Oscar Mathisen
Speedskating - Oscar Diary

Forsaken in Berlin

What contrasts there are in life! From his homely Frogner where armies of enthusiastic townsmen were cheering him on, to Davos with a significant enough force on the stands, more than a thousand throats, united despite their different nationalities, in a salute to the brave and handsome Norwegian. There he reached his ultimate goal of world dominance, the full possession of all the speedskating records. In Sweden he was well received too, and the hosts shied no effort in trying to lure spectators to their races, even going to the length of announcing him as the most fanous sportsman in the world. My goodness. What if it were true? He had to consider it. The turnout was disappointing however, though in part the weather was to blame. At least they were a couple of thousand on Sunday, not too quiet ones either. But here in Berlin the hosts displayed a nonchalance quite unworthy of the occasion, and as the weather forced them to conclude their European Championship on Monday morning, the onlookers were limited to the meet officials plus some dozens of random passers by, augmented by a turnout of Norwegians who happened to stay in Berlin for the moment, reportedly forming a majority of the spectatorship today.

The night had been frosty again, but the ice wasn’t any better than the day before, rather the opposite. Apparently the general public had been allowed in for their frolics last night, and no effort had been made to repair the damages they had caused. Thus the surface that Oscar and Ippolitov had to contend with this morning as they convened for their first duel this season wasn’t of the very smoothest kind. It was rough going, with occasional specks of dust making sparks fly around the skates, the pace corresponding roughly to 47 on a 400 meter track. The fresh morning breeze rustled the naked young twigs of birches and beeches along the banks of the German metropolitan lake. Somewhere it lifted a newspaper page full of international worry-stories, another place it pushed an old tin can rattling, banging over the ice with eerie hollow sounds. Meanwhile the two duellants watched and matched each other closely during their first laps, too early for any initiative yet. Lap by lap they paced each other, one with a Czar and and empire behind him, the other could only muster a bunch of fishermen and peasants plus a thrifty industrialist or two. At least he had a King. And a polar explorer or two, that’s something anyway. After 16 laps, or 20 as some will have it, the Czarist thought time was ripe for his attack and set it in. And Oscar, having the championship medal in his pocket already, didn’t struggle desperately to follow the sudden fast pace of the Russian. The difference increased steadily the next laps and was close to a 100 meters before the last one. Then, to demonstrate how much energy he still had left, that he could have skated much faster if he had wanted to, Oscar sprinted the last lap in full pace and got much closer at the finish line. However, Ippolitov, perhaps also demonstratively, himself looked like he hadn’t been on anything more than a fresh little stroll when he finished his race in 19.02,8 against the 19.08,6 of Oscar.

In the 2nd pair, Strøm and Frang struggled through their 10000m on markedly softer and more worn ice. The race progressed much like Frang’s race against Oscar in the 5000m the day before, with the duellants first moving away from each other, then approaching again until they almost met near the end. Their final times were over 20. In the last pair the home favourite Kretzer spent more than 22 minutes of his life going through his 10000m all by himself. But it was his first lowland 10k, and he entered the lowland adelskalender in 212nd place.

1.Vasilij Ippolitov  19.02,8 TR
2.Oscar Mathisen     19.08,6
3.Kristian Strøm     20.06,4
4.Bjarne Frang       20.48,2
5.Henri Kretzer      22.08,7 lowland pb
Total points:
1.Oscar Mathisen     5; European Champion 1914
2.Vasilij Ippolitov  9
3.Bjarne Frang      12
4.Kristian Strøm    14
5.Henri Kretzer     20

Then it was Kristiania next. The train was waiting. The World Championship was to take place there the following weekend. So none of the traditional lengthy prize-giving ceremonies, no dancing and making merry long into the night in the customary fashion back home. It was Monday already, and time was short. After all, Oscar had his championship medal, and looked forward to coming home and showing it around, or simply to come home, to folks who knew skating and knew how to organise it.

Then came the ride to the city centre, the five visitors well seated in their wagons drawn by strong Bohemian horses, or maybe a different form of horsepower, automobiles were ever more commonplace. The young visitors didn’t exchange many words on their way to the Hauptbahnhof. The young dynamic German nation’s scenery drifted past them—trees, architecture, lakes, all glowing in the early spring sun; they had a place in the sun and were happy. The proud German empire also had a place in the sun, a place in the sun and gunboats, but was it happy? The Russian and the four Norwegians in the wagons were pensive, especially the youngest one.