Oscar Mathisen
Speedskating - Oscar Diary


It was the Ides of March and the early spring sunshine again was lovely on the lake of Mjøsa as Hamar Skøyteklubb arranged cup races to conclude the season, a cup that had been contested since 1909. Oscar Mathisen (1909 and 1912) and Martin Sæterhaug (1910 and 1911) had two shares each in it, and they were both present in order to try and take the third and final one that would give them the trophy for keeps. The meet was split in two, with a morning pass starting at 9 am including 5000m for seniors and juniors. Then the skaters were given time off for a rest and possibly a sermon if they felt for it before the meet was to convene again at 3:30 pm with the two other distances. For the morning pass the tickets were 50 øre for the stand and 25 otherwise; for the afternoon pass the prices were doubled. The club had laid a new track right outside the Tjuvholmen headland.

As many as 1500 spectators had turned up for this early morning event, and I expect they didn’t have any regrets. The first pair in the 5000m was Martin Sæterhaug against Henning Olsen. The Trønder had recovered from the tiredness that he had displayed while travelling in Russia and Finland, and offered Olsen hard resistance, he skated one of his best 5000 meters this year. But it wasn’t quite enough, the Kristiania skater won in 8.59,0 versus 9.00,6.

Then came the sensation. The Mjøsa ice felt so smooth in the spring sunshine, Oscar thought, gliding and gliding along with his pairmate Stener Johannessen, who fell longer and longer behind. 41 laps came so easily, one after the other. He had no idea of his standing versus any records; this meet only was for fun. All the serious work of the season had been done, this was supposed to be only a last bonus before you took your leave until next season. Thus it was probably with both some jubilation and some grief that he heard his 8.38,6 being read, a dream-time, only a second behind the official world record as well as a second under the more than 19 years old national record of Einar Halvorsen. But the crowd at least got value for their money. Johannessen finished in 8.58,9, also a new pb.

In the last pair, Lundgreen skated below par, only barely beating the sprinter Frang with 9.21,6 vs. 9.24,6.

1.Oscar Mathisen      8.38,6 pb NR tr
2.Stener Johannessen  8.58,9 pb
3.Henning Olsen       8.59,0
4.Martin Sæterhaug    9.00,6
5.Trygve Lundgreen    9.21,6
6.Bjarne Frang        9.24,6 pb

In the junior class Otto Christiansen of Kristiania first beat the home skater Sigurd Jensen by 9.44,2 versus 9.50,4. Then the Trønder Olaf Rustad with 9.50,7 beat another Hamar skater, Leonhard Johannessen, who made his first 5000m in 10.05,5. In the 3rd pair the former Hamar skater Hilmar Bækkevold met his new KSK clubmate Thoralf Hansen, and beat him pretty easily, taking the lead in 9.43,7, his pairmate clocking 9.55,4. In the 4th pair, Martin’s brother Jacob took a substantial lead with a fine race in 9.22,3, well ahead of the promising Hamar sprinter Tom Bergstrøm, another debutant in the distance. The promising home skater Melvin Johansen tried to beat the new leading time, but failed and clocked 9.32,4. He skated with his clubmate Lundaas, who was apparently more sure on his mark with his time of 10.00,0.

1.Jacob Sæterhaug        9.22,3
2.Melvin Johansen        9.32,4 p
3.Hilmar Bækkevold       9.43,7
4.Otto Christiansen      9.44,2
5.Tom Bergstrøm          9.50,3 p
6.Sigurd Jensen          9.50,4
7.Olaf Rustad            9.50,7
8.Thoralf Hansen         9.55,4
9.Alf Lundaas           10.00,0 p
10.Leonhard Johannessen 10.05,5 p

The spring weather hadn’t grown less lovely when the skaters, the officials and the spectators gathered around the track outside Tjuvholmen again at half past three. And the crowd gathering was substantial, though they now had to pay 1 krone for a place on the stand and 50 øre for a place elsewhere around the track. There was no radio and no press able to communicate the sensation of the new national record so fast. But the organisers had printed leaflets and handed them around in town already from 10 o’clock. Thus they were able to attract 3500 customers for the afternoon event and another skating club treasurer could rub his hands with delight.

And the afternoon audience got value for their money, too. There was a little wind, but not troublesome, and the air temperature was considerably above freezing, but the ice still was hard and shiny. The two long distance experts Lundgreen and Johannessen skated first in 47,9 and 48,2 respectively. Not bad for them. Frang and Sæterhaug skated considerably faster, another close duel where the Trønder suffered another narrow loss with 45,9 versus 45,8. A memorable enough pair with two of the best times ever registered in Hamar town.

But the story of the next pair would get to be told over and over again for generation after generation of young Hamar recruits as long as anyone lived who remembered it or who remembered the vivid accounts of it. One of those who remembered it was my then 14 years old paternal grandfather, and one of those who heard an account was I. But the account was not vivid enough and I was too young to understand. This fourteen years old also wasn’t one of the tallest spectators, and it’s doubtful if he saw much more than this shadow that flew so crazy fast out there on the ice and another shadow not much slower, going as fast as he could, too, making one of his best times. Then came the waiting after it was over and after that the outcry of triumph signalling the world record, then the movement of the masses who stormed the track, lifted the world champion on their strong shoulders and carried him around the track in the traditional Norwegian “golden chair” procession. My grandfather probably would have liked to touch the champion, too, but was he able to? Not easy for a 14 years old.

1.Oscar Mathisen      44,0 WR
2.Henning Olsen       45,3
3.Bjarne Frang        45,8
4.Martin Sæterhaug    45,9
5.Trygve Lundgreen    47,9
6.Stener Johannessen  48,2
1.Oscar Mathisen      2
2.Henning Olsen       5
3.Stener Johannessen  8
Martin Sæterhaug      8
5.Bjarne Frang        9
6.Trygve Lundgreen   10

44,0 were magical figures. They signalled a new epoch, the epoch of the 43. And it was the 14th Hamar world record according to the accounts. Let’s see, 50,2, 49,4, 48,0, 47,0, 44,0, 2.32,6, 2.31,4, 2.29,6, 2.28,8, 2.25,4, 9.10,2, 9.07,0, 8.37,6, 17.56,0, that does make 14. Even Davos itself only has 10, or 11 if you reckon the doubtful 44,4. The news of the 14th world record at Hamar perhaps caused some worries down in the ISU headquarters. Maybe it was time to dig a little in their money bags to do something about it?

As soon the track had been swept reasonably clean of boot dust and dirt, the juniors were sent out on their 500m. The first pair of Bækkevold and Jensen was close, with the former winning in 50,6, sparks flying around his skates no doubt. 2nd pair was won by Jacob Sæterhaug, setting a personal best with 48,8. His pairmate, the Hamar skater Johannessen also improved his best time with 49,5. Rustad took over his 2nd place in the third pair with 49,4, while Rustad’s pairmate Lundaas went into 4th with 50,5. In the 4th pair, Thoralf Hansen took the lead with 48,6 while Melvin Johansen, 2nd in the 5000m, made 49,8. In the last pair, Tom Bergstrøm, who had skated 47,8 at Horten earlier in the season, only made 50,6 as Christiansen finished last in 51,8.

1.Thoralf Hansen         48,6
2.Jacob Sæterhaug        48,8 pb
3.Olaf Rustad            49,4
4.Leonhard Johannessen   49,5 pb
5.Melvin Johansen        49,8
6.Alf Lundaas            50,5
7.Hilmar Bækkevold       50,6
Tom Bergstrøm            50,6
9.Sigurd Jensen          50,9
10.Otto Christiansen     51,8
1.Jacob Sæterhaug     3
2.Melvin Johansen     7
3.Thoralf Hansen      9
4.Olaf Rustad        10
5.Hilmar Bækkevold   10.5
6.Tom Bergstrøm      12.5
7.Otto Christiansen  14
Leonhard Johannessen 14
9.Sigurd Jensen      15
Alf Lundaas          15

Many of the 3500 no doubt had hopes of upsetting the 1500 m as well, but the spring sunshine and the warm air as well as thousands of boots had taken their toll of the ice. I don’t have the starting list here, but probably the pairs were the same as in the 500m: Mathisen-Olsen, Frang-Sæterhaug and Johannessen-Lundgreen.

1.Oscar Mathisen      2.25,3
2.Henning Olsen       2.30,4
3.Martin Sæterhaug    2.32,2
4.Stener Johannessen  2.34,6
5.Bjarne Frang        2.35,1
6.Trygve Lundgreen    2.38,0
Total points:
1.Oscar Mathisen      3
2.Henning Olsen       7
3.Martin Sæterhaug   11
4.Stener Johannessen 12
5.Bjarne Frang       14
6.Trygve Lundgreen   16

The ice now was softening up and only five of the juniors completed their 1500 meters. Could be that the spring-giddy crowds were getting unruly as well, disturbing the skaters a little. Or a lot.

1.Jacob Sæterhaug        2.37,2
2.Melvin Johansen        2.39,5
3.Alf Lundaas            2.43,4
4.Leonhard Johannessen   2.44,2
5.Hilmar Bækkevold       2.44,3
Tom Bergstrøm, Thoralf Hansen and Olaf Rustad dnf
Sigurd Jensen and Otto Christiansen dns
Total points:
1.Jacob Sæterhaug        3
2.Melvin Johansen        7
3.Alf Lundaas           11
Leonhard Johannessen    11
5.Hilmar Bækkevold      13

Then the last strides of the memorable 1913 season were stridden, and Oscar could go home with yet another trophy. It had been perhaps the most exciting and dramatic skating season yet so far. And no-one knew how long it would take to make another season as dramatic as this one. Maybe one year. Maybe two years. Maybe five, maybe fifteen, maybe twentyfour, maybe thirtynine, maybe fortythree, maybe fifty, maybe fiftyfive, maybe sixtythree, maybe sixtysix, maybe seventyone, maybe eightyfive, maybe a hundred years, maybe more?