Oscar Mathisen
Speedskating - Oscar Diary

The empire stricken back

A clear, beautiful winter day dawned on Sunday, the 2nd day of the World Championship. The spectators stood in dense rows around the track, probably some 5000 of them, when the competitions were to begin at 1 pm, expectant of fair trials of strength and exciting sport. The treasurer of Skridskoklubben wrung his hands with delight. A number of more or less notable foreign guests also were present, including Georgij A. Duperron, the secretary of the Russian Olympic Committee and Baron Stieglitz from St. Petersburg as well as a sizeable contingent from Trondhjem among others.

Ippolitov the younger and Koroljov were the first pair in the 1500m and the European Champion’s brother easily outskated his compatriot to finish in 2.32,6, a new personal best. In the 2nd pair Wickström then again met Tverin and beat him soundly, himself also clocking a second better time than the Russian, no doubt to the satisfaction both of himself and the audience. He still was in the position of fighting with Najdenov for the overall 3rd prize. However, in the 3rd pair, Sæterhaug and Frang had much more to offer than last time, they both beat him with Frang first in 2.30,5 and the Trønder 1 second behind.

The other two Norwegians were lined up in the next pair. Oscar knew that if he failed to win again, this championship also would be lost. Unless he won the 10000m, of course. The draw had gone against him; Ippolitov would know exactly what he needed to do. But the problem was simple, really. All he had to do was to skate as fast as he could. But when he started, it was a more calculated race than usual, not a pure sprint from the start, though it must have looked like that for those acquainted only with lesser skaters. Instead he maintained a steady, even pace throughout and especially skated the final lap with such force and vigour that the like had not been seen in Helsingfors. His time, 2.24,4 also was unheard of, a new track record. Olsen did 2.30,9, another unlucky result for Wickström, who now needed a poor result from his Russian rival.

Here was a task to do for Ippolitov, the spectators asked themselves when the Russian drew towards the start area already in the next pair along with Axelson. The Russian seemed a bit nervous, because at first he started long before the starting signal and was called back. He seemed early in the 2nd attempt as well, but Baltscheffsky let them go. He set up a phenomenal speed, quite matching that of Mathisen. Axelson soon was out of the way. The Finnish audience watched him with anxious anticipation as he completed one lap and then another. Then as he emerged from the curve in full speed he dug the the tip of his skate in the ice, and stumbled dangerously. But luckily was able to regain his balance again and continue almost undisturbed. Still he only made 2.26,3 at the finish line, and it was clear that Oscar had the championship almost 100% secure. Axelson’s race wasn’t so bad either, 2.31,4, but bad enough for Wickström.

Tuomainen had won many friends among the ranks of the spectatorship after his good fight against Rundjaltsev the day before, and they cheered him well to another win against the Russian. But the time was a little disappointing, 2.33,3. Helander had dropped out to give the home favourite Strömstén Najdenov as pairmate in the last pair. It was a close race and exciting for the crowd. He was back to his normal form and skated one of his better 1500 meters. But tactically it wasn't so wise it turned out, because Najdenov was even better, he claimed 3rd place in 2.29,3, a new pb, and finished 10 meters ahead of Strömstén, who did 2.30,2 in 4th place. Najdenov’s 3rd prize overall now also was pretty secure.

1.Oscar Mathisen       2.24,4 TR
2.Vasilij Ippolitov    2.26,3
3.Nikita Najdenov      2.29,3 pb
4.Gustav Strömstén     2.30,2
5.Bjarne Frang         2.30,5
6.Henning Olsen        2.30,9
7.Petrus Axelson       2.31,4
8.Martin Sæterhaug     2.31,5
9.VŠinö Wickström      2.31,6
10.Platon Ippolitov    2.32,6 pb
11.Arvo Tuomainen      2.33,3
12.Walter Tverin       2.34,3
13.Nikolaj Rundjaltsev 2.35,3 pb
14.Jevgenij Koroljov   2.40,7
1.Oscar Mathisen        4
2.Vasilij Ippolitov    12
3.Henning Olsen        16
Nikita Najdenov        16
5.Väinö Wickström      21
Bjarne Frang           21
7.Petrus Axelson       23
8.Martin Sæterhaug     24
9.Platon Ippolitov     25
Gunnar Strömstén       25
11.Arvo Tuomainen      27
12.Walter Tverin       28
13.Nikolaj Rundjaltsev 31
14.Jevgenij Koroljov   41

2.24,4 still is the trackrecord at Norra Hamnen, and it was the best time in Finland until Clas Thunberg skated 2.24,1 in Tampere 1927.

The first pair in the 10000m was Russian, Platon Ippolitov and Nikita Najdenov. Most bets were on the plucky, resilient Najdenov, the distance winner last weekend, and they were close in the first few laps in a moderate pace. But then the younger Ippolitov started to accelerate. Najdenov can be excused for thinking that the struggle for the title was over perhaps, and perhaps his pairmate realised it too, but after all the title had not been formally awarded, and he sure wouldn’t want to let his brother down yet. Platon was as tall as Vasilij, but thinner, and his style wasn’t the most elegant or correct, but his strides were long and powerful and his way of finding a kind of balance in the rest position after a kick was commended highly by the Helsingin Sanomat reporter. He finished in a first-class result, 18.08,0, a new personal best, 8th place in the all-time list and 5th place in the lowland list. Najdenov was half a lap behind, finishing in 18.30,5.

The home favourite Stömstén skated next with the Norwegian Olsen. His overall position was poor after his fall, but his Finnish record was only 18.58,9, and that looked beatable here. His pace could not compare to the leading time of Ippolitov at all, so maybe he wasn’t in the same good shape as in the triple match, neither I suppose did he feel a very big urge to drain his last strength to help the Russians interfere with Mathisen. Still after the race had proceeded a while it was clear that the record was going to be beaten and he got messages pertaining to the fact from various places in the ring of spectators, regardless of the rules. Eventually he finished in 18.35,6, beating his record by over 23 seconds and nearly lapping Olsen, who got 19.16,6.

This record wasn’t impressive compared to 18.08, however. And Wickström, the best Finn so far this championship, set his aim on 18.35. Because the 10ths were against him in the 1500m, he no longer could hope to take the 3rd prize overall away from Najdenov, but a record at least is something. He skated with Axelson and the two were close for the first part of the race. Right from the start, numerous spectators near the track kept him informed of his difference to Strömstén by shouting in full defiance of the rules. About half-way the Swede fell behind. By then, Wickström was 3 seconds ahead and had hopes of beating Najdenov’as 18.30, too. But then he started losing and near the end there was no difference to speak of. His fans hurried him home frantically and then waited in suspense while the clocks were read and compared. Then the man with the megaphone announced 18.35,2, and a new record again! Loud cheers, and a huge smile on “Veikka”-’s broad face.

In the 4th pair, Tverin didn’t skate so fast, but at least he beat the famous Sæterhaug easily to the continued satisfation of the audience.

The we come to the 5th pair with the main dish of the day, another Mathisen-Ippolitov duel. And the spectators braced themselves for another dramatic duel between the two main contestants, who were to meet head to head for the first time this championship. And dramatic it got, but it wasn’t a lazy race with the pair of them watching each other and deciding it with a dazzling sprint like the three last times they had met in a long distance. Ippolitov had figured that the only way he could get Oscar down to 9th place, which he needed to win the championship, was by dislodging him right away. And if this didn’t succeed, attacking his world record wouldn’t hurt anyway. Thus, after a 45 opener he did three 40 laps, and suddenly was 6 ahead of the record, having skated the first 1500m in 2.35! Oscar was taken by surprise already in the initial lap and didn’t get a chance to catch up at speeds like this. After a 41 lap Ippolitov had 5 seconds on him and 7 on his record. After this the pace normalised to 42 and 43 and Oscar stayed at this distance waiting for an opportunity to counter-attack. But it never came. At 4400m Ippolitov still was 3 ahead of the record and 6 ahead of Oscar. Then he did a 41 and was 4 ahead of the record. But Oscar dropped to 8, and from now he lost a second or more for each lap. He gave up the distance win and concentrated on beating the younger Ippolitov, who was in the lead so far. Doubtless he also was adequately informed of his standing versus him for the full duration of the race. The Russian stayed ahead of the record until the 18th lap, but of course couldn’t match its fabulous finish. Still, 17.37,8 in less perfect conditions probably is comparable, at least. Oscar did 18.04,9 and had won his championship, though in a less flattering manner than might have been hoped, 250 meters behind his rival.

World record 45-1.27-2.09-2.51-3.33-4.15-4.56-5.39-6.21-7.03-7.45-8.27-9.08-9.50-10.32-11.14-11.56-12.38-13.20-14.01-14.42-15.22-16.03-16.43-17.22,6

Mathisen     47-1.28-2.08-2.49-3.31-4.14-4.56-5.38-6.22-7.05-7.48-8.31-9.14-9.58-10.42-11.25-12.10-12.53-13.38-14.23-15.08-15.52-16.37-17.21-18.04,9
Ippolitov    45-1.25-2.05-2.45-3.26-4.09-4.51-5.33-6.16-6.59-7.42-8.23-9.04-9.47-10.29-11.12-11.55-12.38-13.21-14.05-14.48-15.31-16.13-16.55-17.37,8

It must be noted that this time, 17.37,8, still is the track record at Norra Hamnen, Helsingfors. And that it was the best time skated in Finland until Kees Broekman beat it in 1949. In the last two pairs Tuomainen first again beat Rundjaltsev, with a bigger difference this time; the Russian no doubt was getting tired of him. Then Koroljov beat Frang with an even bigger difference. Frang’s effort wasn’t needed the way this had developed, but he completed anyway, and finished 9th in the championship.

1.Vasilij Ippolitov    17.37,8 TR
2.Oscar Mathisen       18.04,9
3.Platon Ippolitov     18.08,0 pb
4.Nikita Najdenov      18.30,5
5.VŠinö Wickström      18.35,2 FR
6.Gunnar Strömstén     18.35,6
7.Petrus Axelson       18.45,4
8.Henning Olsen        19.16,6
9.Arvo Tuomainen       19.17,3 pb
10.Jevgenij Koroljev   19.18,2 
11.Walter Tverin       19.24,7
12.Nikolaj Rundjaltsev 19.36,4 pb
13.Bjarne Frang        19.47,0
14.Martin Sæterhaug    19.48,2
Total points:
GOLD.Oscar Mathisen       6
Silver.Vasilij Ippolitov 13
bronze.Nikita Najdenov   20
4.Henning Olsen          24
5.Väinö Wickström        26
6.Platon Ippolitov       28
7.Petrus Axelson         30
8.Gunnar Strömstén       31
9.Bjarne Frang           34
10.Arvo Tuomainen        36
11.Martin Sæterhaug      38
12.Walter Tverin         39
13.Nikolaj Rundjaltsev   43
14.Jevgenij Koroljov     51

Now the championship was over, the cheering ceased, spectators, skaters and officials withdrew to their respective quarters while the ice was being swept clean of chocolate papers, bottles and whatever leftovers. When the skaters convened again the same night for the prize giving, the happy champion received his generous allotment of medals, diplomas, speeches, toasts and congratulations. And when these were over, he quietly approached Ippolitov with the big championship medal hanging around his neck, beat himself a couple of times on his chest and said with a deep voice: “Oscar Mathisen. Norge. Verdensmester!”

Gullstol, drawing by Einar Owrum in Morgenbladet, from Oscar Mathisen, Mitt livs løp