Oscar Mathisen
Speedskating - Oscar Diary

In the cold of Helsingfors

Advertisement, World Championship 1913, from Helsingin SanomatNo Finn could be expected to figure in the battle for the World Championship in Helsingfors, still the championship was the topic of conversation for days in advance. Who would win? Mathisen or Ippolitov? And how would the Finns do? Bets ran high.

While long distance experts Johannessen and Lundgreen had to stay at home, Oscar and Martin had been joined by two other skilful sprinters from home, Henning Olsen and Bjarne Frang, as a countermeasure against the good Russian long distance skaters Najdenov and Platon Ippolitov. Rundjaltsev and Koroljov also had followed the Russian team from St. Petersburg but could not be expected to make any difference. Whether the Finnish long distance aces Strömstén and Wickström were likely to offer the Russians any help could perhaps be seen as doubtful, probably more likely the good sprinter Helander would help Mathisen. Presumably it was with some misgivings that the freshly crowned and celebrated European Champion faced his odds before the championship.

When the start was approaching at 3 pm Saturday afternoon it was 17 degrees below zero and a scorching northerly in the capital of the grand duchy. Still, throngs of people had long been circling Skridskoklubben’s track at Norra Hamnen, sprayed with fresh water, perhaps warm water, too, to bring out the good glide. It wasn’t quite like one of the bigger skating days, but at least they made up a biggish Saturday audience of one to two thousands despite the harsh weather. One of them was Oscar’s wife, who had arrived to strengthen her husband with her presence after his defeat in St. Petersburg.

At 3 o’clock exact the familiar big cowbell called to start. Not long after the first pair, Norwegians Henning Olsen and Bjarne Frang were ready at the start. The starter Theodor Baltscheffsky barked the international starting call and next moment the competitors were circling the track in a fearful speed. They were close all the way, but Olsen pulled the longest straw with 47,2 to 47,4. Excellent results on the hard ice. Next pair was clubmates Tverin and Wickström. This pair was even closer and only the meet officials could separate them at the end, giving the win to Wickström. The time was only 48,9, but that wasn’t bad either under the current conditions.

Then the European Champion Vasilij Ippolitov was ready against Gunnar Strömstén, the home favourite against the presumably best foreigner according to the usual practice. What did Ippolitov think? Had he celebrated too much? Was it his turn to feel beaten before the start? I couldn’t be that he either consciously or subconsciously wanted a bad 500 meter to blame for defeat, could it? Anyway it was clear already in the first curve that he was behind, and when they started the home straight, the Finn was several meters ahead. But about 75 meters from the finish the home favourite fell and the cheering stopped with a gasp. To the disappointment of the patriotic audience the Russian finished first, but his time was only 50,1. It looked like the championship was lost already. Strömstén finished his race in 55,0.

The spectators hardly had time to regain their breaths from the shock when Oscar lined up against Koroljov. This was an uneven battle, and Koroljov perhaps didn’t overdo his efforts to beat the time of Ippolitov. Oscar on the other hand made his usual display of frantic speed and death defying curve skating and took the lead in 46,0, a track record. Koroljov made 51,3. After this the last Norwegian Sæterhaug won against Tuomainen from Tampere with 48,0 versus 49,0, thus all four Norwegians now topped the ranking indicating a full success for the Norwegian tactics. The misery piled up for Ippolitov. The sprinter Helander disappointed the Finnish fans though, getting beated by Rundjaltsev. But this didn’t help the cause of Ippolitov either, as they both were below his time. In the penultimate pair the younger Ippolitov was even slower than the older and was even beaten by the Swede Axelson. Najdenov skated alone in the last pair and stuck another dagger in his compatriot’s wound by clocking 49,5.

1.Oscar Mathisen      46,0 TR
2.Henning Olsen       47,2
3.Bjarne Frang        47,4
4.Martin Sæterhaug    48,0
5.Väinö Wickström     48,9
6.Walter Tverin       48,9b
7.Arvo Tuomainen      49,0
8.Nikolaj Rundjaltsev 49,1
9.Lauri Helander      49,2
10.Nikita Najdenov    49,5
11.Petrus Axelson     49,9
12.Vasilij Ippolitov  50,1
13.Platon Ippolitov   51,0
14.Jevgenij Koroljov  51,3
15.Gunnar Strömstén   55,0f

Many who had put their money on Ippolitov no doubt regretted bitterly now. Still they could always hope for three distance wins.

The first pair of the 5000m was Tverin against Wickström, who won the it by half a lap and got a fine result: 9.12,0, a new personal best. The wind had abated a little, but it was still cold. 2nd pair was Tuomainen and Rundjaltsev. The Finn started fast and opened up a big difference to the Russian, but then he started to tire and Rundjaltsev, who already had one unexpected Finnish scalp under his belt, eventually caught up with him again. It developed into a hard battle meter by meter and the resilient Tammerforsian eventually pulled through to delighted cheers from the audience. This promised great things for the future.

In the next pair Najdenov quickly brushed off the sprinter Helander and lapped him near the end, taking the lead with 9.08,7. Then time was up for the best Norwegians Mathisen and Olsen. For a few laps at first they skated side by side as Oscar started slow according to his habit. Then the champion began to show his colours, impressing the Finnish spectators with steady, beautiful skating especially in the curves. When he finished in a new best time and track record 8.56,1, Olsen was 300 meters behind.

An angry Ippolitov lined up against the Swedish champion Axelson in the 5th pair. Apparently intent on repairing the damage he did with his poor 500m he skated with aggression from the start. Lap by lap went by in 42 with some 41s, in an admirably light, nimble and smooth style. Those of the spectators bringing watches opened their eyes wide in disbelief. This Russian was heading for the world record, in bitter wind and 17 degrees cold! Well, it didn’t quite suffice for a record, but the time of 8.43,4 was phenomenal and Ippolitov deservedly was applauded by the Finnish audience.

Sæterhaug and Frang were present here only to sprint well and otherwise complete the distance programme, so their race in the 6th pair didn’t contribute anything of particular interest. The spectators could have a drink of beef soup or whatever they had brought with them. In the 7th pair, Korjolov had little to offer as well, but his pairmate Platon Ippolitov did his best to help his brother. Skating with long, powerful strides he stayed ahead of Oscar for most of the race, but could not handle his strong finish. Still 9.01,7 was an excellent time and a new personal best. In the last pair Strömstén skated alone, but failed to display the same form as in the triple match and only managed 9.21,7.

1.Vasilij Ippolitov    8.43,4 TR
2.Oscar Mathisen       8.56,1
3.Platon Ippolitov     9.01,7 pb
4.Nikita Najdenov      9.08,7
5.Väinö Wickström      9.12,0 pb
6.Petrus Axelson       9.21,4
7.Gunnar Strömstén     9.21,7
8.Henning Olsen        9.27,8
9.Arvo Tuomainen       9.28,5
10.Nikolaj Rundjaltsev 9.29,7
11.Walter Tverin       9.35,4
12.Martin Sæterhaug    9.36,2
13.Bjarne Frang        9.44,7
14.Jevgenij Koroljov   9.53,2
15.Lauri Helander      9.56,5
1.Oscar Mathisen        3
2.Väinö Wickström      10
Henning Olsen          10
4.Vasilij Ippolitov    13
5.Nikita Najdenov      14
6.Platon Ippolitov     16
Arvo Tuomainen         16
Walter Tverin          16
Martin Sæterhaug       16
Bjarne Frang           16
11.Petrus Axelson      17
12.Nikolaj Rundjaltsev 18
13.Gunnar Strömstén    22
14.Lauri Helander      24
15.Jevgenij Koroljov   28