the final phases someone on the stands shouted to Johannessen that the national record was within reach, and this made him muster all his strength to finish in a new record time: 18.30,7. Sigurd’s record thus was history after 9 years, a good survival rate for a record. In the following pair, Jensen and Stai gave the remaining spectators an opportunity for meat soup (or whatever they had brought with them), and then Johansen in the last pair tried in vain to break Johannessen’s new record, but at least he lapped Taconis and improved his pb by 2.8 seconds.


1.Nikolaj Strunnikov      17.59,8 pb
2.Thomas Bohere           18.22,4 lowland pb
3.Stener Johannessen      18.30,7 pb NR
4.Magnus Johansen         18.36,8 pb
5.Otto Andersson          18.43,6
6.Trygve Lundgreen        18.57,5
7.Martin Sæterhaug        19.00,0
8.Olaf Hansen             19.06,0
9.Ejnar Sørensen          19.10,0 lowland pb
10.Sigurd Mathisen        19.12,6
11.Wynout Hendrik Taconis 19.31,0 pb
12.Otto Monsen            19.33,4 pb
13.Sigurd Jensen          19.36,3 pb
14.Karinius Larsen-Stai   20.07,6


1.Strunnikov   2 points
2.Bohrer       5
3.Andersson    9
Sæterhaug      9
5.Johannessen 12
6.Lundgreen   13
7.Mathisen    14
8.Johansen    17
Sørensen      17
10.Hansen     18
Monsen        18
12.Taconis    25
Jensen        25
Stai          25

The participants and officials banqueted and made merry into the evening, looking forward to tomorrow’s races. But some light flurries caused a bit of concern, and during the night they grew to a blizzard with heavy snow and storm-force winds. It might be that record-chasing was over for this time.

VestaNow for today’s commercial: The fire insurance company Vesta, amalgamated with Det norske Brandassuranceselskab (oldest company in the country, founded 1838), primary capital 4 million kroner, accept assurances through the undersigned K.N. Schlesser Møller, Sophus Christophersen, Lorentz Erbe. Agent for Strinden & Klæbo: sheriff C. Dahl. For Værdalen: sheriff R. Holmvik. For Stjørdalen: Provisor Joh. Øvstaas (at the Pharmacy).