Oscar Mathisen
Speedskating - Oscar Diary

Complications at Hamar

A hundred years ago today Oscar Mathisen had returned to Hamar to reconquer his national championship. However, as it turned out, this proved more complicated than expected. The championship started Saturday in 14 degrees below freezing and with only 400 spectators on the stands. For the first time, the programme included a 10000m, which seems to have held little attraction at Hamar in 1912, at least in 14 below. The 500m started at 1 pm, on firm but not optimally slippery ice, and provided no sensations.
1.Oscar Mathisen.KSK      45,1
2.Martin Sæterhaug.TSK    45,9 eq. pb
3.Henning Olsen.KSK       47,0
4.Trygve Lundgreen.KSK    48,3
5.Johannes Fladaas.TSK    48,6 pb
6.Bjarne Frang.KSK        48,9
7.Stener Johannessen.KSK  49,3
8.Lars Larsen.HSK         51,1
The Hamar track
After half an hour, the 10000m started. I do not have the draw, but I do have splittimes, indicating that the track was somewhat more than 400m. Assuming that the pairs were set up on the basis of the 500m, Stener Johannesen will have met the home skater Lars Larsen (a probable more or less distant relative of mine), lapping him twice:
Frang was to meet Fladaas, but withdraw before the start, and the Trønder had to skate alone:
Olsen met Lundgreen, fought hard for 15 laps, but then had to let his pairmate go. Both were beaten by Johannessen, and Olsen’s chances of keeping his championship thinned out even more.
Finally time was up for yet another Oscar Mathisen vs. Martin Sæterhaug duel. But in the 12th lap (not the 7th as he writes in his memoirs), drama was up, as Oscar sensed that he ran over something. All of a sudden one of his skates felt very rough, with no glide at all, and his race was lost. The brave few remaining on the stands gasped. Their hero limped through the next lap somewhat like a modern cross-country skier—not a pretty sight. He stopped and thought of quitting. Perhaps they’d let him try again. But he decided to continue just in case, as he could not win the title without completing all the races. Three distance wins still would hand it to him.
Sæterhaug allegedly also had hit something, apparently a couple of laps afterwards if so. He went and had a look at the curve after the race (according to Oscar’s memoirs), and found some things that he showed to Oscar when he had joined him. They were so-called “lokkebusser”, bits of metal punched out of plates for making rivet holes, popular playthings for kids in Hamar those days. Martin and Oscar decided to file a complaint and demanded a reskate next morning. The judges granted it, but the federation president Thue, who was present to attend the federation convention that weekend, vetoed it (according to the same memoirs) because he thought they were liable to get different ice conditions than the other skaters, and the final standings might be contestable because the skaters who were happy with their times hardly would be willing to reskate.

This way, Thue made sure that no-one could blame him for favouritism. Oscar at least would have to follow the same rules as other skaters.

Also note that Oscar was well behind Johannessen when the accident happened. Perhaps he was poised for another of his strong finishes. Or perhaps not. Who knows?

These final laps of 48 must be taken with a grain of salt or two. The laptimes given do seem to contain a few errors, particularly some wild final laps. Those were not uncommon at the time however, because the 10000 was a very long distance that had been skated infrequently, and its pace was hard to preconceive with the general fitness level also being somewhat irregular. Many started too fast and even more too slow, having started too fast one time too many. However the official times of course were taken with officially approved and controlled watches, while the splittimes were written down by journalists, using their own clocks. Splittimes were not announced in those days in order to avoid giving advantages to later skaters. And unofficial, uncontrolled clocks commonly erred by seconds in 20 minutes or so in those days.

Finally, two Hamar skaters had joined the event after the 500 m, and skated the last pair:

Alf Lundaas
August Pihl Andersen
1.Stener Johannessen.KSK   18.46,0
2.Trygve Lundgreen.KSK     18.59,4
3.Henning Olsen.KSK        19.14,7
4.Johannes Fladaas.TSK     19.39,0 pb
5.Martin Sæterhaug.TSK     19.54,0
6.Lars Larsen.HSK          20.23,0 pb
7.Alf Lundaas.HSK          20.32,8 pb
8.August Pihl Andersen.HSK 21.40,2 pb
9.Oscar Mathisen.KSK       22.37,4
Bjarne Frang.KSK dns
1.Trygve Lundgreen.KSK    6
Henning Olsen.KSK         6
3.Stener Johannessen.KSK  7
Martin Sæterhaug.TSK      7
5.Oscar Mathisen.KSK      8
6.Johannes Fladaas.TSK    9
7.Lars Larsen.HSK        13
Thue did get severe criticism in the press afterwards, and published a defense in Norsk Idrætsblad on February 1st where he claims to have checked the track thoroughly before the races and found it in good order. Some places were uneven and less good, especially in one of the curves, but plainly the track was quite useable, and he had no objections to proceeding with the races. He firmly denied any claims of sand or gravel having been on the ice at the time of checking. If there were any such things they must have been frozen into the ice and appeared as the skating wore it down. He admits that §34 of the ISU laws (“Wett-lauf Ordnung”) does permit reskating, but not at another date than the one scheduled for the original race.

In the evening of the first day of the national championship the NSF federation convention was held, as had been the tradition from its beginning 18 years before, and would be the tradition for many years to come. The biggest issue of the convention was the law proposal from TSK, who had sent in their proposal after the deadline for votable law proposals just like Kristiania IF the year before. Yet it was discussed hotly, its gist being that the federation was to take over the responsibility for finding event dates on the calendar to avoid collisions. In the early fall, the Trønders had announced international races on February 23-24 as part of a wintersport week in cooperation with the ski events at Gråkallen. Then KSK set up their match against Helsingfors the same weekend without consulting the TSK. The TSK then filed a protest and the match against the Finns was moved to March 3-4. All cheer. Except that then a match against Stockholm is announced for the original date, obviously after negotiations with the Swedes. On this background the debate was long and hard. The following proposal was raised: The federation board urges the KSK to negotiate with the athletic association of Stockholm for the purpose of postponing the cup match on Feb 24-25 3 or 4 days because of the international races in Trondhjem on February 23-24, or if not, to postpone the match until next year.

Then Otto Monsen of Hamar raised a counter proposal: “The federation considers this matter irrelevant for their concern and that to more action is to be taken from their side in this case.” This proposal won. Time was not up for federations to set up skating calendars yet, apparently. Still, the Trønders with their legendary optimism hoped to have their proposal voted in next year, when they were to host the national championship and the convention.

Thue was re-elevted president, and Monsen and Gresvig re-elected for the board. Delegates from Kristiania, Skien, Hamar, Trondhjem and Stenkjær participated at the convention.