Oscar Mathisen
Speedskating - Oscar Diary


On Friday the 23rd of February, the Swedish capital greeted the team from Kristiania Skøiteklubs with fine, reasonably cold weather conditions when they arrived for the cup match between KSK and Stockholms Allmänna Skridskoklubb, the organising club, who also mustered Ulrich Salchow and Anton Johansen to greet them. And to accompany them the Swedish skating association had sent their new young secretary, Sven Låftman, making here the acquaintance of Norwegian skaters for the first time. It was not to be the last.

The KSK tean, Berntsen, Mathisen and Lundgreen, with Johannessen missing.
From Dagens Nyheter.
The KSK team were Oscar Mathisen, Trygve Lundgreen and Stener Johannessen as well as Einar Berntsen, substitute for Henning Olsen, who had strained a leg during the world championship. The teamleader was Johan Schwartz (Norwegian national champion 1903 and arguably the best European speedskater that year). Johannessen did not arrive by the same train. He had married two days before and was expected Saturday morning along with his wife, planning to spend a few honeymoon days in the Swedish capital.

After leaving their luggage, the team went to the rink, which was the same as the one used for the European Championship two weeks earlier, Östermalms Idrottsplats. Oscar tried a few laps and found the ice in the same good condition as during the championship, when he had set his new 1500m record. He told the newspapers that the rink seemed to be under good care and that the curves were well balanced. He and the other Norwegians seem to have made a favourable impression on the journalists, too, who praise them generously and commend their style and muscular power especially, adding that the style seems unattainable, but that both Andersson and Axelson ought to compare in terms of power at least.

The Swedes had topped their team before the cup match. The skating scene in Sweden didn’t have the same monetary concerns as in Norway. The sport clubs were more idealistic, less mercantile, and thus more diversified. SASK, the organising club, had suffered a humiliating defeat to Helsingfors the week before the European Championship, so it was decided to strengthen the team. In addition to Paul Zerling and Moje Öholm from the SASK, they had summoned Otto Andersson from IFK Nyköping and Petrus Axelson from Tranås AIF. Ernst Cederlöf from Hammarby IF had gone straight to Trondhjem to skate in the Northern Winter Sport Week along with several other World Championship participants, and the federation cabled him to summon him for the match. When he protested, they sent another telegram (and I have an unfounded suspicion that the aforemented secretary may be behind it) where they threaten with suspension if he did not appear. Cederlöf also was expected on the morning train on Saturday.

Saturday came and both teams were supplemented according to plan. Unfortunately the weather had deteriorated, with plenty of snow and a stiff breeze. Still the stands filled unusually well for a Saturday with up to 5000 spectators, curious both of the new stadium and of Oscar, whose image flared on numerous big posters throughout the city with his name in huge characters. The paper previews may have played a role, too, indicating that the Swedish team was stronger than ever and for once could have a chance of beating the Norwegians. The start was postponed from half past 2 to three in order to squeeze in as many as possible, and to give the two early morning arrivals a little more much-needed rest.

The first pair in the 5000m were Petrus Axelson and Trygve Lundgreen. Axelson, who had thrilled the home crowd with surprisingly good skating during the European Championship, opened murderously fast with short, tight strokes, and the World Championship bronze winner soon was far behind. But it didn’t take long before the Norwegian started gaining again with his long, resilient strides. At 3000m he overtook his pairmate and drew steadily away for the last five laps in the snow and wind. He finished more than 100 meters ahead. The times were 9.27,4 and 9.38,2.

Not a very good start for the home team then, but thankfully they had another pair to make it up before Oscar started. Paul Zerling was known for his energy and supple skating technique, but looked tiny beside the big and powerful Johannessen, who had, however, complained of a slight cold before the start. Zerling opened fast as well, but the Norwegian followed with elegant, long and powerful strides, taking the lead after just a few laps. The Swede didn’t give in, he took a sprint and won the initiative again. He hung on for a few laps more, but then the pace proved too strong for him. Towards the end Johannessen pulled away strongly and won by more than 100 metes in 9.20,4.

The top home favourite had been set up against the top favourite as per the usual custom of the day, but Andersson went to the 3rd pair with no little respect for the Norwegian phenomenon in the other lane. However, Oscar started slow, as had become his habit after having used the opposite tactic during his early career. Thus Andersson could follow easily for the first few laps. He tried a little sprint, and soon he was well ahead. For a lap or two it stayed that way, to the astonished applause of his home audience. Then the skating king changed his pace and pulled out a string of 42 laps that left the home favourite without reply. Towards the end, Oscar accelerated even further and finished in 8.59,6, the first time under 9 on Swedish ice. The crestfallen Swedish champion limped across the line more than half a minute behind: 9.30,4, also beaten by both of the other Norwegians. Somewhat consternated the federation secretary stood amongst the audience realising that the Stockholm ice had become a playground for the Norwegian guests.

And neither was the last pair to provide any relief, with the Norwegian substitute against Cederlöf, the best Swedish international championship participant this season. Cederlöf was tired after his long journey, and was set up in the last pair because of this, also the start had been postponed for half an hour. Probably a feeling of wrongness and being wronged hampered him, too. Berntsen is characterised as a little technician with a style as brilliant as any champion. He was not as considerate toward his pairmate as the organisers had been, and took the lead from the start. The Swede replied in the next lap and took over the initiative, but had to fight for his lead. Until the 7th lap he had the Norwegian on his heels and after the 8th he was behind. Then he resigned. Berntsen pulled away and at the finish the difference was more than a 100 meters in this pair, too.

1.Oscar Mathisen     8.59,6
2.Stener Johannessen 9.20,4
3.Trygve Lundgreen   9.27,4
4.Otto Andersson     9.30,4
5.Paul Zerling       9.35,2
6.Einar Berntsen     9.35,4
7.Petrus Axelson     9.38,2
8.Ernst Cederlöf     9.49,2

Points: KSK 6 - Sweden 15
In the evening, the sensational news reached Stockholm of Ippolitov’s 8.41,6 in Trondhjem, his first top race. He had announced with Sæterhaug that they would make another attempt on the record on Monday if the fine weather continued. The meet started on Friday and all 4 rink records were erased, 18.10,2 in addition to the above by the Russian, and 45,8 and 2.25,2 by Sæterhaug.

Sunday brought improved weather in Stockholm: still cloudy, but calm and around 0 degrees. The air was moist and heavy, but the ice fine. The unkind treatment the hosts had received the day before must have been disappointing because contrary to custom the crowd numbered no more than on Saturday, about 5000. But it was an eager, enthusiastic crowd who provided the meet with a bit of atmosphere. When the races started at 2 o’clock a hundred years ago today, it was half a degree below zero, a slight wind from the northeast and the ice was smooth, shining like a mirror. The Swedish and Norwegian cup skaters almost danced their test laps and seemed more than usually match-ready. The bell rang, the music played up and Oscar Mathisen approached the starting lane with Otto Andersson. Spectators packed near to the finish line.

The flag fell and the Norwegian at once set up his famous speed. Swiftly he drew away from his pairmate, but Andersson skated well and finished only 15 meters behind. The times were 45,2 and 46,8—a Swedish record for Andersson. Paul Zerling was no sprinter, and was outclassed by the long distance specialist Johannessen in the next pair. Their times were 48,2 and 49,6. Cederlöf again met Berntsen, who skated well and looked like winning, but a bad misstroke in the last curve lost it for him to wild cheers from the audience: 47,6 and 49,0. In the last pair, Lundgreen and Axelson were level for most of the race. The Norwegian had a couple of meters from the last inner curve, but now the Swede showed the kind of fighting spirit that had made him a favourite of the crowd in the European Championship and barely snatched the win. Both were given a time of 48,1.
1.Oscar Mathisen     45,2
(beaten by Bobby McLean in 1920)
2.Otto Andersson     46,8 pb SR
3.Ernst Cederlöf     47,6
4.Petrus Axelson     48,1
5.Trygve Lundgreen   48,1b
6.Stener Johannessen 48,2
7.Einar Berntsen     49,0
8.Paul Zerling       49,6

Points: KSK 12 - Sweden 9; sum 18 - 24
The young federation secretary drew a sigh of relief. His fellow Swedes had won. Only 6 points to catch up in the 1500 meter, but how could they make it with such an impossible one up there at the top? Only luck and divine intervention was left now, and there seemed to be no sign of them smiling more to the sons of his fatherland than to the Norwegians now. (You couldn’t exactly go in and help them either, could you?) Anyhow, the Swedes came out in a much better light after this 500m than the day before, that was something.

Paul Zerling, the Swedish record holder in the distance, opened the 1500m along with Berntsen. He started fast and quickly gained meters from the Norwegian, who could not reply and was beaten by 30 meters to the great satisfaction of the spectators. Johannessen and Axelson fought a heated battle in the next pair. The Swede was ahead at 300m, but in the 2nd lap he was overtaken by the Norwegian, who displayed a curve technique described by the Swedish reporters as acrobatic. “Nu vinner nordbaggen,” (now the Norwegian wins) the moans went around the stands. So he did forcefully, and took the distance lead with 2.32,4.

From the start, Otto Andersson was prepared for playing a statist role against the Norwegian favourite in the next pair, remembering the treatment he had received in the former two races. Thus he didn’t try to put up a fight this time, but instead concentrated on beating Johannessen, which he did with 2.31,6, while Oscar flew through the curves in his usual murderous pace (if we are to believe the usual description of it), taking the lead in 2.26,4.

In the last pair, Lungreen had a lead over Cederlöf at the first split, but the latter had had a refreshing night’s sleep and a hard struggle now ensued. At the next split he was in the lead, probably from the inner lane, but at the bell the Norwegian was ahead again, now by 10 meters, making the home audience sigh in anticipation again. But Cederlöf set up a finish of the traditional Swedish brand, overtaking his pairmate towards the end of the last curve, and finished in 2.30,3, 3/10 ahead of Lundgreen to great cheers from the audience.

1.Oscar Mathisen     2.26,4 RR
2.Ernst Cederlöf     2.30,3
3.Trygve Lundgreen   2.30,6
4.Otto Andersson     2.31,6
5.Stener Johannessen 2.32,4
6.Paul Zerling       2.33,3
7.Petrus Axelson     2.34,5
8.Einar Berntsen     2.36,4

Points: KSK 9 - Sweden 12, final sum 27 - 36
The well-buttoned federation secretary shrugged. Well well, at least his fellow countrymen had battled to a draw with the Norwegian on the 2nd day of the match. His(?) scheme of bringing back Cederlöf to strengthen the team had worked. It was perhaps only natural that the Norwegians had the better of them in the blizzard on Saturday, after alle they were Roald Amundsens every one of them.

Then it was off to the awards ceremony at the Hotel Royal, where Victor Balck handed the cup to the KSK team for keeps. Mathisen, Lundgreen and Berntsen then took the train home, and Johannessen stayed behind for his honeymoon.

The cup, from Dagens Nyheter