Oscar Mathisen
Speedskating - Oscar Diary

Beaten by a junior

Oscar and his two teammates Henning Olsen and Bjarne Frang had remained in Helsingfors where they had been joined by Stener Johannessen to fight against Skridskoklubben about the third “Finnepokalen”—a match series started in 1901. The first Finnepokal cup was won outright by the Helsingfors club in 1905, the 2nd by the Kristiania club in 1909, and the third the Norwegians now had two shares in from 1910 and 1912, both at home, while the Finns won a share at home in 1911. If the KSK now could take their 3rd share they would now win the third cup outright. And now that they had Oscar on their team again, they were already a long way, but the Finns were not expected to give it away without a struggle. They were not known for that.

The meet started at 2:30 pm on Saturday in pretty awful conditions. While the skaters during the World Championship complained of hard ice it was now rather on the soft side after prolonged rain and wind. Today there was some sleet at the start, but it soon stopped. The wind was hard all the time, though. The first pair was to be Olsen and Strömstén, but the Norwegian withdrew, blaming illness, and the pair was postponed to see if he would get better. Next pair was the favourite Oscar Mathisen and Walter Tverin. Oscar started fast as usual and left Tverin resolutely behind. This patchy ice required masterful skating, even Oscar couldn't use his common calm and rhythmical style. Shorter strides were required over the roughest patches, and occasionally you had to jump over traps threatening to bring you down. Skating was overall heavy with the thin blades sinking in for each stride. Eventually he crossed the finish line in 10.32,0, with Tverin half a lap behind in 10.59,8.

The 2nd, formerly 3rd pair, was Lindholm and Frang, and the Norwegian, who only expected to score any points in the shorter distances, left the Finn to do it all by himself. Lap by lap he struggled alone over treacherous gaps and passes, and when he was finished it turned out that he was only 6,2 behind Mathisen. Next it was Wickström against Johannessen, who normally was expected to contribute something in the longer distances. But the wind was worse than ever and Johannessen suffered. Wickström did better and in the end finished just behind Lindholm at 10.40,8. In the last pair the doctor still refused Olsen permission to skate, and Strömstén had to skate alone, finishing in 10.38 flat, making the Finns well clustered and on top in the points reckoning.

1.Oscar Mathisen      10.32,0
2.Gunnar Strömstén    10.38,0
3.Axel Lindholm       10.38,2
4.Väinö Wickström     10.40,8
5.Walter Tverin       10.59,8
6.Bjarne Frang        11.07,8
7.Stener Johannessen  11.10,0
Henning Olsen dns
HSK 9 KSK 12

After the match races, some juniors were allowed to skate a 5000m. The results were a little sensational.

1.Aleks. Stukaloff    10.31,8
2.Julius Skutnabb     10.34,1 pb
3.Clas Thunberg       11.21,9
4.Hans Wasenius       11.40,9 pb
5.V. Hanström         11.50,8 pb

Yes, Stukaloff, to his great surprise no doubt, achieved a better time than Mathisen himself. But it was getting colder, and apparently the surface under him had improved somewhat.

To achieve a better time than the big Mathisen himself nevertheless must have been quite something to boast about. And someone did, too. “Vinteren 1913 ble det første egentlige konkurranseåret. Han vant en juniorkonkurranse, som arrangertes i forbindelse med pokalkampen mot norske klubber, og hans tid ble bedre enn selveste Oscar Mathisens. Men det hadde riktignok andre årsaker. Da pokalkampen gikk sin gang var værforholdene dårlige, det var mildt og med sugende is. Da Clas startet, som en av de siste, var det frosset på og isen var nesten god.” This is from the memoirs of Clas Thunberg, the early years penned by Runar Hällsten, translated into Norwegian by Finn Amundsen.

Here is my English translation: “The winter of 1913 was his first real competitive year. He won a junior competition that was arranged in connection with the cup match against Norwegian clubs, and his time was better than the one of Oscar Mathisen himself. But admittedly, this had other reasons. During the cup match the weather conditions were poor, it was thawing with heavy ice. When Clas started, as one of the last, it had frozen a bit and the ice was almost good.”

But from the list above we seem to have on hand a completely different version. After all, Thunberg's book is from 1947, and he may be excused for thrusting himself into the memorable achievement of Stukaloff, remembering the story as better than it actually was so many years afterwards. These things happen. It must have been a striking experience after all, and incredibly inspiring for a young talent starting his career, no matter who did it. Or was it the newspaper that got it wrong? Hufvudstadsbladet is my only source for the list. And these things do happen as well. Will we ever know for sure?