Oscar Mathisen
Speedskating - Oscar Diary

December debut

As the 1915/16 season was approaching there was a great deal of skating enthusiasm in Drammen. The club, Drammen Idrætsforening, was diligently at work in preparing a track at the Marienlyst athletic park, hoping to make it the first permanent skating rink in the town. They applied for the national championship, and were told in October that the application was granted. The championship was to be held on January 29th and 30th.

Also in October, some people involved with Konnerudkollen Hotell at Konnerud near Drammen were planning, inspired by some early frost, a big event at Stordammen in which Oscar Mathisen was to set records. With a couple of hundred meters more of altitude and fresher and cleaner air than in the town, they talked about another Nordic Davos.

Stordammen had seen skating before, mostly in early winter before the large amounts of snow that Konnerud was and is known for started to fall. But the lake had a tendency to overflowing with water, and the plans weren’t welcomed by everyone, especially DIF, who had plans of their own with their rink. And getting Oscar to skate in their meet would be no easy matter, early frost or not. He had never raced before the turn of the year yet and preferred to turn up fully trained before his audience. Anyhow the invitation was never sent, as the early frost was followed by thaw, and then some heavy snow buried the adventurous plans beneath the drifts.

Then, however, the DIF took up the challenge. They announced a meet on their new rink at Marienlyst on December 12th, and they did in fact send an invitation to Oscar Mathisen, the King of Skating. And surprise, surprise, the skating monarch gave them his yea. The club folks were happy, the treasurer rubbed his hands. But maybe they would be less happy if they knew what plans Oscar had for the National Championship on January 29 and 30.


Hence the club felt it timely to invest in a 2 column advertisement featuring the name of the Skating King in broad letters. Skating enthusiasm had been deteriorating somewhat of late. All the news from the Great War were very prominent and drew its fair share of the attention, and the continuing inability to attract any of the good Finns and Russians didn’t help either. Only 8 skaters felt ready to race so early in the season, but one of them was Oscar and another the one that last season looked like his most likely heir, Kristian Strøm of Horten. This gave the citizens of Drammen and neighbouring districts plenty to talk about the last few days of the week.

But then it started snowing. And it snowed and snowed while the club worked their backs off trying to get it away from their freshly prepared ice. It just wouldn’t stop, and it seemed the weekend’s skating event was at risk. But on Sunday it cleared up and a brilliant sun lit up the snowed-down semi-urban park landscape rather prettily. The track was made ready in good time, and ticket sales had stopped at 2000 when the first skaters stood on the line. Not bad for a December meet, but no bonanza either.

Oscar was the favourite, not only because of his reputation, also because he allegedly was well in training already while Kristian Strøm only just had started training for the season. And the distances only were 500 and 1500m. The Horten club had asked for a 5000m to be included, which might give their man a better chance. But the hosts found it unadvisable to expose the skaters and the audience for such a long distance this early in the season.

And Oscar impressed, too, with a technically perfect 500 m, measured to 44,9. The former December record was 46,2 by Rudolf Gundersen, also coincidentally set in Drammen 13 years before. Now, a 100 years ago today, Kristian Strøm finished second, more than two and a half seconds behind.

1.Oscar Mathisen, KSK        44,9
2.Kristian Strøm, Hortens SK 47,5
3.Wilhelm Wolff, KSK         49,3
Theodor Pedersen, KSK        49,3
5.Gustav Gulbrandsen, KSK    49,7
6.Ole Mamen, KSK             49,9
7.Karl Gulbrandsen, KSK      50,1
Thoralf Hansen, KSK fell and did not finish

These results required Mathisen and Strøm to meet head to head in the 1500m. Here it was no doubt from the start as to who was the boss. Oscar pulled away and mid-way the difference amounted to nearly a 100 meters. Strøm had far from a perfect race with several misstrokes. But in the two last laps he made up some of the difference, maybe because Oscar took it a little easy. In the end there were 6 seconds between them. Nobody else came near.

1.Oscar Mathisen     2.29,4
2.Kristian Strøm     2.35,5
3.Ole Mamen          2.39,2
4.Theodor Pedersen   2.44,4
5.Gustav Gulbrandsen 2.45,6
6.Karl Gulbrandsen   2.46,2
7.Thoralf Hansen     2.46,5
8.Wilhelm Wolff      2.52,2