Oscar Mathisen
Speedskating - Oscar Diary

#6. Then what?

Oscar Mathisen i starten av 1500 m-løpet

Skutnabb was unable to leave the Russian Empire under the exit ban and Ippolitov had been reported killed somewhere in the vicinity of the Masurian Lakes. Thankfully, that report later was proven false, still he was missed at the skating tracks. But not too desperately, because of this new Trønder star who had appeared all of a sudden to fill his role, along with the slightly older one from Horten who hadn’t proved much inferior in the first day of the National Championship at Frogner. For the 2nd day of the championship, the traffic up Kirkeveien was almost like one of the really big skating Sundays. The weather was fine, clear. Cold, but not too cold. And when the bell rang for the start at 1 o’clock, some 12 to 14 thousand had gathered on the stands.

And from the first stroke they got value for their ticket money, as the first pair featured their champion hero Oscar Mathisen and Bjarne Frang. The sprinter as usual challenged well in the first couple of laps, but fell away when the Champion upped his pace. Under great applause Oscar crossed the line in 2.23,4 with Frang at 2.30,1.

In a later pair, Martin Sæterhaug narrowly beat the time of Frang and entered 2nd place in 2.29,5. His pairmate Thoralf Hansen, apparently tired after his 10000m the day before, only made 2.37,6. In the next pair, Aune and Strøm faced each other again. In order to win the championship, Aune must beat Mathisen in this distance, too, and there were those that thought he might make it, having been so far ahead in the 10000m. But he wasn’t that much of an Ippolitov yet, and had plenty of work with Strøm, who fought well, but was left 15 meters behind in the end. Aune’s time, 2.29,8, wasn’t even enough for 2nd. Strøm clocked 2.31,4. Oscar had done his usual demolition work in his best distance.

In another pair, Melvin Johansen beat Sigurd Syversen again and set a pb in 2.32,6. Thus he climbed further into 49th place in Adelskalenderen. Theodor Pedersen also set a pb, in 2.35,5, and beat his pairmate Wolf by nearly a 100 meters. Neither Johan Sæterhaug nor Gustav Gulbrandsen, who skated in yet another pair, set any pbs, nor did Thorolf Hansen, who skated alone.

Results 1500m:
1.Oscar Mathisen      2.23,4
2.Martin Sæterhaug    2.29,5
3.Sverre Aune         2.29,8
4.Bjarne Frang        2.30,1
5.Kristian Strøm      2.31,4
6.Melvin Johansen     2.32,6 pb
7.Sigurd Syversen     2.34,1
8.Johan Sæterhaug     2.35,1
9.Theodor Pedersen    2.35,5 pb
10.Thoralf Hansen     2.37,6
11.Gustav Gulbrandsen 2.38,7
12.Wilhelm Wolff      2.44,9
13.Thorolf Hansen     2.46,3
1.Oscar Mathisen       5
2.Martin Sæterhaug     9
3.Sverre Aune         12
4.Kristian Strøm      14
5.Bjarne Frang        16
6.Melvin Johansen     16.5
7.Sigurd Syversen     18.5
8.Thoralf Hansen      26
Theodor Pedersen      26
11.Johan Sæterhaug    28
10.Gustav Gulbrandsen 30
12.Wilhelm Wolff      33

In the break, the figure skaters finished their championship, no doubt adequately applauded, and then it was time for the 5000m to conclude the speed skating championship. As the best ones had been drawn as late as the 4th and 5th pair, it was perhaps a good choice to have the 5000m as the final distance, or what do you think? Anyway, the first pair was Sigurd Syversen and Melvin Johansen, their third encounter this weekend. Syversen had been bettered both times so far, but his spirit wasn’t broken yet. The opening was a bit cautious, but then he set up a good bit of speed and kept it up for five laps. There was no breaking loose from Johansen, however; the teenager followed him closely. So he changed tactics. The pace went down and they spent the next laps watching each other. Then, in the 3rd to last lap, Johansen made a sudden sprint and set up a gap that his pairmate couldn’t close. With a fast final lap of 41,8 the Hamar skater sealed his victory, well applauded. A different race plan might have given him a better time, but the response from the crowd during the race must have been sufficient reward.


The 2nd pair was possibly Gustav Gulbrandsen and Theodor Pedersen. Their opener was much faster than the first one, and after a restive lap, Gulbrandsen set up a good pace to shake off his opponent. With a 43 in the fourth lap, Pedersen lost heart and let him go. The pace slowed to 46-47, but Pedersen kept losing ice in 47s and 48s. Almost 100 meters ahead Gulbrandsen finished in 9.25,4 while Pedersen set his 4th pb in the championship and climbed into 103rd place in Adelskalenderen. That must have been inspiring.


The third pair may have been Johan Sæterhaug and Bjarne Frang, who opened a little less daringly than pair 1 and the one above. The sprinter Frang did try some 44 laps though, I guess it was hard for him to skate any slower. The Trønderen followed, and when Frang got lactic towards the end, he kept the pace up pretty well and finished in a decent time. Both were reasonably near their pbs.


Finally the fourth pair was ready with Oscar Mathisen and Martin Sæterhaug on the starting line. Oscar had a comfortable lead, and Martin couldn’t possibly have any hope of relieving him of the championship. But he was in good shape and ready for a fight. And on it was from the start. Oscar didn’t laze around just to soothe some fever. The 2nd lap was ferocious: 39! Then followed two 42 laps, and Martin decided to view the further proceedings from a safer distance. Oscar completed his race in a good and even 43-44 pace with a good final sprint, but the gap between him and his friend and rival only increased slowly and never got really big. They clocked two fine times, well ahead of the others. But it seemed doubtful if this would be good enough against the 8.33 man.


Sverre Aune

Well, that question was about to be answered now. The championship was lost for Sverre Aune, but at least he wanted to defend his new reputation as a 5000m expert that the world record had given him. Oscar Mathisen himself had expressed doubts about the correctness of timepieces during that race, implying that it thought it impossible to skate that fast. Well, the opportunity was there to prove it once and for all right now. It started wery well, with 41 laps, just good enough for the record. Kristian Strøm tried to follow, but soon realised that he would have to play second strings here. Aune, too, had to give up on his 41 laps, the ice here gave too much resistance for a record. But he kept on a strong drive, doing 42s and 43s and a single 44 in the next to last lap. From the 5th lap his splits were below Oscar’s and the difference kept increasing. The applause had been a little restrained so far, but when the time was displayed they cheered like noone else had been cheered before, except one. Strøm finished in 8.58,0 and secured 2nd place overall for Aune through beating Martin Sæterhaug. He also improved his pb by 4.2 seconds, became a member of the 8 minute club and climbed to 21th place in Adelskalenderen. Under his breath he swore that he wasn’t going to take this second strings stuff much more if he could help it.


The last pair may have been Wilhelm Wolff and Thoralf Hansen. They were in a class of their own and skated in their own pace. Hansen was the more ambitious of them and after a few laps he built a lead that increased slowly towards the end. Both finished beyond 10 minutes, well behind their personal bests.

Results 5000m:
1.Sverre Aune         8.49,8
2.Oscar Mathisen      8.56,0
3.Kristian Strøm      8.58,0 pb
4.Martin Sæterhaug    9.03,9
5.Melvin Johansen     9.18,8
6.Sigurd Syversen     9.24,9
7.Johan Sæterhaug     9.25,3
8.Gustav Gulbrandsen  9.25,4
9.Bjarne Frang        9.30,2
10.Theodor Pedersen   9.34,4 pb
11.Thoralf Hansen    10.04,7
12.Wilhelm Wolff     10.09,7
Total points:
1.Oscar Mathisen       7
2.Sverre Aune         13 (2 wins)
3.Martin Sæterhaug    13 (0 wins)
4.Kristian Strøm      17
5.Melvin Johansen     21,5
6.Sigurd Syversen     24,5
7.Bjarne Frang        25
8.Johan Sæterhaug     35
9.Theodor Pedersen    36
10.Thoralf Hansen     37
11.Gustav Gulbrandsen 38
12.Wilhelm Wolff      45

To round off the championship the usual lively banquet was held, with awards ceremonies, speeches and more or less sure-footed dancing through the night. Oscar went back to his flat with another wreath and another bunch of medals.

His sixth national championship. Yes. Yes, but now what? His first meet of the season, and maybe his last? What was actually left of it? Maybe it would be possible to arrange a match with the Swedes, but they would be easy game by all accounts, not very exciting. A trip to Finland? Could it be done at all? Staying at home with Sigrid for the rest of the winter, when he wasn’t at Erichsen’s or took some laps down on the Frogner ice, that would make her happy.

What was left for him to win, really? A seventh national championship? A sixth World Championship, if the warring nation gave up their silly squibbles in due time? Maybe it was best to make Sigrid happy and stay home. He sighed.

If he were to skate any more, he thought, it must be meaningful in some way. Yet another championship was just yet another championship. The same over again. What more tasks were left for him to solve? He had conquered every title, beaten every record. Okay, he had lost one, but opportunities to take it back would come. Could he find any new challenges? Hm. A few days ago he had spoken with Vikander, his old rival in the shorter distances, who had stopped in Kristiania to do some Frogner laps. He had told him of the state of things back home in Finland, and of his plans. He was on his way to America. There was no war there, and a bustling skating scene. Hm. Hm. That started you thinking.