On the Ice With the Skaters Who Brought Back the World Figure Skating Championships

Mar 23, 2015

As skates are sharpened and sequins sewn in place at the World Figure Skating Championships in Shanghai this week, fans pin their hopes on favorites. Americans Ashley Wagner and Gracie Gold face stiff competition from Russians Elizaveta Tuktamysheva and Elena Radionova, while the men’s race is a toss-up between Spain, Japan and Kazakhstan.

Back in 1947, the energy on the ice was nearly unprecedented, as the championships had been suspended since the winter of 1939, before the start of World War II. Though the event featured men, women and pairs from 12 nations, all eyes were on 18-year-old Canadian Barbara Ann Scott. “The finest woman figure skater in the world,” LIFE wrote, was equally as lovely to look at as she was graceful on the ice.

Racking up the highest score in history across her 12 events, Scott was “visibly affected when the enthusiastic Swedes mobbed her for autographs and when Canada’s Prime Minister Mackenzie King cabled his congratulations, which arrived while she was eating a bowl of corn flakes.”

Scott’s only lament was that eight hours a day at the rink left little time for boyfriends. “After winning the 1948 Olympics,” LIFE wrote, she intends to do something about that: study domestic science.” True to her word, she took Olympic gold in Switzerland and married seven years later.

Liz Ronk, who edited this gallery, is the Photo Editor for LIFE.com. Follow her on Twitter at @LizabethRonk.

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