Oscar in town!
A hundred years ago today and for days before the inhabitants of the traditional navy town Horten had one thing on their mind: the national championship in speedskating. For the first time, Oscar Mathisen was coming to town. All hotels were booked to the brim if not more, and trains were filled to capacity. Wherever you went in town, people talked of nothing but skating.
From 1909 a number of enthusiasts under the name of Skøytebanekomiteen (the skating rink committee), had taken responsibility for the operation of a skating rink in Horten. They did a lot of volunteer work, until March 23rd two years after, when their initiative lead to the formation of a club, Hortens skøiteklubb, with their driving force, lieutenant Thommessen as its first chairman. However, the skating committee had acquired a debt of NOK 1300, a considerable sum at the time, and the club had to take it on, though they managed to negotiate it down by 50%. Despite the financial difficulties the club was bold enough to level a 400m track, hoping that the large population (10 thousand) and the lack of skating facilities in the neighbourhood would make it profitable. They made an agreement with the municipal board that they were to receive free water if they would lower children’s season tickets to NOK 1. Electric lights and fences were erected (only wire fences though) and various modern time-saving equipment were acquired, with the famous Zakken Johansen as the technical consultant. The public interest was huge, and already the first year the club had some financial success, partially due to the contributions from public insitutions such as Samlaget (the alcohol sales monopoly) and the Horten welfare legacy bequest, altogether NOK 450. The club was accepted as a federation member before the very successful national meet in 1912, and the same year they applied for the national championship. This now was at hand.
The volume of the list of participants wasn’t the most impressive feature of this championship, but at least KSK had sent a 5 man squad and the Trønder Sæterhaug was present as always. The last participant also was a Trønder, but settled in the host town. His name was Kristian Strøm. Inspired by the 1912 meet mentioned above he had started training for speedskating. He had skated no races as yet this season, but his pbs from last year of 48,8 and 2.41,9 (with a fall), indicated he would not get lost completely, and those who had seen him do his laps, promised that one could expect surprises.
Early winter had been even poorer in Horten than in Kristiania. The rink lay green at the start of the week and the club had asked for a postponement, which was not granted. A bit of frost finally came, and work on the track had started, but even as late as Friday there were experts who thought little of their chances. Mathisen and Lundgreen arrived Wednesday, Sæterhaug Thursday and the rest of the KSK skaters Friday. Zakken Johansen was expected Saturday to look over things and see that they were right. Saturday morning at 5 the ice was planed and then sprayed three times. Johansen found it acceptable, but a bit rough, with a particularly weak spot in the southeast corner where skaters possibly could go through. The temperature was 3 degrees below freezing with a biting northerly and a bit of snow before noon. At the start of the meet 2 pm, about 1 to 2 thousand spectators had gathered.
First pair in the 500m were Bjarne Frang and Martin Sæterhaug. “They were unlucky at the start and had to start over,” as the local newspaper put it, whatever they mean by that. Probably a false start. When they finally got under way, they made a pretty race with the Trønder in front, forcefully chased by Frang. The final times were 47,8 and 47,9, not bad under the current conditions. The second pair were Schou and Johannessen, who failed to break 50. Against Trygve Lundgreen in the 3rd came the home favourite Strøm, who beat the experienced Kristiania skater easily to the general enthusiasm of the crowd and went into 3rd place with 49,5. Oscar Mathisen originally had drawn Henning Olsen in the last pair, but as the latter was absent at the roll call, the organisers allowed Sæterhaug to skate a 100m beside him for pace. But it seems he didn’t really need it, because the pace he set up was unlike anything else that had been seen. 47s were too feeble here, and after the demonstration was over the audience had the opportunity to gasp again over another fantastic Oscar time: 45,3.
Results: 1.Oscar Mathisen.KSK 45,3 2.Martin Sæterhaug.TSK 47,8 3.Bjarne Frang.KSK 47,9 4.Kristian Strøm.HSK 49,5 5.Gunerius Schou.KSK 50,5 6.Trygve Lundgreen.KSK 51,0 Stener Johannessen.KSK 51,0
Before the 10000m there was a break with the draw, during which the wind grew even stronger and snow started to fall again. Fortunately for the crowd the favourite was drawn first, against Sæterhaug, the 500m runner up. Oscar didn’t set up a devastating pace in the biting wind, the laps were 47s and 48s, so the Trønder could keep up for five laps, but then had to let go. Oscar continued the same pace until the end, as the wind gave no room for any bigger acceleration. In the 17th lap he overtook Sæterhaug and at the finish he was only a 100 meters from doing it again. His time was only 19.35,4, but there was little doubt that it was a winning time.
2nd pair was Frang against the home favourite Strøm, who had never skated longer than a 1500m competitively before. He set up a pace of a little over 50, and soon skated away from the sprinter, wildly cheered by the audience. He kept the pace well, increased it even a little in the last half, and attempting, successfully, to overtake his pairmate, he finished with a last lap drawing the biggest superlatives from the local paper reporter.
The third pair featured Schou, the 2nd 10000m debutant of the day, and Lundgreen, who slowly and surely pulled away with his well-known long and resilient strides, winning by 3/4 of a lap. Schou entered the Adelskalender in a fine 80th place due to the reasonably good pbs he already had in the other distances.
In the fourth pair, Johannessen had to skate alone, and what a foul fate it was to be all by yourself when hundreds of pretty, sparkling ladies eyes follow you, as the newspaper puts it. But it seemed it rather stimulated Johannessen than hampering him, as he went ahead of Lundgreen from the 4th lap and robbed him of his 2nd place, well applauded by the 2000, who had remained on the stands, apparently finding four 10000m pairs just right, while perhaps 8 would have seemed excessive.
Results: 1.Oscar Mathisen 19.35,4 2.Stener Johannessen 20.37,5 3.Trygve Lundgreen 20.42,3 4.Kristian Strøm 20.56,1 pb 5.Martin Sæterhaug 21.08,2 6.Gunerius Schou 21.23,5 pb 7.Bjarne Frang 21.48,2
Overall: 1.Oscar Mathisen 2 2.Martin Sæterhaug 7 3.Kristian Strøm 8 4.Stener Johannessen 8.5 5.Trygve Lundgreen 9.5 6.Bjarne Frang 10 7.Gunerius Schou 11
The last laps of the schedules above seem again to indicate that the clocks of journalists, evidently the source of the splittimes, weren’t quite synchronous with the ones of the timekeepers. Also the first laps seem again to indicate that the lap length was a little over 400m.
Towards evening the track was watered again, it had grown colder and the wind had died down. The track was watered several times during the night.
Meanwhile in Davos an international meet was held where Thomas Bohrer set a new 500m pb in 45,0. He seems to have specialised in the sprint, because his 5000m in 9.20,8 wasn’t quite the same standard. He was beaten by the Englishman Dix, who improved his pb strongly to 9.16,6, equal to a 61st place in the all time list. Also impressive was the home skater Max Kniel, who set two Swiss records in 47,2 and 9.30,6, the former giving him a 33rd place in the all time list. It seems the conditions were good. Still the organisers sighed. They missed a certain Norwegian who hadn’t been here for 3 years. These middle-of-the-roads did nothing for the entry fees. Maybe it was a good idea to send him an invitation for next year?