Oscar Mathisen
Speedskating - Oscar Diary


Hamar-Frogner-Hamar-Klagenfurt-Stockholm, such had his travel itinerary been so far this season, and it had been an itinerary of triumph, with the exception of that frustrating detour to Austria, where he accomplished nothing. His steel had cut down records week by week, and last Sunday in the Swedish captital even the world records had started to fall. But now he was heading for home again, to skate at Frogner competitively for the first time this season. And prospects were exciting, for the ice here used to be the best in northern Europe, weather permitting, normally better than any Swedish ice. In the morning of a 100 years ago today it looked not quite ideal, with temperatures close to the thawing point or maybe a little above, a cloudy sky and damp, thick air.
Some participants at the World Championship, left to right: Strömstén, Frang, Sæterhaug, Lundgreen, Gundersen, Olsen, Cederlöf.
Seated Ippolitov and Mathisen. From Oscar Mathisen, Mitt livs løp.
If Oscar was excited? Yes, but maybe not half as excited as his fellow Kristianensers as it seemed. The organisers, his own club, had printed only 18000 tickets, beliving that it was all they could sell with the prices being raised to between 50 øre and 4 kroner. That turned out to be a mistake. Big turnouts for n’Oscar was no novelty, but such a turmoil as this weekend had never been seen before, at least you’d have to go back to the days of Axel Paulsen. The streetcar company had their hands full, every wagon was on the streets, more than brimfull with people hanging on to rods and platforms outside them. No car or horse carriage was available, all of the city’s generous capacity was taken.

There was only one tiny bit of a snag, that Strunnikov again failed to show up for the defense of his championship. But the newspaper brought an interview with his replacement, the young Ippolitov, which shed some light on the affair.

Vassili Ippolitow from Moscow is only 19 years old. He is a mechanic by profession, speaks and understands nothing but Russian, smiles at everything and everybody, and seems to be extremely satisfied with his surroundings. 
— The Norwegians are a set of unusually kind and nice people, he says to our Russian staff member. — And they are so fond of their Matson.
— What Matson?
— Oscar Matson, if course.
Mathisen apparently was difficult to pronounce.
— What do you think of Matson as a skater?
— Oh, Ippolitov replied. — He is excellent, by far the best skater here, but Strunnikov is better. If Matson is to skate away from Strunnikov in a short race, they cannot skate together, but rather separately, for Strunnikov cannot bear to see anyone in front of him. If he does, then he uses his superhuman powers and always comes up in front. 
(That may be your opinion, we thought. Matson also is reluctant to see anyone ahead of him. And his times this year speak for themselves.)
— Why didn’t Strunnikov come here this year to defend his World Championship? Is he ill?
— Not in the least. On the contrary, Strunnikov never has skated as well as this year, but he had a quarrel with the club board, and then he put away his skates swearing that he would not skate any more this year. But next year he will skate on a rink of his own.
— A rink of his own!
— Yes, the fact is that Strunnikov this year planned to go to Davos in order to set some records. Everything was ready, his passport was settled and he had ordered new skates from Hagen telegraphically, but then the club refused to supply him with an interpreter, and this was the reason for the quarrel. In St. Petersburg 600 Rubles were collected to help him, but by then it was too late. Now he wants to found a new skating club, and we all want to join him, of course. Strunnikov is the best instructor we could ever want. 
— Has skating become popular in Moscow? 
— Yes and no. Young people skate more and more, but the public and the press think of this sport more or less as kids’ play. Maybe this is because no-one can grow old as a skater in our country. When we are 21, we go to serve in the military. There we remain without interruption for 3 to 5 years, and afterwards it’s too late to take up the sport again. 
— And what about yourself? Do you think you will be able to resist Matson tomorrow?
Ippolitov laughed with his good-natured smile and said:
— Matson, I won’t beat, I’ll leave that for Strunnikov, but I should at least be able to give him something to think about in the long races, especially now that I have received my new skates from Hagen, if not for my miserable leg. 
Last summer I fell during a 50 km bike race. Then there was this thing earlier this winter, I rode my bike in a street in Moscow, where I met a friend who shouted “Ippolitov! Take a sprint!” I did as he told me, but ran into a dvornik and fell. The bike was broken and I lay unconscious for half an hour. I was bedridden for 6 days. The dvornik reported me for reckless driving. 
— Didn’t anybody take you up as you lay unconscious in the street? 
— No, nobody. Back home in Moscow they don’t take notice of such trifles. 
— Have you won any prizes in Russia?
— Oh yes, I have taken a few, but I’m the most fond of this one. 
He pointed out a pretty golden emblem that he had pinned to the collar of his jacket. — I won it just before I left for Stockholm, he said. — It is Panshin’s prize, I skated 2 races, 500 and 1500 m. It was 22 degrees below and I nearly froze my nose off. I fell in the first race, the leg didn’t bear me. In the second one I got 2 minutes 34 seconds, which is a fine time on our ices. 
— How many medals do you have?
— 127 apart from Panshin’s, but most of them are for cycling.

When the races started, probably around 2, it had started to snow a little, and shovels and brooms came out. The rinkmaster, the legendary Zakken (Zacharias) Johansen I, had given the ice the most painstaking care, and gladly took a record or two as the rewards for his pains. Around 5-6000 spectators were on the stands, exceptional for a Saturday when most people were meant to be working.

The first pair was the 20 years young and promising Einar Berntsen againt the Finnish veteran Gunnar Strömstén, who was popular, in fact so popular that he was the only foreigner with a nickname of his own among the Frogner audience, Strømma. The Finn made pretty short work of the youngster and clocked 47,0, not far behind his pb. Second pair was another youth, Magnus Herseth, against Ippolitov. Herseth was applauded enthusiastically when he crossed the finishing line 5 meters ahead. The crowd sensed a sensation, but evidently this Russian wasn’t as fast as the former one, and 47,7 wasn’t even a pb for Herseth. Ippolitov got 48,2, equalling his fresh pb from Stockholm. The first and only Swede started in the 3rd pair with Stener Johannessen. The Swedes arranged their national championship this weekend, and couldn’t spare any more skaters. Cederlöf skated well and set a new pb 47,2. Johannessen also improved his, to 48,1.

Apparently the ice was good, and when Oscar was ready in the 4th pair against another young, promising clubmate, Bjarne Frang, he knew that he had a good chance of administering harm to that old record of Gundersen, which he had equalled again last weekend. He knew of course that his brother and Wikander had skated 44,4, but that was in extra races outside competition, and would never be approved, surely. In each of his 500 meters this season he had skated with wild energy to prove to all who had doubted him that he was the man, that he was the best, that no-one could stop him as they had tried to do last season. The burden of evidence had fallen off his shoulders now, more or less, he wasn’t running as for his life anymore. But there was something about the occasion, the famous, beloved home ice and the exited audience that whipped up his skating hunger yet again. The season was about to culminate. He had drawn the first outer again, and for many of the excited on the stands it looked like Frang kept pace with him for the first 200 meters. They entered the back straight side by side and the youngster was forced to yield. For the rest of the race there was no doubt. The storming applause chased him around the track, and he crossed the finishing lane with the same certainty of a good race as when he skated 45,0 at Hamar, as when he skated 44,9 at Frogner and when he did 44,8 in Stockholm. But who would have guessed 44,2? And all the thousands on the stands gave off more decibels than had ever been heard so far in Frogner’s young but lustrous history. Frang’s time was 46,7, also a pb.

In the5th pair, Henning Olsen met Aksel Mathiesen, who fell and withdrew from the whole championship, apparently injured. Olsen skated the rest of the race alone and went into 2nd place with his 46,2. Trygve Lundgreen surprisingly beat the fine sprinter Thoresen in the 6th pair and improved his pb to 47,0. He seemed to be in good shape. Martin Sæterhaug in the 7th pair also drew the first outer and skated well away from Reidar Gundersen, but the 2nd half of the race he stumbled a little and only clocked 46,6, good enough for 3rd place, as Olaf Hansen, who skated alone in the last pair, only achieved 51,0.
1.Oscar Mathisen.Norway      44,2 WR
2.Henning Olsen.Norway       46,2
3.Martin Sæterhaug.Norway    46,6
4.Bjarne Frang.Norway        46,7 pb
5.Gunnar Strömstén.Finland   47,0
Trygve Lundgreen.Norway      47,0 pb
7.Ernst Cederlöf.Sweden      47,2 pb
8.Thoralf Thoresen.Norway    47,5
9.Magnus Herseth.Norway      47,7
10.Stener Johannessen.Norway 48,1 p
11.Einar Berntsen.Norway     48,2
Vasilij Ippolitov.Russia     48,2 p
13.Reidar Gundersen.Norway   48,6
14.Olaf Hansen.Norway        51,0
Aksel Mathiesen.Norway fell, dnf
In the interval the tenfold World Champion Salchow exhibited his figures, and in the audience several notables were observed applauding, amongst them the Russian and the US embassadors. The 5000 started at 10 to 4, with Johannessen and Herseth in the first pair. In the report, Johannessen is given kudos for his consistently smart race planning, his good style and energy-economical technique. This time however, he opened like a new year’s rocket with a 64 and a 40 lap, outskating his pairmate at once and lapping him near the end. But his final time was only 9.07,1, well behind his pb. Was the ice getting soft in the mild temperatures after all?
Then came the pair everyone was waiting for, Oscar Mathisen against Henning Olsen. Oscar’s opening was surprisingly moderate, and his 600 m time was 3 behind Johannesen. Olsen hung on. But then came 42 laps, one after the other. The ex national champion and ex national record holder followed for a while but soon started to struggle and in the 6th lap he had to let go. By then, Oscar was equal to the split of Johannessen, and he kept his pace and increased it too, with applause ever more tremendously thundering from the stands.
In the 3rd pair, Sæterhaug soon lost his pairmate Frang, who had few ambitions in this kind of distance, and failed to impress with his 9.11,9.
Ippolitov in the 4th pair opened fast and tried to shake off the young Berntsen, which took longer than he would have hoped for. He stayed ahead of Oscar until the 7th lap from the end, but then lost many seconds.
Then came a pair that turned out to be almost the highlight of the day. Strömstén against Lundgreen, the elegant, polished technician against the more casual but energetic Norwegian. They held a murderous pace from the start and stayed very close, an inch or two was all that was between them, alternating lap by lap. At 1400 m they were 4 ahead of Oscar, and at 3000 they still were ahead. Oscar appeared visibly nervous. But by then laps had risen from 41 to 43, and they fell behind. Lundgreen had managed to gain a small lead in the pair and kept it for the next few laps. The Finn, who had the last inner, attacked in the last lap, but Lundgreen saw him coming, held the difference in the last outer lane and finished in the excellent time of 8.52,5, giving him a 9th place in the all-time 5000m list and a 7th in the lowland list. The 8.53,3 of Strömstén also was a solid improvement.
There were many hard openers in this distance, and many stayed ahead of Oscar for several laps, but none opened as hard as Cederlöf and few exited so much noise from the stands. He skated like a madman in the earliest phase and at 600m he was 8(!!) seconds ahead of Oscar and 9 ahead at 1000 m. That guy’s going to burst like a bubble, most people must have thought. But soon he adjusted his pace to a more sensible level and kept is surprisingly well until the end where he achieved a fine time, a new pb of 9.06,6.
Last pair was more parenthetical. Olaf Hansen had moved to Larvik and now skated for IF Fram, giving the club its first participant in the World Championship. He didn’t quite live up to his old standards, but at least he beat Gundersen.
1.Oscar Mathisen     8.45,2 lowland pb
2.Trygve Lundgreen   8.52,5 pb
3.Gunnar Strömstén   8.53,3 pb
4.Ernst Cederlöf     9.06,6 pb
5.Stener Johannessen 9.07,1
6.Vasilij Ippolitov  9.07,9 pb
7.Martin Sæterhaug   9.11,9
8.Henning Olsen      9.14,5
9.Einar Berntsen     9.27,7 pb
10.Thoralf Thoresen  9.47,6
11.Olaf Hansen       9.47,7
12.Reidar Gundersen  9.53,0
13.Bjarne Frang      9.57,6
14.Magnus Herseth   10.05,6

1.Oscar Mathisen      2
2.Trygve Lundgreen    7,5
3.Gunnar Strömstén    8.5
4.Martin Sæterhaug   10
Henning Olsen        10
6.Ernst Cederlöf     11
7.Stener Johannessen 15
8.Bjarne Frang       17
9.Vasilij Ippolitov  17.5
10.Thoralf Thoresen  18
11.Einar Berntsen    20
12.Magnus Herseth    23
13.Olaf Hansen       25
14.Reidar Gundersen  25
The championship continues tomorrow with 1500 and 10000 m.