Oscar Mathisen
Speedskating - Oscar Diary

The forsaken

Oscar’s decision of going straight to St. Petersburg meant that his abandoned club team were left to do their best on their own against the Stockholmers and Helsingsforsers in the triple match this weekend. It also meant that his club could expect a five-figure income loss (which would amount probably to a seven-figure sum in today’s NOK, more than a 100 thousand Euros). Some smoldering resentment towards the prima donna antics of the country’s darling probably could be sensed here and there, but judging from the newspapers nothing much had surfaced. The ticket prices were as follows, all in NOK: A-stand 2.50 Saturday, 2.50 Sunday. In front of the cafe: 2.50-2.50. B-stand: 1.50-1.50. Home straight: 1.50-1.50. Northern curve: 1.50-1.50. South curve: 1.00-1.00. The hill behind the B-stand: 0.50-0.50. Start at 2:30 pm and 1 pm exact. Figure skating from 11 am Saturday with the compulsory figures; the free skate in the break on Sunday.

Even the weather gods frowned at the organisers of the match this time. It was thawing, with soft ice and heavy, grey hazy air. The newspapers try to console the potential spectators claiming that the outcomes of the races are more thrilling now that the winner isn’t so assured as before. The outcome might in fact be too uncertain, though. Because after some few poorer years the Helsingfors club had raised a better and more homogenous team than before with particular strength in the long distances, a substantial advantage now that the full program was to be skated. This three-club match was an innovation, to further strengthen the Nordic fellowship. Earlier the matches were only between capital city clubs two by two, and only the three shortest distances were skated.

The Norwegian team, all from the KSK, were Olsen, Frang, Lundgreen and Johannessen. Fine fellows all with experience and known skill. The Finnish team, all from the HSK, consisted of the veteran Strömstén, the experienced Wickström and the more unseasoned Tverin and Bergström. The Swedes had not topped their team this time, they sent a pure SASK team. But the Stockholm club had swept up a few good skaters from elsewhere since last time, one of them Axelson, the best Swede this season so far. The other team members were the well known Zerling og Poss and a newcomer, Kristian Lindman, a last minute substitute for Cederlöf, the original entry who was withdrawn because he was no club member. Zerling and Axelson get special mention in one of the reports—the light, playful style of Zerling is given credit, and high hopes for his progress next year are expressed. Axelson’s style is characterised as powerful, but too heavy.

Wickström and Frang, from Tidens TegnThe 500m started on a slow note, with Zerling and Bergström, producing times above 50 with the Swede first. The Finn did not expect to be in the reckoning for the points. At least if Tverin did his job in the next pair. And he did, beating Johannessen and taking the lead in 49,8. The Norwegian in 50,8 would not be expected to count either. Frang and Wickström in the third pair had consideably more pace to offer. Reporters claim that Frang was second only to Oscar in the distance, though I expect they don’t consider the Americans. He won the pair in 47,6 with the Finn one second behind. Lundgreen was the second of our two weakest cards in the 500m. He had no problems with Poss, though, and with 50,3 he made sure that Johannessen would not count. This on the condition that Olsen also was ahead of him, but Olsen made 48,1, and with this there were now two Norwegians in front. His pairmate Lindman equalled Bergström in next to last place. The last pair was an exciting duel between Strömstén and Axelson, where the Finn prevailed. Both achieved good times, 48,8 and 48,9, though not among the very top. This meant the Norwegians scored a 3 points distance win even though the three Finns all beat their last man in the reckoning.

1.Bjarne Frang        47,6
2.Henning Olsen       48,1
3.Väinö Wickström     48,6
4.Gunnar Strömstén    48,8
5.Petrus Axelson      48,9
6.Walter Tverin       49,8
7.Trygve Lundgreen    50,3
8.Paul Zerling        50,6
9.Stener Johannessen  50,8
10.Waldemar Bergström 51,2
Kristian Lindman      51,2
12.Paul Poss          52,3
KSK 10 HSK 13 SASK 22

Olsen with Axelson in the background, from Tidens TegnIn the 5000m, Olsen and Axelson skated first, and duelled briskly for the first 4 laps, then the elegant Norwegian got the upper hand with short and light strokes and won the pair in 9.31,2 against 9.38,0. In the next pair, Zerling won substantially for the Swedes against Tverin, but couldn’t match the best times with his 9.43,4. Wickström in the following pair quickly outskated Frang, whose job it was to take care of the short distances and taking it easy in this one. The Finn was unlucky to finish 2/10 behind Zerling. Bergström in the 4th pair won easily against Poss, who fell in the 3rd lap, but the Finn could only make 9.55,5. Johannessen in the next pair bettered that with his 9.53,1, while his pairmate Lindman gave up in the 8th lap as he was overtaken by the Norwegian. Strömstén impressed in the last pair on worn ice with 9.34,2, almost half a lap ahead of Lundgreen, who managed to sneak a few tenths ahead of the two lowermost placed Finns, making sure that the KSK won this distance as well and extended their lead.

1.Henning Olsen      9.31,2
2.Gunnar Strömstén   9.34,2
3.Petrus Axelson     9.38,0
4.Paul Zerling       9.43,4
5.Väinö Wickström    9.43,6
6.Stener Johannessen 9.53,1
7.Trygve Lundgreen   9.54,7
8.Waldemar Bergström 9.55,5
9.Walter Tverin      9.55,9
10.Paul Poss        10.10,4
11.Bjarne Frang     10.14,6
Kristian Lindman dnf
KSK 14 HSK 15 SASK 16
Sum: KSK 24 HSK 28 SASK 38

Some nightly frost made the ice firmer on Sunday morning, but thawing set in early again. Some surface water built up during the day, especially in the southern curve. The audience numbered 5000, not like one of the big days. Still the report in Tidens Tegn notes some of the usual symptoms: “Yesterday morning you could notice by the physiognomy of the town the usual and for the club so welcome symptoms of a good skating day. On such days after noontide you can meet people with a certain unhappy expression everywhere, yes, even in the remotest corners of the town. They are afraid of coming too late for the first start at Frogner. And their unhappiness does not abate until they have a sure overview over the running affairs of the rink. With the programme in one hand and stopwatch in the other the suffering expression disappears little by little to make way for true bliss.”

I don’t have all the pairs of the 1500m, but we can assume that Poss met Bergstršm, winning in 2.42,4 against the 2.46,8 of the Finn, who was to be reckoned as deadweight in this distance, and that Zerling beat Tverin with 2.35,9 against 2.41,3. The Finns had already developed a fearsome reputation in this distance after the achievennts of Wathén, Vikander and others, and commentators in the Norwegian newspapers before this Sunday indicated that it would be a key distance for the match and if their countrymen could get through it with no great blemish, the good long distance skaters Johannessen and Lundgreen would decide it all with more or less help from Olsen. However, these two Finnish times at over 2.40 weren’t impressive at all, and optimism began to run high in the home team.

The first pair probably was Frang and Wickström, with the Norwegian in the inner lane. He started well and took the lead against the strong Finn at the first split, holding on to a narrow lead at the two next ones as well. But the last lap got too long for him. Wickström held him in the outer and hauled him in on the back straight. He went past him in the last curve and won a couple of meters in the home straight as well. The times, 2.33,1 and 2.34,5, turned out to be the best two times of the day on this soft ice. Next pair, if none of the two above intervened, were Johannessen and Lindman. Johannessen skated well and secured a good harvest of points for his club with his 2.37,5, nearly half a lap ahead of the Swede. This left Lundgreen free to relax in his pair with Strömstén, saving his energy for the 10000m and robbing the Finn of a pacing pairmate. Strömsten won the pair in 2.36,4, but half a second behind Zerling, which was significant for the chances of the home team. The last pair cemented the home team advantage with Olsen winning in 2.35,3, enough for 3rd place, and Axelson at 2.38,6 beating Tverin, the last reckonable Finn.

1.Väinö Wickström     2.33,1
2.Bjarne Frang        2.34,5
3.Henning Olsen       2.35,3
4.Paul Zerling        2.35,9
5.Gunnar Strömstén    2.36,4
6.Stener Johannessen  2.37,5
7.Petrus Axelson      2.38,6
8.Trygve Lundgreen    2.41,1
9.Walter Tverin       2.41,3
10.Paul Poss          2.42,4
11.Waldemar Bergström 2.46,8
12.Kristian Lindman   2.55,5
KSK 11 HSK 14 SASK 20
Sum: KSK 35 HSK 42 SASK 58

Frang and Lindman withdrew from the 10000m, assured of their inability to score any point whatsoever. With their 7 points lead the organising club theoretically could feel reasonably sure of the win despite being abandoned by their biggest asset. But there were four grim men waiting in the warm clubhouse who were of a different opinion. One of these was Walter Tverin, who started in the first pair of the 10000m against the Swede Paul Poss. Now, Tverin didn’t handle it so well. Poss took the lead early on and steadily increased it, finishing in 19.35,3, nearly half a lap ahead of the Finn who skated 19.57,2.

So far so good, the Kristianensers must have thought. But the second pair were Olsen and Strömstén. The Scandinavian mile had never been a favourite with Olsen, the winner of half the distance, while the Finn had several great ones under his belt already. He soon opened up an advantage, which increased steadily, and when he finished in 19.04,9, Olsen was more than 300 meters behind to the great disappointment of the crowd. At 19.41,8 he even finished behind Poss.

Next came Lundgreen and Bergström, who was abroad to skate for the first time here. “Feier’n” (chimney-sweep) Lundgreen had renown as a fighter, and here he had a fight on his hand. It was a battle from the first meter, both for the pair, and to beat the time of Olsen. Lundgreen attacked and attacked, but the Finnish debutant took and held on to the lead fiercely. In the end his sisu prevailed and he won both the pair as well as defeating Olsen’s time, clocking 19.38,0 against his pairmate’s 19.39,6. Steaming and dripping of sweat the two combattants sailed through the curve after the finish.

Wickström and Axelson had another fight in the fourth pair. Again the Finn fought best and Wickström won the pair in 19.24,7 while Axelson clocked 19.33,7, both well ahead of the two Norwegians.

While the Finns now had played all their cards, and played them well, the home team had one trump left in the usually reliable Johannessen. But he had to win the distance unless he could pull his pairmate Zerling with him in front of Wickström. The ice was worn and skating was heavy. Too heavy for Johannessen, who did all he could to satisfy the desires of the spectators, who implored and begged him to increase his speed. In the end he resigned and allowed Zerling to catch up and pass him by. They finished in the two poorest accountable times.

1.Gunnar Strömstén    19.04,9
2.Väinö Wickström     19.24,7
3.Petrus Axelson      19.33,7
4.Paul Poss           19.35,3
5.Waldemar Bergström  19.38,0
6.Trygve Lundgreen    19.39,6
7.Henning Olsen       19.41,8
8.Paul Zerling        19.43,7
9.Stener Johannessen  19.48,5
10.Walter Tverin      19.57,2
HSK 8 SASK 15 KSK 22
Sluttsum: HSK 50 KSK 57 SASK 73

It’s hard to tell how well the spectators in the stands were informed of the reckoning. The majority probably were oblivious to them, although the skating of the Finns must have given them some hints. Their uncertainty was finally relieved when the herald finally appeared to announce the points after the 10000m, his voice choked with tears. And the scattered rumblings over the primadonna antics of the great darling of the public dropped half a note in pitch. But the Finns celebrated a historic win and they got their well-deserved ovations during the ceremonies when Björneborgarnas March was played.

The Finnish skating scene showed no sign of idleness at home either. Arvo Tuomainen won a meet in his home town Tammerfors skating an especially remarkable 2.28,5 in the 1500 m. In Viborg a meet was arranged where Vasilij Ippolitov stopped to skate on his way to St. Petersburg for the upcoming championship. He won all the distances setting new track records in the two longer ones: 2.27,8 og 8.43,2. The first one stood until Clas Thunberg beat it in 1925. The other is standing still. At the same time his rival Oscar didn’t have a particularly good time as he did his laps on the yellow ice of Krestovsky lake.

At Kongsberg the weather was as bad as in Kristiania and Kristian Nilsen won a club meet in 53,2 and 3.02,4. His pbs in the 500 and 1500 meters were 49,2 and 2.48,6. A small highlight of the day was the winner of the 10 to 13 years ageclass, who skated his first 500m in 70,0, well ahead of the rest. His name was Asbjørn Steffensen, evidently a bit of a talent that boy.