Oscar Mathisen
Speedskating - Oscar Diary

A glimpse of the future

The battle for the European Championship seemed to be all but over after Oscar Mathisen’s overwhelming wins in the first two distances. Now, he only needed to win the 1500m as well, then he would be champion if he could complete the final distance. But it was not in Oscar’s mind to skate a cautious race in order to secure the win, oh no. He was in the shape of his life and wanted to give the Swedish audience a demonstration of his capabilities. The weather had improved since yesterday, though the fog still was thick, but the temperature had gone down to the freezing point or a little below, and the ice had been nursed competently. No smoother ice had ever been displayed on a Swedish track. The 6-7000 on the stands didn’t know what they were in for.

The races started at 1 o’clock with Andersson, the home favourite and the former Norwegian champion Olsen i the first pair. Despite clocking a new Swedish record in 2.29,8, Andersson saw the back of his opponent well ahead as Olsen finished in 2.27,4. The 2nd pair of Strömstén and Cederlöf was better matched. The Finn was more cold-blooded in the last sprint and he won the pair in 2.29,6, while his pairmate equalled the Andersson’ fresh new record. Yesterday’s sensation and new home favourite Axelson was up against the other Finn Tverin in the 3rd pair, and this also turned out to be a close and exiting fight, drawing some noise out of the crowd. They had a little lead each in the first two laps. Tverin increased it to 10 meters in the 3rd, but the Smålending caught him up before the finishing straight, where they skated side by side in front of the screeching spectators and the Swede threw his skate across the line first. Both were clocked to 2.30,0, so after 3 pairs still no time over 2.30—pretty extraordinary as Tverin during the cup match on the same track last weekend had skated under 2.30 for the first time on Swedish ice with his 2.29,8.

But now, time drew close for the moment of truth, the moment that would change everything. In the 4th pair, Oscar Mathisen was set up against Martin Sæterhaug like so many times before. And Oscar’s engine was truly on fire this time, the Swedish audience were in for a blow from which they were never to fully recover. The first laps went by in a pace that none of yesterday’s 500m skaters could copy, except Martin. He hung on determinedly as the spectators gasped over the frightening pace. 300 meters gone and they were equal. One lap more in a pure sprinting pace and they were still equal. Even after the next curve nothing seemed to separate them, but then the favourite slowly started to gain. Meter for meter he gained through the last two laps until at the finish he was almost half the straight ahead. Now further gasps ran through the stands as spectators with clocks shook them or their heads or conferred with neighbour similarly equipped to confirm the unbelievable figures they saw. Something must be wrong. But it wasn’t. The world record was equalled in gray and cloudy weather on the 6 years old Östermalms Idrottsplats, now in preparation for the Olympic Games. The official time was 2.20,6! Martin finished in 2.25,8, a new lowland pb. It would take 30 years before a better time ever was skated on Swedish ice. A glimpse of the future in living reality.

The rest was anticlimactic. The dazed audience barely registered that in the 6th pair Zerling beat the Swedish record again, going into 4th place as the best non-Norwegian, a place Ippolitov robbed him of again in the last pair against Johannessen. And probably they didn’t realise it then, but in the days to come the realisation would gradually move forward from the backs of their minds: that despite all the talented new Swedish skaters coming up, with the best of them 8.8 seconds behind the famed Norwegian, speedskating would from now and possibly forever be a second-rate sport in their country.
1.Oscar Mathisen.Norway      2.20,6 World record!
2.Martin Sæterhaug.Norway    2.25,8 lowland pb
3.Henning Olsen.Norway       2.27,4
4.Vasilij Ippolitov.Russia   2.28,8 pb
5.Paul Zerling.Swesen        2.29,4 pb SR
6.Gunnar Strömstén.Finland   2.29,6 pb
7.Otto Andersson.Sweden      2.29,8
Ernst Cederlöf.Sweden        2.29,8 pb
9.Petrus Axelson.Sweden      2.30,0 pb
10.Walter Tverin.Finland     2.30,0
11.Stener Johannessen.Norge  2.30,2 p
12.Paul Poss.Sverige         2.32,8 p
13.Jean Pettersson.Sverige   2.33,2 lp
14.Albert Berglund.Sverige   2.37,2

1.Oscar Mathisen.Norway       3
2.Martin Sæterhaug.Norway    10
3.Gunnar Strömstén.Finland   14
4.Otto Andersson.Sweden      16.5
5.Henning Olsen.Norway       17.5
Ernst Cederlöf.Sweden        17.5
7.Petrus Axelson.Sweden      20
8.Vasilij Ippolitov.Russia   24.5
9.Walter Tverin.Finland      25
Paul Zerling.Sweden          25
11.Stener Johannessen.Norway 29.5
12.Paul Poss.Sweden          36
13.Jean Pettersson.Sweden    36.5
14.Albert Berglund.Sweden    40

The next distance, the 10000m, started on a top note with Oscar in the first pair against the 5000m runner-up, Gunnar Strömstén. For a good while it looked like the series of outclassings was over for now. They skated side by side lap after lap, and some people wondered if maybe the favourite took it easy, as he was a champion already, or maybe the things some people said was true after all, that he only was any good in the shorter distances. For 18 laps they went on like this, and the speed was high. 18.56,2 was the Swedish record of Andersson from last year, also identical to the best time ever skated on Swedish ice, and they were well ahead of that. Still Oscar didn’t feel strained at all, and he decided to give the Swedes something to chew on again. He pumped his arm for a couple of laps, and the laptime went straight down to 41. His pairmate let go at once. Oscar kept the pace until the end, savouring the noise from the stands, and finished in 18.03,8, a lowland pb and comfortably close to the world record. He didn’t know it then, and nobody else did either I presume, but with this improvement he climbed past Strunnikov and reached the top of the lowland Adelskalender as well for the first time. Strömstén also set a new lowland pb with 18.18,4, 51.2 seconds ahead of his former.

In the 2nd pair, Sæterhaug and Andersson fought a long and exciting duel for the 3rd place so far, the Trønder deciding it in the end to set a new lowland pb in 18.35,6, while the Swede beat his national record in 18.39,0. It was an important pair to win, because in order to achieve the overall silver, Sæterhaug could not have more than 3 people between himself and Strömstén. Johannessen was less helpful than perhaps he ought to in the next pair as he finished in 18.30,0, but his pairmate Zerling at least stayed behind in his 10000m debut. In the 4th pair Ippolitov fought lap by lap againt the splits of the Finn while Olsen fell eventually almost a full lap behind. The final time of the Russian was 18.22,2, not to Sæterhaug’s advantage. Poss and Tverin also fought close to the Trønder’s time in the 5th pair. The Finn had to give in, but the Swede kept going, still he came 5 seconds too late. Last pair was Cederlöf and Axelson. Only a few hundred specators had left the stands then though it was almost 6 o’clock, and the rest cheered the Hammarby skater forward for another new Swedish record in another intense duel, which also gave Sæterhaug a scare as the new record was better than his time. But Axelson finished 1.8 seconds behind. The points table was pulled out, and the calculations proved the unavoidableness of a Norwegian double, no doubt giving an otherwise perfect propaganda weekend for the sport a somewhat unsavoury aftertaste to the large part of the audience. But for the upcoming Olympics the event was as savoury as could be, the facilities as well as the crew and the organisers couldn’t possibly have advertised their upcoming arrangement better.

1.Oscar Mathisen.Norway      18.03,8 lowland pb
2.Gunnar Strömstén.Finland   18.18,4 lowland pb
3.Vasilij Ippolitov.Russia   18.22,2 pb
4.Stener Johannessen.Norway  18.30,0
5.Ernst Cederlöf.Sweden      18.32,4 pb SR
6.Martin Sæterhaug.Norway    18.35,6 lowland pb
7.Petrus Axelson.Sweden      18.37,4 pb
8.Otto Andersson.Sweden      18.39,0
9.Paul Poss.Sweden           18.40,8 pb
10.Paul Zerling.Sweden       18.43,0 pb
11.Henning Olsen.Norway      18.55,8
12.Walter Tverin.Finland     19.04,8 pb

1.Oscar Mathisen.Norway       4
2.Martin Sæterhaug.Norway    16 (206.660)
3.Gunnar Strömstén.Finland   16 (208.027)
4.Ernst Cederlöf.Sweden      22.5
5.Otto Andersson.Sweden      24.5
6.Petrus Axelson.Sweden      27
7.Vasilij Ippolitov.Russia   27.5
8.Henning Olsen.Norway       28.5
9.Paul Zerling.Sweden        33
Stener Johannessen.Norway    33
11.Walter Tverin.Finland     37
12.Paul Poss.Sweden          43
Also, towards evening confirmation finally came in from Klagenfurt that the Austrians were unable to guarantee a World Championship arrangement next weekend, and that the championship therefore was placed in the hands of the Kristiania club. By all signs, a skating feast of the greatest calibre was coming up.

European Championship images from Dagens Nyheter: top left Otto Andersson, right Olsen and Johannessen according to the caption,
which is not consistent with the report. Bottom left Oscar finishing his 44,8 race. Right Sandahl.