Oscar Mathisen
Speedskating - Oscar Diary

And 2.17,4!

Unlike the weather in Trondhjem, the Davos weather was perfectly beautiful on Sunday as well, and Oscar Mathisen, happy and relaxed after reaching his great goal the day before, thought he might possibly achieve something today as well. Among the international audience, even more numerous than the day before, betting was rife, and two new records were fancied by most. But there were those that thought the 1500 and 10000 m ones that were at stake today were stronger than the two that fell the day before.

The air was light and clean, the sunshine lovely, flags hung limp on their poles, and the creamy white ice shimmered under the feet of the skaters who made ready for their 1500 m this morning. In his pair, Oscar Mathisen started in the inner lane, Bjarne Frang in the outer. The starter stood in front of them, between the lanes, his flag held high. When he lowered it, it was the signal to go and do your best. Oscar had been a little unnerved by the comments he had heard indicating that it was expected of him to set two new records today as well. The fortunes of numerous members of the audience seemed to depend on it. But Oscar was used to achieving on behalf of others, and when he glided out in the unreal realm of sunshine and gleaming ice, content and happy from what he had achieved the day before—the absolute monarchy of speedskating—doing his best was all he had on his mind.

On the starting lines before 2.17,4. From Bjørn BrŒttum’s private collection

Then the flag went down, and the skaters started their race. On the oily smooth ice they built up high speeds rather quickly as the international spectatorship provided auditory encouragement. The sun was high, and there was peace in the world. Frenchmen, Germans, Englishmen and Austrians stood side by side, cheering for the speedy Norwegian. Maybe a Turk, Bulgarian, Greek or two were amongst them, too, or someone from another of the fresh Balkan king- or princedoms. Mathisen and Frang entered the first curve, leaning well over in the high speed, pumping it even higher before they entered the second straight with Oscar in a slight lead, as expected. The split-time? Probably 29.

They started the 2nd lap in the enchanting light, reminiscent of Easter back home. Witnesses have claimed that the race was the most beautiful ever seen in Davos, seemingly effortless, yet so fast. Oscar had done what he came here for, this race was only a bonus. He could relax, letting his power play out and enjoy the wonder-ice, knowing for every stride precisely where to set his skate down, exactly where to roll over, where to push, in a muse-rhythm enrapturing skaters as well as spectators. Out on the back-straight again he went with Frang chasing behind, then the outer curve and another straight, his pairmate still close. The split likely was 1.04—magically the same figures as his birthdate.

They started the 3rd lap in the wonderful sunshine irradiating the Davos valley, under the slopes of tall mountains and the classical sanatorium fronts. The high speed was beginning to tell a little and the next crossing was close, with Oscar entering the curve before his clubmate. The rest of the race he had to do alone. Still he could sit and glide stroke after stroke, enjoying the speed and the whole atmosphere. The peacefully coexisting audience rejoiced in his enchanting rhythm, recognising it as a symptom of how their civilised world would continue to grow and progress for decade after unbroken decade. And with Frang over 20 meters behind, Oscar probably clocked 1.40 at the split, just as magical as the last one.

Chances looked good for yet another record. And the progress of speedskating was evident everywhere. The Germans took pains to train skaters for their European Championship. The Austrians raised a whole set of new long distance talents to take over from Bohrer. The Hungarians practised it eagerly, too, raising new talents. The Finns and Russians were stronger than ever. Dutchmen and Englishmen hoped for cold weather and sent skaters to Davos in the meantime. Even the French and the Italians had started arranging national championships. Back home new long distance talents were popping up, he would have to work well to stay ahead. But work he could. He expected to win the two international championships this year. The ones in 1915 and 1916 he expected to have to fight for, possibly the next ones as well. Where would they take place? Stockholm, Helsingfors, maybe back to St. Petersburg again. At least once at Frogner, maybe once at Trondhjem, too. And Hungary, Austria, Germany, why couldn’t they arrange something again? Not to mention here in Davos. He skated the last lap as smoothly as before and pumped with both arms in a finish that was characterised as unique by knowledgeable onlookers.

Rumours of a new record circulated well before any time was announced. And when the figures of 2.17,4 finally were made public, ones that were to become more magical than any other, the well-bred crowds forgot the last remains of their breeding and were absorbed in an unrestrained flood of applause that swept everything along like a lavine of wild ecstasy.

1.Oscar Mathisen     2.17,4 WR
2.Bjarne Frang       2.24,4 pb
3.Thomas Bohrer      2.29,6
4.C. Coen de Koning  2.36,0
5.Heinrich Prochazka 2.40,0 pb
6.Henri Kretzer      2.40,2 pb
7.Frederick W. Dix   2.40,8
8.Hans Gessner       2.53,8 pb
9.Alfred Mayer       3.31,4 pb
1.Oscar Mathisen      3
2.Bjarne Frang        7
3.Thomas Bohrer       8
4.C. Coen de Koning  15
5.Henri Kretzer      16
6.Heinrich Prochazka 17
7.Frederick W. Dix   18
8.Hans Gessner       24

After lunch and a bit of figure skating plus some Swiss juniors achieving half-reasonable times it was time for the finals. This time the pairmate of Oscar was his old rival Thomas Bohrer. And the excitement of the audience seemed to have remained through the lunch break, for never before had he felt so chased by the crowds through a 10000 meter. The roar of excitement was not constant, it followed him along the ring of spectators. He had never experienced such affection and support, not even back home at Frogner. They really wanted him to set a new record now, many of them were bound to make good money if he did, not to mention what they were bound to lose if he didn’t make it. So skater and audience clearly had a common cause here. He felt he had a chance, too, the pace felt good. Bohrer fell longer and longer behind and was close to being lapped at the end. The last 500 meters Oscar accelerated so well that the ones on the stands who had bet on 4 records (and didn’t have their own watches) virtually felt the bank notes crackle in their hands as they cheered the sprightly Norwegian across the finishing line. Silence fell the more deeply as the time was announced to 17.58,4. Maybe the afternoon sun had grown too strong. Maybe the 6 kilograms of muscle that he had added since 17.22,6 were weighing him down more in the longer distances. Maybe he had spent too little time in altitude before the race. Anyway the silence didn’t last long. Sportsmanship prevailed and the economically now somewhat less well to do audience applauded as unrestrained as before.

1.Oscar Mathisen     17.58,4
2.Thomas Bohrer      18.46,0
3.Bjarne Frang       19.25,8 pb
4.C. Coen de Koning  19.49,4
5.Frederick W. Dix   20.13,0
6.Henri Kretzer      20.26,4 pb
7.Heinrich Prochazka 20.33,4 pb
8.Hans Gessner       22.25,0 pb
Total points:
1.Oscar Mathisen      4
2.Bjarne Frang       10 (207,263)
3.Thomas Bohrer      10 (207,887)
4.C. Coen de Koning  19
5.Henri Kretzer      22
6.Frederick W. Dix   23
7.Heinrich Prochazka 24
8.Hans Gessner       32

The Davos trip was rewarding to Bjarne Frang as well. He improved his pbs in all 4 distances and climbed to 26th place in Adelskalenderen. Even more impressive perhaps were the 4th and the 10th place all-time respectively in the 500m and the 1500m list. A meet was scheduled in St. Moritz next weeked, and participation was discussed. It was a figure skating meet, but extending it with speed events was an option.

Back home in Trondhjem they had scraped the ice to remove some of the worst damage since the day before, but with the temperature well above freezing, the benefits were bound to be limited. Instead of skating one could just as well enjoy the spring flowers that were appearing on roadsides and in window boxes. Still maybe 2000 spectators turned up for the 2nd day of the national championship. The cloud-cover had lightened a little and the rain fell only intermittently.

Just as in the 10000m, Melvin Johansen, the promising junior, and yesterday’s surprising distance winner, Jacob Sæterhaug, were paired in the first race of the 1500 m. Again the home skater won it narrowly, 3.01,5 vs. 3.02,6. In the 2nd pair, the heavyweight Strøm managed to beat the more lightweight Stener Johannessen, 2.56,6 vs. 2.57,8. The third pair featured the overall leaders, Martin Sæterhaug and Trygve Lundgreen. Here the home favourite won easily with a new leading time of 2.55,5, while Lundgreen only made 3.04,0, complaining of a sprained foot. Both of the Sæterhaug brothers had won their pair so far, and in the 4th, the third of them also won his when he beat Christiansen by 3.01,6 vs. 3.03,6. Aune finalised the distance with a nice race in 3.02,0, outskating his pairmate Gjønnæss substantially.

1.Martin Sæterhaug   2.55,5
2.Kristian Strøm     2.56,6
3.Stener Johannessen 2.57,8
4.Jacob Sæterhaug    3.01,5
5.Johan Sæterhaug    3.01,6
6.Sverre Aune        3.02,0
7.Melvin Johansen    3.02,6
8.Otto Christiansen  3.03,6
9.Trygve Lundgreen   3.04,0
10.Ørnulf Gjønnæss   3.12,9
1.Martin Sæterhaug    7
2.Stener Johannessen 10
3.Kristian Strøm     12
4.Jacob Sæterhaug    13
5.Trygve Lundgreen   14
6.Melvin Johansen    15
7.Johan Sæterhaug    17
8.Otto Christiansen  19
9.Ørnulf Gjønnæss    27

The 5000 m got under way after a pause filled with figure skating and rain. Johannessen now was the home favourite’s strongest challenger, and he had the luck to draw the first pair with Melvin Johansen. It was heavy going on this ice, but he did well to build a 20 second difference to Johansen, and chances looked fair.

1.20-2.10-3.01-3.52-4.44-5.36-6.29-7.21-8.14-9.06- 9.58-10.48,4

2nd pair was composed of the two top skaters from the 10000m, Aune and Jacob Sæterhaug. Aune wasn’t able to copy his feat from the day before, he fell 3 times on the slushy ice, once in the start and twice in the 10th lap, but worked hard to repair the damage and was rewarded with lively clapping from the audience, as well as a pair win. Without falls a time near 10.50 would have been a possibility.


In the 3rd pair Kristian Strøm skated energetically, but couldn’t keep it up on the foul ice and fell short of the best times. The protocol indicates some mishap in the 5th lap. His pairmate Christiansen fell and stopped his race.

As both Gjønnæss and the injured Lundgreen had withdrawn, their pairmates, the Sæterhaug brothers Johan and Martin, were allowed to skate together as the last pair. To secure the championship Martin now had to skate 11.20,8 or better, then he would be equal to Johannessen in place number points and his samalog points also would still be better. But the good Trøndish veteran had a little more ambition than that. He skated on doggedly, cheered by the eager audience, and finished in the 2nd best time, 300 meters ahead of his brother.
Johan Sæterhaug
Martin Sæterhaug

Rinkmaster Mikkelsen could then announce, without entering into fine calculation, that the home favourite had won the championship, and the crowd stormed the track to carry their own champion around it under great jubilations.

5000 m:
1.Stener Johannessen 10.48,4
2.Martin Sæterhaug   10.58,5
3.Melvin Johansen    11.09,5
4.Kristian Strøm     11.13,6
5.Sverre Aune        11.17,6f
6.Jacob Sæterhaug    11.24,6
7.Johan Sæterhaug    11.38,2
Otto Christiansen fell, dnf
Total points:
GOLD.Martin Sæterhaug      8
Silver.Stener Johannessen 10
bronze.Kristian Strøm     13
4.Melvin Johansen         16 (248,587)
5.Jacob Sæterhaug         16 (250,400)
6.Johan Sæterhaug         21

The figure skating also didn’t proceed quite according to plan. The pairs skating had to be postponed due to the weather. But the ladies did receive compliments for being young and plastic. The awards ceremonies took place at Harmonien, where 80 ladies and gentlemen participated in the festivities. Shipowner Jørgensen, the chairman of the festive committee, was the toastmaster. After speeches by club chairman Claussen, wholesaler Baastad and the shipowner, a toast was proposed for the record-hunter Oscar Mathisen. It was accepted by many. Then the prizes were awarded to the top 4 in all the distances, the winner received the King’s Cup, the runner-up received the honourary prize of the organising club, while Melvin Johansen won the prize for best junior skater. Chairman Claussen instructed the appointed meet judges to award the extra prize set up by the federation to a skater of their choice, and they gave it to Aune.

There was no controversy at the federation congress and it proceeded quickly and smoothly under the leadership of acting president Andr. Claussen. 8 clubs were represented. The annual report was adopted without remarks. It was decided to establish a junior trophy. Thue was re-elected as president. Re-elected board members: A. Gresvig, KSK, A Claussen, TSK. Alternates: S. N. Petersen, Hamar and J. Owren, Horten. After the congress the usual lively dance party followed.

In Kristiania the weather evidently was much better. In the well-groomed Frogner Stadion, Sigurd Syversen won both distances at one meet in 48,0 and 2.29,9. The latter was a new pb, raising him to 44th place in Adelskalenderen and to 38th place in the 1500m all-time list. In another meet on the same track, the Østfolding Ole Mamen won the 1500m in 2.29,1, an improvement of 5.9 seconds since last weekend, giving him 29th place in the all-time list and 45th place in Adelskalenderen. On Bislett, 16 years old Rolv Gihle tried organised skating for the first time and clocked 9.48,0 in the 5000m. Not bad. Pursuing this sport might be a good idea perhaps. In a Swedish junior meet at Hammarbybanan in Stockholm, with a full distance programme, naturally, Axel Blomqvist made his first registered 10000m and entered Adelskalenderen in 199th place.